Sunday, December 30, 2012

Choose your crayon

I'm sitting here fairly tingling.  It will sound strange to some, but with the advent of the new year, I also got the huge gift of clearing up some thoughts that have been holding me back for a few years, and it feels wonderful!

You see, for years and years, there were all sorts of (we'll just call them) herbalists.  Some of my friends are very serious medicinal herbalists.  Some of them are very happy just taking care of their families, choosing to switch to allopathic medicine when it becomes that a situation is not self-limiting.  I have friends who know their stuff, but choose to use herbs mostly for cooking and decorative uses.  Some just like to garden. 

There were so many different crayons in the box, and not a one of them was superior to the other.
For years and years, that was just fine. 

Recently, it seems that there is a more narrow, specific accepted modality.  A specific sort of spirituality is often associated with it.  I've talked to very gifted herbalists who have become too intimidated by this situation to write anymore. 

Well I'm done.  I'm tired of this narrow definition.


Because people do the best they can.

Because I know too many people who don't eat in the prescribed way, but they still deserve to learn about herbs.  I ate at Sonic a few times this year.  Sue me.

I know too many people who do own TV's, and they watch them, too.  I'm one of them.

Because there's nothing wrong with whatever way a person chooses to come to herbs.  If they don't sense the Devas or think of the herbs as their personal allies, that's okay.  If they worship at the foot of a tree, that's okay too.  Everything in between is a-okay with me too.  Nobody starts out knowing everything, and I will not be making anyone feel like less because they don't.

Folk herbalism has sufficed for a long time.  If that's what people want to do - great.  If they want to spend their lives studying and learning as much as an MD - that's wonderful.

But I'm going back to the old way.  I'm not going to judge people by the way they live or the sacrifices they make.  It's too limiting, and too exclusive.  I'm getting too old to think that people should live in a certain way. There's a whole lot of gray between the black and the white.

You want to talk about herbs and have a little walk in the woods (or you're not "the outdoor type" but still want to talk about herbs)?  Fabulous!  That's what it's all about.  Every single crayon is beautiful in it's own way.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

losing our words

In the last year or so, there have been essays written mourning the loss of penmanship due to everything being typed into computers.  We've been seeing articles fretting over the demise of proper language skills because of texting.  Those things are worrisome, but it's beginning to seem like they might just be scratching the surface.
Years and years ago, a college assignment was to write a short paper about the value of language.  Right off the deep end I went, writing about a village that had forgotten language and was burnt to the ground for want of the ability to communicate.  My instructor liked it enough to submit it for publication, and so began my life of rearranging words.  Never did I think that I'd be pondering the possibility of that happening, however.
The advent of e-mail meant that people could talk to others almost instantaneously all around the globe.  We all had an instant audience.  Initially, it seemed that people were writing much more than they ever had before.  It was wonderful.  An excellent example would be soapmaking.  We'd learned from a single (not so great) magazine article, and then a lot of trial and error.  Suddenly there was a screen that held all the secrets that had eluded us!  The sharing of information was beyond what any of us had previously imagined.  There was a lot of what was called "flaming" as people tried to learn how to speak to invisible, disembodied others and take into account all the kinds of folks would be out there.  Netiquette was born.  It was a good thing, but not easy at first.
Blogging begins, and again the sharing and learning and attempts at understanding other kinds of people is further underscored.
Then what we now call "social media" came into being.  I resisted for a very long time, and then fell right into step on Facebook.  I even tried Twitter for a short time, but the limit of (is it?) 120 or 140 characters, while sometimes amusing from a word puzzle standpoint, lost it's luster quickly.  Facebook devolved into a place where mostly we all click the "share" button to pass around something we like, or worse, we "like" something.  Liking something is akin to a grunt, really.  It says, "I want you to know that I care enough to acknowledge this, but don't really have a comment."  In marriage or other long-term relationships, it would definitely be a grunt.
I have been heartened to be included in a couple of private groups where actual conversation goes on, but it is not the norm.  The Yahoo lists that flourished for a decade are fairly flaccid now, and many people while still reading them, do not wish to respond.  It would seem that actually having to type out an entire sentence or paragraph is just too much.  I don't mean that in a sarcastic way.  It just feels that there is a societal shift to extreme brevity.

Maybe it's because we've all been burned in one way or another.  Had our ideas taken because we forgot we were talking to people we didn't know, gotten attacked for telling our story, or maybe it was just the sheer volume of talkers made many others feel that their contributions weren't of value.

I've come to miss the real conversations.  I miss people who were new to something inspiring others to look at it in a new way.  I miss the days when everyone's words had somewhat equal value.  More than anything, I hope that we don't lose our ability to converse, share ideas and knowledge, and express ourselves.  Here's hoping that the next change on the horizon (there always is one, isn't there?) will bring us back to our ability to communicate.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The beginning and the end...

Sometimes, much to the chagrin of the next generation here on the hill, I'm unable to restrain myself from getting mushy.  We had a graduation over the weekend, and I'm stuck on a long, long walk down memory lane.  My nephew might be miffed with this post, but the two of them have always been more like brother and sister, so no post about watching my daughter grow up could ever be complete without him.  We're so proud of them both.
He was the only one who could stop her tears sometimes, and would go to great lengths.

It is hard not to think about how it was to be in this place, with the siblings, as we walked into our grown up lives filled with  expectations, our arms and hearts wide open.  How quickly we went from our graduations to middle age and beyond!
Falling in ponds, driving 4-wheelers into trees, sharing a cloak...

Watching our kids get on with things is bittersweet.  They took forever to get here in the first place, and now most of our work is done.  My sister's son has moved on to a large city in the Northeast, working at a dream job with a brilliant career ahead of him.  My daughter finished school with a pretty great job in her field waiting for her.  Who knows what either of them might accomplish with their lives?  I am excited to watch them blossom.  My sister always reminded me that our job was to give them both roots AND wings, and it looks like we did that.
Molly's high school graduation with friends.

At her commencement last week, one of the speakers talked about the word "commence".  It struck me how it all depends on how one looks at it.  For so many years my one firm goal was to see that she got through school and had as many opportunities as I could possibly provide, so it felt like an ending.  But it isn't.  It is the beginning. 
Finally college.  Through thick and thin.
Fly, my sweet little bird - but don't forget your roots.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

And so begins the 12th year - Jan/Feb '13

The Jan/Feb '13 issue of The Essential Herbal is in the mail, and pdf subscribers will receive the file on the 20th of this month.  We are thrilled with this issue as we begin yet another year.  Our cover is from Susan Hess of Farm at Coventry, who took the picture while making Bay Rum aftershave with the students of her Homestead Herbalism class series.  She sent along the recipe, too! 
Each year, I can't help but look back over the distance we've covered.  It's been a while since we've included a crossword puzzle, and we now have "The Vault", an epic collection of herbal newsletters spanning nearly 40 years from Bertha Reppert (gifted by her daughter Susanna of The Rosemary House) which, for this issue brings us a wonderful article from Jim Long.  We've got scores of recipes and herbal concoctions inside to get any herbie itching to get to work.  It's another good issue.
So here we go, folks.  Let's see how wonderful we can make another year!

Table of Contents for this issue:
Field Notes
When do we decide to claim our knowledge?
An Herbal Event, Carey Jung
It can only be called an event when Rosemary Gladstar puts out a new book, and Carey even obtained permission to include a couple of the recipes from the book!
Cornflower, Cindy Jones
More than the description of a color, this flower has lots to offer.
Collector of Stories, Jackie Johnson
Jackie shares some of the herb lore that we all love so well. She finds some unusual stories for some of our favorites.
Seedy Advice, Rita Richardson
At this time of year, just before we start to plant, seeds as food make tasty additions.
Book Excerpt, Andrea Butje
Natural grout scrub made with household staples and essential oils!
From the Vault, Folk Remedies, Jim Long
Years ago in Missouri, Grace Hudson traveled with her husband and family to logging camps, taking along her folk remedies and knowledge.
Cultivating Herb Enthusiasts, Jacquie Beveridge
How many times have we talked about finding other herbies nearby to learn with? Jacquie tells us all about the beginnings of the Florence (OR) Herb Enthusiasts, and how they’ve grown and grown.
Using Essential Oils in Melt & Pour Soaps,Joshua Thorne
For those who want to make fragrant soaps that include properties from essential oils and avoid using lye, melt & pour bases are the answer.
Herb Soaps with Melt & Pour Soap Bases, Tina Sams
How and why of adding herbs to soaps that can be used almost immediately.
Herbal Concoctions, Sandy Michelsen
Sandy’s resolution for the new year is to share her collection of herbal remedies far and wide. With this article, she makes a pretty good start with five simple ideas to get you motivated.
Midwinter Soups, Suzan T Scholl
Six delicious vegetarian soups that combine flavor with healing and comfort. What could be better for these short, dark days?
A Special Plant from the Pacific Northwest, Joe Smulevitz
A plant named Oplopanax horridus (“Devil’s Club”) doesn’t sound like it would be healing, and yet it has many beneficial properties.
Sweet Sleep Tea, Katie from Allure d'La Fleur
Reading in bed is fine, but when it turns to sleep deprivation, a good tea just might to the trick.
Crossword Puzzle, Herbal Medicine Chest
Curl up with the mag, a pencil (or pen if you’re bold) and have some herbie puzzle fun.
The Worst Soup in the World, Maryanne Schwartz
A family tradition that we (almost) all love.
Winter Interest in the Garden, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
Instead of looking out over the stark and often monochromatic landscape, try some plantings that will shine all year long.
Winter Rooting Tips, Susanna Reppert Brill
Start a little something going on inside now to hold you til spring.
SouthRidge Treasures, Skin, Hair & Bath Products at Home, Mary Ellen Wilcox
A bushel and a peck of treats for your winter-weary skin and hair.
Valentine Specialties from the Herb Garden, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
Some Valentine’s Day herbal creations to make, along with some herb lore!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Bay Leaf Garlands

the ingredients are so pretty...

The topic of bay leaf garlands came up yesterday, and since it's been a while since making one, it seemed like it would be a fun thing to do.  The dining room light fixture holds my collection of pinecones and leaves, but needed something a little festive for the holidays.
we're ready to go

First step is to gather the ingredients.  It would be wonderful to use fresh bay leaves right off the tree, but here in the Northeast, that isn't going to happen. 

Dried apples, oranges, and lemons are good additions.  Herbs and spices like cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, rose hips, star anise , allspice, and dried ginger are lovely.  I happened to gather up the blossom ends (I think) from the persimmon tree this summer, and they are lovely, and some goji berries for color are nice too. Cinnamon, cardamom and rosehips need to be soaked before using.  Allspice too (although it isn't used here.  Soak star anise only as long as necessary or it will fall apart.

lemon slices flanked by persimmon stem caps and rose hips
I was going to try maqui berries, but they don't work.
Then, some strong hemp twine, a tapestry needle, and maybe some ribbon, and we're all set.
dried apple slices and cinnamon
For the end, I tied a good strong loop, and then tied a ribbon/bow there.
The trick to making these garlands quickly is to just jog up a handful of the leaves and spear them together.  Some will not be pierced and they will fall away as you work.  That's okay.
A plain bay leaf garland is gorgeous, but I can't ever leave well enough alone.  I teamed many of the ingredients together, although one would be hard-pressed to find anything resembling a regular pattern.
I added a wee lavender wand from last summer.
Because this particular garland was meant for a fixture with 5 candles, there are 5 segments with loops tied in almost even lengths along the way.

Finished and laid out on the table, ready to hang.

It's a little lopsided and the breaks aren't regular...

Perfect for me - a little odd.

In the end, I think that a solid garland of bay with some ribbons would suit this use best - but I like what came of it.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Have a Handmade Holiday

 Below you'll find links to many herbal crafting items,  This is a good representation of the kinds of things you'll find in The Essential Herbal magazine and our books.  We're about to start work on the 2nd 5 year volume as soon as the dust settles in January.  Gift subscriptions are always a great idea, by the way.  Perfect for last minute, too!

I hope you find something here that you'll enjoy making, and if so please feel free to share this list far and wide.  That's why we put it together :-)

 How to make a wreath

Body care products to make

bath salts and memory boxes

simmering potpourri

chai and sugarplums

tea blends and gel air fresheners

Incense paper

massage oil

vanilla extract

tea, spiced nuts, almond bark

spray and powder

sachets and eye pillows

herb kit and lip balm

pomanders potpourri and spicy ornaments

sweet treats for the belly and the skin

tub teas

pet gifts

more herb teas

air drying clay

crafting with kids

more sachets

neck coolers


warming winter remedies

Marci's Fire and Ice Balm

"stuffed shirts" sachets

Note the links to suppliers (over on the right sidebar) who help support the magazine through advertising.  Check them out! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ornaments - our cold and humble beginning

Yesterday we were making a delivery to a rustic little shop, and passing by a basket of stuffed fabric ornaments, I reached down, picked one up, and sniffed.  Nothing.  Maryanne caught my eye, and we both chuckled ruefully as, in tandem, we remembered our very first days working together in something akin to retail.

There has been a cacophony of memories hitting recently, and as I write this, I suddenly realize why we were also hit with the need to sing the Schnitzelbank Song last night...

It all started with a class I was taking in college - PA German Studies, with C. Richard Beam, where we visited various businesses and people from the different Anabaptist sects that scatter our landscape here. The final for the semester was to choose from an offered list of local historic places and do a paper on them - how they survived, influenced the local economy, or other takes depending.  I chose Green Dragon Farmers Market - and found that it has an astoundingly rich and varied background, some of which is downright sketchy!  For instance, "the roadhouse years".  But I digress...

Upon hearing that the rental for a booth was something like $8, Maryanne and I decided that we would just have to take a booth.  Might I interject here that it was several decades before we really absorbed the fact that we don't HAVE to do something just because we CAN.
We made rustic stuffed fabric ornaments.  It was early November, we would be standing in the cold for 12 hours for a few Fridays, but we'd make a fortune.  We were young, strong, and none too bright.

We stood there watching while hoards of people picked up our ornaments and smelled them.  Then there were the folks who told us that their children had "made the SAME THING in kindergarten".  Oh the frozen smiles we acquired on those days.  And they really were frozen, by the way.  It was very cold.  I later figured out that I made about a nickel an hour.

There was a lot of fun in those days too.  We met some very interesting people, the likes of which were only superseded by our future co-merchants at the renaissance faire.  The food was wonderful, and we learned merchandising skills that stayed with us forever (#1 - when the guy in the next booth finds a wee stray kitten and feeds it chili, DO NOT allow him to put the kitten down on your table.  EVER.)  In the long run, I think getting a second "+" beside my A on the final paper made up for a lot.
So here we are 30 some years later.  Some of the ornaments remain, and I'm sure my sister has even more of them.  I just can't believe I sniffed that ornament.

Friday, November 16, 2012

It started with a stroll through the farmers market

This morning, we went to market looking for nothing in particular.  We were actually there to stop across the street to pick up some herbal products for Hurricane Sandy relief from our friend Sarah, but decided to see what was available at market.
For the first time ever, I found locally grown organic Meyer lemons.  Just sitting there as if they were nothing special.  With no plan in mind, I grabbed 6 of them.  A few booths down the aisle, one of the shopkeepers stopped us to show us the beautiful local honey, which, as it turned out is so local that it even comes from our zip code.  Again, whoosh - into the market basket it went.

Immediately upon arriving home, out came a clean mason jar, and I began to slice up a few of the lemons.  Every so often one of the delicious thin slices found its way into my mouth - rind and all.  A lovely jar of sliced lemons smothered with honey will sit in the fridge, waiting to be added to teas to soothe any cold or sore throat that the winter brings.

Eventually, my mind wandered to the lacto-fermented lemons that we made last year after attending a class at the SouthEast Women's Herbal Conference.  A lacto-fermented food that most of us are familiar with is sauerkraut, a veritable staple in our part of the country, and the benefit of this type of food is that they introduce good critters to our intestinal tract, boosting the immune system, among many other things.  The preserved lemons are easy to make, but I couldn't find the very simple instructions we used on-line, so...
Slice a few organic lemons very thinly, removing seeds as you go.
Sprinkle a tsp. of sea salt in the bottom of a mason jar, and then begin layering the lemon slices, adding salt between the layers.  In a pint jar, you'll probably use about 1/4 cup of salt.  Smoosh the lemons so that the liquid mixes with the salt, creating a brine.  When finished, the jar should be full with enough juice to cover the lemon slices.  Cover loosely with cloth or a coffee filter, and allow to ferment for several days to a week.  After that, add a lid and let it continue to ferment in the refrigerator (where it will take place much more slowly).
After a couple of months, the lemons were much too salty for me, so the jar has remained in the fridge and I haven't even checked them since.  Until today.

It seemed like perhaps mixing them with some honey would cut the salt (like honey roasted nuts) and the idea to remove a small amount and so that's what I did.  But first, I tasted them without honey, and found that a miracle had occurred.  In the last 6 months, they mellowed to a scrumptious lemon-y, zingy thing of beauty!
And then I added the honey.

Why or WHY have I never done this before?  It is wonderful!  Using approximately 3 parts fermented lemon to 1 part honey, the resulting amazingness is not too sweet, barely salty, and I could eat it by the spoonful.  Although I worried that the honey would make the lemons too sweet to be used with savory dishes, that is not the case.  It is a very versatile flavor, and I can imagine using it on almost everything - salads, fish, chicken, vegetables, rice... you get the idea.
So my advice is to get those lemon slices fermenting pronto!  You want to do this.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Going outside again, after the storm

It has been a long, gray spell here in the North East.  Hard to complain about gray when so many are cold, hungry and homeless after this storm (which, by the way you can help alleviate by visiting this registry on Amazon, ordering, and having it shipped directly to where it is needed... LINK) but after 10 days, it got to be too much.
Today we are participating with Possum Creek Herb Farm, on a blog hop that addresses the love of herbs.
 That got me out into the woods yesterday, even though it was so gloomy.  I'm so glad.  It's easy to forget how lovely everything is, and the weather mixed with slammin' business this fall have kept me from my usual autumnal rites of going into the woods often to bid adieu to the flora before it goes to sleep for the winter.  Here is a photo-tour of the walk...

I love to stand under the trees and look up to see the way the branches blend.

There is a fallen log that has grown this particular fungus for several years.  We haven't id'd it.

This is the same fungus as above, but older.  Anyone recognize it?

This well weathered, honey-combed piece of wood sat next to one of the shrooms.

Another log serves as a turkey tail nursery.  These are no bigger than a fingernail each.

The other side of the log was covered with more mature specimens.

Another (new to us) fungus.  No clue.  Anyone?  This is about the size of a cauliflower.

All over on the ground, black walnuts.

Next spring, the creek's banks will be awash with wildflowers.  G'night creek...

Goldenrod seeds cling to the plant for now.

More tree-gazing...

Rhododendron blooms unperturbed by the weather.

One last look skyward before heading inside to work.

The sun broke through today (finally) and we might have a little sun before the next storm heads up the coast. I will spend some time outside!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Just Waiting for the Sun

We got through Hurricane Sandy with very little damage.  One of the trees in the windbreak came down beside the house, but one can hardly complain about such a minor thing when so many have lost so much.  My personal challenge was to extricate my stubborn daughter from her apartment in Brooklyn ahead of the storm.  With only one or two train runs left out of the city, she was finally headed home, and after that the rest was gravy.

I'd like to post a couple of links if you're interested in helping. 
First is a listing of great links gathered by Brian Williams at Rock Center.
Additionally, Occupy is getting out there on bikes, helping to clean up as well as feeding and clothing folks.  Here is their link.

In the coming days, there will be much needed and many ways to help.  Although this is going to be a hugely expensive storm in the end, there will also be non-monetary needs.  We all have talents and skills that we can send their way along with our prayers, best wishes, and love.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Here Comes Sandy!

Here at The Essential Herbal, we've battened down the hatches to the best of our abilities and are prepared for this mega-storm barreling up the coast towards us.
I wanted to let our friends and customers know that we are pretty much expecting to lose power for some period of time within the next 24 to 36 hours, and will be unable to access the internet.  During that time, our website will accept orders, and you'll even get a confirmation email, but we will not see the order until the power returns.  As soon as things are back up and we're ready to ship, you will get another email from me to let you know.  On the other hand, everything may be just fine - you never know.  We're preparing for whatever may come.
So - shop at will, but know that it may be some time until it ships. 
Thanks for your patience, and stay safe and warm everyone.  We hope for the very best for all of our friends along the East Coast.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Very Own Horseradish - first harvest

Several years ago a friend sent me horseradish roots.  I managed to kill them, although many say this is neigh on impossible.  Then in 2011 when horseradish was the herb of the year, it seemed fitting to plant some (again) and into the ground it went. 
This year, I was making some of that wild fire vinegar that goes by many names - Fire cider, Cyclone cider, Master Tonic - whatever.  It's filled with garlic, onions, some hot peppers, horseradish, and I also add about 1/4 - 1/5 raw honey.  This year, everything that went into the apple cider vinegar was homegrown or a gift from someone who grew it except a little turmeric.  A little bit of this stuff pretty much scares the viruses right out of you.  I really like that.

So anyhow... back to the horseradish.
Wait.  First I have to show you this cool shovel.  If you've ever found yourself hopping up onto the shovel to get it into the ground, and then hopping up again as if you're swinging from a playground pole and not making much headway to boot - this is a great shovel (made for women) that comes in 3 different lengths.  It is AWESOME and comes from Green Heron Tools - a small, women-owned business here in my home state of PA.
Okay, so out I go to dig up just a little bit of the root.  Pulled up two of the four crowns in no time and returned most of the roots to the ground because I didn't really need or want much right now.

I have to tell you that when asking the circle of herbies how to process horseradish, my friend Lou said that she dons (did she say gas mask?) eye protection and gloves, and takes the whole kit and kaboodle outside.  She's a hard working lady, so I really should have listened.  Really.  But no.  It's only a little, right?  Well grinding it in the kitchen made that area of the house a biohazard for about an hour while things settled down.  Smells good, but wickedly strong.  The oils in the fumes burn the eyes.  Outside next time!

Here's what's left after the rest went into the vinegar.  We're set for the year.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cover Story, Essential Herbal Nov/Dec '12

For many years we did most of the covers in-house because not using color, we didn't feel it was a decent or fitting representation of the work of others.  With the addition of color covers a few years ago, the possibilities flew wide open and we've had many beautiful covers of original artwork.

This one is very special though.  This one includes the hands of several readers (and me) who have come to know the artist over the years, through the magazine and the email list.  I posted the cover yesterday.  Today I will share what Carey wrote about the inspiration for her work.  Reading it the first time brought me to tears as I realized that the vision, work, and dreams of the past decade were exactly what she painted.

About the Cover...

The idea for this drawing came to me one night when I was musing over possible images to paint for the TEH cover. The words, home-hearth-warm-love-nourishment-friends-sisters-healing-community, kept swirling around in my vision as I moved objects around on my table, attempting in vain to create a still life that I could sketch.

Then, all of sudden I saw us, all of us readers, gathered around a table, it was cold outside and we were all warmed by a fireplace. There was laughter that would suddenly erupt, and then silence as we listened to the wind howl beyond the walls and the fireplace snap behind us. I could smell the fireplace, and honeyed beeswax, and herbs, and coffee, of course the coffee. This was what I need to paint!

So, I asked a few of the terrific women with whom I've gotten to know because of this magazine, if they would be game for taking a picture of their hands around their favorite mug, at a table, and then send it to me. I was thrilled that they agreed.

So here they are, with a few liberties taken on the part of the artist, starting on the left, in the back row, going clockwise around the table: Betsy Stevens and mug, Tina Sams and mug, Maryanne Schwartz and mug, Rosanne Tartaro and mug, and Marci Tsohonis and mug that was made by her granddaughter. With the exception of Tina and Maryanne, who live right next door to each other, we are all sprinkled around the country. I love them all and many times wish we could all just gather around a table like this on a regular basis. I feel this way about the entire magazine, and especially the yahoo list, on which I've been especially quiet these last many months, but I look forward to the posts.

This magazine truly tells the story of what herbalism, to me, is about. It's about caring for others, adding to joy, shoring up health, or easing pain, and having the means to do so. It's about sharing the wisdom, comparing notes, humor, supporting each other, and weaving the beauty of these amazing plants into every nook and cranny of our lives.

May your winter days be full of love and warmth and loveliness and herbs.

Carey Jung (

In future days, I will share more about some of the articles inside and the advertisers who make it possible.  Have a good one!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nov/Dec '12 issue - The Essential Herbal

Our latest issue has hit the mail, and will be reaching subscribers by the end of the month.  As usual, it is filled with an amazing array of seasonal herbal goodness.  We love each of the articles, as well as the fact that our readers are oftentimes writing for their fellow readers!  It is this generous sharing that makes Essential Herbal what it is.  This issue concludes 11 years of building this grassroots community of herbies, and we're thrilled to be headed into #12.
This issue's cover was painted by Carey Jung, and she wrote a beautiful column about how and why she chose this image.  We'll post that here tomorrow, so stop back :-)

This issue's cover was painted by Carey Jung, and she wrote a beautiful column about how and why she chose this image.  We'll post that here tomorrow, so stop back :-)

Table of Contents

Field Notes
It would seem that the more things change, the more things stay the same. 
About the Cover, Carey Jung
Carey tells how she came up with the concept for the cover and how it expresses her feelings about the magazine, the community that surrounds and supports it, and the people she's met through it.

Civil War: Conditions, Treatments & Botanicals, Jackie Johnson   
We tend not to think about the conditions of war, especially earlier wars.  Jackie gets into the nitty-gritty of germs, fevers, herbs that were used, and all of the things soldiers faced that were as bad as the enemy's  weapon.

Herb/Spice Bread Dough Wreath, Rita Richardson   
A fun decorative project to do alone or with kids.

Handmade Holidays, Kristin Henningsen   
Make some quick, easy, inexpensive holiday gifts with these recipes and instructions.

Herbal Ice Pops, Michael Blackmore
Michael did lots of experimentation during the summer, and came up with several outstanding ice pop recipes that will help keep the family healthy and happy.  You'll be coming up with your own pops in no time. The possibilities are endless.

Ginger Sore Throat Syrup, Marci Tsohonis
There are so many good reasons to have a good ginger syrup handy over the winter (well... all the time)!
Winter Remedies with Summer Herbs, Suzan T Scholl
Now that you've grown and gathered them, what to do?  What are they for? Ideas for the medicine cabinet abound.
Seasoning for the Season, Marcy Lautenan-Raleigh
Mmmm mmm!  Corn relish, purple basil jelly, lime mint slaw, and many other delectable delicacies.
Herbs for the Eating Season, Sandy Michelsen
Here it comes.  The Eating Season is upon us, and Sandy shares herbal remedies to offer relief.
Louisiana Lagniappe, Spiced Citrus & Cranberry Punch, Sarah Liberta   
A holiday beverage fit for entertaining yet still full of vibrant, healthy fruits and spices.

Oh Christmas Tree!, Marci Tsohonis
Memories of trees past have convinced Marci that only a real tree will do (so they grow their own) and that  scent inspires some wonderful pine/fir concoctions to soothe winter illnesses.
Rosemary … My Remembrance, Janice Kline   
For Janice, this dear herb of remembrance was more healing than she might have believed possible.

Yule Magic, Heddy Johannesen
Nature inspires these creations - incense, tree decorations, sachets, and a bath salt blend.
From the Vault, Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Is there any way we can get enough pumpkin at this time of year?
SouthRidge Treasures, Holiday Breads, Mary Ellen Wilcox   
Mary Ellen shares a lovely array of quickbreads that can be made ahead and frozen for gift-giving or to have  on hand through the winter.  Pumpkin, nutmeg, cardamom, dill, sour cream and cranberries are ingredients in  the various loaves.

Mama Elizabeth’s Baklava, Zan Asha   
Zan shares her mother's recipe for baklava!

From the Vault, Dilly Popovers   
These were deemed "like campaign speeches, full of hot air, but easier to stomach."

From the Vault, Honey Butter
One last quick, easy, yet luscious item to make for gifts or keeping to yourself.   

Now.  Aren't there a lot of things that have you wanting to go play in the herb closet just seeing the titles?  We think so too.  Wonderful culinary, medicinal, and decorative uses of herbs, enough to keep you busy right through til 2013!

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Day in the Life

If you are on Facebook, there's little doubt that you've seen the various interpretations of the meme that shows 6 different pictures with captions like:  what my friends think I do, what my customers think I do, what the neighbors think I do, etc., etc. and I know that I've mentioned how when we had our shop, we would hear so often, "I want to do this when I retire." 
Yesterday I kept my camera handy and took shots throughout the day (or my sister took them - depending on who had the least greasy hands at the time).  We have a lot of fun working together.  Our laughter very often makes people think we're just very lucky slackers who don't do much except put out a magazine (The Essential Herbal) and fabulous soap (Lancaster County Soapworks, Etc.) - both of which magically appear when we need them.  Most of the time we who work making products from natural ingredients - be they herbs, soap, bath and body products, whatever - post beautifully composed shots that make our lives look romantic and whimsical.  Sometimes lighting, costuming and props are involved.  But here it is - the reality, probably out of order ...
Before heading out, I photograph and post something on the business Facebook page to clarify an early post on the various things that we call amber.

Batches of soap we made the night before are unmolded and we set to work cutting them into bars.  Merlot is on the cutter here.

While Maryanne cuts, I stack the bars on shelves.  Those low shelves are tricky.  This is Lavender.

Completed orders are stacked on the shipping table to be packed.  A good eye will notice some cover artwork for the magazine in the background.
Orders being packed for shipping or delivery - depending on distance.

Box molds waiting to be cleaned from last night and refilled tonight.

Each bar of soap is trimmed to remove the sharp edges.

Lunch time - the mailbox at home holds a good bit of Essential Herbal mail to be handled.  I like to think I'm doing my part to keep the US Postal Service solvent.

Getting ready to melt fats for several runs (6 batches each) of soapmaking.  The 50 pound pails are tamed with a hand-truck and tools - like this pail opener.  Took us a couple of years of wrestling with these bad boys before we figured out how to work with them.  We were younger then.  Now we use the tools.

Maryanne setting up the oil melter and removing just the right amount of one of the oils to make the perfect blend.
Melted, blended oils rushing into one of the many single batch buckets we have lined up and ready to fill.
Wrapping, wrapping, wrapping. 
Mid-day and a rush order comes in.  We can squeeze it in.

Bottles lined up to be filled with "spritz" and lotions.

Hazelnut harvest break!  A little fresh air feels pretty good.

Filling the spritz bottles with base before adding the individual scents and affixing the spray tops.

Tub teas are blended and scooped into heat sealable teabags - then ironed, packed, and labeled.
There's more of course. We don't show the actual soapmaking, the dragging out of totes full of herbs to blend the tub teas, or the many other small tasks that make up many of our days. We have a beautiful life, let there be no doubt. Some days we even have bon-bons. This morning, we'll finish up the work that needs doing in the shop, and set out on deliveries - one of our favorite activities. Maybe I'll remember the camera.