Saturday, June 22, 2013


This morning's gatherings.

With talk of the temperature rising this afternoon, I headed out to gather calendula blossoms and some lavender for wand weaving later this afternoon.  Things went very differently than what I had in mind, but in a good way.
First stop was the blueberry patch, followed by the gooseberry plants.  Maybe I should head over along the side of the woods and see if there are any black raspberries ready?
Black raspberries are our favorite berry with a flavor all their own.  A childhood memory...

A magnificent stand of blooming motherwort has established itself along the path, and I will be back to cut some later.  Lucky thing, because my usual stand got in the way of a project this spring, and there's only a few plants left there.
At the end of the path at the far end of the field, there are a couple of mulberry trees I hadn't thought about for years, so I pulled down a branch and picked a few to eat and stick in the basket for later.  Doing so, there was a rustle a few feet to my left, about a foot above my head... after which a juvenile ground hog plunked to the ground and looked at me.  We locked eyes for a few moments, and then I think he realized I was that woman his parents had been talking about because he took off running, scurrying under the giant burdock leaves.  I'm not sure which of us was more startled, honestly.
Munstead lavender.  A shot of the little groundhog would be apropos, but we prefer lavender!  Little cuss...

While all this has been taking place, Bob has come out to work in the fields with the tractor, removing stumps, straightening rows, and whatever else he does out there.  He is a virtuoso on large equipment.  I swear, that man could pluck a single daisy with a backhoe, BUT he doesn't much notice things like people while he's working so I cut him a wide berth.
Finally arriving back at the garden patch we have planted this year, the calendula are basking in the sunlight.  The row of white sage beside it is really loving this plot, and has reached a bushy, lush 18" while the rows of lavender, rose geranium, and patchouli are looking pretty good too.  The resiny flowers plop into the basket one by one as my fingers get ever stickier.
The calendula flowers couldn't be more beautiful!

My mind was on the wild yarrow I'd seen on my way to the field.  I forgot all about the long-stemmed wand lavender, and headed to the yarrow.  Wishing I'd brought clippers, I gathered a good quantity because I've been wanting to distill it for years.  My friend Marcia Elston of Winged Seed kindly pointed out to me that the still shouldn't be more than half full of plant material, so there is plenty out there.
Yarrow packed in the still, ready for my return.

The last stop was at the side garden to gather up the Munstead lavender that will be used in teas over the winter.  The sweet purple blossoms are the very best of the varieties that over-winter here for things like that.
Now it's back down to the soap shed to cut the batches of soap we made last night, and then I can come home and fire up the still.  Can't wait to see how this turns out.

And so the madness of summer begins!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Essential Herbal - July/August '13

The latest issue of the magazine is whirling around out there, making its way into mailboxes across the country at a pretty good clip. If you are a subscriber, you should see it well before the end of June. If you aren't a subscriber, you can remedy that situation pretty easily by going to our website and getting yourself a subscription!
This issue is filled with all kinds of summer.  Lots of delicious recipes and instructions, some great crafting ideas, and the usual dose of lore, usage, and growing information.  Another perfect brew of herbal information splashed upon our pages!  We know you'll enjoy this one.  I found myself setting aside the work of editing and writing in order to do some of the projects that came in the articles - something I usually force myself to do AFTER we've gone to press.  
Field Notes
Perennial food gardening is a gradual, thoroughly satifying experience. 7 years in, it is starting to make a difference!
About the Cover
How do we cope with leaving behind beloved gardens?
A Bible Garden, Jackie Johnson
A fascinating look at what went into planning and executing a public garden from a historical perspective.
Herb Craft: Painting & Pounding, Suzan T Scholl
We can never get enough herb themed accoutrements! Clothing, linens, notepaper; your imagination is your only barrier with this decorative craft.
Thyme, Thymus Vulgaris, Heddy Johannesen
Versatile and lovely, there are so many uses for thyme. So unassuming that we often take it for granted. Heddy includes recipes for syrup and vinegar.
Thyme in a Magical Garden, Jacquie Beveridge
Off we go to visit the charming Thyme Garden Herb Garden in Alsea Valley of the Oregon Coast Range Mountains.
Cimicifuga Racemosa (Black Cohosh,) Sandy Michelsen
One of the next plants to be introduced into the woods here, Sandy gives us some good reasons to include Black Cohosh in the garden.
SouthRidge Treasures, Coriander (Cilantro), Mary Ellen Wilcox
As usual, Mary Ellen goes beyond the lore, history, and growing information to include 6 great recipes/uses, including Black Bean Salad and Crispy Coriander Potatoes.
Seashore Stirrings, Marci Tsohonis
Oceana Soap… Dreams of the beach and the water and the sun all rolled into a fragrant decadent bar of soap. There are also instructions for a couple of different ways to swirl colors into soap.
Herbal Wines, Infused Wines, Champagne, Marita Orr
Be prepared to find yourself running outside to find ingredients to get started! Marita has outdone herself with this stunning article filled with information, ideas, inspiration, and recipes. I’ve already made 2 batches of the elderflower champagne!
Fun, Sillies & Puns, Jessica Morgan
Jessica collects cute herbal puns and jokes, and has graciously shared a bushel of them with us!
Summer Garden Party with Wine & Cheese, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
Cheese Balls, Crisps, and Logs, Citrus Olives, Pickled Carrots, and all manner of pairing cheeses and wine to make for a memorable picnic or gathering.
The Fragrant Geraniums, Susanna Reppert Brill
So many simple ways to use those wonderful leaves, way beyond potpourri! Tea, cake, sugar and more plus how to keep them as house plants.
Pure? Natural? Organic?, Maryanne Schwartz
How do you wade through the hype when people throw around these words until they no longer have any meaning at all?
Pressed into Service, Rita Richardson
As the flowers bloom, it can be almost impossible to just let them go. Press them and keep them for decorative purposes!

Friday, June 07, 2013

You might be an herbie if...

Back in spring '11, Marnie Plunkett suggested on our email list that it might be fun to try to answer this question.  It was!  And we turned it into an article, which I'm shaking out for some chuckles today.

Remember Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck if..." standup? Let's play "you might be an herbie if...." I'll go first. You might be an herbie if....

you say "excuse me,'re standing on my dandelion".
you spend a lot of time scraping labels off food jars that will be just perfect for herbs later on. 
Your herb seed budget exceeds the gross national product of some small countries.  You have lost a room or two of your house; the ceiling beams have become drying racks... ...   .

...while showing people your gardens, you unconsciously reach down, grab a leaf and start munching on it. ..

You can name plants that other people call weeds.

Latin has become your second language.

Your neighbors are used to see you early in the morning in your PJ harvesting or taking care of your garden....

You've been reported to the local sheriff for walking along the roads putting what is considered a "noxious weed" in a gallon jar! (St. John's Wort!)  

You might be an herbie if your kid is the one on the playground fixing boo-boos with plantain growing in the grass....

You know your a (city) herbie when..... You visit your relatives in the country but can't concentrate on conversations because you are constantly eyeballing...

My, this one hit home! For us though there is a little different twist. We live in the country, but often we'll be riding down the road and I'll scream thingslike, "JEWELWEED! Stop! Back-up"! Now to an outsider this might seem weird, but at our house in invariably means that one of us will ask the other, "do you think anyone would mind?"

" You MIGHT be an herbie if.......your neighbors show your wee ones their flowers and they ask 'can you EAT IT???

You might be an herbie if you spend hours picking chamomile by hand even thoughit would cost you just pennies because you know your's has been treated thebest!

You name your kids after herbs

if there is no way you can pass a rosemary plant without touching it! empty your daughter's playhouse and set up a table in the corner because the windows are perfect for infusing oils! think Scented Geraniums make great room deordorizers

Or you might be an herbie if you you go out of your way to walk past the nursery just to see what new plants they have out.

 ... your family has been disappointed many times after finding you working in the kitchen over non-food creations. have a blender, a coffee grinder, an immersion blender, and a crockpot - all of which you wouldn't dream of using to cook with.

...your child has to plan sleepovers for those days when there are NOT herbs spread on sheets on the guestroom floor.

....people hate to have you in the car with them because you shriek so often at the sight of herbs in the wild.

...your daughter brings home a date while you're cleaning a pile of dried herbs, and he gives you the hairy eyeball...

... friends and family realized I was an herbie when they saw me buying gallons and gallons of cheap vodka (for tinctures), none of which I was going to drink. (they also wanted to stage an intervention...but that's another story~)
your wine cellar is full of shelves with containers of dried herbs, tincture and seeds. 

or you might...just might be an herbie if your wine store knows you by name and tells you when he sees you on the street, "we've gotten another shipment of that crystal palace vodka in today."

If there is no room in your refrigerator because it is stuffed with remedies, infusions and half finished Lavender Wands....

When you are the only one without the chemically treated manicured lawn in the neighborhood.


When you tell your neighbor to stop treating their lawn so that you can make more dandelion jelly.

If you're considering getting rid of the dining room furniture to make more room for your "stuff"! Good bye pretty dishes and glasses Hello HERBS!!

your kids think everyone chews on licorice roots when they come down with a sore throat.

You grow your own weed! LOL

you get 'spices' from your office cupboard.....

you tell your husband not to mow yet because you want to make soup. carry fennel seeds in your purse instead of rolaids.

you overseeded your "lawn" with dandelions....

You own more mason jars than the mason jar company :)

"You got any herb, man?" is greeted with "Yes, I do! I've got French tarragon, English tyme, evening primrose, rosemary, scented geraniums, golden oregano, painted sage, cuban oregano, feverfew, marshmallow, horehound, peppermint, curled spearmint, flat parsley...

When the "uninformed" starts to complain about their mint growing all over the place you tell them that there is a mint for mojitos!

You know and have a cooking or medicinal use for every "weed" in your yard.

you are out there digging under the snow to see if anything is growing yet.

you never take a sick day from work..because you're never sick!

you're known to go off the road often, looking at road side moreso than road!


you carry a shovel in your trunk.

when you are walking and you tell others these flowers are good to eat, or say or I wonder what that green plant over there is and what I can use it for.

You might be an herby if you're scared to death the neighbors will see you distilling herbs through your kitchen window & turn you in for making meth or moonshining!!

you routinely refer to things by their latin names/species names... ie what a nice patch of anthemis!!!

Being a herbie adds a certain spice to life, wouldn't you say?  We're having a bit of a gray, dreary day today, so a little smile came over me when reading these again.  Hope you enjoyed them!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013


The other day a friend of mine was looking for a way to protect her property.  She was finding her photographs on various sites across the web without credit or permission.  Her pictures are well composed, often deeply moving, and she can make the simplest thing appear to be tinged with magic.  Often I can tell it is hers just by the feel of the picture, before I note whose it is because they are like looking into a dream.
So imagine my surprise when, last night while searching for the answer to a random question that arrived by email, I stumbled across this:

That's my kitchen with my still in my picture from my blog.  No credit.
Later, looking for something about making tinctures, I found this:
Come on now.  I can recognize my own handwriting on this picture of my tinctures from my blog.  I ate the salsa that came in that squatty jar behind the holy basil tincture.  No credit, but the author IS asking for tips.  I have one...
We're not naive enough not to realize that putting things online means they can be considered up for grabs, but seriously now, would it be that hard to note where the picture came from?  Give the person who did the work a little notice?  In the past, I've run across entire blog posts copied with pictures included, and pasted to another blog.  That's a whole different animal that required some reporting to the host, but pictures shouldn't be this tough.
8 years ago this blog was started, and pictures are often the catalyst for a post.  A camera is nearly always with me, and when my childhood friend Patty showed me the macro setting 3 years later (yeah, really...) all hell broke loose.  In that time 1000's of photos have been posted here on the blog or on the magazine's Facebook page.  I am not alone.  All of my herbie friends share this penchant for showing each other the offerings of nature and what we create with those leaves, blossoms and roots. For many of us, it's part of what we do for a living.  So there's a very easy answer.
Just add credit.  Better would be a link because often that gives your reader even more information.  The pictures above led to A) a full step-by-step pictorial view of a distillation and B) simple ways to preserve herbs. 
You want to make a friend?  Ask for permission.  Who knows?  Maybe the originator will even want to link back to your piece, but at the very least they won't feel like you ripped them off.  I don't know anyone who would deny permission for their photos to be used with proper crediting (although I probably shouldn't try to speak for everyone).