Saturday, December 26, 2015

Winter Solstice for the plants in Lancaster Co PA

I often use this blog as a sort of garden journal.  It helps me to know when it might be time to harvest something that is down in the woods or a car ride away.  It also reminds me of the weird years.  This is one of those.  I walked around looking at what was going on out there.  I still want to get down into the woods and check on some of the early spring plants but it's been very wet.  Hopefully it will just get cold the way it is supposed to, and that will be that.
Here are some of the things that I found to be unusual at this time of year:

Calendula ready to bloom

Nettles have never stopped sending up baby plants since the weather cooled.

The catnip is taking over a section of the garden.  Guess we'll be needing it.

I think this is clary sage - maybe borage - but there are many similar babies coming up in the area where both live in the garden.

Poor confused gooseberry.

The thyme is lush and beautiful!

This is chickweed overtaking small 2 or 3 year old firs.  Chickweed really seems to love conifers.

Chocolate peppermint.

There is always at least one violet in the side yard.

Native foxglove is very happy with this weather.

Daffodils.  They'll be back.
I didn't include the comfrey that continues to put out leaves that are then frost burned, then more new ones each time we see the sun.
I didn't include the mugwort that is coming up everywhere.  Or the tiny leaves on the elderberry bushes.

We are all aware of the many bugs and viruses that just keep going around and around, unphased by the meager cool breezes.  I don't want to think about ticks, mosquitoes, and stink bugs.  I hope it will get very cold, very soon.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sick Day for An Herbie


So yesterday I came down with a terrible cough and sore throat coupled with what seemed to be a never-ending achy feeling. I was able to get through part of my day before collapsing on the couch for what felt like ten minute but was closer to four hours.

Luckily, I have a wonderful mother who has plenty of herbal know-how to get me through these not-so-fun days off and it reminds me that herbs are truly miraculous.

First thing mom did was generously share her clementines with me. Usually I do not have massive craving for these little orange orbs but after sleeping for hours and needing some sort of sustenance, these vitamin C packed fruits were perfect.

After I demolished her clementine reserves (sorry, Mom!) she made me some wonderful chicken noodle soup with buttery crackers. It was perfect after a day of raw weather, funky sleeping patterns, and (of course) forgetting to eat because I wanted to sleep.

Finally my mom made me a delicious licorice tea mixed with elderberry wine, fire cider, lemon, and ginger. It was amazing and was perfect for warming up and settling in for a nice sleep. So nice I only got through a cup and a half before I passed out.

If you are anything like me, it is really difficult to maintain momentum and focus when you are sick. Most of the time I will pick sleeping over almost anything in hopes that I will magically wake up well. Luckily my mother is able to keep her head on straight and make sure I have plenty of elderberry and ginger in my system so I feel better sooner.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Jan/Feb 2016 Essential Herbal cover and toc

Woo hoo!  Another year begins.   Inside this issue, you'll find warmth, hope, and lots of welcoming herbalists and herb enthusiasts just waiting to share the things they know.  This particular issue has a lot of information on staying cozy and warm, which often translates into steeping herbs.  There are a lot of great blends, along with history, hows and whys, and just enough "why nots?" to motivate you. 

Check out the table of contents below to get an idea of the good stuff included in this issue.  We're beginning our 15th year, and one thing is certain:  we will continue to include clear and inclusive instructions for using herbs in every single issue.  If you want to make herbs a joyous and simple part of your everyday life, we are the magazine you've been looking for.  Subscribe today and get started!  Print is available in the US and Canada.  Pdf version is available worldwide.
Table of Contents...
Field Notes
Some personal thoughts as we leap into our 15th year of publication.
About the Cover
Carey Jung talks about her inspiration for this issue’s cover.
Introduction to Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine, Daniel Cashman
A little history, and some information on how TCM is used today.
Beginner Medicinal Herbs for Children - Flu Season, Dawnmarie Schneider
Do you know how to dose a child with herbs? Some really helpful herbs and how to use them.
Clary Sage, Carol Ann Harlos
Learn about this gloriously showy and useful member of the Salvia family.
Toners, Tina Sams
Quick and easy facial toners to keep your skin feeling
Garden Journals, Jackie Johnson
Keeping track of what goes on from year to year is a valuable habit to acquire. Jackie talks about lots of things we might not have thought to include.
Returning to My Herbal Roots, Catherine Love
A year-end remembrance and return.
Greeting the Cold Moon, Jackie McDowell
Staying comfortable in the wintertime cold can be a challenge during the monthly cycles, but herbs can help.
February, Adrie Lester
A poem.
How’d We Get Here? Tina Sams
As our EH family has grown and grown, we realized that maybe some of you might like to “meet” us and hear a tiny bit of our story.
Kicking Crud with Cayenne, Kristine Brown
Cayenne—Herb of the Year—as only Kristine can write about it.
Pain: Herbs That Help, Suzan Tobias Scholl
What is pain and how can we use herbs to help deal with it?
Bohemian Rose Soap, Marci Tsohonis
With a name like that, what else do you need to know? I want that soap!!!
Combating Stress & Sadness with Herbs, Michelle Pfaff
Personal experience is unfortunately a great teacher.
Cupcake Tin Herb Cubes, Rita Richardson
Preserving herbs.
Surviving the Long Winter, Debbie Sturdevant
Great suggestions for pulling through and getting to the other side along with a beautiful illustration, also by Debbie.
Tea Time, Sandy Michelsen
Some tea history, and wonderful blends you can make. Perfect for relaxing with a good book.
Spring Cleaning with Herbs, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
Non-toxic, natural cleaning solutions are less expensive and less damaging to our skin, surfaces, and the environment.
Tea Crafting for Winter Wellness, Kori Rodley
Some great herbal teas to support and assist in the winter.
We know that everyone will love this issue.  From the striking cover, to the pages filled with ideas, recipes, and information, and even to the sources shown in the ads, it's a stunner!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Stubbornly Beautiful

Early Friday I was able to run around looking at the garden before the tiny human came. Mom originally saw the Elder tree still growing leaves and could not get over how untimely its new leaves were. I decided with my time I would go out and explore. I was shocked by what was still fighting through the chill and what had accepted their bedtime until spring. Here is some pictures of what I found.

Elder tree leaves still reaching for the sky.

Like me, Echinacea has fully embraced the snooze button.
Spoke too soon.
And of course, a bit of Christmas cheer!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Really Big Show

Micro Business Over the Holidays - for the uninitiated.
To the tune of "Do the Hustle"

Normally I wouldn't feel able to write about this because I'd be in the thick of it myself.  This year I had the wind knocked out of me in November (literally!) and decided not to enter the competition this year.  By that, I mean the marketing and promotion of holiday and gift-giving season for my business.  For as long as I can remember, it has just been "what we do."

The first lesson came to us in our herb shop 20-some years ago.  All through November of that first year in business, we watched the cars fly past.  Back and forth to the mall. On Dec 13th of that year at a family gathering, a brother-in-law who worked for a large retail chain (at the mall) told me that if we hadn't done it yet, we should consider the season over.  I was crushed.
He was wrong though. 
In the next 2 weeks we managed to take in the equivalent of about 3 previous months.

And that's the thing.  Micro-businesses fly under everyone's radar.  We don't necessarily notice things like Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  Well... that's not really true.  We notice.  They don't necessarily notice us.  Sort of like being the short kid waiting to be picked for a team of basketball in gym class.  The general rule-of-thumb business-type-conventional-wisdom has nothing to do with us.  Some brick and mortar businesses with a good location will be swept along with the big boys and benefit.  Occasionally, an unsolicited online shout out will push an artist into unknown territory (aka success).  You just never know.

Tiny little businesses like us are really put to the test over the holidays.  Those old shop days I talk about above happened without web site or social media to worry about taking care of.  It was just the physical shop and the two of us doing everything.  Maybe a few mail orders.  And we were STILL exhausted. I'm talking about businesses of only a couple people (or just one).  Shopkeepers who tend their own shops, makers who make and market their own goods, food and beverage makers who prepare and serve it themselves; truly small business.  I'm not even sure we qualify as "cottage" industry.  All year long, it can be pretty tough to get everything done, but suddenly you've got to compete with so-called small businesses who actually have a budget for on-line campaigns, extra workers, and marketing!  It can be incredibly daunting.  I am surprised how happy I am to not be trying to keep up this year.  Oh... I posted a few things, but nothing in comparison to the way I have worked through this season in the past.

So I'm not sure.  Maybe I'll drop out of this particular race forevermore.  Maybe January/Feb should be the time for a little push.  Maybe ...  Maybe not all businesses need to be a part of every bonanza.  I'm not sure it has made any difference.  I'll have to look over the paperwork at the end of the month, but expect that it won't look much different this year from last - without knocking myself out.  I sort of hope that's what I'll find.  Imagine how freeing that will be!

Sunday, December 06, 2015

A Stocking Full of Stuff Under $10

This morning, I started thinking about all of the great little items we have here that over the years have been purchased as stocking stuffers, office gifts, teacher gifts, hostess gifts - and so on.  Instead of making you dig through the whole website looking for inexpensive gifts, let me show you!  Everything pictured or discussed will be under $10.
Okay - let's go!

 You'll find small incenses (the incense matches are really great for changing the air in small spaces fast), and Palo Santo sticks.  We've got a lot of tea blends, heat sealable tea bags, infusers, and varied implements.  A nice mug with a couple ounces of different teas and an infuser makes a nice gift.  A handful of incenses in the stocking...

 We have 7 or 8 small books that address single topics.  They're very popular and contain lots of fun projects for everyone from beginners to seasoned herbalists.

 Single issues of the magazine are great, and the information never goes out of date!  We have several years of single back issues listed on the site to choose from.  
Soap, soap, soap!  Our handmade soaps have been spreading cheer (and bubbles!) for over 20 years and we have people who have come back every single year to restock.  Well over 25 varieties to choose from, we're sure you'll find something you'll love.

 Solid perfumes/lotion bars - now including Dude and Patchouli - are always popular, especially the Amber.  They are also called lotion bars because they work so well on dry patches!
 Lipbalms - who doesn't need a few of these as the cold winds blow?

Tub teas are herb blends that have been neatly sealed into large tea bags.  We recommend brewing them in a large pitcher full of very hot water while the tub runs, and then pouring the well steeped tea into the tub.

See?  Lots of great ideas, right? 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Mors Please! My Cranberry Mors Experiment

By Molly Sams

On the commune yesterday we were able to come together for an absolutely wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving. There was stuffing, mashed potatoes, and of course (for the vegetarians) some of the best stuffed shells this world has ever seen. My mother and my aunt are the ones who have been creating the dishes for the feast since the dawn of my time (and well before that). They have always crafted delicious and simple recipes that are just perfect for our family.

This year I decided to try a new addition to the feast by bringing an all-natural nonalcoholic drink I found in Wild Drinks by Emily Han. While reading through the book I fell in love with one recipe in particular. Cranberry Mors is a bright red import from Russia, tart and refreshing hot or cold. Easy to make and incredibly tasty.

First you have to clean the cranberries and boil them until they crack, then mash them, and finally add honey and lemon to the mix. Wait until room temperature, strain, and chill. It only took me about a half hour to make two batches and I even added a little ginger to it for some extra zing.

Now I was aware that it would not be wildly popular before presenting it. My family is mostly a water and coffee drinking family and my cousin was sufficiently unimpressed when I said it did not contain booze. But some of us drank it and enjoyed it, and I was happy I got to bring something different to the table. I am not as experienced or as knowledgeable as my mother and aunt in the kitchen but I am lucky enough to have a supportive family that will always encourage me to try new and wild. Just one more thing to be thankful for.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han: A Review

Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han: A Review
 by Molly Sams

As I’ve been studying herbalism it’s been surprising to see men and woman my age falling in love with things like kombucha and kefir. While these are things that still make my spine shudder a little – still not having gotten over my pre-school fears from watching my mother and aunt brewing them - I’m glad to see recipes for shrubs, switchels, and oxymels have made a delicious comeback.

But these drinks are not just something you pay almost $10 for at a fancy gardening expo or vegan café, Han has made recipes for these tasty concoctions that are simple and easily customizable for anyone with possible diet restrictions.

Many of you have made plenty of fortified wines and tasty vinegars, and I’m sure others could use some introduction courses. Han explains what each drink is and a bit of history on it before elaborating on different tastes and recipes. She also explains the importance of cleanliness when making your drinks.

One example was kefir. I had no idea that when you are making multiple batches they must be several feet away from each other or even in different rooms so they do not cross contaminate. Depending on the recipe you may also want to avoid using glass containers. For sodas they may burst under pressure from all the bubbles, plastic is often best to avoid any messes or glass shards in your kitchen.
I was happy to learn from Han’s example and not from mopping my kitchen three times.

Switchels, Shrubs, Squashes, and More!
Han has both classic recipes and modern ones she has created on her own. A few of them are old favorites while others I cannot wait to try this holiday season.

Cranberry Mors looks like a perfect nonalcoholic drink for Thanksgiving this year. Mors, as Han says, was first published in a Russian Homemaking book. To make cranberry Mors you mix cranberry with water, mash, and then add lemon juice and honey. Chilled or hot with mulling spices can be a perfect beverage.

Han also has the perfect recipe for when you’re not feeling too hot. A fire cider Hot Toddy is perfect to add some heat to your toddy when you have a cold or flu. By combining hot water, liquor, fire cider and honey together you can have a comforting beverage that can warm you up and tuck you into bed so you wake up feeling refreshed and nourished.

Ginger Bug Soda Starter
Mixing fresh ginger, sugar and water you can make the perfect carbonation for homemade tasty sodas by mixing these ingredients in a plastic pint glass covered with a cloth and secured with a rubber band.

These descriptions are not exact recipes for the beverages discussed. To get more precise recipes you can buy the book from her website.

While there are plenty of wonderful ideas for beverages on the Internet (Heavens, just look at our Pinterest) this book gives you plenty of valuable tidbits of advice that cannot be found on any board, pin, or link. The love and experience Han put into Wild Drinks and Cocktails gives her reader’s the confidence and know-how to create truly unique recipes and duplicate classics to find ways to make them perfect for their friends and family. So go forth and mix!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fire Cider T-shirts with a Surprise

They'll be done soon.
It took longer than we'd hoped, but it will be worth it.  Carey Jung's gorgeous artwork ready to wear!
All Fire Cider shirts that have been or will be ordered before they arrive at our door will be shipped out with a gift in exchange for your patience.
It will be something like a bar of soap or a notepad.  Maybe some incense.
AND 10% of the purchase price goes to so there's another little gift from your purchase.  Order HERE
They'll make great gifts too.
While you're there, you might want to check out some of the other great things we have available, like...
Our logo t-shirts...


Gorgeous glass balls...

and all kinds of our books, soaps, teas, incense, bath and body, and remedies. 
Visit our website for a little stroll through our shop and get some of your shopping done ahead of the rush.  Orders over $100 ship free, too!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Aromatherapy Pendants

I've been wanting to make these so that I could add photos to this post, but that's not going to happen right now.
If you have a craft store nearby, it is possible to get air-drying clay that comes in either terra cotta or white.  The clay is great for aromatherapy jewelry because it will absorb drops of the oil and last for a good long time.
This leaf is rougher than you'd want for a pendant, but will give you an idea of what we're talking about:

You could make any kind of beads or pendants, depending on what you'd like to make.  You can find really interesting molds with the clays at the craft store, or in the candy making section.

 Another cool way to use this clay is in a potpourri blend.  We always collect seashells, beach glass, and pebbles whenever we visit the beach.  It is beautiful, but there is nothing porous to hold and fix a scent.  For something like this, I'd choose the white clay and either use small clam shells as molds, or make small plaques that would allow me to carve words into them, like "beach", "breathe", "wish", or any words that might be meaningful to you or a recipient of this type of gift.

I found some pendants we made several years ago using this clay...

Here are some examples.

I also have been playing around with this paper based clay, but am not finding it to be as workable for this application -

Thursday, November 12, 2015

T-shirts, blood clots, and scans - Oh My!!!

Well this has been a week.  At least that's what they tell me.  Once again, I get to be a warning for others.  This seems to be the true reason for my existence.
First let me tell you about the t-shirts. 

Order HERE

I put these on sale about a week ago.  10% of the sale price ($21) goes to On Monday morning, the local t-shirt printer CHANGED THEIR MIND and said that the employee who quoted and accepted the job didn't know enough about it.  I don't even know enough swear words to say how I feel about that.  They did give me another possible source, and I was able to swiftly rescue the project although their required minimum is much higher.  Get your shirt today!

So let's talk a little about blood clots and the lungs.
I feel very lucky to be sitting here writing.
A little over a week ago, I got up from writing, and felt a very sharp pain at the top of my thigh.  So sharp in fact, that I considered the possibility of a broken hip and needed to use a cane for a couple days.  *Naturally* I decided to wait a few days to see if it would resolve before calling a doctor.  Because I'm an idiot.  It did not occur to me that it was my femoral artery until much later.

It did resolve.  About that time, I became short of breath.  At the time, I made no connection between the two things.  Over the next few days, that intensified until Saturday I found myself in the middle of the grocery store wondering if I'd make it to the car (or to the end of the aisle).

At home, I looked up walking pneumonia (seated in my usual cross-legged position in front of the computer), but there was no fever.  Other than the inability to catch my breath after any exertion at all, I felt fine.  I made a super concentrated lung syrup, and took it often.  Nada.  Sunday we had a 2 year old over for the day, and I promised my family that I would call the doctor in the morning.  Cooking dinner meant many, many breaks of sitting to catch my breath.
I really figured that my life-long battle with tobacco had caught up with me.  I have quit many times, and fallen off the wagon just as many times.  It can be a very difficult thing.  I no longer smoke, but there were a lot of years...  In a lot of ways, the dread of what would be found kept me from making an appointment earlier.

The doctor got me right in on Monday, and so began the blood-letting and scanning and testing.  They eventually sent me home with an inhaler, but a few hours later called to let me know that the blood test results showed a high likelihood of a blood clot in the lung, and a CAT scan was scheduled for a few hours later.  From that moment on, life was no longer in my control for a few days.

I will spare you all the details, but there were clots in both lungs.  What stands out for me is 3 days on a clear liquid diet (that nobody could really give a reason for), an alarm on the bed, so they knew if I got up, and learning that it is possible to fall asleep during an MRI (I am very claustrophobic) with enough sedation.  Chicken broth for breakfast.  Seriously.  And lunch.  And dinner.  Blood tests every few hours to get the blood thinner just right.  It could have been a horrible experience, but A) everyone was kind and gentle and B) I was alive. 
This could just as easily have resulted in sudden death or a stroke.

Can you see how many different ways I was an idiot?  How many times I decided to "wait and see" instead of seeing a doctor (or calling an ambulance!!!)

Now here's my point in writing this...
We are ALL spending a lot of time on the computer these days.  We forget to take breaks.  One of the doctors told me that stretching the calves with "toes toward the nose" - sort of the opposite of pointing the toes - releases a natural blood thinner, and doing that simple exercise 100 times a day is all the typical person would need.

If you have a sharp, debilitating pain, see a doctor.
If you suddenly find yourself short of breath, see a doctor.
To my herbie friends... you can't fix everything with herbs.

I'm going to be fine.  If one person reads this, retains it, and makes that call, it will have been well worth the time spent writing it.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Herbal Sachets

Herbal Sachets
by Molly Sams
(Inspired by Tina Sams's Lavender Cat in By The Hearth p. 121)

Step One: Find some funky fabric and make a bag.
You can make other shapes like a heart, star, or kitty depending on what you or the recipient would like. I picked a basic bag pattern because I'm not the most talented seamstress.

Step Two: Pick the herbs for the sachet.
I picked chamomile, pink rose petals, and a bit of lavender. I've found in terms of lavender a little goes a long way.  These three herbs smell nice together.  In a drawer or closet, it will keep clothing smelling fresh, with the added benefit from the lavender being a great moth repellent.  Kept by the bedside, it would be relaxing.

Step Three: Put the herbs in the bag.  A canning funnel can be very helpful.

Step Four: Fold the ends in to the top of the bag and sew it shut.
Be sure to give the herbs some space in the bag to move and breath. This will help it stay fragrant longer.

Step Five: Make it pretty!

Optional: Add a few drops of an essential oil to enhance the scent.
Many other fragrant herbs can be used, depending on purpose.  

To make these as tree ornaments or gift tie-ons, use a fine organza fabric so that the herbs are visible, and sew a ribbon loop into one of the seams so that you have a hanger.  Pre-made organza bags with draw-sting tops are available from many outlets, too.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Cleaning with Rosemary (House)

Cleaning with Rosemary (House)
Molly Sams

As you all know I have been interning at The Rosemary House for quite some time. There are many a perk to working with Susanna every Wednesday. One of my favorites is being able to help her review classes before she actually gives the class. Last week the class was all natural cleaning products. While I knew a few things, Susanna (as usual) showed me there was so much more to the subject than orange oil and a prayer.

My personal favorite was the soft scrub she created. As someone who has lived in many a college dorm room and a cookie factory in Brooklyn (that’s not an exaggeration), you have no clue how thrilled I was to find out a soft scrub existed that didn’t reek of chemicals and burn my hands. By mixing hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and castile soap I was able to make my shower sparkle, my toilet bowl shine, my kitchen sink look new, and even give my refrigerator a facelift. This stuff was nothing short of amazing and I’ll be sure to always have some in my home from now on.

Susanna’s favorite was another concoction I would have never guessed would work as well as it did. Mixing distilled water, white vinegar, castile soap, and a bit of essential oil,  Susanna was able to make a wonderful all purpose cleaner that made my bathroom and kitchen floor shine.

There were plenty of tidbits throughout the class that I was happy to learn. Hydrogen peroxide is apparently a Godsend that can clean the grout in your kitchen and bathroom floors, and can even clean your reusable grocery bags from smelly odors or gunk left from fruits and veggies. By using a spray bottle you can spritz the inside of the grocery bag, which will eliminate the odor and you can wipe away the mess after the hydrogen peroxide has had a few minutes to do its work.

Working with my mother, aunt, and at The Rosemary House reminds me there is always something new to learn about herbalism and living naturally. I’m shocked by the fact that if you look, there are ways to be more natural in every facet of your life if they are not already there. So do yourself a favor and take a class, try a new recipe, or just drink a different tea. Learning more about herbs even in small ways can expand your knowledge of plants and life in general. If you’re as lucky as me it can also make your house smell great, too!