Monday, August 28, 2017

Salt Blends from Your Garden (or Produce Section)

There are so many great ways to preserve culinary herbs for later use, and salt blends is one of them.  This is just one - but you can try all kinds of things!
We make them in very small batches.  For us, 1/2 cup is more than enough until the next season rolls around, but you might want to make them for gifts.

Give them a try.  You'll be glad you did.

We chose rosemary, lemon zest, and pink Himalayan salt for this batch.
This ran in the magazine a few issues back.

We don't grind it until it is uniform, but you can.
We really enjoy tiny bits of the ingredients, popping up here and there.  The lemon and rosemary really shine on poultry or fish, and all kinds of pastas and veggies.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Another Day...

We have a pretty good time around here.  I think that has a lot to do with all of the ways that we get to express our creativity.
This summer has been pretty wild, with a lot of planned and unplanned twists and turns.  We also changed the deadline schedule for the magazine, and that still has me floundering a little bit.  The last issue just got out there, and now we are looking at a deadline in a week.  I was used to a month to catch my breath (and help catch up with the soap!) but that vanished.  We'll get used to it, but it's still a bit odd.
Blocks of Blackberry Sage, Merlot, Patchouli, Apricot Freesia, Green Tea, and Apple Snap.
This week, we've been putting in lots of time on orders with my sister's soap company.  Her business only handles wholesale orders.  Essential Herbal carries her products as retail. 
All summer long, every time we think the shelves look full and "healthy," the phone rings a couple of times and they look scary again.  We've been trying to make 6 batches 45 bars each) every day for a while. 
I'm home for lunch right now, so I thought I'd share a few pics.
One of the things I love to do is make molded soaps with the leftover soap batter.  As the holidays approach, these "oddball" soaps are fun to slip into order boxes up at the EH shipping area.  
The rectangles are dragons, and we've got a great idea for the tea festival!
 Daylight is just over the horizon.  Or a pile of orders will come in.  One or the other :-)
We needed a few hundred sniffing jars for the current orders.
These smell up the whole joint.
  And a bunch of bathing herbs.
This is a pleasant chore.  We can sit and talk while we make them.
Everything is pretty orderly.
Starting to get a grip.  Many tables make for an easier time.
Just a bunch of lotion bars to go...
And still there's time for the plants.
These greet me at the front door.  I love them.
Guess I'll be heading down to finish up - and help get tonight's 6 batches laid out.  First though, I'll send out renewal notices. 
The weather is so gorgeous.  I want to squeeze in the time to weed the saffron patch!  It won't be too long before those bright purple crocuses start popping up.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Sept/Oct '17 Essential Herbal Issue (#95)

Another great issue is on the way.  It should be hitting mailboxes any day now. Not a subscriber?  We can fix that.  Sign up on OUR WEBSITE
Be sure to check out the multi-year discount.
Here's the table of contents:
Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams
Bits and pieces of life on the hill, and what’s new with the magazine.
Give Beets a Chance, Rita Richardson
Lots of reasons to bring delicious beets into the kitchen, how to prepare them, and 3 recipes.
Echinacea, Tina Sams
I accidentally started a chapter on Echinacea for Healing Herbs, and it’s been hanging around in the files waiting for a chance to be in the magazine.
Seasonal Oil Change, Maryanne Schwartz
As temperature and humidity change, so will our requirements for skin soothing oils.
New Book Excerpt, The Herbalist’s Kitchen by Brittany Wood Nickerson
An excerpt from a gorgeous new cookbook/herbal. Look for a review on the blog soon.
List Article, Your Favorite Winter Medicinal Herbal Preparation?
We gathered answers together from the Yahoo! group, the facebook page, and email, to share our favorites. Be sure to look on page 30 for the next topic, and join in!
Helen De Conway Little Medal of Honor Winner, Tina Sams & Maryanne Schwartz
We honor and congratulate our friend (and frequent contributor) Sarah Liberta on winning this prestigious award.
Gardening with Kathy, Using Herbs in the Landscape, Kathy Musser
Tons of great ideas and fun, useful plants that you may not have considered before—or maybe just didn’t think about quite this way.
Flexible Quiche, Marci Tsohonis
With just the ingredients that you probably have in the kitchen, and some herbs from the garden, you can put a luscious quiche on the table for the family, or let guests think you worked all day on dinner.
Rosemary, Miranda Hoodenpyl
Beautiful, fragrant, delicious, and medicinal—rosemary can wear a lot of hats. Well studied and documented, bring this plant and the essential oil (or hydrosol) inside.
Self Heal, Sandy Michelsen
This unassuming, little, flowering lawn weed is an important medicinal. Good information, and how to make a self heal salve.
Pecan Date Surprises, Sarah Liberta
“Beneath the lightly crispy shell of this confection is a rich, gooey center of moist dates and pecans laced with citrus.”
Natural Calendula Soap, Marci Tsohonis
With dry winter months coming, this is the soap to make and have on hand. If you haven’t taken that plunge yet, do it now. Use this recipe. Calendula soap is made for winter.
The Value of Vitex, Kristine Brown
The how’s and why’s of vitex. Learn all about it, as well as how to make a vinegar, oil, and poultice!
The Shakespeare Garden, Jackie Johnson
The herb group maintaining the Green Bay Botanical Gardens went all in for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, using the herbs mentioned in his works.

Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

August PDF sale

For the rest of the month, get your books and magazine back issues (pdf format only) at an amazing 40% discount!  Use the code AUGUST READS at checkout.

Book PDF's

Magazine PDFs

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Garden Seed Saving Guide

The Garden Seed Saving Guide - Third Edition
Easy Heirloom Seeds for the Home Gardener
by Jill Henderson

 The time is now, seasonally and agriculturally, to make the effort to properly save viable seeds.
Now personally, I've always been pretty lackadaisical about it.  Pick a few flower heads here, some dried beans from the vine there, and several pods from that plant over there.  It has generally been good enough.  As I've mentioned many times, I can't throw a rock without hitting a roadside stand selling wholesome produce in the summer.  However, I've known that there were better ways to keep seeds.

This book is a treasure chest of information.  She covers a lot of relatively dry subjects with an easy and engaging style.  What's a biennial?  Why do we care about the Latin names?  Why do we want to remove the gelatinous membrane from tomato seeds, and how?  How long do seeds last, and how can we prolong their viability.  What is genetic diversity within a species, and why is it important to preserve?
Most of these are things that I had managed to skirt (while still having enough success with sowing veggies and flowers), but knew that they were important. 
Beginners will return to these pages again and again, while those who have been gardening for decades will find plenty of new and interesting information too.

You'll be amazed at how much is covered.

ISBN 978-1-57067-346-7
$9.95 ~ 64 pages
Book Publishing Company -

Thursday, August 03, 2017

To vend, or not to vend...

There are a couple of books sitting here to review, so that's coming up in the next week, but in the meantime there's something we've been mulling over for the last year or so.  We've been hesitant to bring it up but just in case you visit a festival and don't see us there...

Vending at herb festivals has really changed over the years, and except for one or two that we love, it's probably over for us.  We've tried a lot of things, from the massive state farm show, to the Phila wholesale trade show, to all sizes of herb festivals and craft fairs, to the (defunct) local farmers market. We'd love to hear what others think about this in your area, especially if you've been at it for a decade or more.
Our first festival was about 25 years ago.
It was an evening and a day, with the evening being by invitation only.  $30 was our fee, and there were about a dozen vendors.  We were well fed at the reception, and there was May wine, too.  The next day, the director of the venue came around to be sure that we didn't need anything.  Did we have enough change?  For those of you who vend, we can only say that, yes, this really did happen.  We made about 25X our booth fee.  Of course now that fees are closer to $200 for a weekend show, that is not, nor will it ever be, the same for us.

Our next venture was the local renaissance festival.  There, we worked very hard for very little - but we had a lot of fun.  The fun kept us coming back, but around the third year we realized that the (then) owner found a way every year to snatch whatever we'd made, so we left.
 We continued vending at herb festivals and enjoying them.  We've always loved meeting the people we write for, or who love the soap.  As time went by, instead of one or two a year within easy driving distance, there were several each weekend during the spring.  There are only so many herbal enthusiasts, and they only have so many dollars (and hours).  Shows started changing their names from "herb fair" to "herb and garden fair" because not many tiny herb businesses can afford the kind of rent they're charging so it became necessary to broaden the field.  Just a fact.
 Our sales diminished, and then we hit an earning plateau.  Nothing we did or created made a difference.  Each year the shows became more and more expensive to sign up for, yet our sales remained the same.  Instead of 25X our booth fee, there are some shows where we started making only 2X.  We used to think that the exposure made it worthwhile, but 2 days away, leaving the work space in a shambles, and then taking a week to catch up and recover?  Considering all of the true costs, including paying for the products and materials, getting help, credit card fees (and on and on and on), it might just be a negative balance.  If it rains, the loss can be immense.

There are only a couple places that are fun, relaxed, and worth that.

 It often feels like the smaller the crowd, the better the sales.  Also, 12 vendors versus 150 is much better for the vendors.

And you can never tell.  We've traveled to herb conferences that were shockingly good, and then there was one that barely paid for the gas, let alone any hotels or food along the way.

So... part of it is that the partners in crime have either split for the coast or retired from shows, and a large part of it is that it just isn't fun anymore.  Is anyone making any money?  Certainly not like at one time, before everything was available at the touch of a computer key and people waited all year for that one, big herb festival.  It would be great to stop hauling around tables and boxes and displays.  We've had a blast, but maybe it's time to let them go.

Again, we'd love to read your thoughts and comments on this subject.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Incense for a Swap

I can't believe it's been almost a month since we blogged!  Last month at this time, Molly had decided to go across the country with her cousin to see what the west coast had to offer.  She took care of a big festival for us, finished off her daytime job, tearfully said goodbye to her internship (and beloved mentor Susanna) at The Rosemary House, and set about packing and saying goodbye to her friends.
 Maryanne and I took time out after finishing the Sept/Oct issue to attend the Sage Apothecarian Gathering in Syracuse NY last weekend.  There was a swap, and I signed up for it, deciding to make incense.  Thought I'd share it here, since I absolutely love it.  I should note that the sandalwood has been around here for at least a decade (or more) and we grew the white sage. 
Giant chunk of pinon with a little white sage, and tiny test cones.
Here's the recipe and instructions:
Pinon and White Sage incense tiles
5 parts Makko pwd
5 parts Yellow Sandalwood pwd (red Santal works great, or sub any wood powder)
1 part White Sage pwd
1 part Pinon resin
1/2 part Salt Petre
1/2 part Gum Tragacanth
water to moisten - I used White Sage hydrosol

blended powders, ready to mix with liquid
Combine all ingredients to form a paste, adding more water if it doesn't come together (like play dough) or more of one of the powders if it is too wet.

We rolled the dough out between 2 sheets of freezer paper and scored it, transferring it onto the screen to dry. One could also make cones.
Tiles cut and laid out on a screen to dry.  Turned after a day, and dried another 2.
To burn incense tiles, fill small fireproof dish with sand, gravel, or something similar. Stand the tile in the sand, and light.
Making incense is fun and relatively simple.  We have many of the harder to find ingredients on our site.  CLICK HERE.