Planning and Prep Series:  The First Step

Planning and Prep Series: The First Step

I’m going to play weather woman: the current conditions, right outside my window, is 26 degrees and clear with an overnight of 15 degrees. The ground is rock solid, leaves on my evergreen bushes are a bit limp, and the birds are covering my feeders. Some of my garden boxes still have cold weather leftovers – collards, kale, and arugula, and the paths are a patchwork of weeds.

On the farm, a heat lamp is on in the chicken coop, the cows are munching on an endless supply of hay, the horses are in every night, and the goats are unfazed. We are going through our firewood quickly and going outside isn’t the first thing I want to do each morning.

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Herbs Associated with Halloween

Herbs Associated with Halloween

Folks in my neighborhood have taken Halloween to a whole new level;  it is incredible what a bit of technology will do for a holiday. Back in my time, we’d have a Casper mask with an elastic strap.  Very hard to breathe in that thing, so you were forever lifting it up for a breath of fresh air. Moms gave away homemade popcorn balls and candy apples.  You knew who was going to have the ‘good stuff’ (Milky Way bars were a favorite) and who to avoid (the elderly neighbor who thought handing out pennies was acceptable).  Gone are those days – we’ve got big scary spiders climbing up the sides of houses, and tombstones with automated skeletons waving from the ground. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent close to 9 billion dollars on Halloween in 2018.

But, the origins of Halloween have little to do with candy and zombie costumes.  Most of the ancient festivals associated with Halloween had to do with the harvest and magic.  The Halloween that we celebrate today didn’t arrive along a single path; it is a combination of traditions that tie transitioning seasons to the thin layer between life and death.  All of these traditions, the broomstick, the apples, the witches, have ancient roots. No image of Halloween is complete without witches and broomsticks, and when it comes to witches, we need to talk about HERBS! (more…)

Harvesting Herbs in the Fall

Harvesting Herbs in the Fall

It is that time of year again. We spent months anxiously awaiting the first signs of spring – your perennial herbs emerging or warm enough weather for annuals. And, because we sell to every conceivable zone in the continental US that ‘just right time’ spans months. For us in Zone 7, we try to wait until ‘Tax Day’ but don’t always make it!

From Spring to Fall

Nevertheless, spring arrives and the fun begins – the act of planning shifts to actual planting, and more planting followed by pruning and tending and clipping. Using your herbs in all sorts of ways, because all we know, herbs are so versatile. All summer to enjoy the fresh taste of mint in tea, fresh basil on your Caprese salad, real dill on your grilled fish, tarragon chicken salad and a farm fresh chicken stuff full of fresh Bouquet Garni. We’ve done it all! For our clever DIY customers, the fun never ends while our homeopathic friends are creating all sorts of healing ointments, tinctures and teas.

But, we can all sense the change. Days are shortening, Helianthus and Joe Pye Weed are announcing the arrival of cooler nights. Fewer butterflies on fewer blooms. No more delighting in hummingbirds at the feeders. (more…)

Herbal Aromatherapy: Do Scents Make Sense?

Herbal Aromatherapy: Do Scents Make Sense?

Inhale something lovely, a sprig of lavender perhaps. What happens? Better yet, open the bottle of perfume your mother always wore. Memories flood in. Why?

Our sense of smell has been vital to our survival. We, in 2018, may not rely on that sense as we once did, but think about it: sniffing food to see if it is still edible, smelling the smoke of an enemy’s fire, detecting the healing properties of herbs through smell.

Our minds are a creation of the inputs coming from our five senses, and our sense of smell has the power to both heal as well as awaken memories. It is the most enduring sense, and it can take us back in time and flood our brain with memories, both good and bad. (more…)

The New World: Medicinal Herbs in Colonial Times

The New World: Medicinal Herbs in Colonial Times

As much as I love growing herbs, I really love talking about them.  And, believe it or not, I get lots of nice invitations from lots of nice folks who don’t mind listening to me ramble for an hour or two.  My last show was for a group of truly dedicated gardeners at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.  So, if you remember your American history classes, right around my farm is the birthplace of our nation.  Jamestown!  We even have a little competition going on about the site of the first Thanksgiving;  in theses parts, we claim it was at Berkeley Plantation, a mere 20 miles down the road.  But, I digress…

Bottom line: if you are speaking to a group of gardeners in Williamsburg, you better be prepared to toss in a bit of history so here goes;  as the early settlers began to colonize these shores, herbs were among the most important cargo.  Herbs for healing, herbs to improve the flavor a what would be considered a very bland diet, and herbs to disguise the smells that were a part of poor sanitation as well as spoilage.  Herbs were vital to the establishment of a thriving colony. (more…)

Maui: 4,000 Miles Away, but Still Feels Like Home

Maui: 4,000 Miles Away, but Still Feels Like Home

Just got back from a ‘Bucket List’ trip to Maui – 10 nights, 11 days exploring paradise with my family.  Did I mention that we totally skipped the whole holiday thing?  No tree, no lights, no stockings and no annual Christmas Party!  Still got some of that in Hawaii, but honestly, I didn’t have to lift a finger, much less the 10’ Fraser Fir.

So, what they say is true:  Hawaii is paradise.  The Leis covered with orchid blooms, gorgeous purple/white dendrobium blooms hanging around your neck.  Water, water everywhere – and torrential downpours at night followed by awe-inspiring sunrises and garden awaking lush and flush from their soaking the night before.  No sprinklers needed at this time of year.  Green, green and more green with punches of color everywhere.  Fruits, flowers and herbs – passion fruit, star fruit, cherimoya, breadfruit, pineapple, bananas.  Farmer’s Markets bursting with so many wild and wonderful offerings – fresh cut coconuts complete with a straw. (more…)