Planning and Prep Series:  Tools of the Trade

Planning and Prep Series: Tools of the Trade

I once read somewhere that humans tend to take better care of their cars than they do their own bodies.  My car is a wreck – it’s the one place that I let it all ‘all hang out’. So, in my case, I’d say I take better care of my garden tools than I do my own body.  And, by extension, I have a lot of tools that have been with me for a really long time. I’m not alone in this; most of my closest friends are gardeners, and all of us have one or two tools that are older than we are – your mother’s snips, your grandfather’s hoe, and even a handmade grain scoop.

The only common denominator to account for this longevity is that all of these ‘tools of the trade’ were lovingly taken care of.  Back in the day, out in the country, no one had the luxury of a Saturday errand to Home Depot to pick up the latest gizmo or cheap-as-dirt-made-in -you-know-where-thingamabob that was guaranteed to make your chore quicker, easier and more effective than anything on the market!  Your tools were not replaceable at a moment’s notice, and lots of time, you even had to improvise. Yep. Make something out of something else.

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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…)

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. No matter whether it is a plug-in air freshener spraying out a vanilla scent or bath bombs from Scentsy Scent Circle that smells like mangos, 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. Despite the time of year, we did all the usual Hawaii activities and even found a place where you could have your own private boat! 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…)