Wednesday, April 30, 2008

From the Left Coast

I LOVE having herb sisters who live in places I've never been.... or can't get to!! A sweet package arrived in the mail from sunny California today, smelling of the sea and fragrant bunches of fresh mugwort, horsetail and bay leaves! Best of all, the whole shebang was wrapped up in a North Bay Bohemian magazine. Think I'm gonna take a short break, turn on some "Old and in the Way", light some patchouli incense and take a little look at this mag. I love the ads already. Chris shared a recipe to make some Bay Rum with the bay leaves. I'll probably make horsetail vinegar for a hair rinse and the mugwort...I have a few ideas for that. It smells great. When I get that Bay Rum brewing, I'll post a photo of it. Peace.

Pardon me

but damn, that is some pretty violet jam.
I'm gonna need to make more, much more. I don't want to be without this...ever.

Dew, Dew, Dew....

...looking out my backdoor.
Lotsa dew with a few pockets of frost. oh my

little ice on the chicken's water

Burdock leaf

Ground Ivy

Dandelion Fluff

Lady's Mantle

Dripping Violetta

Crunchy Comfrey

Frosty Catnip

pretty rose leaves

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gordie & the Girl

I heard nothing this morning. No early morning 'crowing'. No commotion. A little curious, I went out looking for Gordie on my own....and found two.They were looking down on me, swishing their tails and bobbing their heads. No sound, just silent goosey greetings. Instead of the usual inspired hockey spin on last night's game, I felt the sudden strong shiver of mystical visitation. Maybe it was the misty backdrop. Maybe it was the silence. Maybe it was being outside in my robe at 7 am...but, maybe not. Maybe I just go out with an open mind and see what story they have to tell me, eh? Forget the clever blog lines and be quiet... what a concept. Sorry, my Boy, you're gonna have to start your own hockey blog. Momma's got some work to do.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Guess this got lost in the winner's circle a few days ago with the violet book giveaway. I have an extra copy of Tina's Wild Food's for Every Table that I was supposed to giveaway at noon today and forgot about...and maybe you did , too! I only have two people who threw their names into the nettles hat for this book so far and I'm not sticking my hand in there until there are a few more. As some of you might know, I kinda like the sting, but I'd prefer to have more names in there to dig for! Follow the link to see a listing of some of the great recipes available. The drawing for this book will be noon on Friday! Come on, don't be shy...we should all be grazing our yards for food. Have you seen the price of rice, flour and eggs lately?? Don't get me started about the price of organic chicken feed. EAT THE WEEDS!

Colorful Brews

Checking back on our infusions to see how they are coming along...Above on the right is the rice wine vinegar and violet flowers. Same violet flowers on the left, but this time it is a tincture of grain alcohol and distilled water. No distinguishable violet color remains. That's a bit of a disappointment. I will be adding some violet syrup to this tincture though so I hope that gives it a little color.
These are white distilled vinegar infusions for our 'Cleaning Green' cleaning products class. On the left is a thyme infusion, in the center is lemon peels and on the right is a lavender infusion. I used about a cup of herbs per quart of vinegar...I warmed the vinegar first before I poured it over the herbs to give it a good start. When they are strained, they can be mixed half and half with distilled water and put in a spray bottle for cleaning or mildew busting with a few drops of essential oil of tea tree, lavender or lemon. I make the strong lemon vinegar with lemon essential oil to use in my bucket of hot water when I mop the floor. Smells so nice...

It may be too soon to say

but it looks like Gordie came down off his high horse, and in the process, got the girl. Right before I came inside I saw them fly off together...
Update (10 minutes later) They're back.

April Showers....

bring April smiles

Sunday, April 27, 2008

First Came the Manners,

then, you were given the sacred name of Canadian Royalty,

Could potty training be next, dear goose?
You're really starting to grow on me, Gordie.

On the hot seat

It was a fast and simple task for the Boy. Give me the name of a Canadian hockey player with a name that starts with the letter G.....of course, no one else could fill the bill better than Gordie. Gordie Howe. Mr. Hockey. Bet you're so proud of our hockey boys this morning, eh, Gordie? Well, okay, maybe not. I can certainly understand your national loyalty... and the Flyers did win 4-2 over the Canadiens last night. But, just maybe, Gordie might be proud to know that we named our goose after him. Well, we are certainly proud to have Gordie in our midst. I think he's gonna be good luck for us. Isn't there some old folklore about a goose on your chimney bringing good luck? I'm a strong believer in folklore. So, boys, go on and play some good, old time , hard hittin' hockey, like Gordie did, eh? The goose is with yuz. Whadya say, boys? Keep your feet movin' now, boys, keep 'em movin'....

Saturday, April 26, 2008

From Lemons comes Lemonade

...or, in this case, organic apple cider slushies! Follow along, if you will. Saturday morning, I was scheduled to teach a two hour class on "Cleaning Green" at Willow Creek Orchards about 30 minutes northeast of here. I planned to leave an hour early to get there with plenty of time to spare. Pack car. Check. Handouts and supplies abundant. Check. Freshly ironed apron on , bucket filled with rubber gloves, natural cleaning supplies, herbs, vinegars, essential oils. Check. Leaving on time, gas tank full, say goodbye to goose on roof...Check. Smoooooth sailing, right? Wrong. Insert sound of figurative screeching brakes here...the sound of a perfectly scheduled morning coming to a screeching halt. Just fifteen minutes from home, the major highway going east turned into a sudden two lane parking lot for as far as my eyes could see. We're talking 20 miles. Fast forward through the next two hours through inching traffic which included 6-8 cell phone calls, sucking diesel fumes, ignoring angry motorists, appeasing 10+ waiting class participants and at least one frazzled driver fighting back tears. The decision was made from the highway: Class canceled...refunds issued. sigh. Everyone was disappointed. Traffic snarls are simply a 'natural' disaster of this crowded world that cannot be avoided. Once I finally got off 'Disaster Highway', I decided to forge ahead towards my final destination anyway, at the invitation of my most gracious hostess, Melissa Smith, whose cheerful voice at the other end of the phone helped to keep me from falling apart during the two hour trek. She offered a hot drink, a sweet treat and state-of-the-art composting bathroom facilities for the weary traveler. I was completely sold by the end of her sentence! Melissa and I had never met, communicating almost entirely by email since early February, but by the time I had arrived at the orchard, I was greeted with the sort of big warm hug shared only by those who have experienced an ordeal together! While I enjoyed my treats, Melissa shared the dream that she and her husband Drew had for this 140 acre tract of land and how they made that dream happen. The family farm is the first and only certified organic produce farm in Montgomery County. It's a true hard-working fairy tale of vision and commitment for this young couple...oh, and did I mention three little ones under the age of five?? And many loyal customers who are greeted on a first name basis? And a cheerful dedicated staff? Something great is happening here. Before I left to head back home, it was decided that not only would my "Cleaning Green" class be rescheduled, but an additional series of classes would be added along with a prominent spot for the Farm at Coventry product line, as well! This is the kind of 'good people' partnerships that make the world go 'round for me. After a nice walk around the orchard, blissfully enveloped in the scent of sweet apple blossoms, I was calm, satiated and ready to drive the end,it was most definitely worth the time it took to get there. In fact, I can't think of a better final destination. Next time, though, I take the scenic back roads.

I never wanted a rooster.....

but it looks like I got one anyway. It's okay, though, I'm an early riser.

The great news is that since yesterday, he's learned some manners and stopped the awful hissing and it appears like he's made some progress on the social front, as well.
Stephen Stills would be proud...
"Well there’s a rose in the fisted glove and the eagle flies with the dove, and if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with, love the one you’re with, love the one you’re with, love the one you’re with..."

Friday, April 25, 2008

And the winner is.......

Woohoo! Congratulations! I think I still have farmgirl addresses. I'll send it right out!As for the rest of you, don't pout! Tina at the Essential Herbal 'accidently' sent an extra copy of 'Wild Foods for Every Table' with my order. (Thanks, Tina) I would be remiss if I didn't encourage you all to have it on your counter, ASAP! If you'd like this copy, put your name into the comment' hat' made of stinging nettles fibers. On Monday at noon, I will fearlessly put my hand inside and pull out a winner along with a lovely little tingle on my fingers! Ann, do not be afraid, I say, do not be afraid....nettles are your friends.

The morning after...

Okay, it's bad enough that the Montreal Canadiens beat the Flyers in overtime last night...not to mention breaking one player's stick, bad calls and fans dumping beer on another's head in the penalty box, but this is just going a little too far. Seems they sent one of their geese down here to hiss down on me and poop on my very own roof top when I came out to sip on my tea!! This is not a weathervane or a cute lightening rod...this is a pissy-hissy goose perched on the peak of the roof at 7 am, making all kinds of racket. Just look at the attitude he's showing with that body language...swayin' back and forth, mocking me and our hockey boys....sheesh, how rude. Philadelphia fans wouldn't dream of exhibiting this kind of behavior.....ahem...((blush)) okay, I'm gonna stop right there. In all seriousness, I believe his bad behavior had something to do with another couple of geese in the backyard early this morning. This unhappy fella is probably a suitor scorned. A loser in love, up there 'beating his chest' in his own goosey way to impress the little lady. Well, I ask you, sir, to kindly take your love triangle, your hissing and spitting and pooping, somewhere else, Thank you. Shake it off, fellas...let's go, boys, let's go.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Green Grieving

I cannot even bear to be outside....I shot this from inside through a window. He's here. I did as much as I could before he got here, but it never seems like enough. I know they'll come back...perhaps even stronger. With the windows open,the whole house smells like ground ivy , spearmint and mugwort. I left my stool out in the center of the violet patch as a little protest of sorts. Maybe he'll get the message and skirt around them. I knew the time was coming but I'm still really sad about it....signing off for today. This would be a good time to clean the bathroom. I always clean when I'm upset. ((sniffle,sniffle)) UPDATE: He didn't get the subliminal protest message...stool moved, violets mowed.


Sorry for the diversion ...this post isn't about plants or gardening or beer making or herb classes....but, this is a hockey family, living in a hockey town, living the hockey dream...and this is my hockey Boy/Man wearing his new hockey shirt. I don't have cable tv so I will be listening to old time hockey with Canadian announcers on the radio tonight and Riley will miss most of the game, cuz, well, he'll be playing hockey at the rink.There is magic in the air, let's go boys...put the biscuit in the basket...let's go, FLYERS.

Let there Bee Bumbles and Blueberries

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sunset Serenade

geese honking
doves cooing
windows screening
Neil crooning
chickens settling
traffic slowing
cats purring
wind stirring
laundry flapping
"let's go for ice cream"
music to my ears. goodnight.

Poultry Pressures

Okay, Okay, I concede. The lawn will be mowed tomorrow....with some restrictions.

First Sniff

The Boy and I planted this double flowered "Hope" lilac a few years back on Mother's Day.The flowers just began to open today. Heavenly.

In a Jam....

This is a small post about the violet jam and the tweaking of the recipe.... The jam on the left was made yesterday. A few points of note: The initial recipe called for the juice of one lemon. In my opinion, this jam tasted way too lemony, even with 2 1/2 cups of sugar. In addition, the lemon juice makes the natural violet color turn more pink than purple. Another point: the recipe asked that the violets be added at the start with the water/lemon juice. I felt this processed them down to something that was unrecognizable as a violet. The jam on the right was made today, with the recipe I listed on the last tweaks included. I only used the juice of half a large lemon (seriously reamed, however, because you do need the lemon juice) and I only added the violets and pulsed them at the very end. The difference is obvious. One more point. I used raw organic sugar in both recipes. Had I used fine white sugar, it may have been a little less muddy and more crystal clear looking. But if I'm going to ingest sugar, I want to try and use the best. (Okay, this is probably an issue of blind denial on my part, but we won't go there today because we're making jam, for Pete's sake!) I really like the texture of the jam on the right...there are recognizable violet flowers in it and the color is spot on. I am going to process them in a hot water bath, too so I can store them in the pantry instead of my fridge. My fridge....yeah,that's a whole other post. The experiments and projects an herbalist keeps in her fridge are probably post worthy...another day.Oh, I forgot to mention that the recipe makes six sweet 4 ounce jars of jam.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More Splendor in the Grass

Speaking of grass, the lawn has been growing incredibly fast in the last week. It's so lush, tall and ultra green...I really like it. All sorts of interesting things pop in the lawn when it's allowed to grow wild. As much as I enjoy the look and the smell of a tidy, freshly mowed lawn, I am also pretty partial to the wild look before the first cutting. Just when I am happiest, grazing gifts from the yard and admiring the abundant diversity of my wild plant neighbors, at the same time, a small feeling of dread begins to fall over me. When that happens, I realize that the fella who mows my grass is probably looking at my lawn in a much different way than I am. Don't get me wrong...he has been incredibly accommodating over the years. That is, if I'm here to walk him around, point things out, or ask him to change his regular routine and start on the other side of the property so that I can finish my wild harvesting. He always says 'cool' with a smile. However, if I happen not to be home when he arrives (and I never do know when he's coming-can you say 'free spirit'?) I will come home to a neatly manicured lawn, wildflowers beheaded and a sinking feeling in my stomach. Ugh, if I had only had a few more hours or another day...if I had only known. Coulda, shoulda, woulda done things differently. Well, today was the day that annual feeling of intuitive dread arrived. When I am blissed out, sitting in the above-the-ankle cool green lawn dappled with thousands of dandelions and violets and others are noticing the chicken's heads peeping out of the tall grass and asking when the lawn will be mowed, I know it won't be long. He is bound to be on his way tomorrow or the next day. When the dreadful feeling hits, I feel compelled get out and harvest with urgency. Today was the day. The violets in rice vinegar should turn a nice shade of lavender in a few days. The violet tincture will eventually be blended with some of the violet syrup I made yesterday. The sweet syrup will mellow the sharpness of the alcohol in the tincture and the alcohol will preserve the syrup just a little while longer. It is an experiment that I haven't tried before but I am anxious to try the result. I also found my recipe for violet jam. It's pretty easy so don't be afraid!. The photos of it will come tomorrow when the light is just right....Enjoy!
Violet Jam
2 heaping cups of violet blossoms
1 1/2 cups water (divided into 2 -3/4 cup servings)
Juice of half a lemon
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 package pectin
Place 3/4 cup water and lemon juice in a blender or food processor. Then add the sugar and blend until it dissolves.
Heat remaining 3/4 cup of water in a small pan, stir in pectin and boil hard for 1 minute. Pour this mixture into the blender and blend for one minute, add violets and pulse a few times to chop. Immediately pour into hot sterile jars and seal. Keep in the fridge if you're not going to can it in a boiling water bath. Gosh, I just love violets....who couldn't, I ask you?

Bedside Reading.....

...ummm, that's only if I can get through a few pages before dozing off. Not at all a reflection on the juicy content of the books, just that it's the end of a very long day!! But who doesn't love falling asleep reading books they love and dreaming of herbs? Forget the 'escape novels' by my bed. I already live in Paradise. I only need more hours in a day to play with all of these recipes! Maybe I should just take the books downstairs and keep them there ...but who has time to languish over them when the sun is shining? The eternal dilemma, is it not? All joking aside, these books hold amazing springtime inspiration for me. Check them out:

Compiled by my pal Tina over at The Essential Herbal in Lancaster County with a bounty of recipes submitted by many long distance herb pals from the Essential Herbal Yahoo Group, yours truly, included. Oh by the way, Friends of the Farm, I do have a supply here....otherwise, go bug Tina and tell her I sent you. hehheh. This one is always on the top of the pile...

This is a brand new find that I'm still reading through, but I'm continually amazed all the things you can do with stinging nettles. Neat book. I got this on Amazon.

This little beauty was published by herb friend Peter Gail from Goosefoot Acres in Cleveland, Ohio...Believe it or not, I actually have two autographed copies of this book. The MAN spent some time with Peter at a conference last fall, and knowing how much I LOVE the violas, bought me a copy and had Peter autograph it for me. He didnt know that I already had my own copy autographed 4 or 5 years before. Anyway, Peter is really known as the Dandelion Guy, but I can't find that book on my shelf at the moment...hmmm, who did I loan that to? Anyway, I'd be willing to give away my first copy (I'll keep the one my MAN brought me) Anyone interested?? I know all you lurking violet lovers out there. Please throw your name into the comment 'hat' and I will draw a name at noon on Friday and announce the winner here on this post. Don't forget to check back! Good Luck and may the Violets be with you!!!!
(Seems the server is down for'll check back on this link later)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Violet Splendor

"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it"
~Mark Twain

This violet infusion blew me away today....a part of me just wanted to drink it straight up. Not for the taste, because it surely doesn't have much of one,but simply for the beauty of it. I'll make syrup today and maybe jelly tomorrow. Might even candy some and make a flower essence, too. You might say that I'm feeling slightly infatuated today.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Simple Crowd Pleaser

Combine lotsa ice and spring water,
add fresh basil sprigs that have been bruised
and a sliced cucumber.
Stir and let stand until well chilled.
This is a most refreshing drink on a hot day...ahhhh!

A little TLC...

Our sweet old spring house is getting some much needed attention ...finally. It has been in a sorry state for some time, but when a big sycamore branch broke a hole in the roof awhile back, it was the final assault. When it rains hard, we always needed to be sure there was an empty bucket to catch it below. Happily, on Friday the roof was repaired and new shingles are on the way in this upcoming week.The stone walls will need some shoring up, as well, which will be a little more work, but I'm glad it's finally getting done. I was starting to fear waking up to a pile of rubble one day. When the work is completed, I will make a spiffy new wreath for the door and plant some hollyhocks on either side of the entrance.

for Lisa...

It's really just as simple as that...
Chop, cover with apple cider vinegar, admire, store in a cool dark place for about six weeks, shake occasionally, strain...enjoy. This is dandelion leaf and flowers, but I will be doing a gallon of nettles vinegar today too. Vinegar pulls beneficial minerals from nutritious wild greens unbelievably well. So make lots and use them often. Your bones, your teeth, skin and hair will be very, very happy you did.

Honey Bee Chant

Keeping my fingers, toes and knees crossed...It is in the hands of the gods (or actually Walt, the Swarmbuster) that the farm may be getting some hives this season!!
Walt's hives have been all over Chester County for twenty years, and frankly, I buy no other honey or beeswax for family consumption or product making. I've told Walt that when my catnip is in flower, his whole Northern bee family moves in. That catnip just hummmmms with honeybee delight. I do know the bees have seen troubled times in recent years, so when they are here, I do let them know how much I appreciate their hard work and dedication to the task at hand. I am truly grateful knowing that Walt, too, is dedicated to his work and his bees, which is why I buy only Swarmbustin' . Usually, I get a delivery or I'll pick up at a mutually agreed upon location, but one summer, years ago, I made a run to southern Chester County to Walt's place to pick up a few cases that he left for me on his back porch. Walt was out in the fields somewhere and all the doors and windows were open in his farmhouse. I hooted, thinkin' somebody might be about. No answer. I loaded up my treasure and as I was walking back to stick my check in the door, I noticed that there were no screens in all those open windows. Wow, I thought, that is some true, natural livin'. Then I noticed the bees...flyin' in...and flyin' out..flyin' in.. flyin' out. Could it be true?? I just had to see. Yep, right there in the center of the 'living room' was an active hive. wow. That is a guy who loves his work and his bees...and that's a guy I'm always gonna buy honey and beeswax from. I will do the honeybee dance when he calls to tell me he's definitely bringing twenty hives to the farm!! It would be the 'bee's knees', wouldn't it? As Walt says, "We'll bee in touch!"


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