Hoo boy, it's like Christmas in October over here!! and do I LOVE opening gifts from like-minded friends ! I was thrilled by the email reminder from Susanna Reppert of the Rosemary House that it's the time of year to plant Fall Crocus (Crocus sativa) bulbs. It's these diminutive little beauties that produce the most expensive spice in the world- saffron. Yep, $2,700 per pound! The price tag is so high because it has to be harvested by hand and it takes more than 75,000 threads to make a pound. Even back in the early 1700's, saffron was recorded by the Philadelphia commodities exchange to be equal to the price of gold!! Now, no self-respecting Pennsylfaanisch Deitsch girl should be without this traditional ingredient in her garden-let alone her spice cabinet. (I just used the very last pinch of mine in a butternut squash risotto the other night-but that's another story) In these parts, you cannot make chicken pot pie or chicken corn rivel soup without it...well, okay Mom, you can make it without it, but the broth won't have that rich golden hue unless it's infused with those tiny red strands of saffron. So, when I got Susanna's reminder, I jumped up and immediately ordered 50 crocus bulbs. They arrived with a lovely article about saffron that was written by Susanna's mother, Bertha Reppert and published in the New York Times in 1981. So, now to give some thought as to where all of these little bulbs should be planted. Hmmm, somewhere where winter -hoarding squirrels won't be looking, that's for sure. The other great package that I had been anticipating was our yearly bag of dried calendula flowers from our northern friends Michael and Nancy Phillips from Heartsong Farm Healing Herbs.We grow quite a bit of our own calendula for production of the calendula oil for soap and cream, but rarely have enough to dry more than a few ounces. The MAN needs the most brilliant orange petals to grind up for his calendula soap and these are, by far, the finest quality we have ever found. I am enamored of their tenacity to garden at all in the upper reaches of New Hampshire where the growing season is oh-so fleeting. Michael said they received over 20 inches of rain in a little over one month so this growing season was more difficult than usual. Michael and Nancy dry their organically grown herbs in a wood fired drying tunnel that produces a really high quality dried herb, both in color and taste. I also ordered some seed garlic from Heartsong, German Extra Hardy to be exact, which they label as one of the finer European varieties of garlic (oh, yet another bed to plan and implement shortly!) . If that package wasn't cool enough on it's own, I was really grateful to receive a few of Michael's Lost Nation Orchard 'Sweet Sixteen' apples in the box, as well. With a frost prediction overnight and a fire in the woodstove today, there is nothing that makes me appreciate October more than a tart, snappy apple...especially one grown by a most dedicated organic orchardist.