Saturday, May 31, 2008

Making Cheese with Friends sooo much more fun than making cheese alone! Spent a simply lovely afternoon at Sarah (HerbsfromtheLabyrinth) Campbell's yesterday afternoon in Lancaster, PA. Six pounds of cheese and a few bottles of wine later we were a happy bunch in Sarah's Labyrinth garden. Talking about a Saturday class again for the fall. But not before two more here on the farm this summer! You scream, I scream,we all scream for ...cheese!!! Notice the one wearing a clean apron, barking orders from the sidelines and not even getting her hands messy? hehheh, that's me
Sarah, I know it's your kitchen but, please, share the cheese
We had the 'weighing ball-makers'the 'herb pickers and choppers'
the 'herban' cheese rollers and one lady in the corner trying like heck to make beads outa cheese (Marty)This is the last pic of the day. With a plate of cheese and crackers in one hand and a lovely glass in the other, my camera got left behind in the kitchen.Great Day!

For my Pal, Hildie

My timing and position couldn't have been better. I was in the lavender bed and just happened to see Edina poking around under this bush for worms, like she is know to do....just so happens she found a little more than she bargained for.
uh yeah, surprise! Was it a big worm you were looking for, Miss Edina?
Nope? Didn't think so

Whatta Week!!

Just coming up for air here on the farm...and that's only because we are having a heavy storm at the moment with a tornado watch looming until late in the day. It's definitely time to come indoors now.This past week produced serious time crunches to this farmgirl's calendar (and stamina) but in the end it was all good for biz. The classes were successful, the newsletter is ready for the printer, all big orders got delivered to the stores, all smaller ones got shipped and a new Farm at Coventry QuickBooks accounting program is set up and ready to go thanks to Laura! Wish I could say that all my planting got finished before this thunderstorm came through, but calling it a "work in progress" eliminates a little bit of the angst of seeing flats of plants awaiting their place in the garden. Tomorrow morning will have us up at day break to get the job done. whew, whatta week.....

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bee Tales

The hives arrived well after midnight on Friday night. A perfect rainy day and night ensured the bees would be calm for the trip. It also insured that the truck and trailer that they arrived in would get hopelessly stuck in the field after they were unloaded. Who's the Swarmbusters gonna call at five a.m.? Wish it had been me...I was already up and have a four wheel drive pickup with a hitch. Instead, a grumpy farmer (who has also had his share of stuck machinery this past week in the rain) who decided to sleep in for a change, got the call. ouch. He made the Swarmbusters wait until he was ready to pull them out. I wish I had known. I would have walked a few famous Farm at Coventry egg sandwiches and a pot of tea back the lane to help ease the weariness and chase the chill. By the time Grumpy Farmer arrived, the sun was up and the bees had awakened to find themselves in new surroundings. Thanks goodness the locusts are in bloom. They seem plenty happy.
a wildly audible hummmmmmm
After scouting around, the Boy and I spotted this writhing swarm in a tree. Wish I could have gotten a little closer, but a healthy stand of well-armed poison ivy stood guard between me and the swarm. Funny how those things happen.
"Hey, whatdya say we meet up at the local watering hole after work tonight?"
The rain puddles were nearly as active as the hives

First Rose...

Introducing, the lovely Collette...First spark of color on the bush

A bit demure on this damp day, but looking lovely just the same

Opening to reveal her full beauty as the sun goes down a day later.
The damasks are budding up now. I can almost smell the rosewater and the rose petal jam. mmm, I love roses... and there are only 14 days until the highly anticipated "The Subtle Power of Rose" class. There will plenty of blooms by then. Baskets full of petals make me feel like a wealthy woman and I love to share the wealth with all of my friends.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What Hop Shortage??

I've been following, with great interest, the unfolding 'crisis' of the world wide hop shortage. It rides on the fringe of world wide food shortages, both hampered by supply and demand issues and disturbing weather damage. A mere eighteen months ago, hop supplies were so abundant and plentiful that their prices dropped to a scant $3 a pound. This overabundance caused more than a few growers (many in Washington state) to pull up stakes, literally, and use their land to grow more profitable crops such as cherries and apples. The loss of hop farmers in that region (The Yakima Valley grows over 75% of the nations' hops) combined with a disastrous growing season in 2007, has deteriorated the abundant hop stores rapidly. At the end of 2006, a tragic fire in a large warehouse in Yakima, WA caused the loss of 2 million pounds of hops. (I can only imagine that those papery strobiles laced with resinous lupuline glands and essential oils must have made for a mighty, mighty fire.)To add insult to injury, in 2007, Europe lost most of their hop harvest to severe rains, Australia lost theirs to severe drought and Slovenia lost more than half of their hop crop to a single hail storm. Canada had an meager harvest at best. With over 1,400 craft breweries in the US alone and countless commercial breweries world wide, a major hop shortage could cause huge price increases in beer. All of these stats to say that I feel 'hoppy' that the MAN has had such success with the varieties of hops he grows...especially knowing that the going price for hops has jumped from $3 a pound to $35-$40 a pound ! No get-rich-quick scheming here, though. By volume, hops are nearly need to pack a 5 gallon bucket to just get a single pound! That's a LOT of pickin' and pluckin' from those scratchy vines. It's just the principle of the thing. Just feeling smug that there'll be no need to dig deep into the pockets for this particular brewing staple. We are fully stocked and it appears to be another excellent growing season so far. Of course, there is that other essential staple that we may have to keep an eye on: Barley. Again, farmers are abandoning the fields of barley to grow corn for the ever-growing ethanol market. This combined with more substantial crop failures in 2007 and major fuel increases have caused price hikes. This isn't too much of a concern for mr. hobby brewer here, but it is something I certainly have to consider in pricing my coffee alternative Faux' Joe. It's number one ingredient is certified organic malted barley. Hmm, this is something I'm gonna have to 'brew' over in the coming months as I continue working on the next phase Faux' Joe business plan. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Weekend in Snapshots

The base of my favorite bird bath cracked over the winter but the top was still functional. A nice hunk of leftover firewood will now fill the bill. I think my little helper likes this version better.

It will soon be time to make chive blossom vinegar

Honestly, some days in the garden are like taking one step forward, two steps back. Here my girls have decided to put their own digging talents to the test after I finished this bed. sigh.
Gotta love 'em though....right??

Really nice return on the Biergarten Sage this year! Wow. I could easily do a first cutting but I do love the flowers so much, I guess I'll wait on that. Every one came back full and hardy.

The tail end of the bleeding hearts

Herbal Gladiator

I am known to have a strange fascination with historical healthcare. I don't know what I could or would ever do with all of this information that my brain seems to collect with ridiculous detail. Most of these healing remedies are arcane, gross or even painful. Still, my thinking brain lights up like a an MRI on an episode of 'House' when I hear things like maggots and comfrey sharing a common healing chemistry. ((Big question is: why doesn't it fire up like that when I'm looking for my keys or my shoes?)) If you have seen the movie "Gladiator" you may remember the scene where a severely wounded Maximus (Russell Crowe) is being carried across the desert in a stretcher by the mysterious but kind Juba. Juba is skilled at healing and tends to Maximus' wound by allowing maggots to eat away at the purulent flesh and later by chewing up some sort of plant material and packing the wound. I have known about maggot debridement therapy being used to clean a wound of necrotic flesh (picked that scrap of info somewhere years ago) but what I learned recently that excites me so much is that... as the larvae eats, so it eliminates!! Common sense, right? Believe it or not, that maggot excrement has been studied by scientists and found to be extremely high in a substance called allantoin. I have always known allantoin to be the cell regenerating component found in the common comfrey plant that is now blooming in profusion my garden. So you can imagine my renewed respect for the lowly maggot whose gift is the gruesome task of eating decaying flesh. While he is busy cleaning out a wound, he is happily depositing an abundance of wound repairing poop as he goes!! Perhaps there is hope that our pesty Brown Marmorated Stinkbug may offer some other sort of beneficial use to the healing, probably not. If you are as morbidly interested as I am in reading further on the subject of medical maggots, click here. Just an FYI, this link is not for the squeamish, there are very graphic pictures. Anyway, back to the allantoin-rich comfrey in the gardens. We did our first cutting of comfrey leaves yesterday that were whirled in the food processor and frozen into convenient sized ziploc bags. They will be used as ready-to-go poultice pack for bone bruises (comfrey also known as 'knit-bone) strains and sprains. The poultice packs can also be used on clean wounds that contain no infection or dirt. It works so well at new cell proliferation, there is a very real possibility of new skin healing over an active infection. So for this reason, comfrey shouldn't be used topically on very deep puncture wounds or deep gashes until it is determined that the wound is scrupulously clean and healing well.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Field Trip!

You all must know by now how much I love my gardens and kitchens. Most days it is a challenge just to leave the old homestead to do necessary errands and deliveries. But there is one place that causes me to jump up and grab my boots and my keys.When someone shouts "Field Trip!" here on the Farm, it usually means a trip to King's Herb Nook. King's sells quite a vast variety of herb and vegetable plants as well as their own soaps, salves and teas. Today the 'Homestead Herbalism' class spent the afternoon after our convoy of 4 vehicles converged upon the King Family herb farm. Below are a few fine members of this years class mulling over their herb selections....Where are all the others, Ladies? It's really easy to get lost at King's

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Just one last wish, please...

I spied this double seater outhouse at Landis Valley yesterday, I'm pretty sure a new addition since last year. I love everything about it: the size, the colors, the his and hers doors and I can imagine all kinds of decorating possibilities inside, can't you? How about a huge climbing rose sprawling over the roof?? Yep, I'd like to put this on the wish list too, my MAN*(( " Wow, you could easily build something like that, couldn't ya, Honey?" insert batting eyelashes here. He nods yes, of course and doesn't even notice the eyelashes because I can see that he is already dissembling this structure in his mind. hehheh )) When I uploaded these pics onto the computer I took a little closer look...These aren't separate doors to separate 'rooms', they are just made to look that way. See the padlock in the center? The doors open and swing away from each other like barn doors! I believe this is a large tool or lawnmower shed. Ooooh, clever. Very clever....and I still want one.
* Just in case I never mentioned this before, when I refer to the MAN in my posts, it is my dear husband's initials that I am using....but fortunately for him, the moniker suits him...he is, and forever will be..the MAN. Sort of a long standing joke that I thought I should let you in on. Now you all can smile along!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Herbs or History First?

I am sitting here with the same satiated glee that I enjoy every year after spending a day at the Landis Valley Museum's Herb and Garden Faire. This year I was determined to be a little more thoughtful in my spending and so I carefully crafted a "Plant Wish List" earlier in the spring. I carry it in my wallet so when the inevitable side trip happens, I can be ready. As a small disclaimer here, I should note that having this list does not preclude me from buying 'offlist', it just gives me a bit more focus when that drooling, googly-eye 'herb sale' bug bites! For those who live nearby and have experienced Landis Valley, you know the beauty that serves as a backdrop to this annual Herb Faire. As much as I want to jump right into the show, I make it a ritual to visit the spot in the pictures first. It's right behind the booth of my pal and personal 'rose lady' Ruth Flounders, from "Roses in Thyme". This small museum kitchen garden is not built in the traditional PA Deitsch four square design, but there is something so incredibly appealing about it. The fencing is a sturdy no-nonsense design. The corner pieces measuring a hefty 6X6. I like to imagine myself gardening this plot...sort of my first guilty pleasure of the day. If I could add this little garden and arbor to my herb wagon and take it home, indeed I would! It really appeals to my Deitsch blood. Next stop was the tavern building, which appealed to the MAN (in attendance with me for the first time). Here they were cooking a chicken in the walk-in fire place by spinning it from a long piece of cording. A small chicken cooks in 2-3 hours this way. They were also rolling out homemade egg noodles and making a pie in a dutch oven in the fireplace. There were pewter mugs and ceramic redware pieces on beautifully aged tables. I leaned in and whispered to the MAN, "Can we move in here?" I already knew what his answer would be because both of us were born in the wrong century. It was an easy 'yes'. A look outside the tavern to the neglected hops beds there causes a little self-righteous comparison to the MAN's neatly trained hops vines at home. I let myself imagine how much he would love to wrangle those wild vines here outside of his very own tavern, serving his own hoppy beers in those pewter mugs. He'd be in heaven. Yes, he would. From there he followed his nose to pick out a few new varieties of heirloom tomatoes while I followed the trail of laughter under the tent to say hello to Tina of the Essential Herbal and pick up my highly anticipated copy of 'Under the Sun'. Tina's sister Maryanne of Lancaster County Soapworks and TorchSong Studio was close by with her glorious selection of jewelery. The two day show started out on Friday with less than pleasant weather...high winds and torrential rains. It made for a muddy walkabout yesterday but I was prepared with my pink rubber garden boots. The weather didn't seem to dampen the spirits under that tent however. Those two sisters can laugh at just about anything! Soon after waving goodbye to them, we made our first trip out to the truck with an overflowing wagon to unload and return for more, crossing a few things off the list as I walked. When I got back inside I went hunting for Sarah from Herbs from the Labyrinth who was forced to move indoors away from her usual location because of the heavy rains. Her large store banner caught my eye from far off. Good work, Sarah! We then made our way towards my personal 'broommaker' to purchase a stiff new broom. I found one this year with a spiffy red handle. He doesn't have a website that I can share with you and I'm not even sure of his name, I'm sorry to say, but I have been buying brooms from him for years because they are both so beautiful and well made. His hearth brooms are particularly appealing. After bidding goodbye to the broom man, I found the "Plant Wish List" in my pocket, again pleasantly distracted by history, beauty and old friends. This is not ever a day I wish to race through so I reconnect with the MAN again and we continue on with the plant search...yeah, right after we followed the scent trail to the BBQ Brisket sandwiches and Hot Dogs with 'kraut. Love this place....

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The List

This list includes items from the aforementioned "Plant Wish List" but also quite a few respectable selections that were not on aforementioned list. They were all purchased from various vendors at the Landis Valley Herb and Garden Faire and sit patiently on my porch until I methodically invite them into my waiting gardens....thanks for indulging my list making.By the way, my photo-taking dropped quickly in priority as soon as I started juggling plants and my wallet. Forgive me, but I'm sure you can understand.
First the roses,always my first stop: *2 Celsiana Damasks, one Gloire de Guilan Damask and one new Apothecary Rose
*Six Arnica chammissonis (with the understanding that Arnica montana just doesn't grow well in these parts. I've tried, I know...this one is said to grow well in PA. We'll see.)
* Black Snakeroot (Black Cohosh) with lovely burgundy foliage
*2 White Sages
*2 Goriza Rosemaries
*4 Lemon Verbena
*1 Lemon Grass
*6 Holy Basil
*3 Rue
*3 Lunaria (Silver Dollars for the Moon Garden)
*3 Only the Lonely Nicotiana (ditto)
*3 Opal Basil
*3 Greek Mullien
*2 Shiso Perilla
*one each of Weld and Woad to experiment with as dyes
*1 Coleus "Witch Doctor"
*1 Brown Turkey Fig (tipping hat to my Brother in Brooklyn on the last two)
*3 Powder Puff Hollyhocks
*1 Huge Castor Oil Bean plant (Note to self * Check out toxicity to chickens??)
*1 Patchouli Plant (wanna see what all the fuss is about with this)
* one lb bag seeds to sow an experimental patch of fiber flax. (who knows? It might get me a spinning wheel if I do it right! Sometimes these lists are created with ulterior motives)
The MAN chose one of each of these Heirloom Tomatoes (even though we have a few dozen in the greenhouse already, but who's counting? He knows tomatoes so no arguing necessary)
*Purple Russian, Striped German, Riesentraube, Amish Paste, Garden Peach, German Strawberry, Burbank and Roma (he is the Italian in the family, afterall)
* one single small HalleTaurer hop vine (oh dear, where will that go? One eventually turns into many, dontcha know)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Beauty Before Bedtime

Virginia Creeper

hosta leaf


More Dandelion fluff

Silver Mound Artemisia


Ground Ivy

Just a Little Farm News....

Okay...the short of it:
1) I started a second blog...what, you say?
2) I found an irresistible billy goat and brought him home to stand in the comfrey patch...get a good look...
3) I spent the entire day trying to get something accomplished inside but was forced to spend alot of my day outside to avoid the noise, dirt and confusion that four men can create while ripping out an old bathroom and dragging pieces of it up and down steps....all... day..long. I'm not complaining. Really need and want the bathroom. Did get alot done outside, but there is lots to do in here,too. Thankfully, I received early word that the lawn mower guy is coming Wednesday this week, so I have one full day left to harvest mega plantain, dandelion flowers and violets all at the height of perfection and beauty. Is it just me or has anyone noticed what a spectacularly lush and bountiful Spring we are having here in PA? Stunning. So, the new's a Farm News blog which will be specifically for updating the class and workshop schedule, and for mentioning new inventory, sale items or newsworthy events around the farm.Both blogs were tweaked recently to create a similar look to the website . I am really very happy with it. As for the billy goat, I found him at a garden center...okay, so it was purely impulse, but I did allow a walk around for a few minutes before I picked him up and walked him to the register. And he did fool me out there in the early morning light this morning...((thought it was real)) so he's worth an early morning giggle anyway. priceless.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Stir it Up

Chris's Bay Rum Recipe (well, she shared it with me so I'll call it hers but it's probably a traditional bay rum recipe and everyone in CA probably knows it and puts their own twist to it)*Pack jar with fresh bay leaves, add dried orange peel and whole cloves (I used a heaping half cup of each) Then, when I finished eating my orange, I stripped it of it's peel and threw that in too. Cover everything with dark Jamaican rum and shake the whole jar to "Stir it Up" by Bob Marley. Let stand for a few weeks and strain. Chris adds a little rosemary essential oil and sandalwood essential oil. oh smells so great already.

I Tip my Hat

You all thought I was kidding, didn't you? I love fingertips tingle as I type because I dug deep for the name at the bottom of the hat. I know, it's clear that I delight myself in strange ways......The winner of Wild Foods for Every Table is Rebecca! Email me, Rebecca with your address and I'll send it out as soon as I can address the envelope! You are gonna love this...

Not so Pretty

Sorry I missed wishing you all a happy May Day yesterday but I was running out the door, with a quick stop to greet Gordie (sans the Girl) to jump in my truck for the long drive to NJ to hear herb mentor, David Winston. No lolly-gagging around in my robe and camera yesterday morning! Even pumping $66 worth of fuel into my gas hog couldn't keep me from attending this timely seminar on "Treatment of Bacterial Multiple Drug Resistance with Botanical Therapies". Not a pretty picture but who hasn't heard frightening tales of the dreaded MRSA bug on the news? Being a hockey mom who knows other hockey, football and kids-in-sports moms, I hear the locker room stories and they are hitting very close to home. A family member in a prominent hospital ICU has contracted fact, all the patients in the ICU have MRSA infections. The Avian flu, you say?? Hmmph, in 2005 (count back 3 years so this is OLD info) the CDC reported approximately 94,000 serious MRSA infections (in the US alone) and nearly 20,000 of those people died due to the infection. That doesn't include deaths due to drug resistant E. coli, Salmonella, Strep, Pseudomonas, etc.... I don't know about you, but I need to know that there is some kind of backup to the antibiotics. The super bugs are winning the war. I want to be educated about choices and think about my arsenal. Apparently there are quite a few herbs that help to enhance the efficacy of the antibiotics (good news) but still others that have proven effective to kill bad bacteria in-vitro (can you say petri dish) which means it is possible to treat these things topically with marked success. David believes the secret to regaining some control in the war is to treat the small skin infections topically early with strong anti-bacterial herbs first, before the infection grows and becomes systemic and, perhaps antibiotic resistant. Put the hand sanitizers away...boycott them, in fact, for they are a part of the problem. Good soap and hot water. It is plenty effective. Some surprises about some of the herbs that killed MRSA in-vitro : Catnip, French Green Clay, Eucalyptus, Manuka Honey,Oak Bark (killed 35 strains of MRSA!) Tea Tree Oil, St John's wort, White Sage from California (Salvia apiana) Witch Hazel leaf/bark and Tumeric...and these are just a few of the common herbs that we are already familiar with. I'm gonna do some brainstorming here, perhaps reformulate my Wound Wash slightly.....for you, it's easy enough to make a good vinegar or witch hazel infusion of one or several of these herbs. Label it and stick it in the back of your cupboard. You just never know when it could come in handy.


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