Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lavender Loveliness

~Lots of Lovely Lavender Ladies Laughing~
Last evening brought good friends and wafts of lavender west from Lancaster County all the way east to Chester County. Sisters Tina Sams and Maryanne Schwartz and their baskets, laden with lavender, meandered through the hills and valleys to get reacquainted with their still and save me from not having enough lavender for our class together! Tina was kind enough to allow me to play with her still for an entire month during which I became completely enchanted with the operation and uses of botanical hydrosols. Last evening however, the still was back in the hands of Tina and Maryanne who demonstrated the processing of lavender flowers. This culminated into a lovely collection of lavender hydrosol and more than a few drops of essential oil for their efforts! While the still simmered away during the evening and the sun began to set, we snuck off to savor some lavender infused treats to inspire us for the craft of lavender wand making. I have been playing around with fabric dyes recently and opted to try some hand dyed silk ribbon for the wand I made last night. Beautiful hues indeed, but it was a bit more challenging to weave with, given it's rather delicate nature. However, the finished product is simply yummy. All of this beautiful ribbon and barely enough lavender to harvest! Perhaps one a day will suffice this year. Thanks again to the 'Twisted Sisters' for the lavender delivery, the lavender demo and of course, the lavender laughs! Always a pleasure!Lavender Pistachio Biscotti Plan to make this a day or two in advance. The lavender smell/taste is more pronounced the next day!
*1/2 cup pistachio nuts . Shell and toast until slightly brown, rough chop when cool

*1 stick of butter softened

*3/4 cups sugar

*2 farm fresh eggs

*3 TB fresh dark lavender buds (Hidcote/Munstead) rough chopped

*2 + cups of whole wheat pastry flour

*1 1/2 tsp baking powder
*1 tsp vanilla extract

*1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream softened butter with sugar until well blended. Add lavender buds, vanilla and 2 eggs and beat again until frothy. In a big bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. Blend well. Add to the creamed mixture and continue blending. Fold in nuts. Pull cookie batter out of the bowl with your hands. It will be fairly wet and sticky. Sprinkle a bit more flour on a cloth and knead into cookie dough until it is manageable. Don't overwork the dough! Easy does it! Form a long cookie log approx. 3 in wide and 12-14 long. Smooth out any cracks or holes. Bake the cookie log for 25 to 30 minutes. It should still show a finger indentation if pushed.
Let it cool completely and then slice across the log every half an inch or so. Spread out on the same cookie sheet and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off oven and allow cookies to cool in the oven. The biscotti will be crispy but not 'tooth breaking' hard. Store in a tin so they don't get affected by humidity.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunshine and Promises...

Guilty. Yes I am. A few weeks ago I posted a rosey giveaway to be announced on Solstice Sunday (yesterday). I was ready to go with most of the prizes. Then, suddenly, after ten days of rain and storms, I had a little brainstorm of my own. I decided to order and add a wonderful book to the giveaway. I also decided to tweak my new cream recipe a bit further before announcing it. To complicate things further, an old aquaintance, the Sun, decided to visit yesterday (unannounced, I might add) and distract me from my dark library and laptop. I just couldn't say no. I dropped everything and went outside to play! Guilty. But, I have no regrets....because while I languished in the sunshine, I decided to pull three winning names from the post, just the moment the book arrives and my cream is perfected. Perfection comes with patience...yes. Thank you Friends! Rose love is in the air!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Herb Society of America Garden Tour

On Tuesday, Farm at Coventry was again visited by not one, but three tour buses full of appreciative garden gazers. This group was from the Pennsylvania Heartland Unit of the Herb Society of America who were hosting their 27th annual Herbal Symposium this past weekend.Despite the threat of rain all day, we were cheered on by the sunny dispositions of all who wandered through the gardens.Farm at Coventry sales were also quite brisk! Fortunately, a few hours between tours allowed for replenishing of products and a nice relaxing lunch. We bid the last tour farewell at about 5:30 that night. Really nice to meet so many people who truly appreciate and understand the efforts and rewards that come from working the soil and tending the plants.I cannot close this post without again thanking my gardening helper Kim, whose tireless efforts and gardening experience have made a huge difference in my workload the last few weeks. The boys also deserve high praise for putting the finishing touches on the garden gates and perimeters. The garden tour deadlines this spring indeed put us into high gear to get my impossibly LONG wish list accomplished for this growing season! An early Wednesday morning walk through the garden brought a sense of "now what?" But we all know that is a fleeting question. There's always something more to plant, prune, pluck or harvest. Guess it's time to start a new list, eh? Well, maybe tomorrow...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Herbal Honors

Wow. I knew it was coming (and kept the secret, no less). I even saw a photocopy of the cover last week. But I am still so excited and honored to see my 'color photograph turned watercolor' on the cover of the latest issue of Essential Herbal magazine! This is the first issue introducing the new color covers for the magazine. Looks amazing, Tina and Maryanne! Thanks for thinking of me....and don't forget, I have thousands more where that came from.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Subtle Power of Rose and Rosy Giveaway!

The rainclouds finally parted on Saturday morning for the seventh annual damask rose celebration. I was afraid that the water logged beauties weren't going to be dressed for the party after the previous four straight days of soaking rain. Even through the deluge, I could see buds open one day and then drop their petals the next. So discouraging!! All that rosy goodness lost, only to make a thick, fragrant carpet for my muddy, bare feet. Rather than lament the loss too much, I tried to consider it a rare indulgence fit for a farmhouse queen. The bees seemed to be happy for the break in the clouds, as well. Their comical drunkenness around the roses is understandable, even from my perspective. When no one is looking, I too, can flit from bloom to bloom and rub my nose in the warm, fragrant center, wishing only for a pair of lacy wings to transport me, giddy, towards the next one. Although the fragrance never dissipates completely when the petals get rained on, it's the sun that brings out the subtle spicy and citrus undertones that make it complete. So as the participants of Saturday's class discovered, there were still plenty of rose petals left to fill our baskets and make the day worthwhile. Some additional sunshine and laughter came to the gardens when Jen brought her young daughter Anikka to the class. The roses were certainly matched by the sweetness and beauty of this little girl! She added so much to the day. The most exciting focus of the day was setting up "Tina's Traveling Still"! Tina Sams, of the Essential Herbal, was so kind to share her lovely glass steam distiller so that we could make some rose hydrosol. The damp rose petals put out an amazing end product for us all to share. Once Kim and I remembered how to reconstruct the still, we were rewarded with the quiet hum of alchemy in action. Water, Fire, Ice and rose petals! It would be hard to describe two hours of steam distillation in a few short lines. Instead, I'll share the beauty of the transformation in photos. It was a wonderful experience. Adding to the alchemy were Orva's colorful stories of the ancient family moonshining trade, which were rich treasures all to their own! While the still worked through lunch, we settled in to making our own rosy treats to enjoy at the end of the day. In one kitchen the ladies prepared tiny rose petal scones while in the other kitchen the rest prepared Alex's chocolate macaroon recipe with the addition of powdered rose petals, rose water and rose liqueur. Holy Roses!! They were heavenly! To drink, iced rose hip tea sweetened with a splash of pomegrante juice. Later there was the passing of the rose tea cup filled with rose petal liqueur.
Sublime! There were enough rose petals left to make 2 quarts of rose infused vinegar for my Burn Spray and a new batch of Rose Liqueur. I think by the end of the day, our rose bones were satiated, at least temporarily. Sunday morning brought more sunshine with a whole new round of buds opening so I took advantage of the freshly cleaned still and my memory of reconstruction and ran a second round of rose hydrosol. While it hummed away, I decided to do a little extra hydrosol research, since specialized study of aromatherapy is not my forte. I checked in with two well-respected women friends via their websites who are much more knowledgeable since aromatherapy is their business! Roe, from Sunrose Aromatics and Marge from Nature's Gift both have detailed write ups about the therapeutic benefits of rose hydrosol. After studying up a bit and brainstorming a bit more, I've decided to utilize some of this rosy distillate into an extra special, limited-time product to commemorate the gifts of the roses during the whole month of June. ((Secrets revealed as I experiment!)) On the Summer Solstice, I will give away a whole small collection of rosy products made right here on the farm. I'll throw in some rose petal jam, rose soap, Burn Spray and a little taste of all the yummies that we enjoyed on the weekend. If you might be interested in this little giveaway, please add your desire to the comments on this post and follow along through the next two weeks as I experiment with the hydrosol until I come up with something extra special!!

It's not over 'til the last petal falls............

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Got Fence!!!

A job well done by the Iceman and his bud Taylor. Through sun and rain, blood, sweat and tears...but sunburn and gnats. Thanks, fellas!
Supervisor/Quality Control Check
Foiled! ((Insert evil laugh here))
Freebie trash pick fence posts are a happy bargain after pricing untreated cedar fence posts at the box stores ranging from $22-$35 a piece!! I needed 14 posts. Do the math. NO way.These are nicely aged and just needed the old hardware removed and to be cut to uniform size. They are perfectly imperfect!
Neat and tidy, eh? Just need to make two cool gates and we'll call it a night.
This project turned out much better than expected! Woohoo!


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