Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Carolee’s October E-Newsletter 2009

     Because we are closing Nov. 7th, I’m sending the newsletter out earlier this month.   It really doesn’t seem possible that we are winding down the 2009 season.  This year has flown by faster than ever, but it’s been a good year.
     The signs of fall are all around us, from combines lumbering over the fields to drying seed capsules on garden plants.  There is something so basically satisfying about the harvest season, and I find my self smiling as I watch the squirrels hiding their nuts, the birds gathering together in flocks before they begin migrations, and the sound of dry leaves rustling in the breeze.  I love autumn with its glorious colors, scents, and rituals.  For many, it’s a gradual slow-down for some long-awaited quiet time in winter, but not for us.  We’re already ordering seeds, and will begin planting in November for the 2010 season.  We’ll be hard-pressed to get everything in the Barn and gardens done, the spring newsletter written, signs and labels sorted, and inventory ordered before we’re swamped with seedling transplanting beginning in February.  It only feels like it’s been three or four weeks since July 4th, and I know the upcoming few months until we re-open will pass just as quickly!

Hildegard von Bingen Day
     I’m really looking forward to the “Hildegard” celebration on Saturday, October 17.  We’ll be featuring the music composed by St. Hildegard, have a display of some of the herbs she wrote about, and sample one of her healthy herbal tea blends.  I’ll also be showing some of the items I purchased at her Abbey in Germany, and will give talks about this amazing pioneer of herbs at 11:00 and 1:00.   She was certainly an extraordinarily gifted woman, with innovative ideas and a love of herbs that she shared through her writings and teachings.  Enjoy refreshments, too!

Fairy Gazebos and chandeliers!
      Just arrived…the long-awaited fairy gazebos and chandeliers!  A great Christmas present for anyone with a fairy garden.  Hang the chandelier inside the gazebo, or hang it from a twig.  Limited supplies.

Quick & Easy Recycled Halloween decor
Looking for a quick, colorful Halloween decorating idea?  We simply spray painted an assortment of tin cans bright orange.  It generally took two coats, drying well between coats.  A jack-o-lantern face was applied with felt-tip permanent marker, or use paint.  Stack them, use them for floral vases, or fill them with small gourds, popcorn balls, candy corn, etc.  Or, add a wire or twine handle, and carry them for “trick or treat” night!  Or, you can cut out the face features and place a candle inside. They’ll slip inside one another for easy storage until next year…no rotting like a traditional pumpkin!

Final Day of the Season—Holiday Open House—Saturday, Nov. 7th. 
     The doors open at 10 a.m. for our final day of the 2009 season.  The Barn & Cottage will be filled with holiday scents, greenery, cheer.  Be sure to look for our cheery Santa gourds.
     There will be a selection of herbs for the windowsill and beautiful houseplants to keep a bit of green in your home all winter.  Choose from begonias, jasmines, rosemary and more.
     Check out the special close-out discounts on selected items.  We need to make room for the spring inventory, so many things will be 30-40- or even 50% off!   That product that you’ve been eyeing all season just might be on sale!  This is your final opportunity to get gifts for gardening friends and family, or to stock up on lavender, soaps, and spices for the holiday season.
      Throughout the day, you’ll have the opportunity to win door prizes, and to sample our tasty holiday refreshments.  So plan to start your holiday shopping with a relaxing day in a very special setting.  And, of course, there will be lots of good-bye hugs.

Garden chores:
*Remove any weeds—they’re trying to seed, and growing great root systems!
*Collect mulch, shred leaves, etc., but don’t put mulch on plants until after the ground freezes, or you’ll be inviting rodents and insects to live in your garden all winter!
*Dig dahlias, cannas, caladiums and other tender bulbs after frost.  I love to plant fall bulbs (crocus, scillas, guinea flowers, species tulips, etc.) in the holes as I dig.  It makes the chore serve double duty!
*By the way, traditionally when planting fall bulbs, one should repeat the following charm, once while placing them in the hole and again after covering them with soil to ensure good blooms in spring: “Seasons change—the Wheel turns round;
Bulbs, I plant thee in the ground.  Death-like bulbs, you’ll gain new life,
And in the Spring, will sprout and thrive.”
*Move any tender plants indoors before frost, giving each plant a good sloshing in a bucket of sudsy water (use insecticidal soap) to remove insects and insect eggs.  Do not up-pot plants unless absolutely necessary.
*Map your garden, taking measurements and locating each plant on your diagram.  This will be so helpful during winter planning/dreaming sessions.
*It’s a good time to check plant labels for faded writing, missing tags, etc. so you won’t mistakenly dig up someone next spring.

Herbal Incense
    At the recent HSCI Education Night, I helped members and guests learn to make herbal incense.  We used lavender and rose petals (the recipe below) but I usually make it with patchouli leaves, scented geraniums, rosemary, thyme, or sage.  Sometimes I make use a single plant variety, sometimes I use combinations.  I often add ground spices such as cloves or cinnamon, depending on the effect I want to achieve (see below.)
     The story of incense begins with the story of man’s first encounters with making fire.  It is easy to imagine that as early man/woman gathered sticks to feed the flames, he/she soon learned that putting green leaves on the fire produced a heavier smoke than dried materials.  In an enclosed cave, smoke could be overwhelming, but man soon learned that burning certain leaves kept pesky insects away.  Smoking meats and other foods not only made it last longer, but imparted good flavors.  Some leaves produced aromas that helped diffuse the odors of everyday life in close quarters.  And it was discovered that some leaves induced sleep, amazing dreams, and feelings of contentment.
     There was magic in the flames of a fire, and magic in the smoke that rose to the sky…that place where the gods live and spirits dwell.  Smoke could connect one with those spirits, and soon burning special leaves became an expected part of any ritual, prayer, or special event.  It was a way of sending messages to the gods.
     We know that burning incense was already common during the Stone Age.  During most of history, burning incense an important part of life.  The practice continued and spread throughout most of the world.  The medicine men and wise women of most cultures incorporated incense into their healing procedures.  In Eastern cultures, incense burning is a part of the ritual of honoring ancestors, cleansing a new home, or removing evil.  In much of the world, it is used to relax the mind and body, to reduce stress, and to perfume homes.  It became such an important part of many cultures, that trade routes were established to allow a continuous supply of the most desirable resins, herbs, seeds, and barks
     During the Civil War, and as late as World War II, incense was burned in hospitals as a disinfectant to cleanse wards.  Sadly, the use of incense in our country dwindled to those few individuals during the 60’s and 70’s who were commonly called “hippies.”   Many of you might recall the aroma of patchouli incense that permeated many of the bead, sandal, and clothing shops of that era.  Today, one can still find incense for sale in quirky New Age shops, herb stores, and specialty boutiques.
     So, exactly what is incense?  Let’s start at the beginning.  The Latin word per fumum literally means “through smoke.”  The first fragrances or perfumes came from the smoke of early man’s fires.  It was the first aromatherapy.  Eventually it was discovered that different plants used for burning produced different effects, and that many of the fragrances were not only very pleasing, but they could help sanitize, mask odors, and to help support intellectual activities.   The Latin word inspirare means to breathe in, as was the basis for inspiration, which happened when one breathed in the smoke from incense.
      Of course, one could always simply through some essential oil into a diffuser, or sprinkle it on a light bulb, and that seems to be the preferred method for those of us in Western cultures where we are too busy, too busy, too busy.  The act or ritual of burning incense causes one to stop, slow down, and incorporate into the process.  The reasons one burns incense might be to cleanse the atmosphere, to reduce anxiety, stress and fear, for revitalization, stimulation and energy renewal,  to help insomnia, for meditation and prayer, to celebrate the season, to encourage creativity, to encourage romance or just to enjoy the ritual and the fragrance of incense burning itself.
          So, why make your own incense.  First of all it’s a creative experience.  Secondly, commercial incenses often use herbs that are old or inferior.  You’ll have a much better incense with freshly ground herbs.  That’s why we make very small batches. Third, they often incorporate synthetic colors, preservatives, or other substances that can actually poison the air.

Basic Materials:
1.  Herbs-choose from a variety of fragrant herbs (see below for some suggestions) and spices
2.  Gums/Resins-gum benzoin adds a little fragrance in addition to being the binder; the lightly scented powdered orris root is the fixative that holds the scent during storage
2.  Mortar and pestle is the traditional way, or use a grinder if you must
3.  Small bowl, spoon for mixing, measuring spoons
4. Waxed paper
5. Essential oil, if desired
6. Safe dish or container for burning, matches
The Procedure
1.  If the herbs are dried, soak the leaves overnight in enough water to cover.  Reserve the water.
2.  Measure 2 T. herbs into mortar and grind finely.  If the mixture is not paste-like, add a bit of the herbal water used to soak overnight.  If fresh herbs do not have enough moisture to make a paste, add a bit of rosewater, lavender water, distilled water, or essential oil to make a paste.
3.  Add 1 ½ tsp. each of gum benzoin and powdered orris root.  Mix well, adding a bit more liquid if required.  The mixture should hold its shape when pressed between your fingers.  Do not add more liquid than is absolutely necessary.
4.  Shape into small cones, about ½” in diameter at the bottom and about 1” tall, or “pennies” about ¼” thick.  Place on waxed paper to dry.  The recipe yields about 20 pieces.
5.  Turn pieces daily until fully dry, usually about 4-5 days.
6.  Be sure to place the incense on a fireproof container.  Cones can be lit on the point.  The pennies can be placed on a burning charcoal disc to burn, or place them on edge in sand and light.

Incense properties:
For cleansing the air:  Frankincense, common sage, juniper, mugwort, pine, lavender, thyme, white sage, rosemary, sweet grass
To reduce stress, anxiety, fear:  Cinnamon, benzoin, sandalwood, anise, vanilla grass, sweet grass, coriander, chamomile, oregano, patchouli
For stimulation, energy renewal:  mugwort, cedar, juniper, clove, rosemary, lavandin
For insomnia:  Sandalwood, cinnamon, saffron, spikenard
For good dreams:  sage, hops, mistletoe, mugwort, elderberry, vervain
For prayer, meditation:  Frankincense, myrrh, white sage, sweet grass, hyssop, orris
For romance:  Sandalwood, vetiver, benzoin, patchouli, rose, lavender
For creativity:  Cinnamon, frankincense, benzoin, tonka bean, sweet marjoram, rosemary, bay, cloves
For prediction:  bay
For motivation, times of crisis: lemon thyme

Herbal Moth Repellent
It’s a good time to use some of the harvest from the garden to repel the moths that will be attempting to live in closets and drawers this winter, nibbling on woolen sweaters and such.  Simply mix dried mugwort, tansy, southernwood, artemisia, rue, mountain mint, thyme, rosemary, or santolina with crushed or ground cloves.  Fill small cloth bags and hang in closets to tuck into drawers.  Replace annually.

This month’s recipes:
This is the time of year that I move the scented geraniums from their protected spots on the porch and deck indoors.  That means I’m whacking them back so they will fit on windowsills and stands, and that means I’ll have lots of scented geranium leaves to use for teas, herbal incense and cooking.  One of my favorite dishes is this Lemon Scented Geranium Rice Pudding.  “Mabel Gray” geranium is the one I use most, but other lemon varieties (or even lime or ginger varieties) can be used.  Obviously, if the leaves you’re using (like Prince Rupert, Lemon Meringue, Frensham Lemon, etc.) are smaller than Mabel Gray, you’ll need to use more leaves.  First, I lay 3 or 4 (fresh or dried) leaves on top of the rice while it steams.  When the rice is cooked, measure out 2 c.  Then I add more flavorful leaves.  If the leaves are dried, I simply crumble them (8-10 leaves) into a powder and add them to the lemon-scented cooked rice.  If the leaves are fresh, I grind them with the 2/3 c. sugar and then add it to the rice.
     Mix in bowl:  2 c. lemon scented cooked rice, 1 egg plus 2 egg yolks (reserve whites); 2/3 c. sugar, 2 c. milk.  Pour into 2 ½ qt. baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 min., until center is just set.
     While it bakes, prepare 1 pkg. lemon pudding/pie filling (the cooked kind, not instant) according to package directions.  You should have additional egg white to add to the whites reserved.  Whip the egg whites with ¼ tsp. cream of tarter until fluffy.  Gradually add 1/3 c. sugar while beating.  Continue beating until the meringue forms stiff peaks.
     When rice is baked, spread the lemon pudding evenly over the rice.  Top with the meringue and return to oven for about 10 min, or until the meringue is lightly browned.  Serve warm or cold.

Pumpkin Salsa
Here’s the recipe we served on Pumpkin, Perennials & Pots Day.  It’s yummy!
Cut a 6-7” diameter pumpkin in half.  Remove seeds and scrape inside to remove “strings.”  Place cut side down in baking dish with 1” water.   Bake at 350 degrees until fork tender.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Peel and dice into ½” cubes (about 4-5c.)  Add 1-2 tomatoes; diced, 1 medium onion, diced; 1 green bell pepper, diced; 2 jalapeno peppers, finely diced; 1 can yellow corn, drained; ½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 T. sugar, 3 T. cider vinegar, ½ c. chopped cilantro.  Mix gently.  Serve immediately, or chill. Makes 5-6c. 

Halloween!  Herbal Protection
     For centuries, it was believed that Halloween was the evening when all the evil spirits of the world moved about the countryside, looking for a warm home for the winter.  Those folk who were wise in the way of herbs placed bunches of protective plants around all the openings to their home, and kept a good blaze in the fireplace to keep spirits from entering through the chimney.  Evil spirits were thought to search for unprotected homes, knowing it would be simple to live where the occupants were either ignorant, unsuspecting, or lazy.
     If you want to be sure your home will not be occupied by evil spirits this winter, be sure to hang bouquets of rue, mugwort, southernwood, elder and dill.  Rue, elder and dill seed heads are especially effective against witches.  I like to add a little silver Artemisia and the dried heads of teasel, which are also protective and make the bunch especially pretty.  Tie it with an orange bow for pretty, or the traditional purple bow for added protection.

That’s it for October.  Have a happy, safe Halloween and autumn season.  May your harvest be bountiful and your days filled with herbal blessings!  Carolee

***************************  Carolee’s Oct. Barn E-Coupon*******************
30% off all T-shirts. Choose from our original lavender or herbal designs.  Sizes S-2X, as long as supplies last.  Cannot be combined with other discounts. Valid until Nov. 7, 2009.

**************************Carolee’s Cottage E-Coupon**********************
30% off Country Christmas ornaments.  Cannot be combined with other discounts.  Valid until Nov. 7, 2009.

*************************Carolee’s Plant E-Coupon**************************
It’s the Harvest season, It’s Halloween…….50% off any perennial plant that begins with “H”!  Choose from hollyhocks, hyssop, hellebores, helianthum, heuchera, etc.  Does not include flowering shrubs.  Cannot be combined with other discounts.  Valid until Nov. 7, 2009