Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

NOTE: To use the advanced features of this site you need javascript turned on.

Home News Newsletters January E-Newsletter
January E-Newsletter Print E-mail


Jan E-Newsletter


     Ahhh!  January, the “slow” month of the year, when Americans recover from the hectic holidays, take down decorations, begin a diet, and vow to clean closets but end up watching more television.  There’s no big deal once we get past New Year’s, except Old Man Winter….no Super Bowl, no March Madness, no April 15th tax deadline.  January is a good time to just be mellow indoors, watching basketball, reading seed catalogs and garden websites, dreaming of the season to come.
     However, here at the farm, January is anything but “slow!”  It is a major seeding time, and the month I take hundreds of rosemary cuttings.  The major gift shows all occur in January, so for days I walk miles of aisles and showrooms to select wonderful herbal and garden items for the shops.  I’m really excited about the things I found, and if I can bear to part with them, you’ll see fantastic new things in the shop when we open!   I had one day at home to repack before I left for Illinois Herb Day (see more below.) 
     I’ve squeezed in some writing and finalizing the details of the 2010 schedule between greenhouse work, and sketching the plans for new Barn displays.  This week I have to do W-2 forms and send the 2010 newsletter to the printer.  That sounds easy in sentence form, but considering that I really haven’t begun to write it yet, it’s actually a pretty daunting task to squeeze in between the meetings and appointments already on the calendar.  Normally, I take my birthday “off,” but that may not happen this year!  So, personally, I wish January were a little longer!


     January is National Hot Tea Month, National Mail-Order Gardening Month, and National Oatmeal Month!  I plan to celebrate with a cup of hot tea, some oatmeal cake with caramel frosting, and a stack of seed catalogs to read!  Here’s one of my favorite herbal tea blends, called “Tranquili-Tea.”  It’s perfect to enjoy while reading seed catalogs and dreaming of this year’s perfect garden!  Simply mix 2 T. dried mint, 1 T. dried rosemary, and 1tsp. dried sage.  Use 1 tsp. of the mixture to 1 c. boiling water.  Steep about 5 min. 


Yellow—the color of happiness!

     I remember studying a unit on color in 8th grade Home Economics, back in the good old days when we actually learned to cook, sew, iron, freeze, garden, make flower arrangements, basic crafts and home decorating.  We also learned the proper way to set a table, budgeting, checkbook balancing……well I digress.  I remember that yellow, one of my favorite colors then and now, “made most people uncomfortable!”   Yellow “screamed” which was why it was used for caution signs and police tape.
     Imagine my delight to find the designers at the gift marts touting yellow as “the color of happiness!”  I’d always thought there was nothing that made me grin quicker than a bright yellow daffodil.  And what about those yellow smiley-faces?
    According to the experts, yellow goes with all other colors!   I saw dozens of displays pairing yellow with turquoise for spring.   Yellow and French blue are traditional colors of Provence.  Put yellow with black or white, with purple or pink, green or gray.  Mix it with red or orange and watch it pop.
    So, if the dreary days of winter, and the lack of Christmas décor is making your house bleak, add a dash of yellow here and there.  Pillows, vases, throws and flowers in yellow will bring life to a room, and a smile to your face!




Flower Frogs-Yes or No?
     This is the time of year I miss my gardens most, when there are no flowers outdoors to cut for the kitchen table and the mantle in the living room.  In summer, I cut big handfuls of blooms and stick them in a ball jar, or sometimes, if I’m feeling elegant, a real vase!  I don’t really use anything to hold them in place, since the sheer number of stems jammed into the opening keeps them in place.  So this week, on our thirteenth day of no sunshine, a head cold that’s making me grumpy, and nervousness over the upcoming Colt’s game, I felt a real desire, no, actually a real NEED for flowers.  A quick trip to the greenhouse allowed me to find a few blooms, but the pickings were slim.  I found lots of hibiscus buds, but no open blooms to float in a bowl of water.  There are some flowers on the lemon tree, but I wouldn’t dream of picking them when I want fruit.  So I brought my sparse harvest of 3 stems (a forked stem of blue-flowered rosemary, the coral stalk of aloe Donan Black, and a sprig of angel wing begonia) to the house and plopped them into a jar, where they flopped.  Finally, I stretched a few strips of clear tape across the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern, and placed the stems in the resulting holes.   It looked much better, but not very attractive or much fun.  It made me think of the slide Felder Rushing showed at the Illinois Herb Day of his grandmother’s flower frog collection.  I remember having a couple of old glass “frogs” at the old farm, but I don’t think I’ve seen them in years.  They could still be in one of the boxes in the basement!  But, now that I’ve started thinking of flower frogs, I think I need some!  So here is this month’s question:
     Do you use a flower frog when you make arrangements, and if so, what kind?  The metal “needles,” the round glass ones with holes, the ones shaped like real frogs with holes, the metal “hairpin” circles, or the metal “lace doily” type?  Or, do you use tape?
We’ll report in the next e-newsletter, and someone will win a gift certificate to use at the farm when we open in spring.


IL Herb Day recap
    Chuck Voigt and his crew at the Univ. of Illinois again put together a fabulous day of education and entertainment for the annual Herb Day in Champaign-Urbana.  If you were there, you know what a treat it was to be among other herb lovers, to hear interesting new topics, and to browse the marketplace.  The herbal buffet luncheon is always filled with tempting dishes, verified by the plates piled to overflowing and the aromas drifting across the dining area.  See the favorite recipe below!  If you’ve never attended, mark your calendar now for January 22, 2011.


2010 Schedule
     While the schedule is not yet chiseled in stone, I can give you some dates that are definite.  Opening Day will be Thursday, April 1st.  Fairy Days are April 10th and 11th.  Our annual Lavender Daze is being combined with a country show, which we’re calling “Country Thyme in the Lavender Field.”  It will be held June 26th & 27th.  If you’d like to be a vendor, contact me.  Our final day of the season is Saturday, Sept. 25th.  The full schedule should be on the website in mid-to-late February.  We already have several speaking engagements and group visits on the calendar, so if your group plans to visit, or you want a speaker, don’t delay.  I’m doing a lot of traveling this year, and trying to work more “fun” into my schedule.  Thankfully, the farm has a really top-notch staff this year, so I can play hooky more!




It’s a Giggle!

     I admit it doesn’t take a lot for me to enjoy things.  I’m a “count your blessings” kind of person anyway, and I find great delight in simple, small things.  This winter, I decided to bring fewer houseplants into my home.  Instead, I brought in some large (gallon and two gallon) pots filled with soil and placed them in sunny windows and along the French doors.  Before Christmas, I sprinkled leftover seeds of lettuces, spinach, mustard, radicchio and arugula over the soil and watered them well.  I put a layer of plastic wrap lightly over the tops.  In only a few days, sprouts of green began growing.  Of course, I sowed the seeds much too thickly, thinking that old seeds might not sprout so well, but such was not the case.  I have thick clumps competing for nourishment, so I’m gently pulling some tiny plants, rinsing them well, and tossing the entire plant, roots and all, onto salads and sandwiches, or using them as a garnish.  Already, I have spicy Oriental mustard greens over 6” tall for stir-fry, and lettuces taller than my finger.  Every time I harvest a bit, I giggle.  Every time I wheel right by the greens section of the grocery, I giggle.  And, knowing that the weather has not been conducive for good crops in the southeast or the southwest parts of the US, I know those prices are only going to increase.  I think I’ll bring in some more pots!  Watching plants grow is such a giggle!



The most popular dish at the Illinois Herb Day buffet luncheon was this luscious baked salmon dish.  I’m going to try it with other fish, too.  Here’s the recipe:
Baked Salmon with Chive Cream Sauce
Using 2 tsp. seasoned salt, season 4 6oz pieces of salmon.  Place1/2 c. vegetable (not olive) oil in a baking dish, and put salmon pieces on top.  Marinate 20 min, turn salmon over, and allow to marinate another 20 min.  Pour 1 c. dry white wine and 1 T. fresh lemon juice over the fish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 min. Remove fish and set aside.  Cover to keep warm.
     While fish bakes, in a heavy saucepan, melt 4 T. margarine.  Saute 1 T. finely chopped onion, 1 T. chopped fresh chives, 1 T. chopped fresh parsley, stirring until onion is soft, but not brown.  Remove from heat if 15 min baking period is not finished. When fish comes out of the oven, add the juices from the baking dish and return to heat, adding 1 T. finely chopped garlic and ¼ c. unflavored brandy.  Bring to a simmer, do not boil.  Add 1 c. heavy cream and simmer gently until sauce is reduced by half.  Pour ¼ of sauce on each plate, and top with a piece of salmon.  Sprinkle with a bit of chopped chives and parsley.  Serve immediately.
     Now, you know I can’t help “messing” with a recipe, so here’s the way I make it!  I don’t put any oil in the baking pan; just spray it with “Pam.”  I use butter instead of margarine, and I double the amount of onion.  I eliminated the brandy, and we like it better that way.  And, I mix 1 T. cornstarch into the cream before adding it, just to thicken the sauce a bit, because if I wait for it to reduce by half, the salmon gets either cold or overcooked.  David just raves every time I make it, and it has moved onto my “fit for company” list.  I think it will make your list, too!


That’s my thoughts for January, along with gratefulness.  Remember the last week in January 2009?  Bitter cold, twelve inches of snow, and the plastic came loose on the greenhouse roof?  2010 is off to a much better start for me, and I hope for you as well!
Till next month, all herbal blessings, Carolee