Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters December 2008
December 2008 Print E-mail
It’s the holiday season!  I hope you are enjoying the fragrance and flavors from your herb garden this time of year, and sharing them with your friends and family.   David and I just returned from visiting our children and grandchildren in Germany.  While we were there, we were able to attend some of the traditional Christmas markets and farm markets.  The gardens that were still thriving provided lots of inspiration and ideas for next season.  You’ll find the highlights below.   I brought back yards and yards of gorgeous lavender-themed fabrics that my daughter purchased for me on their recent trip to Provence, and now I’m trying to decide what items to make from it for the Barn shop.   I also have the herbal fabric that I found in Pennsylvania, so I need to get busy sewing!

Although there’s lots to do to prepare for next season, I’m taking time off, savoring the cards and notes from friends and family, enjoying the traditions and foods of the holidays, and dreaming of a White Christmas.


David and I will be making our annual trip next month for the Univ. of Illinois Herb Day.  This is one of our favorite herb events where we meet hundreds of herb-lovers.  It’s a real cure for the winter doldrums.   This year’s speaker line-up includes cookbook author Lucinda Hutson, exceptional herbal bread-baker Father Dominic Garramone, herb business owners Kathryn & Melvin Shiedermayer on “Harvesting and Preserving Herbs” and Susan Hess’s topic, the medicinal herbs and folklore of the Pennsylvania Dutch.  We’ll be part of the vendor area.   Registration always fills very quickly and is limited in number.  If you’d like more info on this Jan. 17th event, held at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Urbana, IL. call Carol Preston at (217)333-7738.  The $55 registration includes all speakers and an impressive herbal luncheon buffet, recipes and handouts.  Deadline is Jan. 9, but it is usually filled before that date.


The 2009 Hort Congress will be held Jan 19-21 at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in Indianapolis.  This is a good show to attend for those who want to “do” farmers’ markets or direct marketing of fruits, vegetables, flowers or herbs.  There’s also lots of information on commercial organic growing and agritourism.  For more information see


We’ve had several calls for these symbolic resins in the past few days.  If you need some for potpourri fixatives, nativity displays, incense, or stocking gifts, e-mail me ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) and we can meet at the farm, or I can drop them in the mail.   Approximately 1 T. is $1.50 (plus s&h).  Both are resins from specific shrubs and were extremely precious in Biblical times.


Although we visited historic castles, churches, and museums, my favorite site was the Viktualienmarkt in Munich.  This is a year-round farmer’s market filled with dozens and dozens of booths…cheeses, meats, preserves, baked goods, wines, nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruits, vegetables, candies, candles, plants and lots more!   I was overwhelmed with the abundance of ornaments and décor made from natural items.  So many evergreen wreaths were decorated with not only pine cones, pods, nut, berries and dried citrus, but also small animals made of twigs, birch bark and carved wood, or bundles of spices.  Booths were filled with lavender or spice covered hearts hung with ribbons strung with bay leaves, dried citrus, beads, berries, rosebuds, and more.  Huge stars were solidly covered in star anise.  The fragrance was amazing and my camera is now  filled with ideas.

There were entire booths filled with gallon tins of teas in flavors we don’t even dream of, and herbal combinations that would take weeks to explore.  I found one booth owned by an organic herb farm with shelves of herbal syrups (elder, sweet woodruff, lemon verbena, lavender and many more) jellies, unusual pestos, vinegars, herbal oils and blends for anything imaginable.  The photos of their farm made me want to schedule a summer visit.

Every village and town has a local farm market filled with plants and flowers and other natural materials.  The range of blooms was amazing, and the locals really take advantage of the low prices.   It is more common to see plant-based Christmas decorations in the front of homes, on balconies and steps than manufactured items.  Many citizens decorate their window boxes with a mixture of dwarf conifers, heathers, and other cold-hardy plants.  Blooming pots of hellebores were more common than the Christmas cactus we see here.   I visited several garden centers, and was just amazed by the variety of plant material, the inexpensive prices, and the artistic displays.

Every village and town has a Christmas Market in the town center, usually with an ice rink, carousel, and booths of traditional foods and decorations.  A quick stroll through any of them introduces the fragrances of many herbs and spices.  In decorations, foods, drinks, candles, potpourri, incense and sweet bags herbs have always been an important part of the German holidays.  Holly, ivy, mistletoe, evergreens, rosemary, lavender, thyme and mints are just a few of the traditional herbs used to celebrate this special time.

I always take time to visit a few Apotheke shops.   The Germans generally go to the local “pharmacist” for suggested treatments for all but serious ailments.   One discovers a multitude of herbal products in medicinal ointments, salves, teas, and more.  And, the array of herbal beauty products is astounding.  I just wish I could read the dozens of German gardening magazines that abounded, and had time to visit the many community gardens that we saw from the train windows!


Don’t forget to pause a moment on Dec. 21st to celebrate the Winter Solstice.  I’m always amazed that early mankind noticed that on this day, the days begin to lengthen again.  How did they know, without clocks or scientific measurements?   After weeks of fearing the sun was disappearing, they rejoiced that the sun was returning.  Many of their ways of celebrating this important event were later incorporated into the Christmas season.

I’ve been enjoying the lacy frosts on the window panes.  At night, the moonlight shines through it, making a magical display.  Although most people describe a “Silvery Moon”, I think the moonlight has been golden these past few days, don’t you?

It’s easy to get caught up in the hectic rush of the holidays and miss much of the beauty and magic of the season.   Be sure, as you are working to make everyone else’s holiday special that you take a moment to care for yourself as well.  Steep in an herbal bath of lemon balm, sip some rose geranium tea, spray a mist of lavender on your sheets.  Take time to actually enjoy your decorations.  All too soon, it will be time to take them down!


During our German travels, we discovered many wonderful restaurants.  From the most famous Bavarian tourist destination, Hofbrau Haus in Munich, to small cafes in villages we experienced delicious food.  Here’s my version one of my favorite dishes, which I had at my daughter’s neighborhood butcher shop.  I know it’s not “Christmas-y”, but soon the weather will turn nasty, and a hearty meal like this will be sooooooo good!

Konisburger Klops

Tear 4 slices dry bread into small pieces.  Soak in 1 c. milk.  While bread is soaking, cook 1 ½ c. finely chopped onion in 2 T. butter or margarine until soft and golden.  Remove from heat.  Stir bread to break into very small pieces.

In large mixing bowl combine:  1 lb. ground beef, ½ lb. ground veal, ½ lb. ground pork, 2 beaten eggs, 1 ½ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. ground pepper, the milk-softened bread crumbs and onions.  Form into balls the size of golf balls.

In a deep kettle, combine ¾ c. sauterne wine, ¾ c. water, 2 bay leaves, and 4 whole cloves.  Add klops (meatballs), cover tightly, and simmer (don’t boil!)  for 30 min.  Remove klops.  Strain liquid and return  to kettle on medium heat.  

Blend together thoroughly:  2 T. flour and 1/2 c. cold water.  Stir into hot liquid.  Cook and stir until thickened.  Add 2 T. drained capers and the klops.  Taste liquid for salt, pepper and adjust if needed.  Cook 2-3 min.  This is traditionally served over cooked noodles with a side dish of sweet-sour red cabbage.

That’s it for this month.  I hope you and your family have a blessed Christmas, safe travels, memorable moments filled with love, and the fragrance of the herb garden around you.  We’ll be back with more ideas, recipes and info after the New Year, 2009!  Merry Christmas and Holiday