Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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October E- Newsletter 2012

    The leaves have changed color and been swept away by the winds.  The walnuts have plummeted from limbs to lie in heaps on the ground.  The fields are once again flat and barren, resting until spring planting time. Those are all signals that it is time to start moving frost-tender plants into the greenhouse along with trays of tender cuttings.  After that perennials go into the cold frame and we pack up the barn for the winter.  Another week will be spent tidying up, taking down shade cloths, and storing away signs, furniture, & statuary.  Another season comes to an end….almost!  Now I’m busily ordering seeds and patented plug material, and planning the displays for next year!  There are hundreds of cuttings still to be taken, labels to be sorted and stored, pots to be cleaned, and seeds to be collected.  The work never ends, and that’s just the way I like it!

I Need your Feedback!
If you took one of the free tomato plants that we gave away this spring, I need your feedback to report to the seed company.  There were several varieties, and I’d really like to be able to give a good report!  So, let me know what you thought of your free plant?  Did it produce well?  Was it flavorful?  Any problems?  Whether it’s good or bad, I need your evaluations.  To refresh your memory, here are the five varieties that were available.  I hope you will report back to us on their flavor, productivity, and just how well they performed in your garden.  The five varieties are:  Amsterdam (high sugar levels, 68 days, plum shape); Caramba (Italian heritage, large size, excellent flavor, 75 days); Poseidon 43 (pink, sweet, low acid, globe shape, 78 days); Tye-Dye (orange & red; large, good flavor, 78 days); Yaqui (blocky plum shape, high yield, disease resistant, 75 days).  To encourage your response, we’ll have a drawing from everyone who replies for one of the garden goodies I brought back from GWA!  Be sure to tell me which variety you grew as well as your comments.

Organic Gardening Day
The annual Organic Gardening Day sponsored by the Univ. of IL will be held on Saturday, Nov. 3 at the Holiday Inn, 1001 Killarney St., Urbana IL (Exit 183 off I74).  This is the same location where the annual Herb Day is held.  Five outstanding presentations will fill the day.  Registration ($60) includes continental breakfast and a scrumptious organic lunch, plus the possibility of winning a door prize.  For more information, Google “Organic Gardening Day IL 2012” or call Linda Harvey (217)244-1693, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

2013 Schedule
We are beginning to work on our 2013 schedule, which is tentatively being planned for Tuesday, April 2 through the end of June or maybe mid-July.  If there are events or workshops you’d like to request, please let me know.  Also, be aware that bookings for groups for that period are filling rapidly, so if your group plans to visit, contact me quickly.  The farm will only be open to the public for those three months, and there’s already a lot of travel on my schedule!

Coming to Florida…..& St. Louis, MO
I’ll be in the Tampa, St. Pete, Sarasota area April 10-15.  If your herb group, garden club, or shop would like to schedule an appearance, presentation, or book signing, please email me to make arrangements!  Ditto for those in the St. Louis area in mid-July!


State Master Gardener Conference
Early this month, Carolee’s Herb Farm had a booth at the State Master Gardener Conference held at the Hamilton Co. Fairgrounds.  That group really knows how to throw a party, and we had a great time, great food, and terrific speakers.  It was wonderful to reconnect with long-time friends from throughout the state, and to make new ones.  We also picked up a couple of great ideas, like this adorable owl that presided over the morning snack buffet.  He was made from a cantaloupe, watermelon, kales and leaves for feathers, and patty pan squash carved to make his feet.  Aren’t gardeners creative?


\Garden Writers of America Conference
     Two days later, we caught a plane to Tucson, AZ for the annual GWA conference.  It’s always a jam-packed event, filled with garden tours, speakers, workshops, trade fairs, and networking.  Although I’d been to nearly all the public gardens in the area, it was great fun to get into some of the hidden private gardens and to reconnect with some of my favorite people. 


We also had some quality time with family, visiting this U-Pick apple orchard.  The trees were smaller than we grow here in Indiana, despite drip irrigation, but the apples were tasty!  Apple Annie’s also grows apricots and peaches, but we were too late in the season for those.


  One of my favorite GWA tour stops was at a Benedictine Sisters Monastery.  The sisters grow an orchard of date palms and citrus trees, using the dates, oranges, limes, avocados, and loquats in products they sell in their shop. 


In addition, they maintain a lovely courtyard garden containing herbs and tropicals, a Meditation garden, and various plantings around the monastery.  They host a community veggie garden that contains over 500 plots.  Inside the thick walls of the monastery, is a lovely gift shop, where they sell their handmade jewelry, note cards, knitted products, paintings, candles, jellies, teas, and lots more.  Their newest venture is “Prayerfully Popped” popcorn!  These are industrious ladies!


We visited the home of Native Seeds/SEARCH, which has become a leader in the heirloom seed industry.  Their state-of-the-art seed bank contains over 1800 rare varieties, including ancient forms of corn, cotton, peppers, and more.


  This is a forerunner to today’s corn.
     The Desert Survivors Native Plant Nursery is extensive, and even though it was very hot that day, I prowled through the rows of plants, which included over 400 species.  The nursery pioneered much of the work in horticultural therapy, and has a labor force that includes many people with disabilities. 


I was delighted to find this Mexican Elder, which I’ll use in my “Herb of the Year” talks in 2013.


The Mission Gardens is a recent reproduction of the gardens installed by Father Kino in 1692, which is where Tucson began as an O’odham Indian village, Chuk Son, which translates as “at the base of the black hill.”  Although the plants are small, docents explained how each variety was essential to the culture, providing food, medicines, or fibers.  We were able to experience mesquite flour brownies and prickly pear lemonade, as well as seeing baskets made with devils’ claw.


We visited several cactus gardens, and although I can see the diversity in shapes and sizes, they just don’t “ring my bell.”  I did enjoy a visit to a small grower, who produces herbs and potted plants that are sold at a local farmers market.  She crammed an amazing amount of growing on a small city lot.   And, I liked this little hidden garden, making the most of the tiny bit of shade.


  I absolutely love the Herb Garden at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, where the gorgeous hand-painted tiles echo the blue used throughout the garden.  I just wish they had more seating, so I could just sit and absorb the beauty, fragrances, and the bird songs.  The entire Botanical Garden was more tidy and interesting than I’d ever seen it before.  I’m sure the staff worked overtime, tweeking the plantings before the visit of 400 Garden Writers!


The Desert Legume Program grows over 600 species of legumes, members of the bean & pea family, from around the world.  They explained that legumes are one of the most important plant groups, providing human and animal foods, often in regions that cannot support cereal grains.  Research has found recently that certain legumes can fight ovarian cancer, while others produce scents that may become ingredients in French perfumes!


The lovely Tohono Chui Park was alive with butterflies, as we strolled the winding paths through dessert plants and artistic sculptures.  With careful planting, there can be more color in a dry landscape than one might expect.  There were three amazing gift shops, where there were items from a few pennies to a javelina sculpture with a price tag of (gulp!) $12,400.00!  It was cute, but……We had a delicious lunch in the café.  If you are ever in the Tucson area, this is a must-see!
     By the time the conference was over, I had a suitcase full of new plant introductions, a folder of business cards promising garden goodies, books, and other gems that I’ll be sharing with you in the coming months!  I came home filled with ideas for my gardens, a list of plants I just have to get, and a purse filled with new seeds to try!  What a giggle!

Some interesting food facts:
     The Sweet Potato has more fiber than a bowl of oatmeal, more Vitamin A than a cup of carrots, and more potassium than a banana!
     Asparagus (2 T. of cooked puree taken morning and evening daily) has been found to be a miracle healer in many diseases, especially Hodgkin’s.
     Some researchers have found that a combination of 1 tsp. honey and 1 tsp. ground cinnamon in warm water sipped several times a day relieves the nausea, pain, and suffering during chemotherapy.
     Cucumbers contain most of the daily vitamins needed on a daily basis.  A few slices can relieve fatigue in the afternoon, or eaten in the evening after too much libation can avoid a hangover or headache.  And, rub the outside skin gently on walls to remove crayon and marker marks made by children!

Most of you have probably heard that Scotts Miracle Gro Company was recently ordered to pay over $12.5 million for pesticide violations.  According to the DOJ, the company pleaded guilty in Feb. 2012 to illegally applying insecticides to its wild bird food products, falsifying pesticide registration documents, mislabeling, and distributing unregistered pesticides.
     At the GWA conference, a spokesperson for Scotts explained that most of the violations occurred when Scotts purchased a bird food company (Morning Song) and neglected to check the formulations the company was using.  It was also stated that all of the falsifying of documents was done by a single individual.
     Hmmm…I’m a bit skeptical.   I find it hard to believe a company as large and profitable as Scotts wouldn’t bother to check out the “recipes” and ingredients before purchasing a multi-million dollar company, and if indeed they did, then I wonder what other smaller things are overlooked as well.  And with something as important as federal pesticide documents, I’d sure have a review committee, or at least an oversight group to be sure the documents were filed properly to prevent mistakes, let alone blatant falsification!
     I guess I’d just like to see a company that makes its living with potent chemicals that are sold to many novice lawn-keepers, good-hearted bird feeders, and earnest gardeners be much more careful.

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 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.
     Moving pots of bright red geraniums onto your windowsills can also be protective, and setting your broom outside the front door will keep a witch from putting a curse on your home. 


An Herb To Know—RUE!
     At this time of year, plants that tolerate frost and remain lovely are high on my list.  One of my favorites is rue, with its prettily shaped leaves and blue-toned color.  It’s tidy, easy, and right now, its cheery yellow flowers are welcome in the border. 
     Today, rue has few uses, such as in the Halloween bouquet described above, or in moth repellent mixtures.  However, such was not the case in bygone days.  Even though it is now considered toxic, medieval physicians described rue often for a variety of ailments.  Pliny the Elder said “Rue is an herb as medicinable as the best.”  Gerard’s herbal considered it an excellent remedy for cough, menstrual problems, indigestion, lung ailments such as pleurisy, gout, sciatica, and the ague.  Others prescribed it a for contraception, varicose veins, rheumatism, and earache.  It was steeped in vinegar to make a liniment for shortness of breath, chills, hysteria, bloodshot eyes, and worms.  It was boiled with hyssop leaves for stomach upset.  Leaves were crushed and put in the nose to stop nosebleed, and leaves were sometimes chewed to cleanse bad breath.
     Rue was one of many herbs thought to protect against the plague and to repel flies.  It was spread on floors in jails to help control vermin.
    In medieval times, rue was considered a major antidote for poisoning, especially from monkshood, bad mushrooms, scorpion stings, bees, and mad dog bites.  Having observed weasels eating rue before attacking snakes, it gained a reputation for being useful for snakebite.  Rue was planted around buildings to keep out reptiles, in chicken yards to repel predators, especially feral cats.  In fact, juice was pressed from rue leaves and sprinkled on chickens to protect them from various varmints.  Rue was planted in hedgerows, where farm animals could nibble the leaves to treat themselves as needed.
     In the kitchen, the Romans used it to make a sauce to go with roasted flamingoes, cooked vegetables, and stuffings.  Leaves were used in salads.  Early French cooks prized tansy, rue, pennyroyal and hyssop for their strong flavors which help disguise gamey or slightly spoiled meats.  It was also used in a sauce for snails.  Eating plants that have now proved to be toxic probably contributed to the early deaths of many.
     Rue’s name, Ruta graveolens, comes from Ruth, which means repentance, remorse and sorrow.  Eventually it became known as the Herb of Grace, or the Herb of Repentance. Long held sacred by the druids, in the Christian church sprigs of rue were used to sprinkle holy water.  Even earlier, mythology explained that Mercury gave rue to Ulysses to help him resist the charms of Circe. 
     Rue is a hardy perennial, growing to about 2-3’ in sun or light shade.  Some consider it among the loveliest of herbs with it rich blue-green foliage, prettily shaped leaves and glowing yellow blooms.  It is easy to grow from seed or cuttings.  Care should be taken when the plant is in bloom.  Some people are highly allergic, and pruning the plant can cause them to get blistered skin so badly that it can require hospitalization.  I generally place it in the center of the border so accidental contact with skin is limited.

October 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.  Take extra photos now to help with the project.
*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.
*Cut down stalks of perennials before they seed rampantly.
*Last chance to plant hard-neck garlic!

While we were in Tucson, we enjoyed several area restaurants.  I chose the Old Pueblo Grille because their menu listed “rattlesnake eggs” which my grandson and I really wanted to try.  Unfortunately, the dish came, and it was not real rattlesnake eggs, but what we in the Midwest call Jalapeno Poppers!  They were tasty enough to make us forget our disappointment, and I couldn’t wait to get back home to make my own version of the cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped peppers!

Carolee’s Rattlesnake Eggs
In a small bowl, mix together 8 oz. cream cheese (room temperature); ¼ c. finely snipped garlic chives or chives; ¼ tsp. ground cumin.
Slice 8 jalapeno peppers lengthwise, leaving it connected at the stem end.  Carefully remove seeds.  Fill both sides of the pepper generously with cheese mixture and push halves back together.  Wrap a slice of bacon around each pepper to cover evenly.  Place in a shallow pan with end of bacon on bottom so they don’t come unwrapped, or fasten with a toothpick.  Place about 4” below broiler heat source and broil about 15 min., until bacon is nicely browned.  Turn peppers over.  Broil an additional 5 min, until bacon is browned on that side.  Remove from oven and allow to sit for about 5 min. before serving.  Caution:  These eggs have a bite!

Enjoy the Harvest and Halloween Season.  Pray for our country as this important election occurs.  Savor these last few mild weeks before winter arrives and find tasty ways to use the new crops of arugula and cilantro, and the lush growth on parsley and chives that are abundant right now. 

Herbal blessings,