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 October 2017 Newsletter
October 2017 Newsletter Print E-mail

 October E-Newsletter 2017

It’s been a beautiful, very busy October; one that makes me happy to live in the Midwest where savoring the seasons’ change is a major blessing.  The arrival of the brilliant autumn colors, piles of pumpkins, and combines crawling through the fields are the real signal that fall has arrived.  I hope we have a long, lazy autumn because the bulb order just arrived this week.  Planting bulbs always makes me dream of spring, another very beautiful but more hectic season.  Of course, I’m jumping ahead, right over winter, as most gardeners do, but on those snowy, gorgeous days I’ll think of all my plants taking a long winter’s nap, and smile.

Mark your calendar:
     The Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society (INPAWS) will host its 24rd annual conference, “Aldo and Friends: Phenology, Biology, and Saving the World.” The conference is open to the public — anyone with an interest in native plants, conservation, botany, landscaping, and wildlife habitat is welcome. Saturday, Oct. 28 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Monroe Convention Center, 302 South College Avenue, Bloomington.Costs INPAWS members $75; non-members $90. Visit
     Herb Society of Central Indiana:  Nov. 6, 6:15-8:30 at the Clay Township Center, 106th and College.  “Herbs, Not Just For Food Anymore” will be presented by Michelle Plummer with the American Dairy Association of Indiana, who will provide recipes for interesting herb additions to ordinary foods, herb gift ideas and table decorating tips. Refreshments provided. Visit, or call 317-251-6986
     Philadelphia Flower Show:  March 3-11, 2018.  Established in 1829, this amazing show quickly became the largest indoor display in the world, covering 10 acres with gardens and garden-related displays.  This year’s theme is “The Wonder of Waters.”  Tickets can be purchased on-site, but book your hotel room now to get one within walking distance.
     Indiana Flower & Patio Show:  March 10-18, 2018 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds

Normandy, Part II
    In last month’s newsletter, the focus was on the gardens of the Chateau du Brecy, but obviously we experienced much, much more in Normandy, a coastal region of France.  We landed in Paris and drove west for three hours through fairly level land that reminded us of Indiana:  lots of cornfields, bean fields that had already been harvested, large round hay bales being formed as we drove by, and wheat fields just beginning to show green. 

There were also lots of orchards for apples and pears, and green pastures with white Charolais or brown-speckled Ayshire cattle. Normandy is famous for its hard apple ciders, calvados (a strong alcoholic apple brandy), Camembert cheese (invented here) and overall excellent food. 

As a coastal region, seafood is fresh and abundant, but they take pride in their succulent pork and tender beef as well. 


Our home-base was in Bayeux, an ancient town on the River Ar. Notice the ancient water wheel on the left, which was used to power a grain mill owned by the bishop.  Because this entire area was under England’s control for lengthy periods, you’ll find a mixture of half-timbered buildings such as these, and traditional French stone construction shown later below. 

The famous Bayeux tapestry that depicts the victory of William the Conqueror has its own museum here.  Because the River Ar was not navigable, Bayeux did not grow into a large city as other towns in Normandy became, and therefore it was not part of the industrial revolution, which meant also that it was not an important target during either WWI or WWII.  As you drive into town, a statue of Eisenhower is featured in the round-about, celebrating Bayeux’s being one of the first towns liberated as a result of D-Day and its subsequent battles.  Bayeux was one of only two towns in Normandy that were not destroyed by bombing, so its historic buildings, some as old as the 11th century, are still intact.


Its cathedral is gorgeous, as well as many old homes and hotels.The building below is Bayeux hosptial,

which looks just as it did when it was built in the 13th century, at least on the outside.  The entire stone shell was preserved, but inside it is a modern, efficient hospital.  The old wooden door (above left) opens to reveal a hollow metal cylinder which turns.  In olden days, the door could be opened and unwanted babies placed inside the cylinder by anonymous persons.  The cylinder was then turned, the bell rung, and thus the baby became the responsibility of the hospital. Although its buildings were spared, Bayeux suffered during WWII because the Germans took all its lovely statues made of lead and melted them into bullets.

After the war, there was no money to replace them with elegant statues, so many statues now are rather rustic and made of inexpensive materials, such as the one above which is showing signs of wear even though it is only a few decades old.
     Walking through Bayeux is a step back in time, although as a major tourist town, there is an abundance of restaurants and gift shops, and a large new tourist information center.  Because of its location near the D-Day beaches and the Museum of the Battle of Normandy, millions of visitors come to Bayeux, many from the U.S., Canada, and Australia so English is commonly heard.  We met several lovely people as we went on tours, sat adjacent in restaurants, or walked through museums and shops.  I spent many pleasant days just walking around, visiting museums (porcelain and lace were famous exports of this area) and having afternoon tea. 

Les Violets Roses was my favorite tea room, both for its food and its quaint décor. Their signature teas and cakes (this one was citron, or lemon and poppy seed) were delicious. 

I especially enjoyed a guided walking tour that emphasized the history and architecture of this town, and returned to the Charles d' Gaul Park to photograph the statue/fountain of Popee, who persuaded the man who had kidnapped and later married her, to rebuild the cathedral that he had destroyed when he conquered the town.  Thank goodness the statue of Popee was made of stone and not lead!  Of course, I had to stroll downtown on market day to see what wonderful French products were for sale.  There were lots of apples and pears, of course, and tables filled with fresh mussels and fish.

Potted flowers and herbs were available, and vendors selling local cheeses of all types

    One afternoon was spent just browsing in flower shops, which were abundant and varied, and overflowing with enticing decor items for home and garden as well as cut flowers and potted plants.

    Just walking down the streets was a step back in time, with quaint little shops tucked here and there, and hidden gardens left exposed for my view as doors were opened.  After so much walking, a stop at one of the numerous bakeries was in order.  Can you see the green frog cupcakes in the bottom case?  They were delicious!



     David spent his days on all the military and battle-related tours that he could book, and had heart-felt experiences as he retraced the steps of the brave soldiers shown in “Band of Brothers,” as well as all of the beaches that became famous during D-Day:  Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword & Juno. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the D Day landing, the combined length of the 5 beaches is 65 miles. On D Day, 38,000 troops landed on Omaha Beach.  There were 4500 casualties. He also visited the American Military Cemetery which was pristine & awesome. Over dinner each evening, he would relate all he’d seen, and the people he’d met.  It was an experience he will never forget, can take it off of his bucket list and would recommend it to every patriotic American.  Once you’ve been there and seen it all, you would never dream of not standing up for our flag and anthem. In the picture above left, David is standing at the Band of Brothers Leadership monument with a statue of Lt Dick Winters, the commanding officer of Easy Company. In the second picture he is standing in a German bunker above Omaha Beach
     Of course, I needed another garden “fix”, so we drove to Chateau d’Audrieu, a nearby swanky hotel that was too expensive for our budget, but famous for its garden.  Completely different in style from Chateau du Brecy, d’Audrieu has twelve acres of gardens, much of it park-like with ancient trees.  My focus was on the more intimate gardens:  White, Rose, Floral, and Vegetable.  An allee of pear trees was lovely and connected these gardens with a well-kept orchard. The first garden is the formal floral border, which was filled with texture and bloom.


The Flower Garden was made of quadrants, with these dahlias being the star section at this time of year. 

    It is hard to get an idea of scale from my photos, but the first one below is just a part of the garden.  The second photo shows the central statue, so you can get abetter idea of size.

In the White Garden, anemones and dahlias were featured, with an abundance of starry asters soon to steal the show. 

It was late in the season for the Rose Garden so I didn't stay long.  I was eager to find the potager, but my search for inspiring potagers was not successful once again.  The first photo below is the herb section of the potager, and the second is the main vegetable beds which were already cleared and tilled, although there were still a few hardier vegetables remaining here and there. 

  Just beyond the walled garden that held the floral border, there is a huge treehouse, shown below.  Guests willing to pay 1,000 euros per night can stay there.  It is fully equipped and luxurious.  And speaking of luxurious, it is worth the trip to Chateau d'Audrieu just to have afternoon tea.  Very elegant and delicious in a beautiful setting.

Our time in Normandy, even though it was our second visit, was much, much too short, and hopefully we will return.  If you plan to visit the area, I’d be happy to recommend hotels & restaurants.

Did you know:
*In the greenhouse industry, the milkweed bandwagon is overflowing, and being described as “milkweed mania”
*The foodie movement is still driving much of the plant breeding and marketing work as the “grow your own” food continues to flourish
*”Gene tweaking” by researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Labs in two varieties of tomatoes has improved flower set and fruit ripening by over 2 weeks. The application is planned to include major food crops, like wheat, soybeans and corn soon.
* A California company is creating a product that forms a barrier around produce to increase shelf life.  Since it takes 30 days for blueberries picked in Chile to market in the U.S., they must be picked green and shipped under heavy refrigeration.  Apeel Sciences hopes their product will change that.
*In 2015, for the first time in our history, Americans spent more $$ on restaurants and bars than on groceries
*In 2016, studies show that Americans are shifting their grocery purchases from a single “grocery” store, to increased purchases at convenience stores and big-box retailers.

Seed Collecting
If you grow non-hybrid varieties of herbs or flowers, it’s not too late to collect seeds for spring planting.  Try to collect them on a dry day.  I put each variety in a standard envelope, writing the name, color, date, and in which garden they grew.  I bring the envelopes indoors and spread them on a table for a few days, to make sure they are completely dry.  Then I store them alphabetically in plastic shoe boxes, sorted by “Early Annuals”, “Early Perennials”, “Midseason”, “Late”, etc.  When spring comes, they are easy to find, and I don’t have to sort through every envelope to find what needs to be planted first.   Adding a tablespoon of powdered milk wrapped in a bit of tissue and fastened with a staple or tape in each box helps keep the seeds dry.   A change in temperature can cause condensation within the box.  The milk will absorb any moisture.  Discard the packets next summer.
    Keep in mind that if you grow more than one variety of a plant within bee-traveling distance, then probably cross-pollination has occurred and the plants may not come “true” from your collected seed.  So, if you grew cherry tomatoes and Roma tomatoes near one another, you may get something that doesn’t resemble either!  Seeds collected from flowers may result in different colors than either parent, but if you don’t care, it can be lots of fun seeing what you get next summer.
     Seeds collected from flowering perennials usually are more reliable in terms of being true to form, because they generally bloom for a shorter period than annuals or vegetables.  

Herb to Know:  Shallot
     I must admit, I’d never considered shallots (Allium cepaascalonicum) to be herbs until recently when re-reading AdelmaGrennier Simmons’ wonderful book, “Herb Gardening in Five Seasons.”  Shallots were given their own page in this book, and when thinking about it, they are generally used to flavor other ingredients, not often used singly as a vegetable on their own, so they do qualify.  Adelma calls shallots “the most delectable of all onions” and that at one time they were “known as eschalots, brought back by Crusaders from Ascalon, an ancient city in West Palestine.”
     The French are especially fond of shallots, using them in sauces, but they are being more widely used world-wise in salads, dressings, vinegars and vegetable dishes.
     Shallots are easily grown from bulbs or seeds.  Plant seeds in spring, and expect to harvest shallots before frost.  In my potager, I planted 8 lbs. of Dutch shallot bulbs in spring and harvested over 40 lbs. in July.  I sold some, ate lots, and still had plenty to plant again this spring.  Planted about 2” deep, 5-6” apart in rows 6-8”apart in average, well-drained soil in full sun, shallots grow to about 18” tall.  I use them to support “Little Marvel” peas early in the growing season.  One bulb generally forms 3-6 more, but I’ve had as many as 8!  When the stalks have turned brown and fallen over, gently pull the bulbs, using a trowel if needed to prevent the stalks from pulling off.  I place them on screens and allow them to cure in a shaded, airy place for at least 3 weeks (although they are ready to eat immediately…curing helps ensure long-term storage.)  Then, I braid them and hang them in my shed to finish curing until danger of freeze.  This year, I had 31 braids!  Do not allow the shallots to freeze. 


This year, David made a gorgeous rack especially for hanging braids of the various onions, garlics, and shallots I grow.  Last winter, I moved them into baskets in the unheated (but never freezing) garage, but too many rotted due to lack of air circulation in the baskets.  This year, they should be very happy hanging from the rack.  If you don’t want to braid them, you can trim the tops and place them in mesh bags and hang them.  (I use the mesh drawstring bags my tulip bulbs, etc. come in!)  However, I only use bags for those whose tops break off, because in my experience the braided shallots store better with less rot than those in bags…again, it’s air circulation and being kept cool but not freezing.
     As a test, I planted a small patch of shallots last fall to see if they would winter over in the garden.  About 80% of them survived, but they did not produce more or bigger bulbs, and they were not ready to harvest until the same day as the spring-planted bulbs, so there was nothing to gain and more to lose, especially if the winter is a hard one rather than last year’s mild one.
     I will ship a braid of shallots to the first reader who requests it.  Just send me an e-mail! (The braid has been claimed....thanks for reading all the way to the end!)

Recipe: Normandy Camembert Pockets
This is my version of a dish we had multiple times in France, usually as an appetizer, but I think it is better as a luncheon or supper dish, because it is large, rich, and filling! It was always served with a few dressed greens, thinly sliced red onions, lemon wedges and cornichons.
     Remove the 2 sheets of puff pastry (17.3 ozpkg) and allow them to thaw according to pkg. directions.  Spray two individual-sized baking pans 4”in diameter and 1–¼” deep with non-stick spray.  Press a sheet of pastry into each pan.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
     Beat 1 egg with 1 T. water and set aside.
     In a large skillet, melt 1 tsp. butter.  Add 1 shallot and 1 stalk celery, both finely diced.  Cook until soft but not browned.  Add:  1 drained 6.5 oz. can mushroom pieces, ½ c. peas, 1 T. finely chopped parsley.  Cover and cook just until peas are almost cooked.
     Meanwhile, drain 1-4oz. can tiny shrimp, reserving liquid.  Add shrimp to skillet, along with a few grinds of black pepper.  Mix 1 T. flour with 4 T. shrimp liquid.  Stir gently into vegetables and shrimp.  Add ½ c. Camembert cheese, cut into ½” cubes and blend gently.
     Spoon half of mixture into each pan.  Brush a half-inch border on all the outside edges of pastry with egg wash.  Pull the narrowest parallel edges over veg/shrimp mixture.  Don’t worry if they don’t meet.  Pull the remaining two edges over the top of the first two.  Pull the four corners up to center and twist to form the top.  Brush the entire exposed pastry with egg wash.  Place two small pans into a baking pan or onto a baking sheet.  Place in preheated oven and bake for about 20-25 min., until nicely browned.  Serve immediately.  Serves 2.

Enjoy the last few days of autumn before winter arrives.  

Happy Halloween, and all Herbal Blessings, Carolee