Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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March E-Newsletter 2013

     March has been a pretty erratic month weather-wise but I’m not fussing or stewing or worrying.  It is what it is and I can’t change it, so I’m just smiling and pushing forward against the wind.  My mantra is “I’m DONE with Gloom & Doom!”  We’ve had enough of that these past few years!  I made the decision that we’re going to have fun this season, regardless of what happens.  I went to the markets and bought things I love.  The barn has been transformed into a lively, colorful place filled with surprises.  I scoured the catalogs for interesting new plants and reliable, old favorites; started them earlier so we’d have bigger plants and brought in exciting new patented material from fantastic fellow growers.  We’re revamping some of the outdoor plant sales areas and added some new categories for easier shopping.   I’ve made a vow to provide more signage, more free recipes, more hugs, and more smiles.  I hope the joy I find in my farm every day spills over, splashes out and sprinkles each and every one of you!
       February just flew by and March has been super-hectic, but I’m loving it!   The greenhouse is overflowing, and each day I can’t wait to see the new colors of pansies and violas that opened overnight, since I grew several new varieties this year.  The bellis have begun blooming (see last month’s newsletter for more info on this charming little spring English daisy) and they are enchanting.  I suspect I’ve made the fairies at the farm very happy this year!
     I’ve done quite a bit of traveling, too.  See where I’ve been below.  We squeezed in David’s birthday dinner, Easter, and lots of basketball watching in the wee hours.  I’ve also seeded some early salad crops and snow peas in the Cook’s Garden, done a lot of plant sign-making, and some container plantings.   
     Since the farm opens in just a few days, I’m including e-coupons in this newsletter, so read all the way to the end! 

Opening Day—Tuesday, April 2nd!
     Join us for our 21st Anniversary.  We’ll have anniversary cake and door prizes, and a 20% off sale.  See all the new displays, and attend a presentation on exciting new plants at 11 and 1.

Spring Planter Day—Sat., April 7th
     Bring a container and we’ll help you plant it with cool-weather tolerant plants, (fee for soil, amendments and cost of plants) or choose one of our pre-planted pots (20% off pre-planted containers)

     There are new articles in the left-hand menu of the website, so be sure to check it out.  And, don’t forget to access the 2013 Events Schedule, the 2013 Workshop Schedule and other information on the website.  Take a few minutes to decide which events and workshops to attend and mark your calendar now.   There will be lots of fun and informative happenings that you won’t want to miss!  There are still openings for all workshops.

Fairy Day-April
Our Annual Fairy Day will be held Saturday, April 27 (10-4).  Note that this is a ONE-DAY event this year.  Bring your little winged fairies and elves to celebrate the wee folk.  We’ll have fairy tales, some new fairy crafts, fairy tea & goodies, a fairy parade, the fairy hunt and more.   We’ve expanded Fairyland in the Big Barn Gift Shop with over $2,000 in new fairy products!!!  (It hasn’t all arrived yet, but it should be here by then!) The Enchanted Forest and Fairy Garden will be decked out for visits and we’ll have lots of wonderful plants that fairies adore.  The Fairy Godmother requests that you do call or email to make a reservation so there will be enough craft materials and refreshments for all the little fairies and elves.  It will be a magical day!

HSCI Symposium-April 20th
The annual symposium hosted by the Herb Society of Central Indiana will be held at the Hamilton Co. Fairgrounds in Noblesville, on April 20th,   8a.m-3p.m.  This is a very special event that herb-lovers won’t want to miss.  The $40 registration fee includes morning treats, three presentations and a scrumptious lunch.  Excellent vendors, information table and a silent auction add to the fun. This year’s theme is “Elderberries, Fairies & Herbs!”  I happen to know that each person will receive a special elderberry favor imported from Germany as part of the gorgeous table decor!  I’ll be there with a booth filled with herbal treasures, and I’m speaking on one of my very favorite herbs, the 2013 Herb of the Year, Elder!  We’ll have elder plants (several varieties) dried elderberries and flowers, and other elder specialties, as well as some new fairies and fairy items (fairies love elders….it’s their sacred tree!).  Registration deadline is April 13.  Print out a registration form (seating is limited) at .  Don’t delay!  Spread the word, invite your friends and plan to attend this fun-filled, informative day.  I’ll have some reservations forms at the farm when we open, too!

And the winner is!
     I really, really appreciate the responses to our February question on the best way to
organize plants for ease of shopping.  There were some thoughtful answers, and I will be
implementing some of the suggestions!  I do listen!  The winner of the February Question on how you’d prefer plants be organized is Carol Cherry, Indianapolis!  Congratulations! Your $10 Gift certificate is in the mail!

This month’s question:  Do you start most plants for your gardens from seeds, purchase small packs or flats, or prefer to buy big plants that are already established?  All replies will be put in a drawing & the winner will receive your choice of a gift certificate or a box of garden goodies.

Hoosier Hillside MG “Spring Tonic”
     This was the first time I’ve attended this terrific event, and I heartily recommend it for anyone who needs a “Spring Tonic”!  From the pretty planters at the front doors, to this welcoming display, featuring a tree filled with tiny hand-painted miniature gourds (that were gifts to each attendee), to the colorful centerpieces the love and effort that went into this growing event was obvious. 

And, these gardeners know how to cook!  The breakfast treats and homemade lunch were terrific!  FIVE informative speakers shared their knowledge; there were LOTS of door prizes and wonderful networking. 


I was happy to be there, and then absolutely thrilled to reconnect with legendary gardener, Helen Trueblood, who is famous for her southern Indiana hillside gardens filled with thousands of fabulous daffodils.  Helen at 95 is still going strong, sharp as a tack, and as eager to share her knowledge as always.  We had a delightful visit and we swapped a succulent planter for some daffodil bulbs to be shipped this fall.  Also in the photo is special friend Joan Burton from the Kentuckiana Herb Society, who plants the fragrance garden at the School for the Blind and shares my love of scented geraniums.
    This event will be held again next year, the first Saturday in March.  Mark your calendars….it’s well-worth a drive into hill country (Paoli, IN.)


Philly Flower Show
     I was only home a day and a half before I left for the fantastic, fabulous, magical, overwhelming, beautiful, idea-packed Philadelphia Flower Show.  I spent 2 long days there, took hundreds & hundreds of photos, and still didn’t manage to see it all!  The theme was “Brilliant! The Gardens of Great Britain!” and it was indeed brilliantly done.  The attention to detail is always what amazes me most.  There were dozens of inspiring gardens, some based on significant gardens in Britain and some pure imagination. The gates of Buckingham Palace welcomed visitors (note the tubes in the walls are filled with live orchids!) 


After passing through an allee of full-grown trees, Big Ben rose nearly to the ceiling, surrounded by a variety of plantings.  Of course, the Beatles, Jane Austen, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, and many other British icons were well represented.

     The famous Cliff Wall hole of St. Andrews was reconstructed, as well as major parts of Hidcote Manor Garden, and the lost gardens of Heligan. There were lots of unbelievably beautiful plants, garden sheds, planters, and details.

     Some gardens emphasized history, some recycling, some space-saving, some food production and others were planted for wildlife or fairies!  There were magnificent table settings. And many nods to royalty…….

Thankfully, there were herbs included in innovative ways like this spiral planter


     There were four seminar areas with concurrent presentations, hundreds of vendors, a book store, photography displays featuring the Queen, olive oil and wine- tastings, a Make-It/Take It area,  A Man Cave (with lots of big TV’s and lawn care classes!) mouth-watering cooking demonstrations, and lots more.  Only periodic visits to the numerous British “pubs” for tasty British food, cups and tea, and the search for new plants and ideas kept me going all day!  If you’ve never attended, put it on your bucket list.  However, I’m not sure next year will be ideal…apparently the theme is “Artic-culture!”

     If you are a fan of Carolee’s Herb Farm, help spread the word.  Mention us on Facebook and other social networking sites, Twitter during your visits to the farm, visit our website, and tell your friends about workshops and events.  If you enjoyed “Herbal Beginnings,” “Herbal Choices,” and “Herbal Passions” write a positive review on Amazon.  We so appreciate everyone’s help and efforts to keep the farm going!

An Intruder in the Cottage!
     Many of you may recall the antics of a clever squirrel who managed to create havoc and destruction in the Cottage last spring by popping in and out through the stove pipe vent.  I finally thwarted his efforts and patted myself on the back that at least one problem was solved.  However, by mid-winter, it was evident that he had gained the upper hand.  A new hole at the base of the chimney had allowed him entrance, and he took advantage of it.  Apparently, he’s had a high time all winter, had several parties with numerous friends, and probably some scandalous sleep-overs!  Items have been knocked from shelves and walls, wreaths have been chewed to bits, and the floor is littered with half-eaten walnuts!
     After a careful study of the new entry, caused by the increasingly sagging floor (loyal readers will know that this problem was eliminated by Trev Carpenter in Herbal Beginnings but that’s the advantage of fiction!) I engaged an expert to jack up and reinforce the foundation, remove the ancient chimney, and fill in the floor.  Hopefully, this will stop Mr. Squirrel before he invites Mr. Opossum, the prodigious Raccoon family, and Mrs. Skunk for a rowdy vacation!  For all I know, he could be renting space by the week, or operating a shady critter casino!
     We expect the work to be completed in a timely fashion so that the Cottage can benefit from a thorough cleaning, walnut-removal, and new displays by Opening Day!

An Herb to Know:  Tansy
     The Easter season is a time for tradition and if one lived in England in olden times, celebrations of this spring holiday would have included tansy cakes.  While the tradition of eating tansy cakes is not as popular currently as chocolate rabbits, hard-boiled eggs, or ham it may have more relevance to Easter, since it is considered the herb of immortality.  Greek legend says tansy was the crucial ingredient in the potion that made Ganymede immortal, so that he could be the eternal cupbearer to Zeus.  Early herbalists noted that the tansy flower rarely wilted and that the plant is long-lived, which reinforced the notion.  That may explain why it has been found in ancient burial sites, although some skeptics say it is more likely that tansy was put there because of its ability to repel insects, or that its scent may have helped diffuse the odors during lengthy funerals.  Tansy was one of the most common strewing herbs, mixing its scent with southernwood and other fragrant herbs that grew in abundance and could withstand heavy foot traffic, so it was often found on the floors of the poorest hovels to the grandest castles.  In fact, King James II ordered that six bushels of tansy leaves be strewn down the aisle to his throne during his coronation. 
     Gerard championed the use of tansy in spring tonic because he felt it improved health.  Culpepper wrote that tansy’s life giving forces were so powerful that simply placing a tansy leaf on a pregnant woman’s navel would prevent miscarriage.  Folklore says that tansy steeped in milk and used on the skin would keep one looking young.
     Although tansy has a long history of culinary use especially in small cakes, omelets, and salads around Easter, and as a cheap substitute for pepper, it is rarely used today.  Along with its bitter flavor, some research has shown that it can be a dangerous herb due to thujone, a rather toxic substance that can cause weak pulse, foaming at the mouth, and more. However, some sources insist it can be used as a lotion for varicose veins and sprains. My recommendation is to use tansy medicinally only with the supervision of a health professional and to use it very sparingly in any culinary purpose. There are modern recipes for marinades (especially with lamb or fish), tansy puddings or cakes, that call for small (1 T. or less) quantities of this bitter herb, but I find I can usually substitute hyssop.  (Of course, I won’t get the reputed immortal qualities of tansy, but I’m not too eager to foam at the mouth or have a heart attack!)
     Eliminating its medicinal properties, tansy is still a useful herb for repelling ants (one of its folk names is Ant Fern) and flies.  Native Americans would often wrap meat in tansy leaves while transporting it back to camp to keep flies off.  Colonial housewives hung branches of tansy in windows, and put small bouquets of tansy leaves and flowers in jugs on their tables during meals.  Tansy was also often planted around the outhouse to discourage flies. Scottish farmers put tansy leaves with grain to keep mice away.
     In the garden, branches can be put around vegetable crops to repel potato beetles, flea beetles, cabbageworms, and squash bugs, where the sun will release the scent.  It is also an old-time dye plant, producing various shades of yellow and green.
     Tansy is an easy perennial, growing to about 3’ in height in sun or light shade, and happy in most soil conditions.  It is often grown for its clusters of bright gold button-like flowers and fern-like leaves, which are used in dried arrangements or as a cut flower.  The attractive foliage is a deep, dark green which is quite attractive in the back of the border.  In formal gardens, it should be grown in containers since the plant can be quite invasive, spreading both by seed and underground roots.

Spring Feedings & Tips
      It’s time to begin fertilizing houseplants!  I usually get stocked up on organic fertilizers to begin on March 15.   Check for insects, and pinch the tips or trim back sprawling growth.  The plants will respond to the nourishment, and to the longer, sunnier days with new growth and a perky attitude!
     Insects, like aphids and whiteflies are also on the rise with longer days and warmer temps.  Check houseplants carefully and spray with insecticidal soap if needed.
      If you want cannas & dahlias to bloom earlier in the season, now is a good time to pot them and get them started.  They’ll bloom almost a month earlier than if planted directly outdoors after the soil is warm.     
     I’ve suspended my sweet potatoes in water, where they are developing roots and shoots.  When the shoots reach about 4” in height, I’ll break them off gently and put them in a short glass of water to root.  When they have a good root system, I pot them and put them in a baking pan so I can move them outdoors on warm days, but indoors on chilly nights. By mid-May, I’ll have plenty of plants to plant in the Cook’s Garden!

Molded Chicken Salad with Avocado Frosting and Ginger Vinaigrette
     Don’t let the name or the photo intimidate you!  This is actually a very easy recipe that can be adapted in many ways.  I like to make it as shown for a luscious ladies’ luncheon, but my husband is just as happy to smear the avocado “frosting” on a big bun, spread the chicken salad over it, drizzle it with a bit of the dressing, and make a mouth-watering (and mouth-filling!) big sandwich.  Sometimes, I mold it in a smaller mold and serve it over a mound of spring greens, with extra dressing on the side.  Feel free to experiment!
     For the chicken salad, mix in a bowl:  4 c. diced cooked chicken; ¼ c. finely chopped onion; ½ c. finely diced celery; ¼ c. mayonnaise; 3 T. sweet pickle relish; 2 T. finely chopped cilantro; salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.
     For the Ginger Vinaigrette, mix in a jar:  ½ c. olive oil; ¼ c. white wine vinegar; 1 t. finely grated fresh ginger, salt, freshly ground pepper.  Shake to mix well.
     For the avocado frosting mix well in a small bowl:  2 peeled & seeded ripe avocados;   1 T. mayonnaise; 1 T. ginger vinaigrette.
     To assemble the salad:  Press chicken salad into a 1 c. measuring cup (or use a smaller cup or mold, if desired) that has been sprayed with a non-sticking spray.  Un-mold onto a salad plate (or mound of spring greens.)  Frost with the avocado frosting.  Garnish with sprigs of fresh cilantro.  If not serving immediately, chill.  Drizzle generously with vinaigrette just before serving.  Makes 4 main dish, 6 side servings, or 8 sandwiches.

That’s it for March, as the snow falls outside the window.  Our regular business hours will begin on April 2nd, and we’ll be open Tuesdays thru Saturdays, 10-5.  The teapot is always brewing for your visit! Happy Easter and Herbal Blessings,Carolee

Carolee’s Barn or Cottage Coupon
$5.00 off any single shop item priced at $25.00 or more!  Valid April 2-13, 2013.  Cannot be combined with any other coupon or offer.

Carolee’s Plant Sale Coupon
Buy three scented geraniums, get a 4th one free!  Valid April 2-13, 2013.  Cannot be combined with any other coupon or offer.