Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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July E-Newsletter 2013

     There hasn’t been a moment to rest since the farm closed!  The lavender harvest took several days, and in fact we are still not done shearing.  Summer heat arrived just as the rain stopped, so the focus shifted to watering and up-potting so plants were happier.   The lawn mower died, a water hydrant broke, but thankfully the wheat field was harvested before a big storm might have flattened it.  I FINALLY got the gardens at my home weeded, planted and mulched so I can stand to look at them!  The gazebo was cleaned and readied for unexpected houseguests, and I finished canning green beans just before we left for St. Louis, which was a long round-trip in a 1946 MGTC!  Now, I’m back to weeding at the farm, which is a never-ending task, and we’re still making lavender wands and propagating in any spare minute.  The days are flying…and I only have two more before I leave for the International Herb Association conference in Tennessee!

     “Second Saturday”, August 10!  We’re Open 10-4!  It’s “Houseplant & Succulent Day!” with author Kylee Baumlee, who will introduce her fabulous new book “Indoor Plant Décor:  The Design Stylebook for Houseplants” in a presentation at 11:00.  The book features her amazing photography, which has also contributed to the skyrocketing success of her award-winning blog, “Our Little Acre.”   Kylee’s creative gardening projects that she develops for Lowe’s not only inspire others, but is making her personal garden a much-visited location in Ohio!   We are so fortunate that she is taking time out of her busy schedule to come do a program for us.  She’ll do a book signing afterwards.  If you’d like a copy of her book, let me know & I’ll be sure to have one for you.
     I’ll do a presentation on using succulents at 1:00.  Succulents are really gaining in popularity because they are practically maintenance free and require little watering.  We’ve added several new varieties since we closed and I’m constantly finding new things to do with them.
    Mark your calendar and bring a friend.  We really need a good turn-out for this special event.  We’ll have complimentary refreshments, and a sale on all succulents and houseplants (scented geraniums, begonias, trailing jasmine, and more.)  We’ll also have all large succulent and mixed annual containers on sale, too!  Do note that since the farm is technically “closed,” there will be no restroom facilities, so plan a quick stop in town before you come out!

Hardneck garlic for sale on Aug 10!
     We harvested the hardneck garlic in July and it’s nicely cured and ready for sale on Aug. 10th.  Plant the individual cloves in good, rich soil in a sunny location in early September.  A layer of mulch will help conserve moisture and reduce weeds.  Let them grow all autumn, rest in the ground over the winter and renew growing next spring to produce big bulbs!  Quantity is limited, first come-first served.

“Herbal Beginnings” is now available in paperback!
     We just received a new printing of my first herbal fiction novel, Herbal Beginnings, in paperback!  For those who haven’t read of Callie’s adventures at Joyful Heart Herb Farm, or tried any of the yummy recipes at the end of the story, this is your chance!  We have a limited number of copies at $19.95, and you can get one on Aug. 10 or through our website.

HSA Conference
     Since the last newsletter, I attended the Herb Society of America’s annual conference in St. Louis, MO.  On the way, I made a brief stop in Collinsville, IL. to see the world’s largest ketchup bottle….which I somehow missed on my first trip to St. Louis in 2013 in January.

     The farm had a booth at the conference, filled with herbal treasures as always…
     I attended lots of educational sessions.  My favorite was Pat Crocker’s presentation on cooking with black foods!  She told us of the wonderful nutritional and anti-oxidant properties of black seaweed, black lentils, black soybeans, dark opal basil, black pepper, balsamic vinegar, blackberries, etc.  Red cabbage and blueberries were also included in the grouping.  I came away vowing to add more of these foods into my diet!

     Of course, I couldn’t leave without visiting at least one garden or garden center, so here’s Greenscape which was nearby, and had lovely display gardens, as well as a wonderful selection of plants.  I tucked several into the back of the truck before we headed home!
     It was great to have time to visit with many herbal friends, such as Susan Wittig Albert, Rex Talbot, Ann Lamb, and many others.  Next year’s conference is in Concord, California!  I know there will be LOTS of great gardens to see there!


New Herb Garden at Ivy Tech Culinary School
    The July meeting of the Herb Society of Central Indiana was held at the Ivy Tech Culinary School on North Meridian in Indy, so members could see the newly installed herb garden.  Our farm donated many of the plants, and our good friend Sue Arnold (Big Sue) supervised the plantings.  The spiral garden (above left) is constructed out of recycled fabric from the Hoosier Dome!  The spiral design is the symbol for the neighborhood association.  There are several raised beds, with plans to add a year-round greenhouse on the grounds.  The students prepared a special complimentary salad for our group, made from the herbs and veggies in the garden, and we each chose a delicious entrée from the menu.  The view of the city from the Penthouse restaurant is fantastic.  It’s open for lunch and dinner on some days during the summer semester, so try to support these enterprising students.
     The Herb Society of Central Indiana not only made the Ivy Tech Garden possible, but we also maintain the herb garden at White River Gardens, provide speakers for many events, and hold an annual spring symposium and an annual fall educational event.  It’s a great group of folks who love herbs.  You can attend three meetings before we twist your arm to join! ?  Check out our website

Another trip to St. Louis!
     My third trip to the St. Louis area this year!  This time we traveled with David’s MG car club and took the back roads instead of the interstate, so it was a whole new view and much more relaxing. 


The club had a car show, rallies, tours, a barbeque, and lots of other activities….however…..
     Once we were settled into our hotel in St. Charles, an historic suburb of the city proper, I was able to venture out to see gardens and do some plant hunting. 


St. Louis is a sprawling city with crazy traffic, but happily, there are many eco-parks sponsored by the city, such as this delightful park in the Frenchtown area, shown above. 

     Sugar Creek Garden Center was tops on my list of garden centers to visit because it features fairy gardens and it was voted #1 garden center in the greater St. Louis area.  I found a few angelica and thyme plants that begged to come home with me, even though space is at a premium in the little MG cars.  Although this garden center is small and a little disorganized, this colorful fantasy fairy garden (shown above) was worth the stop.

     Greenscape is the garden center that I visited on my last trip to St. Louis, but I couldn’t wait to go back.  I can’t see how this business came in #2, because in terms of plant categories, plants within the category, customer service, great ideas, and super-friendly staff it far outshines the others.  It is absolutely meticulous, spacious, and none of the plants needed grooming or appeared droopy despite the heat  If I’d had more room, lots of plants would have crossed the prairie, but I managed to squeeze in a few.  Too bad I wasn’t there on “Thirsty Thursday” when they serve free cocktails and a percentage of all the plant sales during the cocktail hour goes to charity.

     In a very urban setting, Garden Heights displays an amazing variety of plants and pottery.  I only found one new plant, but it was a beautiful red-edged aloe.  Garden Heights is not easy to find, and there is little parking, but they did have lots of strange tropicals and unusual annuals…way too big to bring home.
     Sherwood Forest was also very tidy, but I wandered around searching for plant categories through seemingly endless aisles and no one seemed interested that I was there.  There was lots of empty space, few signs, and an emphasis on trees and shrubs.  Even when I found an ajuga I wanted and carried it to the checkout, I had to wait while two employees chatted, answered a phone call, and chatted some more before they finally took my money.  I wouldn’t go back. 
     My final stop was Thies Garden Center, which is out in the country in a new facility.  Although small, they had fresh-baked pies and a nice selection of fresh produce that would bring me back.  The spacious parking lot and roomy gift area were very appealing, too.

Missouri Botanical Gardens
     I can’t be in St. Louis without visiting the famous, ever-amazing Missouri Botanical Gardens.  No matter how many times I go, I’m always awe-struck at the creativity and professionalism of the gardens.  It was so hot, that I nearly had the gardens to myself. 


After a delicious lunch in the Sassafras Café, I scooted to the Daylily Garden (above left), which I knew would be spectacular, and it was!  I made three pages of notes on varieties I need before venturing on to the Rain Garden display.  After this spring, I've got a couple of spots in mind that need one, so I made more notes.  Then it was on to the meticulous herb garden (below left), which is maintained by the local members of the Herb Society of America. 


I especially appreciated these large containers of mixed herbs (above right).
     I whizzed through the English woodland garden, although the shade was much-appreciated and the benches in scenic areas beckoned. 


I passed quickly through the Sensory Garden (above left) and the garden dedicated to George Washington Carver and his work, vowing to give them more time on my next visit.


I also scurried through the Hosta Garden and passed the Rose Garden, especially enjoying the famous Chilhuly yellow sunburst over the archways.  This pretty garden around the old Gatehouse  (below left) did catch my eye and make me pause, and I spent some time studying the new Beverage Garden and reading all the signs.  It included roselle, wormwood, hyssop, borage, lavender, hops and other plants traditionally used to make drinks of all sorts.

     My goal was the Home-Inspiration Gardens, filled with ideas for any sized property.  I made notes of some new plants to grow next year, photographed some planting ideas, and checked to see which plants were holding up in the heat.  There was lots of color and a pretty patio area in addition to many different "yards" and veggie garden plantings.

     Then, it was off to the extensive Gift Shop, where I purchased a couple of terrific books, admired the displays, and made more notes on products I may add to the Big Barn next spring.  If you are ever in the St. Louis area, the Botanic Gardens are a must-see!  I was only in about 1/3 of the total garden area, so plan a full day there!

Anheuser-Busch Tour

     One sweltering morning was spent touring the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, which has to be the cleanest manufacturing plant in the world.  There was not a speck of dust to be seen or a smudgy fingerprint to be found.  All about the historic brick factory, which more resembled a German castle, were lovely, well-maintained plantings, such as these. 

     I especially enjoyed the carved foxes on the corners of one building, where food products such as yeast and Beevo were made during prohibition and the lovely gilded paintings from the Grimm fairy tales inside.

     Everyone was eager to see the famous Clydesdales and their fantastic stable, with gorgeous stained glass windows, richly carved woodwork, and a huge chandelier in the center.  It houses not only the horses, but three hand-made wagons, and all the harnesses.
     Most of the factory is automated, with one line producing 3600 bottles per minute.  The various beers go to the warehouse for less than two hours before they are shipped to stores, restaurants, etc.  After a trolley ride back to the hospitality center, we sampled their products.  Since I’m not a beer drinker, I tried the Limelita, which didn’t seem like beer at all!
     There are many sites and museums related to the Lewis and Clark expeditions in the area, lots of cute shops in the St. Charles historic district, and many interesting restaurants, as well.  Just be sure you aren’t in the downtown proper area of St. Louis after 4pm, if you value your wallet, car, etc. unless you are with a large group.  The crime rate is one of the highest in the U. S!

FAQ:  Does Lavender Repel Insects, esp. mosquitoes?
     I’ve never had so many people buying lavender to use as a mosquito repellent.  When I’m asked, I have to honestly say I’ve never heard any research that supports that claim, regardless of the many articles currently circulating on the web, and the fact that I’d love to sell more lavender plants so it would be great if it worked!
     In England, pads of lavender stems (no flowers) that look rather like large rectangles of shredded wheat cereal are sold to float in pools, bird baths, and small ponds to kill mosquito larvae.  Maybe that is where the “repels mosquitoes” tale arose.  However, I can honestly report that when I am actively cutting lavender, thus severing thousands of oil sacks and releasing it into the air around me, I am still plagued by multitudes of mosquitoes.  The best plants for discouraging mosquitoes are still lemon thyme, lemon grass, lemon scented geraniums, and to a lesser degree, lemon balm.

An Herb to Know: Blackberry
      July is blackberry season here in Indiana!  Many people might be surprised to hear that the blackberry is also in the herb category, but its leaves are known for their anti-diarrhea and astringency properties.  It also can reduce blood flow and decrease mucus secretions.   In addition, blackberry can help stomach ailments and aid digestion.   The leaves contain tannins, organic acids, Vitamin C and natural sugars.  They are somewhat antifungal and antiseptic.  A tea of the leaves is often used as a tonic, and for colds, flu, coughs, sore throats or externally for skin rashes.
     Blackberries are easy to grow, and have become naturalized in many countryside areas.  They are deciduous shrubs with arching canes that can root when touching ground to form new plants.  Flowers and berries are born on second-year canes, which then die and should be pruned out to allow for new canes to develop.  Blackberries are often called “Brambles” from the Anglo-Saxon word brom, or thorny shrub.  They were often used as living fences to enclose livestock and keep out thieves.  However, today we can choose to grow thornless varieties, which make picking the berries and pruning much more pleasant!  Grow them in any sunny location, in average soil with adequate water.  The berries can be eaten raw or cooked.  They make delicious jams, jellies, syrups, cordials, wine, pies, cobblers, and fresh in salads or on ice cream.

     The Black Bear Diner near Monterey, California serves a terrific blackberry margarita in a pint canning jar!  I’ve created my own version, which we not only enjoy during the July blackberry harvest, but with frozen blackberries all year! ENJOY!
      In a small food processor, puree ½ c. blackberries with 1 T. water.  Pour into a sieve to strain out seeds.  Place 2 T. of berry puree in a jar, shaker, or pitcher.  Add the juice of 1 lime, 2 T. Triple Sec or other orange liqueur; tiny pinch of salt; pinch of sugar; 3-4 T. tequila.  Add 1 ½ c. ice cubes and shake for 2-3 min.  Strain into glasses.  Garnish with fresh berries.  Makes 2 normal servings or 1 for me!  Note:  Sometimes, I skip making the puree and just put the berries into the jar, mash with a spoon, add the other ingredients and call it my “High Fiber Margarita!”  Saves lots of clean-up & it’s much quicker!  I also really enjoy adding a sprig of lime mint when I mash the berries, and using a sprig to garnish.  It’s really a nice lime flavor!

BONUS RECIPE:  Pasta with Garlic Scapes, Peas & Bacon
     We had this delicious pasta in Italy, and I’ve been making it since, especially in early July when the garlic scapes need to be harvested so the bulbs will get bigger, and peas are ready to pick in the garden.
     Cook ½ lb. bow-tie or small penne pasta according to package directions.
     In a large skillet, snip 10 slices bacon into ¼” strips and sauté until browned.  Drain off all but 2 T. bacon fat.  Add 2/3-3/4 c. finely diced garlic scapes (or 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, or ¼ c. garlic chives, snipped) and cook until scapes are tender.  Add ½-3/4 c. fresh or frozen peas, a few grinds of fresh black pepper, and ½ tsp. fresh thyme leaves.  Cook, stirring occasionally 3-4 min. 
     Whisk 1 ½ T. cornstarch into ¾ c. milk until smooth.  Snip 1 T. fresh basil leaves into “ribbons.”  Stir cornstarch and milk mixture into bacon/pea mixture, cooking until thickened.  Drain pasta & add to skillet, stirring gently.  Serve topped with snipped basil.  Serves 4.

Sat., Aug. 10  Second Saturday, Open 10-4.  Author Kylee Baumlee at 11:00
“Houseplant & Succulent” Day.  Talk on succulents, 1:00.  Sale on houseplants and succulents, and annual planters.
Sat., Sept 14  Second Saturday, Open 10-4.  Culinary Herb Plant Sale!
                   Making an Herbal Wreath Demo at 11:00 and 1:00.
Sat., Oct 12  Second Saturday, Open 10-4 Customer Appreciation Day.
“The Floriade & Keukenhof! Presentation at 1:00.  FINAL DAY OF THE SEASON!  Last opportunity to purchase items at the farm in 2013.   Get your holiday shopping done early!  Enjoy special discounts on selected plants and shop items.

I’m off the to International Herb Association conference in Clarksville, Tennessee this week, and then my family from Germany is coming for a week’s visit, so it will be another hectic month.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to try to squeeze the Wabash Herb Fest in before a trip to the Independent Garden Center conference.  There are just not enough days for everything I want to do!  And meanwhile, those sneaky weeds just keep a’comin’! 

Till next month, Herbal blessings,