Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters September E-Newsletter 2014
September E-Newsletter 2014 Print E-mail

September E-Newsletter 2014
   Old weather lore says that “Whatever the weather on the first day of September, the rest of the month you’ll see!”  It was sunny and dry, and that’s the way the month has been, beautiful autumn days with just enough rain to keep the plants happy.  I’ve spent most of the month in the lavender field, propagating, weeding, and planting.  Plus, I’ve planted garlic, cleaned some gardens, deadheaded, canned green beans, made jelly and watched the birds gather into groups for their southern migration.  It’s been a wonderful beginning to the autumn season.  ++

HSCI Education Night-Monday, October 6th
     “Pumpkins and Herbs” is the theme for the Central Indiana Herb Society’s annual Education Night.  It’s open to everyone, with herbal make-it/take it crafts, terrific herbal refreshments, brief presentations….and it’s FREE!  What’s better than that?  6:45 at the Clay Township Center at the corner of College Ave. and 106th St.

Second Saturday Open House-October 11th
     We’ll be celebrating “Italian Day!” with talks on Italian herbs and cooking demonstrations at 11:00 and 1:00, featuring recipes from my Italian travels.  Special Italian (and of course, herbal!) refreshments, too.  Sale on Italian herbs, designated shop items, and more.  Note:  No restroom facilities today.  No reservation or payment required.

“Crockpot Herbal Soapmaking” Workshop, Sun., Oct 12th, 1-3:30 p.m. 
    Learn to make fragrant herbal soap from scratch using plant-based oils in
a crockpot.  Essential oils, plant oils, saponification discussed.  Hands on, so
dress for mess.   Handouts and a bar of soap provided. Limited class size and
adults only.  $25.  Note:  No restroom facilities today.

May Travels, continued….Final installment
     My time in London was nearly at an end.  May continued to be a lovely month to stroll along the Thames, picnic in small parks, enjoy the gardens that abound in this lively city, and savor afternoon teas.

      Next on my list was a visit to Fulham Palace.  After a short ride on the tube, and a delicious lunch at Eight Bells Pub, we walked along the Thames looking back at the city, just as people did hundreds of years ago.  I loved seeing the sweet English daisies in the lawn as we followed the path to the palace. 


This historic garden was just reopened in 2010 after a restoration of the 500 year old wall that surrounds the plantings, so I was eager to see what they’d accomplished to date.  Fulham Palace was the home of London’s bishop for centuries, so the rich and famous walked these paths.  Because of its historical significance any digging below 4” required full-scale paperwork and approval by archeological authorities.  Can you imagine trying to replant a garden under those conditions?  It has really slowed down the planting process, so only about ¼ of the 2 acre garden has been restored.  The tree-lined avenue down the center is finished, and planting has begun closest to the entrance from the castle. 

A second reason for visiting the Bishop’s Garden, is that the famous burgundy-foliaged “Bishop” dahlias were bred here.  I’ve grown “Bishop’s Children,” which are seeds bred from the original red “Bishop of Llandaff.” Tubers for the named “Bishops” are available from a variety of sources on the internet and from catalogs.  “Bishop of Dover” is, of course, white.  “Bishop of Oxford’s” flowers are a stunning orange.  “Bishop of Leicester” and “Bishop of York” are pink and yellow, respectively.  I was delighted to see beds of these outstanding dahlias, even though they weren’t yet in bloom.   And, we were able to see one of the oldest oaks in Britain.

Our final afternoon tea was at the Royal Garden Hotel, which overlooks the Kensington Palace grounds.  We selected the lightest “Kensington Tea” from a range of menus because we knew we were having our final pub supper that evening.  I chose “Leaping Tiger” tea, which was a white tea with delicate fruity undertones and it was delightful.  There were Roasted Red Pepper and cucumber; a salmon spiral; Chicken and cream cheese; tomato and cheese; roast beef with horseradish; egg salad; salmon and dill sandwiches.  The scones were Cinnamon or Raisin, with clotted cream, and two country jams, apricot and plum.  A choice of nut and fruit breads came next, including banana, dried cherry, a rich chocolate, and a moist lemon bread.  Finally, the desserts.  I was too full to try them all, and since I’m not a fan of chocolate, I passed the gluten-free chocolate mound and the chocolate tart to my daughters.  I thoroughly enjoyed the coconut cake, red raspberry bar, and the banana flan with peanut brittle.  We were certainly glad we’d chosen the “light” tea!


We walked off some of those calories by shopping on Oxford Street, and Andrea visited a special exhibit of Viking relics at the National Museum.  Our final pub supper was at the famous Anglesea Arms, for Carrington cider, mushroom and veggie pie, and salad.  Sadly, there was no room for dessert, even though sticky pudding was on the menu.     .
     We were up and out early to catch our flight to Germany.  My granddaughter’s 8th birthday party was scheduled for the next afternoon, and we had lots of preparations.  I was eager to meet their newest member of the family, a mixed black lab named Rolly, and to see their new home.  After a welcome supper, and getting the excited kids to bed, we baked the birthday cake, blew up balloons, decorated the house, wrapped gifts, and baked chocolate chip cookies.
     The next morning we divided up the job list, and I chose weeding and deadheading the front garden.  Are you surprised?  The girls prepped veggies, made signs, cleaned strawberries, frosted the cake, cleaned windows, covered tables with colorful paper, and measured out lots of ingredients.  Did I mention it was a “Cupcake” Birthday party?  All the kids decorated aprons, then stirred up batter and baked cupcakes.  Then they decorated the cupcakes with frosting, sprinkles, mini marshmallows, colored sugars, etc.  They also decorated white “Chinese take-out” containers to take their cupcakes home.  My son-in-law was in charge of all the games, and made a giant cupcake piñata, which was a big hit.  It was a great party, but I think the adults were glad when it was over and the guests departed.  Clean-up went well, accompanied by multiple glasses of wine, and I especially enjoyed taking Rolly for a quiet walk under the stars.


 I spent much of the week working in my daughter’s backyard garden.  Their new home was owned by a lovely, aging gardener, who unfortunately had not been able to tend it well for the past few years before she passed away. I whacked back overgrown shrubs to find sun-loving perennials in the shade, so they were moved to the fore.  We decided to eliminate some aggressive groundcovers, and in the process, discovered that the garden beds actually had a lovely brick edging entirely around the perimeter.  Of course, clearing out created some space, which required a trip to my favorite garden center, Bogie’s.  It’s always a must-visit, because I always find something interesting.  This time, it was a huge display of organic culinary herbs, and some really pretty mixed planters in metal wash pans.  When I pointed them out to my daughter, saying one would look pretty on the table in her backyard, she informed me that in Germany, those are traditional cemetery planters. 
     One of the chores that needed to be done was to cut off dozens of volunteer crab trees that were crowding the variety of evergreens and flowering shrubs along the back fence.  I knew that the cuts would have to be painted with Round-Up, or the saplings would just grow back.  So, I went in search of a quart.  However, Germany is not keen on Round-Up, and to discourage its use, the price is high….27.50 euros for a about a cup.  I consoled myself with elderberry gelato.


  That’s the highlights of my May travels.  I can’t wait to return to Germany to see how the garden looks with all the new plants we purchased, and maybe to sneak down to Italy to visit my other children!

Did you know….
*A British seed company has crossed the two “super” veggies, brussel sprouts and kale, creating a purple “flower” called a kalette.
*A university researcher has successfully grown over 30 vaccines in the cells of lettuce!  This enables the vaccine to be dried and put into capsules, making it available in places where refrigeration and hypodermics aren’t available.  The process could result in less expensive vaccines for everything from malaria to diabetes once it is put into production.
*The Crest toothpaste tube warns that if you swallow excess toothpaste you should call poison control immediately!
*British researchers found that ladybugs can fly up to 74 miles in one journey, and take to flight more as a result of temperature than to search for aphids.  The altitude, up to ¾ mile above ground, that ladybugs flew were also a surprise to researchers.

Herbs to know:  Peppergrass & Shepherd’s Purse
     While I was in London, a pretty girl carrying the bouquet shown entered the subway.  I asked if I could photograph her bouquet, not only because it was so lovely, but because it contained an herb commonly known as “Peppergrass.”   Decades ago, I frequently cut branches of this common “weed” to use in fresh and dried flower arrangements.  Sometimes, the dried branches were dyed or spray-painted, or dusted with glitter to be included in holiday décor.
     A member of the mustard family, peppergrass (Lipidium virginicum) is one of the earliest spices used by humans, along with its cousin Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris.)   The leaves of either plant can be chopped for salads when young and tender, providing a spicy flavor.  Both plants have small four-petaled flowers that are followed by flat pods arranged on both sides of long stems.  Those of Shepherd’s Purse are a bit more heart-shaped, resembling the small leather pouches carried by sheep herders that gave them one of their common names.   Other folk names are “Pepper and Salt,” “Witches’ Pouches,”  “Pick Pocket,” and “St. James Wort.”
    Peppergrass pods are more rounded, and usually a bit larger.  The seeds of both plants have been dried and ground into a mustard substitute, and those of peppergrass were a substitute for expensive pepper, thus providing its common name, peppergrass, or poor man’s pepper.  The seeds were used extensively in the kitchen until the nineteenth century, and during wartimes when spices were unavailable.
     Medicinally, both plants have been used to treat external wounds, sores, and bleeding, although Shepherd’s purse apparently is more effective.  Culpepper claimed it was a cure for earaches.  Rosemary Gladstar lists it as a remedial action for hemorrhaging during childbirth.  Shepherd’s purse is also called “Mother’s Heart” both for its pod shape, and for the belief that it can stop bleeding after birth.  It has also been used for nosebleeds and diarrhea.
     Both plants are shallow-rooted annuals that are commonly found in wayside places, pastures, and fields where sunshine abounds.

Recipe:  Savory Maple Bacon Sausage
This is a recipe I recently developed using savory, the upcoming “Herb of the Year for 2015.”   It has already become a brunch favorite.
    Saute 6 slices bacon until crispy in a large skillet.  Drain on paper towels.  Pour excess bacon drippings from skillet but keep 1 T. in skillet to fry sausages later.
    In a large bowl combine:  1 1/2 lbs. ground pork; 2 heaping T. dried savory; 3 T. maple syrup; 1/2 tsp. salt; 1 envelope (single serving) maple-brown sugar instant oatmeal; ½ tsp. pepper;  4 dashes Tabasco sauce, and the cooked bacon crumbled into small pieces.  Stir until well mixed.  Form into patties 2” across and not over ½” thick.  (Note:  the maple syrup causes the meat to brown more quickly than usual.  A thicker patty will get too brown but still be raw in the center.) 
    Return skillet to medium heat.  Cook patties until evenly browned and firm in the centers.  Makes 18 patties.
I’ve spent most of September in the gardens or the kitchen.  Soon, before frost arrives,  I’ll be moving plants back under cover.  Then, I’ll concentrate on planting bulbs, packing up the barn for the winter, and hopefully blending some new herbal teas before cold weather arrives.  Till next time, enjoy the color and sounds of autumn. 

Herbal blessings, Carolee