Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Enter If You Dare!
We either get the kids crying because they are scared or laughing and having fun!  One year the sparrows who live in the ivy on the front of the house started flying around!  There were three teenage girls who thought they were bats!  Perfect!

P.S.  We had 20 brave souls come to the door.  The best comments of the night were from one of the dads who said, "You have your own adventure here!"  A little girl asked me, "What are you supposed to be?"  I'm the candy giver, I told her!  We had kids who wanted to volunteer in our garden next summer!  We will see if they show up.  I should have taken names!  Then if that were not enough, "our cat" came and sat on the walk like an Egyptian mummy cat.  I didn't have my camera handy and it ran when a child approached.  Here is a link to a previous post about the cat if you missed it!  Hope you had a lot of kids and that you did not run out of treats.  The first year we had 80 kids and we were handing out Hall's cough drops at the end!  It was bad!  Now we have leftovers!  Not always a good thing!

Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas!

Can you believe I heard CHRISTMAS music the other day and it isn't even HALLOWEEN!  I don't think I have anything else to say.  It's left me speechless, but my holly is ready to decorate!  Talk to you later.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

One of My Favorite Herbal Tools!

If you don't have one of these, you need to get one!  I'm not good with a knife.  This is so easy all you have to do is wash your herbs if you use fresh ones and the little blades chop up the herbs.  It, of course, works well with dried ones also.  Although I do remember the dried herbs fly a little when you use it.  I used this the other day for the rosemary garlic jelly!  It was a lifesaver!  Not a great picture, but I think you get the idea.  The other thing I love about it is that is left or right handed!  What's your favorite tool for herbs? 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall Color in the Garden!

Early on in our marriage and after we bought our house, we went to visit our friends, Norm and Marilyn in central Pennsylvania.  The Herbal Husband and I always loved the fall colors along the Turnpike and in the countryside.  He spotted this beautiful bush with brilliant red color on the highway, in a nursery, somewhere.  He said we have to get one for our yard.  Well, you guess it.  We got home and we already had one in the yard!  It is Euonymus alatus or Winged Euonymus and it is on the invasive plant list for Pennsylvania!  This bush is a monster now and its main insect pest is scale.  It has seeded underneath, but as yet it has not seeded anywhere else in the garden.  Now I just have to convince The Herbal Husband if it does start seeding in other areas of the garden to pull them out!  Hope you have some beautiful foliage color wherever you may be! 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Well, The Vampires Won't Be Visiting Any Time Soon!

Those were the words of The Herbal Husband today as he smelled me making Rosemary Garlic Jelly.  Plus he thought it smelled wonderful.  I made four recipes (16 jars) today.  I used five bulbs of garlic to make four recipes.  These cloves in the picture were one bulb and equalled a quarter of a cup which is what is needed for the jelly.  Click on the link above to get the recipe.  So I'm a little tired!  By the way, you should be planting your garlic for next year.  I don't think we have planted it yet.  Ooops!  Something else to be done!  Always something!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Make Some Herbal Vinegar Quick!

I got a head start!  I made mine 13 days ago.  It should be ready tomorrow!  This is a savory/basil/garlic vinegar.  I got the recipe from Herbal Treasures by Phyllis V. Shaudys.  It is one (I have many) favorite herb books.  It is a compilation of articles and recipes from herbie people all over the country.  These vinegar recipes are from Alma Otto.  The one in the picture is a 1/2 cup summer savory or tender sprigs of winter savory, a 1/4 cup basil leaves, 2 small cloves garlic and 1 quart of red-wine vinegar.  I also made a couple of quarts of burnet/garlic/chives vinegar with equal parts (I used a cup of each) of salad burnet and chives and a couple cloves of garlic and a quart of white wine vinegar.  Here is the leaves of the salad burnet.  It is a very lovely plant.   Salad burnet has a cucumber flavor to the leaves.

Here is the salad burnet in my herb garden.  It is a very pretty plant.  It is a short lived perennial in my garden.  The main reason why I make certain herbal vinegars is that I have GERD (reflux disease).  I can't easily eat cucumber or pepper.  I can take the taste of the herbal vinegars I make and use them in stews and salad dressings.  It is much easier for me to digest this way because I can limit the amount I ingest.  Hopefully, it isn't too late for you to make your own herbal vinegar!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

They are Still Enjoying Lavender!

This was a few weeks ago, but I just love the fact that this little bee was happy working the last of the lavender flowers!  Going to enjoy the last week of warm temperatures before we have to stay inside.  Got more tea bags, more adventures to come!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Some Flowers Do Bloom Longer!

This is the little sunflower that The Herbal Husband had to protect the other night from frost.  It is starting to bloom and we are having Indian summer so it will continue and hopefully give some seeds for the finches.

These flowers have become a perennial, but only because they are an annual that self-sows.  It is the calendula or poor man's saffron.  It didn't give the saffron taste, but the color only.  They have really pulled through in our garden when there have been gaps of color or bloom!

This last flower is a true perennial and a standout or up in our front garden.  I talked about this flower last year.  Here is that post.  It is a real work horse.  It is a Rubeckia herbstsonne and gets to 8 to 10 feet in a good year.  It is still blooming so it must be a good year to a certain extent. Hope you all noticed that these are all yellow flowers.  Still sunny in this garden even on a cloudy day!  Hope you are enjoying blooming flowers in your garden!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Queen Elizabeth Stopped By For A Visit!

I know I have been whining about the lack of flowers in our garden.  The Herbal Husband came in with this surprise last evening!  Queen Elizabeth!  She has been with us since we moved to this house 20 years ago!  We have even moved her around several times and she has thrived, just like her reign as Queen in the United Kingdom.  She is a very easy rose to grow and blooms for us into late October!  Long live the Queen in our garden!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Can See Out The Windows Again!

The Herbal Husband and I tackled the front of our house today.  The last beautiful day for a while!  It was in the 70's.  I couldn't enjoy it fully cause I was dodging ivy cutting flying off the house and dust and dirt from the gutters while holding onto the ladder for HH!  Hope you enjoyed a beautiful day wherever you were.  Talk to you later.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Little Progress!

As you may be able to see The Herbal Husband worked hard to cut the ivy around the windows of our house.  It is amazing how quickly it grows and takes over!  Hopefully we will get someone else to climb up on the roof and cut the ivy back!  Always an adventure! 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is This A College Dorm?

No, dear readers, this is our home!  The English ivy has taken over!  This is a tradition once a year.  Probably should be twice, but if it were twice, it would grow even more.  The magazine Horticulture had an article about ivy covered buildings in Sweden, Norway or Denmark several years ago saying that the ivy provides insulation for the building.  That's all The Herbal Husband needed to hear.  The neighbors think we are a little looney.  So tomorrow will be the first day of cutting and our sparrows who live there won't like it.  They will get over it though.  They always do!  Needs to happen.  Talk to you later.

Monday, October 19, 2009

We Really Love Our Plants!

This little plant (a sunflower) was just about to bloom.  The Herbal Husband put some insulating fabric and this paper bag around it last night.  Hope for the best!  We are going to have an Indian summer now that we have had our first frost.  Temperatures back up to almost 70 by the end of the week.  I think the nasturtiums are done.  P.S. The sunflower has survived but has some leaf damage!!!  Hopefully it should bloom later this week.  Hurry, hurry little sunflower!  Hope you are enjoying the weather wherever you may be!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Rose Guide from the Past!

The Herbal Husband surprises me from time to time with little gifts.  He collects among other things World's Fair stuff.  This as you can see is from the 1933 Chicago's Century of Progress Exposition.  The back of the booklet has a quarter coupon off your rose selection.  For the hybrid tea roses, the prices were from $.50 to $.75 a plant and with the coupon, some could cost as little as a quarter!

 The Novelties were the most expensive.  Two dollars bought you Blaze, Countess Vandall and one called Amelia Earhart.  You could buy Mary Hart for $1.50.  Isn't Mary Hart still on ET?  Well, it's a neat little booklet.  Thanks HH for the present!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Herbal Worktable/Herbal Ravioli! (UPDATED)

Every year my herbal worktable is the same mess!  It does inspire me to get my herbal act together.  I have already made tea bags with the chamomile harvest and yesterday I made a blend of herbs called Lemon Verbena Lady's blend.  Haven't tried it yet.  I will let you know how it is.  Yes, it does have lemon verbena as a base.  I have 44 bags and if it isn't good,  it will be a long winter!  It looks like herbal ravioli!

It is a little wintry temperature wise out now.  Didn't get snow yet, but to the east they have snow.  I guess the skiers will be happy!
Well, I give my lemon verbena lady blend a double thumbs up!  Look it is even a space saver in the cup!  What's that about?  I have to say the second cup I had the bag opened.  Not as good at ironing as I thought!!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Guest Blogging for The Herb Companion Magazine!

This is usually a place of action in the garden.  This is pineapple sage (Salvia elegans).  A beautiful plant in late summer/early fall.  We are supposed to be in the 20s over the weekend.  The end is near.  It has not been overworked by the hummingbirds this season.  They got tired of the cooler weather and went to Mexico early!  Can't blame the darlings.  I think if we had a feeder, we would have had more interest.  The Herbal Husband loves flowers to attract the hummers.  He has enough feeders to worry about!  So here is my post for The Herb Companion magazine.  Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Flowers Can't Tell Time!

The Herbal Husband and I like fragrance in the garden and this is a favorite annual from Peru with fragrance.  They are called Four O'Clocks or Marvels of Peru (Mirabilis jalapa) because supposedly they bloom at that time of day.  It doesn't work at our house.  They bloom around 11 AM for us!  Maybe they are on Pacific time.  They come in a lot of different colors.  Mostly we have this magenta color.  I have also seen bicolor ones that I may have to buy for next season.  Another reason to have a retail seed experience!  These seeds were collected from years past, but we also have purchased seeds from various vendors.  This seed is an easy one for the little kids to plant and watch grow, because the seeds are big and germinate fairly quickly!  P.S.  The frost got our four o'clocks and they didn't get time (Ha! Ha!) to set seed!  I'll have to buy some new varieties!  Great!  A retail seed experience!  Always happy to have them!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is It Me or Are These Plants Leaning?

I don't always buy this plant for the garden.  Every time I do though I think I need to buy this plant more often!  Its common name is the Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha).  It is definitely an annual for us!  The blooms have this velvet feel.  Sometimes it doesn't get to bloom because we have an early frost.  It is a bonus this year, but it is leaning because it is in the shade of the chestnut tree most of the day and it really wants and needs full sun!  Note to self to plant out in the front garden between the daylilies.  I planted three like the experts say and it does make a statement, but Tony Avant from Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina in a talk said that a drift of one is acceptable also!  He has a great nursery and is a very good and funny speaker.  Their catalog covers are a hoot!  You can send 10 stamps or a box of chocolates to get a catalog.  As Tony says, 'They prefer getting chocolates!" Would like to get there some day.  Here is a closeup of the flower.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Herb Garden Chaos!

The growing season is rapidly coming to an end here!  We may get our first killing frost tonight.  I let the herb garden get a bit out of control this season!  You know Virgos and their control issues.  Soo I need to get out in the garden and cut some herbs.  Will talk to you later.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Herbal Digging Has Begun!

I said to The Herbal Husband last week, "We need to dig up the rosemary that is along my rock wall in my herb garden.  It didn't grow too big.  An ideal candidate to come into the garage!"  Well, we got that rosemary and this one too!  Hopefully, they will both survive.  They are both in the house.  Rosemary does better in an unheated room or garage with windows and with a southern exposure.  One is in the basement and the other is in the bathroom!  They get powdery mildew very easily in the winter indoors.  I will be lobbying to get them both in the garage soon!

We also dug up this favorite plant, lemon verbena.  Always have to have one in the house for the winter.  That guarantees especially if you live in the northern part of the U.S., that you will have a lemon verbena in your garden at the earliest point for planting.  Sometimes that is not until Memorial Day for us.  It cannot go out until all danger of frost is gone!  Usually it loses all of its leaves when it comes inside.  Sometimes we have fresh leaves that hang on until Christmas.  We cut the plant back then if there are still leaves.  Then in February it wakes up and starts new shoots and by the time it is ready to go out into the garden, we have made at least a couple of lemon verbena bread recipes!  Here is the recipe if you missed it!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Joyfully Blooming in the Garden!

I know I write about certain plants too much, but you can never write too much about roses!  This is the 'Fairy' rose.  It is a polyantha rose and is a cross between Rosa chinensis and Rosa multiflora roses. Hybridized in 1932 by Ann Bentall of England, one of the few female hybridizers of the day.  It blooms from mid-June to right now and later if we don't have a frost in western Pennsylvania.

On the Fine Gardening magazine website, I did find a list of problems it can encounter:  aphids, leafhoppers, spider mites, scale, caterpillars, sawfly larvae, cane borers, Japanese beetles, rose stem girders, rose midges, rose slugs, rose chafers, leaf-cutting bees, black spot, rust, powdery mildew, crown gall, canker, dieback, downy mildew, viruses.  In my experience it is just joyful when it blooms and I have been lucky not to have the problems except for Japanese beetles that Fine Gardening mentioned.  Hope you are enjoying your roses blooming where you may be!  Talk to you later.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Herbal Update-Nasturtium Peppercorn Vinegar

I promised myself I was going to do more updating this year.  Not let unfinished stories hang in herbal space.  Someone asked in my first post about the nasturtium peppercorn vinegar placing new herbs in the finished vinegar.  I never do that and this is partially the reason.  It gets to be a mucky mess!  I think with edible flowers they are fragile in the first place and collapse in the second place.

Hardy herbs like rosemary, thyme or even tarragon and basil hold up much better if you want to decorate your vinegar bottle with a fresh sprig or two.  Tarragon and basil become pickled and can be used in a recipe as you would use fresh.  You can even give them a rinse if you don't want too much of a vinegar taste.  Here is the finished vinegar.  I had a tasting for my last audience and they liked it!  No, they didn't have a shot of vinegar!  They dipped a sugar cube into the vinegar and then sucked the flavor from the sugar cube.  It works quite well.  I think it is a beautiful color and the taste is peppery from the flowers, leaves and peppercorns.  It adds an additional layer of flavor to a meat or vegetable stew.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Visit to Sweet Remembrances Tearoom!

We had a delightful visit with Nancy Reppert at Sweet Remembrances Tearoom in Mechanicsburg, PA. It was unfortunately too brief! It was like a drive by tea. Don't do this if you ever get to visit! We had a wedding to attend at 2 PM so every moment counted. So here is the menu because Nancy gives you a wonderful selection and you will not go away hungry. The menu changes with the seasons and holidays!

The Herbal Husband had Earl Gray tea (Predictable, but he was happy.) and I had Blue Lady. It has a delightful combination of kiwi, strawberry and black tea. It is wonderful!

We started with a fall apple harvest salad. Then the savories were cheesy corn muffins with ham and apricot preserves, ranch chicken salad sandwiches, chocolate zucchini bread, apple harvest tea sandwiches on raisin bread, the scones were a traditional English cream scone and a cinnamon chip scone with mock clotted cream, cinnamon honey butter, peach preserves(The Herbal Husband loved Nancy's scones. I kept raving about them and he agreed. They are the best scones!), orange slices and dessert was raisin triangles, pumpkin tartlets (The Herbal Husband loved these!) and ginger cookies. Excellent, excellent tea! No matter what time of day you have it! We look forward to visiting again in the future!  Here is a link to find out about upcoming events.   Hope you enjoy the show!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

One of My Favorite Shopping Bags!

Jules from MoonCat Farms and I are on the same wave length, sort of.   I still like paper shopping bags and this one may be extinct in the near future.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, The Herbal Husband and I got to have a brief excursion to Susanna's Rosemary House and Nancy's Sweet Remembrances Tearoom.  We only spent about ten minutes with Susanna, but she wrote how amazed she was that I could pick out the best herb books for sale on the shelf!  This bag was full!  It was great fun.  I promise we will spend more time with you next time, Susanna!  Please don't forget to patronize your local herb farms and shops, small family nurseries and tearooms.  They always have lots of fun for your children, grandchildren and even you!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What's That Growing in My Sink?

Sad to say I just placed the leaves in the sink.  They aren't growing there!  Wouldn't that be wonderful?  No dishes!  Ooops!  That can't happen.  This was the other day when I got the rose geranium jelly set up.  You have to cut leaves and put them in sterilized canning jars (Put boiling water in jars for 10 minutes.  Then dry the jars quickly.) and then add 2-1/8 cups of white Zinfandel wine.  It does make that little extra jar, which I don't like so I use 1-1/2 cups of wine and 3-1/2 cups of sugar.  I have put these measurements in parentheses.  You get more wine for you to enjoy and it is delicious as an aperitif.   I won't bore you with the rest, here is the recipe, enjoy!

2 1/8 c. (1-1/2 c.) of white Zinfandel wine
10 to 12 large rose geranium leaves
3 T. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
3 c. (3-1/2 c.) sugar
1 package liquid pectin (3 oz.)
2 T. rose water (health food stores)

Remove stems from geranium leaves.  Place wine and roses in a sterilized quart jar.  Cover jar with plastic wrap and top with lid.  Refrigerate for several days (two or three at most).  Strain leaves from wine, discarding spent leaves.  Measure two cups of wine.  Any leftover wine becomes the cook’s treat.

Place wine in a three to four quart non-reactive saucepan with three cups sugar and three tablespoons lemon juice.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat stirring constantly until mixture reaches a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.  Remove pan briefly from heat and add pectin. Return to heat and when mixture comes back to a full rolling boil, boil hard for one minute stirring constantly.  A few seconds before a minute is up, add two generous tablespoons of rose water.  Remove from heat and stir and skim foam if necessary.

Pour jelly into four (4) sterilized 8 oz. jars to about ¼” from top of jar.  Wipe tops of jars clean and put on clean sterilized tops and rings.  (To sterilize jars, boil them for ten minutes and keep them hot until you are ready to pour the jelly.)  Lids can be left in hot water until needed.  Do not boil the lids or rings.  Screw lids down and process jars in a boiling water bath for five minutes.  Remove jars from boiling bath to racks to cool.  Check the next day to be sure jars are properly sealed.  If  the jars are not sealed, you must refrigerate them and use them promptly.  This recipe makes a little more than four 8 oz. jars.

Courtesy of  Gooseberry Patch, For Bees & Me, page 291.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Inspired by Martha!

Oh, I guess you may have been thinking Martha Stewart.   Noooo, I'm talking about the hostess with the mostest (Is that a word?), Martha on the Kansas prairie and really one of the best party givers (Is that one word?) I have seen in a long time.  My best friend, Mar, gave me this kit for vanilla a while back.  I have made it in the past on my own and given it to her.  I guess she needed more and gave me a big hint!  Except it got lost in the mess that is my little part of the basement and our basement is small to begin with!  You ask how could it have gotten lost?  I have no clue.  I have found it and the other day the Meyers Dark Rum became the basis for the vanilla in this bottle.

This is a Rose & Ivy Premium Vanilla Infusion Kit.  On the sticker which was covering the cork, it read Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla.  On the directions it says use premium vodka.  Confused?  I think I used bourbon the first time.  I used Meyers Dark Rum this time.  I know there are people who use vodka, but I think a dark liquid gets the vanilla off to the right start.   There are three vanilla beans in the bottle.  Just cut them down the center and reinsert them in the bottle.  Fill with your choice of liquor, rum, bourbon or vodka and wait four to six months.  Check back at the end of March next year.  The vanilla should be ready.  I think my friend bought this at Macy's in New York, but you can find it at Bell Buckle Country Store, Inc. from Tennessee.  You can buy the kit or the ready made extract.  Here is the bottle that's sitting on my shelf in the basement.  There is a place to mark when you made it.  Let's hope I remember to test it in March.  Thanks Mar for the gift and Martha for inspiring me!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Let's Get This Party Started!

Then you should hear the needle being ripped from the record!  I'm not encouraging you to drink!  Actually I don't drink anymore.  I make jelly from wine!  We were away for a long weekend at our friends' daughter's wedding and had morning tea with Nancy Reppert at Sweet Remembrances and found wonderful herb books at The Rosemary House!  It was excellent in every way, but I promise to give you wonderful information later.  I'm off to use the white zinfandel for rose geranium jelly. Talk to you later!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Guest Blogging for The Herb Companion Magazine!

My latest post for The Herb Companion magazine is related to one of my favorite herbs, rosemary.  This one happens to be from Spain.  Very envious of rosemaries in tropical places!  You know that one of my passions is jelly especially this time of year.  Wrote about this subject in my blog last year, but it bears repeating.  Here is the link.  Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Two of the Kids Are Blooming!

Since The Herbal Husband and I do not have kids, we think of our plants as kids once in a while.  I know a little wierd!  Especially when they are behaving and blooming!  A great combination.  This is the Victorian Rosemary that resides in the trough.  Hope we don't get a frost tonight, but I made three recipes of Pineapple Sage Jelly just in case.  I'll share the recipe with you soon.  Got to go smell the night blooming jasmine, the second kid!  We moved it into the garage because of the colder temperatures.  The most amazing smell in the world!  The best!  Talk to you later.