Monday, May 21, 2012

The Herb Society – A Great Place to Learn and “Grow”

Late last year I discovered The Greater Fort Worth Herb Society.  I have yet to conquer this whole gardening thing, and I am always looking for another resource to help me learn a little more.  I have attended a couple of meetings and I learned a lot, but l also know that I really need to make more of an effort to truly get involved.  In addition to their regular monthly meetings (which always have an interesting “how to” on some topic), they maintain a garden area at the Log Cabin Village.  In fact, this was where I was first able to meet some of the members and learn more about the organization.
Here are some pictures taken at Log Cabin Village:

It seems that no matter what the event may be, the GFWHS always has some wonderful handouts with some nifty thing that I want to know.  Even on that very first day at the Log Cabin Village, there were handouts.  Here is the information they shared with me as it appears in the handouts I received (they gave me their permission to share it):

Spicy Herbal Car Freshener

½ cup Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Ground or Whole Cloves
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 ½  teaspoons Ground Thyme
1 Tablespoon Crushed Peppermint or Lemon Balm leaves
1 Tablespoon Dried Rosemary leaves
1 Tablespoon Dried Lavender

Mix ingredients. Pour the freshener into an old sock or muslin bag. Close the sock or bag opening by tying a ribbon around it, place in car or room. You can also use old bandanas instead of muslin. OR use a small jelly jar with the lid band. Fill the jar 2/3 full, place a circular cut of the bandana as a lid, screw on the lid band. Place the jar in your cup holder.  Periodically shake the bag/sock or jar to refresh the scent.

May be placed in some vacuum bags to scent while cleaning. Check your vacuum model to make sure this appropriate before using.

Keep away from pets and children.

Herbal Bath Salts

Yield: 16 ounces, enough for four baths

One cup Epsom Salts
One cup Kosher Salt or sea salt or rock table salt
10 drops essential oil, lavender or sweet orange, vanilla, carnation, geranium

Mix Epsom salts, kosher salt and essential oil in large bowl. Pour into container and cover with lid.

To make foaming salts, mix your essential oil into 1/4 cup liquid soap for every 2 cups of salt. Mix the soap/oil mixture into the salts and spread out onto a cookie sheet to dry. Once dry, pour into container with lid.

Lemongrass Glass Cleaner

2 cups Lemongrass Tea (see recipe below)
½ cup Vinegar

Combine in a spray bottle, shake and use just like other window cleaners. If windows are very dirty, 1 Tablespoon of Cream of Tartar can be added to the solution.

Lemongrass Tea: Pour 3 cups of boiling water over 1 Stalk of fresh Lemongrass, or 4 Tablespoons of dried Lemongrass. Steep for 5 minutes then strain.

Credit: Frontier Natural Products Coop http://www.frontiercoop.comjlearn/herbsavvy16.php

Soapwort Cleaning Solution/Shampoo

2 handfuls of Soapwort
1 ½  cups water
1 ½ Tablespoons chopped fresh Rosemary
1 cup water

Put soapwort in a small pan and add 1 ½  cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Cover and leave to cool. (Will smell like spinach cooking.) Strain the cooled liquid into a bottle.

Put Rosemary in a bowl and pour 1 cup of boiling water over it. Cover to steep for 20 minutes. After cooling, strain into the bottle with the soapwort solution. (If you prefer a lavender smell, replace the Rosemary with Lavender in the recipe.)

Shake vigorously before using. Use within 4-5 days. Store in the refrigerator.

Can be used as a cleaning solution for delicate fabrics or as a shampoo.

Warning - if using as a shampoo or on skin, first test a small amount on a small area of skin 24 hours before use to test for allergic reaction.

Adapted from a recipe in "Herbal Delights" by Lewis Esson

Greater Fort Worth Herb Society Log Cabin Village "Frontier Fall Fest" October 2011

Good Herbs to Grow in the Fall and Winter

Calendula – Easy to grow from seed. Blooms best in the cool seasons. Flowers are various shades of yellow and orange. If grown organically, flower petals are edible.

Chamomile - Green foliage with small daisy-like flowers that have white petals and yellow centers. Flowers have an apple-like scent. Has a calming effect and is commonly used in tea.

Chives - Onion chives have dark green tubular leaves with pink and purple blooms. Garlic chives have flat green leaves and produce white blooms in late summer. Onion chives produce foliage better during cool seasons. Garlic chives have a milder flavor and with foliage that is available all year, plus they easily multiply by seed.

Cilantro - Sow seeds every couple of weeks during the cool season. The plants bolt (produce flowers) and go to seed quickly when the weather warms. This plant does not grow in the heat of the summer. The seed is more commonly known as coriander.

Dill – Easy to grow from seed, sow in the fall and spring for the best crop. Once weather warms, the plant will quickly flower, produce seed and leaf production will cease. If the winter is mild, dill may survive producing lush foliage in the spring. Swallowtail butterflies like to lay eggs on this plant, and some people grow it just for butterflies.

Fennel- Has an anise or licorice flavor. Lacy leaves can be used in teas. Bulbs are used as vegetables. Bronze fennel adds a dark red or burgundy color to the garden. Flowers are similar to dill, and some butterflies also feed on this plant.

Lemon Balm - A delicate leaf that has a lemony scent and flavor. This plant spreads quite well by seed. Best leaf production is in the cooler seasons. Cut back to the ground in late spring after it flowers and it will produce lush foliage again in the fall. It is a good tea herb. Steep the leaves in hot water and use the base to make lemonade.

Pansies and Violas - A great flower to add color to the fall and winter garden. Looks great planted with parsley. If grown organically, the flowers are edible. Add them to salads or ice rings for beautiful color. Can also be crystallized and makes a great decoration for cakes or cookies. They also attract butterflies.

Parsley - A biennial (flowers and dies in second year); it is full of vitamins and minerals. It enhances the flavor of cooked foods. Can be added to salads and all sorts of dishes. Will wilt and look dead at temperatures below freezing, but will revive as the day warms.

Rosemary - An evergreen shrub in our area that blooms with blue, lavender or white flowers. Good in savory dishes, or in cookies, breads and teas. It has a strong flavor so use sparingly. Needs good drainage.

Sage - A common herb around Thanksgiving, it also adds flavor to roasted vegetables, or can be pan cooked in butter to add to vegetables. Also good in teas. Comes in many varieties that can add color to the garden or bouquets. Some have grey leaves, others purple or variegated with yellow. Needs good drainage.

Thyme - An evergreen low-growing plant that blooms in spring or summer. Commonly used in cooking, and teas. It comes in many varieties including lemon, lavender and coconut.

“Greater Fort Worth Herb Society  Log Cabin Village “Frontier Fall Fest" October 2011”

I love herbs because they are easy for me to grow (I would be ashamed to show you my cucumber and tomato plants – they started great but aren’t looking so hot right now).  I originally just wanted to grow herbs for some inexpensive, unique, fragrant landscaping; however, the more I learn about herbs, the more I want to learn to use them for so many other things as well.  I have more wonderful recipes to share with you in a future post, and I will share the things I learn in upcoming meetings, too.
One of the things that some people do with herbs is to make fantastic soaps out of them.  I attended the Herb Festival sponsored by the GFWHS this weekend and there was a vendor there who had the best smelling soap!

I asked the lady what the “Breathe Easy” soap was all about and she said that it has eucalyptus and other ingredients that help people with sinus problems.  I am going to try it this week and if it really works, I am going to order a case or so.  As for the Rosemary Mint and the Ginger Snap…well, I just bought those because they smell heavenly.  If you would like more information, you can visit her website.  She was also excited to tell me that some of the Whole Foods stores in our area will soon be carrying her products.
Yep, I’m thinking that I could really learn to love herbs!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Yes…once again it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but honestly there are days I don’t even turn the computer on.  I have put out the word to friends and family that if something is really important, they better just call me because I will get the e-mail three or four days after the event.  Part of it is being lazy, part of it is being tired, but a lot of it has been that I’ve just been so busy watching or living through changes that I haven’t made the time to write about them.
One change that people may wonder about is:  What ever happened with Pearl chicken?  Well, my sweet, cuddly Pearl continued to crow every morning without fail, so (s)he had to be returned to the family who had given that cuddly chicken to us.  Last report was that he was living with the quail for a bit because he (being a young, healthy rooster) was constantly bothering the hens, who had been bothered quite enough already.  The good news is that Jill (his original mother) told me that although she is a pretty busy gal, she tries to make time to cuddle (P)Earl whenever she has the chance.  She is not used to cuddling her chickens because they just have so many, but she agreed that cuddling (P)Earl is quite nice.  I’m glad that I was able to share that joy with her.  Meanwhile, Opal chicken has made it clear that she is quite content to live out her days as our lone chicken, and she still loves spending time in the yard with us:

An even bigger change was the departure of Alan on May 2nd as he returned to Yellowstone.  I didn’t get to go with him this time (his father had a hunting trip scheduled, and someone had to be here to care for the critters).  This made me even sadder than I already was, but it is what it is.  Alan had bought his grandmother’s car (she bought herself a new one – another change), so he was able to drive himself this time.  He followed his father to Amarillo (the sacred hunting site), and his dad actually followed Alan until he got just past Denver (at which time, his father returned to the sacred hunting site).  Alan drove the rest of the way himself -- his first big, lone road trip!  I was so very glad when I got his phone call telling me he was safe and sound at his destination!  I have really missed him, but I am so glad for him because every time I talk to him, he just keeps saying, “I miss you, Mom, but I am so happy.  I am just so happy!”
Here he is, all grown up and raring to go:

And here he is on the night before he left, spending some time with his number one girl:

Speaking of Alan’s best girl, for the longest time Paisley continued to be sick constantly.  Almost every single week one, or sometimes both, of her parents were having to use vacation time because she needed to go to the doctor.  Even with me keeping her now and then when she couldn’t go to day care it was just getting to be worrisome…we didn’t think she would ever be well again.  Well, her parents went to Plan B:  They took their house off the market and with some various changes that they are making, Paisley’s mother will just be working two days a week and spending the other five days with Paisley.  I am so happy for all of them!  I know it’s a scary thing for them to do, but they truly feel that getting Paisley well is worth the sacrifice.

Disclaimer:  Many of the pictures coming up are at least a couple of weeks old, but if I have to trot out and take all new ones, this post will never get done!
Robert has pitched in and is helping me in my efforts to try to change our yard from a wasteland to an oasis.  Every year I plant large pieces of sod, and every year they end up getting beat to death before they really get started.  Well, Robert fenced off the barren area and instead of planting large chunks of sod, he planted little plugs.
Nestlé absolutely loves having a new run (and trying to dig up my blueberry bushes!):

We decided to change our garden planting schedule this year.  We planted everything way early, knowing that yes, there might be a danger of frost; however, we know that if you plant later, things will burn up before you know it.  So far, it’s working.  In my “decorative” bed, I planted a little of this and a little of that (including some stray purple-hull black-eyed peas – you can’t have enough of those, and I plant them everywhere):

Since these pictures were taken I have harvested both this bell pepper and the cucumber:

The raspberry bush is huge this year (and even has some berries – the birds will be delighted about that):

Do you remember the two little sprigs of peppermint that I had rooted from a cutting and then put in the orange tub?  Well, I at least know that I can grow peppermint:

I decided to experiment and see how black-eyed peas would do in a square-foot garden.  I hope they do well (there are three garden beds full of them):

I also am trying to grow roses.  I got off to a good start with this one, but for some reason my roses seem to be struggling now:

Robert has his experiments, too:

And I found this cute little pitcher that I had saved from Paisley’s first birthday party.  It made the cutest little vase in which to put some of my lavender:

So “change” has been the word of the season.  However, I must admit that I am ready for at least a little boredom for a while.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Garden Guy

April 21st was a really fun day for Robert; I was sick, so my day was not so fun and I could not attend the nifty event of that day.  Anyone who knows us will know that we have been trying our hand at gardening at home (with mixed results), but a new thing for Robert is that this year he was part of a group that started a community garden.  He works for a nearby city and a group of city employees thought it would be a great idea to start a community garden.  Materials were gathered and organized, and with some old-fashioned know-how and work, a community garden was born.  At this point, the city employees are really the only “gardeners”, but I think that there is hope to expand the program if it is successful.  Robert has really enjoyed working on it, and here he is with his little plot:

Here are a couple of more pictures that Robert took – they’ll give you an idea of what the overall garden (located at the library) looks like:

Anyway, April 21st was a day where there were several activities rolled into one big day.  The mayor performed a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the garden, Earth Day was celebrated, and a children’s reading program was also recognized.  Here’s the agenda:

There were several visiting authors, and lots of children’s books for sale.  Paisley’s Grump-Pa came home with two new books for her.  One of the books is the most beautiful children’s book that I have ever read:

If you have a child in your life, I can’t recommend this book enough.  It talks about all the wonderful things that happened on the night the child was born (the moon stayed up until morning, the bears danced all night).  I cried all the way through the book – it was just so sweet.  I hope that the author won’t mind me sharing the last couple of pages with you.  The next-to-last page says:
“Heaven blew every trumpet
and played every horn
on the wonderful, marvelous
night you were born.”

And the last page simply says:
“You are loved.”
To make it even sweeter, there was a stuffed bear that went along with the book, and Grump-Pa got that for his girl, too.  Here is the world’s most beautiful child with her bear:

Yes, I must say that great things are growing due to the community garden!