Carolee's Herb Farm

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January E-Newsletter 2013

2013!  A brand new year that I’m sure will be filled with wonders and challenges, as each year is.  However, 2013 is very special, because it marks our 20th anniversary at Carolee’s Herb Farm.  It seems like only a couple of years ago that we announced the move from our beloved Owen County and moved all our equipment and 80,000 plants to the new venture in Blackford County, but we officially opened in March, 1993!  What an adventure and blessing it has been, and we look forward to sharing another year with our valued customers and friends.
     The New Year began with a beautiful snow-cover.  I couldn’t resist photographing some of the gardens shrouded in white.  It was so magical!
Afterwards, I transplanted pansies, violas, golden thistle, scabiosas, salad burnet, and several other perennials, and did some more seeding.  We made a lot of mini-hypertuffa troughs in November, so I moved them into the greenhouse to be planted for upcoming shows, took lots of rosemary and scented geranium cuttings, and finalized the 2013 schedule.
     By January 4th, I was on the road for the first of many January jaunts!  It has been hectic!  In the first twenty-two days of 2013, I was home 4!  First, I traveled to St. Louis with award-winning blogger and passionate gardener, Kylee Baumlee (Our Little Acre.)  She just finished her first book, “Indoor Plant Décor: The Design Stylebook for Houseplants” (she’ll be appearing at the farm later this summer, so watch for the schedule) so we had lots to talk about during the long drive to the National GreenCentre conference, sponsored by the Western Nursery & Landscape Association.  See a report of this event below.  There was also a very informative Regional meeting of the Garden Writers’ of America, and a trip to the Missouri Botanical Garden.
     I was home a day and a half to do some seeding, laundry, and repack before I flew to Atlanta for the major gift shows, where I shot the budget, walked miles and miles of aisles and got lost in showrooms, but found lots of exciting treasures that you’ll see in our displays this spring.  I spent some quality time with my cousin Eve (for those fans of my books, yes, she is real!) who always shows me lots of fun things while I’m in the big city (especially used book stores, garden centers, and great restaurants!  A visit to an amazing farmers’ market is below.)  I came home tired but excited, and can’t wait to start putting the new displays together.
     I soaked my sore feet, tackled backlogged paperwork, did a lot of prep work for my presentation, caught up some greenhouse work, did more laundry so I could repack, loaded the truck with plenty of merchandise to fill our booth, and headed to Illinois.  Afterwards, I was thrilled to have a whole week at home to enjoy January in Indiana, but not so thrilled when one of the greenhouse furnaces died.  Of course, we had the coldest temperatures of the year while we waited for the new furnace to arrive, and despite our best efforts, we did lose a few plants to the cold when their little soil blocks froze.  It was not fun getting up every 4 hours to refill the kerosene heaters, and worrying about the 5,000 seedlings I’ve already transplanted, the hundreds of succulents, the thousands of cuttings, many flats of seedlings and important stock plants!   Hopefully, we’ll have warmer weather soon, or a new furnace!
      As soon as I get the truck unloaded and the transplanting caught up, I’ll have to start unpacking the boxes that have already started arriving, before I travel again next week!

A Sad Farewell in 2012
Those of you who come to the farm this year will notice that our official welcoming person is gone.  Our beloved black lab, Wicca, passed away on Christmas Eve, breaking all our hearts and leaving a huge hole in our lives.  She was my best friend and constant companion for seventeen years, and no one can convince me that there ever was, or ever will be another dog as special as my “Sweetie-Girl.”  She will live on in my books, and although I may “kill-off” all the other characters in my tales, Wicca will endure forever.

And another one bites the dust…….
     I received notice that Commerce, a major distributor to garden centers all over the country has closed its doors.  They were my supplier for many great garden products from metal plant markers, solar lights, soaker hoses, and garden décor to Safer products and organic fertilizers.  It was a wonderful family-owned business in Michigan, and hundreds of garden centers like ours will be struggling to find new sources for the thousands of products they carried.

Mark your calendars now!  Here’s the beginnings of our 2013 schedule!  Remainder will be coming soon on the website.
TUES, APRIL 2: Opening Day!  Come celebrate our 20th Anniversary in Blackford
County!  Enjoy free refreshments, including Anniversary Cake.   Listen for the music to stop & if you are standing on a “cake,” you’ll win a door prize.   Celebrate 20% off all sales this day!  Program on new plants at 11:00 and 1:00  .  Free gift to first 20 customers.
SAT., APRIL 6: Spring Planter Day!  Parsley & Pansy—Bring a container, and we’ll
help you plant it with cold-tolerant plants (cost of plants selected plus
small fee for fertilizer & soil)   20% off all pre-planted containers.
SUN, APRILl 7:  “Crockpot Herbal Soapmaking”  Workshop, 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.  Registration will soon be available on-line, or mail a check.
SAT., APRIL 27:FAIRY DAY!  Come celebrate the wee folk, make fairy crafts, go on a
fairy hunt, enjoy fairy tea party. Visit our Fairy Garden, learn to make a container fairy garden, and see a display of fairy plants.  Wear your wings and receive a free gift!   It’s a magical day!  10% off all items in Fairyland!  And we’ve added over $1,000 in fairy inventory!  Just wait till you see it!
Sat. & Sun., June 29 & 30:  Lavender Daze

UPCOMING SHOWS:  We'll be bringing a boothful of wonder herbal & garden treasures to the following show in the near future.  If you would like copies of my book, let me know:

Feb. 16:  Advanced Master Gardeners' Training, Alexandria, IN

Mar 2:  Hoosier Hillsides Master Gardeners 'Spring Tonic'

National GreenCentre, St. Louis
     This was my first visit to this event, which I’d read and heard about for many years.  However, I must report that it was disappointing.  The number of displays was really down, according to former attendees, and the number of people who visited set a new record low.  On the bright side, I saw some terrific plants, some fantastic displays, found some new suppliers, and met lots of dedicated plant people who share my love of gardens.
     The highlight was meeting Coach Vince Dooley, who after retiring as head coach of the Georgia football team and then the Athletic Director, fell in love with gardening and has created what is called “the most beautiful garden in Georgia.”  His message was inspiring, and it was easy to see why he was a national championship coach.
I also met Dr. Michael Dirr, the world’s authority on woody plants.  His presentation on the challenges of finding, breeding and branding new plants was extremely interesting.
     I also met several bloggers whose work I admire, and was able to visit with Chris Tidrick (From the Soil blog) whose presentation on garden photography was exceptional.
     Unfortunately, downtown St. Louis is not a safe place, as we found out when 3 different groups of our attendees were robbed at gunpoint the first night.  I only missed out on the gunplay because I pleaded being old and returned to my hotel a block before the incident.  That pretty well put a damper on going out to dinner or anything else in the evenings.  Later, locals told us that “NO ONE goes downtown after 4 o’clock!”  Wish someone had told us that earlier!

Missouri Botanical Garden Tour
     While in St. Louis, we were fortunate in being able to have a guided tour of the indoor gardens at MoBot.  The cyclamen, camellias and succulent displays in the Linnaeus House were amazing.

     In the biosphere, the emphasis for 2013 is on food crops, so we were shown bananas, vanilla orchids, chocolate, citrus, fig and coffee trees, lots of herbs, and even a rice paddy.  There were lots more food crops and more will be added as the season progresses. 


The Mediterranean courtyard with its grape vines, jasmine, and collection of Biblical plants was filled with color, and so inviting one wished for a comfy chair, a glass of wine, and a good book. And outdoors, the nearly black foliage of Euphorbia "Firebird" was stunning against the snow.
     The Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the premier gardens in the U.S.  If you’re ever in the area, don’t miss the opportunity to see it, no matter what the season!  It was the first place I've ever seen a charging station for electric cars!

Buford Highway Farmers’ Market & More
     One of the best things about visiting a major city like Atlanta is the opportunity to see things we just don’t have here in Indiana.  Eve took me to her favorite farmers’ market, held indoors so it is year-round.  Picture a building the size of a Wal-Mart, packed with produce and products from around the world.  The produce area contained not only locally-grown fruits, herbs, and veggies, but also amazing things such as rambutan, Buddha’s Hand and monstrous Jackfruit the size of watermelons!  I’d have to do some research before I’d even attempt to cook some of these items!  One of the largest fresh fish and seafood areas I’ve ever seen filled a huge section of the store.  Need a live octopus the size of a basketball, all packed in what looked like a basketball net?  It’s there. 
     Half the store was filled with aisles of shelving like a traditional grocery, except each section was a specific group.  Want food from Thailand or Ecuador, Japan or Cuba, England or India?  It’s there.  Need a 50 lb. bag of rice?  You can choose from over 20 different types. 


There were probably 200 different kinds of tea in the aisle shown above alone, in boxes and beautiful tins.  I brought home a lovely lavender green tea in the prettiest packaging I’ve ever found.  I also selected a big bag of honey powder (for only $3.99!) a box of walnut Turkish Delight and a container of dried peaches.  I was almost tempted to purchase an additional suitcase, but with airline baggage fees, I resisted.

     Exhausted from our shopping, we relaxed in a lovely bakery/tea room call the White Wind Mill before I returned to the Gift Mart in my quest for garden treasures.
Herb Day at the Univ. of IL.
     Herb Day, sponsored by the Univ. of Illinois, is always one of my favorite events.  I look forward to it every year as a kind of kick-off to my season.  Being around so many other passionate herb lovers recharges my battery!  This year, I was invited to give a presentation on “Elder Facts & Fancies” since Elder is the Herb of the Year for 2013. There were four other presenters and a big luncheon, plus dozens of door prizes, including these huge scented geraniums and rosemary plants, so you really get your money’s worth by registering to attend.
     It was terrific to see all the familiar faces who are faithful attendees of this special event and to have a good visit with Jane Taylor, Jan Powers, Chuck Voigt and many others.  If you have never attended, mark your calendar now for Jan. 18, 2014!

“Why I garden”...
     I promised to share Judith Wilson’s winning entry, so here it is!  Judith writes:
“What do I like best about gardening?  I thought I would have a ready answer, but as I try to form my reply I find that what I love best about gardening has changed over the years

When I was a young mother, gardening was a diversion from the routines of childcare.  I could work in my garden developing flower beds for our new house while my girls played outside.  As I developed my gardening skills and the size of my vegetable garden grew, I loved the produce which the garden gave us…the color, the size, the smell and freshness.

     Eventually the natural cover in our neighborhood grew up and became a playground for deer, raccoons, and squirrels.  Our neighbors have resorted to eight-foot fences, but I fled to flowers and developed new flower beds.  The area in front of my house which was so bare after we lost three mature Maple trees over the years has grown into a shady hosta-filled oasis which I can view from our front windows and enjoy reading in during the warm months.
     In three weeks I will turn seventy.  I have to hire help to do the heavy digging and lifting that gardening requires.  Now what I like best about gardening is the sharing of my love of gardening with other friends…participating in the garden club at church, helping my energetic next door neighbor who each year re-invents her garden, sharing plants with my daughters who are now planting beds at their own homes.  When one gardener meets another, there is always something to chat about and information to share.  It never gets old!

January’s Question
     Does the “Herb of the Year” matter to you, influence your purchases, planting, or cooking?  I truly enjoy learning more depth about each year’s selection, but I wonder if others care?  So, send an answer, with a brief explanation of your choice, yes or no.  All entries will be put in a hat & the winner will receive a box of garden goodies! 

Feeling blue?  Depression pulling you down?  Try St. Johnswort!
     It’s easy to let the pressures of life, the world news, the economy, family troubles, or winter weather take its toll and to sink into depression.  Today I transplanted tiny seedlings of St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum) a traditional aid for stress and depression.  I grow it for the pretty, rounded leaves and bright yellow blooms, but the plant has a long history of use to induce a sense of well-being and lift mild depression, as a mild painkiller, and as a soothing dressing for cuts since it has antibiotic properties.  It has also been used to aid the digestive system, and to reduce diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and nausea.  More recently, it has been studied as a treatment for AIDS.  It is antiviral, anti-spasmodic, astringent, and more!  The part used is the yellow flowers, which are steeped in oil, turning the oil a deep red, or as a tincture made from the flowering tops.
     In addition to being an ornamental and a medicinal, the flowering tops of St. Johnswort are used as a dye plant to produce yellows and reds, depending upon the mordant applied. 
     An old-time custom to prevent evil from entering ones home was to hang blooming branches of St. Johnswort over the doors.
     Some folks say the plant was named by the Knights of St. John, who used the red oil to treat wounds during the Crusades.  Others say it was named for St. John, because it blooms during his birthday in mid-summer.
     St. Johnswort is easy to grow, although the seeds are smaller than dust and a little slow to germinate.  It is a hardy perennial, sometimes escaping from colonial herb gardens to grow happily along the edges of woods or pastures.  It stays low its first year, but in the second year, the bloom stalks reach 2’ in height.  It is often a short-lived perennial. 
    Although there are many positives to St. Johnswort, there are a couple of items of note before use.  Usage of the herb, especially extended usage, can cause hypersensitivity to sunlight resulting in dermatitis or inflammation of mucous membranes.  If either of these symptoms occur discontinue use immediately.  Secondly, there are many hypericums on the market, grown for their ornamental qualities.  Be aware that true St. Johnswort is H. perforatum, named for the tiny “holes” one can see if the leaves are held up to sunlight.
Other hypericums have little if any medicinal value, but they are often simply labeled “St. Johnswort.”
     For several medicinal recipes using St. Johnswort, see Penelope Ody’s “Healing with Herbs.”


Shrimp Cakes with Mint and Caper Sauce

     I feasted on this tasty dish recently, and hurried home to re-create it in my own fashion…a little less carbs, and  bumped up the mint.  I also used pickled elder buds instead of capers, but either is fine!  Enjoy!
     In a small bowl, combine:  3 T. sour cream; 2 T. mayonnaise; 1 ½ tsp. finely chopped fresh peppermint; 2 tsp. pickled elder buds (or capers); ½ tsp. juice from buds or capers; dash freshly ground pepper.  Cover & place in refrigerator to allow flavors to develop.
     Combine:  ¾ c. chopped cook shrimp; ¼ c. finely chopped celery; 1 ½ T. finely chopped onion; 1 egg; 1 ½ c. fine bread crumbs; ¼ tsp. Old Bay Seasoning, freshly ground pepper.  Mix well.
     Place 2 T. oil in a small skillet over medium high heat.  Shape shrimp mixture into 4 cakes, about ¾” thick.  Place in skillet once oil is hot and brown for 4 min.  Turn cakes over carefully, reduce heat to medium and cook an additional 5-6 min., until nicely browned.  Serve immediately with sauce.

Just in under the wire for this hectic month.  I'm traveling again in February, so next month's newsletter should be lively, too!  Herbal Blessings, Carolee