Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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


February E-Newsletter 2014

That blasted groundhog saw his shadow.  However, his action did not really come as a surprise.  The Farmers’ Almanac predicted a stormy winter with unusually cold temperatures for our area a year ago.  Despite the record cold, overly-abundant snow, and generally dismal weather, there have been a few sunny days that make working in the greenhouse delightful.  Patented plants have been arriving, and despite being frozen solid during shipment, most of them have recovered and are growing nicely.  The first violas have begun to bloom, rosemarys are in full flower, and the seeding and transplanting is on schedule. 
     I do worry about bee hives this winter.  We have had so few days above 50 degrees, which is the required temperature for bees to leave their hives for a cleansing flight.  Heavy snows have often drifted, and unless the beekeeper is attentive, the hive could be sealed shut.  It has been a hard winter for wildlife, too.  The deer in our yard are looking thin, and the squirrels are forced to dig through deep snow to recover their buried nuts.
     Thankfully, there are many horticultural events on the calendar providing opportunities to hone our horticultural skills, and that remind us spring is on the way.  It comforts me to know that beneath the mounds of snow, resting in the frozen soil, spring bulbs and perennials are silently growing lovely root systems and are just as eager to push their bloom stalks upward as I am to see them!

Opening Day:  Tuesday, April 1st
     Despite the winter, we’ve been hard at work preparing for the upcoming season.  Carolee’s Herb Farm will open at 10a.m. on Tuesday, April 1st.  We can’t wait to show you all the new items in the Big Barn Gift Shop, and the coldframe should be overflowing with plants.  There will be special refreshments, sale items, and door prizes as we kick off regular business hours, Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10-5.  The full schedule should be posted on the website next month, but mark your calendar for Fairy Days, April 26 & 27.


Lemon Tree, Very Pretty
     One of the joys of a greenhouse this time of year, are the wonderful treats, visual and tasty, provided by my lemon tree.   I disagree with the lyrics of the song, “Lemon Tree, very pretty, and the lemon flowers are sweet.  But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat!”  I love lemons!  Even though it is young, this tree has produced a bounty of bright, cheery yellow fruits all winter.  Right now, it has several lemons ready to harvest again, and clusters of brand new buds ready to open.  I’ll hand-pollinate them, since there are no insects to do it, give it a good feeding, and enjoy lemons for my tea or maybe a lemon meringue pie or two.

2014 Color of the Year
     Pantone has named “Radiant Orchid,” a captivating, magical, enigmatic purple, as the color of the year.  Last year’s rich green selection, “Emerald,” symbolized growth, renew, and prosperity.  “Radiant Orchid” is across the color wheel, so it will compliment greens.  Pantone says the rosy-lavender hue will intrigue the eye and spark the imagination.
“Spring Tonic” Garden Symposium-March 1st
We had such a good time at “Spring Tonic” in Paoli last spring that I’m returning to speak for this year’s event on Saturday, March 1st. (note the date in last month’s e-newsletter was incorrect!) Speaker topics include “Covering Lots of Ground,” “Landscaping with Herbs,” “Grow Gourmet Mushrooms,” “2014 Weather & Climate,” and “Visual Tour of an Indiana Landscape.”  Vendors, good food, door prizes, and great company.  These people know how to throw a party!  Registration includes breakfast and lunch, $40. Master Gardeners receive 5 hrs. of education credit. Google “Spring Tonic Paoli” for a registration form.  Space is limited so don’t delay.

Michigan Herb Association Annual Conference
I’ll be giving the banquet keynote speech in Lansing, on the campus of Michigan State on Friday, March 7th and speaking again on Saturday, March 8th during the general sessions.  We’ll have a jam-packed booth filled with herbal goodies.  For conference information or to register on-line, go to  

GardenFest Pansy Sale…March 14 & 15
The Morgan Co. Master Gardeners will again host their huge pansy sale and GardenFest, at the Hoosier Harvest Church in Martinsville, IN.  Hours are 1-8p.m. on Friday, 9-4 on Sat.  There will be dozens and dozens of vendors, outdoors and inside.  We’re taking a lot of new items, so if you attend, be sure to stop by our booth to say “hello!”

“Ooh! La! La! Artemisias”
     The HSCI will host its annual symposium on Saturday, April 12 at the Hamilton Co. Fairgrounds.   This is always such a treat, so don’t miss it.  It’s a full day, including breakfast treats, delicious herbal lunch, 3 terrific presenters, door prizes, silent auction, and vendors.  We’ll have a full booth of herbal goodies, including lots of interesting plants and new shop items.  For more information, or to download a registration form, visit the website at  Or, call Connie at 317-51-6986.
Drink more water!
Recent research indicates that drinking 8-10 glasses of plain water (not flavored, not tea, not coffee…just water) significantly eases joint pain and back pain for up to 80% of those participating in the study.  It also decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, breast cancer by 79%, and bladder cancer by 50%!!  Drink more water!


 Herbal Blessings
Callie’s adventures continue through her fourth season at Joyful Heart Herbs.  There are joys and sorrows, burdens and blessings, as she struggles with new mysteries that threaten her business and those she loves.   The quirky Leaf Sisters are back, along with some new employees and familiar residents of Heartland that form Callie’s circle of friends.  Morgan Wright launches a new career, Sandy struggles with motherhood, and romance is in the air when Cousin Eve comes to visit. This is the fourth and final book in the Callie Gardener series.  It includes over sixty original recipes for herbal desserts and other dishes, and as usual, it’s packed with gardening information and herbal lore.
     It has gone to the publisher, but the exact arrival date is not yet known, but if you pre-purchase a copy at our booth at any of the upcoming shows, you’ll get free shipping, and we’ll send it out to you just as soon as the books arrive.  It’s a cure for the winter blues!

Speaking of blessings….
Research has proven that the daily practice of gratitude, that is counting your blessings and being thankful, is an important step toward wellness and happiness.  In response to this, we are establishing a “Gratitude Stop”…a place to stop and make a public statement by writing what you’re grateful for and posting it on our wall as a visual reminder to feel blessed, not stressed.

A Sad Note……
     Sadly, Chuck Voigt reported the passing of herbalist Wilma Clark.  Those of you who traveled with us on the bus trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens, Westerfield House, and other herbal sites that we visited going and coming back from St. Louis will recall Wilma’s herb farm out in the flatlands countryside.  I was fortunate to be acquainted with Wilma through the Illinois Herb Association and the International Herb Association.  She was an inspiration to all she touched.


Madison Co. Advanced MG Training Recap: Sat., Feb. 15
     We took a full truckload of interesting products to this event in Alexandria, IN.  Great volunteers helped us unload, and we had a super booth location.  It was great to see everyone again, and as always, the food was yummy and abundant.  I truly enjoyed all the speakers, especially Phil Greenburg’s talk on “Aquaponics,” which is the symbiotic raising of fish and plants together hydroponically.  Phil explained the three different methods he uses at the Pendleton Prison Greenhouse, and showed how home gardeners could duplicate his systems to raise tilapia, herbs, and veggies.  Very interesting, organic produce and fresh fillets whenever you want, and you don’t even have to bait a hook!


 Congratulations!  Whitley County’s First Garden Symposium!
The Master Gardeners of Whitley Co. have every right to feel proud, after hosting a delightful symposium Saturday.  It was lovely to be greeted by tubs of spring blooms and smiling faces.  Few groups are so helpful and attentive to speakers and vendors.  I loved the never-ending tea!  There were hundreds of homemade cookies, cute table décor, and even a “director of fun!”  The speakers were very educational.  I especially enjoyed the round-robin sessions that included the “Cottage Garden Project.”  Everything throughout the day was well-organized, and having load-out help was fantastic.  If you did not attend, you missed a really good day!   Hopefully, they will decided to host another event next spring.

* Noted horticulturalist Allen Armitage has retired from the Univ. of Georgia and the UGA Trial Gardens.  He will soon open a gardening school in England!  Wouldn’t that be fun to attend?
*Dutch strawberry growers/breeders now market berries that have a pineapple, raspberry, or bubble gum aroma!
* The USDA estimates that GMO’s can be found in over 70% of the food sold in American supermarkets
* 23,000 acres of peppermint and 2,500 acres of spearmint are harvested in Indiana each year!  However, we’ve dropped to 4th nationwide.
*To reduce cancer-causing dioxin, never heat foam containers or plastic wrap on food in the microwave.
*Ten years ago, the area required for the monarchs who migrate to Mexico was 27 acres.  Last winter, there were only enough monarchs to fill 1 ½ acres 
*Lemon balm is helpful for depression, and also helps prevents shingles recurrence!


 Herb to Know: Violets
     It may be hard to believe, looking out the window at endless white snow, only broken up by high piles of more white snow and bare trees, but soon the grass will be green and flowers will begin to bloom.  If you are among the wise and don’t treat your lawn, you may be lucky and violets will be sprinkled throughout the grass in slightly shaded areas.  Violets have been appreciated for their pretty purple flowers and sweet fragrance for centuries.  Pure essential oil of violets is one of the most expensive flower essences. 
     As a child, I picked little bouquets, and I still pick blossoms to put on canapés or tiny cupcakes for spring tea parties and to dry for potpourris.  I also use the blooms and leaves in salads.  Cooked leaves are often used as a thickening agent in soups and stews.  The flowers can be made into syrups, candies, tea, and jelly.
     Violets are easy-to-grow perennials that are happiest in good soil and dappled sunlight.  Early farmers often observed the violets growing in their pastures as an indicator of soil fertility:  the more abundant the flowers, the better the soil.  Few flowers meant the soil needed amendments.  Violets spread by seed.  The most common color is purple, but white or yellow can also be found.  The violet is the state flower of Wisconsin, Illinois, Rhode Island and New Jersey.
     Recent research has found that eating violets greatly reduces tumor formation and the recurrence of many cancers, especially breast cancer.  The Romans made garlands of violets to ease headache or prevent a hangover.  The Greeks made poultices of the leaves for inflamed eyes or bedsores.  Greek women applied violets mixed with goat’s milk to have a beautiful complexion. American colonists made a syrup of violet flowers to ease bronchitis and asthma.
     Violets are a symbol of faithfulness and modesty.  Most cultures believed the heart-shaped leaves indicated the plant was beneficial to romance.  Combining violets with a single red rose in a small bouquet expresses never-ending love.  Mythology says that Zeus loved the nymph Io, and to protect her from his jealous wife, he turned her into a white heifer.  Io cried when she had to eat rough grass, so Zeus took pity on her and turned her tears into sweet flowers, violets.  The Greek word “Io” means “violet.”  Some versions of the myth say that the jealous wife, Hera, actually turned Io into a cow, and because Zeus could not turn her back into a nymph, he attempted to make her life as pleasant as possible by giving her a diet of violets.
     Violets are a wonderful addition to the herb garden, providing color, Vitamin C, fragrance and flavor from some of the shadier spots in the garden.  They are a benefit to many insects and a host plant for some species of butterflies.


Recipe: Easy Chicken with Pasta
This is a recipe that I love, because it’s a great way to use up odds and ends; it’s quick, easy, low-cost, and best of all…delicious!
In a skillet, fry 6 chicken thighs (or breasts, or legs, or whatever pieces you prefer) in 1 T. olive oil until nicely browned on both sides.  Cover and reduce heat to low.
     In a large skillet, sauté a clove of garlic, finely chopped, and 2 c. coarsely diced vegetables.  (I used a carrot, a stalk of celery, half a green pepper, a little cauliflower, some leftover broccoli, and about ¾ c. frozen peas, but you can use mushrooms, tomatoes, green beans, or whatever!  I cook any raw items first, and add already cooked leftovers or frozen veggies after I put in the water.)
    When raw vegetables are tender, add 2 ½ c. water and a can of “cream of something” soup (mushroom, celery, chicken…whatever you have on hand.)  Stir well.  Add 2 c. small pasta (like mini bow-tie, small shells, small macaroni, or whatever you have on hand) 1 ½ tsp. dried basil (or oregano, or parsley, or tarragon, or a mixture….whatever you have on hand!) and a few grinds of black pepper.  Sometimes I add a dash of hot sauce.  Cover and bring just to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer about 5 min. 
     Add chicken, replace cover, and cook another 5 min., just until pasta is done.  Toss in ½ c. grated parmesan cheese before serving.  Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, if available, and a sprinkle of cheese.  Serves 6.

February will be over soon, and even though the long-range forecast is for a late, cold spring, soon there will be spring bulbs and hellebores easing the gloom with glorious colors.  Bluebirds and robins have already been sited.  In the meantime, I hope to get some indoor chores finished up, so when the weather allows, I can spend all my time outdoors. 

Until March, Herbal blessings,