Friday, April 29, 2011

A English Breakfast for the Prince and Princess!

Well, unlike a lot of America this morning I was asleep for the live wedding.  I did get up in time for a replay and that is all that I wanted just the highlights!  Had to have an English muffin with some pineapple sage jelly and rose petal tea in my Portmeirion Botanic Garden mug.  The egg is not quite like the English eggs, but Egg Beaters with a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese cut up in it in the microwave for a 1 minute 45 seconds.  Perfect.  So I wish their Highnesses all the best.  Hope you are having a good day.  May we keep all of the people in the south in our thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lots of Good Basic Herb Gardening Information!

The photo is just decoration for this post.  I wanted you to see my angelica hedge!  We actually transplanted some of it out of my herb garden!  It's going to be massive again.

I had a little herbal meltdown the other day and I've come into the herbal light and it's all good.  Sometimes we all need a little jolt and I got one.  I know some of you would like another blog on other herbal topics.  I have decided not to go there for the moment.  Do blogs ever run out of space?  Maybe.  Well, we will cross that herbal bridge when we come to it.

I'm going to lean on the great articles and wisdom of my favorite herb magazine, The Herb Companion!  If you are interested in starting an herb garden, Jim Long wrote a great article on a five-year plan for an herbal kitchen garden.  Even though it is talking about herbs and veggies (which is a great combo), the foundation of planning a garden is there.  I think the most important part of any garden, herbal or not is the location.  Herbs like at least six hours of sun a day.  More is better.  East and west are good especially in the southern and western parts of the United States.  I wrote about the Tucson Botanical Garden when we visited in 2008 and tips for growing herbs in the west.  North is the worst exposure and if you only have a northern location, you need to be growing another species of plants!  There is an article called  An Herb for Every Spot on The Herb Companion website as well and Herbs in the Southern Garden is another article that may give you helpful hints and tips on herbs if you live in the southern portion of the United States.

Also soil is very important.  It is a living and breathing foundation of your garden.  We have clay soil here in southwestern Pennsylvania.  If you are starting a whole new garden or just a new bed with herbs, I would be doing a soil test through your local county extension office.  I think just about every county in the United States has extension offices and possibly a master gardener.  Take advantage of this resource because they live in your specific area and deal with your problems day in and out.  Not every county has a master gardener program, but they should have a staff that can steer you in the right direction.  They have great publications that are written by the sponsoring extension university.  For example, our extension university is Penn State University, New York is Cornell University, Ohio is The Ohio State University, New Jersey is Rutgers University, etc

At the very least you want to be adding compost or some other kind of organic matter to loosen the clay in your soil.  Herbs require very well drained soil.  With all of the rain we are having, the Herbal Husband said to me the other day that we had a small pond in the back of my herb garden!  My herb garden isn't very big to have a small pond in the back.  So anything we plant there we will have to amend the soil with maybe some chicken grit to make it drain better.  Sometimes when you add sand to clay, you get concrete!

I would also be aware of the trees and shrubs that surround your garden space.  If they are small now, they will mature when you least want them to and possibly block out your sunlight for your herbs.  They also take nutrients away from your herbs.  Not that shade isn't a good thing especially in the south, you need morning sun and afternoon shade in that case.  See articles linked above for more information.

Here is an additional post from a follow blogger, Rhonda Fleming Hayes, about The Garden Buzz: Growing Strategies for Beginning Herb Gardeners talking about propagation for various herbs.  I found a great article on Container Gardening Essentials that will give you great basic information on growing herbs in containers.

Finally, wildlife can be an issue in all of our gardens.  The good news is that deer who love to browse trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials aren't particularly interested in herbs.  I think the smell is a big detractor.  Well, I hope this has helped you with your herb issues.  Please leave me comments or e-mail me with your other herbal concerns.  Talk to you later.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Was A Beautiful Day to Get Outside!

We have all these quirky little paths that are a bear to mow and are full of weeds each spring.  I do take delight in pulling the wild cress (we do eat that in our salads) and creeping Charlie (ground ivy) each season.  Creeping Charlie is a real problem for homeowners who enjoy their lawns.  I have already gotten two bug bites!  I have been out even between rain showers this year.  We have had a lot of rain.  I think we are at 7 inches over for the season already!
The bronze fennel is coming back, a magnet for swallowtails and the ever present lemon balm.  In some cases, I do use lemon balm as a filler like a seat filler at the Oscars!  Way off base there!  Sorry about that!
The lovage is looking good and has doubled in size since my last report.  Love, love the spring herbs in the garden.
I don't have a lemon verbena coming back in the garden.:(  I do have a curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) and it is definitely a tender perennial for us.  Just need to remember to cover it on colder nights and we will probably have some in May!  Well, I hope you have had a good day wherever you may be.  Tomorrow is Miss C's 14th birthday!  She is growing up way too fast.  I've got a special surprise for her.  I'll share it after I give it to her and it may be later in the week after her birthday.  I'll at least call and sing her a happy birthday.  Talk to you later.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Got a Request and Have Gotten It Before, Herbally Speaking!

I got a request from a new follower and others in the past to write a blog devoted to planting a new herb garden.  Also talking about growing herbs in containers as a foil against deer.  The good news, Linda, is that deer mostly don't eat herbs. The one herb that they do eat are roses because they know they are an edible flower!

Maybe I should be doing a blog called Lemon Verbena Lady's Herb Gardening 101.  I just did a 2 hour and 15 minute talk on it and it could translate into a blog I suppose.  Well, I have thought about doing a book/booklet.  I'm trying to concentrate on this blog, my blog on The Herb Companion magazine and I'm supposed to be blogging for The Herbal Bouquet.  Not doing that very well!  Linda who just asked is from Georgia and Becca who is a follower from Alabama has asked for me to write about the herbs in my garden and how I use them.  My blogging friend, Taylorsoutback, from Wisconsin, would like to hear me speak.  So would Tufa Girl in Texas.  She is always trying to motivate me to do a booklet/book, a podcast, something, anything on herbs.  So Linda, you aren't the only one who is trying to get me to write, speak something about starting an herb gardening.  I'm going to think about it.  If you have a suggestion, please let me know in an e-mail or a comment.

P.S. There is a new post on The Herb Companion Website.  Just click the photo to get to the new post.

A Little Too Big To Be A Name Tag And Other Stories You Missed!

My computer monitor kept getting darker and darker.  So I got some photos transferred over the weekend!  Yippee! This was the night in late March where I received the Master Gardener Emeritus award.  Yes, I know I'm too young to retire, but the list has to start somewhere, doesn't it?  Yes, I thought I would get a nice little name tag or something.   The or something was this beautiful Wilton Armetale platter!  What a surprise!  I will really treasure it always.  Can't lose that, can you?

Then around the same time, Carl's Tree Service came by with their magic machines and got rid of a lot of our overgrown (the ivy on the roof) plants.  We have a really clean slate now!

I need to run and do some errands.  Hope you are having a good day wherever you may be.  It is going to be warm and mostly sunny in the 'Burgh!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter and A Computer Break Again!

Here is my very front garden by the mailbox.  I'm going to take a very short Easter break and to do some more computer work to download programs and keep getting used to the keyboard.  I think I solved one problem by cancelling the touch pad feature because I have a wireless mouse!  The things you have to learn.  I was resting my wrists and palms on the lower part of the computer around the touch pad and I think I was causing it Touch Pad to activate!

So Happy, Happy Easter to you all.  Going to see The Conspirator today and favorite Red Robin for dinner.  Talk to you next week.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

St. Fiacre's Garden

We sometimes call St. Fiacre, St. Fiasco in our garden.  He has gotten moved around and repositioned.  It is a wonder he has survived.  I wrote about him reappearing in the garden after the February 2010 two foot snow in a post called He's Baaack!  The purple flower is a lovely little primula my master gardening friend, Lyn gave us!  Look Lyn, it's still blooming.  I also forgot to mention a pincushion flower has returned!  I know some of you are thinking she should be able to grow pincushion flowers.  No, I killed them every single year I planted them.  Now I have found a place to grow them!  Yippee!  I'm going to make this post short today.  Hope you had a great day wherever you may be.  Talk to you later.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Herb Channeler on The Herb Companion Magazine Blog Page!

I have exciting news.  The wonderful staff at The Herb Companion magazine have given me my own space to blog about herbs called The Herb Channeler.  Now I hope you will give me comments and/or questions and inspire me with herbal topics as you always have done.  It is a journey that we will take together and hopefully, we will both learn something from my herbal experiences.  Thank you all for reading this blog and hopefully for reading my new blog on The Herb Companion site.  My guest blogs from the past two years will always be there as well.  It has been warm and windy in the herb garden.  Should be outside, but was too excited with my news.  Couldn't wait to tell you.  Hope you have had a great day wherever you may be.  Talk to you later.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One of the Early Risers in the Herb Garden! (Updated for Carla's and Cindy's Questions)

This was my lovage plant last week.  It is twice as big now.  I did a post about lovage and carrot soup in 2008.  I want to embellish that post and talk about lovage the plant.

Lovage (Levisticum officinale) is a perennial that for those of us in the northern tier of the United States likes full sun or part sun (morning sun in the south).  It is also called love parsley and sea parsley.  I would call it celery on steroids.  My book that I have called Herbs for Texas (Yes, a gift from The Herbal Husband when he went to Houston to visit his relatives.  Some times I forget what great herb books I have!) says that lovage is a tender perennial.  I find that hard to believe because it is very hardy for us.  It is a native to southern Europe.  It looks like a giant celery plant.  It does have problems with leaf miners and hot weather will burn the foliage (from the Texas book).  Maybe that weakens the plant and it doesn't always survive in the south.  I just cut the browned and leaf minered leaves off and it grows new ones.  It gets 4 to 6 feet in our garden so you want to put it in the back of a border.  We have it in several places, but it is NOT as weedy at the garlic chives!

You can collect the seeds and use them in bread or cookies.  All parts of the plant are edible.  Stems are hollow and can be used as straws for bloody Marys.  It is very easily air dried and stored in containers.  Can also be frozen as well.  Lovage should be avoided by pregnant women and by those with kidney problems (from the Herbs for Texas book).  I will try to remember to put a photo from last year's garden.  I would be glad to answer your questions about lovage or any other herb you may have.

Carla, my blogging friend from California who blogs at Thyme in a Bottle asked this question about lovage: Is it better to buy a plant or buy seeds?  I don't have a whole lot of space to start seeds inside, but since this is an early spring herb, I'm guessing you could direct sow these in the ground now because they take 90 days to maturity not too much of a problem for you who garden in California.  I like to direct seed basil, dill and nasturtiums and I don't mind extra seeds of those herbs.  I just don't need 100 plants of lovage.  I think you are near Summers Past Farm, Carla.  I would call and see if they sell lovage plants.  One or two plants at most should be enough for you.  If you want seeds, Nichols Garden Nursery  in Oregon and Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine (although they were backordered until April 21st) sell lovage seeds.  Hope this information is helpful to you and all of my readers.

Cindy, my blogging friend from Texas who blogs at FW Dirt asked whether it tastes like celery.  It is stronger than celery, but not in a bad way, Cindy.  I would say there is a deeper depth of flavor to lovage.  I would use less in a recipe that calls for celery and add until the flavor is to your liking.  Add half of the amount you are using at the start and about 15 to 20 minutes before the end of cooking time, add the rest.  Because until like bay leaves and herbs like rosemary or thyme, some of the flavor of the more delicate herbs are cooked away if you put all of the herbs in at the beginning of the cooking time.  If you are used dried lovage, you would add less than fresh about three times to one, fresh to dried.

Heard about the car and, of course, what I thought might be wrong wasn't and it wasn't as much money!  So I worry for almost nothing!  Talk to you later.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Maybe Surrender, But Staying Ahead Is Better!

I have limited photos on my new computer and so many stories to share.  One of my limited photos relates to Sharon Lovejoy who spoke of surrender this morning.  I do have some of the same surrender issues as Sharon.  I don't have photos to prove it, but I do have the same issues.  I think my theme will be staying ahead, herbally speaking.

The Herbal Husband said he was going to fertilize the roses!  It struck terror in my herbal heart.  I have this unknown rose that is supposed to be an Alfred de Dalmas at the back corner of my herb garden  It also has garlic chives tangled at its base!  Yikes, I thought once it is fertilized maybe a new cultivar, GIANT garlic chives!  It is not a good thing as Martha would say!  So here is an empty space, Sharon, but I think it is better than GIANT garlic chives!  I am going to try to stay ahead if possible.   When they start to coming back under this plant, I will try to be there to get them out.  The Herbal Husband is planting them in other parts of the garden!  They will be everywhere whether I want them or not.  I also found a dwarf chive plant.
I want to do a more detailed post on chives.  Here is a dwarf one that would be excellent in a container on a southern facing windowsill for winter consumption.  A little late for this year, but we are still having temperatures in the 30's!  Some are still having snow!  Yikes!  Still trying to get used to my keyboard.  I'm hitting all kinds of keys other than the ones I want.  Hope you are having a great day wherever you may be.  Pray for me.  I take my car in for service tomorrow!  Talk to you later.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Little Herbal Rice!

I can't believe in all of the years I have been blogging that I haven't shared this recipe with you!  I have been making this for a long time.  The cookbook is from 1981.  So I have been making it for 30 years!  Wow!  Just last night I had a light bulb moment, herbally speaking.  I used herb butter in this recipe.  Duh!  It was delicious!  Well, what' not to like with butter and herbs make it even better.  It looks like a lot of rice for two people and it is but, the Herbal Husband's middle name besides CoolWhip is rice!  Usually The Herbal Husband is the rice cooker of this household, but I'm the only one who makes this particular rice recipe.

Risotto Alla Zanetti
"Light and fluffy rice"

1 med. onion, minced
1/2 stick butter (herb butter recipe here)
1 4-oz. can mushrooms, drained (I use fresh)
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups liquid, 1 2/3 cups water or stock (I always use stock) and 1/3 cup white wine
salt, to taste (I never use salt.)
2 tsp. Spice Islands chicken stock, optional (I never use this.)

Saute the onion in butter.  When lightly browned, add the mushrooms and saute a few minutes longer.  Add rice, liquid, salt and chicken stock.  Put mixture in a casserole, cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

Preparation:  15 min.               Easy             Serves:  4
Cooking:       45 to 50 min.     Can do ahead
Recipe of Mrs. Donald Brewster

I double this recipe because one recipe goes in one sitting for The Herbal Husband!  So everything doubles, including the butter!  Delicious!  Hope you enjoy it.  It is good even if you don't use herb butter.  It always turns out beautifully!  This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Three Rivers Cookbook II  from 1981 which benefited child-oriented agencies through the Child Health Association of Sewickley, Inc.  It's movie day once again.  We are seeing Of Gods and Men.  A French film.  I'll be reading furiously!  Windy and raw day here.  Hope your day is going well.  Talk to you later.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

From One Grimy Girl to Another, Thanks Sharon!

I'm a glove wearing member of Sharon Lovejoy's Grimy Girls Hands Club.  Look what I got in the morning mail.  Seeds for Italian Pesto Basil from Renee's Garden and beautiful postcards that Sharon drew herself.  Her business card is even a small book.  Very nice surprises, Sharon.  Hopefully we will get the seeds in later.  We don't have a lot of room in our house to grow seeds indoors and the weather is much too volatile and too early for basil to grow.  Here is a link to my post on basil I just recently did.

Got some surprises to share and my award with master gardening.  Hopefully, I will be linked up with my old computer later today and will be able to download some photos I took recently.  Going to start raining again shortly.  I wish I could send some rain to Texas.  We have a 5 and 1/2 inch surplus and going to get an inch and more today!

BTW, in the movies we have seen in recent days, Win, Win which you should see, see and Jane Eyre which was very good as well.   Don't bother seeing Certified Copy.  It was a snoozer even with Juliette Binoche.  Well, I hear the rain on the kitchen vent.  Going to get on to inside work.  Talk to you later.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Now Is The Time to Clean Up The Herb Garden!

I think this is a photo of feverfew that have invaded the herb garden.  Oh, I planted it first and now they are silently taking over.  It is a double blooming form and I actually like the single flower much better.  This one is coming up through a lavender.  So out it will come and be transplanted to a more spacious location.  No., not the compost pile.  I promise. 
This rosemary santolina needed to be trimmed a little.  Can't believe this is a four year old plant!  I usually work just after it is through blooming to cut it back so it is ready for winter.  It has always worked very well.  It has yellow button type flowers that if you cut them early dry very well for arrangements.

It is ready for its closeup!  Well, it is a beautiful day out there and The Herbal Husband is upstairs taking a break.  So I think I will work on getting some more garlic chives out of my her garden.  Hope you are having a great day wherever you may be.  Talk to you later.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Herbal Tuna Salad with Avocado!

We just had lunch at Panera our favorite place.  So I feel like I won't get hungry again if I talk about this lunch that was a joint effort the other day.  We split a can of tunafish between us and add light mayo (my add), a hard boiled egg (our add), peas and carrots (his add) and then herbs (my adds), one tablespoon of chives and parsley and 1/2 tablespoon of salad burnet and oregano.  Quarter an avocado and give part to each person.  I get the lesser of that split.  A few olives of your choice.  Some lettuce and tomato.  It was very delish.  Off to see Jane Eyre at the movies.  Just the Herbal Husband was sorta bored! His words!  I loved it!  Beautiful day in the 'Burgh! Talk to you later.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Yippee Kind of Day! An Update to the Kitty and Squirrel Game!

Up and running again with the new computer!  It is going to be trial and a lot of errors until I get familiar with it!  No fighting any more to get time on the computer!  Yippee!  Really Kitty has grown on me even though I'm allergic to it.  It was playing with a squirrel the other day in the front garden.
Here a dog entered the picture and squirrel ducked under the fence line!  You had to be there!  I can't make this stuff up.  They did get bored in the end and no wildlife was hurt in the process.

Then the next day I was going out to the mailbox to get the mail and discovered this.  See these bushes on the left side of the photo.  They had a new edition.

It was like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.  There Kitty was sitting up in this bush!!!  I just can't make this up!  Missed blogging.  Now I have to catch you up on other items, but I have to figure out how to get photos from the computer upstairs to my laptop.  The nephew in Canada said he would help, but we are going out to dinner to celebrate our new Fios!  My computer is so much faster!  Yippee!  It has been raining a lot, almost an inch!  Hope you have had a great day wherever you may be.  Talk to you later.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Adventures of Kitty and. . .

Again you will just have to take my word for it, (archived photo of Kitty a/k/a Ginger Snap (I think))(Please correct me if I'm wrong.) GS was in the front garden yesterday taking a sunbath.  It spotted a young squirrel on the fence.  The squirrel didn't seem to be aware of GS.  GS had its eyes on the squirrel.  At times it was a game of GS, squirrel and dog in the street being walked.  Squirrel ducking down under the fence line.  We captured it in photos and I will share them later.  Somehow though GS and the squirrel lost interest in the game.  I'm happy to report both survived.  Rainy day here.  Hope you are having a great day wherever you may be.  Talk to you later.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Can I Blog Without Photos?

I guess there are lots of blogs that blog without photos.  I may have to be one of those until I get my new computer online!  I do have it out of the box and started to read the instructions.  I think I will have The Herbal Husband's nephew coach me from Vancouver.  He repairs computers and knows all the latest so I'm sure I will be up and running soon.  We get Fios next week.  'Til then I'll just type and will add photos later.

We were out today working in the herb garden.  I had some herbal casualties this year.  I think age and the intense cold weather and the length of our winter this year may be the culprits.  We started pruning out dead wood and it's looking good already.  You will just have to take my word for it at the moment.  Hope you had a great day wherever you may be.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Two Hours and Fifteen Minutes Later!

Our computer monitor is slowly failing and it's torture to see and pick photos on it!  Yikes, when it rains it pours.  I have a new laptop making its way from California!  Hurry, hurry!  Here are the first large daffodils before we had snow one night.  My talk went very well yesterday, but I talked for the whole two hours and fifteen minutes!  The poor audience didn't get a break.  I had too much to say about Herb Gardening 101!  Sometimes when I practice my talk too much then I speed through it!  Yesterday I had to speed through it to get done!  I think most people were pleased!  So I wanted to let you see my award from master gardening.  The photos are so dark I can't pick the best one at the moment.  You'll just have to wait a little longer.  Happy to be back blogging!  Talk to you later.