Thursday, April 16, 2015

Happy Herbalist Day!

As I shared earlier this week, April 17th is Thank an Herbalist Day, sponsored by the Herbal Academy of New England.  They have some lovely printable cards and several ideas for herbal gifts to share with a friend or mentor as a way to say Thank You for sharing the fascinating world of herbs with others.  Simply click on the graphic above to go to the page where these are found.

My own venture into a love of all things herbal began with a few tiny potted herbs found at the grocery store.  You can read more about that on the page titled Meet Catherine, the Herb Lover in the tabs at the top of the page.  Once I fell in love with herbs and began seeking information (a long time ago before the ease of Google searches) I searched out every herb shop and magazine I could locate within a day's drive.  My first mentors were found in books as I did not find any herbal mentors close by.   Rosemary Gladstar, Phyllis Shaudys and Bertha Reppert were the authors of the first herb books I purchased.  I still pull those volumes off the shelf frequently to find a recipe or seek out a remedy, and sometimes just to find inspiration for a gift idea or herbal craft.

As I began to desire to plant herb gardens, I discovered my favorites among this genre- Southern Herb Growing and Lasagna Gardening with Herbs are the two I turn to most often.  Herb gardening in Texas is not for the faint of heart!

Fast forward several years-  I am blessed to write often for The Essential Herbal MagazineI find the variety of articles and authors in it and the conversations in the corresponding Yahoo Group a great source of encouragement and information on a wide variety of herbal topics. The editor, Tina Sams, has just published a book called Healing Herbs which I am certain will also become a favorite of mine.  I love the conversational style of Tina's writing and the recipes in the book make me want to get busy creating some new herbal craft.

If you are interested in learning more about herbs, don't miss the 15% off sale at HANE

Since this is a topic I could go on and on about, I'd best stop here; but I would love to hear about your mentors on your own journey with herbs.  

Happy Herbalist Day!


Catherine Ann  

* affiliate links in post

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Thank an Herbalist Sale

Friday, April 17th is Thank an Herbalist Day.  I'll be back to share about the herbalists who helped me find my way into the herbal way of life on Friday, but I wanted to share this great sale with you today.  If you are interested in learning about herbs, the Herbal Academy of New England has 2 programs of study and an option to learn as you go in the Herbarium (which I am a member of and find delightful) all of these are discounted 15% until April 19th.  So, if you've been considering a course in herbalism or want a place to go to find herbal information, I encourage you to visit HANE today and see their offerings.   Just click the graphic above to go to the site.  

I hope some of you will join in the fun on Friday and write about the herbalists who have impacted your life and work with herbs.  

Herbal Blessings,

Catherine Ann

*affiliate links in post

Saturday, April 11, 2015

5 Simple Uses for Yarrow

Yarrow is blooming in the herb garden these days.
One of the wild herbs, yarrow sows itself where it will, and because I find it both beautiful and useful, I am always glad when it plants itself nearby.

Yarrow has much lore associated with it, and if that interests you, and this article have some very interesting notes on this herb.

Around here yarrow is used for more simple things-
  • It is the best styptic I've found.  A crushed yarrow leaf will stop a nosebleed or a bleeding cut in short order.  
  • Yarrow is used for healing wounds and can be made into a poultice or salve for treating cuts and scrapes. 
  • Yarrow is suggested for treating colds and flu.  I add it to cold remedy brews along with peppermint, ginger, and elderberry honey.  
  • Yarrow is also said to relieve the pain of a toothache, and I have on occasion stuck a yarrow leaf on the tooth/gum that is causing me issue.
  • The flowers and ferny foliage make lovely additions to floral arrangements.

Does yarrow grow in your herb garden or lawn?
What is your favorite way to use yarrow? 

Joining my farmgirl sisters in this week's Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop!

Herbal Blessings,

Catherine Ann

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Happy Spring Happenings ...


 Borage and Dill


Spring has sprung! The herbs are putting on new growth and the early bloomers are doing just that.  I snapped a few photos yesterday of the above plants, and along with these the citrus trees have tiny buds, the iris are blooming, and wildflowers are blooming in the field across the road.  
Unfortunately for the allergy prone- the oak trees are also in bloom and showering yellow pollen on every surface.  Time to brew lots of nettle tea sweetened with local honey.  

What signs of spring are you seeing these days?

Happy Easter!

Catherine Ann

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring is in the Air

So glad spring is here- geese are heading North, dandelions are blossoming in the yard, and other wild herbs are beginning to green up- plantain, chickweed, and cleavers are just waiting for me to pick them.  And if I get an early start before the mower gets to them in the morning, I will harvest some of these for either blending into a green smoothie, adding to the salad bowl, or drying for later use. 
Honestly, with chickweed and dandelion, I often just pick a few leaves and have an herbal snack while I'm wandering about the yard checking for what new things are springing up!

What signs of spring are you seeing around you?


Catherine Ann

Thursday, March 5, 2015

6 Herbs that are Simple to Grow from Seed

Starting from Seed

seed starting
It's that time of year, just before spring when the gardening bug bites worst.  Too cold most days to go out and do any real gardening, but warm enough on other days to make me want to grow something. 
Planting a few herb seeds is a perfect way to feed the need to garden when weather doesn't cooperate. 

The following 6 herbs are simple to grow from seed.  And with the exception of calendula and chives, the rest will quite possibly take it upon themselves to reseed all over your garden and you may never need to replant them again!

chive blossom
Herbs to start indoors in pots:
  • Basil- perhaps the easiest of all herbs to grow.  This warm weather annual can be started indoors in pots, or seeded directly in the garden once the threat of cold weather is gone.  Varieties abound, and my current favorites are: Genovese basil, Lemon Basil, and Tulsi or Holy Basil.
  • Calendula- Otherwise known as Pot Marigold.  This easy to grow herb is grown for its leaves as a spring tonic or 'pot herb', and its sunny yellow or orange flowers for use in skin care.  The dried  petals are also sometimes used as a substitute for the expensive herb, saffron.  They don't give the same flavor, but do give rice a pretty yellow hue.
  • Chives- Grown for their mild onion flavor as well as pretty purple flowers, chives are an herb garden essential.  Chives are great snipped into soups or baked potato, and the edible flower florets are beautiful and tasty scattered over a salad.  The flowers are also often used to flavor vinegar, giving it a mild flavor and a delicate lavender hue.  Seed should be sown indoors 6 weeks before your last frost date.  Once you have established plants, those can be divided every 2 to 3 years rather than sowing seed. 

Herbs to sow in the garden:

  • Borage- With its beautiful, sky blue flowers, Borage is a garden favorite.  The flowers make pretty garnishes to spring dishes or desserts.  They can be candied by brushing them with egg white (use dried meringue powder if you aren't sure about raw egg whites), thensprinkling them with sugar and allowing to dry.  These make lovely decorations for cakes and cupcakes. 
  • Cilantro- An herb that is usually either loved or hated, the strong flavor of cilantro is used for salsas and Mexican style soups at our house.  A cool weather herb, cilantro will quickly go to seed once hot weather comes along, and will likely reseed so that you have a fresh supply of cilantro in the fall or next spring.
  • Dill- Another abundant re-seeder, dill is finicky about being transplanted due to its long taproot, so scatter seed where you want it to grow.  Dill will probably plant itself all over the garden once it goes to seed, and you will have plenty of dill for pickles, potato salad, vinegars, and enough to share with the caterpillars of the  Black Swallowtail butterfly in coming years.

These six herbs are easy to grow and can be used in so many different ways, you can have a nice herb garden starting with just a half dozen seed packets.

Are you dealing with Spring Fever, too?

Which herbs do you start from seed?


Catherine Ann

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

6 Tasty Brews for Wintry Weather

It is COLD outside!  Icicles hang from the eaves, the dog demands to nap indoors, the daffodils are covered in an icy coat, and I do my best to stay indoors where it is warm.  The only creatures that don't seem to mind the cold are the birds.  They flit from feeder to ground to tree branch without seeming to notice the frozen world around them.  I watch them from the window with a steaming cup of tea.

There are lots of great warming herbs and tea blends for winter weather.  Below are 6 of my favorites in no particular order:

1.  Lemon/Ginger/Honey- slice fresh lemons and ginger into a cup, add a teaspoon of honey, fill cup with boiling water and steep for 5-10 minutes.  Great for when you sense a cold coming on, or just feel a bit icky.

2.  Cardamom Tea- My friends from Sri Lanka taught me this one.  Simply add a cardamom pod or a bit of cardamom powder to your cup when brewing black tea.  Sri Lankans almost always serve tea with milk and sugar, though I use soy milk and honey in mine.  Slightly spicy and delicious.

3.  Peppermint tea- simple as placing a spoonful of dried peppermint in your infuser.  I add honey to mine.  I also like a mix of peppermint and spearmint.

4.  Chai- recipes abound, but I love the Yogi Chai Black tea bags .

5.  Peace Tea- A Mountain Rose Herbs blend that I enjoy greatly, especially when we are all cooped up indoors together and peace is in short supply.  Soothes my frazzled mama nerves!

6.  Lemon Verbena- Summer in a teacup!  If you've read my blog for any length of time you know I love anything lemon.   Lemon Verbena is the best of the best of lemony herbs.  If you don't have a plant overwintering on the windowsill (which I highly recommend); then purchase dried lemon verbena from Mountain Rose Herbs.  Delicious on its own or blended with other lemony herbs.  My year round go to tea for when I need a boost. 

What is your favorite winter tea?


Catherine Ann

Friday, February 20, 2015

Wishing on a Winter's Day

It's windy and wild outside today, and I am indoors wishing spring would come quickly.
Dandelion and chickweed are appearing in the yard, dill is growing with abandon, a fruit tree down the road is blossoming pink, and I saw the first daffodil blooming in the church garden yesterday; signs of spring abound.  Yet, I know winter is not quite finished with us here.  Cold weather is forecast for the weekend, and the last frost date won't arrive until the end of March, but one can wish for the all too brief warm days of spring when herbs and flowers and the spring vegetable garden are all vying for time and attention.

I think it is time for me to pull out the seed boxes and start a few pots of savory, chives, and nasturtiums on the windowsill.  Late winter is always a tough season here.  We have warm days and then a freeze, then a string of warm days followed by another cold snap.  I get weary of dragging pots in and out the back door, and start dreaming of a greenhouse to overwinter the citrus, bay, geraniums, and other tender herbs in.

Starting a few seeds is a nice diversion, as is sorting through the seed boxes and making a wish list of new things to try this year.  I am planning to grow savory for the first time.  I purchased seed for both summer and winter savory, after learning savory is the 2015 Herb of the Year. I will also be drawing out a new garden design as we are moving the garden from the front yard to the back and building raised beds.  I'm also thinking about an herb spiral or some sort of permaculture garden for herbs, maybe a keyhole garden. 

How are your herb gardens designed?  Do you have a formal herb garden, informal cottage garden, container garden, raised beds, or a mixture of some type? 
What projects or other things are you doing while you are waiting for spring?
What new to you herb are you going to grow this year?
What are you wishing for these days?



Thursday, January 8, 2015

Simmering in the Still Room

a reminder of warmer days 

Oh my, it is cold outside!  Anytime it gets below 20 degrees in my part of the world it is frigid!
As of yet, no ice or sleet, no snow, just cold, bitter wind.  And truly, if we must endure this cold, some snow would at least be a diversion.  I'm planning one last trip to the store before the real cold and rain arrive, and then I'll be settling in for a few days.  I've forewarned the family- get what you need today, because the rest of the weekend we'll be HOME.  My only planned outing is on Sunday for church, and that only requires a quick dash across the lawn!

During my self-prescribed hibernation I plan to keep a pot of warming winter soup or stew simmering on the stove. A flavorful vegetarian bean and barley chili is ready for reheating today at lunch, and I have lentil curry, potato and kale soup, and my daughter's favorite Veggie Cheese soup all in mind for the weekend.  I probably won't make them all, but those are definite possibilities for the menu.  If you need inspiration for the soup pot, Gooseberry Patch has a great link up going now- What's Simmering on Your Stove.

And with soup, we want bread (though I am trying to reduce my consumption of gluten).  Muffins are quick and easy and can be flavored in countless ways- sweet or savory depending on what you are serving them with; and herbs liven up a plain muffin making it something deliciously different.  With the chili mentioned above I would serve a cornbread muffin with cheese and green chilies (or jalapenos for the heat lovers).  Potato  and kale soup is also nice paired with a cornbread muffin or a garlic cheese muffin, and the Veggie Cheese soup is delicious with either of these or my favorite, a wheat  flour muffin dressed up with dill, parsley, and chives. Curry wants naan, which I just may learn to make this weekend.

 And of course there will be endless cups of warm things to drink.  My new favorite herb tea is Tulsi (Holy Basil), though I will surely brew pots of warming chai, spicy hot chocolate made with soy milk, and an evening blend of chamomile, lavender, and lemon balm.

Ok, that's it for me today.  Your turn.
What are you cooking or brewing these days?
What are your favorite cold weather recipes?

Warm Winter Wishes,


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Planning a New Year in the Still Room

On this cold, wintry, last day of 2014, I am ready to sit by the fire with a steaming mug of Tulsi tea and dream up some plans for 2015.  

2014 has been an off year for both the garden and the Still Room.  Other more urgent matters pulled me away from home and my much loved herbs far too often.  Not so next year.  One of my goals for 2015 is to focus on the things I love and feel called to do in this life, and herbs play a huge part in who I am and what I do.  So I will be intentional about scheduling time for gardening and creating in the Still Room when I chart my course for this next year.  

The vegetable and herb garden has been allowed to return to its former weedy lawn state.  But there are plans in the making for new raised beds and a greenhouse come spring! 
The herbs growing in beds along the back of the house are flourishing, both the rosemary and mugwort seem to be trying to take over their world, so we shall see what happens with those.  

I have seeds for the 2015 Herb of the Year (more about that soon!) and will be experimenting with growing this herb for the first time.  I also have a giveaway related to the Herb of the Year in the works for January, so stay tuned for that. 

What herbal projects are you planning or dreaming about for 2015?

More soon on my Still Room plans and projects  for 2015.  

Until then, I pray you have a Happy Herbal New Year!




Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Blessings

We're baking Christmas cookies and filling bags with sweet treats for friends and loved ones today.

I pray your Christmas is filled with Hope, Peace, Love, & Joy.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Christmas Blessings,


Monday, December 22, 2014

Simple Gifts from the Still Room


Dream pillows are simple gifts I make for Christmas gifting.  I use Dream Herbs  Pillow Mix from Mountain Rose Herbs but you could easily mix up your own blend using your favorite relaxing herbs such as lavender, rose petals, hops, chamomile, mugwort, and a few drops of rose or lavender essential oil.
I tuck the dream herbs mix into drawstring muslin bags or sew up simple pillow shapes that can be slipped into a pillowcase.     
Add a tag wishing your loved one Sweet Dreams and you have a simple gift that will be a sweet reminder of you each time they put their head on the pillow.

Herb infused oils also make excellent gifts.  Sweet Almond or Olive oil infused with calendula, lavender, or other herbs of your choice can be placed in decorative bottles and given as body/massage oils.   A few drops of a coordinating essential oil will give you a sweet smelling perfume oil to share.

Bath salts can be as simple to mix up as adding essential oils to sea salt, though you can get creative and mix in other ingredients like epsom salts, baking soda, even a small amount of liquid soap to make foaming bath salts.  Peppermint oil makes a nice Christmas scent, or how about frankincense and myrrh, or my personal favorite lavender and rose geranium?   Put the salts in a pretty container, label, and add a pretty shell or vintage spoon to scoop out the salts and you have a great gift for someone special. 

These 3 simple herbal gifts can be customized with different herbs and essential oils to please most anyone on your gift-giving list. 

And don't forget herb plants or seeds for the herb lover on your list.  These are almost always at the top of my own wish list!

What is your favorite simple herbal gift to give or receive?

Wishing you a peaceful holiday season,

Catherine Ann
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