Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!


When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam,

May luck be yours on Halloween.

~Author Unknown

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Army Survival Garden

The other Sunday, our family outing featured a visit to the United States Army Heritage and Education Center, located just down the road in Carlisle, PA.  This cool place has a mile long army heritage trail which features exhibits from every era.   Think trenches, forts, tanks, helicopters, barracks and more tracing through the history of the US Army.  

Wondering through the trail, we came across a small Army Survival Garden,  winding down its growing season as we approach late fall, there were raspberry bushes,  nettles, grasses (for seed), plantain, asparagus and other wild edibles contained within a small makeshift fenced area.  As I was looking at it and reading the placard,  Angelica pointed out that I "can find a garden to look at anywhere we go."

The sign states:  From the very beginning the United States Army has taught Survival
skills and techniques. A major part of that training has always been
the identification of eatable plants to subsidize the diet until rescue
or return to civilization occurred.

Having survival skills is important; having the will to survive is
essential. Without a desire to survive, acquired skills serve little
purpose and invaluable knowledge goes to waste.

Survival covers a wide range of subjects including the psychology of
survival, unique and fascinating ways of obtaining food and water,
shelter-building, fire-building, and navigation.

This exhibit demonstrates a few of the native eatable plants from FM
3-05.70, how to identify them and where to find them.


S-- Size Up The Situation
(Surroundings, Physical Condition, Equipment)

U-- Use All Your Senses
Undue Haste Makes Waste

R-- Remember Where You Are

V-- Vanquish Fear and Panic

I-- Improvise

V-- Value Living

A-- Act Like the Natives

L-- Live By Your Wits, But For Now,
Learn Basic Skills

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Kitchen Wreath Workshop

Talented Linda Fortney taught our fresh herb Kitchen Wreath Workshop the other day. 

Begin by gathering all sorts of fresh herbs such as basil, mint, thyme, sage, rosemary, chives and garlic chives, parsley, bay, lemon verbena, scented geraniums, pineapple sage and any other culinary herb you are able to harvest from your garden. Linda also brought some dried lavender, harvested from early summer.
 You will also need clippers, a coated wire, a wire box wreath form which we cover with ribbon to give your wreath a more finished look and to protect your wall once it is hanging.
 Other optional pieces include garlic bulbs and chili peppers.  More detailed instructions can be found in Bertha Reppert's comprehensive booklet Wreaths... of all sorts

Simply make full bunches of the herbs and wire them onto the wreath always going in the same direction.    When you are making a fresh herb wreath it is important to make the wreath very full because as it dries out the plant material will shrink.  If you make the wreath very full, it will still be full once it dries. 
Small pieces of your kitchen wreath can be snipped from time to time to use in the soup pot as needed. 
All of the wreaths were really so beautiful.  Thanks Linda, for teaching a great class!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quit Buggin' Me

We rarely have an insect problem at The Rosemary House. The herbs are their own defense, protecting each other from predators quietly and efficiently.  When we decided to tanbark mulch the floor of our high rise low maintenance garden, we had an army of earwigs climbing the 18inch raised beds and decimating everything they found edible.  Suddenly! Our pretty new gardens were chewed and ratty looking.  The thick bed of tanbark was their haven – we did this to ourselves.  What to do?   Our problem was quickly and easily solved with cayenne pepper liberally applied.  Just as suddenly all the earwigs marched elsewhere.  I guess the hot pepper burned their little feet! 

There have been a few other times I have turned to herbs and natural home remedies to aide with garden pests.   One old timer in my garden club swears by Epsom salts as a spray for everything, especially her roses.  It is not only a bug killer, it feeds the plant with an essential element – Magnesium.  Use 1 t per quart or 1 T per gallon of water to foliar feed (a technique of feeding plants by applying liquid fertilizer directly to their leaves) your plants.  It is her “secret” ingredient to many prize winning roses.  Bear in mind that healthy plants have a stronger system to naturally repel attacks of insects or diseases.  In addition Epsom salts is known to produce sturdier stems and stronger fragrance in roses.

Our favorite spray is easy to make: simply steep 1 T each dried tansy, rue (above right), wormwood (above left), 1 garlic clove and 1 dried chili pepper in 1 pint of water.  Strain and add that to a 2 gallon watering can and apply to everything outdoors.  If you plan to use it indoors or in the greenhouse omit the garlic.  This will fight red spider, white fly and aphids of all colors. 

Soap is another big help in discouraging plant pests.  My mother always used fels naptha soap which is still available on grocery store shelves in the laundry soap area.  I use the shavings from our homemade soap.    Soak ¼ C soap shavings in 1 quart of water.  Mix thoroughly and store in a lidded jar or in a spray bottle.  Shake before use.  It is easy and effective especially for white fly and scale.  Another old timer who tipped me off to using this soap spray for white fly said in his deep PA Dutch accent “It gums their wings together now– no fly, they die”.  We have the largest citrus grove in Mechanicsburg, PA and occasionally have to have a mid winter battle with scale.  This soap spray with 3 T of cayenne pepper added is our top gun of natural weapons in a fight with scale.  The trick is to spray the scale twice. Spray once to soften the shell and then 24 hours later spray again to kill the critter inside the shell.   
The highly aromatic leaves, stems and flowers of Nasturtiums (pictured above) and add an equal amount  of boiling water (to cover) and infuse over night.  Strain, pour into a sprinkling can, fill with water and use on infected plants.  This is especially good against white flies, woolly aphids, squash bugs, potato bugs and beetles on radishes. 

The effects of marigolds (Tagetes spp., not Calendula) upon nematodes a destructive invisible soil organism that causes great losses, was observed in the great bulb fields of Holland where, after one year of growing the spicy marigold (Tagetes erecta) the fields were found free of this dreadful pest for seven years.  We rotate plantings of this colorful plant in different sections of the garden as a cheery preventative measure against nematodes.

Thinking back to my childhood, I remember that after a rainfall the sidewalks would be covered with earthworms.    When we ate our family dinner we would sit near a sliding glass door with a beautiful view of the bird feeders.  We had so many kinds of birds we kept the binoculars and bird identification book handy for quick reference.  As a child I frequently saw find other predator bugs; lady bugs, praying mantis, spiders, bees of all kinds, all good bugs who benefit the organic gardener.  Noticing that the bugs, birds and worms that were so prevalent in my youth have gone missing, I have worked diligently to invite all these lovely bugs and their winged counterparts who delight us at the feeder, in the birdbath and with their singing while we work.  One day, one of my then eight year old daughters pretty little friends  came in and said “You have so many bugs in your yard.”  “I know” says I “isn’t it great!”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Friends in the Garden

While preparing the garden for winter we spotted this Praying Mantis.  Camouflaged well in the plants, it will devour any insect that comes near.  Named "praying" mantis because of the way the front legs are folded as if in prayer, it should be named "preying" mantis since is preys on any insect and even small frogs.   A praying mantis eats any insect and doesn't differentiate between beneficial and harmful insects.   It is still welcome in our garden.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What is it?

A peanut butter cookie?   Definitely a Hershey Kiss on something, right?   Spotted in the path one summer afternoon, it looked like a misplaced treat from the tea room, but it's not.  Upon further inspection, we discovered it is a mushroom of some type! Were you fooled?  Have you ever seen one of these before?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Blooming in the Garden ~ Pineapple Sage

Around here the Pineapple Sage plant is in full bloom in late fall.  Not only does this plant have a fabulous pineapple fragrance but it has these stunning red blossoms that  attract nectar loving birds.   It is glorious as it delicately flows in the breeze.  It is considered a tender perennial here in the North, since it won't survive our winter.  We have planted it in the ground and probably won't dig it up to bring indoors for the winter since it is close to 4 feet tall.  We treat it more as an annual and will simple plant another next spring.   We use the pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) as an edible flower and particularly enjoy its flavor in sorbets.   The red tubular flowers are pretty and tasty sprinkled on salads as well.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


The nasturtiums are enjoying the cooler fall weather and rewarding us with a sea of color. These peppery tasting flowers are fun to use in tea sandwiches, butters, tea sandwiches, to make flavored vinegar, or a peppery egg salad. Both the blossoms and the leaves are edible. Nasturtiums enjoy sun and heat and come in many colors, reds, yellows, peaches and in either compact or trailing varieties. Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) are a gardeners dream plant in that they bloom a lot, cover a nice area densely, generally aren't bothered by insects or slugs and are useful to use.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Miniature Tea Set

This pretty-in-pink miniature tea set is a Disney Princess design.
It is a mini tea party for two including a tea pot with removable lid, two tea cups, saucers, and the tiniest spoons ever, plus a sugar and creamer!

After the tea party, all the teeny tiny pieces conveniently fit into the larger tea pot, and that can be snapped onto a backpack or belt loop to magically transport your tea party to a new location.

With such tiny pieces, it is obviously not recommended for children under three. But I'm having fun with it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Winnie-the-Pooh's Teatime Cookbook

This sweet little book was a last minute discovery while passing time in the Heathrow Airport in London.  It is a delightful cookbook (published in Great Britain in1996) that includes recipes for sandwiches, scones, muffins, and crumpets, cookies and biscuits, and cakes and pastries.  Perfect for a Proper Tea!
Delightful illustrations appear on every page and quotes from the works of A.A.Milne are found at the beginning of each chapter.

There is a brief history of tea and also instructions on how to prepare a proper pot of tea.  Young tea drinkers are advised to enjoy tea weakened with extra milk or simply try cocoa, cider or warm milk with honey as an alternative to tea.  Banana milk shakes are suggested for a cooler beverage option. Whatever you prefer, a Proper Tea in mid afternoon with some of Pooh's favorite sandwiches, scones, and cookies will make for an enjoyable treat!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Winnie-the-Pooh Tea Set

This petite child's tea set features Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet and Tigger.  Not practical for tea time use, but certainly fun for play.  In addition to honey, Winnie-the-Pooh and gang enjoyed teatime!  The following excerpt from The House at Pooh Corner, by A.A.Milne mentions a Very Nearly tea and also a Proper Tea.
By-and-by Pooh and Piglet went on again.  Christopher Robin was at home by this time, because it was the afternoon, and he was so glad to see them that they stayed there until very nearly teatime, and then they had a Very Nearly tea, which is one you forget about afterwards, and hurried on to Pooh Corner, so as to see Eeyore before it was too late to have a Proper Tea with Owl. 

Which do you prefer?  Very Nearly tea or a Proper Tea? 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Happy Birthday!

The waterfalls and wild horses of Waipio Valley on the Big Island of  Hawaii inspired the design for Angelica's twelfth birthday cake.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Haunted Gardens

Once again the herb gardens have been haunted for the Halloween season. It may seem early, but with our local Halloween parade already over, and Streets of Treats to be held this Saturday, it's just in time for the local festivities.  Area businesses offer treats to the kids and promotions to the parents with other activities throughout town. We encourage the families to stroll the gardens.Not too creepy during the day light hours, it's during the moon light that things begin to move about.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Are you CrafTea?

If yes, this might be something fun to replicate.  After a search of the web, I was unable to find a pattern for this clever way to disguise a box of tissue.... but, with a few measurements,  a free afternoon, some pretty material,  and a box of tissues as your guide, you could have a go of it!

The tissue box is covered entirely with the double sided material, shown here with a pretty tea cup pattern on the outside and a plain white material as the lining.  The bottom is open so the box will slide right into the covering.  There are five petals that circle the top of the box.

There is an additional ring of five elasticized petals that fits over the petals in the outer covering forming a blossom on the top of the box where the tissue peeks out.The end result is a cleverly concealed box of tissues, perfect for the ladies room in the tea room.  If you aren't crafty, or are short on time, perhaps you might find something like this at the upcoming holiday bazaars that will soon be occurring.  Either way, good luck!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Taking a Peek...

The Stone Mansion, Baltimore, MD
Feathernesters Tea Room VA

into decor found in a variety of ladies rooms in tea rooms!
Pink Bicycle Tea Room, VA

Sweet Simplici-tea, MD

De'Tours in Elizabeth City, NC

Sweet SimpliciTea, MD

The Enchanted Teapot, CT

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tea Around the World - Japan

My penpal always sends me a nice assortment of teas from Japan, mostly green, sometimes Matcha-latte, occasionally a black tea, or as she refers to it "English tea". They are always packaged in beautiful paper bags complete with preparation instructions on the reverse side. I love the accompanying photos with the instructions.  Even though I probably don't I follow all the steps precisely, I do end up with a delicious brew.