Saturday, July 30, 2011

Black Cohosh

What a fun treat to spot this huge expanse of Black Cohosh!  On the "at risk" list of the United Plant Savers, I was thrilled to see it thriving on the edge of a state park. Black Cohosh, Cimicifuga racemosa is a powerful nervine and muscle relaxant. It is the root that is used medicinally which is a large part of what has it so endangered. It is also one of the most useful uterine tonic herbs. It stimulates the estrogen cycle in women and is particularly helpful in menopause. Not water soluble, it is best extracted in an alcohol based tincture. Be sure to use cultivated supplies!
One summer day I cut these blossoms from my garden to use in the center of the dining room table,
The next time I entered the house I wondered what that smell was. I checked the garbage can, sniffed the drain in the sink, made sure the toilet was flushed..... As it turns out, it was the Black Cohosh. Considered a carrion flower, black cohosh emits a smell of rotting meat, to attract flies which are what pollinates it!
It is sometimes called "Fairy Candles in the Woods". Can't you see why! Surely this plant casts a magical glow on some fun mid-summer eve parties for the wee folk.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Brownies with Horseradish!? Say what?

Wasabi Cream Cheese Spread
At the recent Horseradish and Herb Festival held in Somerset, PA by Barb and Fred Will of Sugar Grove Herbs and Shoppe there was a cooking contest featuring horseradish. Wasabi is a cousin to horseradish that is grown only in Japan and was used in this tasty wasabi cream spread.

Another special horseradish treat featured these mini tomatoes stuffed with horseradish, herbs, and sour cream.

One of the contest winners was this delicious plated of horseradish brownies submitted by Kathy Randall of Windswept Meadow Farms. These brownies had dark chocolate chunk pieces, cherry halves and "enough horseradish to make your eyes water". And, the winner for the dips and spreads was our own Nancy Reppert's Jezebel Sauce. The recipe for that is featured on our Fri May 13, 2011 blog post.

Chestnut Tree

The American Chestnut Foundation is working hard to reestablish the Chestnut Tree (Castanea)in its original native area. Many of these majestic trees were lost to a fungus introduced to the US about 100 years ago. It is very difficult to identify the American Chestnut Trees from other varieties of chestnut, so we are not positive this is an American Chestnut. But it was just so majestic we couldn't resist snapping its photo. Considered a favorite nut for roasting and for turkey stuffing, it looks similar to and is often confused with the horse chestnut and buckeyes. However, it is a different nut distinguishable by a small point on the end.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

History of the Bee Skep

Egyptians were keeping bees as early as 4,000 years ago. Colonies of bees were floated up and down the Nile on barges. An integral part of British economy, the main product of British and Tudor apiarists was the wax, used to make candles. The name skep, introduced in the 16th century is generally regarded to have been derived from the Norse word skeppa meaning a container and measure for grain equal to half a bushel.

Keeping a skep of bees dry was an important part of bee keeping. A bee bole or three sided shelter is the best protection. In the 17th century, German immigrants that settled in America brought with them their bee skeps and knowledge of skep making. Rye straw was used as coiling material and hickory, ash and white oak splints were used to bind the straw together. Over the centuries the domed shape of the common bee skep has changed little. These bee skeps are no longer used for hiving today since you need to destroy the hive to get the honey. In 1871 Lorenzo Longstroth introduced the beehive that revolutionized bee keeping throughout the world: the wooden beehive with removable super. Although the modern beehive is the greatest blessing, it's the straw skep that continues to symbolize the world of bees.

Many many thanks to Lisa Head, an extraordinarily talented basket maker and bee skep maker. These photos are of her very tightly coiled bee skeps and she also shared the history of the bee skep. Please visit Lisa's website, here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tussie Mussies

At the recent Herb Society of America conference, Deb W. hired The Rosemary House to create her "Thank You" bouquets for her committee. This was both an honor and a challenge since we were preparing tussie mussies for other herbie folks. Fortunately, everyone was pleased with how they turned out.
Symbolic little posie pins were both a thank you and a keep sake to the committee.

Deb chose symbolic herbs and flowers for the bouquet including:

Lavender for acknowledgement, Rosemary and Pink Hydrangea for Remembrance, Parsley for many thanks, and Purple Leaf Sage for gratitude.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

History of the Tussie Mussie

A Tussie-mussie is a small nosegay or posey, usually carrying a special message in the laguage of flowers. Tussie is a medieval term for knot of flowers and mussie is derived from the moist moss used to keep the flowers fresh. These bouquets can be traced back a millenia or more as they were used to guard off foul odors from the people and the streets. In the 15th century a simple tussie mussie was quite commonplace. By the 18th century, it was all the rage to wear or carry fresh flowers as a fashion accessory.
The Victorians brought Tussie mussies to an art form and used them to convey messages through the language of flowers. Symbolic meanings were adapted from mythology, religious symbols, ancient lore and a bit of creativity. So much language developed that entire dictionaries were created to help a lady express herself through the flowers.

Even today a tussie-mussie is sometimes carried by a bride. A bouquet like this is a personal way to convey congratulations, sympathy, baby blessings, good wishes or to express thanks.

This fascinating history and display of floral dictionaries, reproduction and antique posie holders and books was at the Herb Society of America annual conference and presented by member Pat Beckman from Cincinnati.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Laurel Lodge, Harpers Ferry WV

This curious lodge was built as a family bungalow in 1913. It is filled with all sorts of interesting and unique touches.
From sayings stamped into the concrete to the beautiful view, it was a lovely place to stay.

The builder of the lodgetacked up many sayings in the screened in room. He also scrounged bottles, pot belly stoves, gears and other oddities which he used to make the house.

The bottles and other oddments are thought to be left overs from the huge encampment of Civil War soldiers (25,000 soldiers involved at Harpers Ferry!) Below are a large number of bullets which he used in various ways throughout the house. He also used bayonets as well. Many of the bayonets have been pried out of the cement over the years.

Breakfast included granola, vanilla yogurt and fresh cherries. The second course featured oatmeal pancakes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Harpers Ferry, WV

David and Susanna enjoyed a weekend visit to Harpers Ferry WV, famous for John Brown's attack on slavery as well as one of the first Railroads, plus the beginning of interchangeable manufacture at the National Armory, in addition to the largest surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War and one of the earliest integrated schools. This charming town offers a wealth of history.

The National Parks Service runs the historic district in Harpers Ferry. It is a reconstruction of a Civil war era town. Pictured here is the Sweet shop or bakery.
The general store offered all the usual supplies, dry goods, tools, notions, dishes and more.

The general store also offered a variety of spices including: Ground ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon and tea including: Hyson, gunpowder, and twankey (a Chinese green tea of inferior quality, exported since the 16th Century).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Garden Markers

Labeling your herb garden is so important. Not only does it help you remember what you have planted but it helps you to remember what was there last year! This year sister Marj, the artist held a make your own garden marker workshop. Participants were invited to create a variety of garden markers and learn different techniques to make those labels. Both the Chives labels were made using the rubber stamps shown below. Marj made rubber stamps using rubber letters and wine bottle corks. We found the capital letters worked the best.

The river rock label which says Sweet Basil was made using the outdoor "Sharpie marker". Marj encouraged everyone to use thick lines with the marker since Sharpies will fade over time. The Catnip label, which is crafted on a piece of thick slate was done using out door paint markers. All the labels were also sealed with a spray sealant to help them to last more than a season or two.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

SereniTea Wednesday

Wednesdays come and Wednesdays go... and we serve tea around here on most Wednesdays.

A recent menu selection for SereniTea Wednesday
Egg Salad Triangles on Whole Wheat
Cucumber Sandwiches
Cheddar Bacon & Pecan Rounds
Cheese Filled Puffs

Traditional English Cream Scones
Lemon Currant Scones
Mock Clotted Cream, Lemon Curd
Fresh Fruit

German Chocolate Cheesecake
Lemon Frosted Triangle
Strawberry Cream Puffs

Hope you enjoyed this virtual tea party!
Hope you can visit Sweet Remembrances soon!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More Garden Whimsy

The small herbal plate in the corner is a sample of Sharon Magee's herbal pottery. She presses fresh herbs from her garden into the pottery, fires it and then paints it. She is excellent at what she does.

Shown here is her unique indoor hat garden. Each hat symbolically represents a dear friend of 20 years of more.

Sharon even has a bubble machine in her garden for additional whimsyHere, Susanna and Sharon are counting bubbles, or perhaps, fairies?

Thanks for the tour Sharon! It was great fun!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tea Garden Whimsy

Greetings from Sharon's Garden!
Her Holly Tree Tea Room isalways open for a relaxing visit with friends or nature. Fresh Raspberry tea and muffins. Yummy!Remember her snowy tea room, we shared it last winter here. Look quickly, the fairies move fast in Sharon's garden.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sharon's Garden Magic

While the kids were at summer camp,David and I spent a weekend away. One of the places on our agenda was to visit artist Sharon Magee. Sharon is a very creative artist, herbal pottery is her specialty. She also has the most delightful sense of whimsy in the garden and an artist's eye for design. I am quite jealous of her large Rosemary plants that are surviving the winter outdoors. Friend Sharon will never lose her reading glasses!Around every corner and tucked in every nook was a fun treasure to discover.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Prickly Pear Cactus

Earlier this year while we were in Mexico we saw the pads of this cactus in the market place with all the prickly parts scraped off. The cactus is in bloom now in the garden. Originally, we had this plant located along our 18 inch raised beds but many people would unintentionally sit on it only to discover what they had done after the fact. Including a pre-school age friend who had to convince her parents that she had "prickers on her butt". The flowers turn into a large fruit that can be used to produce a lovely jelly.
Susan Wittig Albert (author of the China Bayles mystery series) shares more about this native plant on her 'About Thyme' website, here.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Thank you Kerry M.! You were a great help this spring with our many herb garden chores. Kerry came to The Rosemary House as a "WWOOFer". A willing worker on organic farms, this program connects workers and hosts. We host for a short time 4-10 days and the worker helps in the garden in exchange for room and board. Many college students come during a college break or as a way to travel around the country. We certainly appreciate the help they offer during the time they are here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Garden Haiku

A traditional Haiku has 17 syllables, 5 in the first sentence, 7 in the next and 5 in the third. At our recent Garden/Nature Journaling class instructor Patti V. invited the students do a variety of journaling exercises including one to write a Haiku.
Here are some results:
Hot Muggy Evening
Breath taking lack of cool air
Refreshing cold beverage
by R.K.

Green Strands braided Fast
Butter and sour cream yet to buy
Forgot they're turnips
by Maryann

Mosquitoes bite me
I really need to shower
I love that ice tea
by K.M.

But 8 year old Cedar stole the show by reciting a Haiku he learned in his Second Grade poetry studies. Rain by Matt Grand
Rain lightly falls down
covers the ground with raindrops
Now flowers will grow!