Ideas to Make Herb Garden Markers

Ideas to Make Herb Garden Markers

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

I love herbs and I love making things, especially simple craft projects with immediate gratification. Combining them in the garden makes me happy.

This year, I’m overwhelmed by garden marker ideas. So many choices that I may choose different styles for pots and gardens.

I thought, for this post, I’d let pictures tell the story. Each craft is fairly self-explanatory and different approaches will appeal to different gardeners or different locations.

Corks star twice, first on skewers with names written in permanent marker. And, perhaps more decoratively, on fork tines with my best printing in black ink.

20170511_191210Silverware makes a second appearance with names stamped on flattened spoons. This is perhaps the most time consuming of my efforts. My dad flattened the cutlery in his workshop and I bought the stamping supplies at Joann stores. I’ve also seen them on Amazon.com.

Speaking of spoons, last year I painted wooden spoons and printed names on them. Bright red added a festive touch to our patch of kitchen herbs and peppers.

 

Craft - Spoon markers (14)

20170515_180816And, finally, it felt a bit like cheating, but I stalked the “dollar spot” at Target and found a variety of different options. These chalkboard stakes were among them.


Show us your favorite garden markers – handmade or purchased.

Packaging Herbal Tea: Presentation Matters

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America 
 20161028_145833
When I dried this year’s mint and lemon herbs for handcrafted herbal tea, I considered how to package and store my blend. I know tea should be kept in a non-plastic, airtight container. And, that the container should be stored in a dark, cool, dry place free from strong odors.  So, I eliminated the possibility of paper bags or cardboard boxes.
I also know that presentation is important in generating an emotional response.  And, as these teas would be gifts, I wanted something warm and homey.
20161028_145718Canning jars were a no brainer; they’re nearly a culinary hug. What started as a container for grandma’s homemade strawberry-rhubarb jelly or grandpa’s apple pie moonshine, has become repurposed for wildflowers at a country wedding, water at a BBQ restaurant or candles along a garden path. Mason jars are ubiquitous symbols of connection.
I will use 4- and 8-ounce jars to package herbal teas for gifting.
My creative skills don’t stop there. I’ll need lids and labels. Traditional two-part, metal
canning lids don’t work in this situation. That’s why I was happy to find Timber Tops Bamboo Storage Lids from Masontops. They’re reusable, leak-proof and made from fast-growing, highly renewable bamboo. Better yet, they add flair.
20161031_122519
The next item in my supply box is twine. I’ve found it in natural, black, blue and pink at the dollar section in Target stores as well as other craft suppliers and online. Check out your local hardware store or amazon.com if you can’t find it easily.
Finally, I need labels to identify the tea blend and year it was grown. Again, over the past months I’ve found a variety of tags in the Target dollar section… wood, burlap, and metal. These can also be found at craft and office stores. Even the canning jar company Ball sells wood hanging tags.
My favorite tags, which go well with the stylish bamboo look, have blackboard paint. I print information on them with a white chalk marker and hang them around the neck of the jar.  Viola, class in glass.

Readers receive 10% off at the Masontops store until December 15, 2016. Use the code HERBSOCIETY10.
Keep a Garden Journal

Keep a Garden Journal

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

20160427_190502This year I’ll keep an herb garden journal.  During May, I expect to put a lot of energy into my personal diary of garden activity and results.  As summer progresses I expect to slow garden journal 2down.


My journal will be creative and whimsical, as well as a truly strategic tool to improve my future gardens. I’ve kept records, but this year I will be more comprehensive and organized.  
I looked at journals on Amazon.com and in Barnes and Noble. Then, viola! I spent $3 at a garage sale for a three-ring binder covered in handmade paper and dried flowers.  I prefer a three-ring binder because I can add, remove, shuffle pages.

Next step? The journal interior.

An internet search turned up downloadable journals as well as software options.  I prefer to keep records while sitting on the porch. So, I built my journal with different pages from 20160427_095704different sites.

2016 Garden Journal, from ARBICO Organics

Frugal Living Garden Journal

Each page I chose to use, I printed on heavy card stock from an office supply store. I put these pages in plastic sleeves. Three-hole punches are another option. I find plastic sleeves superior when filing drawings, seed packets a
nd other scrapbook items.

 Potential pages for any Garden Journal include

  • Goals, for each plot
  • Drawings, for each plot
  • Shopping list
  • To-do list
  • Weekly
  • Seeds pockets
  • Seed planting notes
  • Transplant pockets – for soil picks
  • Transplant notes, source of plants
  • Soil analysis
  • Fertilizer application date and type
  • Weather of note
  • Weekly reflections
  • Monthly notes

garden journal 1As needed, I will add idea pages torn from books and magazines. And, pictures as my garden plots progress through the weeks. These will be important to cheer me in the winter and, like my weekly reflections, help me plan for 2017 and beyond.


How do you keep garden records? How do you journal?

 

Violets Infuse Vodka for a Delightful Cocktail

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

20160328_173928While we waited to see Book of Mormon at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, we settled onto bar stools at Bin 216. I ordered the Aviation Cocktail- a mixture of gin, crème de violette, luxardo and lemon — because I’d never heard of the violette liqueur and I love new culinary experiences.

The drink settled into the back of my mind until the book Eat Your Roses reminded me that the violets were edible.

And, I’m compelled to make everything I can from scratch. At least once. Consider, in my 20s I thought about raising chickens so I could control the quality of my chicken stock, but I couldn’t decide what would come first – the chicken or the egg.

Laugh if you must, but the thought crossed my mind.

So, why not make crème de violette?

Problem was my obsession started in February, after a foraging trip through the mountains surrounding Asheville, N.C. Unable to find fresh violets in late winter, I bought the purple liqueur. For the budget-conscious, it comes in a classy package and, again, costs less than buying your own packaging and making it.

But that wasn’t the point. I grew up in a family where from-scratch food was de rigueur. Store-bought bread? Verboten.

20160326_155718So, when on Easter 2016, I found violets growing in my boyfriend’s yard, it was time. When you eat (and drink) with the seasons you act before the window closes. I was on a mission.

It didn’t take long to realize accumulating enough of these little fairy blossoms was going to be onerous. So, I made like Tom Sawyer and turned it into a game with my boyfriend’s grandchildren. With the help of four girls we lightly filled half of a quart mason jar.

The glass jar was a delightful way to collect because we were ch20160326_155708armed by the way the sun illuminated the delicate petals through the glass and the perfume was a promise of things to come.

I was almost reluctant to cover the vibrant violets with vodka. For a few seconds at least. Glug, glug, glug and the violets were giving up their soul to the spirit.

20160329_181527_001After marinating (macerating?) overnight the purple leached into the tasteless liquor. And, the flavor went with it, creating an almost berry-like balm. I knew because I’d sample every few hours. I call that quality control.

By day three, when the flowers were nearly colorless I strained the fledgling liqueur into another mason jar spilling precious drops onto the counter. I refrained from licking the liquid straight from the granite. It wasn’t five o’clock somewhere. Yet.

The sketchy instructions I’d found on the internet claimed their infusion was a light lilac. Mine was, but it oxidized to a light gold after a few days.  How could I improve the coloring? The purist in me resisted food coloring, but I may give in. Again, we eat first with our eyes.

I decided to make another batch and another and another. I tried six different vodkas. Not to belabor the details, but the flavors were all slightly different. I preferred the barely there hint of fruit from Ciroc vodka – made from grapes – as it married with the violets.  My second choice was Kamchatka, a lower-priced vodka.

Next step? Adding an equal part simple syrup.

Then, shake and serve over ice, splashed into bubbly or crafted into a cocktail.

Cheers!


NOTE: Simple syrup is a mixture of equal parts sugar and water, simmered until sugar is dissolved. After cooling I added it to my violette infusion.

Herb Jewelry Makes a Statement

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Sage Leaf headbandsWhen I dress, I do it consciously. To fit in. To stand out. To make a statement. Details depend on my mood and event. For work, I’m conservative, for a party playful.

As I’ve elevated my social conscience, I attend environmental and farm-to-table events – dinners, farm market fundraisers, workshops and such. I’m even going to a farm-themed wedding in October. For these occasions, I want my attire to play a supporting role.

On a junking trip with my mom, I found a vintage necklace with porcelain strawberries and miniature straw baskets hanging from silver filigree links. What fun to wear for a farm event and worth the $25.

At our next stop, an antique store, I found a gold electroplated leaf of curly parsley. For $4!!! I’ve seen maple leaves and gingko leaves, but parsley? Score.Sage Leaves rose Quarts necklace (1)

Game on.

I want classy or kitschy, but not mass production. I’ll scour first- and second-hand. Ah, but Google “herb jewelry” and the credit card is in danger.

My favorite botanical jewelry artist is Michael Michaud. I first encountered his work at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. He creates with the lyrical parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme as well as lavender, basil and peppermint. It’s so hard to choose.

After drooling over Michaud’s fine art collection, I turned to etsy.com for handcrafted interpretations. And, what fun I had.

I found dried herb material in tiny glass vials as pendants or leaves encased in resin for rings and bracelets. I stumbled on herbs stamped into precious metal and polymer clay. I discovered them cast in metal or electroplated.  Entire etsy “shops” are dedicated to glass beads that look like spikey lavender blooms.

Just shut down my PayPal account already.

Ginamarie Engels from of MyriadMirage in Nyack, New York, presses sage, lavender, eucalyptus between glass or casts them in resin to create pendants, cuffs, earrings and more. These  “terrariums” stop time.

“My ideas are inspired by nature,” says Gina. “Sometimes I wake up and feel inspired to share an herb’s beauty. I want to share the artistry in nature.”

lavender framed
Spin the globe east to Sochi, Russia, where Tamara Borisova  surrounds lavender sprigs with wooden frames and encases all in resin.

“I live in a beautiful city with a huge variety of plants,” writes Tamara. “These are the northern subtropics in the world. I live in the city center, but the forest is growing behind my house. How do I not get inspiration here?”

Lavender with its texture and color is a favored muse. But, chives and dandelion fluff move the creative spirit of Isabell Kiefhaber of Kirchheim Germany.

“Very often, I’m inspired just by being around with open eyes on the details of life,” she says. “I zoom in on things or moments and keep them in mind. The fast heartbeat of cities like Berlin or the slow-motion climbing into mountain areas can be inspiring. Usually situations of everyday life, put into another context, are the biggest inspiration.chive blossom pendant

These three young women are just few of artists moved by herbs. An Etsy search for herb jewelry can busy me for hours.


What herbal jewelry have you found at retail, art shows or online?

 

 

No Erasing the Edible, Herbal Pencil

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Watering the pencilsOnce a day I journal my thoughts in a pale green steno notebook. I use well-sharpened pencils because I like the tactile experience of laying down thin lines of graphite. Pencils move more slowly than ink pens and don’t leave sloppy ink blobs when I pause to think.

At one point an advisor recommended adding color to my journal. So I bought expensive colored pencils … using black for ordinary thoughts, red for heartwarming musings and blue for cloudy entries. Sometimes I change color by paragraph. I believe it nurtures my creativity. My then-15-year-old son liked my colors and now I can’t find those pencils.

I’m pleased that he took them. I needed an excuse for a new set. And, not just any set. HSA Executive Director Katrinka Morgan turned me on to the Sprout pencil. This is one writing implement you don’t want to chew on. At least not right away.  The innovator of the pencil replaced the eraser at the top of the pencil with a special seed capsule. Herb offerings include basil, calendula, cilantro, lavender, mint sage and thyme.

Sprout pencilThese are available standard or colored lead. Color assignments include the following. Additional colors grow vegetables and flowers.

  • Basil – green
  • Calendula- yellow
  • Cilantro – purple
  • Lavender – light blue
  • Mint – brown
  • Sage – periwinkle
  • Thyme – light purple

When the Sprout Pencil becomes too short to write with, stick it – at an angle – into dirt and for reincarnation as an edible. The company has chosen plant varieties that germinate in one to three weeks. Most can be grown both indoors and outdoors. In areas with temperate climates, they should be planted in summer so they get enough light.

Marketed by a company in Denmark, more than 450,000 pencils are sold each month. Among their fans are the Vatican and the French government.  HSA will be selling packs of colored pencils at its Annual Meeting on April 29, 2016, in Asheville, NC. They can also be found on amazon.com.

“Sprout is all about sustainability and is a response to the increasing use-and-chuck-away culture. Our pencils get a new lease of life when they have finished serving their primary function. We are witnessing an increasing desire in companies and organizations throughout the world to signal a greener, more sustainable profile. In that respect, one can safely say that Sprout has perfectly captured the spirit of the age,” says Sprout’s founder Michael Stausholm.

“One of the major strengths of Sprout pencils is their capacity to pull such a complex issue as sustainability down to earth. One of our important tasks is to make sustainability pragmatic and comprehensible – but, most of all, fun. Our plant-able pencils and paper are perfect for spotlighting the reuse of the Earth’s resources. We’re talking micro level, but we’ve all got to start somewhere.”

When I’m done journaling with a Sprout pencil, I’ll feel good on many levels.


How would you use Sprout pencils?

 

Dye Easter Eggs with Culinary Materials

By  Susan Liechty, HSA President

Easter eggsRemember the fizzy tablets you dropped in the vinegar to dye those vibrantly colored Easter eggs?  Try something new this year. Dye those eggs with all natural products found in your garden or kitchen.  This is a fun project with interesting results; and the kids will love to experiment with the different items.  The environmental issues aside, you won’t be using artificial dye to transform the eggs into beautiful masterpieces.

The process works as follows:

Hard boil your white eggs (white eggs have a truer dye color). Allow to completely cool and dry.  Next, line up several wide-mouthed empty Mason jars or bowls to fill with all the different colors.  If you use the quart size, you can fit several eggs in one jar.

In a saucepan boil water and place your selected material in the water.  Allow to steep for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the heat once you’ve reached your desired color and let cool.

Strain out the material, pour into your mason jar and add one tablespoon white vinegar per cup of liquid.  Prepare all colors and line up your jars.  Place your egg(s) in the jar and put in the refrigerator until the color you want has been achieved.  Carefully dry the eggs, put a small amount of oil on the egg and polish with a paper towel.

The results are beautiful and much different than the old standby colors.

Natural materials to try include:

  • Purple cabbage leaves – pink
  • Red onion skins – lavender or red
  • Yellow onion skins – orange or rusty red
  • Coffee grounds – brown
  • Black tea – brown
  • Cayenne pepper – brown
  • Turmeric – yellow
  • Red Zinger tea bags – lavender
  • Beets (diced) – pink
  • Spinach or carrot tops – green
  • Grape Juice – lavender
  • Frozen blueberries – pink
  • Orange peels – light yellow
  • Strong brewed coffee – light brown
  • Cranberries – pink

Remember to store finished eggs in the refrigerator until ready to eat.


The blog for The Herb Society of America is written by members, staff and guest authors, to promote herb appreciation from cultivation and use to learning and research. It supports the Herb Society’s goals to protect botanical heritage, steward scientific diversity and promote personal enjoyment. Membership is open to individuals and businesses.

What herb materials are you using to dye eggs?