Thursday, November 25, 2010

Settling in for Winter

I noticed the other day how the farm is looking all settled in for winter. It starts in September when we take the shade cloth off the greenhouses. After seeing it with its dark covering for months, it looks strange to see the clear plastic and to be able to see inside the greenhouse from outside. The skids which hold all the outside plants in the spring are also put away. The gardens are cleaned up (for the most part) and even the garden signs are put away. Perennial stock plants are buried in rows in the vegetable garden to protect their roots over the winter.

Most of the leaves are off the trees, too. I didn't think the fall leaf show was spectacular this year~perhaps due to the dry summer. But I did admire the scarlet maple with its brilliant foliage- it's hard to beat maples for fall color. When we moved here, there was one tree in the yard-a large white pine. I wanted trees in the back corner so I joined the Arbor Day Foundation. The welcome gift was 10 tree saplings. They arrived in the mail in a plastic bag. John really laughed about these so-called "trees." We heeled them into the garden for a year or two to take hold and then planted them. Not all survived, but about 8 did. The scarlet maple is now about 20-25' tall, beautifully shaped and brilliant in the fall. All in about ten years time-so "ha" back on John for laughing at my trees.

Open house is approaching-Dec. 3 & 4 from 9am to 5pm. We have about half a dozen varieties of potted culinary herbs in the greenhouse, along with live topiaries. And the shop is brimming with all kinds of fragrant gift ideas and natural holiday decorations. We‘ll have specials in the shop, herbal refreshments and prize drawings.

My Italian parsley is just beautiful! All the fall rain produced a bumper crop of lush, dark green foliage. I'm adding parsley to almost every savory dish, and also drying alot.I put it on a cookie sheet, put it in the oven, close the door and just turn on the light. It takes awhile-about 24 hours-but it holds its color well and dries thoroughly. Just remove it before you preheat the oven!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Time Flies. Open House coming up!

I swear the older I get the faster time goes by. Summer seems like yesterday and the spring season seems like a month or two ago. Now all my work centers around holiday preparations. I‘ve been working on filling and stocking the shop. We'll have all our popular favorites plus a few new additions - a new soap scent from the sisters, some new gift items and lots of interesting holiday decorations I've found. Last year I seemed to have trouble finding things that were suitably rustic , handmade or herbal. This year, my timing must have been better and I wound up with a good supply. I usually wait until Thanksgiving week to put up the tree in the shop and bring out the holiday arrangements and decorations. I hate to rush things too much. Christmas decorations before Halloween seems too early to me.

The fall newsletter is out. We send a paper or e-mail copy depending on your preference. If you don't receive our newsletter (we also have a spring edition) just give us your name and address or e-mail address and we’ll be happy to send you one.

We also have a small selection of basic culinary potted herbs in the greenhouse from about mid-November through Christmas, along with live topiaries for holiday decorating or gift-giving. If you want plants for the kitchen windowsill to get you through the winter months, this is the time. We do shut the greenhouses down at the end of December and don’t start them up again till March due to the cost of heating them. We usually get a few people asking for plants during the winter, but after the holidays we'll have no plants until spring.

Our holiday open house will be held Friday and Saturday December 3 & 4 from 9am to 5pm. We'll have plants and topiaries available in the greenhouse and open house specials, herbal refreshments and prize drawings in the shop. We know what a busy time this is and how many special activities occur each weekend, so we greatly appreciate everyone that takes time to cone out and visit with us. I do think we have a great selection of interesting, handmade herbal gifts.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Frost and a Trip Down Memory Lane

We finally had a frost that knocked out most annuals in the garden We had several light frosts previously, but they did little except stick to the grass, and cause some spotting on the basils. This last blast blackened all my basils and killed off most annuals, except some cold tolerant ones like calendula which are still blooming. So we‘re removing those and doing some fall clean-up.

What about perennials? It usually takes a hard freeze to kill off the herbaceous (those that die down in the fall) perennials. My fall perennial clean-up is more selective. I've cut back top growth on tarragon, lemon balm, wormwood and oregano. This older growth was unsightly and there's fresh growth in a rosette at the base if I need any fresh. I'll continue around, doing the same for mints, catmint, feverfew, etc. Some things I just leave alone in the fall-
  • Woody-stemmed herbs like thyme, sage, lavender. No cutting allows foliage to provide some protection for the crown of the plant since it doesn't die back to the ground
  • Coneflower and other plants that provide seed for birds over the winter
  • Cold tolerant plants that look good and continue to produce - snaps are blooming again, parsley and sorrel look great and continue to provide harvest fresh or for drying, chives and burnet which will eventually freeze but often provide green foliage throughout the winter (sometimes even under snow)
My two sisters who live out of town visited recently. We had a good time. They like to go to the Mt. Joy Gift & Thrift shop and we visited the new thrift store in E-town. It too was very nice although their inventory was smaller since they had just opened the week we visited.

The best trip was a visit to Mt. Gretna where we grew up. We walked all the paths we used every day and it amazed me how things had grown up. Places I remember being fairly clear were quite overgrown. Some paths were narrow and looked unused. I guess even in Mt. Gretna people drive everywhere.