Winter Morning Walks

For quite some time I've been taking my morning exercise walks before breakfast. I recently learned while listening to a doctor on an NPR program, that walking immediately after breakfast did more to lower blood sugar levels than walking before. So I've switched - eat first, then walk. It makes sense and also appears to help.
Molly and Cricket
On my morning walks I go up into our woods, following the trails I've created over the years. Our two dogs are always eager for the walk. Molly, our 13-year old Jack Russell, and Cricket, also a Jack Russell, just 6 months old, have their own routines. Molly runs ahead then stops to make sure I'm coming. Cricket wants me to throw sticks for her to chase. One morning when Molly ran ahead, sniffing the ground, I saw 2 coyotes watching her. I yelled and they ran, but they've been marking the territory every day, attempting to claim it for themselves. My job this winter will be to start clearing away lots of underbrush so the coyotes don't have as many places to hide. They're a danger to small dogs.
Cricket's pose, anticipating a stick being thrown for her to chase.
Cattails in the pond.
My walk takes me past our little pond with cattails. In early spring I gather the young shoots just as they come up through the water. Steamed, the shoots taste a lot like sweet corn. Later, when the pollen is easy to gather, I mix it half and half with flour to make cattail pollen biscuits - from a recipe from my late friend, Billy Joe Tatum.
The cattails are fluffing out, the seeds soon to blow away on the wind.
Both Native Americans and early pioneers relied on this cattail fluff to stuff mattresses and pillows. It's light as a feather, bulky and a good insulation.
After a rain the fluff mats down, looking like wet sheep wool.
Once we've walked to the end of the trail, Molly decides it's time to go back home and get warm. She has checked out her territory and led the expedition and now it's time to turn around. Cricket, of course, is ready for another stick to be thrown for her.
What are we waiting for, we've walked, now what?
There's always something to see on our morning walks. I'm not sure whether the dogs enjoy it more, or I do. There's always something new to see, sometimes a hawk, or an eagle flying overhead. Some mornings I can hear the loons in the lake cove. It's good medicine, these morning walks.
Wishing you an excellent year ahead!


Bulk Herb Specials

As the year ends, we're offering some great bargains on our bulk herbs. We will still stock our Dream Pillow herbs and blends, as well as Moth-Repelling Blend and our Seasonings. But we're closing out the by-the-pound bulk herbs listed below

Long Creek Herbs Specials, while they last!

These are all fresh, organic, sealed, packaged, bulk herbs in the amounts listed. Once an item is sold, we will remove it from the list.

To order, call our office any time, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Central Standard Time; 417-779-5450. These items are not available through our website, only by telephone order.

You can visit our website and choose other books and products to combine with your order from the herbs below, and phone in the entire order so it will all ship at one time and save you shipping costs, if you wish. Thanks!

All herbs are organically grown, fresh, food grade and perfect for cooking crafts, etc.

Bay Leaf Whole - 2 lbs avail; approx. 40 cups/lb; - Reg. price $19.95 lb.--Sale $10 per lb.

Cajun Spice blend - 3 lbs avail; ----------Reg. price $12.50; --------------------Sale price $5

Celery Seed, ground - 1 lb avail; ----------------Reg price $6.40 ----------------Sale price $3

Celery Seed, whole - 1 lb. avail; ----------------Reg price $6.35 ----------------Sale price $3

Chamomile flowers (tea/crafts) - 2 lbs avail; ---Reg. price $18/lb; -Sale price $9 per lb.

Cinnamon sticks (10 inch)- 1/4 lb avail; ----Reg price $19.95; -----------------Sale price $5

Cumin Seed powder, 1 lb. avail; --------Reg price 7.90; -------------------------Sale price $3

Curry powder blend - 2 lbs avail; -----Reg price $14.50 -----------------Sale price $5 per lb.

Garlic Salt - 1 lb avail; ------------------------Reg price $4.50 -----------------Sale price $2.50

Horseradish powder  - 1 lb. avail; ----------------Reg price $9.90 --------------Sale price $4

Lemongrass (c/s) - 1 lb avail; approx 11 cups/lb-Reg price $15 lb; -----------Sale Price $7

Lemon Peel - 1/2 lb avail; approx 8 cups/lb; ----Reg price $17.50 lb; --------Sale price $4

Lemon Pepper - 1 lbs avail; --------------------Reg price $14.20 -----------------Sale price $7

Orange Peel - 1/2 lb avail; approx 8 cups/lb; ----Reg price $8.50/lb; --------Sale price $3

Paprika - 2 lbs avail; ------------------------Reg price $9.40/lb;  --------------sale price $4 ea

Pickling Spice/Shrimp Boil - 1 ounce packages -------- Reg price $2 ----Sale price $1 each

Poultry Seasoning (contains sage, rosemary, thyme)- 1 lb. avail; Reg price $9.40; --Sale price $4
Thai Seasoning blend - 1 lb avail; ----------------Reg price $14.20 ----------Sale price 5.50

White Ceremonial Incense Sage - 1 lb avail; ------Reg price $65/lb; -------Sale price $12

To visit our website, click here

Wishing you a wonderful New Year ahead. Thank you for visiting my blog. 

Garden in winter, waiting for spring.



C.L. Fornari Radio Show

They always look so innocent.
I'm fortunate, and very grateful, that I receive occasional invitations to be a guest on radio shows. I take those invitations seriously and have never been late, or missed, a radio program. Until this week. However, before confessing my recent transgression, I have to tell you about a near-miss just weeks ago, with another station. I mentioned in an earlier post of being a guest on the Felder  Rushing radio show that airs across the South. I've been on his show several times and it's always a pleasure; he is generous in mentioning my products and books. That day, he mentioned our Frankincense & Myrrh Kits and they've been flying off the shelves every day since.

Felder Rushing

Just 15 minutes before he was to call me for the interview, I received a phone call from one of our employees, saying, "The goats are out and in the garden!!" My garden holds my plant collections, things I have developed, collected or worked with for years. If you aren't aware, goats love the same plants people love, and will eat with wild abandon. I made a frantic dash for the garden and chased, cajoled, begged and pleaded, finally giving up and running indoors, out of breath, just as Felder called to say, "You're on the air." Huff, puff. Barely on time, but successful.

Just two weeks later, last weekend, I was to be on the C.L. Fornari radio show (WXYK 95.1 FM). What an honor to be invited as a guest on her popular show. She is an outstanding speaker on garden subjects, a writer, blogger and all around garden expert, fielding calls from gardeners across the East Coast. I looked forward to being on the show, I even downloaded her photo you see, below, so I could "see" her while we were talking.
C.L. Fornari, Garden Guru

Once again, the goats' mischievous psychic powers took over. We have 12 goats, and when one or more get out of their pasture, one of two things happen: either the entire herd follows, which is the usual occurrence, or a few escape their fence and the rest come to the nearest fence to the house and tattle on the others and keep it up until we come and put the escapees back into their pasture.

Sure enough, I was late for the radio show. I was to be on at 8:05 Central Time, to be on for 20 minutes. I arrived instead, at 8:20, embarrassed and out of breath. Since it's a call-in show where people can ask gardening questions, I briefly considered starting off with, "C.L., I have a garden question. What do you suggest when you are to be a guest on a popular radio show and you have a dozen goats eating your garden?" However I thought that would be both foolish and disrespectful at that point. It was no joking matter, I was late. C.L. had been talking about my books and my website, and giving away some books to callers while she'd been waiting. She was gracious and generously gave me the remaining time left on the show. But I was so sorry to have missed the excellent opportunity she had given me. I hope you will visit her garden blog here.
Culprits, looking so innocent.
But that's life on the farm sometimes. We defend the garden from pests, sometimes even the 4 legged ones with horns and sometimes lose track of time chasing and cajoling. I am fortunate to know such wonderful garden folks like C.L. Fornari who invite me to be on their shows from time to time. The goats are getting better fences this winter. Holiday greetings to all and thanks for stopping by.

Frankincense and Myrrh Kit


Garden Author Dumpster Dives

Ellen Spector Platt
I've known Ellen Spector Platt for many years through the Garden Writers Association (GWA) to which we both belong. I knew of her even before that from her books, Easy and Elegant Rose Designs and some of her other books and magazines. You can read more about Ellen's work, books and background here. This year, in Tuscon, Arizona, at the GWA conference, Ellen unveiled her newest book, Artful Collage and Found Objects. The book demonstrates her amazingly creative design talents.
A fancy and highly creative way to make an elegant frame.
Ellen has been a gardener for many years, growing decorative flowers and herbs on her farm in Schuylkill County, PA She now gardens on an 18th floor garden in New York City. She is a part time instructor at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and also at the New York Botanic Garden. Ellen describes herself as a, "dumpster diver" and uses things she finds on the streets and even in dumpsters, for the collages in her book.

Everything seems fair game for Ellen's art. She combines seed pods and pressed flowers from her garden, with magazine clippings, photos and found objects and makes them world-class works of art.  

Not only is this a beautiful book with fascinating artwork, she shows you how she made the pieces so you can create a garden collage from your own materials. This book is a lot of fun and if you would like a chance to win a copy, leave a comment (click the word, Comments, at the bottom of this post and follow the instructions to post your comment).

One name will be selected at random from the comments posted.  Check back on this page for the winner's name. You will have to contact me with your mailing address, otherwise I have no way of contacting you directly. The book giveaway ends on Wednesday, Dec. 19, so be sure to leave your comment.


How Dangerous are Your Christmas Plants?

Every year we hear warnings about how poison some of the Christmas season plants are said to be. Some of the fears have merit, while others do not. For example, poinsettias - stores sell these plants with a warning attached, “Caution, don’t allow children or pets eat poinsettia leaves because they are poisonous.”

The truth is, poinsettia leaves taste simply awful. Not just because the growers spray the plants with lots of chemicals to keep away insect pests, but more importantly, the sap from this plant is bitter and burns the tongue. Puppies and children aren’t likely to eat anything that tastes so bad, and some studies have shown that a toddler would have to ingest 250 poinsettia leaves to cause a serious problem. The solution? Don’t put the plants where kids and pets can get to them.

Mistletoe also has a bad reputation. Nearly all the mistletoe you’ll find in stores is plastic, but if you were to go out into the Ozarks woodland and find your own mistletoe, here’s the scoop on that so-called, “poisonous” plant. If the white berries fall onto the floor, sweep them up. Even a few berries can be dangerous for a toddler, but if you’ve ever noticed fresh mistletoe, there aren’t many berries on a sprig of mistletoe. Solution? Pick the berries off before hanging, or sweep them up immediately when they fall.

By the way, mistletoe has been used in folk remedies for centuries. Injectable mistletoe extract is used in Europe but not licensed for use in the U.S. but should not be used without medical supervision.

Holly is said to have “potentially poisonous” red berries. If someone eats several, it’s true, they’ll have a reaction - vomiting. Hollies are botanically speaking, in the Ilex family of plants. That includes one variety named, Ilex vomitoria, meaning, it causes vomiting and was used by doctors in the 1800s to induce vomiting, believed as a cure. One berry, eaten by a kid or pet, isn’t likely to cause problems, but 20 berries could be fatal to a toddler if left untreated. The solution? Sweep up the berries or keep them away from toddlers.

Bittersweet, which grows along our roadsides is also listed as poisonous. The unripe berries are the more toxic part and contain solanine which can slow heart rate and cause drowsiness and headaches. They are also quite bitter. Toddlers or small puppies could possibly taste the berries should they fall onto the floor. With roadside spraying and fence clearing, it’s not that easy to find native bittersweet any more.

Using common sense, like keeping these plants away from toddlers and puppies, is always a good choice. If berries or plant parts fall on the floor, sweep them up. None of these plants are poison to the touch, none are tasty or tempting from their flavor and should be enjoyed for their color and long tradition as festive holiday plants.

You can find lots of useful, money-saving information about folk remedies in my book, My Favorite Home Remedies That Work. It's $6.95, plus shipping and we ship promptly. Click here to order.


Frost Flowers, a Winter Treat

Fantastical one-of-a-kind frost flower.
Early winter brings out a rare treat that many people don't get to see. The fragile, icy formations only last a few hours, from before daylight until the sunlight reaches them. They melt within seconds of the sun's warmth touching them. (Click on any photo to enlarge it for better viewing).
Dozens of frost flowers scattered across a patch of ground.
It takes particular conditions for frost flowers to form. The soil must still be warm, at least above freezing, and the night time temperatures must rapidly drop below freezing.

There are several kinds of plants that frost flowers form on, all of them having fibrous or hollow stems. One such plant is carpenter weed, also sometimes known as square weed. You can sometimes  find them forming at the base of yarrow (Achillea sp.), our native dittany (Cunila origanoides), and a few others.
The "frost" looks like spun glass, or feathers.
The process is simple - during the night as the temperature drops rapidly and begins to freeze at the top of the soil, it forces still-warm moisture from the ground upward into the plant stems. As the temperature continues to drop, the moisture is forced out the sides of the dead plant stem and the moisture freezes.
I see the frost flowers in early morning when I take my morning walk in the woods. Sometimes if the frost flowers are on a plant such as dittany, which has an oregano flavor, I stop to let a frost flower dissolve on my tongue. The same plants will have frost flowers for several days until the moisture is wicked away or the temperature changes. For a few days, though, the magical frost flowers appear in the woods and along country roads.

We are still offering our end of season bulk herbs and seasoning blends. They're organic, fresh and at ridiculously low prices. We won't be restocking these, so if you want to give some as gifts, or simply restock your kitchen spice cabinet, check our our specials. First come, first choice. Click here to see our specials.


Super Soups for Supper

Crescent Dragonwagon

My longtime friend, Crescent Dragonwagon, author of dozens of children's books, cookbooks, novels, poetry and fiction, as well as one of the best vegetarian cookbooks ever written, had a souper-habit. Put simply, the crockpot in her kitchen always had soup cooking. Every day she'd add something new and every evening, she'd have a cup of soup along whatever food she had fixed and for whomever was in the house for dinner. The soup was always on;  I've eaten her "perpetual soup" many times and it was always delicious. With cold weather in the making, or having already arrived in many parts of the world, it's time to make soup. One of Crescent's soups that she used to serve at her Dairy Hollow House Restaurant, was the curried pumpkin bisque. You can find the original recipe in her book, Soup and Bread, but here's my own Crescent-inspired version.
Her recipe calls for nearly all the ingredients to be cooked in one big soup pot, onions with peelings on, etc., then strained through a colander. She used chopped-up, whole pumpkin, seeds, peel and all. Same with apples, no need to see or core them. My version, listed below, is based on whatever I have on hand at the time and a little different method.
I chop the ingredients rather than cooking them whole or in large chunks. It just appeals to my sense of organization and order. I saute the chopped ingredients in a bit of olive oil until they are tender.
If I don't have pumpkin on hand, I use butternut or a similar squash. Cut in chunks, peeling left on and seed removed, it microwaves in about 6 or 7 minutes. Once it cools, the peel is easy to, well, peel off.
Here's the recipe. I've made it so many times I should go back to Crescent's Soup and Bread book to see if it still resembles the original.
Curried Squash Soup
This is a really tasty winter soup and you can vary the ingredients according to what's in the pantry. Rather than chopping everything individually, I put all the raw ingredients in a food processor and chop them. Occasionally I put some canned pumpkin in the mix, other times I use different squash or a combination of the two.

1 butternut squash, stem and seed removed, cut in chunks, microwaved until soft
1 large sweet potato, microwaved, peeled
4 apples, cored but not peeled, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
1 large carrot, cut in pieces
1 large baking potato, scrubbed, peeling left on, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled of course, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chicken broth, or vegetarian broth instead
2 cups water
4 cups apple juice (or frozen apple cider if you can find it)
1-2 tablespoons curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste

1 - Microwave the squash and sweet potato and set aside to cool; peel and discard peelings.
2 - Working in batches, chop the raw ingredients in a food processor.
3 - Add the olive oil to a stockpot and heat. Add the chopped onion, apples, carrot, garlic and potato, stirring often and simmer until almost tender. Add 2 cups water and continue cooking until vegetables are completely tender. Add additional water as it cooks, if needed.
4 - Working in batches, process the chopped vegetables, sweet potato and squash in a blender, and puree until the soup in nice and smooth.
5 - Pour that back into the stockpot and add the chicken broth and apple juice, including the salt and pepper and curry powder. Simmer for a few minutes and taste the soup. If the first tablespoon of curry powder wasn't quite enough, add more but not so much it overpowers the soup. It's ready to serve. You can add a bit of half and half or cream if you wish but this is a surprisingly creamy soup without anything extra. This makes enough for about 8 or 10 average soup bowl servings.

Below is another of my favorite soups I like to make in winter. When I spoke at the Frankenmuth (Michigan) Herb Society a few years back, they asked me for some of my recipes for their luncheon. This is one that was on that menu and I think you'll find it quite tasty.
Ginger-Orange Carrot Soup, with a cracker from my Homemade Crackers book.
Ginger-Orange Carrot Soup
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
5 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 pounds small baby carrots (or if using larger carrots, peeled and cut up)
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons dry rice
1-2 teaspoons freshly-grated ginger
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup (or slightly more) heavy whipping cream or half and half

1 - In skillet saute the onion in butter.
2 - Transfer the saute to a soup pot with the 5 cups of chicken stock, honey, baby carrots, tomato paste and rice. Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer and cook, covered for about 30 minutes or until rice is tender.
3 - Transfer soup to a food processor and puree with the orange zest, ginger, cream and salt and pepper to taste. Puree well, this is meant to be a very smooth soup. Return the soup to a pot to keep it warm until serving but don’t let it boil. Taste and adjust seasonings. If too thick, add more chicken broth. The recipe serves 6 as a side dish soup with salad, served in small coffee cups.

You might like serving either of these soups with homemade crackers from my book, Homemade Crackers Using Herbs. If you've never made homemade crackers before, they are as easy as making cookies, and your guests or family will be SO impressed that you know how to make crackers! The book also makes great hostess gifts, with a plate of crackers for the Holidays!