Herb Day in May Evening Shade Farm

Herb lady scarecrows on Soap House Gate
Evening Shade Farm has been hosting Herb Day in May for close to a decade. It's an unusual festival in that it isn't big, noisy or carnival-like. The event is hosted on the lawn of the Soap House of Evening  Shade Farm a few miles south of Osceola, Missouri. People look forward to the event all year.

The event is always Memorial Day weekend and people come from long distances. Vendors of all types spread out their wares under festival tents.
Broom makers, weavers, stone cutters, plant sellers and lots more.
Shady trees and a central garden are the setting for the festival.

Notting Hill broom makers make brooms from broom corn, the old fashioned way.
Local musicians perform on the Soap House porch.
People shop, visit, eat, listen to music and enjoy the gardens.
People sit and visit under the big old mulberry tree, picking and eating the fruit.
John Trainer demonstrates his wood-turning craft.
George, the blacksmith makes high-quality ironwork.
The Soap House always does a brisk business selling their hand-crafted, organic soaps.
Evening Shade's soaps are outstanding. Made from organic herbs and oils, added to their own goats milk, they ship their soaps nationwide. Visit their website to see what they have to offer.
It's a tradition to have a piece of their famous lemon verbena cake. It's from a family recipe and no matter how people beg, they don't give the recipe out. But you can buy a whole cake to take home or just a piece to eat under the big mulberry tree while you listen to good bluegrass music.

What a pleasant way to spend Memorial Day weekend, visiting with people, eating cake and listening to the plop plop of mulberries from the big tree. We've been friends with the Evening Shade folks for many years and always enjoy their festival. Glad you could come along to see what we found this weekend, a traditional trip for us. Visit our website at Long Creek Herbs, too.


Horizontally Gardening

In the center, you can see the old arbor, made of poles and wire panels.
I like arbors, they are perfect for growing things horizontally, not just roses but beans, clematis, vining spinach, bitter melon, gourds, squash and lots more. You can grow a crop of many vegetables in a very small foot-space, by using trellises and arbors. This one, shown above and below, has been in place for 6 or 8 years. I first put it there between two beds that had tomatoes in both.
Closer view of the arbor that's about to be replaced.
I've grown a number of crops on that little arbor. Two years it's been planted with Potawatamie Lima beans, a Native American variety I found from a trader at the annual Rendezvous at Fort deChartres in Illinois. Several years I've grown both green and red varieties of Malabar vining spinach there. The arbor was built of ash saplings, screwed and wired together, and covered with metal cattle panels. But the poles have finally rotted and it was time to replace the arbor with something more substantial. Our architectural style here on the farm is what we've dubbed, "Chi-Zarks," and sometimes simply, "Chi-Zarkian," combining the slightly Chinese/Asian influence, with Ozarks farm architecture. So we drew up a sketch on a board, for an arbor that would fit with the other pieces already in the garden. For example, the gazebo, below, we added 3 years ago. You can see the gateway in the right corner, also Chi-Zarkian in style.
Gazebo under construction 3 years ago. Note the gateway arbor on the right.
The gazebo as it is now, fitting in well with the garden plants.
So the new arbor - you can just barely see the old one on the right side of the above photo - needed to fit within the Chi-zarkian style of everything else in the garden. George Hudson and I conspire on building things, starting with simple sketches and making adjustments as he builds and I watch. George can building absolutely anything.
George Hudson, working on the new arbor.
That's George, in the middle of the garden, working on the new arbor. If you stand in front of the rose trellis you see on the left, it lines up perfectly with the new arbor he's building. Maybe sunlight on the summer solstice will align perfectly with, who knows what...the rose bush?

And there's the newly-completed arbor, above, ready for planting. I think it blends in like it's always been there. Good job, George! Yesterday I planted a Weeks Fourth of July rose and a Rebecca clematis. The Fourth of July rose is a fragrant, edible, climber (clematis are not edible, however). You can find lots of my recipes for eating roses in my book, How to Eat a Rose, available from my website.
Clematis, 'Rebecca' a reblooming clematis.

Fourth of July rose, 1999 AARS winner.
Now the new arbor will be home to this fragrant rose and the roses will be featured in cakes, teas, desserts, ice creams, salads and more. You'll find a video on my books page from our YouTube Channel, about using roses in your meals, too.

Click the photo to take you to the video.
Thanks for stopping by to see what's happening in the garden this week!


Hillary Clinton and the Lavender Wand

Hidcote Lavender
My history with lavender goes back many years. Back in the early 1980s, I was hired by the  Committee of 100 to research and develop a public herb garden at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas. The then director, now deceased, did not want an herb garden on "his" grounds and did everything he could to prevent its implementation. However, the Committee of 100 was a group of 100 wealthy and/or influential women who raised a lot of money for the Folk Center's projects, and he had to at least give lip service of going along with the project, at least to the women's faces. But to me, just a landscape architect and over-all herb guy, he gave as little support and as many headaches as he could. To that end, the stone masons I was promised and supposed to oversee for the structure of the gardens, never appeared. On deadline, I did the rock work myself. I injured my back, severely enough that for nearly 9 months I could not walk without the help of a walker. Unable to even sit at my drafting table, I became unemployed. It may have been one of the best things that happened to me.
A young Hillary Clinton, pleasantly surprised as I made the presentation.

Hillary Clinton, as the Governor's wife, officially dedicated the garden in 1985. I had gathered the first lavender spikes from the new Heritage Herb Garden and taught myself how to make lavender wands. I presented her the first lavender wand from the new garden at the ceremony. For some amazing reason, she held up the wand, in front of the gathered dignitaries, media and herb folks, and gave a 2 minute spiel about my magical lavender wands.
Always gracious and sharing credit for every project. That small gesture launched me in a new direction.

To put this in context, I was penniless, no health insurance, struggling to start an herb business. I live in on a farm and wanted to find something to make a living, without leaving the farm. (I had worked in the landscape business for almost 20 years, which entailed a lot of travel and not much time on the farm). By her promoting my lavender wands, I immediately sold a bunch of them.
The lavender flowers are folded inside as you weave ribbon between the stems.

Who knows why I ever started making lavender wands. It's not a manly craft, that's certain. But the smell of lavender was greatly soothing to me that summer. I drug around an old chair as my walker. I could drape myself over the back of the chair and clip lavender spikes from the garden. The lavender was especially good that year, some of the spikes were 24 inches long (I have photos somewhere to prove it). Unable to do much else, I wove lavender wands each day. I could sit outside sprawled in a porch swing that hung from an elm tree, and weave. It just takes lavender and ribbon - ribbon was 10 cents at the remnant store. Lavender flowers are relaxing, which is why Johnson and Johnson puts it in baby shampoo, it's a fragrance that actually works. And so, sitting and making these silly wands each day, was a kind of therapy as I could do little else. I was depressed over being unable to do physical work and even though I often laughed at spending time making something that is far from useful (it's a craft from Victorian times, one of those acceptable crafts women could make, and used for nothing more than sticking in a wooden box that stored women's kid leather gloves), it did help in my recovery. I made 124 wands that summer and our friend, the late Billy Joe Tatum, sold about 60 of them for me at a craft show in New Orleans.
A completed lavender wand. These will last for many years and keep their fragrance.

Fortunately for me, the following year, Hillary Clinton ordered 49 of my wands when she and the Governor hosted the National Governor's convention in Little Rock. Each governor's wife received a wand (and other gifts). Eventually I started making lavender wands stuffed with lemon balm, another fragrant herb. When Governor Clinton not to run for President in 1988, I sent the Clintons a special wand, filled with lemon balm and built around a quartz crystal from Hot Springs, AR, where Bill Clinton had lived. The note with the wand said something like, "Lavender is an enchanting herb, lemon balm is considered wish-fulfilling and crystals are said to have magical powers...if Bill Clinton decides to run for President in 1992, this may help him over the top." When ABC News was in Little Rock at the end of 1992, interviewing the Clintons as they moved from the Governor's Mansion, where they'd lived for 18 years, in the stack of things they were taking with them to Washington, DC, was my lavender wand, sticking out the top of a basket!
Lavender cookies, bet you can't eat just one!

This week our lavender plants are in bloom. I may make a lavender wand just for old time's sake, and see if I still have the knack -  I got pretty good back in the old days. I want to make some lavender cookies, too. If you'd like my lavender cookie recipe, check my recipes blog, they're pretty tasty and I'll bet you can't eat just one! 


Ginger Beet Cake, Bachelor's Buttons

Bachelor's Buttons.
Did you know bachelor's buttons are an edible flower? They're described as tasting a little "cucumber-y" but I find them almost without flavor. Still, they look festive whole or torn to bits in a salad or decorating a cake. The flowers hold up well in a bouquet if picked when fully open, too.
Bachelor's buttons bloom with poppies and larkspur in early summer.
Bachelor's buttons apparently got their name from an old tradition in Europe, where they are native, for young, love-struck men threading the flower into their lapels. It's much like a similar tradition, usually of school girls, of pulling petals from a daisy, "He loves me, he loves me not...." If the bachelor's button flower wilted quickly, the love would not be returned, but if the flower stayed fresh, as it is wont to do, there was encouragement for the lovers.

The Egyptian boy-king, Tutankhamen, was buried with a wreath on his head of olive leaves, water lily petals and cornflowers (another name for bachelor's buttons). They were called cornflowers because the flower used to spread itself freely in grain fields across southern Europe. They are becoming rare in the wild there now due to current farming practices.

Edible Flower bed, yesterday.
Above is a photo of our edible flowers bed, just newly planted. I'm working on a book about edible flowers, with recipes of course, and collecting and testing lots of flower recipes. In the bed above are: roses, calendula, begonias, dianthus, Sweet William, pansies, chives, blue salvia and violets.
In a few weeks it will begin to fill in like this photo shows.

Here, below, is a new edible flower I've added to the garden this week. It even sounds like food!
Ketchup and Mustard Rose
It's named, "Ketchup and Mustard" and is from Weeks Roses. It's nicely fragrant and each petal is red on top and yellow on the under side. I'm anxious to get started using it in foods. (For lots of recipes using roses, order my book, How to Eat a Rose). Also, visit my YouTube Channel for my video on using roses in recipes.

Last year, in March, I was in Round Top, Texas for the herb festival at Festival Hill. They served Ginger Beet Cake - yes, made with beets, and it was a huge success. I asked for their permission to share the recipe here, and did so in last year's post. But it being Mother's Day and all, I thought it a good time to post it again. This is a delicious cake and you will never guess it has beets in it!
Ginger Beet Cake. Not a crumb of this cake was left over!

Ginger Beet Cake
 You can make this cake ahead and freeze it for later. It requires no frosting,
just a dusting of powdered sugar if you wish, or leave that off and just
add whipped cream and a few bachelor's buttons!

1 15 oz. can of beets (not pickled, just plain, canned beets)
1 1/2 cups flour (I use 1 cup unbleached flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar (I use 1 1/2 cups granulated stevia or Truvia and 1/2 cup sugar)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons dry ginger
2 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup nuts, chopped (I used pecans)
3/4 cup coconut

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a food processor, empty the entire can of beets, juice and all. Blend it well. Combine the rest of the ingredients except for the chopped nuts, mixing well. Fold in the chopped nuts. Pour into a 9 x 13, oiled and floured baking pan. Bake until a knife inserted comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool. Serve with real whipped cream. People were going back for seconds, saying this couldn't possibly have beets in it.
No Cool Whip for this, use real whipped cream!


Herb Day, Wichita, KS

The kind folks at the Wichita Herb Society have been inviting me to come to their annual Herb Day for several years. Each time I already had a speaking commitment for the first weekend in May. Last  year they asked me a full year in advance. It has been more than 10 years since I last gave programs in Wichita and back then, the event had been held at Botanica, the city botanical garden.

Herb Day is a joint project of the Master Gardeners of Sedgewick County and the Wichita Herb Society. It was held at the remarkable County Extension facility which has educational rooms, a conference hall, outdoor gardens and a large farmer's market. The farmers market was stretched around 3 sides of the building in the parking lots. I was envious of the facility - if only our own counties in Missouri had something half that good.
Wichita has a vibrant farmers market.
Bouquets on order and baked goods.
Inside the hall, more vendors.
Inside the building were the herb vendors with all sorts of things pertaining to the herb garden, everything from herbal foods to garden pots, handmade garden furniture, soaps, roses and lots more.

The Master Gardeners have a hotline you can call and get gardening information and advice. What a great idea! This is especially helpful for new gardeners who are just learning how to grow vegetables and herbs.

As a side note about Sedgewick County, Josh mentioned that the county was named for a relative of his, Major General John Sedgewick, of the Union Army, in 1867. The Sedgewick relative who hails from "back East" was a surveyor and like many surveyors in laying out counties in new states, named a county after himself. My grandfather's great uncle, Oscar Green Harper, was also a surveyor and named Harper County, Oklahoma for himself. My grandfather, James Edward Harper, was 18 and accompanied his uncle Oscar as his assistant. Oklahoma became a state in 1907. Kansas became a state in 1861. In 1878, among the homesteaders arriving in the new state were my great-grandparents' Long. My grandfather Long was born in a sod house that year, just a county or two over from Sedgewick. But back to the Herb Day event in Wichita.
Josh, explaining Herbal Nail Fungus Soak to a customer at our booth.
We had a booth indoors, offering my books and our Herbal Nail Fungus Soak. Organizers said there were about 2,000 people who came through the hall that day.
Lots of herb plants for sale at Herb Day.
Prairie plants, too.
Since Wichita is solidly on the prairie, it was good to see people selling native prairie plants, too.
My audience for one of my programs.
I gave two programs, two times. On Friday night I gave How to Eat a Rose and Growing and Using the Ten Most Popular Herbs, for the Herb Day volunteers who would be working on Saturday and not be able to see the presentations. Then on Saturday I gave those two programs again, for the public. All were well attended and we all had fun. (For a listing of all my programs, fees, etc. here's the link. There's also a downloadable pdf you can print off on your computer from my website that lists all of the 2 dozen or so programs I'm offering this year and their descriptions).

It was a fun day in Wichita. We got home late Saturday evening and by Sunday afternoon, I was at the Baker Creek Festival near Mansfield, MO at the new old town of Bakerville. Details of that coming next.


Making Calendula Salve

Calendula flowers
This week, one of Aaron's jobs (our WWOOFer/intern this spring) has been to learn about making salves. Calendula, the flower, is especially soothing for lots of skin ailments. Things like itchy skin, mild wounds, diaper rash, chapped lips, dry, patchy skin, all respond well to calendula, and one of the better ways of preserving the flower for use later, is to make a salve.

Calendula Salve

1/2 cup dried calendula flowers
1 cup oil (we use a mixture of pumpkin seed and sunflower oils)
1/2 cup beeswax, finely shaved
12 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops rosemary essential oil

Combine the calendula flowers and oil in a small crock pot. Turn on the lowest setting and leave for about 2 hours. If the oil is getting very hot, turn it off for an hour then back on for another hour. Or if you have a low-warm setting, you can leave the crock pot on for about 5 hours. Turn off and leave over night.

The following day, strain out the flowers, squeeze out the excess oil and discard the used flowers. Heat the oil again and add the bees wax, mixing well. Add the essential oils and pour into tins or salve containers.

I had Aaron try something new with this batch of salve. While the liquid was cooling, I used an egg beater and whipped the salve. It made for a very nice texture but it's kind of a hassle to whip the mixture to get it right.
Filling salve tins with the whipped calendula salve.
When Aaron came to Long Creek Herbs in March, we still had chickweed. He and I gathered a batch, along with some plantain and comfrey and dried it in the food dehydrator. Last week he made a batch of salve with those ingredients. Chickweed, as well as plantain and comfrey with a bit of yarrow, are strongly healing herbs. Chickweed salve works for small bites, cuts, scratches or minor injuries.
Chickweed makes an excellent first-aid salve.
You'll find recipes for making salves and other herbal formulas in my book, Great Herb Mixes You Can Make, on my website.
The salve formula for chickweed salve is essentially the same as for making calendula salve. The major portion of the 1/2 cup of dried herb was the chickweed, with about a tablespoon of dried comfrey and yarrow, with 2 tablespoons dried plantain.
Chickweed slave tins, filled.
Aaron & goat kids
Aaron is still playing mama to the 2 goat twins. Their mother isn't giving milk so 3 times a say, Aaron fills the baby bottles and feeds the pair. They follow him around like pets.

That's farm life this week at Long Creek Herb Farm. If you're in Wichita, Kansas this weekend, come to the herb festival and farmers market at The Sedgwick County Extension office, 7001 W. 21 st St. North, Wichita KS. I'll be giving 4 programs including Art in the Garden, How to Eat a Rose and Growing & Using the Ten Most Popular Herbs.