Monday, May 11, 2009

What's green, delicious, and in mah belly?


We're having it tossed with sauteed tofu, a little cheese (that perfectly melted onto the tofu), and, of course, a little ranch dressing. I don't even mind sharing with the aphids, because my two (just 2!!) rows of Black Seeded Simpson just keep giving and giving and giving.

Life is tasty, this fine May evening.

May the crunch be with you.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Quasi-Final Veggie Tally!

Alright all--I've pretty much set out all the plants my garden can hold. It's going to be an absolute JUNGLE...and I love it. The tally stands thus:

15 tomato plants (Cherokee Purple, Super Choice, Deppe's Pink Firefly, Pink Brandywine, Big Rainbow, Yellow Pear, Ribenstrauben, Mortgage Lifter, & Arkansas Traveler)

8 bell pepper plants (Big Bertha, Marconi, Orange Bell, and Red Bell)--I had to buy these as starts, because my peppers weren't sprouting. Now I have 6 Marconis and 2 Long Red Cayenne starts that FINALLY sprouted and are coming along, so I suppose I'll pop those in containers, when the time comes.

6 eggplants (Rosa Bianca & Listada De Gandia)

11 bush beans (Dragon's Tongue, Buff Valentine Contender, and a mix from Burpee)--I also bought some "Soldier" beans, which are a very antique variety of drying bean. If I can find the time this week, I'm going to scratch out a bed for them and give them a whirl. If not, I'll just save them for next year.

Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans (there are many of these plants, all working on climbing the bean teepee)

Sugar Snap peas (again, multiple plants are trellising)

2 rows lettuce (Black Seeded Simpson)

4 rows carrots (Oxheart, Dragon, Little Fingers, and Short n' Sweet)--I'm also adding two more rows of carrots this week--one of Parisian Market carrots (little round ones, sometimes called "Thumbelinas") and one row of a North African carrot called "Muscade"

1 row beets (Bull's Blood)

10 squash plants (Early Gold Crookneck, Bush Buttercup, Table Queen, Spaghetti, Yellow Scallop, Ronde de Nice Zucchini, Tromboncino--aka "Giant Dog-Eating Squash")

6 cucumbers (Parisian Pickling, Telegraph Improved, and African Horned--aka "Jelly Melon")

5 melons (Golden Honeymoon--honeydew, Minnesota Midget--muskmelon, Bush Sugar Baby--watermelon, Moon & Stars--watermelon)

2 Pumpkins + 3 or 4 volunteer pumpkins (Cinderella's Carriage & Small Sugar)--the volunteer pumpkins are all from last season's Cinderella pumpkins; I will be more than happy to allow them to run wild

8 rows of corn (Blue Jade & Silver Queen)

Strawberry plants (see prior post)

1 Gourd (Speckled Swan)

So aside from all of the culinary/medicinal herbs and the few flowers I've got going (marigolds, morning glories, zinnias, foxglove, black hollyhocks, viper's bugloss, convovulus, 3 kinds of poppies, Canterbury bells, snapdragons...) AND Jacob's sunflower forest (because we can't forget that), I think that pretty much answers the question of "What's growin'?"

We're rich!

Time now for a hot, Dr. Bronner-y shower and a glass of bubbly. Tomorrow, rain. Thursday? Endless weeding.



Sunday, May 3, 2009

Beltane Foxglove

This flower opened near twilight on Beltane. I've been in the rain for the past fifteen minutes, angling for the perfect shot. There's something about a foxglove that can make even the cheapest digital camera do something magical. As I snapped this photo, the little green tendril in the upper left extended down into the shot. I think we all know why that happened.

They didn't call them "folk's gloves" for nothing. Click for the full-sized version:

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Herb Forest Grows!

Hi all--as Beltane is nearing (tomorrow!) and I'm stuck inside being ill (perhaps even with the dread swine flu), I decided a little update on the herb forest was in order. Against my better judgment, I spent a feverish day in the garden yesterday expanding the herb forest and planting out many, many seedlings. There are still a few more to go (like the wood betony I'm coaxing along), and, of course, many of the plants are rather small, but I'm still terribly proud of my herb forest. Here she is, as of ten minutes ago:
(click for a larger view)
So what's growing in the herb forest? Well let me tell ya'!

(in no particular order)

-Wild Lettuce
-Wormwood (on the outskirts, due to the fact that a lot of plants don't get along with it)
-Bee Balm
-Elfwort (or Elecampane)
-Clary Sage
-Garden Sage
-Lady's Mantle
-Moldavian Dragon's Head
-Russian Comfrey
-Alpine Strawberry
-St. Johnswort
-Evening Primrose
-tonnnes of calendula (just sprouting everywhere)
-Chamomile (also sprouting everywhere)
a Canterbury Bells plant that was put in the bed because it didn't have anywhere else to go!

Oh!! And how could I forget!

On the little stone "plinth," I've set my potted Bay Laurel tree. I've been coveting one for years, and I managed to find one at the local "yuppie nursery."

Soon to be added: Lemon Balm, Pennyroyal, Anise Hyssop, Wood Betony, Tibetan Gentian, and Horehound.

What I love about my herb forest is that part of it gets partial shade and part of it gets full sun. All of it has wonderful, rich, wormy soil. It's just perfect, and I'm so thankful to see this fruition of the herb garden dreams I've been having since the age of 12. It seemed a long time in coming, but this was definitely the right time for it.

In other parts of the garden, the corn is sprouting, the beans are going wild, the peas are shooting skyward, the lettuce is lush, the carrots are digging in, the strawberries are blushing, and, just in time for Beltane, the foxgloves are preparing to bloom (photo forthcoming).

I so love this time of year, even if I do have swine flu (or ebola or the bubonic plague).

And now, I shall take some more orange juice and hyssop-horehound tincture and watch the rain fall soft upon my garden.

Happy Beltane to all,


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Viper's Bugloss

This is my new friend, Viper's Bugloss:
(click to enlarge)
The happiness it brings me is a known protection against all swine-avian-human flu virus "crises."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Garden Miscellany, Including the Bean Teepee/Ziggurat/Tower of Wisdom/Crudely Constructed Twig & Twine Support Structure

The weather has been warm and wet--sunny days interspersed with severe storms and heavy, soaking rains. In other words, it's been PERFECT weather for ensuring that our gardens are flourishing. The peas have tripled in height since my last post--every morning, it seems as though they've grown a few more inches.

I spent several happy hours yesterday digging and edging a circular bed and knocking together a fairly organic-looking bean tower for my Kentucky Wonder pole beans. Behold!
Since the beans are going to be growing straight up (theoretically), I've sown a border of calendula all the way around the bean tower. Double your fun!

Our first "harvest" (two Ozark Beauty strawberries) was DECIMATED by a hoodlum robin I saw hanging around the strawberry patch when I got home from work. I ran over to discover that two ripe berries had been torn from the vine and each given a sound peck. Jacob and I ate them anyway, despite the fact that they were sullied and shot through with robin spit (do robins even salivate? I'm not sure...). THEY WERE THE BEST STRAWBERRIES I'VE EVER TASTED. Hands down. There are about 40 more fruits on the vines at the moment, and if that robin thinks it's getting so much as a lick (do robins even have tongues? I'm not sure...) of anymore of MY (errr...OUR) delicious strawberries, it has another thing coming to it.

The tomatoes (all 10 varieties!) are coming along beautifully, as are the eggplants. Cukes, pumpkins, melons, and squash are all sprouting in their Solo cups, readying themselves for installation into our wading pool beds. Yes! We bought cheap-o wading pools from Wal-Mart (quick! spit in your hand and make the sign against the evil eye!) that (I've heard) are PERFECT for growing plants like watermelons, squash, etc. We shall see!

Jacob built another raised bed, which brings our total to three. This one will be the corn & bean bed. With his handyman skills in full swing (not to mention his almost indecent love of his new staple gun), Jacob also constructed a pretty swell compost bin. Now, instead of tossing my food scraps directly into the yard/garden like a redneck, I can dump them into the compost bin, which somehow makes it preppier. I will, however, forever and always dump my bacon grease in the grease dumpin' place (a patch of dirt/gravel in the backyard). That is, of course, if I'm not dumping it off into the Mason jar in the fridge. :)

Finally, we took a guilty break from small-scale farming operations to beautify our front yard today. It's a north-facing yard and much of it is in deep shade for the better part of the day--not ideal for clandestine front-yard veggie gardening, so we had to take a more traditional route. After spending our life's savings at Lowe's, we came home with some columbine plants, two "peppermint twist" hydrangeas, two French lavender plants, two giant urns, two hanging baskets, some New Guinea impatiens, and an 8-pack of some rather harried looking verbena. We dug two shade beds--one on either side of our porch steps--and planted the columbine and hydrangeas there. The lavender went into the urns, which I'm using to flank the entrance to our sidewalk (this gets sunlight). The impatiens went into the hanging baskets, and the verbena went into my little seashell planters on the front steps. All-in-all, an afternoon's worth of elbow grease COMPLETELY transformed the front of our house. I'm considering adding a couple of azalea bushes, as well as a circular bed with a birdbath or sundial. The wildflower plot on the "verge" has started sprouting, though to be honest, I don't remember at ALL what kinds of seeds I tossed out'll be a surprise! Hopefully, all that color and loveliness will offset the fact that our neighbors have now broken out all of their front windows (and replaced them with trash bags!) and that they have now taken to sitting on their porch, chucking trash out into the yard. Class act!

I'll try to post a picture of the front of the house here in the next couple of days. We finished up just as a storm was rolling in, so no time to get a decent pic.

I hope this finds everyone (and their gardens!) flourishing. Until next time...

Green blessings,


Thursday, April 2, 2009

"Baby Pictures"

Hello hello. The weather has been so very lovely--highs in the upper 60s, lows in the 50s, warm, gentle breezes, and the occasional soft rain shower to water everything in nicely. Thanks to this nurturing gift of perfect days, things are flourishing here under the magic holly tree (which has, due to the ministrations of the arborist, become the magic holly TOPIARY).

Two days ago, I dug and installed our strawberry patch out near the nascent herb forest. Because I didn't have the foresight to buy strawberry crowns online (thus affording myself a larger variety), I was stuck with what the Home Despot :) had to offer. They had ONE variety of June-bearing strawberry--"Cardinal"--and ONE variety of ever-bearing strawberry--"Ozark Beauty." I bought roughly 12 Ozark Beauties and 8 Cardinals. I then panicked at the fact that they didn't have a suitable home and spent the afternoon digging what I'll fondly refer to as my "strawberry concentration camp" (it's a little too small for 20 plants, I fear). The bricks came from a friend's backyard (she was thrilled to be shot of them). The dirt was full of luscious, monstrous worms, including a six inch long nightcrawler. Our back-of-the-property soil is SO wonderful (minus the large chunks of coal I keep unearthing!).
I figure the bed space will be adequate for the strawberries this season, and that once they start shooting out runners, I can either clip them back to make them bushier, or just do some more sweating and callous-ing and expand the bed outward.

Behind me, in the lopsided circle, is the beginning of my herb forest. I've plenty of room to expand it (though it will lose its circular shape) as my herb seedlings grow up and are ready for transplanting. I'm thrilled to have so many size varieties to incorporate into my herb forest--from towering mullein and asphodel to creeping pennyroyal, and everything in between. I'm going to sink several large terra cotta saucers into the soil for butterfly/bee watering holes and I'm really hoping to salvage a toad from the Kroger parking lot (where they hang out under the lights and, inevitably, get squished) to live in the little moss toad house I plan on building.
At left is the herb forest as it stands (right now, it's a forest only to the tiniest of creatures).

I KNOW it's totally UNIMPRESSIVE at the moment. There's catnip, feverfew, Russian comfrey, lady's mantle, motherwort, yarrow, St. Johnswort, viper's bugloss, canterbury bells (NOT an herb, I know, but pretty...and I had nowhere to put it after I'd dug it up from the old house!), and two tiny rosemary plants that will someday be very big rosemary plants (or so I keep telling them. And folks--isn't that soil just LOVELY?

Like I said, I know it's not much to look at right now, but see that ever-expanding list of "currently sprouting" plants on the right-hand side of this blog? Many, many of those are herbs, and a good majority of those herbs are going to become a part of this ever-expanding bed. Today, the Tibetan Gentian made an appearance (soooo excited!) as did the bittersweet nightshade. It's a climber, so I think I'll invite it to loop itself around the front porch railing. There will be some culinary herbs planted amongst the vegetables--basil, for instance, will go with the tomatoes (of course!), as will the garlic chives. I'm also bringing along some marigolds that I can companion plant with the veggies for pest control purposes.

Speaking of's a look at the two raised beds we've built so far (including the ingeniously movable anti-cat fence Jacob constructed). On Monday, I planted 5 varieties of carrots (Imperator, Red Core Chatenay, Thumbelina, Oxheart, and Dragon) and some Bull's Blood beets, so I'm anxiously awaiting the first signs of green in that bed.

Finally, my sugar snap peas are happily making their way up their chicken wire trellis. I love the fact that I can view them at ground-level by looking out my basement window! :) I can already tell that these peas will be far more successful than last year's planted-too-late-in-clay-soil peas which yielded ONE straggling plant that eeked out ONE SINGLE FLAVORLESS PEA POD beore dying. Also sprouting in that bed (though they don't show in the picture) are California and Flanders poppies. They'll add a nice pop of color, attract bees and other happy pollinators and nectar-sippers, and make a nice sedative tincture or tea once they've started blooming.

Finally, an update on the True Unicorn seedlings--they're starting to take the shape of actual seedlings now, rather than just tiny green specks in the soil. I have many of them--about 15-20, I'd say, and I couldn't be more delighted. I bought a copy of a book by Richo Cech (Horizon Herbs guru) called Growing At-Risk Medicinal Herbs which is, perhaps, the only book in the entire world that offers detailed cultivation information for True Unicorn (as well as False Unicorn, which I've still had ZERO success with). I want to know how to treat these little beauties!

As I type this, I've glanced at the weather to see that the NWS is calling for snow showers on Mon/Tues of next week. I know it won't kill anything that's currently outside, but it WILL kill my happy, spring-like mood if I have to break out the whale sweater and wool socks again.

Speaking of killing things, I ROASTED my Monkshood seedlings. Every last one of them. I'm pretty damn pissed at myself--I woke up too late on a sunny Saturday and ran outside to remove the cover from my seedling tray only to discover that the damage had been done. The soil was STEAMING and the little Monkshoods (who love cool weather when they first start out...) were all keeled over. I nearly cried. I also fried the only English bluebell I'd managed to sprout. There may be a couple of Monkshoods coming up in another, smaller flat I'd started a little later in the winter, but they may have been snockered (aka drowned) in the recent rains. It's obviously not a life or death thing, but I'm still very sad. I'm pleased to know that I CAN grow monkshood...just sad to know that I can't try it again until next winter (which, really, I don't even want to think about right now).

I may satisfy myself and buy an aconite plant from the nursery, but it'll feel a whole lot like cheating.

Ah well! At least I didn't roast my tomato seedlings. They're flourishing. :)

Happy Old-World New Year to all!


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Great's sprouting!

I never thought I'd see the day, but sure enough, very close (as in, nose-in-the-dirt) investigation of the seed flats today revealed that I am indeed growing True Unicorn, an extremely endangered native medicinal. Don't worry--it'll only be 6 or 7 YEARS before the root can be harvested. For now, let's just try to get it to its first set of leaves, shall we?

In other news, I am most excited about my "herb forest" that I've begun adding to the rear of our property. Finally, I am building the medicinal/culinary herb garden of my dreams--a tangle of folklore and magic I can lose myself inside of daily. It will obviously be a year or so before it becomes a true jungle, but I'm helping it on its way by adding mature perennial herbs from last year's garden (dug up with permission from the tenants of our old rental house). My sugar snap peas are also coming along nicely, latching bravely onto their homemade trellis and climbing ever upward. I so look forward to gorging myself on snap peas right from the vine. When we had them in Oregon, they never even made it into the house!

Finally, Jacob dug up the "verge"--the green space between our sidewalk and the street--and I layered it with mulch, then scattered three or four packets of wildflower seeds. With luck, the city officials won't cite us for failure to mow. :/

I'm going to creep back down to the basement now and make sure my true unicorn sprouts weren't just figments of my over-coffee'd imagination.

Here's to spring!


Friday, March 13, 2009

R-r-r-really, people? Really, America? REALLY!?!?

I wasn't sure at all that we could get any more obsessed with outward apparance/any stupider/any more over-medicated, but, alas, we just did.

What was that I was reading tonight? Oh, yes, about how St. John's Wort, Comfrey, and Coltsfoot have been deemed dangerous by the FDA and are better left as pretty ornamentals in the garden.

Yes. I'm off to see if any of my EXCEEDINGLY DANGEROUS PLANTS have sprouted while ya'll go plump up your eyelashes with some glaucoma medication.



P.S.--I am well, well, well aware of the fact that there are many extremely dangerous herbs out there. They are, after all, drugs in their own right. HOWEVER, I'm sure many of you can appreciate that the FDA seems a little cracked when they tell us that comfrey will kill us, but that it's okay to take a medication for a SERIOUS CONDITION simply because we want longer eyelashes.

I over-explain.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Garden p0rn!

This is my black mandrake plant that I've been growing (with a period of dormancy...oops) for about a year. He suffered a small injury (see brown spot) when a cat gave him a nip, but other than that, he's doing swimmingly, putting on new growth rather quickly and otherwise taunting me with the idea that we could be seeing a flower or two soon. For those of you not in the know, mandrakes can be rather persnickety, taking up to a year to germinate (if they germinate at all). Mine germinated in a couple of weeks, but it's been slow, slow going. Worth it, though. I pet him fondly everyday.

"Copenhagen Market" cabbage seedling.

Russian Comfrey re-emerging after a long winter's nap.

Happy little Lady's Mantle greeting the burgeoning growing season.

Wild lettuce germinating under the shop lights, with its neighbor, clary sage, popping up to say "hello," as well.

Teeny little pennyroyal sprouts--the seeds were nearly invisible!

Tomorrow, I'll try to get some pics of my super-frugal germination station (which, apparently, is doing its job very well!).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Food, Medicine, Magic

In all honesty, this could be the title of most of my posts for this blog, but I decided to make it today's title for the mere fact that the first of the food and the first of the medicine have begun to sprout down in my fantastic basement germination station. My Copenhagen market cabbage and my wild lettuce have poked their little green heads out from the soil and are saying hello to the bright new world beyond.


Seriously, though. It never, ever, ever gets old--seeing those first sprouts of the season. I don't think it ever WILL get old. At the goat farm, I spent countless evenings elbow-deep in birthing goats, and that final push--that gush of new, warm, bleating life into the world--never, ever got old. It brought me to tears (just a little) each time, and made me feel at once very sexual, very spiritual, and very much a part of the magic and the order of things.

While sprouting seeds are not baby goats, there's definitely something there that gets my blood thrumming and today, as ever, I did a little dance and bounded up the basement stairs to try to find someone--anyone--to tell of this marvelous coming.

And I act as though I've been sprouting seeds all my life, but I haven't. 3 years. It's only been 3 years since I first plopped some soil in a pot, took those miniscule artemisia absinthium specks in my fingers, and sprinkled them over the dirt with a mixture of dubious curiosity and reverent certainty. Why did I start with wormwood, of all things? Because when I moved into the semi-communal disas--err---experiment that was Possum Place in Eugene, Oregon, the one thing I wanted to do more than anything in the world was the exact same thing I'd been wanting to do since that odd day, around the age of 12, when I became OBSESSED with herbal folklore and magic---grow as many varieties of herbs as I possibly could. So, they handed me a battered shoebox of herb seeds and told me to have at it. They then proceeded to question everything I chose to grow, chiding me for planting things with "no real use."

Despite their doubts and my initial disbelief that something so tiny could actually BECOME something, my wormwood plants flourished into maginficent, silvery, plumed things that the local garden expert fawned over (in his extremely handsome/seductive British accent). He even took one home for HIS GARDEN. This was the man that could grow ANYTHING...and he took MY wormwood plant!

Where is this going? I'm not sure. I think it's become a reminiscent ramble.

The point is, for me, food, medicine, and magic go hand in hand in hand. I'm not really talking about cauldron magic--though there's certainly a bit of that what goes into the medicine-making part. I'm certainly not talking about wand-waving magic, though sometimes I fancy a nice wand to make things grow a little faster. I'm talking about the magic that happens through the entire process of raising a plant from seed to seed--from tiny sprout to a tincture that will help a friend get rid of her headache; from a two-leafed seedling into a plate full of candy-sweet tomatoes I'll slice and eat with sea salt and pepper; from a gangling vine to a pumpkin that, each night, reminds me of a harvest moon fallen from the heavens to nestle amongst the weeds. When I'm planting seeds, when I'm kneeling in the dirt, when I'm macerating, canning, straining, bottling, stirring, sniffing, tasting, experimenting, dancing through the tomato vines looking for fairies, I get an almost indescribable feeling that a). all is right with the world b). I am very old c). I am more things than I ever thought I could be and d). I am the luckiest person the world. I often find myself talking to my plants, and I suppose they must be talking back, because I can go on for hours. And already this season, there has been so much magic....for the first time ever, I've coaxed some aconite seeds into sprouting. One day there was nothing. The next? Aconite babies! I sowed them in November and that first warm day, they began to emerge en masse. I've also had tremendous luck with my shooting starts, so far, and I'll patiently wait the three years (!) it could take for them to bloom.

This weekend, we're borrowing a truck and getting compost (from the city facility) and soil, and we're filling the first of our raised beds. Soon, it'll be time to sow the carrots & the beets, and to set out those little cabbages who appeared today. It's happening. It's really, really happening. I finally have a garden to call my own--a garden to grow with.

I joined a website called "Freedom Gardeners" (a modern day twist on "Victory Garden"). It's essentially the Facebook of gardening, so, like a tool, I created a profile and waited pathetically for someone to friend me. It didn't take long--not to get a friend request, but to get a question regarding my profile. Here's what my profile said:

I believe in the omens of Indian pipes and pale green moths.

I want to be a folk song. Or a daguerreotype. Or a daguerreotype of a folk song.

I think plastic packaging should be outlawed and that everyone should put everything in blue Mason jars, like the good lawd intended.

I believe heirloom tomatoes will save us all.

I believe in catfish the size of Volkswagens.

I believe in pie magic.

I believe it's time to dig our toes in, grow food, make medicine, and take charge of our own happiness and simple prosperity.

So this guy in a cowboy hat sends me a message entitled "?" which I knew couldn't be a good sign. It says, "What's pie magic?"

I half expected him to follow that with "Sounds like Orc mischief to me," but he didn't. I fumbled for an answer, which said something to the effect of everything you've just read (above).

"Hmmmm....I've never been much of a mystic. I'm more of a practic," he replied.

And then he friended me.

So far, he's my only friend on

If you have a garden, join (and be my friend!). The forums are actually a really fantastic source of information, and there's a fairly hilarious/sad/useful thread right now on "Happy Homesteaders vs. Doom-and-Gloomers" where they're keeping tally on how many people are happy and how many people think the world's going to change drastically. What if you think the world's going to change AND you're happy? Well, there's a place for you, as well.

Coming soon--pictures! I have much to show you all. For now, it's time to find an Ent to put me to bed (and if that doesn't work, I'll have to take myself there).



Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The seeds are coming! The seeds are coming!

Delighted today to check the mail and discover two of those much-anticipated bubble mailers--one from Horizon Herbs and one from Seed Savers Exchange.

Seeds from Horizon:

*Lungwort--Excellent shade plant used to make...surprise! Respiratory tonics.
*Wild Lettuce--Excellent sedative for practicing insomniac like myself.
*California Poppy--Milder sedative than wild lettuce and also an excellent mild analgesic for things like menstrual cramps.
*Flanders Poppy--This is the classic "Wizard of Oz" poppy...yet another sedative, stronger, with less of a woo-hoo-cuckoo effect than the Wild Lettuce...I plan on making a tincture of whole California poppy plants and blossoms from the Flanders poppy.
*Zahir Poppy--Yes, Virginia, this is a black opium poppy. Am I going to produce opium? Most likely not. I just love "black" flowers of all manner, and this will make such a rich contrast to the sunny orange and red poppies in my poppy patch.
*Clary Sage--To be completely honest, I absolutely hate the smell of clary sage, despite the fact that multiple people have called it "seductive" or "lusty." I stand by my assertion that it smells like cat piss. HOWEVER, it is a BEAUTIFUL plant and the bees absolutely adore it, so into the garden it goes, if for no other reason than to bring all the bees to the yard.
*Bittersweet (Climbing) Nightshade--Is it medicinally useful? According to my books, a low-dose tincture could treat herpes, but otherwise, no, it's not useful medicinally. However, I am utterly, and, perhaps, disturbingly smitten with baneful herbs--the deadlier the better. Fortunately, bittersweet nightshade is very unlikely to kill anyone unless they decide to feast on a quantity of raw berries. The flowers are lovely, the berries lucious to look at (and supposedly beloved by birds), and we had some growing wild through our garden in Oregon, so I decided to give it a go and see if perhaps it would like to trellis up the holly tree.

Seeds from Seed Savers Exchange:

Dragon Carrot--If you've never seen what one of these looks like, they're pretty remarkable. They're an extremely red variety of "purple" carrot. Jacob agrees that they remind us a little of a dog penis, but still, I can't wait to give them a go!

Blue Jade Corn--I'm pretty excited about this variety of corn. For one thing, it's one of the few blue corns that can be boiled and eaten off the cob (most blue corns are good for cornmeal or decorations). For another, it's one of the ONLY sweet corns that can be grown in a container. I'm not actually going to grow mine in a container, but it produces plants that are only 2-3 feet tall, which means this corn will be PERFECT for my little garden. I tried regular old field corn last year, and it was a disaster. The plants sprouted and formed ears, but they were stunted and then got some sort of incredible corn fungus that made each kernel puff up to roughly the size of a walnut and exude some sort of black sludge. Those plants all found their way into the compost heap. :/

Parisian Pickling Cucumber--I have been an adamant hater of pickles for many, many years. It baffles my parents, because they claim that as a child, I could sit and eat my way through an entire jar of bread and butter pickles and...AND...DRINK THE JUICE. So, this Christmas, my father ordered a bunch of crap in Currier & Ives tins and gingham-capped jars. Among these were some fat little gherkins from a farm in Arkansas. My father all but forced me to try one and....I LOVED IT. So, I decided to give pickle-making a try this summer and plant these fantastic little cukes that have been around since the late 1800s. Of course, I shall post the results here.

Marconi Red Pepper--Last summer, I got an unexpectedly good yield from my bell pepper plants (just your stock-standard California Wonders), and I decided to add a new variety to my pepper fleet. This is an Italian heirloom pepper that's supposedly very sweet and can get up to TWELVE INCHES LONG. For a girl who likes to eat bell peppers like candy, this is very good news.

Oxheart Carrot--These carrots live up to their name. They're fat, bulky, and pretty ugly. They can also reach ONE POUND APIECE, even in clay soil. They sound perfect for carrot soup and carrot juice, and they're good keepers, which means my plans to pack some of our root and squash-type veggies away in the basement for fall/winter eating might very well pan out...if I don't eat everything the minute I get it off the vine/out of the ground.

Okay, so clearly, those aren't all of the seeds I'm planting. We're waiting on a load of veggie seeds from a couple of other places and, of course, I already have an embarassing quantity of seeds ferreted away here at home. Thankfully, I was able to foist some seeds over on a friend yesterday, who, incidentally, had come over to be herbally cured of a headache she'd had for five days.

I am proud to report that her five day headache went away within the hour thanks to my hobgoblin-ish ministrations. Here's what I gave her:

"Everything But the Sink Headache Cure"--

1 bag of chamomile tea w/ 1 bag of Yogi "Bedtime" tea combined with....
*dose of homemade lemon balm/catnip/chamomile tincture
*dose of homemade feverfew tincture
*dose homemade lavender tincture
*dose homemade skullcap tincture

Normally I would NOT combine all of these herbs in an attempt to cure a headache. Not because they're dangerous to combine, of course...they're all quite gentle/innocuous. I wouldn't do it simply because I would want to know exactly WHICH plant it was that did the healing. Unfortunately, the poor girl had had this pounding headache for FIVE DAYS, and she had to go to school, so I essentially threw it all into the kettle and ended up with something that actually worked. I'm willing to bet it was the feverfew that did it--it usually helps my headaches, at least--but the other nervine herbs in the mix couldn't have hurt. Besides...I got to share my seed wealth!

In other news, Lord Freecycle has gifted us with a free garden shed (no more lugging the iron push-reel mower up from the basement when it's time to cut the weeds!), railroad ties for raised beds, and bricks for edging the front beds. Additionally, my friend Nikki gave me a VERY NICE stainless steel shelving system in exchange for dog-sitting, and my friend Victoria gave me about thirty grow lights last year sooooooooo I can finally get rid of my awkward seed-starting system and actually set up a legit. operation in the basement. Of course I'll only be growing veggies and herbs, but given that I live in a neighborhood where people are busted nearly everyday for growing pot in their basements, I'm going to have to be careful to block the windows so that the familiar fluorescent glow doesn't draw attention--not because I'm afraid of being arrested, but because I'm afraid of someone breaking in while we're gone. At any rate, this system will be far superior to last year's. Last year, I ended up putting plastic sheeting down on the floor of my office and starting all of my seeds there. Jacob and I would haul them daily out to the porch for sunlight and then bring them back in at night. We dropped several flats and lost some really difficult-to-grow/rare herbs in the process, not to mention the fact that there was constantly dirt everywhere. I'm thrilled to find this FREE solution to my problem (thanks Nikki and Victoria!) because it means that a). I can start MORE plants sooner (some of the herbs take weeks to germinate) and b). keep them at a more constant light/temperature level so that they'll be more likely to grow up big and strong.

Last spring, I ended up with so many extra plants, I tried to have a plant sale. More like a plant FAIL. In Oregon (two years ago), I had a smashing success of a plant sale. Not so here in ol' Paducah. No one was remotely interested in buying my plants, and I was in a very piss-poor location for attempting to convince people that heirloom veggies were the way to go (not too many crack addicts are inclined to grow their own food). Now, I'm still in a piss-poor location (ah...but the house! the house!), but the nice, fair trade/organic coffeeshop in the hip arts district (just a couple of blocks away) has offered to let me have a plant sale at the shop. HOW EXCITING IS THAT? Etcetera (the shop) gets TONS of traffic, particularly on the weekends when the galleries are open late. And we all know, of course, that artsy coffee drinkers tend to revel in growing their own veggies/herbs, even if it's just a tomato or basil plant. So, hurrah!

I'm pretty sure that's just about everything. I'm completely swamped in work right now, but all I can do is keep stopping to gaze at my seed packets, and it's taking all of my willpower to wait until this weekend to get my seed starting shelves set up. Outside in the home-made cold frame, the lettuce seeds are sprouting, and some English bluebells have poked their heads out from their cold stratification area along the back wall of the house. I'm pretty much burning up with spring fever, and I know many of you are, as well, so I leave you with this parting shot:

Grow for all you're worth, little Arnicas!

Green blessings & watermelon dreams,