Saturday, May 30, 2009

Garden is In and Worms!

1st lettuce, radish, spinach bed

The gardens are finally all planted. I just have one area left for a second planting of corn that I'll do in about 2 weeks. But otherwise; the gardens are in! Always a great feeling.

Transplanted tomatoes, peppers, and celeriac today. Planted 1st planting of corn too. We had a good rain so the ground was nice and wet; perfect for transplanting.

Tomato transplant with newspaper collar

When transplanting it's very helpful to put some compost and water into the hole before putting the plant into it. Mixing kelp or liquid seaweed into the water first is even better. That helps the plant against transplant shock. When transplanting tomatoes and peppers it is best to wrap the stem with a collar of newspaper. The newspaper should be several pieces thick and several inches wide and not too tight around the stem. This will keep pesky cutworms from eating through the plant's stem. Keep some of the paper above the soil line and some of it below soil line. Cutworms are the larvae/caterpillars of a variety of night flying moths.

Yucky photo of a Cutworm near corn plant (photo from MN Extension)

Being that we are on the subject of soil critters let's take a moment to look at a specific critter that Charles Darwin referred to as a lowly critter, Lumbricus terrestris, aka earthworms, which are in the phylum Annelida. We all know that Darwin studied evolution but do you know that he also studied earthworms? You may ask yourself, "Why on Earth would a man as remarkable as Charles Darwin study something as lowly as earthworms?" The answer is simple; without earthworms we' wouldn't be here! What?! Yes, you read that right. If we didn't have earthworms we wouldn't be here because plants wouldn't grow. How can that be? How can our existence depend on something so ho-hum.

Here's the story of the earthworm. Very simply, Darwin realized what few others of his day did, that earthworms were of immense value to agriculture. Earthworms eat soil and debris that's in soil, poop it out adding nutrients to the soil and thus making the soil more fertile. They also tunnel their way through soil loosening the soil making it easier for roots to work their way though. Earthworms are like amazing little bulldozers. Moving soil from great depths, churning, adding nutrients, and just overall making the soil better for plants to grow. We want lots of earthworms in our soil!

Here's something written on Darwin's work with earthworms: "Only Darwin would go out there and start to do experiments and start to come up with a whole theory as to what earthworms did and why they were beneficial," says Anderson. "Everyone else just took them as part of life and didn't think hard like he did."

If you would like to read more about Charles Darwin and his work with earthworms visit:

There is a way to increase the number of earthworms in your garden's soil and that is by adding compost and composted manure to your soil. Gardening without synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides will also help insure your garden soil of worms.

One final note on earthworms. You can raise them so that they eat your kitchen scraps and turn them into a wonderful type of compost known as Vermicompost. Vermiculture, the raising of earthworms, in particular Red Wiggler Earthworms produces some of the best compost that you can use in your soil. The compost is called "castings". Earthworm castings are the poop of the worms. Sounds yucky but they look like compost and are great compost.

To obtain Red Wigglers you can get a handful from a friend who raises them or you can purchase them online. Just do a Google search for Red Wigglers.

For information on Vermiculture there are lots of sites on the web. This one is fun to read and very informative:

A great book on Vermiculture: Worms Eat My Garbage.

Here's a fun fact that middle school age kids love about earthworms...they are hermaphrodites! That means that an organism, in this case the earthworm, is a male and a female! Wild huh!?

Worms crawl in, worms crawl out.....

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Part 2

First Radish Harvest!

What a beautiful day! Lots of planting done now that compost and mulch is down, fence is up around lower vegetable garden and for the peas, and beds are prepared. It is finally time to plant.

Planting today began after coffee and Rhubarb bread (see Memorial Day Part 1 for recipe).

Then for lunch we had our first radish sandwich!

Radish Sandwich -

2 pieces of Rye bread
several radishes (fresh from garden)
herb butter (directions below) (I used chives, chervil, french tarragon, oregano, sage, garlic chives because they are what were in the garden)

Slice 3-6 radishes - thick slices
Spread herb butter on one slice of Rye bread
Put them all together into a sandwich and that's it! Eat and enjoy!!

Herb Butter -

1/2 stick real butter - room temperature
Handful of assorted herbs from garden (whatever is growing)
Finely mince herbs and blend them into the butter

Back to gardening....

Our garden cart - love this cart!

I planted three types of beans, Provider for making dilly beans. French Haricots verts and Italian Roma beans for eating. Also planted more parsley and dill, slicing cucumbers, nasturtiums, zucchini, yellow squash, and a 3rd planting of radishes, carrots, and lettuce. Transplanted cauliflower. In the side garden I planted Connecticut Field pumpkins. I took off the row cover from the first planting of lettuce, beets, radishes, spinach, and carrots. These plants look great! I hope I didn't take the cover off too early. I did see some flea beetles but hope the plants are now large enough to withstand them. We will see.

More plantings to come tomorrow - more squashes, pie pumpkins, flowers, herbs. Need to move more plants in the herb garden to continue expanding the kitchen herb section. Later in the week or even next weekend in will go the tomato and pepper plants and corn seed. I usually wait until the first of June to put those last three in, just to be sure it's warm enough.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Part 1

I know I said I'd post our Memorial Day planting but first I want to post some Memorial Day recipes using garden goodies. Today I transplanted kitchen herbs to one area of the perennial flower/herb garden. They were previously spread around and I decided last year that I want one area devoted to kitchen herbs. One of the herbs that I moved was oregano. It smelled so good and was big enough to harvest that I thought I'd make a favorite recipe.

For the following recipe harvest the tops of oregano. Be sure it's Greek oregano, Origanum vulgare, that's the best cooking oregano.

Here's a picture of my oregano and what it looks like in spring time.

White Beans and Oregano with Rice
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small onion chopped (@ 1 Cup)
3 Cloves garlic (@ 1 TBSP)
2 TBSP fresh oregano minced or 1 TBSP dried oregano
2 - 15 oz cans Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained
1 Cup of water or Vegetable Broth
Rice - Cook rice according to package. I usually cook Jasmine rice in Vegetable broth with a dash of olive oil and some minced oregano for this recipe

Heat 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Add 1 small chopped onion and saute 5-7 minutes or until onion begins to brown. Stir in minced garlic and oregano, cook 30 seconds or until fragrant
Add beans and the broth or water and season with pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer @ 15 minutes or until half of the liquid has evaporated but beans are still a little soupy.

Serve beans over rice and with a side garden salad. YUMMY!!!

Harvested Rhubarb today; here's our rhubarb patch!

When you harvest rhubarb you pull the rhubarb stem so it separates right at the soil level. Do not cut the rhubarb!! But do cut the tops off and put the leaves into the compost pile. DO NOT EAT THE LEAVES!!! They are very toxic.
When I use rhubarb I take the pinkest parts of the stems and cook with that part, they are the sweetest part, as sweet as rhubarb can be. The top green parts are the tartest. Some people like the green tart parts but we like the sweet pink parts.

We love rhubarb.. So here's a favorite Rhubarb Bread recipe.

Rhubarb Bread
1 1/2 Cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 1/2 Cups flour - Can use half white and half whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 Cup Canola or Vegetable oil - I use canola
1 Cup sour milk - don't have sour milk make some! (1 Cup sour milk = 1 Cup milk - 1 TBSP and add 1 TBSP vinegar)
1/2 Cup chopped nuts - walnuts or pecans
1 1/2 Cups chopped rhubarb - I like to use the red and pink sections of the rhubarb

Beat sugar, oil, eggs
Mix baking soda and milk. Add flour, vanilla, rhubarb, and nuts.

Pour into 2 greased and floured bread pans
Sprinkle with 2 TBSP sugar and dot with butter
Bake 325 degrees for 1 hour

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A New Solar Clothes Dryer and Sweet Woodruff

Putting up the clothes line...

And now all done! Ta Da!! .........
The two favorite men in my life putting up our new "solar" clothes dryer...aka.... clothes line. :) Handmade by Ger and put up by Ger and Kyle.

Here's what I found on the Internet about saving energy and money with a clothes line:

...if Americans are really going to fight climate change, one obvious place to start is by reducing the use of the third most energy sapping appliance in the home (after the refrigerator and washing machine).

Not only does it save us money, but it cuts down on CO2 use as well. Let’s look to see what kind of impact letting our garments air dry on a clothes line has:

Cost/load (electric): $ .35
CO2/load (electric): 5.6 lbs.
Loads/year for a family: 365
Cost of a clothes line: $ 5-10
$ saving/year (1/2 loads air dried): $63.88
lbs CO2 saved/year (1/2 loads air dried): 1016 lbs.

To be honest Gerry said it cost him $50 to buy the lumber, cement, and line to make our new clothes line. And we certainly don't do a load of laundry a day, it's more like 2 loads of laundry a week. And we have a gas dryer so not sure how that fits into these calculations. But still, it just seems like the right thing to do.

Now back to gardening.

Sweet Woodruff -
Do you have a woodland spot that is shady? Would you like a lovely spring blooming ground cover for that spot? Then try the lovely and spreading Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum). This low growing ground cover that prefers shade, coolness, and moisture. I have mine growing along side some Lily-of -the-Valley and under a magnificent maple tree. Sweet Wooodruff is a lovely plant!! It has a lovely white flower and wonderful smelling green foliage. And it's the magical ingredient for May Wine. Here's my May wine recipe that I got years ago from a large herb farm in Coventry CT called Caprilands.

Caprilands May Wine:
1 Gallon of Rhine Wine
1 Cup of fresh Sweet Woodruff leaves and flowers (it's in bloom now, Memorial Day weekend)
Mix the above ingredients together and let sit for one month. Strain. Rebottle into quart bottles add 2-3 sprigs of fresh woodruff to each bottle.
Optional - Add some brandy to the steeping wine.

May Bowl (to be served during fresh strawberry season)
1 Gallon May Wine
A handful of Johnny Jump Up leaves
1 pint of strawberries
Serve chilled with a strawberry in each glass.
Optional - add a dash of brandy in each glass if it didn't steep in the May Wine. I don't usually add brandy but maybe I'll try it this year.Coming next (within a day or two) ...Memorial Day planting and the harvesting/cooking Rhubarb, radishes and radish sandwiches, oregano, and asparagus!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Importance of Soil and Compost

Compost lined trench for asparagus

It's all about soil AND it's all about compost.

After spending several days of working compost into the gardens and around shrubs and trees, as well as spreading mulch, it occurred to me that the topic of soil is such an important one that I should devote some time here solely to soil. So hats off to all gardeners working towards great garden soil.

A friend once asked what the difference was between organic gardening and conventional gardening (why is it called conventional gardening anyway?). She thought organic gardening was about not using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. But really if you examine the heart of organic gardening you realize you are looking at soil. It's all about soil. Let me say that again, a healthy organic garden is all about healthy soil. The time you put into building up your soil is the absolute best investment you can make into your garden. So pick up a handful of soil from your garden and look at it and feel it. What color is it? What does it feel like? Is there anything wiggling in it?

So what about the soil? First, the soil needs to be "alive"! Yes, alive! One of the best debates that occurred in my science class was around the following question that a kid came up with, " Is soil living?" You can't imagine how much thinking went into this heated discussion among my then 7th graders. Yes, 7th graders were arguing, sometimes loudly, about soil. And the funny thing is, that scientists still debate that question. It all comes down to our definition of soil. What do you think of when you hear the word, "soil"? Do you think of dirt? Or do you think of ground rocks, and microbes, and roots, and decomposing material, and worms? Whether you side with "soil is living" or with "soil is nonliving", soil that supports a healthy plant and garden should be home to many living organisms.

Let me give you an example. When we bought our home 10 years ago we used a garden spot that was here and had been used for 40 years. We just assumed it must be amazing soil. Well after the first year of gardening and not seeing a worm anywhere and having quite a bit of trouble getting a tomato or cucumber to grow I got a bit suspicious. So the next year I had a truckload of compost delivered and I worked it into the soil. Still no worms or tomatoes. So the following year another truck load of compost and another year of no worms or tomatoes. I decided something was definitely not right so we moved the spot. The first year in the new spot we got another truckload of compost and worked it into the soil. Worms (and tomatoes) were everywhere! And the worms continue to wiggle their way through our garden soil today. When we cleaned out our garage that very first summer we were here we found things like Sevin and Scotts fertilizer, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. I can only conclude that the farmer who was a post WW II farmer liberally used such things on his garden and killed every living thing in his garden soil. And because he was dealing with such unhealthy soil he needed lots of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

So now that we know we want and need healthy soil how do we get it? The first thing to do is figure out the texture of your soil. Is it clay? Meaning that when watered the water sits on top and can't seep down to get to the roots of plants. Or is it sandy? Meaning that the soil can't hold on to water so it dries out quickly. Believe it or not the remedy for both these soils is the got it - compost! Compost is just magical when it comes to soil. It can loosen clay soil making it easier for roots to spread and grow and it can add texture to sandy soil helping it hold onto water. What exactly is compost? Compost that is made at home is broken down plant based waste such as leaves, grass clippings, plant waste from cooking such as fruit and vegetable scraps, breads, pasta, coffee grounds, egg shells. Do not use meat, bones, cheese...those go into the garbage.

There is also manure, composted manure. Fresh manure will burn your garden plants so the manure needs to be composted. Manure is good 'ole poop that has been composted. It can come from cows, horses, sheep, rabbits, chicken, llamas, alpacas....can you think of anything else?

You can make your own compost with just a little effort or you can buy compost or composted manure from local farmers. You can even buy compost and composted manure from places like WalMart and HomeDepot.

According to University of Maine's, "Home Composting" bulletin, compost is, "...a dark, crumbly and earthy-smelling form of decomposing organic matter." To read this easy to read and informative bulletin to home composting go to:

So go get some compost and a shovel and spend some time adding compost to all your garden plants.

Oh, and did I mention that it's all about soil and compost!?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tulips and Compost

Tulips are up and beautiful! I planted this one years ago and it still comes up year after year.

Also in bloom are Bleeding Hearts.
And the lilacs are just beginning to bloom.

Last fall I dug up a spot along the front border of the vegetable garden and planted daffodil, hyacinth, and tulip bulbs. I did this because for years I've planted tulip bulbs throughout the perennial flower/herb garden and they don't do well there. Plus I often forget where they are and accidentally dig them up. A few years ago I planted daffodil bulbs in our front yard but not one came up. We have moles and I am assuming they ate the bulbs. So I thought I'd try a small spot devoted to bulbs to see how they do there and they look lovely. So I will expand that area and plant more bulbs in the fall. It's nice having enough to cut and bring indoors.

Yesterday was a long day adding compost to the vegetable garden beds and strawberry patch as well as adding hay mulch to the paths. I like to use hay for pathway mulch because it breaks down into the soil at then end of the season. I first line the paths with 2 layers of newspaper and then cover with hay. I use the newspaper so that any seeds from the hay, which is a perennial grass, don't take root in the path ways. That would be terrible! I wanted to get this done because we were going to have a good rain last night and we did. Here's my lower vegetable garden with hay newly put down in the pathways.

Straw is another mulch material and many folks use straw rather than hay on their strawberry beds. This is because, unlike hay, straw is an annual so the seeds of straw aren't as much a threat. But straw tends to be a bit more difficult to find, at least up here it is. And it tends to be double the price. I buy my straw at a local horse shop. Hay I get from a local cow farm.

This week I will spend a good amount of time adding compost to the flower beds, raspberry patches, shrubs, trees, and upper vegetable garden. Compost...what can I say about compost?! There is nothing more beneficial for your garden than compost. Farmers and gardeners who know the beneficial value of compost refer to it as Gardener's Gold or Black Gold. Because compost is pure gold to the plants in a garden. Rodale's book on Organic Gardening introduces compost nicely so I'm going to put it here,
" In the soft, warm bosom of a decaying compost heap, a transformation from life to death and back again is taking place. Life is leaving the living plants of yesterday, but in their death these leaves and stalks pass on their vitality to the coming generations of future seasons. Here in the dank and moldy pile the wheel of life is turning."

Compost can be made from just about any organic matter. When you hear or read the word "organic" you are reading about something that is carbon based. And if something is carbon based it is/was living, made up of cells (or a cell). When folks say they have an organic garden they are using the word "organic" differently. They are referring to the process of gardening without using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Rather organic gardeners use compost for fertilizer (as well as other "natural" materials) and use methods such as crop rotation and biological pest control. Organic matter for compost can include plant material such as leaves, grass clippings, vegetable and fruit waste. All those things can go into a compost pile. Food waste from plant material can also go into compost pile such as bread, pasta, and coffee grounds. Egg shells can also go into compost. But anything from meat, oil, or cheese cannot go into a compost pile as it will attract unwanted rodents. Compost adds needed nutrients to your soil; it also adds to the texture and structure of your soil. Compost adds worms and beneficial microorganisms to your soil as well. Compost loosens clay soil which allows roots to grow and water to reach your plants' roots. Compost adds texture to sandy soil allowing the soil to hold onto moisture. Simply said, compost makes your soil better and when you have good soil your garden plants grow better. Healthy soil is of the utmost importance in gardening. If you don't compost now is a great time to start. For some basic information visit the University of Illinois site at:

Since the dandelions are blooming it was time to plant potatoes. After turning a spot and digging in lots of compost an area in the upper garden was ready. Here is a picture of the potatoes before I planted them. Before you plant them you cut them up, being sure there is an "eye" in each section and each section needs to be big enough to "feed" the eye piece as the eye piece establishes roots. The potato is the food for the developing potato plant. Once the potatoes are cut they need to sit for 24 hours before you plant them.

Below is a picture of the potato bed after planting. Notice the hay on the bed to keep the soil cool.

Up in the garden are peas and the first and second plantings of beets, spinach, lettuce, carrots, radishes, and Swiss chard. Broccoli is growing but slowly. Onion sets are in. For herbs, sage and thyme are just starting to leaf out and chervil and cilantro are up.

Next week is Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day weekend is the traditional garden planting time here in Maine. Some folks put in their tomatoes, peppers, and corn. But this has been a very cool spring. We've got the woodstove on today and it's May 17th. I think I'll wait until the first week of June to plant my tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans, squash. and annual flowers and herbs. So for now I'll continue with composting and mulching the gardens.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Planting and Edible Violets

Happy Mother's Day!
FEDCO Tree Sale and Edible Flowers

Sweet Violets and Johnny Jump Ups are up! Did you know that both are edible flowers?!

This photo is of some Johnny-Jump-Ups (Viola tricolor) also known as, Heatsease, that are up in my veggie garden. They self sow every year and are early flowers. They are in the viola family. They are the happiest little flowers and they are a wonderful addition to salads. They are edible. Harvest when the flowers are in full bloom. The more you harvest the more beautiful edible blooms will form on your plants. I "dead head" these flowers all summer long. Here the term "dead head" is not a reference to someone who likes the band the Grateful Dead! It means removing the spent or dead flower heads. I pinch them off to keep the plants blooming all summer long.

I have a rule that I use when deciding what flowers to eat. I research them. When I find 3 reliable resources that all say they are edible than I go with it. If I only find one resource that says something is safe to ingest then I do not follow that. But rather, I keep researching. I know I'm only one resource saying that Johnny-Jump-Ups are edible so here are 2 more for you:

Here is a picture of Sweet Violets (Viola odorata). As you can tell by their botanical name they are also in the viola family. These flowers are also edible. I posted this picture of the violet before but I just played with cropping and am posting a cropped version here. It looks nicer I think.

I went to FEDCO annual tree sale with my friend, Encyeh. I bought asparagus, potatoes, and Quince bushes. Not what I usually buy that is for sure. I usually come home with a bunch of trees and shrubs but things are different this year. I start my new job tomorrow and I'm looking forward to this new challenge. One part of the challenge is working with very young children with special needs and another challenge will be the major cut in pay and benefits. Because of this our use of money will be very different than it has been for the past 15 years. So no buying trees this year. But Encyeh lives on a lake in the woods and gave me some white pines and hemlock from her place for me to plant. Now that's a good friend! And to top it off her husband, Dan, came over this morning and rototilled 2 new garden spots for me. I had covered both spots with black plastic last spring so the grass was good and dead making tilling much easier. Thanks Dan and Encyeh!

Digging a trench for the asparagus was difficult. My Rodale Encylopedia of Organic Gardening says to dig a trench that is 12" deep and 10" wide. Holy! That took some doing! I put tons of compost in the trench and put the asparagus roots in and added more compost on top. The directions say to add compost rich soil slowly over the next two weeks until the trench is completely filled in. I have to admit that I took 6 of the 25 roots and planted them the traditional way. I just want to see if all that work really makes a difference.

I also planted onions, leeks, and shallots. And I transplanted the broccoli and buttercrunch lettuce that I started indoors a month or so ago. I also planted....spearmint! Gosh that smells good! I can't wait to eat and drink in mint juleps.

And the best part... it was cool and breezy so no black flies!

Next week, potatoes, thinning, mulch, and the flower beds.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

May Flowers and Herbal Oils

Nothing says spring quite like daffodils!

And hyacinths...
Oh that smell, that wonderful smell! I've got one hyacinth in front of my kitchen window and you catch just a faint whiff of it when the wind blows. It's like perfume in our home.

I must say that every spring I am happily reminded of how beautiful the subtle colors of spring leaves are. Just as they begin to open they have that lovely shade of green with that hint of yellow. I just love that color!

Today was a cool and beautiful day. Still no black flies at our house so outdoor time is still a joy. I did a lot of weeding especially in the strawberry bed. I also planted a second planting of beets, radishes, spinach, lettuce, and carrots. I plan to start to "harden off" my leeks and shallots that I started indoors about a month ago. "Hardening off" is a process that helps the plants that have been inside in a warm protected environment transition to the harsh outdoors. The way to do this is to put the seedlings that were started indoors outside in a sheltered spot during the day and move them back inside at night. Do this for a week and then they can stay out over night for a few days to a week and then they are "hardened off" and ready to be planted in the garden. Here's a pretty easy to read primer on the process:

Note to self: I need to buy onion bulbs and spearmint plants this week! Also need to get fencing for the peas.

Speaking of peas, they are up; here's a photo: Aren't they cute!?

Forsythia and dandelions are beginning to bloom. That means it's almost time to plant potatoes. Potatoes go in when the dandelions bloom. Next weekend is the second weekend of the FEDCO Tree Sale. I love that sale! This weekend was the first weekend of the Tree Sale. If you preorder trees you get to go this first weekend. Those of us lazy gardeners who can't quite seem to get it together early in the year to place their preorder miss out on this weekend. Oh well; some year I'll get my order in on time. I plan to buy 2 peach trees and asparagus plants. The peach trees are for a dear friend who died yesterday morning. She lost her very long battle with breast cancer. I was with her the night she died and she was fairly unconscious but before she died she opened one eye, looked at me and said, "I smell peaches." So for Rosemary...peach trees! May she be in a place that has all the fresh peaches she could ever want.

Violets are also beginning to bloom; here is a photo of some that are blooming under my rose bushes.

Indoors the tomatoes and broccoli are beginning to look like the plants that they are. I may actually begin to harden off the broccoli soon too. Broccoli, leeks, and shallots are all cool season crops so they can handle the cooler temps outdoors. I won't begin to harden off the tomatoes and flowers for a while yet since they are warm weather crops.

Here's the broccoli:

and the first indoor planting of cherry tomatoes:

I think I'll end with a picture of and information about chervil. If you've never grown and used chervil you MUST give it a try!! Chervil is an amazing herb. The flavor is a hint of anise and there is nothing like scrambled eggs with chervil in them! Heaven on Earth! You of course can put chervil on salad, in stir fries, on sandwiches...anything! And another thing about chervil is that it self sows. That means it makes a ton of seeds that fall on the ground and then they grow into new chervil plants the following year! I've had my chervil bed for 4 years now. And it all began with one plant.

This year I'm going to try making some chervil oil. In the past I've been leery of making herbal oils. That whole botulism scare.
Let me add here that I just took a class on canning and our extension service does not recommend that there is any way of making herb oil safely. There, that's my disclaimer.
But last summer I read several articles on making herbal oils and I read that the the most common culprit of spoiled and dangerous herbal oil is the garlic that is often steeped in it. But again, disclaimer, oil is alkaline and so are herbs. So there is not enough acid for extension to consider this a guarantee safe thing to do. Ok...back to......So last summer I made a variety of herbal oils without any garlic and I have to say they were wonderful; it was like having the herbs all winter long! I put maybe about 1/4 of a jar's worth of herbs and filled the rest of the jar with a good grade extra virgin olive oil. Whatever you do don't use "lite" olive oil and don't put too many herbs into the jar! Use extra virgin olive oil and none of the herbs should be above the oil line. This year I had to throw out a lot of tarragon oil that I was making because I put too much tarragon in and some was above the oil and it molded! Let the mixture sit for a day or two (out of sunlight), strain, and then put some more fresh herbs in the jar and do it again for another day or two. I did that until I could get a good whiff of the herb even when the plant material wasn't in the jar. Maybe a week or two depending on how much fresh herbs I had from the garden and until I got tired of doing it. My favorite was french tarragon oil. Ohh laa laa! I used that oil to cook my morning eggs (local free range of course; never eggs from those god forsaken factory farms!!) and the tarragon oil gave just a slight and delicious hint of tarragon to the eggs. I also made a yummy Mexican/Thai oil with a dried hot pepper, coriander,and oregano. It was delicious! I also made basil oil and Italian oil. Remember not to put too much herb in the oil. You also don't want watery herbs in the oil, that's why I dried the hot pepper before I infused the oil with it. And also be sure to strain ALL plant material out before you store the oil. I did notice some oils had a funky film in them after a while but I used a fine strainer and strained them again and put them in clean jars and they came out crystal clear and tasted fine and I'm still here to tell you about it.

It's neat to notice how not only do the different herbs impart different flavors and smells but also differ net colors. Experiment and try different herbs. Will definitely try mint oil this year! That would be good in a salad dressing and on cooked beets!
Here's the chervil plant.
Next week compost, rototilling, asparagus, and I'm sure black flies!

But first... a friend sent me this poem this morning and it seems to capture this time of year and time in my life. Maybe it will resonate with you too.

In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.