Friday, January 28, 2011

Just Say No

I am of the generation that was a bit too young to go Woodstock, but 'almost made it.' My friend-of-a- friend's brother invited us to share the ride to the consummate festival of counter culture. My parents pretended to discuss my tearful petition to go, but ultimately I stayed home that weekend. A photo of the brother in the crowd was printed - a glossy testament to his place in history.
My cousin and I lived vicariously by reading Look and Life magazines-- (there was no People magazine) coveting the styles, the excitement, the beauty and colorful world beyond our cornfields. We tried elephant pants, bell bottoms, chokers, slave bracelets, white lipstick...
All this is leading up to a confession, and I cringe as I write -we smoked banana peels. Or I should say, we TRIED to smoke banana peels and failed.  Somehow we got the information that Donovan's song 'Mellow Yellow' was about the euphoric benefits of banana peel inhaling. We were all for that- something to change our minor and boring lives-just reach for the fruit bowl! After trying and failing to ignite the fruit, we gave up. There was no helpful internet to give us directions. Later I read the banana peel story originated from Country Joe and the Fish. It didn't work for them, either.
This memory surfaced recently when a customer asked me if I was going to continue to sell bath salts that were so dangerous. Then I read in the newspaper about a chemical that was being abused and damaging brains all over. It is found in something that is being called 'bath salt', but is most definitely not for baths.
For more information- read this article from a trusted source

Children will always stretch the boundaries of what they know-sometimes in an unsafe manner. That is part of life and learning. Parents have an enormous responsibiltiy to keep the balance between too strict and too lax and still allow for discovery.
As a grandmother, I can smile at our innocent experimenting but I know well it is now a different era, with dangers we never imagined.
Sugarloaf Herb Farm Bath Salts contain Sea Salt, Dead Sea Salt, Baking Soda, Citric Acid, Apricot Kernel Oil, Sunflower Oil, Fragrance (either Essential Oil or Fragrance Oil),Glycerin, and most have a dab of safe color to make the bath water pretty. Hot water and salt will pull toxins from the body. That rejuvenating feeling after a bath is not imaginary! A 20 minute bath will transform an uninspired day --and your brain cells will be secure.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hanging out at the Olive Bar

Pasta salad is one of the delights of warm weather.  Here are my vegetables ready to mix in: snow peas, red onions, broccoli. For added deliciousness, I cannot resist the olive bar. This mixture is pitted Kalamata, Manzanilla and all sorts of brine and oil-cured savory bits. It also has Feta cheese chunks and button mushrooms all marinated in oil, vinegar and herbs. I like banana pepper rings, too.
As soon as the peas start coming, we have crunchy pods at every supper and are glad to have them!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

In Honor of National Poetry Month

In my teenage years, writing poetry kept me moderately sane. Building strings of beautiful words was how I understood my world. Now, I am mother to a poet. A poem, to anyone in love with words; is a robin's egg blue box tied in a satin ribbon. There is something wonderful inside! As you push aside the tissue layers and go deeper, more is revealed. Lift the lid and begin.

This is a poem I wrote for my beloved Grandpa Zehner's 80th birthday.

 Grandpa in Harrisburg
Dear well-loved man of hats and lessons,
wheat-smelling Renaissance man of turkeys and potatoes
and school lunches.
In time's wild flight you are with me
the privileged listener-nodding my head,
anxious to run off and play.
Shifting feet,
Lessons and little stories and questions,
Admonitions that grated small ears
school-deary ears    innocent ears.
Wonder of wonders: my principal knew my Grandpa far far away
in Harrisburg
that was importance.
that was importance.
We baiting hooks with twisting worms
leaving no loops for clever fish to nip off.
These worms were 'not in pain'
nor the fish who lay gill gasping in puddles at our sneakered feet.
He held my hand and explained the order of things
and the promise of my life to be
the goodness of Work
the lore of the precious Land.
Digging in the moist pine earth
treasures of worms and sleepy toads
The rituals of banana apples and cupping spring water.
He plowed the brown dominion with empathic flow,
knowing the earth: loving the earth.
In Harrisburg
he made piles of paper behave
he fed legions of shrieking school children
by signing his name.

He watched me nod my head,
a nestling so smug.
What miracle neurons would blaze from his words?
These were lessons for Other Children--
my life held no ditches, no puddles.
Time keeps all things for new discovery,
and patiently waits.
Dear Historian
you planted wise seeds in me.

A girl and a boy
well-loved    well-tended,
shiver and laugh at the absurdity of wearing
sneakers in the creek.
We slip over slimed stones,
trickles of disturbed water blowing behind.
(every year we went a little further up creek).
Magic, powerful water; flecked by sunlight and fallen leaves
Musical water,
changing   unchanging.
This expansive world was ours!
Our fish, our crayfish, our muddy shore
presented by Grandpa.
By love
on our empty slates:
the delicate charms of Nature.
At dark, the night wind
parted by owls and secret running things
tamed with Grandpa's metered breathing.
The path of his life without us was unthinkable--
he is our Grandpa!
We apprentices to Time and Understanding
Oh learning, learning to be more than children.
We thought our days were endless sun-bathed rhythms.
Erosion, the enemy never showed its blank face to us--
We were the raspberry-eaters, the fisher-children
dipping our hands to the silver creatures in the water.
Time waited for us.

Time furrowed our lives.
Puddles and ditches came in locust waves,
poor irrigation left us gasping at the bottom of the boat
We could not see the falconer.
History mowed our adult lawns of ground ivy--
so tangled, persistent and pungent
and the promise of our future
made by a now slight man with paint-freckled glasses,
This dear children,
this is what the Love is for.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Scented Spring Beauties

This is my Native Plum tree in blossom. It's a weedy little shrubb-ish tree that spreads underground like sumac. I ordered it on a whim from Kelly's garden catalog.You know: the catalog for gardeners with more patience than money. The postman delivers slender, bare rooted sticks that will eventually catch and start to produce in a few years time.
The plums from the tree are tiny and sweet-one bite and they are gone. Its hard to imagine making quantities of jam. In trying to encourage a larger fruit, I pruned (AKA hacked) severely but the plums seem to be genetically small.The white flowers in Spring are really what keeps me from giving up on Native and planting a more voluptuous tree.The blossoms are fragrant, penetrating and yes, intoxicating. The sunshine and breezes bring wafts of concord grapes, cotton candy and a floral note I can't quite name. It is one of my spring treats and the bees and I love it.
Here is another gorgeous spring beauty. This is Koreanspice Viburnum. This smells like gardenia and myrrh and it will stop you in your tracks. I also purchased this from Kellys catalog. It is now about ten feet and this week it is full of blooms.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What would Bertha Do?

This is one of my treasures. Painted in 1965, the artist called it "The Yellow Breeches." I was overjoyed to purchase this as part of a scholarship fund drive. I bid on two watercolors from this amazing woman but was so very happy to have the honor of buying this one.
The artist is Bertha Reppert, founder of the Rosemary House in Mechanicsburg, PA. I first met Bertha in the pages of her book- Growing Your Herb Business. I bought it from Amazon, it may be for sale at the Rosemary House, too. Written in 1994, the style of her writing is so exuberant, so charming-- full of love, generosity and wisdom. I savored every word. Did you ever read a book and feel close to its author as if she shared her secrets, hopes and fun adventures with you?And you could tap into her cool, fresh spring of confidence and success. This prolific, creative writer of all things herbal inspired me with her ideas and knowledge.
When Sugarloaf Herb Farm first began to sprout, as it were, I did not imagine the amount of time, money and work I would be devoting to this enterprise. I had a cute image in my mind- kind of like a movie prop with nothing behind it. It seemed for every dollar I made, it took twenty dollars of effort. I almost quit so many times. Bertha's book was a lighthouse in my business fog. Scattered as I was, I sharpened my focus and made long range goals that were achieveable. Bertha advocated fiscal responsibility- something I still struggle with. She is with me at every milestone, however, wishing me well. When I'm tempted to add just one more scent or buy the $700 soil sterilizer I'm drooling over, I think "What Would Bertha Do?" If I can't justify it in those terms, it gets tabled.
After I closed the book for the first time of many readings, I determined to meet Bertha, thank her and maybe give her a hug! Sadly, I learned Bertha passed in 1999. Her beautiful and talented daughters Susanna and Nancy now supply the world with herbal goodness from the Rosemary House and next door to it Sweet Remembrances Tea Room. The Rosemary House and Sugarloaf Herb Farm both belong to the Herb World Marketing Group--a very diverse group whose common love of the useful plants brings us together.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Handcrafted Christmas Gifts- some for me!!

Spoiler alert: Some of you out there will be opening these presents.
I found these at a show we did in September at LaSalle Academy.
All pieces are from the same artist. I asked her for her card, she didn't have one to give. I asked her if she had a website -'uh... no'. She told me her name and of course, I promptly forgot it. Let me tell you, it takes a lot to tear me away from my stand when I'm at a show. I have to keep fussing and moving soap around. I saw her stuff and just levitated toward her table. The weird thing is she didn't have a crowd around her. Can't explain that.
The necklace is welded glass with a vintage photo and scraps added. The cufflet is layered ribbons and scrap fabric, with pearl accents.

This Christmas doll angel is the sweetest little strange-ling. She has a little letter attached to her hand introducing her as 'Rocket.' She has real hair which is sort of off-putting at first, but perfect when you consider the tramp art mode.
I subscribe to a doll catalog and many dolls like this run in the hundreds of dollars. I paid less than a hundred, much less.
Rocket is currently gracing my mantle in the living room; up high, safe from the puppy.
The 'Unknown Artist' came over to my booth and picked up my Nag Champa soap and her eyes rolled back in her head. I love that reaction. Anyone who has a visceral response is OK in my book. She didn't buy it and afterward I thought I should have just given it to her as an homage.
Maybe I'll run into her again at a show. Maybe, she'll have been 'discovered' and I'll have to take out the checkbook to collect her stuff. I hope that happens for her- she's deserving of recognition.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's Cold Outside

Getting ready for Pennsylvania winter is something I learned from experience is best done on beautiful fall afternoons. I was such a grasshopper in my younger days and ended up shivering in the cold trying to get plastic to stick to the windows, while sleet and wind played with the lawn furniture. Of course, there's always something left to do.
This morning I realized I put the ice protector upside down in the pond. The pond needs to have a hole in the ice so gases can escape that would harm the fish, while they are spending the winter in a hibernation mode. As I tried to get close enough to tug in the line, Layla pranced across the ice. It held her up exactly two seconds. She went down in the icy depths... In my drama-prone mind, I thought I should wisk her into the house and give her warm broth. I started running her up the hill, but she delightedly scampered around the snow, biting it and frisking around. The steam was coming up from her body. She is part Lab, after all. I just had to snap a photo.

Beautiful Calendula is one of my favorite herbs. It is so easy to grow, it's cheerful, most species are loaded with carotenes (vitamin A) which is great for rashes and itchy skin. Here it is finally sucumbing to the freeze on December 8.

Sugarloaf Herb Farm

Sugarloaf Herb Farm
Christy Matthewson Days