Saturday, January 30, 2010

My Poor Broken Body

Today - instead of relaxing like I should have - I decided to fill up the other pear crate we have turned into a container garden. It's 4 feet long by 4 feet wide by 2 feet deep. I have discovered that it takes roughly 8 wheel barrow loads of compost to fill it to within 6" of the brim. That's a lot of poo. I worked hard throughout the morning, trying to beat the rainstorm I could see moving towards me on the horizon. I managed to finish up just as the first drops started hitting! In this latest raised bed I planted roughly 300 Yellow Dock seeds - a plant that many consider a weed but that I (and numerous other herbalists) believe to be a valuable addition to the medicinal landscape. An ugly but useful plant, if you will.

Ryan brought home my next container garden piece: an old cast iron tub, courtesy of Bill & Barb from nearby Cowhorn Vineyard. This we placed in the Secret Garden to the south of the Solarium, where it will be kept in good company by a decommissioned row boat (repainted and titled the "H.M.S. Zilla" after our favorite goat) and several humorous pieces of gnome statuary.

I spent some time updating the "About Us" page of our bed and breakfast website, built a warm fire, and then began working on dinner. I wasn't in the mood to do a complex meal, so instead I threw together a chicken tagine with dates, onions (out of the garden), honey, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and rice. It's currently cooking in the oven and smells DELICIOUS (I'm so hungry!!!!). There is also a bottle of Troon '04 Reserve Cab on the counter, waiting to accompany our dinner.

As my back is KILLING me, I am taking it easy in front of the fire, and watching our "Goats Gone Wild" barn camera feed on the TV. For those who have been keeping up with our kidding dates, you will know that tomorrow is the first due date for our goats. Not that any of them every give birth according to MY schedule. Darn goats...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Falling Asleep Over Dinner

That's pretty much what is going to happen later. I am ready to fall flat on my face out of sheer exhaustion! The "kit-tard" (as we - mostly - lovingly call the new demon kitten) woke us up at 2 am this morning and wouldn't let us go back to sleep, so right now I am heading into Hour #14 of wakefulness (and expecting to be able to head off to bed around Hour #19). A man on craigslist was selling old wooden pear crates for $5 a piece, so I convinced Ryan to go down there with the truck yesterday and pick some up. He could only fit two in the truck. Apparently, they are LARGE pear crates. As in 4 feet wide x 4 feet long x 2 feet deep! So today I unloaded them off of the truck and placed them in the back of the property by my other raised beds. I managed to fill one with soil and compost and plant my remaining asparagus crowns in it (which have already begun to awaken thanks to the warmer weather we've had lately). That's a LOT of wheel barrow loads in a morning! In the early afternoon, I had a friend arrive with my old row boat (now my newest raised bed and yard art!). I am going to paint it and decorate it (maybe even put a pirate flag on it!), so it's going to be a very adorable addition to my garden. She also dropped off some yellow dock, gravel root, purple bergamot, and sorrel plants for me. I just finished planting those in their new homes. In exchange, I gave her some Echinacea purpurea, Balloonflower, assorted basils, Hibiscus, and Marsh Mallow plants that I grew from seed over the winter. I love having friends who garden!

Well, the animals are screaming, so you know what that means...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What's In A Dream?

The lovely
Christine Collier of the Southern Oregon Wine Blog recently asked me to answer some questions regarding our bed and breakfast. As I ended up typing what practically amounts to a short story, I thought I would repost it here for others to enjoy.


Well, I just finished cleaning out the chicken coop, and now have my clothes sanitizing in the washer, so I guess that gives me some time to respond to your questions...

I don't recall exactly what moment Ryan and I decided to open up a bed and breakfast. I know we talked and dreamed about it very early on in our dating. We both love to cook, so I think that was part of it. I remember once my family joked that they should buy us a bed and breakfast because we loved to cook so much! Ryan and I had discussed opening up a little cafe, but decided that we just weren't cut out for the restaurant biz. We wanted something a little bit different...

My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimers several years ago, and my grandmother was having trouble taking care of him. I was finishing up my degree in geology at the University of Utah at the time. I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation, and when I found out about my grandfather, I decided moving back to Oregon might be the wisest option. We would be closer to our family, and could help care for my grandfather. So, after graduation, we packed our bags and headed out to Oregon with no set plans and a whole lot of hope. We never expected to move out into the Applegate Valley. Originally, we had fallen in love with a little farm house in Rogue River, and had planned to open up our business there. I grew up in Grants Pass, so I was familiar with Medford and Rogue River, but had never really ventured into Jacksonville or the Applegate. We actually ended up at the house on Upper Applegate Road by sheer Fate. The two other houses we had made offers on had fallen through, and this property was our last resort. It was what my friend April called a four letter word: WORK. This place was a fixer-upper's dream, and a first time homeowner's nightmare. But, it had potential, the owners were desperate to sell, and we were desperate to have a place to live. The rest, as they say, is history...

I remember the first evening we spent at the house. None of our furniture had arrived, so we had to resort to sleeping on one of the old mattresses that the previous owners had left in the master bedroom. There was a spider (not to mention mouse & snake) infestation in the home at the time, and though the sellers had had the place treated, it had not taken full effect yet. So, there were roughly 500 million brown recluse and hobo spiders in attendance as well that night. I don't think I slept at all.

It’s been almost three years now since that fateful first night, and I am proud at how much we have managed to accomplish in that time. In the beginning, things were so financially tight that we could not afford to do more than paint the walls in the house. When we had moved in, the house was completely white-washed. Ryan and I, tired of living in apartment after apartment with beige- and pastel-colored walls, vowed to bring color into our life and our new home! We have collected antique furniture since our early days of marriage, and we wanted to pick out room colors that would compliment our bold antique pieces. In the living room, we picked a metallic gold paint as an accent wall for our large, black antique china cabinet. We wanted that to be the first thing that people noticed when they entered the house. Our wedding china is a turn-of-the-century set by Villeroy and Boch, and we picked out the coordinating red current and dark pink colors to match. Our most recent acquisition – an oil painting by Y.W. Leung measuring roughly 7 feet long and 3 feet tall – completes the color scheme in the living room.

As the months passed, we were able to do little bits of home improvement here and there. Finally, in late 2008, we were able to tear down the old, hideously blue barn and replace it with a beautiful red barn (no more having kidding season in the garage!). Then, we could finally begin on the real remodeling of the house. From January – April 2009, the house was almost completely gutted: new walls, insulation, appliances, electrical, and more! The kitchen and the Duchesse de Portland bathroom are the two most impressive features of the remodel. One thing I will say about remodeling: if your marriage can survive a remodel, it can survive anything! I think the biggest shock about remodeling your house is getting used to having random people in your home at all hours of the day and night, and lacking the use of rooms or appliances that you have grown accustomed to. It can be very stressful. Thankfully, Ryan and I made it through our remodel just fine.

With the Apothecary Inn, we have strived to bring people a unique experience not offered elsewhere in Southern Oregon. It’s not simply about fine breakfast dining – we want to show people where their food comes from. One of our goals is to be entirely self-sufficient. Whether or not we ever manage to achieve that on this property does not matter – this is the goal that we strive for; this is what keeps us going. We raise registered, show-quality Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goats, and these provide the farm’s dairy products. Fresh milk, yogurt, kefir, and soft & hard cheeses are produced from our five (and counting) adorable does. We have a flock of chickens (averaging between 30 and 50 birds depending on the year), who provide us with eggs. You haven’t truly lived until you have tried farm fresh eggs – you’ll never go back to store purchased after that! I work hard at maintaining a very large vegetable garden, which grows in size every year. I save my own seeds, so there are no hybrids found in my garden. This past year, Ryan and I have constructed a formal herb garden next to the house. In four raised beds made of river rock from the ravine at the side of our property, I have planted my culinary and medicinal herbs. Besides the obvious personal and bed & breakfast needs, these herbs are also used to produce our line of all natural botanical products under the label, “Sangue di Dragone.” We stock each guest bathroom with samples of our soaps, shampoos, bath oils, salves, and facial products.

With our breakfast menu, we work hard to make a delicious meal using simple, homegrown ingredients and no sugar or chemicals. Breakfast consists of two courses: the first course is generally a lighter, sweeter course, and is followed by a second, heartier course. Ryan has a 250+ year-old sourdough starter, and makes sourdough rolls to set out as pre-breakfast snacks for guests.

Ryan and I love wine, and enjoy being located nearby several Applegate wineries. I can’t honestly say that we have a “favorite,” as each winery brings something special and valuable into the mix. Anyone who claims a favorite vineyard has not visited all of them yet.

Apothecary Inn is still the “new kid on the block.” We opened our doors on May 10th, 2009 with a lovely Grand Opening Celebration attended by 30-40 friendly faces. Even with our limited advertising budget, word spread, and we booked a fairly full summer. We have had a great deal of positive feedback from guests, and I look forward to seeing this trend continue in the future. I believe that word of mouth is the best form of advertisement. The people who come to stay at our bed and breakfast are doing so because they want a truly unique and rewarding experience. In a time where most people don’t connect that their hamburger comes from a cow, or that their Thanksgiving turkey did not start its life in plastic wrap, we are here to show people that there is something good to be said for going back to basics. It’s about using your hands, working hard, and accomplishing a dream. Each generation walks a different path, but that doesn’t mean that we should forget our ancestors. In a day with Walmart and work cubicles, we traded a 40 hour week for a 60 hour week and came out ahead. There is something to be said for returning to your roots. At Apothecary Inn, we’ll show you why.

Living the Dream: Before & After

Lately it seems as though I am in desperate need of a pick-me-up. So, I decided it would make me feel better to look at the before & after pictures of our house and property, to show myself how far we've come. I should feel happy and accomplished!



Barn - AFTER


Kitchen - BEFORE

(Facing toward the "Boutique" enclosed side porch)

(Facing east toward the window)

(We closed off the open bar to completely contain the kitchen)


The Dining Room - BEFORE


The Living Room - BEFORE

The Living Room - AFTER


The Duchesse de Portland Bedroom - BEFORE

The Duchesse de Portland Bedroom - AFTER

The Duchesse de Portland Bathroom - BEFORE

The Duchesse de Portland Bathroom - AFTER

The Duchesse de Portland Bathtub- BEFORE


The Apothecary Suite Bedroom & Bathroom - BEFORE

The Library - BEFORE & AFTER

The Front Door - BEFORE & AFTER


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Back to Basics

I was flipping through my Back to Basics book (the country living "Bible" if you will), looking for dinner ideas. It suddenly struck me how delicious those simple, homemade meals can be. You don't need fancy recipes when everything is grown and harvested right here on your property (or locally and with no chemicals!). Too often we think that cooking needs to be "fancy" with scads of ingredients, and everyone tries to outdo each other with the next fanciful concoction. I'm guilty of this as well, so it was nice to be able to remind myself that meals don't need to be complex in order to be delicious.

After dealing with a psychotic demon kitten all morning, I finally managed to make it outside to gather three large pine logs and chop/saw those into enough firewood to see us through this evening. After that building a small fire in the woodstove, I raided some cheap beer out of the communal fridge (Fat Tire - you can't go wrong) to take the edge off of life (and my still sore back muscles). Some days I can't decide which is more vital to life: Beer or Garden Fresh Veggies? The scales tip differently depending on the time of day...

This morning, I transplanted the last of my Clary Sage, Boneset, and Spearmint sprouts into "Grown Up Pots" and started a new germination tray with Parsley and Walla Walla onions. I have moved most of my hardier perennials into my newly heated greenhouse (also known as the Solarium with a portable heater!), but have left the more tropical plants in the Duchesse Room with the grow lights for now - it's still a bit too cool for them out in the greenhouse just yet. I also transplanted my yacon into a larger pot, as it had already outgrown the last gallon one.

Well, I hear the oven timer ringing, so that means my pre-chores dinner is ready!...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gardening Royalty: A Crown of Asparagus

Well, I must have over-estimated my asparagus needs, because now I find myself with extra crowns and nowhere to plant them. I placed them in some moist soil for now in the pantry, but I am scrambling around trying to find some large containers to permanently plant them in. Ads posted on craigslist and freecycle were busts. I guess everybody wants to make money and not either give away or barter their old tubs and containers. But that is another rant for another day...

The silly little $20 ceramic heater we purchased at Bimart yesterday is actually working WONDERS in my Solarium-turned-greenhouse. I left it in there last night with my digital thermometer (cool feature: records the overnight low, so that I am able to see the coldest the Solarium got last night) and with the heater set on the lowest possible setting. Outside temps dipped down to 34/36 degrees F last night, but the coldest that the inside of the Solarium got was a mere 50 degrees! So: it worked!!! Thank you, Alex, for your wonderful (and economic) suggestion! Now I can begin moving my plants into the Solarium much earlier than I originally anticipated, and I can get my guest room back! The plants will be healthier in the long run, and I will be able to grow more of them since I will no longer be limited to two 4'x2' grow tables! Instead, I now have a 12'x25' space to work with. Yippee! And, for those safety conscious folks, don't worry - my heater has an automatic shut-off for overheating and if it accidentally falls over.

T-7 Days and Counting for Goat Babies. The barn camera is set up and sending live feed to our bedroom TV now. My husband and I want to figure out a way to broadcast it over the internet. We would call it "Goats Gone Wild."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Today, I planted another germination tray with Speckled Roman paste tomatoes (on the side of the tray), more Echinacea purpurea, Green Zebra tomatoes, and Garden Sage. Just yesterday I planted a tray with Stupice tomatoes (on the side of the tray), Mexican Tarragon, Jalapeno peppers, Echinacea purpurea, and Orange Oxheart tomatoes.

In other news, my asparagus crowns finally arrived. I have them soaking in water before I plant them later today (or maybe tomorrow at the rate that time is flying). I also picked up some Mary Washington asparagus seeds (yes, I love asparagus - can you tell?), and discovered that Bimart of all places has a decent seed selection of both vegetable and herbs! I picked up some more Meadowsweet and Caraway seeds, and some Walla Walla Onion seeds. After that, I was bodily dragged out of the seed section by Ryan. We had originally come in to look at portable heaters for the Solarium (so that I can move my plants - currently housed in the Duchesse de Portland guest room - in there and not continue to spill dirt on the carpet! *grin*).

Today dawned with a sprinkling of snow, but has now cleared up and is rather warm for a January day. I set out some of my 3-month-old perennial herbs for planting this afternoon. After looking at the weather forecast, I figured I could get away with it. Nighttime temps are only supposed to dip down to the mid-thirties now, and thus far the Clary Sage, Echinacea, and Skullcap I planted outside several weeks ago appear to be holding on just fine.

Friday, January 22, 2010


This morning dawned foggy and frigid, with snow capping the surrounding mountains. I hurried through farm chores bundled up in a fleece jacket, enormous scarf, and beanie hat. My winter time outdoor get-up generally makes me look like the Marshmallow Man. But at least I stay fairly warm. After a few hours, the fog burned off, and the day turned clear and cold. After the intense physical labor of the past two days, I was determined to relax ("relax" in Jillian vernacular is not quite the same for most people though). I began by saying a sad farewell to my tray of seeds that did not germinate - dumping the soil onto the compost heap. I replanted the tray with some Stupice & Orange Oxheart tomatoes, Jalapeno peppers, Mexican Tarragon, and Echinacea purpurea (what can I say? I enjoy variety!). I attempted to transplant some parsley seedlings, but decided that my herbs were still a bit too small. Next, I repotted some of my Dragon Fruit cactus cuttings that had finally rooted, and set them in a kitten-proof area of the house (or at least what I hope is a kitten-proof area!). I went out to the barn and filled up 6 plastic trays with grain, a dusting of loose mineral, and a dose of wheat germ oil, and took them out to the goat pasture for my pregnant does. I did "udder checks" and ligament checks and generally succeeded in annoying the heck out of my goats, which is my general goal in life. After that, it was off to our several acre woodlot to collect fallen pine logs. I did a few loads of hauling logs back to the house in the slippery terrain, and then knelt down (much to the extreme displeasure of my screaming muscles) and proceeded to saw the smaller branches into 18" pieces, and chop the large logs into firewood. I stacked a 2-day supply next to our back door, and went to our woodstove to begin the laborous process of trying to start a fire using very damp wood. Thankfully, we had just received a stack of bills in the mail, so I had plenty of tinder! Once I had the fire going well enough to where I felt I could leave it alone, I went into the kitchen and began mixing some herbal wormer and molasses into what my husband and I call "Worm Balls" for my pregnant does. This is a very messy and stinky process, but we only use herbal wormers because we do not want chemicals in our goats milk. Finally, I sat down for some lunch, and here I am: almost 4 pm, and I am just getting around to eating. Where does the time go? I started my day at 5:30 am...
What Are(n't) We Teaching Our Children?

A few days ago, some children ran up to the fence line we share with the vineyard & asked, "What are those 'things' running around over there?" The "things" in question were CHICKENS. These children did not recognize what a chicken looked like (nor did they appear to know anything about chickens). Now, I'm not saying that every child needs to be a farmer, but shouldn't they at least be taught to recognize the cow before it becomes their hamburger? Have people become so desensitized that when they think of pork, chicken, and beef, their only image is of the plastic-wrapped packages at the grocery store?...Did you know that most people do not associate cows with beef/hamburgers, or pigs with pork, etc.? Most people never even think, when buying their Thanksgiving turkey, of the animal as it appeared in life. "You mean to say that turkeys don't just magically appear featherless, headless, and in pretty plastic packaging?"

Don't believe me? Try it sometime: ask a person what the first image that comes to mind is when they think of meat.

The answer is disheartening...

Long Day's Journey into Night

W, what a crazy couple of days over here...started my morning on Wednesday by chasing down 7 escapee donkeys who decided to go for a run around the property in the pre-dawn light. Guess I hadn't latched the gate as firmly as I thought (it was hard to see with the enormous piece of hay I was carrying)...anywho, later that day, I also discovered that my darling donkeys had completely chewed through one of their wooden fence posts (which was 6 feet tall and buried in 3 feet of concrete), so I had to spend my afternoon digging out the old post and anchoring a new one. I was SORE and in dire need of sleep at the end of the day! Well, I go to bed and fall asleep for roughly two hours, at which point my husband and I were awakened by a noise similar to bombs repeatedly going off. I guess the wind had almost completely ripped off the top cap to our chimney (it was only held on by one bolt), and with each gust the cap slammed back down on the chimney. You could hear it through the entire house...Needless to say, it was a long night. We repaired it yesterday thankfully. I spent the remainder of yesterday filling up raised beds with compost (probably not the smartest idea after Wednesday's activities), and my poor back started seizing up. I was determined to finish my raised beds though (and I did)! Today is definitely going to be my day to RELAX. I think I've earned it! :)

I am including some pictures of my current tomato starts. These little guys are Brandywine.

Beginning in early February, I will be germinating: Stupice, Black Krim, Brandywine, Green Zebra, Orange Oxheart, Manitoba, & Aunt Ruby's Green German, as well as Habanero and Jalapeno peppers, Ground Cherries, and Tomatillos. By germinating everything around the first week of February, I will have some nice, big starts ready for planting in May! I think I want to try using those Kozy Coats (the water-filled teepees) for some of my tomatoes this year (maybe allowing me to set them out in April?). I don't know if they are a gimmick or if they actually work, but I think it's worth a shot to find out! I will probably use them on my Stupice tomato plants, as those are the most cold-tolerant and the earliest fruiting.

Well, kidding season begins F
ebruary 1st, and some of my does look ready to pop. I am praying for an easy kidding season this year.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

And I Made My Bed With Nettles...

Yesterday, Ryan helped me build a planter box (using reclamation wood from old hay pallets!) for my Stinging Nettles bed. I have read that Nettles do best in dappled shade with lots of moisture (makes sense, given where they grow naturally), and I decided that the best place to put them would be under the old apple tree in the far corner of the herb garden (where the rest of my partial shade plants are located). However, because they are STINGING Nettles, I wanted them set apart from the rest of the herbs. The planter box is roughly 2 feet high by 2 feet wide by 4 feet long. I found a glorious little spot of compost in our "Poo Pile" area of the property - lots of earthworms, and broken down nutrients - and filled the planter box with that. During this time, I actually caught myself saying, "Poo is precious." Though of course this was in a gardening-related context, it did make me realize that I desperately need a vacation. But that is for another blog entry.
In any event, my planter box is filled with "home grown" soil, and ready for Nettle seeds! I can't wait to begin early spring planting next month! I think I am going to build a removable netting of either chicken wire of horse fencing around the top of the planter box, so that unwary (or just plain stupid) guests don't try and reach in to touch the Nettles plant. I will be growing Yellow Dock this year as well (which helps ease the pain of a nettles sting), but why tempt fate (or people)?
I have also convinced Ryan to build a long row of reclamation wood planter boxes in front of the Solarium, where I will put some of the vast numbers of tomatoes and peppers I am sprouting this summer. I think this idea will not only add charm to the property, but will also help with my always-in-danger-of-being-overcrowded garden plot.
I also have two more peach trees and two Santa Rosa plum trees that need to be planted this week. We are in the midst of a heavy rain storm this weekend, which has been biding my time for now. I am excited for all of my edible landscaping!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

All In A Day's Work

Today I transplanted my sole cinnamon tree sprout (fingers are crossed for the rest to germinate in the coming weeks!), and several of my san pedro cactus seedlings that were overcrowded in their pot. That cleared space for a new germination tray to be planted! This time, I planted 7 compass plant seedlings (in a test germination on this plant, I kept the seeds outdoors for several weeks to g
ive them cold stratification. Then, I gently uncovered one of the seeds from its outdoor bed and planted it - I had a vigorious germination in two days! So, seeing this, I went ahead and repeated the process with 8 other seeds, leaving the rest in the outdoor flat for a natural germination in the spring), some heirloom tomatoes, Greek Mullein, Costmary, Mexican Tarragon, White Horehound, and Blue Vervain (yes, I know that Blue Vervain tends to want a cold stratification, but I thought testing a few seeds in this manner wouldn't hurt - I had great success with my Balloonflower seeds and they never recieved a 6 week cold stratification from me!). All of my Oregano and Thyme seeds have germinated, and I am getting my first parsley sprouts. I didn't soak the parsley seeds in warm water overnight (as is often recommended), so the germination time was a bit longer (however, all the seeds appear to be germinating just fine). I have my first agave sprout after roughly a week, and am still waiting on my peruvian torch cactus seeds. They seem to be taking longer than usual...?

I was outside yesterday weeding one of my new raised beds, and discovered that my licorice is beginning to show new green shoots (as are my comfrey roots!) - how exciting! Even my tulips are beginning to peek above the surface of the soil. I do so love watching things grow!! I am really looking forward to seeing the front yard (norm
ally an ugly, bare patch of mulch) awash in colors as the literally HUNDREDS of tulips I planted last fall flower. I can't wait to get pictures!

I also planted three peach trees yesterday along the fence line between our private "Innkeepers' Backyard" and the old female llama pasture. Not only will this provide food and shade in the years to come, but it will also help to hide that ugly "poo build-up" that tends to occur in winter from the Apothecary Suite. I am going to get more peach and plum trees and plant a "Fruit Tree Walk" along the future fish pond...once all of my landscaping becomes established, this is going to be a truly beautiful property. I will have the knowledge that I made it so - beginning from nothing and using my own bare hands.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Recommended Reading Material for Winter 2010

Out of all of my herbals, my two favorites would definitely have to be Stalking the Healthful Herbs by Euell Gibbons, and Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore. I would recommend reading Gibbons' book first, as he writes a fabulous narrative - it's as though you are taking a walk in the woods together and discussing each plant as you come across it. When you are finished with Stalking the Healthful Herbs, move on to Moore's book for a deeper look at the medicinal properties of each herb.

The two herbs that I am learning the most about at the moment (and am the most excited to grow this spring) are Stinging Nettles and Yellow (or Curly) Dock. These two plants (as with many plants) are considered "weeds" by the uninitiated, but to the modern herbalist are invaluable tools of the natural world.

Interesting note: Yellow Dock can be used to ease the pain and rash of a brush against Stinging Nettles. Stinging Nettles almost always grow next to Yellow Dock, but Yellow Dock does not always grow next to Stinging Nettles.

Nettles appear to be one of the "super herbs" of the plant world - I find it interesting that so many think it's nothing but an annoying weed. Drying or cooking disables the "stingers" on nettles, and allows for its nutritional and medicinal properties to be utilized. Nettles are rich in vitamins A & C, high in protein, filled with chlorophyll, and probably exceedingly rich in trace minerals as well. Grazing animals will not eat live nettles, but will avidly gobble up dried nettles. A diet of nettles will improve an animal's coat and boost milk and egg production in dairy livestock and poultry, respectively. The stalks of mature Nettles yield a valuable textile fiber when processed like flax. Gather the first tender shoots of spring for eating, and make sure to wear gloves! Nettles can also be used in place of rennet for curdling milk. Is there any end to the wonder that is this plant?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

You Learn Something New Every Day...

I recently read that when growing cabbage indoors in early spring for transplanting, you should not let the cabbage sprouts get older than roughly 5 weeks of age before planting them outside, otherwise they will not reach their full size. INTERESTING. That explains a great deal of the problems I had growing cabbage last spring! Good to know...

Today I transplanted Garden Sage, Echinacea Purpurea, Boneset, Greek Mullein, Yerba del Lobo, and Heimia sprouts out of their germination trays and into larger pots. I wish that I had the room to give each little sprout its own pot, but sadly, due to space constraints, I cannot. In roughly 2 months (so, about March - possibly early February if the weather stays this warm) I will be able to plant my hardier perennials outside. The weather has been unseasonably warm this January - roughly 20 degrees above average. I am concerned for some of my more difficult germinators (such as the Yellow Gentian), which need cold stratification for successful germination. I planted most of them last fall, and we did have unseasonably cold weather in November and December, so perhaps they are ok? Still, I much as I would like this warm weather to continue so that I can begin my outdoor gardening early this year, I almost want the weather to return to chilly for a bit more. I'm weird like that, I suppose. I also worry that with this stretch of warm temperatures, I will be tempted to plant everything outside early, and then with my luck get hit with a long stretch of frost - killing all of my lovingly-raised plant babies. So I suppose my desire for a return to colder weather is really my desire not to succumb to temptation. Who knew I was so complex?

After rotating out seedlings, I replanted one of the germination trays with the rest of my Boneset seeds (the seeds have a somewhat short viability, so I wanted to get them all planted before I forgot about them), some peppermint, a great deal of spearmint, and the rest of my clary sage seeds. That being said, I am really hoping I can find some kind souls to accept gifts of mint plants this spring...otherwise, goodness only knows where I will plant all of this. Sometimes I think I have what may be known as "Obsessive Compulsive Seed Planting Disorder." I.E. - If I have a packet of seeds laying around the house, I am automatically driven to plant them. Who knew today was going to be about psychology! Here I thought I was going to be writing about gardening...

Well, enough of my odd sense of humor for the moment. Back to my never-ending list of farm chores!...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January on the Farm: A Photo Tour

We moved Gloria into the angora goat pasture. It's so nice looking out the window every morning and seeing one of our favorite llamas! Gloria and Quanta are becoming good friends...

My many many pots of freshly planted chardonnay grape cuttings (Thank you, Matt!!)

The enormous pile of cuttings from our own grapes that I still need to pot...

Ryan's "Yard Art" - his solution to normal fruit tree it obvious that the man is married to a geologist??

I'm so proud of him!

View looking west from our property (oak marks the back property line) - you can see Valley View's rows of grapes to the left

The herb garden is slowly taking shape...

We have begun construction on the 4th & final raised bed...there is even a pile of poo already in place...

We have 3 out of 4 fig trees planted over Jugi's grave (which marks the center of the herb garden). I miss my beloved "Foo Bear" so much...

My outdoor nursery flats containing Burning Bush, Juniper, Bayberry, Balloonflower, Compass Plant, Yellow Gentian, and Arrowleaf Balmsamroot seeds, as well as saffron.

Goat babies!!!: Troz, Waffles, and Ollie.

I Am Robot Queen of the Seedling Things!

It's official: I have my first cinnamon (tree) sprout! I planted 10 seeds roughly 3 weeks ago, and this morning I discovered my first seedling! I feel all-powerful now! *grin* I have always told myself that if I could grow cinnamon then I could grow just about anything! My final step to achieving this will be if my yellow gentian seeds germinate this spring. Should that occur, I think I may squeal with glee. Yellow Gentian is notoriously hard to grow from seed, but it is also the most sought-after of all of the bitters herbs. I have planted my gentian seeds in outdoor nursery flats (along with my Burning Bush, Arrowleaf Balsamroot, and Compass Plant), in order to give them the necessary cold stratification that they require for germination. I have heard that cinnamon seeds can be difficult to germinate due to a low natural viability. I have no idea if this is true or not, but I DO know that they require very high temperatures to germinate. Thankfully, with my grow lights and heat mats, I was able to provide this. And thank you also to Horizon Herbs for the opportunity to try my hand at germinating cinnamon seeds!!

I finished my spring herb seed order for the 2010 gardening year. Ryan and I have nearly completed my formal herb garden. We have begun moving loads of rock for the 4th and final raised bed; I have just about finished spreading layer upon layer of mulch in the walkways (it's a constant battle to smother the weeds); and my family has helped me to plant 3 of 4 fig trees over the center marker that is Jugi's grave (which forms the core of the garden - I feel that is fitting tribute for my beloved "Foo"). Last year, I planted some of the raised beds with madder, licorice, bloodroot, comfrey, valerian, arnica, skullcap, mexican tarragon, echinacea, four varieties of sages, chives, lavendar, several different mints, epazote, angelica, feverfew, horehound, lemon balm, elecampane, and more! My new additions for the herb garden this year include:

Agrimony, Anise, Betany, Borage, Burdock, Moldavian Dragon's Head, Gravel Root, Wormwood, Blue Vervain, Baical Skullcap, Evening Primrose, Mexican Marigold, Yellow Dock, Grindelia, Passionflower, Costmary, Yerba Mansa, Goldenrod, Astragalus, Yarrow, and Stinging Nettles. Of course I always plant the normal annuals too: Basils, Calendula, Coriander, etc.

With the new garden additions, I tried to focus heavily on herbs that had a reputation for helping with problems relating to chronic coughs and infections of the urinary tract, which certain members of this family are prone to suffering from. The nice thing about planning your own medicinal herb garden is that you can tailor it to suit your own family's needs! For more information on the medicinal properties of many of my herbs, I recommend reading Michael Moore's book, "Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West."

In the meantime, I already have a spare guest room FULL of seed germination trays just brimming with sprouts (and some established plants)! They are merely waiting until March when I will begin transplanting them outdoors. Currently contained in the "Green Room" are: Hibiscus (which is actually going to end up being a houseplant), Mbuluki (another houseplant), Brandywine tomatoes, a variety of basils (this batch is really for winter culinary use, but if they make it until spring then I will plant them outside), agrimony, marshmallow, heimia, Cinnamon (another houseplant during the winter anyway), Maravilla, Boneset, Empress Tree, Yacon, Desert Willow, Chaste Tree, Echinacea Purpurea, Yerba del Lobo, Clary Sage, Garden Sage, Licorice, Greek Oregano, Thyme, Italian Parsley, Greek Mullein, Centaury, Mexican Tarragon (I plan to grow a great deal of this because I LOVE cooking with it!), San Pedro cactus/Pitaya Cactus/Dragon Fruit Cactus/Peruvian Torch Cactus (all houseplants), Agave, and more!

I also visited a friend's vineyard yesterday and collected many many chardonnay grape cuttings, so today I am in the process of potting them all up. Ryan pruned our own wine & table grapes this past weekend, and there is another huge pile of cuttings waiting for me to plant them. So many projects! The grape cuttings that I started LAST winter are now ready for transplanting. I have been putting them along the fence lines in the formal herb garden - I figured that this was an excellent way to cover an ugly fence AND provide delicious fruit during the year! I noticed with my year-old grape cuttings that I had terrible success on the batches I potted WITHOUT rooting hormone. On the batches where rooting hormone was used, I had a very high (70%+) success rate. However, overall, the grape cuttings that I planted in the ground had a 100% success rate, and had the best and LARGEST establishments of roots. If I had the space, I would plant ALL of my grape cuttings in the ground, and then dig them up the following winter. This seems to be the best road to success. Unfortunately, not possessing the space for planting 300 grape cuttings in the ground, I am limited mainly to gallon pots. I try to place between 12 and 18 grape cuttings per pot, as grapes seem to be social plants who do better when housed in large numbers.

Friday, January 08, 2010


Okay, I now realize that I am severely out of shape! Collecting and dumping 5 wheelbarrow loads of manure into my new planter boxes (really awesome ones that Ryan made using deconstructed hay pallets!) has me absolutely sore and winded! This from the girl who, last summer, lifted over 1000 lbs. of rock in a matter of roughly 6 days to construct her new formal herb garden! Apparently, winter really HAS been my time to sit around...the silver lining in this recent bout of strange above-average temperatures has been that it has allowed me to go outside and get some landscaping work done around the B&B. However, I was driven indoors this afternoon when the rains came.

I finally got around to planting my final two indoor seed flats today: Tray #1 contains Agave and Peruvian Torch cactus, and Tray #2 contains Italian Parsley, Thyme, and Oregano. I also transplanted some Boneset and Maravilla seedlings into larger pots.
Still waiting for the rest of my Maravilla seeds to germinate, as well as my cinnamon seeds. I remember reading that the cinnamon takes a long to germinate though...*fingers crossed*

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Thrift Store Find!

Today at a local thrift store I discovered a lovely little vintage (nearly antique, really) "Tourist Register" book. It had originally been used by one of the Jacksonville B&B's ages ago, and now I will be using it for MY Jacksonville B&B! Isn't that interesting?! Thus, the cycle continues...

The book had two guest signatures in it from 1942.