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Thursday, December 22, 2011

What to Do with Plants After the Holidays

The stores have been filled with plants to give as gifts and for decorating. Amaryllis bulbs on sale, poinsettias of all sizes, rosemary plants trimmed like Christmas trees, Christmas cactus and kalanchoes, all in holiday colors. What can you do with those after the holidays?

Poinsettias are beautiful when in bloom. However, once the leaves begin to drop and the color is gone, it’s time to toss out the plant. You can give it good sunlight in a window and keep it going for a few months, but it will never look like the plant you bought again, no matter what you do. Greenhouse poinsettias are products of very specific growing conditions, virtually impossible to duplicate in the home. Throw it away, and don’t put it in your compost pile if you care about organics, the soil is full of all sorts of greenhouse chemicals.
Rosemary Christmas tree.

Rosemary plants have become popular over the past several years. I saw lots in stores this year, in one and two gallon pots, shaped like neat little Christmas trees. This is a plant that’s easy to keep for years if you observe a few basic cautions. First, don’t overwater, and don’t let the plant stand in water in a saucer. A small amount of water about every 10 days is plenty. Second, keep the plant in an unheated room, like in the garage near a window, or a back porch. It needs as much light as you can give it, but you will kill it if you try to keep it in a warm room. Next spring, take it out of the pot and plant it in your garden. I have one I bought from Lowe’s 12 years ago that has lived happily in the herb garden.
Christmas cactus comes in several colors.

Christmas cactus are very easy plants to keep growing for years to come. They bloom best when they are root-bound, meaning growing in a small pot. If yours is in a very small plastic pot, after it has quit blooming, pot it in a clay or ceramic pot, just make sure it has drainage in the bottom. Keep it in the window where it gets light. Water it every ten days or so, remember, it’s called a cactus because it doesn’t need much water. Next summer, put it outside on the deck in part sun and in the fall, bring it indoors to a sunny window. It will rebloom again during the fall or winter. Kalanchoe plants need virtually the same care as Christmas cactus, little water, good light and minimal care. 
All of these plants, as well as your houseplants, are dormant indoors in winter. It’s important to remember not to fertilize any of them during the winter months. Wait until April to begin fertilizing lightly again and then you can fertilize once a month during the summer growing season. 
Amaryllis are easy to grow for years to come.

Amaryllis bulbs are easy, too. Let it bloom, water it once a week and let the leaves grow to gather strength for next year’s blooming. I plant mine in a flowerbed in early spring, about 7 inches deep, where it will come back each year and bloom in mid-summer. 

You can subscribe to this blog and be notified when more columns are posted. You can also find my books and products on my website. Happy gardening, seed catalogs are arriving!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Homemade Crackers YouTube Photoshoot

The focus of the video is my Homemade Crackers and Easy Dips with Herbs books.

You've probably heard me mention before that we have aYouTube/longcreekherbs channel where we post videos of my recipes and books. Check it out if you haven't. Yesterday we filmed 2 more videos. That's the easy part, the editing and pasting it all together is the harder, and more creative part. Thankfully, my job is to stand in front of the camera and let David Selby and his associates do all the work. Here are some views of the photo shoot from yesterday. The end product will be 2 videos, one that will be about 3-4 minutes long, where I'm showing my friend, Makala, how I make cheddar crackers. The other is a 2 minute video telling what roses are good to eat and which ones to avoid. (There's more about the Herb of the Year and the Rose, official Herb of the Year for 2012, on my Herb of the Year blog, here). In a few weeks the videos will be up on our YouTube channel, but for not they're "in the can" awaiting the editing process.

Makala is the daughter of one of our employees, Neva Milke. Neva is one of the 2 ladies who answers phones when you call us to place an order. Makala first came to visit Long Creek Herb Farm when she was 4 years old, with 19 other vacation Bible schoolers. She was interested in herbs and gardening then, and her interests continue to grow. I invited her to be a part ofHomemade Crackers with Herbs video taping and she was fun to work with. Here are some scenes from the kitchen and the crew yesterday.

I took this photo, looking down into the kitchen from my upstairs office. You can see the kitchen counter all set with our working tools, David and Ben are getting the cameras and lights set up.

Everyone just discovered I was taking their pictures, too.
David does lots of film projects. He intends to make movies but for now, does a great job doing videos. Ben, to the left, grew up with David. Ben is in the Army Reserves and is currently attending Drury University School of Nursing. Makala, standing on set at the ready, is a second year student at College of the Ozarks.
It takes a lot of tinkering with lights, sound, cameras to get everything working right.
I could have slept another hour!

Out of camera view, on the sunporch, I had backups of the crackers, the baked crackers, the unbaked ones and the roses for the what roses to eat video that came next.
And here we are in front of the lights, almost ready for the rose video. Makala was patient and fun to work with. David and Ben were loads of fun and very professional. David's production company does an outstanding job. All the recipes for the crackers and dips came from my books.
I hope each and everyone a pleasant and peaceful holiday season.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

We’ve all seen those late night t.v. ads for, “Bring your old gold jewelry to sell - prices are the best in history.” The last I looked, gold was selling for $1724 per (Troy) ounce. I don’t really know what an ounce of gold looks like, but I know it’s a lot of money for not much to hold in your hand. Most everyone knows the story in the Bible of how the three wise men brought their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We know what gold is, but few people know what the frankincense and myrrh are.

Frankincense tears.

Frankincense is from the Boswellia tree and comes from Somalia on the southern coastal area of Arabia. It was used in ancient times as an incense, for embalming and as a treatment for depression. People used it in temples, believing the smoke from the burning incense would carry their prayers Heavenward. 
Myrrh "tears" meaning, drops of resin, caught from the tree after it has a cut in the bark.

Myrrh, a brown to red aromatic tree resin comes from Commiphora abyssinica (which is in the same overall plant family as the frankincense tree). It’s a scraggly bush-tree which grows in semi-desert regions of North Africa and near the Red Sea. It is considered a wound healer because of its strong antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used to treat wounds, bruises and bleeding as well as a treatment for swelling.

The three wise men, carrying gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Both frankincense and myrrh were burned, usually together, as incense and were deeply connected to holy places and worship. Even today in Catholic and Episcopal churches, you will find these two resins still burned as incense during special services. Back in Biblical times, these resins were extremely valuable, fully as expensive as gold. Harvested far from  Jerusalem, they were brought on the spice routes over long distances on the backs of camels. Everyday people couldn’t afford to buy them. The specific healing properties of both made them even more desirable. For a mother who had recently given birth, the two resins were even more useful and valuable.
Our Frankincense and Myrrh Incense Kit in a Keepsake box.

We use frankincense and myrrh today in much the same way as they were used in Biblical times, in medicines, incense and aromatherapy. With better growing conditions and faster and less expensive shipping methods, they are no longer equal to the price of gold. You can buy these in today’s world, for just a dollar or two per ounce.

Both frankincense and myrrh are created when multiple cuts are made into the bark of each plant. As the sap oozes out it hardens into a hard resin. The resin is collected into bags and sold. The cutting process, of not done to excess, does not kill the tree or bush and can produce resin for many years. It's a slow process on plants that grow slowly in desert climates. The resins are harvested by hand, the same way they were 2,000 years ago.
Our Frankincense and Myrrh Incense Kit in a Keepsake box.
If you would like your own Frankincense and Myrrh Kit, you can order one from my website. It's on special this month. Each kit contains a bag of Frankincense and Myrrh, a charcoal disk for burning the incense, a special tile for the charcoal, instructions, all in a keepsake wooden treasure chest. Order two for $25 or one for $12.95 plus shipping.