Helping hands….

Everyone needs some help at times of the day, the year, or even in a moment.

We all know it’s spring thank goodness it’s time for flowers and herbs and gardening again! Peaceful. Healthy. Beauty. Color. Meditative. Calming. Soothing – those all words I associate with gardens and gardening. Here in my little piece of the world I have a back deck that turns into a little piece of all those words for me each year. It is a deck that I surround with “window boxes” or in this case rail boxes, that I mostly fill with Herbs. I use the herbs for cooking, ice tea (yes I grow many mints,) and just because I love being able to go out there and have all these possible scents surround me. There are naturally flowers too…but enough about what I personally plant.  The real point of this story is helping hands……. I was at my local garden center to buy the soil for the boxes. There was even a special deal price of my favorite soil in a 2 1/4 cubic feet bag.  Great! Now, you need to know that I am pretty strong and about 5 foot 8, so I am not a small weak wisp of grass…. these bags are HEAVY! I struggled to get the first on my cart. Then the helping hand came. A couple came walking by, the man asked if I was getting another bag. I said yes, and he (with some effort too I may add) put the second one on cart. FAB! Then to add to the goodness, they were right behind in line to pay, and he offered to put them in my car for me. A big win for Kindness and for me. Thanks you universe for that helping hand when I needed it.

Helping Hands image

Helping hands…holding hands… the two often mix. That’s a very good thing.






It’s National Soup Month! It’s Friday. It’s Pho-day!

It’s friday and Julia and I love Pho from my head to my toes!

Julia and Pho Soup

So here is a recipe that is fairly easy to make. You can adjust as desired. THis one is veggie only. Traditional Pho has thin sliced beef, that works too! So would Chicken or tofu!

This recipe is from a website called The Kitchn. I like their ideas and philosophies of food and planet.  Here is a little bite (ha ha) about them.

“The Kitchn is a site for people who like to get their hands dirty while they cook.
It is for those who care about the quality of their food, and how it affects the health of themselves and the planet. It is also for those who want to cook more, but are shy in the kitchen. It’s a place to dive in deep, and embrace the joy of one of our basic needs: food.”


Now- on to the Pho! – the rest of this post is from their page. To see some wonderful photos to tempt you even further – go to the page they posted with the directions!

“There are few better comfort foods than Vietnamese phở. When I’m on the verge of a cold or in need of a culinary pick-me-up, I sit down to a restorative bowl of aromatic broth, slippery rice noodles, and fresh, customizable garnishes.

Between the broth, noodles, and assorted garnishes like onions, herbs, chiles, and lime, phở (pronounced “fuh” not “foe”) is a wonderful interplay of textures and flavors. Traditionally, the soup is made with beef or chicken bones. Vegetarian versions, called phở chay, may be found at Buddhist establishments or restaurants catering to contemporary, Western clientele but, sadly, these often leave much to be desired.

In the interest of making vegetarian phở at home, I consulted my mother, who recalled her experience living in a Vietnamese Buddhist community that made meat-free phở broth with a medley of spices, ginger, and lots of carrots. This recipe is my interpretation. While it admittedly lacks the richness of meat-based phở, it’s still quite fragrant and filling without being heavy. There’s also room to make it your own by adding different proteins or vegetables. I continue to work on perfecting the broth, so let me know what you think!

Vegetarian Phở (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)
Serves 2

1 large onion, peeled and halved
2-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and halved lengthwise
3-inch cinnamon stick, preferably Vietnamese cassia-cinnamon
1 star anise
2 cloves
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
4 cups unsalted vegetable stock
2 teaspoons soy sauce
4 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

1/2 pound dried flat rice noodles (known as bánh phở; use 1/16″, 1/8″, or 1/4″ width depending on availability and preference)

Toppings (optional)
Protein such as fried or baked tofu, bean curd skin, or seitan
Vegetables such as bok choy, napa cabbage, or broccoli

1/2 onion, very thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 chile pepper (Thai bird, serrano, or jalapeño), sliced
1 lime, cut into wedges
1/2 cup bean sprouts
Large handful of herbs: cilantro, Thai basil, culantro/saw-leaf herb
Hoisin sauce, sriracha (optional)

For the broth
Char onion and ginger over an open flame (holding with tongs) or directly under a broiler until slightly blackened, about 5 minutes on each side. Rinse with water.

In a large pot, dry roast cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and coriander over medium-low heat, stirring to prevent burning. When spices are aromatic, add vegetable stock, soy sauce, carrots, and charred onion and ginger.

Bring broth to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain and keep hot until ready to serve.

For the noodles
While broth is simmering, place noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Let stand for 20-30 minutes or until tender but still chewy. Drain. (If soaking does not soften the noodles enough, blanch them in a pot of boiling water for a few seconds.)

For the toppings (optional)
While broth is simmering, prepare toppings as desired – slice and cook tofu, lightly steam or blanch vegetables, etc. Toppings should be unseasoned or only lightly seasoned so as not to interfere with the flavor of the broth.

To serve
Divide noodles between two bowls. Arrange toppings over noodles. Ladle about 2 cups of broth into each bowl. Serve with garnishes on the side, which diners should add to taste.

Preserving your Herb Harvest

Well, now it is mid August. Summer is all too quickly coming to an end, hopefully your home-grown herbs are robust and healthy. Now what? Well, I assume you want to be able to use the delightful flavors of summer all year round. Therefore, todays post is about ways for Preserving your Herbs at home. Freezing, drying, hanging in the sun, dry in the sun, and/or dry in the oven, it is all below for you! This information comes from our wonderful new friends at the Growers exchange. An all-natural online garden center that specializes in rare and traditional herbs for culinary, aromatic and medicinal use. They have been in business for over twenty years.. http://www.thegrowers-exchange.comAND from the website of The Herb Companion – (check them out, well worth your time.)

Caroline (at The Growers Exchange) tells us …”For preserving herbs, I’ve had great success with freezing them for later use, especially with Basil….When freezing, I just washed and chopped my Basil, added a little water to each cup of an empty ice-cube tray, then packed the chopped Basil into each cup and added more water. I’ve also heard of people coating the tray with olive oil to make them easier to remove, but once they freeze, you can just store them in a Tupperware container or freezer proof baggie (to make pesto or whatever you like, later in the season:) It retains the flavor longer and it’s super quick and easy to do!

I also found recently when I didn’t have time to plant two extra flats of Catnip, that clipping the plants at the base, drying them for a month, then shedding all the leaves into a Tupperware container to keep in the freezer works great. My cats actually enjoyed the dried version better than the fresh leaves. They didn’t even care when I brought the live plants in for them, but went nuts for the dried stuff!

For herbs like Stevia, you can extract the essential oils (in this case, the natural sweetener) and store it for later use in the fridge! Check out this blog as a reference on how to do so:

We have lots of herbs that retain their scent better after drying or were used for specific purposes such as Costmary, which has very broad leaves and was placed in between pages of people’s bibles (giving it the common name, “Bible Leaf”) as its slight, minty scent kept pests away. Just one of the many little tidbits and facts I’ve learned from doing much of the research for our herbs.” – Thanks to Caroline for all that great info! 

Ron La Fleur Pinching-Rosemary
Ron La Fleur Pinching his Rosemary back, standing amongst the mint! FYI: He is holding “The Best Gardening Scissor” from the Growers Exchange! 

… on to a wonderful piece from THE HERB COMPANION – Ways to Dry your herbs.


“Preserve the flavors of your herb garden all year by using the ancient practice of drying. 

Drying is believed to be the oldest form of food preservation. According to the University of Minnesota Extension Service, recently discovered food samples are believed to have been dried in Jericho about 4,000 years ago. Drying herbs removes excess water to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold—an easy and safe way to preserve herbs year-round.

Here are three ways to do it.

1. Hang Herbs to Dry

Hanging herbs to dry is probably the easiest method. This method works best with low-moisture herbs, such as dill, rosemary, summer savory and thyme. First, remove the lower leaves and gather four to six branches into bundles and tie them with a string. Then, place the bundles in a brown paper bag upside-down with the stems sticking out from the bag and tie. Next, punch holes in the bag to promote air circulation. In a dark, cool place, hang the bags for a few weeks.

2. Sun-dry Your Herbs

Sun-drying is another cost-effective way to dry herbs. Lay a towel on a hard, dry surface, such as a back porch or patio. Place the herbs on the towel while making sure the herbs are not touching each other. Bring the herbs inside at night to ensure the dryness of your herbs.

3. Dry Herbs in the Oven

Use the oven to dry herbs quickly and effectively. Place the leaves and stems of the herb on a flat baking sheet. Heat the oven to about 180 degrees and warm the herbs for two to three hours. Microwave ovens also may be used to dry herbs, although this method can cause herbs to dry too quickly and lose flavor. If you decide to try it, place the plant on a paper towel and microwave on high for about three minutes.

When to Harvest Your Herbs

Every herb, root and berry has a different peak time for harvesting. Here are a few tips:

• Leaves should be clipped before the flowers of the plant have opened. Leaves often are the most fragrant at this stage. Gather flowers such as lavender when the plant first starts to open.
• Roots should be collected in the fall after the plant has begun to die. However, dandelion roots should be collected in the early spring.
• Seeds should be gathered in the fall when the seed starts to ripen.
• Harvest berries as soon as they are ripe, which is usually mid-summer to early fall.”

 ( Check out the Herb Companion it is a beautiful publication! )

Read more:

Culinary Herbs: Indoor window, or small space, plantings.

Well we must be on track for as I sit to write Prairie Home Companion  is running their Spring Time Planting Show! If it is springtime in Minnesota it must be springtime, or moving into summer, pretty much everywhere here in the USA! So I write and I listen…

The Plan for the week is Culinary Herbs, for it mixes the Art of Food, ( blogged here on 5/18 ) and the Art of Gardening (blogged  here too many times to count) and to us that is a Great Combo! Our featured Spokes-Creature will be Milly since she is the grower from our Herb Seed Contest.   As you may remember, Milly and Tilly are the greeting committee for Botaniumus therefore, it also seems perfect that Milly is greeting the new cycle of plants called Springtime. In honor of this week Milly went shopping, naturally she wears “Eco” clothes, check out her original Basil Skirt (A Birdelli Original) . You gotta luv those stores in Botaniumus!

Milly in a Birdelli Original "Basil Skirt"
Milly in a Birdelli Original "Basil Skirt" and Flower Flip Flops

Herbs are wonderful; you can plant a glorious garden using exclusively Herbs. You can grow your garden on window sills if need be, or you could do a vast vista of grander as far as you can see! Each day this week we will think and chat about a “venue” for your Herbs. Herbs by Wiki definition.” A herb is a plant that is valued for flavor, scent, medicinal or other qualities. Herbs are used in cooking, as medicines, and for spiritual purposes…Culinary use of the term “herb” typically distinguishes between herbs, from the leafy green parts of a plant (either fresh or dried), and spices, from other parts of the plant (usually dried), including seeds,berries, bark, root and fruit. Culinary herbs are distinguished from vegetables in that, like spices, they are used in small amounts and provide flavor rather than substance to food.”

Today, Monday, We will start at the most contained versions of Herbs, i.e. potted herbs on your indoor window sill (or an edge of a Fire Escape, a corner of a balcony, any small space.) Tuesday: Out Door Potted Herbs. Wednesday: Herbs in the ground. Thursday Fresh Herbs in the Kitchen (yum) and naturally, Friday is Fun Fact (Herb) Friday. Before we venture any further you may ask: Why bother with growing your own Herbs? Milly and I love to cook when we can share the food with others. Guess what? We think the pleasure of growing our own,  nurturing them as they grow is grand in itself. Then, that they nurture us back by being beautiful for our visual sense and likely a delight for our nose sense (scent) makes the process a near perfect synergistic grow. So get your Grown Going and let’s get to it!

How to start:
Select the herbs you enjoy the most.  Pick your sunniest window sill, South (or South West)  facing is ideal if possible. If you live in a dark home, use grow lights.  Herbal plants prefer at least five hours of sunlight per day and keep them from enduring drafts.
•Start with a grown plant, grow from seeds, or buy a kit, which you can find pretty much at every garden center or big store this time of year.
•If you start with a potted herb, be sure to put a saucer under it to protect your sill. If you are doing the seed thing, be sure to thin out when you have a bunch of little shoots so the roots of only a few have a good start.
•Water: Be careful about the amount of water you give your herbal plants. They don’t do well in damp soil, so water sparingly, but don’t forget all about them and leave them parched.

In a few weeks time…

♥ You have now added color and fragrance to your room.  Now your window may inspire new and wonderful creations in your kitchen. How great that!   Have some fun and enjoy.♥

Organic  “A windowsill kitchen garden: Grow great tasting herbs indoors.

You can grow herbs indoors during the winter and add that just-picked taste to your meals, even when snow is drifting up against the kitchen window. You don’t even need special lights—herbs fare just fine in a bright window. Here are the best herbs for growing on windowsills and the smart techniques you need to keep them happy and healthy until you can plant outside again.

Smart Techniques for Growing Herbs IndoorsRooting a cutting. 
Many herbs—including oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage—are best propagated for indoor growing by taking a cutting from an existing outdoor plant. To do it, snip off a 4-inch section, measured back from the tip. Strip off the lower leaves and stick the stem into moist, soilless mix, such as perlite and/or vermiculite. To ensure good humidity, cover with glass or clear plastic, and keep the growing medium-moist.”

Transition to indoors
Before the first fall frost (while the weather is still on the mild side), start moving your potted herb plants toward their winter home. Instead of bringing them directly inside, put them in a bright, cool “transitional zone,” such as a garage, entryway, or enclosed porch, for a few weeks.

Once they’ve acclimated, move them to an area with lots of sun (south-facing windows are brightest, followed by east or west views). But protect them from heat and dryness. Most herbs prefer daytime temperatures of about 65 to 70 degrees F, although they can withstand climbs into the 70s. It’s especially important that night temperatures drop at least 10 degrees—down into the 50s would be better—to simulate outdoor conditions.

With the exception of basil, they’ll even do well with occasional dips into the 40s. (So turn that thermostat down when you go to bed.) Place them outside on mild days, and give them regular baths to wash off dust.

Water, light, and temperature
Most herbs like to be well watered but don’t like wet feet. That’s why good drainage is important. Water when the top of the container feels dry, or learn to judge the moisture in the soil by the weight of the pot. Add sand or vermiculite to the potting soil to ensure good drainage.

Learn to juggle water, light, and temperature. A herb in a clay pot in a south-facing window will need more water than one in a plastic pot in an east, or west, facing window. If the light is low, keep the temperature low.  page 2 of the article is pest control .. page 3 is

Ten Best Herbs for Indoors ( Milly adds – “Only if you like these flavors, use your favorites”)

Basil: Start basil from seeds and place the pots in a south-facing window—it likes lots of sun and warmth.

Bay: A perennial that grows well in containers all year-long. Place the pot in an east, or west, facing window, but be sure it does not get crowded—bay needs air circulation to remain healthy.

Chervil: Start chervil seeds in late summer. It grows well in low light but needs 65 to 70 degrees F temperatures to thrive.

Chives: Dig up a clump from your garden at the end of the growing season and pot it up. Leave the pot outside until the leaves die back. In early winter, move the pot to your coolest indoor spot (such as a basement) for a few days, then finally to your brightest window.

Oregano: Your best bet is to start with a tip cutting from an outdoor plant. Place the pot in a south-facing window.

Parsley: You can start this herb from seeds or dig up a clump from your garden at the end of the season. Parsley likes full sun, but will grow slowly in an east, or west, facing window.

Rosemary: Start with a cutting of rosemary, and keep it in moist soilless mix until it roots. It grows best in a south-facing window.

Sage: Take a tip cutting from an outdoor plant to start an indoor sage. It tolerates dry, indoor air well, but it needs the strong sun it will get in a south-facing window.

Tarragon: A dormant period in late fall or early winter is essential for tarragon to grow indoors. Pot up a mature plant from your outdoor garden and leave it outside until the leaves die back. Bring it to your coolest indoor spot for a few days, then place it in a south-facing window for as much sun as possible. Feed well with an organic liquid fertilizer.

Thyme: You can start thyme indoors either by rooting a soft tip cutting or by digging up and potting an outdoor plant. Thyme likes full sun but will grow in an east, or west, facing window.”