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Recent Entries to this Blog ADVENTures for the Holidays.
Posted: 27 Nov 2011
Bay Leaves, Shakespeare and Serendipity
Posted: 09 Sep 2011
How to Kill Mint, or My First Attempt at an Herb Garden
Posted: 02 Sep 2011
Amazing Wildflowers at Mt. Rainier this year.
Posted: 29 Aug 2011
My Larger Garden
Posted: 13 Aug 2011

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Karrma's Blog

ADVENTures for the Holidays.

Category: A day in my life | Posted: Sun Nov 27, 2011 9:25 pm

A little TLC. This weekend of Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I used to say that no one can commercialize this holiday, as how can one commercialize being thankful for what we have, food and family and friends, and always remembering to look around for friends to invite that may not have close family around, either because they have passed on or are too distant. But looking at the pictures of the cold, tent people camped out in the rain, in deserted parking lots, on Thanksgiving night,waiting for the malls to open, I realize that people can be fools, and our commercialism culture can be very addicting. When I was little, we did go as a family to the big city to do Christmas shopping on the weekend after Thanksgiving. I remember the stores full of lights, Nativity Scenes, Santa Claus, but it seemed gentler somehow. There was no "Black" in the newspapers or in the adds, but "lights." Tradition since marriage and children is to go skiing if the snow permits, celebrating a new season with old friends that we see only in the wintertime.

Today will be a day of Lights for us, though it is raining. Hot turkey soup, homemade bread will warm us up after the outdoor christmas lights are put up, at least a few so that anyone driving by will be cheered in the dark and rain. I am finishing up putting away the Thanksgiving decorations, my Beanie Baby Turkey and other gifts given or made by my children, the fall leaves, the cornucopias, the Pilgrims and Indians that have have been well used over the years.

Also we are setting out the Candles, the first decorations for ADVENT, preparing for Christmas. I love the Advent wreath, and today is the first Sunday of Advent, so was making the wreath. I started reading about this time of preparation, and finding out how to continue in my obstinate, contrarian way against commercialism. (I am not against commerce, just the worship of it) Each candle represents, in order, Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Christ. Yeah! Even in this Shadow of Commercialism, I can now celebrate a few more things. Hope, well there may be a lot of hope from the big retailers on that one, but Peace, Joy, Love are going to be a good counterpoint. Christmas will still be special with those prayers and meditations each year.

Advent wreath ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

Last edited: Mon Dec 05, 2011 2:03 pm

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Bay Leaves, Shakespeare and Serendipity

Category: Herbs | Posted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:11 pm

Two Bays or Not Two Bays, That is the Question
Whether 'tis Nobilis......Laurel nobilis only, or whether California Bay Laurel is also a safe herb.
For two years, I searched the nurseries for a healthy Bay Laurel plant, and had to purchase dried Bay Leaf at the grocery. "Spice Island" which I thought was a good brand, was selling the California Bay leaf as Bay Leaf. I had read somewhere that California Bay was toxic, and so I finally am looking into this question.

The real question is how much coumarin is safe. And I "opened a can of worms" when I started looking into it. The German government even got into this debate a few years ago. Coumarin is a chemical in some plants, that can have some medical benefit, but is toxic in higher doses. Bay Laurel is sweet and does not have coumarins such as umbelliferone. California Bay Laurel or Myrtle, Umbellularia californica, does. In too high of doses, it is bad for rat livers and us.

Similarly the German government tested some Christmas cinnamon cookies, and found such a high level of coumarin in some cookies, that it could have harmed a child or small adult that overindulged. The government initially tried to ban the cookies, then just recommended people not each much. Anyone heard about true cinnamon versus "not true" cinnamon? I had assumed, wrongly, that it was just not as flavorful. The important difference is they have different amounts of coumarins. The Ceylon (Sri Lanka, Serendip) cinnamon, or Cinnamomum verum, and Indonesian cinnamon, or C. burmannii do not have coumarin in them and are safe in any quantity. C. cassia or Chinese cinnamon, does have high levels and can reach toxic cookie levels.

I remember hearing that chamomile is not safe for pregnant women, and the reason is: coumarins. Low levels of coumarin, thought to be safe in general when used for teas or flavoring wines, are chamomile, sweet woodruff, and sweet grass. They can, however, cause a worse headache than the wine alone per one citation. Clover is considered toxic due to coumarins, and one of the clover fungus can convert this into a blood thinner, causing Sweet Clover disease in cows, as well as the discovery of Coumadin to prevent blood clots.

So, my personal answer to this question is 'tis Nobilis. I have posted information, so people can decide their own levels of comfort. I finally, after two years, found another healthy Bay Laurel Tree, and am trying to be very careful it does not get infected. (My last one got some sort of leaf sucking bug on it, that I just could not get rid of with washing the leaves, and it slowly dwindled away.) I am also going to be very persnickety about my cinnamon. Since I don't like chamomile, I have no problem with avoiding it. My sweet woodruff did get into one bottle of wine, but is looking better as a groundcover. No wonder I planted it in my flower garden rather than my herb garden. That is serendipity.

To be or not to be, that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

Last edited: Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:24 pm

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How to Kill Mint, or My First Attempt at an Herb Garden

Category: Herbs | Posted: Fri Sep 02, 2011 5:59 am

I did know a little bit about mint before I started growing it. I knew that it was in my toothpaste, gum and in thin mints. I knew that it was in Mint Juleps, which sounded so romantic. But I did not know anybody could be such a bad gardener that they could kill it off without trying.
Every article about mint comes with a warning, "This spreads faster than a rumor about that crazy Karrma lady," or something to that effect. So I dutifully put it in half a wine barrel to contain it, and ignored it. It grew like mad, and I was able to harvest some for my first Mint Julep, which I think was my last. It died back in the winter, and grew some more in the summers. But after a while, about 3-4 years of total neglect other than harvesting some branches for tea or chocolate anything, the beautiful mint spears would only be at the very rim of the barrel, and nothing grew in the center, not even a weed. Not even enough for me. Fertilizer did not help. Water did not help, Pinching it back did help get a few more branches, but no new stems. Why was the dirt just sitting there?
So one day the barrel fell apart, so I was able to examine the results of my benign neglect: a perfect cast of the barrel in mint root cement. It appeared that even mint can get so root bound there is no room for water or dirt.

So I learned:
1. Mint spears will grow from any part of a root that is cut or broken. (I never broke or cut the root, so it only grew at the rim of the barrel)
2. The more you cut or tear at the roots, the happier the plant and root will be and the faster it grows.
3. You still need to plant mint in a closed container.

So now I have my spearmint growing betwixt my peppermint, and bordered by the only other plant that can battle the mint growth, horseradish. Every fall, the mint gets topped after the flowering. Leaves remain for a few more months, then die back. Every spring, this corner gets dug up and abused, indiscriminately hacking away at any roots that are not fresh and plump, pulling out about 2/3 of the roots where I want it to grow. Then I very gently and carefully pull back any root streamers that are trying to escape. So the paradox of mint, the more you hack away at it, the better it grows. Now I just need to find a better Mint Julep recipe.

Spearmint, Peppermint, Horseradish ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

Spearmint, Peppermint, Horseradish ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

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Amazing Wildflowers at Mt. Rainier this year.

Category: The Larger Garden | Posted: Mon Aug 29, 2011 1:46 am

We had record snowfall at Mount Rainier this year. My good friend Jen called me and we had a girls hike up from the east entrance of Mt. Rainier, (Sunrise entrance), to Summerland Meadow on Saturday. Paradise, on the southwest side, is still under 9 feet of snow!

Summerland meadow, Mt. Rainier ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

The flowers are not used to all this snow, and there is still the earliest flowers, avalanche lilies, along with all the rest, sharing the meadows with the maples, whose leaves are already starting to change to fall colors. We saw more than half the flowers that were in our small plant book, and here are a few. Unfortunately the automatic focus on my camera is off, so some are a bit blurry.

The Coralroot looks so fragile, hiding in the shadows of the Douglas fir and Hemlocks.

Coral Root ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

Several convoluted fungi were in the fir needles.

unknown fungus ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

Merten's bluebells, Indian Paintbrush, Mountain Ash, Rosy Spirea were at lower elevations.

Merten's Bluebell ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

As we got above the falls at Fryingpan Creek, there was valerian, columbine, Cascade azaleas in the open, Wild valerian was one of the most common flowers, seen with both columbine and with Lewis' monkeyflower.

Lewis' Monkeyflower and wild Valerian ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

Wild Columbine and Valerian ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

Cascade azalea ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

and small delicate yellow Violets, and pink salmonberry flowers in the shade.

( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

wild salmonberry ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

Up in the main meadow, with the view of Mt. Rainier, Little Tahoma, on a rock next to the creek, we had lunch, watched chipmunks, smelled the heather and fresh air.

Wild heather next to streambed ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

There were huge patches of phlox up on the hillside to look at, nearby were smaller patches. A white flowered stalk above lacy feathery type leaves, was either not pictured in our book, or was a cold beaked lousewort )I guess not all common names are poetic) with paler stalk, as the pictures I have of that showed a reddish stem, and these were pale.

Phlox in foreground, not sure of white flower. ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

As we got back to the car, we noticed and nibbled on the salmonberries, (what color are salmonberries?)
as we cooled off our feet in Fryingpan Creek before the drive home.

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My Larger Garden

Category: The Larger Garden | Posted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 6:53 pm

This is for Dooley!

Turkey vulture ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

The Rogue River wild section is both wild and tame. So many birds soaring high, or coming in low to check us out. Above is a Turkey Vulture.

( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

Great Egrets flapping slowly above, Bald eagle soaring below.

( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

Dragonflies just setting down on our clothing.

dragonfly ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

Saw several bears across the river, I am sure they were on our side too.

Black Bear ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

And who could believe these orange bellied newts could secrete poisonous mucous when my son was playing with him.[/img]

5 days on the wild and scenic Rogue River.

Last edited: Sat Aug 13, 2011 9:28 pm

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Double dug the garden. Mon jardin est heureux.

Category: projects | Posted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 8:41 pm

Just outside the family room door is heaven on earth, a 3 foot by 12 foot brick raised planter box, with a southern exposure. Just outside the roofline, it will get the rain, but I won't when I run out to the herbgarden barefoot from the kitchen.
Pulled out the juniper growing there, and found the bottom of the container filled with larger river rock, only about 1 foot of dirt. So after dumping about 4 loads of rock back in the lake, there was 2 1/2 feet of good depth for the garden, so could be a double dug, or french dug garden.
The herbs can be planted much closer together in this type of garden, but need to be careful not to compact the soil. Seven years later, and the plants are still lush and happy, with just addition of some good compost and organic fertilizer each year.

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The Birth of my Herb Garden

Category: My memories | Posted: Fri Jul 29, 2011 6:31 pm

I will always associate herbs with our home.
Years before, when we were newlyweds, we lived near a barn/farm called The Herbfarm, that was becoming renowned for its herbs and foods. I was saving up to take my husband there for dinner, when unfortunately their place caught fire, and burned to the ground.
They regrouped to another location, then built a beautiful restaurant just north, and became so famous that you needed reservations a year in advance. 15 years later, finally I made a reservation in January for our August anniversary.
But you never know what can happen in 9 months. Our dream house appeared, and we had to snap it up quick.
We just moved the boxes into the house on our anniversary morning, and planned to cancel the dinner after 15 years and 9 months of waiting. To our surprise, friends and family helped chip in to help take care of us and our then little kids, so we were able to leave and head on up for our first date in our new home.
So the second day in our new home, I had a new cookbook "The Herbfarm Cookbook" that not only had recipes using herbs, but the whole last half of the book was on growing and using herbs in the Northwest.
I think I started dreaming and planting my herb garden before I unpacked the kitchen boxes.

My herb garden ( photo / image / picture from Karrma's Garden )

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