February 14, 2016

2016 Membership Open! With new and improved levels.

     It might be February (and below zero) but that doesn't stop me from planning out the next growing season. This one should be even better and more productive than the last one. The perennials I planted last season will start showing their true colors, I'm especially looking forward to seeing the yarrow bloom.  All the other perennials will be bigger and stronger this year as their roots have grown deeper into the soil.  As for the annuals, everything I learned last season will certainly come in handy. Now I have a better idea of what the soil needs, where gets the most sun, and what pests to look out for. Plus more brush has been cleared, so that means more space for plants!

seeds for sorting, and soon - Planting!

     As for the membership levels, a few things have changed.  First I'm excited to offer a Saturday afternoon pickup at our home for those who find that more convinient than Thursdays. And I've removed the distiction between fresh and mail order. Now whether you choose, full, mini, patron, or art, you can either pick it up or have it mailed. The mailed ones won't contain flower arrangements though.  You did read that right though: there is an Art only share now! It's just perfect for those who don't cook or use herbs themselves but still want to be conected to the seasons through my artwork and Thomm's stories. And finally herb shares will now include a recipe or information card! I can't wait to see what I do with that.

     In other news, I've been slowly compiling more and more information and resources on each of the herbs we grow and all their different magical, medicinal, and culinary uses and soon I'll be ready to share all that with you with pages dedicated to each herb.

So thinking of joining? sign-up here!

Stay warm,
Amber Haqu

September 16, 2015

equinox pick-up tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the day to get your goodies! What will you get? What wonderful things can you do with them?  Here are some ideas.


The stars of the last pick-up were the tomatoes, and there are still going to be some of those even though their production is slowing down, but I've included a new exciting type of tomatoes - green ones! As frost starts to threaten (though there's no real sign of it yet) the question on what to do with all those green tomatoes that will never ripen might come up. Or maybe you just accidentally knocked one off it's stem.  Either way green tomatoes tend to be a rare treat that you won't find in most grocery stores.  Don't just pop them in your mouth though! These should be prepared first, you could make relish, pickles, sauce, or even use them as a jam ingredient, but traditionally they should be fried.  I tried to make them once before with mixed results, but they tasted good one I figured out how to get the batter to stick (the recipe I had neglected saying eggs were needed) so I'm looking forward to trying them again this year probably with this recipe.

other vegetables that shall be around are small tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and squash/pumpkin,


Our lemon balm has been growing strong and should make a bigger appearance this season.  In the kitchen Lemon balm can be used to add a lemon flavor to whatever you want to add some zest to - you can even use it in place of lemon zest! Medicinally it's been known to help with tension and mood issues as well as an aid to digestion, generally as a tea.  Some use it topically for cold sores and bug bites as well.  Magically it has feminine attributes and a connection to honey bees, often used to attract romance though it can be used to ease hurt emotions.  You might also want to add it to your bath to further promote calm.  Drinking a cup of lemon balm tea before magical working can help put you in an open state of mind and relax and tensions you might carry from the outside world.

Other herbs you might find in your bag are tulsi/holy basil, salad brunet, comfrey, sage, yarrow leaves, parsley, thyme, and some Italian herbs such as oregano and rosemary.


Summer flowers are starting to fade, but they zinnias are still around for us to enjoy, along with just the beginnings of fall showing with grasses and other seed heads.  But the big player right now is goldenrod, which although you might think of as a weed can be a great flower and herb as well! Dry
it either for decoration or use as a tea.  You can also make a tincture out of it to take it that way.

Art and Writing:

Thomm's story will be in the share! Entitled balance beam, and as always some what inspired by the illustration I made.  Sadly it doen't look like the actual artwork prints will arrive on time for tomorrow - but don't worry! I'll mail it out to you once it arrives.

Hope to see you tomorrow!

September 13, 2015

what to do with herbs: tomato sauce

Well, aren't I behind on blog posts! One of the things I've been doing this past month is turning most of the tomatoes I harvested into sauce.  Last year, my method was a bit more time consuming, as I was chopping them all up and cooking them on the stove for most of the afternoon.  This year, I worked out a slightly quicker method, although it's best if you start the night before.

First, prepare the tomatoes as you wish.  I just core out the green center of the big ones and cut off any bad bits, but you can also remove the skins and seeds - but I don't bother.  Put your prepared tomatoes in a blender and blend until all chopped up - mine comes out a bit like a smoothie.  I love seeing how the different tomato colors affect the color of the blend.

Next pour your mix into a crock pot until full, or you run out of tomatoes.  You can also add some small whole tomatoes now or an hour-ish before serving to add some chunkiness.  I've been allowing this to reduce overnight and then adding more blended tomatoes in the morning - but this is just because I have so many tomatoes and a fairly small crock pot.  To help with reducing the sauce, you can leave it uncovered, propped, or use a splash screen.  However, if you're not careful, you could reduce it too much and burn the sauce - yes, you can burn things in a crock pot, I was surprised too.

Whenever you have time before dinner - although give the sauce enough time to take in some of the flavors - you'll want to add some herbs!  And maybe some vegetables too, peppers and summer squash work well.  As for herbs, I love sage, thyme. basil, and a bay leaf.  You'll probably want to add salt and sugar as well.

Basil should be added last if you're using it, as overcooking can weaken the flavor.  Taste the sauce occasionally to see what you think.  I've also been cooking up onions. garlic, and sage in olive oil and then adding that to the sauce near the end.  I picked up that idea from this recipe for Chicken-Sausage and Bean Casserole with Sage.

Eventually, it'll be done and you'll be ready to have a delicious dinner!  Depending on how many tomatoes you used, you'll probably have some left over.  What I do is freeze it in half-pint jars and then use two jars whenever I want pasta again outside of tomato season.  You might also want to try freezing it in zip bags to reduce space.

What about canning, you ask?  I have yet to try it, but if you want to and don't have a pressure caner, you'll want to work with a different recipe that's more specific.  You'll probably not be able to add squash or pepper, and you will have to add lemon juice.

Have you ever made sauce of your own? How did you do it?  I'm considering trying it on an outdoor rocket stove sometime and see what taste the smoke adds to it.


July 29, 2015

pick-up tomorrow!

Wondering what will be in the shares tomorrow? And what to do with them? Here are a few hints!

Vegetables -
just under one pound of various tomatoes!  There are cherry types, as well as some larger varieties.
Not every type has started yielding, but the ones that have are doing great.  Eat them fresh, slice and dry them for the future, put them in sauce, freeze them, do pretty much anything you want!  Don't put uncut ones in the fridge though - it can ruin the flavor and texture.  Magically, tomatoes were previously thought to be an aphrodisiac and are still great for attracting love and lust. They also are associated with the golden apples and can be used in place of apples.

Other vegetables that might be present are green bell peppers and summer squash - did you know you can eat zucchinis fresh?  They remind me of cucumbers but more substantial.

Herbs -
speaking of cucumbers one of the herbs - salad burnett- has a cucumbery flavor! To use it, just pull off the leaves and put it in a salad, on a sandwich, or just eat it fresh.  You can also use it in hot dishes like soups and eggs, but don't let it cook too long or the flavor will disappear.  To preserve it for later, you should freeze it rather than drying.  Medicinally, it has been used to slow bleeding, as an astringent, and anti-inflammatory.  It might make an interesting iced tea or addition to a skin toner, too.  Magically, it has protective quantities. It is also in the rose family, so you might find some interesting uses through that connection.

Other herbs you might see are - echinacea flowers, catnip, sage, mint, basils, parsley, fennel, lemon balm, and mugwort.

Flowers -
The zinnias are in full bloom and are getting quite tall - taller than me, at least.  I love them so much, especially when butterflies and bees are flitting around. I actually based this pick-ups art work on it.  They can be used to bring joy, love, friendships, and strength, or just use a specific color of zinnia to fit in with whatever your working on.

To go along with the big, bright zinnias, we've got asters, snapdragons, and a few other fun blossoms popping out.

Art and writing-
As always, there will be a print included, and a bit of writing to go with it (in that Thomm looks at what I'm working and runs with it until it's something even more awesome) this one has bees, a wedding, and some sadness.  There will be some ceramics as well for you to choose from.

Thanks for reading! I can't wait to see you.

July 19, 2015

This week 7/19

The farm is slowing down a bit as the summer gets on its way - just some weeding catch up as all the wonderful plants ripen their fruits and grow more leaves - but we'll be drowning in tomatoes any minute now.  I did have some time to work on getting the studio together, painting all the furniture and setting it all up. I still have more to do (like actually hanging some paintings) but it's now open for business!

Working on ledge shelves, they're waiting to be hammered and glued.  One is 8 feet, the other just over 6 foot.

The shelves now are all hung up and filled with prints and originals.

This table was pretty simple to make with just two 10 inch by 6 foot pine boards, scrap wood from the ledge shelves, and legs from an old bar-stool.  I might have to secure the legs a bit better - as the whole thing fell apart while I was trying to move speaker cables around.

The desk is just an old one I had that I painted white. It fits in perfectly though! As for the board hanging the earrings and ornaments, I made that years ago for my craft fair display - but it looks like I'll have to paint it white again as it's a bit dingy compared to all the newly painted things.  You can also see some herbs hiding in the corner, partially as a test to see how well they last. It does get hot in the studio though, so I think most would do better at a cooler temperature.

And I can't forget my husband Thomm's books. They need to have a little space of their own. Hopefully, more will come out soon to add in. Maybe even a collaboration with some of my artwork  - although I did do the design a bit for his two smaller collections, I'm loving what he's been writing to put in the shares and how well it goes with the illustrations.  

Like I said, the paintings still need to be hung though. I'm going to have to search around my apartment for all the pieces I've squirreled away so I can show them  the light of day, or at least know where they've been hidden so I can find them again sometime.

The address is: 7516 N. BROADWAY, RED HOOK, NY 12571. My studio is all the way in the back.  I do intend to have a grand opening come August, once I figure out a good date. Tell me in the comments when works for you!  Also the gallery is open Friday and Saturday 12-7 and Sundays 12-4 or you can always make an appointment with me and I'll open it up for you. Also right now another of the artists is holding a special exhibition with extended hours.

Hope to see you there sometime!

July 2, 2015

This week 7/2

I've been running back and forth from one activity to another, but each time I go to the farm, it seems like I run into a new surprise that I just have to take a picture of to show you!  So how about I just share some photos in this post.

Sage bundles and parsley, fennel, chive bouquets for the pick up!  I'm thinking about starting to sell these at local stores over the weekends as they stay fresh pretty well, but it would have to be nearby as I'd have to switch the stock out at least once a week.  Any ideas for a good place?

What a mix of flowers in the last share! There are even a few I don't really know the names of.  The black eyed susans stayed fresh the longest in my bunch.

I've been keeping up with at least one row of tomatoes this year. These ones are getting tall though there's not as much fruit on them as the other row.  It's fun tying up all the different varieties, but on occasion one will be so much taller then the others it's hard to control.  The flowers are doing great as well - especially some gorgeous snapdragons.  Next step is to fertilize and mulch these rows to keep them weed free. 

Speaking of flowers, the first zinnias are appearing!

I've mentioned before that this field was used for herbs before, and here's more proof - tiny catnip seedlings growing up among the calendula!  It was a challenge to not pull them while weeding. Soon I hope to move them to a new more permanent home. 

Who are you and why are you eating my fennel! Turns out he/she is an eastern black swallowtail caterpillar. They turn into gorgeous butterflies. I'm glad I didn't hurt him, but it's a bit of a shame I didn't get to bring him home to keep as a pet. I'd love to see a butterfly hatch again.  

A baby zucchini has appeared!  It shouldn't take long before I'm drowning in summer squash again.

You may have noticed all the echinacea buds in the last pickup. Well, they've started to bloom now! 

Now for a special treat: the first tomatoes are ripe!  These are sungolds so they stay orange rather thea going red, but they are quite delicious and really early, in general but especially this year.  I'm getting the feeling that the whole farm is much further ahead than my plantings were last year.  Possibly just a combination of good weather and practice, and I really think the soil blocks helped a lot as well my transplants were a lot bigger and happier than they were in the peat pots.  

Hope everything's going awesome with you! Have you come across any surprises or firsts in your garden or your life in general? Share with us in the comments!


June 15, 2015

what to do with herbs: bug spray

This week has been fairly uneventful on the farm - just a bunch of weeding and watching over things as they grow.  However, the bugs have been biting lately, especially in the shady parts of the farm in the evening, so I thought I'd make some bug spray!  So, after checking out some websites (Homemade bug spray and Make your own essential oil), I thought I'd throw together an interesting concoction of my own.

First, I threw a bunch of herbs in a pot.  I used catnip, various mints, citronella-scented geranium, thyme, sage, and just a touch of rosemary and calenula - so, basically, everything I had on hand that might repel insects - plus calendula 'cause why not?

 Next, I ran them through a chopper quickly to reduce their bulk and start bringing out the oils, and back into the pot!  The chopper didn't like the sage stems, so next time I'll have to remove them first.

I poured grape-seed oil over the herbs to cover - really, any oil should work but I happened to have grape-seed oil, plus it's very light colored and scented.  I turned the burner on low, covered the pot, and stirred occasionally for a few hours.  I think I ended up at about 4 hours but probably less would be just fine.

Eventually, the herbs started to look well-cooked and strong-scented.  I deemed the bug spray oil done, let it cool a bit, and moved onto the next step.

To strain out the plant matter, I poured the concoction into a fabric lined strainer and let it drain slowly.  Very slowly.  The oil came out a very dark shade of green and strongly, but interestingly, scented.  After some pressing down with a spoon, I ended up with a bit over a half a cup of oil. Which more than filled the bottle I had on hand, as well as the tiny sprayer I had on hand.

Next time, I intend to use fewer types of herbs, so the scent is easier to pin down.  Definitely catnip and mint will have to be on the list, as those are supposed to be quite effective.  I was intending to dilute the oil with some witch hazel and apple cider vinegar, but my bottles were full, and it seems to work well, even if it's a bit oily.

How well does it work you ask? Well, I can't be sure yet but I tried it out today and I didn't notice too many bugs trying to bite.  After a few hours with it on, I did notice some gnats being annoying so I reapplied and they certainly stopped bothering me.  So far it's a success and I hope to  try it again with different herbs and possibly some dilution.  If you try to make your own bug spray, tell me how it turns out.