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It’s Winter Solstice- Celebrate with Sage

fresh sage

Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year and the beginning of Winter. We toast days past and make plans for the year to come…

One herb I associate with Winter is Sage. It’s in lots of recipes for cold weather foods, and drinking and gargling with the tea is an old remedy for cold weather coughs and sore throats.

Probably another reason I think of Sage as a Winter herb- Sage is practically evergreen in my garden. The leaves get small and curl in the frigid temperatures but they and their stalks keep standing, even in the snow. It reminds me the garden is still there, though out of sight asleep below the ground.

But many old herbalists thought of Sage as an herb of Spring. They taught that the leaves are at their best before the flower stalks rise, so late Spring was the proper time to eat lots of Sage and drink Sage tea if you wanted to ensure good health.

Sage was considered a magical plant too, said to give protection and grant wishes. From my perspective, all plants are pretty magical. They have abilities that are so beyond me (for instance, being able to regrow their whole body when cut down to the root)! Sage does feel special, though; the textured, almost-sticky leaves with their unique gray-green color, the beautiful aroma left on your hands after touching them. Even the feeling you get when you’re hanging out with Sage. It’s so peaceful.

So tonight, as Hawkeye and I celebrate the Solstice, I’ll have a big pot of water with some dried Sage simmering on the stove. We’ll make our Solstice wish and breathe in the soft green scent of the promise of next year’s garden.


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Sage, Winter’s green

sage leaves closeup

December = Nothing to do in the garden, devouring each seed catalog as it arrives in the mail. No snow yet so I can still see some green out there including Chives, Lemon Balm, and Sage.

Garden or Common Sage (Salvia officinalis) has become one of my favorite herbs since I’ve been gardening. Partly because it’s so easy to care for, I admit (Low maintenance perennials are gold, Jerry! Gold!).

Sage is also really beautiful, and it’s a medicinal as well as culinary herb. If you think next I’m going to say I also adore it because bees love the flowers, you’re right!

Sage makes a tea that’s especially nice this time of year as it helps ease coughs and sore throats. Some people find it a little bitter, so add sweetener if you like.

Another way to experience Sage tea is in the bath. Sage alone makes me feel refreshed and clean but combined with Rose petals, the bath becomes more fragrant, luxurious, and soothing.

(Adding Pine needles to the Sage and Rose just occurred to me. That seems a perfect Winter bath blend to remedy the melancholy dark days.)

One last thought on Sage, from the old Latin proverb, “Cur moriatur homo, ciu calvia crescit in horto?

“Why should a man die while Sage grows in his garden?”

I’ll be writing all about Sage this month, so hop on to our newsletter if you’d like to have the posts emailed to you. The signup box is at the bottom of this page. I often include extras in the newsletter that aren’t shared on the blog.


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Ready for Winter Downtime

It is sad when garden time comes to a close. But we’re a bit tired after a long season and are looking forward to a little downtime.

The Hadley garden has already had frost. All that’s left are some greens growing under fleece, as well as a few Scotch Bonnet and Habanero plants still ripening their peppers under plastic cover. It’s getting cold now, though. We’re almost done.

The Northampton garden hasn’t had a frost yet. There are Calendula, Alyssum, and amazingly Nasturtium and Holy Basil flowering. Thank goodness! I’m still seeing honey bees.

That’s Calendula pictured above. Her orange-yellow color is so bright, it shines in my November garden like sunshine. This happy, pretty flower is one of the first to greet me in Spring and the last to leave in Autumn. I’ll miss hanging out with her in the garden.

Luckily, I’ve got a good stash of dried Calendula flowers to get me through the Winter!


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What Farmers Do Off-Season

the farmers at virgin gorda

Here we are visiting Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. What a wonderful vacation– full of sunshine, snorkeling, and sailing!

With Spring right around the corner, we’re getting itchy to get back to farming but there’s still lots of snow on the ground with very cold nights so it looks like we’ll be ‘vacationing’ a little while longer….

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Planting Seeds and Dreams

winter coldframe
garden cold frame

Cold cold cold! I’m not really a fan of Winter, but can appreciate the crispy clear air and the exquisiteness of frost patterns on cold frame glass. Don’t get to see that everyday!

frost on cold frame glass
cold frame glass closeup

But honestly, I’d rather be inside curled up with a blanket, cup of tea, and pile of seed catalogs dreaming about next year’s garden (bound to be a cat on my lap in this scenario, too- bonus!).

Pouring over the descriptions and pictures of all the different herbs and vegetables in the catalogs is endlessly entertaining. I have a list of what we grew last year, a list of what we want to grow again and what we’re phasing out, and a list of new varieties to try.

Good King Henry is one of the new ones that I’ve wanted to bring in to the garden for several years. This year, I finally get my chance.

Sortof an herb and sortof a vegetable, I think of it mainly as substitute for spinach, but you can also eat the shoots, flower buds, and seeds. And it grows in partial shade, so I don’t have to give up any prime growing space.

The other major trial will be a couple of new cherry tomatoes. I’m trying to find a replacement for a favorite we’ve grown for years, “Sun Gold”.

Is it one of your favorites too? Seems everyone loves sweet Sun Gold cherries, but they are a hybrid and we prefer open-pollinated, so the hunt for a worthy substitute is on!

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Winter Harvest at the Micro-Farm

winter lettuce from the cold-frame

Here’s Hawkeye with fresh-picked lettuce and arugula from the cold frame on December 23rd. This is what I call living large! (Okay, the tattered basket might not qualify as “large”. New baskets are on the list!)

We’ve had snow since then and wouldn’t be getting anymore growth from the plants anyway, so that’s it for us for the rest of the Winter. Lettuce should be ready again by mid-March.

Beets, carrots and scallions are planted in the cold frame too, but this is our first try at over-wintering them so I’ve no idea what to expect.


All of next season’s veggie seeds have been ordered, and the Seed Savers Exchange and Johnny’s Selected Seeds orders are already here.

Just waiting now on my Baker Creek order for a special hot pepper, Scotch Bonnet Yellow, among a few other fun heirlooms.

These peppers are a standard in Caribbean cooking having what’s described as “shocking” heat with a fruity flavor. I had a taste of their amazingly delicious hot sauce when Hawk’s folks gave us a bottle they bought in the Bahamas. I’m really excited to add them to the hot pepper collection we’ve got going: Ho Chi MinhMaule’s Red Hot, and Fish.

I’m needing some herb seed too, but I haven’t got my list for Horizon Herbs ready yet (Horizon also has a nice selection of organic vegetable seed, but I’m trying to not go too crazy!).

This year, I’ll be integrating herbs into our off-site vegetable garden. Adding a variety of herbs and flowers is a great thing to do to attract pollinators to the veggie garden, and can also help with soil health. If I get to harvest them for food or medicine, that’s a bonus 😉