Monday, September 24, 2012

The Colonial Garden
A History of  Past Gardening Styles
Article written for The Essential Herbal January 2005

Herbs and herb gardening have been around this country for more than a few centuries. Our foremothers and forefathers brought from the old world, along with their new political ideas, plants and seeds that would be needed to sustain them. Yes, herbs were grown and harvested for seasoning the meals, dying fabrics, making soaps and other household helpers such as brooms, but more importantly they were utilized as medicines and for the prevention of diseases.  Today, there has been a reconnection to our past and herbs seem to play a major part in the reconstruction of the old gardens that worked so well before. Here at Possum Creek Herb Farm we have recreated what we think would have been a working herb garden used by the Colonial housewife during the period of 1690-1780.


            The Colonists would have placed their gardens near their home preferably behind the kitchen for easy access. Many would have fenced in the gardens to protect the precious plants from animals. A fence of twigs, small branches and trunks of small trees would have been tied together and pounded into the ground. Fortunately for us, fencing is a little less work intensive. Our Colonial herb garden is surrounded by a weather resistance white picket fence with gates for easy access. The Colonists would have dug out their gardens with crude shovels, axes and possibly with the use of a horse or mule. They would have created long rows with paths intersecting each section of the garden. The house wife would have interspersed vegetables in with the herbs. Each section of the Colonial herb garden here at the farm is enclosed in pressure treated lumber “boxes”. They range in size from 8 feet by 4 feet to 8 feet by 8 feet. There are six boxes in all with gravel paths leading the visitor from one garden to the next. The Colonists would have used the rich soil that they built their homes on probably removing large stones and utilizing them for building walls. We too have rich, well-draining soil here at the farm which we amend yearly with compost. Full sun and moisture were all that was needed to promote the lush growth of the herbs for use all throughout the spring, summer and fall.


            Several herbs lend themselves very well to dying fabrics. The Colonial housewife would have boiled the foliage, bark and roots of Rosemary, Sage Yarrow, Chamomile and Woad, which were among others, to dye their homespun fabrics such as wool. Herbs such as Soapwort and Lavender were added to the daily wash water to freshen and clean the laundry. Many herbal blooms lend themselves well to the dye pot. Blooms from herbs such as Marigold, Onion, Goldenrod, Madder Oregano, and Foxglove just to name a few were also used in the dying process.


            Many herbs were grown for seasonings. The Colonial housewife would have tended her culinary herb garden each spring and summer, harvesting what she needed on a daily basis. And what she didn’t use on a daily basis she would bundle up and hang near a dry cool spot out of the sun for future use. Herbs such as Thyme, Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Chive, Dill and Roses were grown and harvested. Rose petals were often saved for potpourri which wasn’t used to fragrance the home but to mask unpleasant smells from the inhabitants that lived their. Many herbs were made into jellies and jams if sugar was available. Or dried and pounded into powders for seasoning during the winter.


            Herbs played a very important role medicinally. The housewife was usually the family physician back in the very early days. She often gathered herbs from her gardens or from the wild to treat her family. Often diseases such as malaria, typhoid, measles, malaise and dysentery were treated with herbs such as Willow, Mint, Echinacea, Dill, Ginseng and Yarrow. Unfortunately, many of these herbs have fallen out of favor over the years due to the creation of more modern chemical medicines. Many herbs were strewn on the ground of the homes to prevent diseases from forming. Herbs placed in strategic places would keep insects and vermin out of the homes as well.

            As the knowledge of the Colonial housewife increased so did her gardens. Many Colonists raised bees for honey for their families and to sell. The blossoms of many herbs attract honeybees and other beneficial wildlife to the gardens. Many Colonists also learned that certain vegetables grew well along side their herbal counterparts increasing the harvest for the family. And they learned to utilize compost from their farm animals to improve the soil. We could learn a lot from those early settlers that discovered our country. Many of these gardens have been lost do to the sprawl of our cities but a few have been kept intact for visitors such as the gardens of George Washington at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.

 9-2012:  The Colonial Garden that was created here six years ago is long gone with only its fence and raised beds left behind. It has since become the veggie garden that produced peppers, onions, tomatoes and soon, a few pumpkins. It is being taken over by a crop of Sweet Annie I thought long gone. After reading through the above article again I think the Colonists had mad prepping skills but then, they had to, didn't they?


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday Update

Yesterday was one of those days no one wants to have repeated. My website was one of the millions that crashed for about nine hours. Not by anything I did though I thought I broke it when I loaded the Paypal software (wait for it) but no, it was actually something that GoDaddy did. Professionals that they are I was up just as quickly as possible with no loss of data. You know that sinking feeling that something or everything was going to be gone? spades. Luck was on my side and everything was pretty much in place.  I was hopeful that Tuesday would be a better day.
Tuesday seemed to start off quickly as the hours spun by. I know that I had a cup of coffee and watched about an hour of morning tv. Today was special as it was the anniversary of 9/11 and I try very hard to watch some of the footage to remind myself how lucky my family and I to live in this country. I hear you too....USA! USA! USA!  After that one quiet hour it seemed everything just flew by. Dad stopped by and we worked putting back together one of the greenhouses that had been cleaned. We rearranged tables and tossed out some broken pots and trays. Now it's ready for the potting and seed starting that will commence in a few weeks. Found out the riding mower is sort of broke but a plan is in place to get it fixed. Clock spinning faster. You know what I mean? 
Spent a good portion of the afternoon updating the Wholesale portion of the website. Quite a nice selection of plants will be offered in the 2013 season, if I say so myself. I spent a lot of my time on the page that really explains the entire process. Hopefully it will answer a lot of questions and speed up the process for those that want to place wholesale orders.  Started updating the Retail page as well. Still need to add some products and pictures and will finish that before the week is over. I did add PayPal to the payment options which I hope folks will like. Just email me if you have questions.
Don't forget to order your copy of our new ebook "An Elder Gathering". It is available on the website on the Retail page. We are all very proud of this project. I am hoping we can do something like this again someday.
Hope everyone had a good day. Tomorrow will be another busy day.  Michele

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The all new Elder Gathering e-book!

Possum Creek Herb Farm is very excited to announce the collaborative effort of some of the herb industry's  most talented women in the culmination of An Elder Gathering e-book. Available on Possum Creek's website this e-book is so full of information on that all important herb, the Elderberry, that it is bursting at the seams.  Clicking An Elder Gathering e-book will take you directly to An Elder Gathering in our cart.

Come along and join us, a group of long-time friends, as we share our favorite uses for elder flowers and berries.
We've even got a few uses for leaves and wood! Learn about growing, harvesting, preserving, making medicine, delicious dishes and tantalizing teas all using this very versatile native plant.
Over 30 recipes, remedies and crafts are included, along with light-hearted folklore and good lots of pictures to
help you identify Elder.
We're certain that soon you'll love the Elder as much as we do, and be finding a place for one (or more) in your yard or garden.
40 pages, 8 1/2 x 5 1/2. S5.00
Written by Michele Brown, Susanna Reppert Brill, Susan Hess, Betty Pillsbury, Tina Sams and Maryanne Schwartz

Saturday, September 01, 2012

What's New...

The summer season is still hanging on but there is a difference in the light and in the air. There is actually a hint of a breeze from the north. The summer has been hot. Okay, it has been hell hot but September is finally here and that means here in the south "something's got to give".

It has been a summer of change and of new opportunities. A change in the partnership here at the farm has also put a change in my perspective on how the business is doing and where is it that I want it to go.  Funny how things get into a rut and then when you give it all a little shake it brings things to the top that should be or could be changed.  Some of the changes won't be too obvious except to those who follow me religiously (my stalkers as I like to call them). Some may notice a cleaner, crisper logo. Some may notice new products in my booth at the farmers markets and some may notice that the farm is in a new venue.  If you have been snoozing through my Facebook posts then here's your chance to catch up.

This fall's lineup of new products that will make their way to the website but can be found on Sundays at the Chattanooga Market and starting Friday, September 7th at the General Store at Warehouse Row (Market Street, downtown Chattanooga) includes a wide variety of teas some of which you may be familiar with and some you may not.  The Herbfarmer's Fruit Tea is full of goodness straight off the farm. Rosehips, lemongrass, hibiscus, peppermint and a dash of orange peel gives the tea a fun, fruity flavor that can be drank hot or cold. Last year I introduced Autumn Apple Spice Tea but tweaked it ever so slightly for this year's fall season. Larger chunks of local dried apples, cinnamon and lots of clove blended with green tea.  There are so many new varieties I can't pick just one favorite but this one comes close. Bonfire Chai Tea, 4 ounces of yummy spicy goodness with ingredients such as organic ginger root, cinnamon, Red Rooibos tea, Assam Tea, cardamon, nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla bean. Contains caffeine but with flavors like that WHO CARES?  Soaps, seasonings such as Curry Thai, and Herbs De Provence along with tub teas (yep, tea you can throw in your bath) round out some of the first introductions for fall. More to come. I have discovered new labeling and packaging ideas that I am having fun using. Check out the booth on Sundays and soon online at

Some of you will notice a new lineup of plants that will be available for the Wholesale 2013 season. Pricing is a little different too. It has been levelled off so everything is now of similar pricing. The procedures in place are a little different but makes more sense for you and for me. A lot of it is now automated so you can click on a link to take you to the online cart for wholesale and order there quickly or download a pdf link of the order form that you can email back to me. Anything to make it easier and faster for all of us.  Retail is undergoing a change too. Some of the plants that did not sell or hold up in the heat are going away with new varieties taking their place. Stay tuned. I almost have that done.

Oh and lest I forget, big announcement is coming on Tuesday so be sure to check back here and on Facebook.

Until Tuesday, have a great Labor Day weekend!