Garden, Plant, Cook!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter High Notes In The Desert

Dear Folks,

While the holidays can be both enjoyable and anticipated, they can also be draining -- in many ways. One of the reasons I moved from a cold 4 season climate to the desert was to enjoy the warmer winters, and if I want to, I can always go up to Flagstaff and the Snowbowl to play in the white stuff and then flee back down to the desert floor to recover!

The other benefit of living in the desert around holiday time is the incredible opportunity to garden immediately after I'm ready to put the holidays behind me. While gardeners in other parts of the country can only daydream their way through seed catalogs, we desert gardeners can be getting our hands dirty and enjoying the experience!

Watch for my blog on the 12 Days of Christmas Notes -- I will be posting a blog each of those special 12 days.

STARTING TIP: Last frost day here in the Valley of the Sun is typically February 15th - get a head start on your tomatoes, basil, peppers and eggplant, by starting seed indoors on a bright windowsill -- (also - I will be having a variety of "starts" beginning in January for direct planting or starting your own seedlings - email if you have questions).

To get you in the mood, here is a fun family project for those who have either an outdoor fireplace, chiminea or indoor wood burning fireplace. Many of the 'ingredients' for this recipe will be on hand.


You will need a log sized to fit your fireplace/pit/chiminea. (Hardwood is good in a standard metal or brick fireplace or pit, but softwood is better for clay chimineas.)

Rosemary, Myrtle, sage, and/or lavender sprigs

Elmer's glue (Use only elmers - it won't spit toxic fumes)

Orange peels (Using a potato peeler or like, cut long strips of orange peel from two oranges -- this should be done a day ahead of time, so the peel can air dry.)

Whole spices like cinnamon sticks or pieces, star anise, juniper berries, cloves, allspice (If you make mulled cider or wine - save the spices - dry completely -so they won't smoke - and use them on the log or just through a few on the fire to scent the air.)

Ribbon Bow (if you can, make it from paper ribbon rather than synthetic or plastic)

1) Glue the sprigs of herbs attractively around the top half of the log.

2) Arrange and glue the orange peel among the herb sprigs.

3) Now fill in any gaps with glued whole spices

4) Top with an attractive bow (remove bow before lighting, unless the bow is paper).

5) Admire the log until it is time to light it on Christmas Eve, or Christmas morning.

Tradition says the longer the log burns, the more good luck the family will have for the New Year.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

P.S. Amazon has several sources for seeds -- most with flat rate shipping per order.