Herb gardens

Confession: I am obsessed with herbs.



Gripped. Infatuated. Besotted with herbs.

Lemon balm

Lemon balm

Last year we dug up a patch along the south side of my house and I started an herb garden, with flat slabs of limestone for edging and paths, and a handful of starts from my aunt and a few friends. Thyme. Sage. Rosemary. Chives.



This year I am somehow, miraculously, close to thirty varieties. Many are gifts from friends, some are pilfered from random parks and things, some are greenhouse finds… one a last-minute gift from a very sweet greenhouse owner at Pampas Creek in exchange for the promise to come back again.

What is it about herbs? They’re so full-bodied–good to smell, good to taste, good to touch. Low and fragrant, vibrant green.

I love the classics—peppermint, parsley, basil, oregano, Echinacea, bee balm.

Second year parsley

Second year parsley

Bee balm

Bee balm

And I love branching out into a few crazies—barbecue oregano, wooly thyme, purple basil, Russian sage and—my newest newbie—stevia.



Golden oregano

Golden oregano

Everything is small, still, and learning to find its place in the world. Some varieties don’t do well. My dill looks like it thought “yellow and straggly” was hip this year, my rosemary didn’t survive the winter, and my cilantro went to seed too quickly… Oh, and I can’t grow herbs from seeds to save my life. “Starts only!” is my banner from here on out.

Dill. No really. I'm serious. This is my dill. I left the label in the ground beside it so I wouldn't forget.

Dill. No really. I’m serious. This is my dill. I left the label in the ground beside it so I wouldn’t forget.

Basil--somebody tell me how to keep it from getting eaten!

Basil–somebody tell me how to keep it from getting eaten!

Rosemary. This year's version is in a pot so I can bring it inside before winter.

Rosemary. This year’s version is in a pot so I can bring it inside before winter.

I want to learn more about using herbs, in cooking and teas and home remedies. Right now, I fiddle around with them, snipping cilantro into refried beans and using fresh parsley and thyme in my tomato sauces. Mostly I walk through the garden and touch and smell, and taste heaven.

I just gave my oregano a haircut and dried it in my dehydrator. That was fun.



...and After

…and After

In a jar, all ready to crumble and use.

In a jar, all ready to crumble and use.


What do you love about herbs? How do you use them around the house?

Twelve fun cheap things to do in the fall

1. Take a long slow bike ride.

bike in leaves

2. Save seeds.

bachelors button seeds

bachelors button seeds

3. Dry herbs.


4. Fend off a head cold with a little saltwater.

salt water

At the first sign of a sore throat, dump a teaspoon of salt in a cup. Add hot water and stir to dissolve. Gargle and discard several sips, being careful not to swallow! Repeat several hours later as needed. The salt kills the germs before they have a chance to uh, ferment. I’ve used this trick to prevent more than one cold this fall.

5. Bake cookies.

monster cookies

6. Press some pretty leaves for one week. Hang them on your wall with sticky tack. = Instant fall décor.

pressed leaves on wall

7. Pick apples at a local orchard.

8. Photograph a child in the falling leaves.

kelly 2013

9. Visit school.

10. Craft a homemade gift for a friend.

11. Chop some veggies.

homegrown cabbage

late garden cabbage

  • After chopping five quarts of celery for a local fundraiser, I am now very good at chopping celery. You would not believe how good I am at chopping celery. It’s so nice to have this to fall back on, like if anything would happen to Ryan and I had to support myself… “I chop celery.” It would look great on a résumé.
  • I also chop cabbage. Cabbage is amazing. I like it fried lightly with some smoked sausage and hot pierogies. Heaven.

12. Spice some cider. [recipe]

spiced cider


What else is fun and cheap in the fall? Your ideas here!

All the work is through

Confession: After several years of profound deliberation, I have come to believe that the best approach to life is, after all, play.

When I was a mother of two, one a high energy two-year-old with incessant questions, the other a baby requiring nighttime feedings, endless diaper changes, and infinite patience, I came across a song that baffled me.

Based on Psalm 20:7, it sang

Some trust in horses
We trust in the Name of the Lord our God.
Some trust in chariots
We trust in the Name of the Lord our God…

His love never fails, His name will always prevail…

Some trust in the work they do
We trust in the Name of the Lord our God
‘Cause by His grace all the work is through
We trust in the Name of the Lord our God.

Huh? I thought. My eyes were bleary from interrupted nights. My body was stretched and exhausted. My sink was full of dishes. There were toys all over the floor. There was supper to prepare, and three phone calls to make, and a neighbor to invite over for supper—never forgetting the big day of laundry coming up tomorrow. If all the work is through, what in the henry do they think I am filling up my days with??

I didn’t know the answer until several years later.


I want to talk about this carefully, because I know some of you are in a bleary-eyed stage. Some of you are breaking your backs and your hearts on jobs too big for you, praying your way through every day, collapsing into bed at night with water leaking out of your eyes. I’ve been there.

I’m not trying to make light of what is deathly serious. But play has never been for the faint of heart. We’ve all seen kids so absorbed in play they forgot food and family, lost all sense of time and place. We’ve seen them afterwards, so weary they’re nodding and drooping on their feet. We’ve seen the complicated mess that play entails, the three pages of plans necessary to pull off its intricate production strategies, the dramatic mayhem when it goes awry. Every healthy child knows how to play—and knows good and well it’s NOT EASY.

The more we think of our work as play, the better able we are to offer it to Jesus—to toss it up to Him with a smile and a prayer, to throw our hearts into it and then let it go. When it’s work (hard work) (never ending work) (work somebody ought to be helping us with) (and why did He saddle us with it anyway?), we are soon grinding our hearts out earning His favor, feeling all adult and sidelined and melodramatic, presenting our product to Him with bent shoulders and downcast faces. Or else being so deeply serious and intentional about everything (about this Important Work To Which We Are Called) that we forget the other half of our birthright: creativity, silliness, laughter, and joy. It’s amazing how much nonsense you can sandwich between layers of laundry.

We were born to play for Him. The most severe criticism I ever offer to anyone is that she takes herself too seriously.

(I offer it to myself very often.)

By His grace all the work is through means that no matter what we’re engaged in, He’s doing the heavy lifting. If He drops His end, we goin down, sister. He’s the one who changed the world with a shake of His mane and a roar: we call it the Resurrection. We are children: our best work mere child’s play to His, and mere child’s play often our best work to Him.


If you’re stressing over the Big Work you’re supposed to do, feeling Singled Out and Called and Why Me?–laugh at yourself a little, and lay down the burden of singlehandedly changing the world. Only one Man can do that, and He said if you wanted to help Him you had to become like the littles, the kind that run around in diapers and prattle nonsense and smile at strangers. The work He wants from you is the kind you throw your heart into and then let go.

And if you’re caught in the middle of a desperately busy time–a weeping-at-night-panicky-with-exhaustion gauntlet of endless demands, your days stretching like elastic to hold the impossible task lists, your body spent…

Light a candle or brew some iced tea.

Pray for grace to stay on your feet.

Catch hold of that dishcloth or fussy baby, and open your heart to play.

In which I have much to say on many topics

  1. Confession: The thing I dislike most about writing a series is that I can’t write about the little everyday stuff happening in the meantime.
  2. Confession: You guys are sweet to think I could write a book, but I don’t want to. I want to play.
  3. Confession: This morning I planned to exercise, but instead I sat down with a big cup of great coffee. Good trade.
  4. Confession: I am mad with January for keeping on playing at April. Just as we open ourselves to April, January strikes again with raw temperatures, freezing rain, and a two-hour delay. My throat is sore and my tulips are thoroughly confused.
  5. Confession: The thing about writing bananana is I can’t tell when to stop.
  6. Confession: Jesus keeps rearranging my booked-up schedule, surprising me with free time and evenings at home. I love this about Him. He leads me so gently.
  7. Confession: When I save junk, it doesn’t turn into two-million-dollar treasure. It turns into junk. Why is that?
  8. Confession: I wish I could walk into my sister’s hospital room and present her with an extra-large iced coffee wrapped up in whipped cream and a clean bill of health.
  9. Confession: I love seeing the mouse trails underneath the snow when it melts. They look like a treasure map. Why are there so many dead ends? Did the mouse think happiness lay that way, and find out he was on a wild goose chase, or what?
  10. Confession: Someone wants me to write a post on the head covering, and my husband suggested one on the ethics of family planning, but I’m not doing it. I just tell them firmly that the Spirit is not leading me there at this time.
  11. Confession: I baked some special pans of bars to share, and they didn’t turn out, and then people told me how good they were. I think Jesus tweaked them when I wasn’t looking.
  12. Confession: The best redeeming side effect of rain is umbrellas. I am having a serious love affair with other people’s umbrellas. This morning I saw one with smiles all over it, and another that looked like a giant chrysanthemum. They hold their own flirtatious conversations over human’s heads.
  13. Confession: Some people think 13 is bad luck, but I rather like it. Once when I was in Europe and went up an apartment block in an elevator, the numbers went “10, 11, 12, 14, 15…” No one would live on the 13th floor, so they just named it 14. This is a factual account.
  14. Confession: The more I read the greats (Dickens and Bleak House at the moment), the more I think maybe my calling in life is to read seriously and write playfully. I cannot tell you how happy I feel with this arrangement. Tomorrow I’ll show you why.