Thursday, September 27, 2007

Crazy Quilts

I am a textile artist and instructor (in addition to all the herb stuff I do). I've been on Simply Quilts on HGTV demonstrating crazy quilting. Here is a sample of some of my work. All of my embroidery is by hand. Most construction (sewing seams) is by hand with long straight lines done on the machine. I love all the embellishment that goes with crazy quilts - embroidery, beading, etc. The first picture is of a heart done with cream embellishments on pink fabrics. The second is a fantasy landscape (which has been my passion lately). The third is "Homage to Ardelia". Ardelia was my great-grandmother who died before I was born. She was a quilter and an herb woman. Genetics, eh? This quilt has won many awards, including Judge's Choice at Threads of America and Best Needlework at the Vermont Quilt Festival.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Holy Shitake!!

Last year, Dan and our sons (Zach and Ryan) inoculated 60+ oak logs with shitake, maitake and reishi. Now, we are starting to see a mushroom harvest. We had mushrooms tonight with our homegrown garlic, tarragon and thyme. And some applesauce made with apples from our trees. Yum!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Unity House Fund Raiser

My daughter, Rikki, works for Unity House in Troy, NY. Unity House offers many community services such as assisting victims of domestic violence, children with developmental delays, adults living with mental illness, adults with HIV/AIDS and families living in poverty. Their yearly fundraiser, Harvest Supper, features an auction of donated items. This year, I have made a purse and a tea cozy to be auctioned off. These items can be mailed to the winner, so you need not be present to win. Go to this site:
and look for Betty Pillsbury as the donor. You will see the purse made with a beautiful black and white flocked fabric and a tea cozy in a similar fabric. Bid much to support such a worthy cause!

comfrey uses

One of my favorite things I make is Healing Comfort Salve. It has comfrey and calendula in it. Of course, I grow both herbs in my garden so I know they are organic and of highest quality. It makes for very smooth hands for stitching. Also great for cracked heels, chapped hands, etc. We use it all the time.

Remsen Barn Festival of the Arts

Green Spiral Herbs will be vending at the Remsen Barn Festival of the Arts in Remsen, NY (north of Utica on route 12) this weekend. Stop by and see us. Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 10-5. There is no admission and there are over 300 vendors! Mention you saw us on our blog and receive a free lip balm. Good only if you come to our booth at Remsen and tell us! See you there.

drying comfrey leaves

Someone on The Essential Herbal list asked how to dry large-leaved herbs, such as comfrey. Here is my reply:
There are a couple ways you can go with drying comfrey. Firstly, be tender handling your comfrey leaves as they bruise quite easily. You won’t know it at first, but upon drying the bruised leaves will go brown rather than green. Secondly, comfrey leaves shouldn’t be touching when they dry. Again, browning rather than greening when dry. So, if you have lots of room, you can lay the leaves on screening. But, you can also hang them to dry. If you do bunches, like you can for so many other herbs, they tend to brown or mold. So get some heavy duty thread (more like crochet thread) and get it into a large eyed needle. Then, skewer each leaf near the fleshy bit where the stem attaches to the leaf. Thread on each leaf like that until you have several and then hang the thread up. Think stringing popcorn and cranberries. Leave a gap between each leaf and make sure you have good air circulation. You could also string up a clothes line in your house and clothes pin each leaf to it. Only clip the stem, not the leaf part. Make sure you wear gloves as those little hairs on comfrey can dig into skin worse than any splinter and be tougher to get out. (Then you would need my Grandpa Benson’s drawing salve.)

You don't know about The Essential Herbal??? Go to to find out about this terrific magazine! It's herbalicious.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New Rose Arbor

Last year we were vending at an herb festival in Oriskany NY. The grounds had a wonderful rose and herb garden. The rose garden contained "gothic" arches and I looked at DH, he looked at me, and we knew we had to have something similar in our garden. So this weekend, Dan took an extra day off and made me the rose arbor. They are 13 feet tall. We will add spires to the uprights and paint them in the spring. The roses and herbs will get added in the spring as well. The temporary supports will get removed when the cement cures. It sure is handy having Dan around!

Friday, September 14, 2007


I love sage. Salvia officinalis. So many think it is just for Thanksgiving stuffing. There is so much more to do with sage! There is an ancient quote to the effect of, "Why should a man die when he has sage in his garden?" Meaning, sage is so good for health, wouldn't everyone grow it? It is wonderfully anti-bacterial due to its volatile oils. We make an infusion of sage leaf, fresh ginger root, fresh lemon slice and honey for a VERY effective sore throat soother. And it is darned yummy. Traditionally, pork dishes had sage added because sage would help with digestion after a fatty meal. Add sage to your next batch of pork chops. Try wrapping a deveined shrimp in a sage leaf, then in bacon and either pan frying or oven baking. Delicious! In this photo, I have taken leaves of different sage varieties I have in the garden. All are salvia officinalis and all are edible. From top left is "regular" garden sage. The next is Dwarf Sage (Salvia officinalis, Nana), next is Bergartten Sage and the final on the top row is Lavender-Scented Sage (Salvia officinalis lavandulifolia). It has this wonderful mix of sage and lavender going on. Heavenly! In the second row, starting from the left we have Purple sage (Salvia officinalis purpuracens), Tricolor Sage, Golden Variegated Sage and White-edged Sage. In my zone 5 garden, the Tricolor sage doesn't survive the winter (unless it is abnormally mild) and the purple and golden sages sometimes survive, sometimes not. I suggest you grow your own sage and enjoy the wisdom of herbs.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


This is the blog of Green Spiral Herbs, an educational herb farm in the northern Catskill Mountains in New York State. Dan and Betty grow nearly 300 herbs and make herbal products of the finest quality. Additionally, classes, herb walks and lectures are enjoyed at Green Spiral Herbs. We'll be sharing some of what goes on around here. Enjoy!