Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Solstice!!!!

A Happy Solstice to Everyone. It's another winter wonderland here on this the first day of winter. After the ice storm last week, then 2 inches of sleet on Tuesday, we received 15 inches of snow on Thursday. Today it is snowing heavily in those big, fluffy, drowsy flakes and is piling up even more. We probably have gotten another foot of snow. Soon, the winds will be picking up and causing white out conditions. I'm glad I have nowhere to go today! As we celebrate the longest night and welcome the return of the sun in anticipation of the days getting ever more daylight, it's a good time to reflect and then to turn our thoughts to the future.

Here's a piece I stitched a few years ago. A very wintry piece. Around the edge is written: "Neath blue sky and mantle of white, the heart of the land pulses with life". Serendipitous for today.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ice Storm

On the December full moon - the Longest Night Moon - we got hit by the big ice storm. Freezing rain, sleet and snow fell with temperatures hovering at the freezing mark. Ice accumulated at over 1/2" and covered every surface. At 3 a.m. on Friday, December 12, power went out amidst the sound of tree limbs cracking. The temperature went down to 13 that night. The next day dawned pale and cold. It was like a crystal wonderland outside. The ice wreaked havoc, but the crystalline coating was breathtaking. Everywhere hung icicles. Every surface was encased with thick ice. Branch, limb, leaf, wire - all in suspended animation within its frozen wrappings. The day was gray, still and freezing. Temps never got over 22. We heard that most of the northeast was hit by the storm and a quarter million people in NY state alone lost power. We got a kerosene heater. On the way to the store, we noticed a huge amount of trees downed and blocking roads, toppling power poles and anything in the way. Friday night the temps got to 10. We heard on the battery-powered radio that it might be the middle of next week before rural areas (read Huntersland, NY) would get power. So, Saturday morning, we made a 5-hour round trip to the nearest store that had a generator in stock. DH hooked it up and it worked great. We were able to alternate running a space heater and lights to running the freezer (filled with organically raised beef and pork and lots of veggies from our garden) to the radio. Saturday night dipped down to single digits, but it wasn't too bad inside and no pipes burst! Sunday the sun was shining like crazy and as the temps made their way into the mid 20s, some ice started to break up from the wires. We ran to our youngest son's house (he still had power) and took a shower. Came back home and ran heaters and such some more. The sun shining on the ice-covered hillside really was amazing. Then, bless National Grid, power was restored to our house at 2 p.m. 2 1/2 days of no power in such cold temps was more than enough for me! We are astounded at how quickly the crews restored power, although we realize many are still without power. The magnitude of the storm was huge. Kudos to National Grid and all the hard-working crew!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

2009 Herbal Study Program - makes a terrific Christmas present!

This is our wonderful herbal study program! If you would like to pay using a credit card via PayPal, just email me at for details.

2009 Green Spiral Herbal Study Program

A Common Sense Approach to Incorporating Herbs Into Your Everyday Life

Many of us remember the time when grandmothers had the knowledge and skills to keep their families healthy through good nutrition and simple home remedies. The time has come again for us to recall that wisdom and incorporate it into our lives. Discover how easy it is to bring that genuine experience to your everyday life -- wrap your hands around a steaming mug of herbal tea; ease a headache with natural relief; or soothe your skin with an organic salve.

Through the Green Spiral Herbal Study Program, you will learn to identify, grow and use herbs for their nutritional, therapeutic and creative benefits. You will create herbal preparations for personal use. Come to Dan and Betty Pillsbury’s herb farm in Huntersland for 42 hours of instruction from April to September and learn about herbs.

The focus of this program is to learn about herbs in a friendly, caring environment. Class size is limited to allow for meaningful interaction.

The curriculum includes, but is not limited to information on:

- Identification of cultivated and wild herbs

- Growing herbs organically and gathering wild herbs ethically

- Preserving the harvest

- Herbalism terminology

- Herbal tea blending

- Poultices, soaks and compresses

- Medicinal infused oils and vinegars

- Salves and creams

- Cooking with herbs

- Infusions and decoctions

- Tinctures

- Syrups

- Herbal first aid kit

- Materia medica

- Herbal strategies to improve your health

Class dates:

Sundays: April 26, May 31, June 28, July 26, August 30 and September 20.

Class Times: 9:00 to 4:00

Students are expected to arrive on time, participate fully and remain for the entire class time.

Physical Requirements: Students should dress for the weather and be able to tolerate outdoor environments as herb walks will be held rain or shine, heat or cold. Proper foot wear is needed. Part of each day will be spent indoors.

Absences: Any student with more than one day’s absence will not receive a certificate of completion. No make up dates are provided. If we must reschedule a class, we’ll do our best to find a time convenient for all students. However, we reserve the right to make the final choice of dates. If a student cannot attend a rescheduled class, no refunds will be given; but upon request, we will issue a credit voucher for the value of the rescheduled class. The amount of the voucher may be applied to tuition fees of any future Green Spiral class. Credit vouchers are good for one year.

Tuition: Tuition is $750. This works out to less than $18 per hour! A $150 non-refundable deposit is required with registration. The balance of $600 must be paid prior to the first day of class. Should a registered student not begin or complete the program for any reason, Green Spiral assumes no obligation, financial or otherwise.

Meals: Students should bring their own lunches. Herb teas and snacks will be served at no charge.

Supplies: A supply list and directions will be sent upon registration.

Call Betty at 518-827-8730 or email to register.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Another Paisley

My dear friend, Margaret, and I have a little paisley challenge going between us. We alternate finding a basic paisley outline and see what we can devise. Here's my latest. The teardrop paisley cabochon I found at The Pink Bunny in Wichita, KS, when I was teaching there earlier in the month. That was a great retreat by the way. Val has already decided to do it again next year and has asked me, Judith Montano and Carole Samples to return as teachers again. I highly recommend this event! I bezeled the cabochon with beads. I couched the gold beads in the scallops and added rose montees. The outline is stem stitched in a #4 Kreinik braid. Then, 5 mm flower beads were added around the edge. The points to the left are wired ribbon leaves done in a peacock blue. I added hand charms to the inside. Bugle beads make up the semi-circle. A swarovski marguerite is the center of the semi-circle. The background is a Hoffman bali fabric.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Crazy Snow and How to Pass the Time

Saturday we got 2 1/2 inches of rain. Sunday was incredibly gorgeous - sunny and 60. Monday was 40s and drizzle. Today? Snowing heavily with a predicted 12-16 inches and winds to increase to 50 mph. If you don't like the weather, just wait a minute and it will change. So, seeing as I was snowed in today, I had a studio day. Don't get enough of those.

I'm calling this "In An Autumn Wood". It's was fun doing a fast project. It's 9 inches square. Every now and again I need instant gratification, as so many of my projects take the better part of a year.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Frosty nights!

Well, the frost was on the pumpkin this morning. Night temps have been in the low 20s for the past week. Here's a photo of Grootendorst roses hit by the frost.

And as it is getting on towards Halloween, I thought I would post a pic of my crazy quilted witch's hat. It is a Crabapple Hill pattern - that I had to tweak of course. It's actually a pillow rather than a hat to wear. I thought it was highly amusing. I've had that fabric with the eyes on it for some time, just waiting for the right project. There are two sayings embroidered along the brim: "If the hat fits" and "Member in good standing of the Black Hat Society". Now, where is my cauldron and broom?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October's Bright Blue Weather

October's Bright Blue Weather by Helen Hunt Jackson (b. 1831)

O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October's bright blue weather,
When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields, still green and fair
Later aftermaths are sowing;
When springs run low and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiselessly in the bush
Of woodsd, for winter waiting;
When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
By twos and twos together,
And count like misers hour by hour,
October's bright blue weather,
O suns of skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boasts together,
Love loveth best of all the year
October's bright blue weather.

Amen, sister, Amen! We have had a glorious streak of weather here and autumn is dazzling! On Saturday, Green Spiral Herbs vended at the Schoharie Old Stone Fort History Fair. Sunday, we vended at the Catskill Ginseng and Medicinal Herb Festival. It was a terrific day out. Lots of people buying our herbal stuff and enjoying the weather and speakers at the event. A reporter from the Catskill Daily Mail interviewed me and a few others. Here is the article We bought a few more ginseng roots to plant on the property. Monday was my birthday and DH took the day off work and took me on a lovely drive to look at the gorgeous trees. He made me dinner of bacon-wrapped scallops and spinach orzo. Delicious! We spent time in the garden, collecting more seeds (culver's root, black cohosh, Korean angelica, feverfew, meadowsweet and a few others), harvesting more herbs and doing some general fall clean up. Yesterday would have been my brother's birthday (he passed last year). I wished him a happy birthday and felt his presence with me as I gardened. Today, 125 garlic were planted. I harvested more dill and coriander seed and comfrey leaves. There is a patch of nettles that were just coming up, so I picked those as well. As long as nettles are young and tender, they are good. I started putting sand around the base of the lavender plants (we planted 500 in mounded rows earlier this year). The sand will reflect light back onto the plants and keep some weed growth down. I picked a few leeks to make potato/leek dinner for tonight. I love autumn!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Center of diamond crazy quilt

By golly, I thought I had posted the center of this quilt already.

So, here it is. The background is brown velvet. The roses are made of satin, each petal is made separately, then sewn onto the velvet. The forget-me-nots and daisies are silk ribbon. The leaves are silk chenille thread. I hand-dyed the butterfly and hummingbird lace motifs.

Diamond Block for Crazy Quilt

I'm working on a crazy quilt that will be composed of diamond shaped patches. It is based on an antique crazy quilt that I saw. It will be a combination of highly embellished crazy quilt patches and "whole" patches. Some of the whole patches will be velvet with chenille embroidery. Four of the patches will be these youths in costume. The youths are based on line drawings from Victorian booklets I have in my collection. There were no directions for making up the design, simply a line drawing. This allowed the imagination of the needleworker to take over and do whatever she felt best. In a few Victorian crazy quilts, I have seen figures that have been portrayed dimensionally. I decided to try my hand at that. So, the face was painted onto Peau du Soie fabric. Then, all the roses were embroidered with silk floss. Next, the costume was added. I think it turned out well. Now, to finish the other three youths.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Birds of a Feather

I am including more photos of my Hoffman Challenge quilt, "Birds of a Feather". Scroll down to the previous post to see an overview.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fruitful week!

It's been over a month since I posted last. Been very busy! Our anniversary was July 5th and we took a little trip to the Robison York Herb Gardens in Ithaca, NY. I've been there many times, but not since they revitalized the gardens. What a lovely job they did. We also went to Baker's Acres nursery, which is just north of Ithaca. Tremendous gardens and wide selection of plants. I came home with many new things for the garden including a hardy gloxinia, acanthus and lavender mint.

Middleburgh, NY has started a farmer's market on Friday afternoons and we have participated as a vendor. Really good turnouts.

We had a garden club tour the gardens and it was a lovely group indeed. Lots of interested, interesting ladies. As they were leaving, a reporter from the Catskill Mountain Guide magazine showed up to do an interview about the gardens. The August issue should hit stands soon and I'm eagerly awaiting to see what was written!

Then, I was off to the Maine State Quilt to teach for a few days. Never mind driving through horrendous rainstorms, tornado warnings and hail to get there!! White knuckle driving, to say the least. On the way up, I decided to take a side trip to Avena Botanicals and Deb Soule's gardens there. Be still my heart! Deb has created a magical fairy world of plants and I was lucky enough to experience it. ~sigh~

Green Spiral Herbs was asked to set up an herbal display for the Schoharie County Fair, which is running this week. We were happy to oblige. Saturday, I will be on hand to answer herbal questions.

Wednesday, I had my interview with David Winston to see about getting accepted into his 2-year herbal study program. The answer is yes! I'm pretty excited about this. I've done other herbal studies, but am looking forward to this particular program. Hooray!

Today, I found out my crazy quilt wall hanging, "Birds of a Feather" won an Honorable Mention in the Hoffman Challenge. There were 579 entries. Considering I didn't put a single quilting stitch in this "quilt", I think I did well. It is entirely hand pieced and hand embellished/embroidered.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Oddity in the garden

While working in the garden, I spied this large nest with three huge eggs in it today!! What do you suppose laid these eggs? A dragon? Bluebird of Happiness? Bird of Paradise? I suppose time will tell.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pictures of the Garden

Paul's Himalayan Musk on the gothic arbor.

Daylilies and William Baffin rose.
Foxgloves, lupines, campanula and lamb's ears.

Borage. I will eat the flowers while working in the garden. I also have a white variety.

Apothecary Rose. Fragrant!

Yellow foxglove.

And the pink foxglove.
William Baffin roses near the birdhouses.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I've been tagged...

Tina Sams, of The Essential Herbal, just tagged me to answer the following questions and invite other bloggers to participate:

Ten years ago...
I was living outside Omaha, Nebraska. I worked as a medical transcriptionist. I belonged to a lot of fun groups including the SCA, EGA, ANG, (apparently groups with three letters) and a few others. My rheumatoid arthritis was becoming very bad.

Five things on today's to do list ...
~ meet with a producer at the local public access TV station (he wants me to do a few shows on herbs and crazy quilts)
~drop off a wholesale order of Green Spiral products to Wellington's Herbs and Spices
~work on the Hoffman challenge quilt
~harvest chamomile, roses, arnica and lemon balm if it doesn't rain
~read the latest Hollerbeier Haven herbal newsletter that came two days ago and I haven't had a chance to look at!

Snacks I enjoy...

Fresh cherries, peaches, strawberries and raspberries
Ice cream
Baked goods - which can easily be a meal
Popcorn (no salt and very little butter)
A square of good chocolate

Things I would do if I was a millionaire...
Make an artist's retreat and invite my friends to come create, laugh and play
Help out my kids
Really expand the gardens and put in that castle tower in the back 40 I've been wanting

Places I have lived....
New York state along the Canadian border
Mojave Desert
Great Plains
Catskill Mountains
Virginia Beach

Other bloggers:

Monday, June 23, 2008

On Crazy Quilts and Roses

I'm stitching a piece for this year's Hoffman Challenge. The featured fabric is the peacock fabric. The deadline is one month away! But, this wall hanging is EXTENSIVELY hand stitched and embellished. It's slow work, but good work! The central peacock I stitched with silk embroidery floss (Pearsall's silk).

When the garden is this beautiful, it's difficult being inside working on a project. Right now, the roses are really starting to bloom and the air is perfumed richly. This is Apothecary Rose (Rosa gallica) and is an ancient rose that was used in official pharmaceutical preparations. I make Rose Petal Jelly and Jam, vinegar, tincture, glycerite, crystallized rose petals, rose butter, rose couscous, and anything else I can think of that incorporates roses!

This rose is Constance Spry. She's a beauty and highly prolific.
This is William Baffin, one of the Canadian Explorer Roses, which means it is exceptionally hardy and does extremely well for us in Zone 5.
We have many, many other roses and Paul's Himalayan musk is enchanting us with its scent. How can such a diminutive rose have such a huge olfactory impact?
Today's chores included making cider/sage jelly, Healing Comfort salves, planting more carrots, beets and various herbs as well as stitching. It's a good life.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Full Moons, Solstice and Fairies

Last night there was a full moon. Tomorrow night is Solstice. Talk about magic in the air. As any good fairy lover knows, a full moon or a Solstice are prime times to perchance view the fey folk as they go about their business. When the two events happen so closely, it's sure to double your chances of spying a fairy. So, armed with my camera and a shiny rock (should I step in a fairy ring and be whisked away to another world, I needed a bargaining chip!), I ventured forth. I kept my mind and my heart pure and sent out a psychic call to those of the Other World. Very gently on the breeze I could hear laughter and the tinkling of bells. Silently I crept closer to the commotion. There!, down by some creeping thyme and Jackpot tansy, there was a convocation of fairies! And I wasn't the only one who had happened upon the group.

Obviously, a very important fairy speaker was addressing those assembled. I couldn't make out the voices - to my ear it was just a faint whisper in the air. But I imagine the topic might have been the value of thyme blossoms in a potion or a discussion on the luminosity of fireflies.

The bumble bees also flitted in, offering drinks of freshly collected nectar...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Lucky Friday the 13th

I was born on the 13th of a different month and have always considered the number 13 lucky for me. It's a beautiful June day and I am lucky indeed to be able to be out in the garden. Here is a picture of the rugosa roses in bloom and a jar of rose petal jelly I made.

And clematis is lovely this time of year...
I was picking red clover this morning. Trifolium pratense. I pick the flower heads and the first three leaves that are just under the flower head. The flowers bruise easily, so I pop them by sliding my hand up the stalk and being careful not to squish the flower.
And here is a basket getting filled with blossoms. I'll dry them and add them to tea blends.
Chamomile is blooming madly now too. Ahh...the sweet apple scent! I harvest by gently raking my hand through the blooms, from mid stem to the top. The flowers just pop off in my hands.
Arnica is blooming too. I have a couple beds of Arnica chamissonis and am getting a bed started of Arnica montana. The A. montana has been a little difficult in getting established, but it is getting there.

Friday, June 6, 2008

wild yam

I love the textural aspect of this wild yam leaf!

Our web page is running smoothly again.

On Saturday, June 21, I will be teaching an introduction to Herbalism at Wellingtons Herbs and Spices in Schoharie, NY from 10:30-1:00. Cost is $35. Call Carolyn at 518-295-7399 to register.

Sunday, June 22 is Day 3 of the Herbal Study program.

On Wednesday, June 25, I will be leading an herb walk at Green Spiral Herbs from 6:00-7:30 p.m. Cost is $20. Call Betty at 518-827-8730 to register.

On Saturday, June 28, I will give on a talk on Sage - Beyond Thanksgiving and vending our herbal stuff at the Oriskany Herb and Flower Festival at the Parker Scripture Botanical Gardens on 121 Second Street, Oriskany, NY. The event runs from 9 - 3:30.


My dear friend, Margaret, let me know that Nicholas Kniel was having a blowout sale in his ribbon shop. She asked if I wanted anything. Puhleeze! So, I sent her some money and these are the glorious goodies I got! Yahoo. Can't wait to use some of these wonders. After my son's upcoming wedding though...

The comfrey is looking tall and proud.

And the tree peony is opening its gorgeous blooms!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


We've had a very difficult time with our website recently ( ) and have been working to remedy the situation. There are a few things I would like to mention that I can't update on the website.

We are now open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-6 p.m. If you are needing salves or dried herbs or any of our other products, come on up to Huntersland on our open days. Also, feel free to wander the gardens during that time. Please, only during those times unless you have made an appointment otherwise. Thanks!

The website is showing last year's info on the news category. We are NOT having another open house in June this year. Last year was a one-off thing to celebrate becoming a Botanical Sanctuary. June DOES bring:

My son getting married

Introduction to Herbs class that I will be giving at Wellington's Herbs and Spices in Schoharie, NY on June 21. Call 518-295-7366 for more info.

Day 3 of the Herbal Study Program on June 22

A Guided Herb Walk around our gardens on Wednesday, June 25 from 6:00-7:30. Email me at to register. Cost is $20 and includes refreshments.

Saturday, June 28, we will be vending at the Oriskany Herb and Flower Festival in Oriskany, NY and I will be giving a talk on Sage: Beyond Thanksgiving.

June 2 blooms

William Guinness columbine. I love the dark color of this!

Bearded irises that smell like grape kool-aid. Delightful.
This iris is known as orris root and the aged, dried rhizome is used as a fixative in potpourri.
Bleeding hearts are very late to open this year due to the very late frosts and freezes we have had. I love the look of the blossoms against the rocks here.

It has been a spring that has been cold and dry. Although February and March were some of the wettest on record around here, April and May have been some of the driest. And May was very cold. In fact, last week we still had a morning temp of 29 degrees. So, the last few days saw us finally planting tomatoes, peppers and such. And the lilacs are finally blooming and the rhododendrons are just opening. Plants would pop up and then get hit by freezes, time and again. Very strange spring!