Summer Solstice

The Summer Solstice is here! St. John’s Wort is blooming and the forest and field creatures are ready for dancing! A time for magical transformation!

Right now I’m sitting in our newly renovated office which is next door to our newly renovated processing/lab facility. Since we incorporated The Herbarie approximately 10 years ago, we’ve expanded our warehouse and business facilities numerous times to accommodate our growth. But this time we simply did not want to build another structure; instead we chose to rethink the existing facilities. During May and June our workspace was completely redesigned and renovated to allow for greater functionality and we are thrilled to have completed these changes!

I love my new processing/lab facility! I’ve just started a distillation of chamomile which smells wonderful to me! The next phase of the renovation will be to complete a break room for employees and to rework and refinish another storage area.

May was a lovely month here at the farm and the roses bloomed beautifully! We distilled our Rose Hydrosol each week and enjoyed the scent of our roses while we worked inside. When our hybrid musk Belinda rose is in full bloom she takes center stage. The bees love Belinda and so do I!

My overall theme and focus for 2010 seems to be on redesigning, restructuring, and reorganizing everything – life, gardens, and work! The gardens are slowly, but surely, evolving into what I have envisioned for years. While our cottage gardens are not spectacular, the birds, bees, butterflies and I love them!

Every year our Zinnias reseed and share their happy blooms with us. Our Zinnias, Cleome (spider flower), Pineapple Sage, Sunflower, Vitex (Chaste Berry) Tree, and Camellia Sansanqua are pictured here.

Several years ago, we created wide gravel paths between garden beds of different shapes and sizes. Last month we continued this theme into our main vegetable and rose garden.

As a tribute to my winter visitor Joy, I’ve set up a permanent space for hummers near the huge Monsieur Tillier and Mrs. B.R. Cant roses.

This is a view of Joy’s Place including Monsieur Tillier, Mrs. B.R. Cant and Crepescule Roses. The gravel paths provide pleasant access to the gardens for planting, mulching, harvesting and simple enjoyment!

Ruby Throated Hummers have been here since May and are enjoying the flowers and the sugar water feeders. Just this past weekend, I noticed this courting male performing his arc dance for a female. I bet there’s a tiny nest around here somewhere!

We’ve recently built three pergolas in one of our garden beds that will eventually have a small garden pond in the center. Inspired by our friends Patti and Jay, we’ve planted 4 Hardy Kiwi vines – one male and three female along the sides of the pergolas. As you can see, this bed is still under construction. We recycle our many cardboard boxes by using them as biodegradable weed control and ground cover in our gardens. The boxes form the first layer over weeds and then we cover the cardboard with hardwood mulch. Near each Kiwi plant, we layered rabbit manure between the cardboard and the hardwood mulch. Within a few months the “sheet composting”, along with microbes and worms, will yield nutrient-rich soil.

Hardy Kiwi are vigorous vines and in two or three years will cover the pergolas. I’m looking forward to the lush, shady summer retreat as well as the fruits! The garden pond will hopefully be done this fall or winter.

It’s important to note that we did not do this work all by ourselves. Most of the hardscaping, work on the garden paths, and pergolas, and also the business facility renovations were done by our neighbor Bobby Morris. Bobby is brilliant and “can do anything” – a real Renaissance man. He’s completing his doctorate in religion, plants a huge vegetable garden every year, speaks and teaches Hebrew, and can build or rebuild any vehicle or building from top to bottom. I’ve shared my visions and ideas with him and he has been able to make my ideas a reality. Thank you, Bobby!

On Mother’s Day, Earl, Sally and I visited my daughter Kim in Durham, NC. Amy – my youngest daughter – came up from Dallas and we had a wonderful time! This is a picture of Amy, Sally and me at Kim’s soccer game.

The weekend after our fun visit to Durham, I found a lump on Sally’s left elbow. We took her to the vet immediately and they recommended surgery. We scheduled Sally’s surgery early June and it went well, but the biopsy results told us that Sally has a soft tissue sarcoma. While this was certainly not the best news, it wasn’t the worst news either since soft tissue sarcomas are more localized and less likely to metastasize.

However, because of the location of the tumor, there was no way to remove enough surrounding tissue to allow for good, clean surgical margins. Therefore, the likely recommended treatment will be radiation – twice a week for five weeks. We’ve scheduled an appointment with an oncologist so we’ll know more about the treatment at that time. Even though we are naturally upset about all of this, the prognosis is good for this type of cancer and we are very, very hopeful that Sally will have a complete recovery.

Sally is pictured here about two days after her surgery. She’s wearing her tee shirt to protect the elbow. Jean gave her the cute little dolly. Right now, Sally is happy and enjoys the extra attention.

Last fall and winter I began a new spiritual journey that has proved to be very enlightening and has also brought much joy to my life. We stay so busy and it seems like we rush from one thing to the next, one day to the next, multi-tasking as well! I’ve learned how to slow down enough “to smell the roses”. I understand that life is more about the journey than the destination.

It’s so important to make the most of each day – to enjoy each moment, both in work to play. So often the special gifts are right in front of us. A friend’s smile or kind word, a bird’s brilliant color and song, or the scent of a flower can bring great joy. Just this morning, when Sally and I were on our walk, a gorgeous black swallowtail butterfly appeared. The butterfly flew around us and just in front of us for quite a while – a special gift for us! I like to think the butterfly represented beautiful transformation that is available to all of us no matter our circumstances!

May we all be blessed with butterflies and beautiful transformations. Best wishes for a joyful summer!