Saturday, October 10, 2009

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme (Among Other Things)

This is a little friend I found in my fennel last week when I was cutting herbs. We have already had 3 nights of hard freezes, so last week I was trying to prepare for the end of the garden. I am surprised to see how many things are still looking good, even after several nights of temps down to 26. It really feels like winter here in Iowa, not like October at all. I have been running the kerosene heater in the bedroom, much to my guy's dismay. He is the one that got me started on it 3 years ago. It went something like this.

Him: We need to get a kerosene heater on clearance. Then we will save money on the gas bill.
Me: I don't know. That doesn't sound very safe. Doesn't that put fumes into the house?
Him: No, my parents used one all the time. They only put out fumes if something breaks in it, that's why we have a detector.
Me: Hmmm...makes me nervous.
Him: Nonsense, it will be fine.

Fast forward 3 years.

Me: Honey, the kerosene heater needs to be filled...
Him: Good lord, again? You run that thing every night! It's not cold enough to be using that all the time.
Me: I don't like it to be cold in the bedroom before I go to bed...
Him: You are a kerosene heater junkie!

See, it was his fault! It is true, I stand at night and rub my hands over it before I get into bed. I am totally hooked. But it is a little early to be running it every night. I draw the line at seeing my breath in the bedroom!

So, back to the caterpillar. It is a black swallowtail butterfly caterpillar, and I guess they just love fennel. I thought he had left, but when I was hacking out pieces of fennel to dry I found him underneath some plants. If you can see the orange 'horn' things on top of his head, those are called the osmeterium and they are a gland used for self-defense I believe. If you press gently behind their head, the horns will pop out and it makes them look kind of funny.

This is my hybrid tea rose that I dug up and brought in. I know nothing about roses at all. I just knew that this kind probably didn't winter over very well, so I brought him in. I am actually surprised it is alive at all. I thought it was dead, and it ended up being behind some other plants, so I forgot about it for a couple months. I was thrilled when I saw all the crimson blooms. Now I just have to keep from killing it over the winter.

As I mentioned, I was gathering herbs before the freeze. I have a rather large herb garden, but I have little to know experience with drying them or preserving them in many ways. I have mainly used them fresh in years past, with the exception of basil. I got lemon balm, chocolate mint, lady's mantle, and pineapple sage to dry for tea. Not sure how it will taste, but you got to start somewhere.

I trimmed some rosemary, thyme, orange thyme, oregano, and spicy oregano for cooking.

I also gathered sage and french tarragon for cooking.

This is the large pile of fennel, regular and bronze, that is drying in the corner of my living room. I also added a pile of eucalyptus. These I think I will use mostly for dried arrangements.

Because of the cold weather, many houseplants and containers had to come in. This house is very short on window space, so I resort to clumping pots around tiny windows. I am going to purchase another shop light to hang here to provide more lighting. Pay no attention to the dead castor bean plant. It very strongly objected to me digging it up to bring in, and it even more objected to me forgetting to water it right away.

This is where many more of my houseplants hang out all winter. This is a southern window, so the light is fairly decent. I scored the cool wooden plant stand for 1.50 at a garage sale two summers ago. My guy calls our house 'the jungle' in the winter. Anybody have a monkey?


  1. Im SO CURIOUS about Pinapple sage! Yard sale finds are the best! Ive never grown roses, maybe someday!

  2. I grew some pineapple sage last year in a pot, mainly for the smell - but this year I saw no sign of it. Do you have any advice on why this is the case? as I thought sage was quite a hardy plant. The only reason I can think is it want to be out of a pot.

    PS I like where your plants hang out in the winter, and the colour of that hybrid tea rose is beautiful, a good reasonto bring it inside.

  3. we have not had a hard freeze yet here in the mid-atlantic, but if it goes below 45 tonight i need to get the mister to bring in all of my plants: i am out of town, oh, no! my house will also resemble a jungle!cant believe how cold it is at your house already: what will happen to that caterpillar?

  4. pineapple sage is only hardy to zone 8 or warmer, I believe. It is not as hardy as the other sages. I am trying to propagate cuttings to make my own plants for next year. I cut four pieces off of the plant before it froze, and they are rooting in my kitchen. What zone are you in mangocheeks?

    Lynda, I don't know what will happen to the caterpillar. I assume he will find a warm spot next to the house and ride it out until a warmer time. They do sometimes winter over and make their chrysallis in the spring.

  5. Neat caterpillar. You make we want to dig through my herbs now to see what's living there. :)

    Do you ever use a dehydrator on your herbs? It's helps keep them from molding (and makes the house smell *delicious*!)

    - Julia (thanks for the follow friday, btw.) ;D

  6. Julia - Yes, I dried all my herbs in the dehydrator except for the fennel. That has such a strong smell, and it is so big, I just laid it out and let it air dry. I found SO many cool caterpillars in the herbs this year...thanks for the follow.

  7. Garden Mom,
    Unsure what you mean by Zones, I live in the West of Scotland (approx. 55 degrees north).

  8. Oh, I didn't think about that...what is your lowest temperature in the winter?


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