Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Sad Truth

    I was walking around the property yesterday, enjoying a beautiful autumn afternoon, and stopped by the bees to check out activity.  As I watched one of the boxes buzzing with a light flow of bee traffic, I noticed that nothing was happening with the other box.  Not one bee flying out, flying in, walking around the front of the opening, nothing, not a buzz.  I popped open the highest super and peeked inside, nothing.  One by one I cracked open each box at each level waiting for a guard bee to start checking me out, but nothing.  When you open bee boxes, there is a distinct "CRACK!" sound, and it's the propolis the bees have used to glue the cracks of the box;  this serves as protection from predators and weather. When I finally reached the first level, where all the bees should have been, nothing, not a single bee in the entire hive.  The sad truth of our adventure of bees is that my very first colony has died.  As I inspected the frames in which the bees has created beeswax and honey, I realized that this honey could be harvested.  I wasn't going to touch any of the honey this year, as I wanted to leave it all for the bees and increasing their chances of surviving their first winter.  But now, since there is no colony, I can harvest it for ourselves. 
    The second colony seems to be going strong.  They can still be seen buzzing in and out in the warm afternoons, foraging for pollen and nectar.  I am hoping they will pollinate my winter squash;  the first of the squash blossoms has opened up.
    So it's with a sad heart that I report my little pollinating creatures have died.  I don't know why, but I will be thankful when tasting their sweet contribution to our home.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


As the cooler days and nights have taken over our lives, I have watched my lovely bees retreat into their hive boxes.  One of my favorite activities during the summer was to sit right next to the hives, look upward, and watch the flying lanes of bees, an open air highway between all the treetops.  Now they are huddling together, hunkering down for the winter time, and only small numbers seem to be out foraging for pollen.  All in all, it seems they are following the natural rhythm of the season.
I went down a couple of weeks ago to check on the hives and was a bit distressed at what I found;  dead bees, hundreds of dead bees. During the summer when the worker bees would throw the dead bees out of the hive, the carcasses wouldn't last very long on the ground as the yellow jackets trolled around, enjoying a free meal.  Now that the yellow jackets have gone underground into their own hives, the number of bee carcasses has built up to massive proportions and there is a type of above-ground mass-grave.  I know this is nature, which is brutal, and the younger and stronger bees will survive the winter and spring to fly and produce again, but yeesh!  I think I will sprinkle some winter-friendly flower seeds over the dead bees as a way to say thank you for all that they did.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Just In Case We Needed A Remider

Don't underestimate the power of a good natured hug!

My Beautiful Flock

So we added three ladies to the flock about a month ago, and they have finally ingratiated themselves into the existing flock.  It's a brutal process watching new chickens fight their way into a flock.  The entire order of things is thrown into limbo and the chickens spend a good two to three weeks fighting it out for different positions within the flock.  Whenever I would go down and check out the birds, I find at least three chickens with minor wounds on their combs.  When chickens duel it out with each other and assert their dominance over another one, one chicken will hop on the back of another, make them submit, and then they peck at their comb on top of their head.  This doesn't only happen with the new birds; I have noticed this happening with Stella, my Red Star, she is hopping and pecking all over Sweet Pea, one of my Barred Rocks.  It's an interesting process, and I am happy that it's over. 

Our Three New Ladies

Tina Turner, our Red Laced Wyandotte

Spooky the Ghost, our Pencil-Necked Rock

Teaspoon, our Leghorn

Teaspoon (Leghorn) on the left and Big Spoon (Leghorn/Delaware mix) on the right
Wherever Big Spoon is, Teaspoon is not far behind her.  On the first day, Teaspoon fought with Big Spoon for the dominant position of the flock.  Big Spoon let her know who the #1 was, and Teaspoon was fine with the #2 position.  It's hard to tell them apart sometimes, but Teaspoon's comb is pretty straight up and Big Spoon's comb flops over to the side.

And People Ask Me Why Autumn Is My Favorite Season!

I don't know if it's the colors of the leaves, the way the sunlight hits them and makes them glow, or the hint of crispness in air.  Whatever it is, Autumn rocks my world in the most wonderful ways!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Crazy Days

Things have been going very well for Taylor and I, busy, but very well.  I have picked up extra hours on a part time job out at an outdoor school in Western Marin.  Three days a week I drive through the most beautiful lands, cow farms, rolling green hills, and blue skies.  It literally puts a smile on my face every time I drive out there.  I am not sure how long this part time job will last, but for right now, I am enjoying the physical job, the hundreds of kids running around, let loose to let their crazy flags fly, and earn some extra money.  
-->  Here is an update with pictures to come.
Garden:  Our fall crops are doing well and popping up with flourishment.  We have some wonderful winter squash coming up, Pomme d'Or.  These little lovelies will be popping up around the beginning of December.  Next to those are the collards, Geogria Southern variety, and they are taking their sweet time maturing.  After that are the potatoes, just a basic Russet variety there.  Next is the first of two plots of beets;  I planted Early Wonders and Chioggias.  I am super excited about these root crops coming up, as beets are my new culinary obsession.  Plus, Taylor wants to experiment with extracting the sugar out of the beet and using that as a sweet alternative.  My rainbow chard is starting to mature up, both red and golden, and again, I am very excited as these are my favorite type of greens.  Lastly is our plot of carrots, Chantenay Red Core variety, which is a new one for us.  All in all, we should be harvesting some tasty vegetables right around the Winter Solstice.  That is one of the nice things about living in Northern California and these micro climates, we can grow through winter and still have a harvest;  it doesn't have to be a season of total fallow.

Container Garden:  I am experimenting with growing lettuce in a container:  Merveille des Quatre Saisons Lettuce (Marvel of Four Seasons).  I love this variety, beautiful red bibb-type rosette, crispy, and an excellent flavor.  I also planted some fava beans to see how they do in a container: Extra Precoce A Grano Violetto.  This is a purple fava, it has six beans to a pod and is very sweet in flavor.  I am excited to see how they do.

Chickens:  The three chickens that we added to the flock, Teaspoon, Tina Turner and Spooky the Ghost, have acclimated to their new family and living surroundings and seem to be doing well.  Teaspoon was laying like a champ in the first couple of weeks, an extra large bright white egg every day or two, but now she's slowed down.  I don't think Spooky is laying yet, as we guess she is a bit younger than the other birds.  And we're not sure if Tina Turner is laying or not.  I think she is, but I haven't caught her trotting out of the coop and calling out in egg-laying pride.  All in all their egg production is slowing down with the cooler temperatures and molting stage on its way.

Compost:  I can't tell you how awesome our compost is.  Trying to describe the sweet, earthy, nutrient-packed, black gold just loses in the telling.  This latest batch had a large, and I mean large, quantity of coffee grounds in it.  The pile was cooking at 160 degrees for over a week.  When we turned it, the temperature spiked right back up in there to 160 degrees again.  Taylor built a new system to sift the final product, and instead of grabbing the sifter with both hands and using every ounce of upper body strength to sift back and forth, now I am able to turn the compost in a cage like sifter.....MUCH EASIER!

Bees:  The bees are doing well.  Every time I  walk past their hive boxes, I can smell their honey.  There wasn't enough for us to harvest any for ourselves, but I will check in with them tomorrow and see if they maybe started filling the top super with honey (that would honey we could harvest).  It seems that many of the bees are dying, as the ground in front of the hive boxes are littered with hundreds of dead bee carcasses.  I thought they would hold on a little longer into the cold season, but I am sure it will balance out.  I read that I should expect almost two-thirds of the colonies to die off, and then they will repopulate come Spring.  Time will tell.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day Light Savings

If day light savings is for farmers, and only 2% of our population are farmers, then shouldn't we perhaps consider doing away with archaic practice that unnecessarily disrupts our lives and circadian rhythms. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Update Coming, I Promise!

Life has been crazier than ever, but I promise to update tomorrow, after I bake Taylor's birthday cake while he's at his Hunters Safety Course.

Monday, October 10, 2011

New Kids On The Block

We decided that we wanted to add a few chickens to our flock.  We have been very happy with our 7 laying girls, but we built the coop and run to hold the legal limit, which is 12 chickens.  We found a local farm, Just Struttin' Farms, and went over to check out what she was selling.  I was totally overwhelmed by the sheer variety of the birds.  I happy to see such clean and well-maintained conditions, and I knew that we were going to get healthy birds.  We chose a Leghorn, because we wanted to add a large white egg to the clutch.  She looks exactly like our Leghorn/Delaware mix, except Big Spoon, the o.g. of our flock, has one black feather in her mix and she lays a cream colored egg.  Next we picked up the most beautiful Golden Laced Wyanodette.  Her coloring is absolutely gorgeous as she looks like she has black feathers with brown tips.   And the third girl we picked up is a Silver Laced Pencil Rock, and she has the most amazing black and white geometric markings.  (Pictures coming soon.)

The Tomatoes Just Keep On Coming

We  have done two major harvests off the tomato plants, and the fertile plants just keep going and producing fruit.  We have made and canned two batches of tomato sauce, each batch yielding around 10-12 pints.  We made and canned some green tomato pickles, yielding around 8 half pints.  We are now facing a fourth harvest of both ripe tomatoes and another batch of greenies.  We have saved the seeds off of the most impressive tomatoes so we can revisit this sweetness next summer.  All in all, our tomatoes, which were planted straight into 100% homemade compost, have surpassed my expectations both on quantity level and sheer life span.  As our nights are getting cooler and our days are growing shorter, I can see their lives coming to end soon, but for now, I will continue to bask in the delicious glory of our tomato plants.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Our Bee Situation

So about a month ago Taylor mentioned to me that he noticed a large cluster of bees massed around the bottom of one of our bee hives.  I went and checked it out and indeed there were about 2,000 bees huddled in a small cluster on the bottom of the wiring of one of the hives.  At first we thought that they were going to swarm, but as the weeks passed, they didn't.  After troubleshooting on our own and talking to a beekeeper, we decided that we needed to add another super.  The conclusion we came up with is this:  the first two supers were designated for the queen to lay her brood and for the workers to make honey.  We placed a queen excluder over the top of the second bee super so the third super would be strictly for honey.  What seems to have happened is the queen ran out of space to lay her eggs, so she has been hanging out on the bottom of the hive, and hundreds of her workers have been surrounding her for protection.  That is our best educated guess.  So, Taylor and I trekked up to BeeKind and bought two more supers to add to the bee hives.  In order to add the super which was going to serve as another place for the queen to lay her brood, I had to go in to the hive boxes, remove the top box which was designated for honey, add the empty 'brood' box, place the queen exluder over that, and top it off with the 'honey' box.  The first replacement took place seamlessly, no problems.  I was suited up, confident, and timely.  When I went into the second hive, I wanted to see an example of the honey they had been making.  I smoked the little ladies and pulled out one of the frames.  What I saw was a dark, concentrated honey.  It weighed about 5-7 pounds.  I put the frame back into the box with as much delicacy as possible.  I noticed a few bees on my arm and instinctively brushed them off.  That was my BIGGEST mistake.  The brushed off bees released their alarm pheromone and much, much more started to swarm me.  I was fine as I was wearing my bee suit that covered my upper body, but my jeans offered no protection against the angry stingers of the guard bees.  I ended up getting stung four times around my upper thighs, front and back.  I had to place the upper hive box on with much haste, not being able to spare the bees that probably got squished on impact.  All in all, huge learning experience to not brush away bees that are not hurting me.  So far as I can tell, there are only about 300-500 bees still outside the hive, but I am hoping the rest of them will migrate into the bee supers.  For now, it's all about neosporin on my little stung areas.  Nothing like the life of a homesteader.

Picture to Come

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Canning Green Tomato Pickles

When we started growing our 19 tomato plants, it never occurred to me that we were going to have hundreds of green tomatoes that were never going to ripen.  I started looking in our canning and freezing book, Farm Journals Guide to Freezing and Canning.  Our edition has a red binding and green cover, but overall, this book has great recipes and tells you from step 1 how to can and freeze, the proper way to sterilize everything and how to use your pressure cooker.

As I mentioned, we had an abundance of green tomatoes on the Jasper Violet plants.  Two of the plants has started to die, so I decided to harvest all the fruit off the plant and compost the rest.  I was able to harvest four pounds of green tomatoes, which was perfect for a recipe from the Farm Journal's book to make green tomato pickles.  I harvest the tomatoes, sliced most of them in thirds, some in half, placed them in our trusty Dutch oven, and sprinkled three tablespoons of canning salt over the layers.
After letting the tomatoes sit in the salt for over 12 hours, I drained the water that was drawn out of the fruit, almost two cups.  I then mixed the spices (turmeric, celery seed, and mustard seed) and sugar together with the cider vinegar, and brought it all to a boil.  I added three cups of thinly sliced onions (thank you Mr. Mandolin!) and slowly cooked them down.
Then I added two chopped red bell pepper and the drained tomatoes.  I mixed together, as gently as possible as to not mush the tomatoes, brought to a boil, and then let simmer.

As the tomatoes simmered in the juice, I sterilized the canning jars and lids, and got everything ready for the hot water bath.  Due to tomatoes high acidity levels, there is no need to use a  pressure cooker, only put the filled jars into a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
Taylor and I then filled the half pint jars, wiped the lids, and placed them in the boiling water.  All together, we got 11 half pint jars full of pickled green tomatoes.  Not a bad Sunday.

Taylor watching and listening to the seals making their signature 'pop'!


Friday, September 16, 2011

Our Tomato Harvest

We have been watching our 19 tomato plants go crazy with fruit this last month and we finally decided to harvest the first batch of tomatoes and make and can some tomato sauce.  We got the recipe out of The Joy of Cooking, which is like our culinary I Ching.  Taylor was really into this recipe because it only contained six ingredients: tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, marjoram, and parsley.  And because tomatoes are high in acidity, we didn't have to can the sauce in a pressure cooker, just a boiling water bath to get them to seal properly.  I am in love with this sauce because you really get the flavor of the Jasper Violets, which are my favorite variety this year.

Heirloom Italian Beefsteak


Jasper Violets

Mix of Arkansas Travelers and Money Makers

Our tasty haul!

Master Tomato Sauce Maker

September Just Rolling By

So as the autumnal equinox approaches, I have decided to not carry my gopher-resentment into the new season.  I turned over the garden yesterday, tilling all the clumps of dirt/compost that had become engrossed in the network of roots that had grown through the ground.  Taylor and I decided that we should concentrate on planting less crops, zeroing in on how to grow those items really well, and then move on to new items.  I got so excited when I found the Petaluma Seed Bank, and I went a little overboard.  So now, I have reeled myself back and am now focusing on just five items, well, four really.  My tilled ground is divided into sections, which I diligently measured out yesterday, and will be planting the following crops:  Squash (Pomme d'Or), Collard Greens (Georgia Southern), Beets (Early Wonders and Chioggia), Lettuce (Merveille des Quatre Saisons), and Rainbow Chard (Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard).  I planted the seeds in the starters yesterday and am hoping to plant on the equinox.  So there it is, my plan for our fall crop. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It's so sad when I look down at my garden right now;  I'm sure that in a day or two I will see this time as the end of one crop season and the beginning of another, but right now, my once lush and bountiful garden looks like a dusty, dry area with a couple of bell peppers holding on in the middle.  My trials and tribulations with the gopher situation has come to a head with an early harvest of little pumpkins and only a couple of cucumbers that grew to size.  The gopher(s) have also eaten their way through the roots of a rose bush Taylor gave me for my birthday this last March/  We planted it in the corner of the garden and watched it grow up the fence and trellis in such a way that it was going to provide a little privacy from neighbors.  Now the green leaves are slowly turning yellow and every day there are more and more yellow leaves.  We have set out a couple of gopher traps and plan on putting more out, but for right now, I am saddened by the early demise of my crops.  Here's to the next planting, may it be fruitful, may it be healthy, and most of all, may the gopher(s) choke on their root system if they continue to be the bane of my gardening existence.

Happy Full Moon!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Licensed to kill gophers, by the government of the United Nations. A man free to kill gophers at will. To kill, you must know your enemy and in this case, my enemy, is a varmint and a varmint will never quit. Ever. They're like the Vietcong. The varmint kong. So what you gotta do, you gotta fall back on superior firepower and superior intelligence. And that's all she wrote.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Good-bye August, Hello September!

I know it's not officially autumn yet, but I can smell it coming in the air.  This summer has been another learning experience in the garden and I have enjoyed watching the fruits of my labor come to fruition. 
I am happy to report that our 19 tomato plants are happily living on the upstairs deck and all the fruit is in various stages of turning red.  There are so many that I often overlook some and the fruit over-ripens on the vine, and in those cases, the chickens get a treat.  It turns out that our Roma and Violet Jasper varieties grew only to cherry tomato size, if not much bigger.  It's really okay, as I enjoy picking straight off the plant and popping them right into my mouth.  The Moneymakers and Arkansas Travelers have grown to a proper tomato size and we awaiting those lovelies any day now. 
Due to our very warm afternoons, our cucumbers have finally started producing some impressive vegetables.  Interestingly enough, this cucumber variety, Marketmore 76, isn't a climbing variety but a bush variety, and boy is it bushing out.  Also due to the warmer temperatures, the bell peppers are popping!  I have around 12 or so on 6 different plants and can't wait to watch them turn from green to red and orange.
The pumpkins are going to get harvested in the next couple of days and they too didn't grow as big as we thought they would, and again, I am not worried about it.  These little beauties will work just fine for a mini-jack-o-lantern for our Samhain celebration.
All in all, I am happy, tanned, and looking for the leaves on the trees to start turning red and orange. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dang Deer.....I Hate The Stupid Deer!

Ok, hate is probably a strong word, but I really, really, rally don't like the deer.  So far, they have destroyed my pumpkin patch outside of the garden, they destroyed my musk melons, they destroyed my watermelons, and they destroyed a couple of sunflowers.  Stupid deer, doing what deer do. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August Update

Hey everybody!  I didn't realize how long I had neglected the blog until I decided to update it today.  My summer job has not only kept me super-busy but has left me exhausted every day;  so exhausted in fact that all I have had the time to do is tend to my home chores after I get home, and maybe enjoy a little cocktail.  Well, the official countdown is on, two weeks and counting.  Now for the update.
Chickens:  The flock is doing well.  I have had to dose them with Wazine, a dewormer, and they seem to be doing fine.  We dosed their water a month ago, threw out two weeks of eggs, waited four weeks, and dosed their water again.  We stockpiled almost three dozen eggs to get us through the next couple of weeks.  All the girls seems to have put on a little bit of weight, which looks really good on them. 
Compost:  I woke up yesterday morning, skipped my shower and coffee, and went straight to work.  I had to take care of every step of the compost, so I posted up my little radio and started in at 7:30am.  First I had to sift a pile that was ready to sit and cure for a bit.  After getting the biggest deltoids/biceps workout I've had in months, I enjoyed the fluffy, earthy pile of black gold that I proudly sifted all by myself.  Taylor has always taken care of this step, so I felt very proud when I accomplished this task.  Next I turned the 'baking' pile, which was still full of grubs and all the little crawly decomposers that eat up the decaying organic matter.  It takes a bit of getting use to, but once I realized the huge job they have, I no longer get the sceevies when I see these little guys at work.  Then finally, I added my buckets of kitchen scraps to the build pile, added the chicken doo-dooty, and the dried weeds that the chickens have scratched up when they are foraging.  On an added noted about compost, I started a compost program at the summer camp I am working at right now, and what that entails is the head chef discarding the food scraps from the food program that feeds the campers, and the campers fill up 3 five gallon buckets with watermelon rinds, apple cores and corn cobs.  With two weeks to go, I have added just over 400 pounds of  food scraps to my compost. 
Garden:  The summer crop of corn was a success in that we actually have about five ears of corn on the five stalks we planted.  We found out that the reason you need more rows of corn is that they are self-pollinating.  So the first ear we checked out only had about one row of kernels that had grown, but the second ear we check was almost completely full of kernels.  So we are hopeful for next years crop of Silver Queen corn. 

Cucumbers:  The two Marketmore 76 cucumbers have finally taken off.  Taylor set up a tee-pee of posts for their support, and they seem to have taken to them very quickly.  It will probably be a September harvest for them, but I am patient.  I do love me some cucs!
Pumpkin Patch:  The Connecticut Field pumpkin plant, the one that was accidentally planted in the middle of the pole beans, has taken over one third of the garden.  We have about seven beautiful little pumpkins already turning orange.  I hope they continue to grow, but I am just happy we have our own pumpkins this year.  There is one pumpkin that wouldn't be contained, went rogue, and started growing on the outside of garden fence.  The vines have grown around it, creating a canopy of sorts for the little squash, and it lives right next to the compost build pile.

Sunflowers:  My two sunflower varieties, a Chocolate and a Giant Sunflower, have both opened up and are beautiful. 

Tomatoes:  Oh my goodness, do we have tomatoes!  The Violet Jaspers and the Romas are smaller than we thought they would be, but you can't beat that taste.  The heirloom Italian variety we have has grown over 6'2, which is how tall Taylor is, and is producing beautiful fruit thus far.  The Money Makers are medium sized globes and will probably be the pick for next year's crop.

The striped Violet Jaspers

The little Romas that could!

Heirloom Italian Beefsteak

I hope everybody is enjoying the summer and getting ready for the autumn, I know I am.  I'm in no hurry, but autumn is my favorite season.  Until next time, cheers!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Public Library, Here I Come!

The Truth About My Rattlesnake Beans

I was so excited when I peeked into my tee pee bean poles and saw that my rattlesnake pole beans had finally come.  We didn't have much luck last year due to our compost still being too active for almost everything in our garden.  Taylor harvested them the other day and steamed them up for dinner.  They were the most delicious beans I've had this summer, sweet, wonderful texture, but something surprised me;  when the beans were steamed, the beautiful purple striations on the beans dissipated and my rattlesnakes beans became green beans.  Not a big deal at all, just surprised.

Deworming the Chickens

I noticed something very unappetizing when I was on poop duty that led me to deworming the chickens;  I don't really feel the need for a detailed description here.  Taylor dosed their water back on July 6th and we haven't been consuming the eggs since then.  About four more days and that will be the two week mark and we can enjoy the fresh, daily eggs.  We have noticed that all the chickens have put weight on since we dosed them.  We are keeping the chickens in their run while the medication works on them, and that means that they don't have run of the 3/4 acre hillside they like to strut around.  Their main food is the feed we have for them and they aren't expending all their energy walking around, pecking around for bugs and little rocks. Also, their eggs look bigger and the shells look more smooth.  Once we are done with the deworming process, I think we will keep them in their run for the majority of the day, and then let them out into the rest of the yard for the last couple of hours.  Their run gives them plenty of room, more than enough in fact.  I still like the idea of giving them a few hours of no fences.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Never Buy Lamiaceae Again!

Taylor here for Mary.  Most of you out there are thinking, "What the French, toast!?  What's a Lamiaceae and why should I care about it.  The answer to that question is because as urban farmers and backyard homesteaders we use our buddy Lamiaceae all the time.  We put her in our stews and on our pizzas.  We make teas, infusions, tisanes and tinctures from her.  Medicine made from her is antioxidant, antispomadic, antiviral and antiseptic.  There is even evidence that compounds contained in her have potential uses for cancer preventing and treatment therapies.

So who is she and why does she have all this good stuff going on with her?  Lamiaceae is the name of a family of plants known commonly as the Mint Family.  Backyardigans (that's us) use her all the time in the form of herbs such as basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, thyme, lavender and catnip among others.

The reason this family of useful plants is so very special to the backyard homesteader is because of one very special little trick that makes these plants so very easy to grow.  These plants can be propagated practically forever by simply cutting of a chunk and sticking it in a glass of water for a while.  This property makes growing Lamiaceae not only incredieble easy but fun.  Here is a photo of some basil cuttings I placed in jars by the window.

Pardon me, would you happen to have any basil propagating by the kitchen sink (Yes, that's a Grey Poupon jar)
Once the cutting have sat in water long enough they sprout legs, er, roots and are ready to plant out.  It's a good idea to cut back foliage after planting and keep them out of direct sun for a few days to help the new roots get established in it's new dirt.  Here is the same basil happily growing in some compost on the back deck.

Basil has a tendency to send up flowers alot.  If you pinch them off you can keep the stems from going all woody.  Sometime though it's just determined to bolt, in which case you can take a cutting, start it over in a jar of water and viola, more basil.  By this method you can propogate and grow many Lamiaceae without ever buying starts or messing with seeds.
A few of my favorite Lamiaceae growing in the sun (from right to left, basil, thyme, peppermint)
Try this trick with your favorite Lamiaceae at home and see how easy it is to propogate these wonderful plants without ever having to go to the store.  Enjoy!