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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Beer Brewing Herbs



If you like beer you may be interested in growing some of your own ingredients. Hops are the most common herb used in beer and are used for  bittering. They are relatively easy to grow and make a nice vine to grow up your deck or elsewhere.


hops
I've been reading "The Homebrewer's Garden" by Joe Fisher and Dennis Fisher which details many of the other herbs that are and have been used in beer.  I was not only amazed at how many herbs have been used in beer but also realized that I grow many of these herbs.

Hops are my favorite as I am a fan of great IPA's. They not only bitter the beer it but to create a variety of unique flavor profiles that include floral, piney and citrus. There are some beers that taste very similar to grapefruit juice just becasue of the hops they use. If you are not a beer drinker you may not realize that there are actually many different varieties of hops all producing different aromas and flavors in a beer because of their alpha and beta acids.
 
We grow hops here on the farm and use them in dream pillows as they are a good for destress and to promote sleep. You may have experienced relaxation after you've had a few beers! Hops are also good for skin care and help decrease irritation and promote hydration. I've written about the benefits of hops before, here.

thyme


There are additional herbs that are used in beer for bittering, flavoring and giving the beer a nice aroma.

Herbs used for bittering include yarrow, horehound, sage, dandelion, costmary, and clary sage. They are typically added at the beginning of the boil phase and need to be balanced with hops which are also bitter.

Flavoring herbs include rosemary, hyssop, borage, oregano, mint, bee balm/monarda, lemon balm, sweet woodruff, marjoram and thyme. Add these carefully as they can have rather strong flavors. They can be added at the beginning or near the end of the boil.

Other herbs can be added for aroma including rosemary, hyssop, lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, bee balm, elder flowers. If adding them for aroma they are added toward the end of the boil. 

Yarrow apparently was commonly used to bitter beer before hops were used, a beer known now as Gruit Ale. I don't know if any commercial brewers use this but I did find a lot of interest in it on several beer brewing websites.

Other herbs that I grow that are used in beers are Horehound, Coriander, Summer savory, Nasturtium, Raspberry Fruit, Rhubarb, Rose Hips and Valerian leaf. Not mentioned in the book, but herbs I think would be great in beer include rose petals, red clover, violets, calendula, salad burnett, and feverfew.

I'd love to taste a good hoppy IPA that is flavored with lavender. I've seen several Saison styles with lavender but never an IPA. So, local breweries, make my dream come true please!

Besides using these herbs in beer, they can be used for skin care and bath herbs. Beer Spa is a concept that is gaining in popularity and many of these herbs can be used in conjunction with beer to provide skin benefits. We just put on a beer spa event and hope to do more in our area.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Benefits of Vitamin C for Skin Health



Vitamin C is not made by our bodies and so it must be ingested. Rich sources include citrus fruits, peppers, parsley and berries. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin and so it is not found in oils. Although rose hips may be a good source of vitamin C, the oil extracted from rose hips is not a source of vitamin C as many claim. 


Signs of Vitamin C deficiency are follicular hyperkeratosis (rough, raised bumps), petechial hemorrhages (red marks), swollen or bleeding gums, and joint pain.

Vitamin C is also known as L-ascorbic acid and it likes to work with flavonoids for full activity. Its actions include:

  1. It is a cofactor for the enzyme lysyl and prolyl hydroxylase. These enzymes are necessary to form the three dimensional structure of the skin matrix protein, collagen. Improving collagen leads to firmer skin.

  1. Vitamin C inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase which results in decreased production of melanin. This helps reduce pigmented age spots on the skin.

  1. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and inhibits lipid peroxidation and DNA damage caused by UV light. In doing so it also helps protect against UV induced skin damage.
 
  1. Vitamin C inhibits the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines including IL-1α, IFN-γ, IL-8, IL-2, TNF-α, and eotaxin  as well as CRP. This may result in decreased reddening and irritation of the skin.

  1. Ascorbic acid participates in the synthesis of carnitine. (β-hydroxy butyric acid). Carnitine is an antioxidant, is thought to firm the skin and is involved in the production of energy from fats.

  1. Ascorbic acid is involved reactions necessary for activity of oxytocin; the love hormone that is stimulated by skin to skin contact.
For a face care product that has vitamin C try Springtide Gold by Colorado Aromatics.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Cosmetic Science for Middle School

Part of the mission statement of our company is to educate. In today's world when there is so much fear of chemistry I love the opportunity to help educate youth about opportunities in chemistry. Yesterday I participated in a presentation for a GEMS group; Girls in Engineering, Math and Science. The day was sponsored by a local high school leadership group and invitations were sent to middle school girls. There were 4 presenters and the girls circulated through the 4 classrooms for presentations. It seemed like the main theme and interest was robotics so cosmetic chemistry was a little different - its nice to let girls know how chemistry applies to their everyday life.



We made bath fizzies and talked about the chemical reaction involved between the sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and citric acid. In case you are interested, the equation is below:

NaHCO3 + C6H8O7 → CO2 + H2O + Na3C6H5O7


The reaction between an acid (citric acid) and a base (sodium bicarbonate) yields a salt and water; in this case trisodium citrate and water. In this particular reaction, one of the products is also carbon dioxide which is a gas released and is what produces the fizziness in the bath. 

Here is the bath fizzy formula we used:
1 cup baking soda
1/3 cup citric acid
1.5 ounce kokum butter  (melted)
0.5 ounce rice bran oil (infused with horehound)
6 ml fragrance oil

Melt butter, mix with other ingredients and mold into a muffin tin. Let set for awhile so the butter hardens. 

Another important thing we talked about was how to pronounce ingredients in an attempt to discredit the misnomer that 'if you can't pronounce it then its toxic'. I want girls to be smart enough to expand their vocabulary rather than be intimidated by new words and assume things are toxic just because they've never heard of them. We went over the ingredient list for their bath truffles to make sure they could pronounce everything. 
Sodium bicarbonate, Garcinia indica (Kokum) Butter, Citric Acid, Oryza Sativa (Rice Bran) Oil, Marrubium Vulgare (Horehound) Extract, Fragrance.

I ended up having some time left over, so next year I'll talk more about what a cosmetic chemist does on a day to day basis. I hope I stimulated at least some interest in chemistry. Have you ever taught young students about what you do?

Monday, February 29, 2016

February Tea Party

Did you know that people in Turkey drink more tea than anywhere? I learned that yesterday at the tea party put on my the Rocky Mountain unit of the Herb Society of America. This annual tradition is typically the last weekend of February; when we have the urge to get out and garden but know that its too early. And this year the Rocky Mountain unit is celebrating 20 years as a unit!
scones and more

Candles we took home

 I've been a member of the HSA-RMU most of that time and have thoroughly enjoyed the educational opportunities as well as socializing with people who love gardening and using herbs for all kinds of reasons. Many of the members of HSA-RMU have become friends of mine and it was great to see everyone this weekend.

The tea was held at the Denver Tea Room which I'd never been to but you can read more about here. There were 20 or so of us there and they served the best scones and clotted cream I think I've ever had. We enjoyed a black tea with vanilla and cinnamon as well as a chamomile tea. They gave us a presentation on tea customs around the world which was quite enlightening to learn the difference between high tea and low tea - referring simply to the height of the table!

Springtide Face Cream got a photo shot because it uses green tea as an ingredient.

tea service and Springtide


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Warmest February on Record

I thought the snow would never melt but after 2 weeks of warm weather its finally gone - soon to come back though I'm sure. But with the warm weather we spent some time this beautiful February weekend catching up on much need work here on the farm. After cutting down and clearing away dead stalks of lemon balm, we can see underneath that it has started growing already. Some of the lavender has begun to turn green too, which typically doesn't happen until early summer. A few of the other plants such as parsley and horehound are also greening up.

I'd like to start separating some of the perennials too, southernwood especially has gotten overgrown and I've dug out a few roses that never bloom.  



We bought a tractor late last summer and with the ditching attachment I plan to redig some of our irrigation ditches and add some more. Our goal this summer is to keep irrigation water off the lavender. There is  a lot to learn about using a tractor and we are still learning. We will use it for tilling and mowing the pasture once a year too.


Although its nice to get an early start and get some trimming, weeding and cleaning done during this winter month, we need to realize that in Colorado most of our snowfall happens during the month of March. We have to guard our excitement about summer but in the meantime its nice to work hard and then have a glass of wine on the deck to celebrate.

We do have some big plans though for summer.  I hope to have a few farm dinners and farm facials.

It should continue to be warm and we will do another work day on Saturday. We do take volunteers on our farm so if you want to be on our volunteer list, let us know.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Alternatives to Microbeads



Over the past few years tiny beads made from plastic, called microbeads, have found their way as an ingredient in some cosmetic products intended for exfoliating the skin. Exfoliating removes the outer, dead layer of skin.  Why these plastics ever became a staple for some companies has been a mystery to me in a day and age when many of us are so conscious of plastic being a source of pollution in waterways. Thankfully, President Obama recently signed a bill to ban these ingredients in cosmetics, the Microbead-free WatersAct of 2015 HR 1321, after unanimous approval by the U.S. House of Representatives. 
.

These plastic beads are not biodegradable and when they go down the drain they end up in aquatic habitats and make up a large part of the pollution in lakes.  Their small size makes it possible for fish to eat them thinking that they are food.

The ban takes effect January 1, 2018 so companies currently using these beads have time to reformulate their products.  Products that use microbeads include body and face scrubs meant for exfoliation. Brands include Clinique, Rite Aid, Kiehl's, Victoria's Secret, Bath and Body Works, Aveeno, Estee Lauder, and even Crest Toothpaste.

There are many options in the formulators tool kit, however, for exfoliation and I've always questioned why these plastic microbeads became so popular. They have no real benefits over other materials used for exfoliation.

What are some options for exfoliation?

Salt is one of the best exfoliants for the body and it is easy to find salt scrubs to use on the skin while taking a shower. You can find them in these botanical salt scrubs.  Just rub them on and rinse off for a nice silky feel. Sea salt is rich in other minerals (besides just sodium and chloride) including magnesium which can help with skin hydration. Salt is said to be good at flushing toxins from the skin and is particularly good for acne.  I recently came across this quote that I adore by author Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen);

 " The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea."

Salt can be irritating on broken or sensitive skin. That is why we use sugar as an exfoliant for hands and feet, although salt is perfect there as well.

Sometimes salt can be a little too course for the face so there are other options. Fruit acids also known as alpha hydroxy acids are often incorporated into exfoliants used for the face.  Alpha hydroxy acids include malic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid. You can find them in Starbright Brightening Mask. Beta hydroxy acids are also used for exfoliation.

Jojoba beads are small wax beads made from jojoba. They are similar to microbeads in that they are small, round and smooth so good for a mild exfoliation. However, unlike microbeads, they are not plastic and so are completely biodegradable and safe for the environment. They do melt though if they get too hot. You can find them in Meadow Mist Facial Cleanser.

Clay is a good staple for exfoliation and can be found in many forms including kaolin clay, bentonite clay, rhassoul clay, green clay and black clay - all with different properties. Try this herbal clay mask.

These are just a few exfoliants that we tend to use. But there are also a host of others you can choose from that include fruit seeds such as blueberry and strawberry seeds. Ground herbs in general are good exfoliators and we use a lot of that in our soaps. But many people will use ground walnut shell powder and ground bamboos. You can even grind almonds at home to use as a nice, mild facial exfoliator. 

It is important to do a gentle exfoliation both on the face and the body a few times a week, as removing the dead skin cell build up helps your skin care products absorb better so they can do their job.
What exfoliants do you like to use?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book Review - Woman Powered Farm

Woman Powered Farm
Audrey Levatino
The Countryman Press 2015

When a colleague sent me a link to this book and said she thought of me when she saw it, I had to learn more. I was intrigued knowing that there is a new trend now with women in farming and changing the face of agriculture and food. But I found that this book is much more; it is an actual how to guide for getting things done on the farm.


I was raised in a city and although my Mother always had a garden, I learned to garden from her, this was much different than farming. My father spent some time on a farm as a child and talked of his experiences, but still, that provided me with no practical experience. I basically bought land to farm with my husband with no real knowledge of farming.

I wish I had this book several year ago when we first started on the farm. Although extremely difficult, I find farm work to be quite satisfying. I love the physicality of the work and joke about the money it saves me on a gym membership. I love being close to the earth and the need to be completely aware of the weather. I love having the responsibility of caring for land and animals. I love being able to make a value added product from the herbs I grow on my farm.  (Colorado Aromatics Cultivated Skin Care products).


Women Powered Farm starts by discussing various ways of getting into farming; internships, apprentices, classes etc. In my case it was basically reading all I could and learning from failures. The book also addresses things to look for when buying a farm. We found it was important to look at county zoning and even neighborhood zoning and that even 35 acre plots may have restrictions.

Importantly, author Audrey Levatino talks about health on the farm; stretching to prevent muscle pulls and joint stress, and how to keep your energy and enthusiasm up and making priorities - because work on the farm is never, never finished. As women, we often rely on a man's strength, but she has tips for getting around that.

Other topics covered include;
how to pick out a pair of shoes
how to buy a tractor
what you need to know about burning wood
how to do basic country skills (like put up fencing)
how to use basic hand tools
making compost tea

The book includes a table for germination temperatures for various crops and how much seed is necessary to sow a field. I enjoyed reading the personal stories of women farmers; their struggles and joys.

This book will stay on my shelf as a constant reference source during the year when I need advice about how to do something or for when I need the encouragement and comfort of re-reading another woman's story on her farm. I highly recommend this book to anyone making that transition from gardening to farming.

Read more about our Farm and skin care, we call Farm to Skin.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Month of Squash

Our butternut squash harvest this summer was more than expected. Even after giving many away we still ended up with over 50. That comes to eating about one squash per week, so needless to say I am looking for butternut squash recipes - got any?

So far, this is what we have made:

Butternut Oven Fries
These are delicious. I peel and cut the squash like french fries and place on a baking sheet coated with olive oil. A few sprinkles of olive oil on the top and these go into the oven at 400 degrees F. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the fries are soft. Remove from oven and add salt. You can also add other spices like paprika and chili powder. Eat as you would French Fries with Ketchup! Low calorie!

Chili with Squash
To your favorite chili recipe just add a cup of peeled cubed squash.  Its delicious with black bean chili. Here is my blackbean chili recipe.

Curry Soup
This recipe is similar but not identical to the Squash Curry Soup we make. So the vast number of recipes for pumpkin or squash soup gives us many options.

Butternut Risotto
It's easier and quicker than it seems. Here is my recipe:
2 cups of peeled, cubed butternut squash
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
2/3 cup arborio rice
1 T powdered vegetable broth
32 oz water
1/2 cup fontina cheese, grated (optional - mix with Parmasan cheese)

Put oil and onion in a soup pan and cook until translucent. Add rice and squash, stir. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for 10 minutes or until squash is soft. Add more water if necessary. When squash is soft, remove cover. Stir on low heat until water evaporates. Add cheese and stir.

Now this is just one month of squash, I need 11 more.  Although I know we will enjoy these recipes multiple times I am still going to need help. What are your favorite vegetarian recipes for butternut squash?

Oh, and did I mention that butternut squash is high in vitamin A? This is one of the best vitamins for your body during the autumn season. Squash also has vitamin C and magnesium is low in calories and high in fiber. 




Friday, November 6, 2015

Rember to Eat Lignans for Memory



Remembering to eat foods high in lignans, like broccoli, flax and berries is important for keeping your memory sharp. Several small studies have suggested that phytoestrogens from plants can play a role in maintaining mental abilities, and now two larger studies support those claims.

flaxseed





Lignans are polyphenols found in plants such as seeds, whole grains, legumes (such as soy), fruits and vegetables. Flaxseed also has a high amount of lignans. They are part of a family of phytochemicals called phytoestrogens.  They are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, but the studies on reducing risk of various cancers can be conflicting. Read more about lignans here.


In the first study the dietary intake of phytoestrogens over the previous year was determined for 403 postmenopausal women.

Cognitive function, which mainly involves memory and mental abilities, was determined using a questionnaire called the “mini mental state exam.”  Decreased scores on this test are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other age-associated memory problems.

Analysis of the data showed that higher dietary intake of lignans (but not isoflavones) was associated with better cognitive function in postmenopausal women.

The group who ate more lignans had a 49 percent higher rate of intact cognition, whereas the isoflavone group had only a 12 percent higher rate of intact cognition. This effect was more pronounced in women with a longer postmenopausal time span (20 to 30 years).

A more recent study looked at ingestion of several antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, β-carotene, lutein, flavonoids and lignans. This larger,  5-year study involving 2613 persons aged 43-70 year at baseline again showed lignans, much more so than any of the other antioxidant group stood out as improving cognition at middle age. 

Phytoestrogens found in plants have a chemical structure similar to that of the hormone estrogen, allowing them to have some similar effects in a woman’s body. A number of mechanisms are proposed for the action of phytoestrogens on the ability to think clearly. These include the ability of phytoestrogens to promote the health of the blood vessels, to act as antioxidants and to interfere with signalling mechanisms within the cell. Among other things, improving mental capacity is one reason why some women choose estrogen replacement therapy. Increasing dietary consumption of lignans may be sufficient for this purpose.

Lignan Structures



Sources
Higher Dietary Intake of Lignans is Associated withBetter Cognitive Performance in Postmenopausal Women. Franco, O.H., et al. The Journal of Nutrition. 135:1190-1195, 2005.


Diet and cognitive decline at middle age: the role of antioxidants. Nooyens AC, Milder IE, van Gelder BM, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, van Boxtel MP, Verschuren WM, Br J Nutr. 2015 May 14;113(9):1410-7. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515000720. Epub 2015 Apr 8.
 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Weekend in Sonoma




We did a mini vacation last weekend in Sonoma County California, an area known for its wine, beer, and food. We were not disappointed. I was looking for a trip where I could get to the ocean, do a bike ride, and some hiking – after all, you have to balance all that eating and drinking with some exercise, right?
 
Redwood Tree
 The weather was perfect, warm and sunny (I’d heard September was a great time to visit). We rented bikes in Healdsburg and took a loop through wine country, taking it easy on the wine since we were on bikes. This was definitely the way to see the valley and from now on I will look for a place to rent a bike on any vacation we take. I felt pretty safe on the loop we took but many of the roads in the area are very windy, hilly and without a shoulder – not a place I want to ride.

We drove to the Armstrong Redwoods Park and did a short hike through the tallest trees in the world. Hiking in redwoods is much different than hiking in Colorado because it’s dark! Not so much sun reaches the ground in a redwood forest. We also did a short hike in Annadel Park which was much more open but lots of moss and lichen growing on the trees.

coast line at Jenner
An afternoon was spent at the beach near Jenner relaxing, walking and watching the seals. We drove the classic California Highway 1 to Bagoda Bay and stopped for fish tacos and a wine tasting. This area is a beautiful rocky area but with nice sandy beaches too.

I hadn’t realized that the Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau defines various wine growing areas in the US calling them American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). These AVAs are distinguished by geographic features but also different growing climates and soils that define the types of grapes that grow best in that particular AVA. In Sonoma County there are 16 different AVAs and over 400 wineries. We didn’t try all of them, but of the one’s we tried we were not disappointed.

Sonoma County is also known for its Farm to Table fare (something we are well versed in coming from Boulder County). If you go make sure to seek out a restaurant that specializes in Farm to Table.
We also hit the big Micro Breweries; Lagunitas, Bear Republic, and Russian River for beer tastings. There doesn’t seem to be as many smaller microbreweries in Sonoma as there are in Colorado. In Longmont alone I believe there are 8 microbreweries. But we did find one small one; Cooperage, that had some good beers. 
Lagunitas Brewing Company for lunch

On the drive back to the airport we had unfortunately, just a few moments to spare and stopped at the Seed Bank Store which sells rare seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. Wish we’d had more time to spend there, it was quite an interesting store.  Here is their website.

So there you have it - 5 days of wine, beer, food, beach, hiking, cycling and a few minutes resting at the pool. Oh, and one more interesting thing - we saw fennel growing along side the roads everywhere. Apparently fennel is considered an invasive weed in California! Wow, and I baby mine in the garden! You can read about fennel on BLM land here.http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/hollister/noxious_weeds/nox_weeds_list/sweetfennel.html

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Beauty Benefits of Peppers



Beauty Benefits of Peppers

Peppers come in all sizes, shapes and colors and we love them all. This time of year many of them are ripe and you can find a wide variety at farmers markets. Peppers even come in different flavors from sweet to hot. But you’ve been wondering, haven’t you; what are the beauty benefits of peppers?


Nutrients found in Peppers:

Peppers are high in:
Vitamin A, a nutrient that is important in cellular turnover in the skin.
Vitamin C which is important for production of collagen. In fact, one bell pepper provides more than your daily minimum requirement for vitamin C.
Antioxidants such as flavonoids that help repair cellular damage in the skin.
Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine which is important in neurological health. Deficiencies in vitamin B6 are linked to dermatitis and some types of cancer.

Any of these properties not only make peppers a good food to eat for healthy skin but you can also use peppers mashed on the face for a food facial, a good farm to skin treat! To see more about how to use food in a facial see Farmers Market Peach Facial. I wouldn't use a hot pepper for a facial though.

Hot peppers contain capsaicin, and related compounds called capsacinoids.  This is the family of chemicals that cause the heat in a hot pepper. Capsaicin and the related capsacinoids are analgesic, meaning they have pain relieving qualities even though they are also an irritant. The capsacinoids appear to affect the nerves that signal pain. It has been used to relieve the pain of arthritis, psoriasis, diabetic neuropathy, shingles and more. You can find topical ointments that contain capsaicin, or you can make your own compress or poultice from hot peppers. However, do not use on broken skin, near the eyes or near mucus membranes.

To make a pepper poultice or compress for a sore back or joints follow these instructions:

Poultice
Grind one hot pepper (jalapeno or other) in a food processor. Add a teaspoon or so of oil (olive or other) to get a good consistency.
Wet a rag or cloth bandage in the hot pepper mixture and lay on skin or wrap around if it is a joint area. Leave on as long as necessary. You can also wrap this in plastic wrap to keep in place and keep off of furniture.

Compress
A compress is very similar but instead of applying the mashed pepper to the skin you are using more of a tea or extract soaked in the pepper extract. The most common way of doing this with hot pepper is to make a vinegar of cayenne.

Add 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper to 8 oz of cider vinegar. For this you can use dried, powdered cayenne or a fresh hot pepper that has been mashed.
Boil, then simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes.
Soak a rag or bandage in this vinegar and apply to skin. Again, you can cover this with plastic wrap to keep it from seeping out.
Remove if it becomes too hot or uncomfortable to the skin.


For more on the science of how hot peppers help with pain read this from Science Daily.  

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