Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One World One Heart Give Away

We have decided to be a part of the One World One Heart Project to link blogs. For this event we are giving away a gift on Feb 12 to one lucky person who leaves a comment to this post. Be sure to leave a name and an email address so I can contact you.

I wanted this gift to be a reflection of our farm so it will contain:
1. a bouquet of lavender buds from our lavender field
2. 2- 4 oz bottle of herbal distillate/hydrosol grown and distilled here on the farm (perhaps comfrey, lemon balm, blue spruce or catnip). These are great for skin care or hair care. You can learn more about how to use herbal distillates at my website
3. some carded mohair from our goats Mary and Ace that live here on the farm. Realizing that many of you bloggers are crafters this amount of mohair is enough to use as filling for a hotpad or two or a small pillow or to felt for some other small craft – try felting it around a bar of soap. Actually, maybe I will also include a few locks that are uncombed to use as doll hair, or if you win and would rather have curly locks you can let me know. You could also use it for spinning or mix it with another type of wool to spin. Although its been washed and carded it still has a bit of vegetable matter in it.
So far there are over 600 participants in this ‘gypsy caravan’ that covers every continent. You can see links to their blog sites here:
One World One Heart ends Feb 12, but have your comment here by Feb 11 to be included in the prize drawing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Animals don't mind the cold like we do

Although I love having animals it can be rough in temperatures below zero such as today. After experiencing temperatures in the 60’s last week, today’s temperature of -10 is hard to take. But that is the way weather is here in Colorado, always changing. We will have cold temperatures for at least a week and also had a few inches of snow yesterday. It has been so dry here that any precipitation is appreciated.

Below freezing temperatures means that I have to haul buckets of water from the house to the barn because the well freezes up. Just spending time outside in when it's this cold requires time; time to put on the long underwear, wrap the scarves, put on gloves, boots, coat and so on. I do appreciate what my animals do for me though; eggs from the chickens, manure from the horse and the chickens, bug eating by the chickens, mohair from the goats, riding the horse in the summer as well as companionship – they never complain about what I give them for dinner (hay)! They do seem to fair better than I do in this weather though.

I am getting a fire started in the wood stove in my shop so that I can get to work today. I save all my stems from herbs after stripping the leaves off and use these to start my fires in the winter. So the sweet scent of lavender is wafting through the shop now. I’ll pour myself a cup of tea; maybe black Assam tea spiked with a little Earl Grey. Or maybe a cold day like this is perfect for a pu-erh, yes that's what I'll have! I hope everyone else stays warm today.

Look in the next few days for my give away as part of the One World One Heart blog event.
I want to spend some time coming up with a perfect gift (or two) for readers.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Scented Paper, a Valentine's Day Project

I was looking for a fun craft to do for Valentine’s Day this year and came up with scented paper. You can make your own paper to do this craft or purchase paper. Although it is fairly easy to make your own paper and I have done it many times with my kids and with their Cub Scout dens, for this project I bought a sheet of paper I liked from a craft store as well as used some parchment paper I had on hand.

I cut the paper into smaller pieces (note card size). Some of the sheets I decorated with ground herbs just as you would with glitter; I applied the glue to the paper in the design I wanted and sprinkled the ground herb on top of that. The herbs I used were ground linden leaf, ground vanilla, ground rose petals and ground rose hips all of which I had on hand.

Now for the actual scenting I decided on lavender, rose geranium and petitgrain essential oils. Three drops of each went on a cotton ball which I put in a ziplock plastic bag along with the paper. These will set until Valentine’s Day.

Petitgrain is not an essential oil that I have much experience with but I thought I’d try it. It is made from leaves of the orange tree rather than the fruit or blossoms. I find it pulls scents together and help them blend. It has calming properties which can sharpen thought and bring about a sense of well being. Lavender and rose geranium essential oils are standbys for me. Lavender is calming and used to reduce anxiety as well as to relieve headache. Rose geranium is for emotional balance and depression. I think together these oils will delight both the person writing a note on this paper and the person reading the Valentine’s love note.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

City Chicks!

The city of Longmont is considering allowing chickens within the city limits. Living outside the city limits this it is not a personal issue for me, but I'd like to encourage Longmont, as well as other cities to allow chickens. I've had chickens for 8 years now; six of those were in the city of Lakewood, Colorado where it is legal in certain areas of the city.

With renewed interest in sustainable living raising chickens is a valuable hobby that teaches both children and adults more about their food sources. With real tangible benefits, being egg production, a small flock of chickens allows a family to be more independent. Raising backyard chickens goes hand in hand with the increased interest in urban vegetable gardening and manure from the chickens can go right to the garden for fertilizer. Chicken owners know that home grown eggs are better tasting and healthier than those bought at the store.

Due to our current economic situation every step we take to become more independent is good. Strong local communities are necessary to solve both economic and environmental issues. Getting closer to our food and clothing production is one way of building stronger communities.

There is a misconception that chickens smell because people associate them with megafarms. While a farm with thousands of chickens will certainly smell bad, a home flock of 3-10 chickens will smell no more than a dog or cat. And the quiet sound of hens clucking is very soothing. Understandably, some people find the crow of a rooster unpleasant but a rooster is not necessary to keep hens. Other benefits of chickens are that they eat insects and food scraps from the kitchen. They can provide hours of entertainment value as they scratch around the yard; a better choice than TV. And if you live next door to chicken owners you may be lucky to get excess eggs when chickens come into their prime in the spring.

Chickens require a shelter from the elements in the form of a coop, about 3 square feet per bird. They also need a fenced area to run outside and still be protected from predators. Predators in the city will include dogs, foxes, opossums and raccoons. The fenced run is usually attached to the coop with a 12 inch door so they can come and go as they please.
You can even get miniature chickens called bantams that require less space but also make smaller eggs. Chickens have been a part of my life for 8 years now with no complaints from neighbors. I can’t imagine being without them.

Longmont City Council will be discussing this issue on Tues night Jan 20.
For more information see these sites:
I recommend Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why Use a Preservative?

With the current high interest in all things natural many formulators do not recognize the importance of using a preservative. Preservatives are a necessary ingredient in al emulsions to prevent the growth of bacteria. Even though bacteria are completely ‘natural’ they can also cause a lot of harm to us. A colleague of mine recently shared her story with me and with her permission I am sharing it here just to let you know how important preventing bacterial growth is.

“It makes no difference if something is all organic or natural if it has cooties in it that you cannot see with the naked eye that can cause more problems to someone’s skin than the preservative you didn't use. I used to make my lotions without preservatives. I was na├»ve and did not understand that any product that has water has the potential to grow cooties that can harm you.
I had a surgery and at that time I used nothing but my own lotions. I came through my surgery quite fabulously but two days later I was rushed back to the hospital in critical condition. I had a
temperature of over 104 that lingered for four days. Three of those four days I have no memory of. I ended up spending three weeks in the hospital on IV antibiotics and then at home with nursing care for another week. My surgical incision had burst open I had to carry a wound vac machine for five weeks. What caused all this? My own lotion was contaminated because I did not use a preservative. Knowing that I was going to be in the hospital, I made a special lotion that I used the day of my surgery and took it with me to the hospital to use. I know that this is a sore subject for a lot of people. This lotion was not old, only 3-4 days old when I used it before going
to the hospital the day of my surgery. Having this lotion tested afterward I found that it was indeed contaminated. The cooties in my busted opened incision were the cooties in my unpreserved
lotion. I have never been the same since then; I do not feel good most of the time and I have never regained the vitality I used to have after having this near death experience.

Are you prepared to allow a creation of your own to possibly do this to someone
else???? Although you may be willing to take this risk for your own personal use you cannot sell such a product to the general public. Preservative usually amounts to 1% or less in most lotions, but without it it could kill someone. I'll take a preservative any day over what I endured and am still enduring years later.”

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Herbal Distillates

Many herb enthusiasts have taken up the hobby of distilling at home now. Distilling small batches of herbs produces an aromatic water that has a slightly acidic pH. This watery distillate goes by many names by different people. Originally called aqua vitae its more common name now is hydrosol in the US or hydrolat in Europe. If you have taken any chemistry classes you may recognize the word hydrosol as referring to a colloidal suspension in water. So this word can refer to a number of substances including a small amount of essential oil added to water such that it forms a suspension.

But the important thing is to understand exactly what these watery distillates are. Contrary to some claims they do not contain all the water soluble components of the plant. A recently published study from researchers in Spain found that after distilling lavender, the remaining plant material was high in antioxidant and flavonoid compounds. Specific molecules identified were chlorogenic acid and glucosides of hydroxycinnamic acids. Both of these compounds are antioxidants and thus able to scavenge free radicals.

On the other hand, rosmarinic acid was found to be in higher concentration in the water distilled removed from the plant material rather than in the remaining plant material. Rosmarinic acid is much more volatile than chlorogenic acid so it is separated from the plant upon distillation.

So although distillation of herbs is the best way to obtain oils and waters with aromatic properties it is not a way to obtain phenolic flavonoids from plants. Being water soluble, these components are best obtained by making a water infusion, also called a tea (or tisane).

You can also see a version of this article written by me in the recent Herb Companion Magazine.

Torras-Claveria, L., Jauregui, O., Bastida, J., et al. Antioxidant activity and phenolic composition of Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia Emeric ex Loiseleur) waste. J. Agric Food Chem. 2007, 55:8436-8443.


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