Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that results in reddening of the skin on the face, particularly on the cheeks, nose chin or forehead. Its not clear what the cause of rosacea is but there is probably a hereditary component since it is experienced mostly by fair skinned people of Celtic descent. Rosacea is usually diagnosed after the age of 30. It also occurs more in women than men, but comedian W.C. Fields was probably Rosacea’s most famous victim with his recognizable red nose. Some types of rosacea can produce small pus filled pustules like acne. More severe cases can lead to a thickening of the skin especially that of the nose.

Signs of rosacea include flushing, persistent redness, bumps and pimples and visible blood capillaries. Rosacea can also cause eye irritation, burning or stinging of the skin, dry skin, swelling or edema. The redness in rosacea occurs from enlarged and broken capillaries on the face. Normal skin will ‘flush’ giving the cheeks a pink blush, but in rosacea this response is hyperactive and often the capillaries themselves are visible.

The flushing or redness can be triggered by a number of things. The National Rosacea Society says the majority of victims report the following as triggers for rosacea symptoms:
Sun exposure
           Emotional stress
           Alcohol consumption
           Hot baths
           Cold weather
           Spicy foods.

By noting what triggers your rosacea you can learn to decrease the symptoms to a certain degree. Learning stress reduction techniques is also useful.

How to calm rosacea?
There is no cure for rosacea, but there are things to help control it. Stay away from skin irritants. Many acne products can be irritating to the skin such as salicylic acid, tea tree oil and alcohol.  Other ingredients to avoid include glycolic acid often found in peels or antiaging creams. Test a new cosmetic on your neck before using it on your face. Its important to use calming products that have antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Green tea has been used in several studies and has been found to reduce the redness of rosacea.

When washing your face use gentle surfactants and don’t use abrasives for exfoliation. Use a gentle milky or creamy cleanser. Rinse with lukewarm water, not hot or cold. Stinging is more likely to occur on damp skin, so wait a few minutes after cleansing before applying moisturizer or makeup to the skin.

A moisturizer is a must to help with burning, itching and irritation associated with rosacea.
Using a sunscreen is important since sun exposure is the number one trigger reported by rosacea patients. More importantly, stay out of the sun or use a wide brimmed hat during the middle of the day.
For more information see www.rosacea.org

For a moisturizer we recommend Springtide Antiaging Face Cream from Colorado Aromatics. It contains green tea extract, calendula and botanical oils.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Weekend Hikes - Hall Ranch and Rabbit Mountain

Hall Ranch west of Lyons

Along with eating too much on Thanksgiving comes doing exercise. During the summer I am doing a farmer's market most weekends so I haven’t gotten out for hikes as much as I’d like to. Thankfully this weekend provided us with warm and sunny fall weather which allowed for some hiking. A lot of people had the same idea about getting out after Thanksgiving to enjoy the nice weather and get some exercise.

Since the September floods the roads west of us that go into the mountains have been closed and just recently opened with temporary fixes. Friday we drove through Lyons to Hall Ranch Park. Lyons is still cleaning up debris from the flood and doing repairs, so the roads are full of dump trucks and cones.  Hall Ranch is a great hike that goes through hilly grasslands and up into pine and juniper forest. The views are wide open and include the cliffs that rise above the St. Vrain River. It's a mixed use trail so there were hikers, bikers and horses. The cool fall weather doesn't tend to carry aromas as much as the warm breezes of summer, but the aromatic grasses and pines were detectable.

View of Longs and Meeker Peaks from Rabbit Mountain

Sunlight on the grasses at Rabbit Mountain
On Saturday, I did a limited amount of work and of course went out shopping for small business Saturday. But that still left time for another hike.  This time it was to Rabbit Mountain, east of Lyons so very close to us. We are lucky to have this open space so close and often go there. I like having a hike I can do regularly and observe the changes during the seasons. I typically hike Overlook Trail, but this time we took Eagle Wind Trail. This again goes mostly through hilly grasslands and then Ponderosa pines which give the area a pleasant aroma. The trail is mostly rocky so I have to pay close attention to where I place my feet, but several places were nice and sandy. Most of the trail allows very panoramic views of the Mountains on one side and the great plains on the other side.

For me getting out for a hike is a great way to relax and focus on something other than work. I hope to enjoy a few more hikes over the winter, but if it snows I'll be sure to enjoy cross country skiing.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Belladonna - part of a cosmetics history

The term belladonna means "beautiful woman" in Italian. It is also the name of a plant, Atropa belladonna also known as deadly nightshade. It produces several toxic alkaloids such as scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine. Atropine, isolated from this plant, is used as a drug to increase heart rate during resusitation, to inhibit salivary gland secretions and to treat organophosphate poisoning (insecticides and nerve gas).

Atropine is an alkaloid compound that is naturally occurring in the nightshade family of plants such as jimson weed. Its physiological action is to inhibit the acetylcholine receptor.  Its antidote is another natural plant compound known as physostigmine or the organophosphorus insecticides known as parathion. Both of these are acetylcholinesterase inhibitors which increase concentration of acetylcholine in the synapse causing muscle contraction.

Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter the body uses in the parasympathetic nervous system as well as at the neuromuscular junction. Inhibiting it means that muscle contraction does not occur, or muscle relaxation will be promoted. When muscle relaxation happens in the eye, it results in dilation of the pupils. At one time it was popular for drops to be prepared from the belladonna to use in the eyes to cause pupil dilation. This was thought to be attractive. Because it can cause flushing, extracts were applied topically to the cheeks as blush to give a rosey color.

Although in the right hands it can be considered medicinal, it is generally considered a toxin to both humans and animals causing death by disrupting both breathing and heart rate. There is suspicion that the wife of Emperor Augustus of the Roman Empire used it to kill him in 14 AD. Belladonna and related extracts have also been used as poison-tipped arrows! Beauty has an interesting history (as well as presence).

Monday, November 4, 2013

Curried Pumpkin Soup

We were lucky this year with a nice harvest of various types of winter squash and pumpkins. Although I did make two big batches of pumpkin soap, we are also trying some new pumpkin recipes for FOOD! This is one we really liked that was adapted from "Vegetarian Soup Cuisine" by Jay Solomon.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion diced
1 cup diced celery
4 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 jalapeno or other hot chile seeded and minced
2 large tomatoes diced
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 cups peeled and diced winter squash or pumpkin
5 cups water

Heat the oil in a large soup pan and add onion, celery, garlic, ginger and hot pepper. Saute for 5 minutes or so. Add tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the seasoning and cook over low heat briefly while stirring. Add pumpkin and water and bring to a slow boil. Cook for 35-40 minutes until pumpkin begins to fall apart into the soup. Mash some to help pumpkin fall apart or put into a blender if you want it very pureed. Check seasonings. Serve.

This is also good with some chopped up kale or other greens in the soup.
For more on pumpkin soap read here: http://www.coloradoaromatics.com/seed-to-soap/

The other way I really like to eat squash (butternut squash) is to cut it like french fries and roast it in the oven; serve with salt and ketchup.
Do you have a favorite squash recipe?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Renny; A Flood Refugee

Renny is a Sussex hen

Longmont and other parts of Colorado were taken by surprise a few weeks ago when the Saint Vrain river flooded and changed it mind about where it wanted to be. Renny's neighborhood was one Longmont area that was badly damaged in these floods. Her owner had just enough time to grab Renny and her dog before running out to the car as the water rose around her house and filled her basement. After carrying Renny around for a few days in a cage she came to my house to live with my flock of chickens. We kept her separated for a few days so that the flock could get used to her. Now she seems to be doing fine with the other chickens and has adjusted to her new home. Its likely she will be here permanently as her owners have plenty of cleanup to do and her henhouse was washed away.

Flooding occurred as a result of Boulder county getting 20 inches of rain in a week's time in September. Average rainfall for September is only 1.7 inches and average yearly rainfall is only 20 inches. After suffering 10 years of drought, Colorado ended its drought in one week.  As creeks rose and flooded, neighborhoods were evacuated, some people going to temporary shelters set up at churches and schools. Other people were trapped in towns as roads were wiped out; those people were airlifted out.

It was a devastating flood for many people in Colorado; particularly those in Longmont, Boulder, Lyons and then small towns downstream like Milliken. Volunteers stepped up immediately to help pump water and remove sludge from basements in the affected neighborhoods and now continue to help with restoration projects.  Hundreds of miles of roads and bridges have been destroyed in Colorado during these floods. Temporary fixes are being made as quickly as possible, but much of the work will take years.

Talks are now going on as to how, when and if to put the St. Vrain River back into its banks.  Irrigation ditches that are used in farming are no longer connected to the river because its changed it's course. This could have a huge effect on agriculture in the state. We are thankful in Colorado for the help we have received though and will continue to rebuild.

For more information you can view this slideshow from Denver 9News or this article in the Daily Camera.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Quirky Summer Entertainment in Longmont

We love the music and other entertainment that occurs in Longmont during the summer months; Friday night street concerts and additional concerts in the parks during the week. But one of the Quirkiest things I've come across is "Novel, Sweets and Spirits on the Green?" with Sharon Glassman. I’ve enjoyed listening to Sharon perform as Grant ‘n Sharon’s Quirky Country Duo, playing classic country music for some time. But now she is showcasing her stage performing talents by reading and performing songs from her novel, “Blame it On Hoboken”. This event occurs on the lawn at La Momo Maes Bakery (624 Kimbark, St. Longmont) each Wednesday at 7:00. The novel is set in New York and the storyline includes love, humor and even algebra! You can read more about it here.

Do you have a favorite thing to do in Longmont or in your city?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Hike to Hanging Lake

Hanging Lake

George Wahl in front of Spouting Rock

Cindy Jones behind Hanging Lake Falls
We've driven past the highway exit for Hanging Lake for years on our way to Glenwood Springs and Palisade/Grand Junction.  I’ve been wanting to do the hike for years but we've always been in a hurry. This weekend however, we made time for it on our way home from the Lavender Festival in Palisade.
The sign says that the trail is just over a mile, but its the hardest one mile hike I've ever done; a steep rocky
trail with boulders to climb over and a 1000 ft vertical climb. The trail follows Dead Horse Creek which has quite a few nice water features. Its a very popular hike so the trail is crowed, as well as the parking lot. 

Once we made it to the lake though, I was stunned. It is perhaps the most amazing natural landscape I’ve ever seen. The shallow lake was a light turquoise with a broad dripping waterfall behind it. The color is said to be due to travertine (limestone) sediments which makes the shoreline very fragile. Because of this the lake is surrounded in a boardwalk with benches to keep hikers away from the water. You can follow the boardwalk to the end where it meets a trail that takes you to the edge of the waterfall. Its always thrilling to be to be on the backside of a waterfall.

We took the short and relatively easy trail from the lake up to Sprouting Rock, a second waterfall that just juts out of a rock and then feeds the waterfalls at Hanging Lake. The back side of this waterfall is also accessible. I've always wanted to shower in a waterfall, but didn't think this was the place to do so.

Hanging Lake is an amazing place to see and if you are like me and have been driving past on I-70 through Glenwood Canyon without stopping you should find the time for the hike. I might have to name one of our Colorado Aromatics products after Hanging Lake.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Spring Herbal Vinegar

I've been meaning to make some herbal vinegar while the chive blossoms are still here. They turn a vinegar a lovely pink color. I finally got around to it today. I cut some of my favorite herbs from the garden; chive blossoms, roses, tarragon, salad burnett, sage, oregano and red clover. I'm not sure how this will taste but I can't imagine any herb combination not tasting good. This time of year its nice to preserve all these spring herbs by putting them in vinegar. If you want to do this just clip a few herbs and loosely fill a 16 oz jar with herbs. Fill the jar with vinegar. I used white because I wanted the color of the herbs to come through. You can use any mild flavored vinegar though. I wouldn't use red wine or balsamic vinegar though as they might overpower the taste of the herbs.

I like doing different herb vinegars over the summer as tasting them over the winter can bring back those memories of summer. Later in the summer I might do a blend of lavender, calendula, mint, nasturtium and basil or Tulsi. I'll use these vinegars in the winter in my salad dressings. What herbs do you like to preserve in vinegar?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Late Spring Flowers

I love this peony type, its very delicate.

Dark Pink Peony

White Peony


I love these small irises. With googling I think they are Iris graminea, or grass leaved flag. Any comments?
This time of year gets fairly busy here on the herb farm. The heat has risen quickly and unfortunately that means wildfires in Colorado. Its important to take time to enjoy the beautiful flowers. Here are pictures I took today. I hope you enjoy seeing what's blooming in my gardens.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Inflammation; a Protective Mechanism

Even though inflammation is a normal and helpful process that the body uses to protect itself, long term inflammation can lead to serious disease of aging. Inflammation is a localized response of the body that is triggered by microbial invasion or tissue damage. It is a normal response that the body uses to protect itself and keep infection local rather than systemic. However, recently there is building evidence indicating that it has a big role in the aging process.

The four key characteristics of inflammation are redness, pain, heat and swelling. Although it is not something we enjoy the body uses inflammation to prevent a potential infection from spreading to other parts of the body. Inflammation is localized which means it occurs in the tissues and not in the blood. It involves chemical messengers of the body called cytokines that are released by the immune system. Many cytokines are involved in growth and regulation of immune cells. Some of these cytokines include tumor necrosis factor- α and interleukin-6.

The typical inflammatory response is acute (rapid and short onset) and meant to protect the body from microbial pathogens and promote tissue repair to return to normal (homeostasis). However, it is chronic long term inflammation that is tied to the aging process and may even be linked to diseases such as atherosclerosis, dementia and cancer as well as skin damage and wrinkles.

The stages of inflammation are vasodilation, phagocytosis, chemotaxis and tissue repair. Vasodilation refers to an increase in the diameter of the blood vessels and an increase in their  permeability. Increased permeability allows the blood proteins and whit blood cells to leak out of the blood and into the inflamed tissue. It is this response that begins the symptoms of heat, redness and swelling. Because there is now more heat, metabolism is increased. This response is caused primarily by histamine, a protein released from basophils in the local area that is damaged.

Phagocytosis is a wonderful word that means ‘cell eating’.  Cells that are transformed into phagocytes actually engulf particles including bacteria, cellular debris and foreign articles that enter the tissue. Enzymes in the phagocyte then dissolve this debris. This is a way of cleaning up an area.
Chemotaxis refers to the movement or migration of cells, typically phagocytes, towards the area of inflammation. This occurs because of attractive factors secreted by bacteria and injured tissues. These white blood cells squeeze their way through the capillaries into the tissues through an ameboid like movement called diapedisis. Here is a picture of diapedesis http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/diapedesis

The fourth and final stage of inflammation is tissue repair. Once the danger of infection is over, cell division takes place to repair damaged tissue. This is done locally through the secretion of growth factors. Providing these steps occur successfully, the process if ended. If inflammation is not successful in preventing spread of bacteria, the immune system will then be activated.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Marian Flowers (Flowers for Mary)

In Catholic tradition the month of May is dedicated to Mary and she is called Queen of May. Devotion to Mary the Mother of God is a long honored tradition and in May is recognized by ceremonies where crown is put on the statue of Mary and various flowers are also given to her. Some people take devotion to Mary one step farther and dedicate a garden to her.

Mary’s gardens used to be quite popular and now they are tending to make a comeback. Christianity is rich in using symbols to enhance spiritual life, and honoring Mary by reflecting on flowers named after her and the legends associated with these flowers are one example. In Christianity, Mary, the Mother of God is also refered to as Immaculate Mary, the Virgin Mary, Mother Mary, blessed Virgin, Our Lady and more. Her attributes include being a strong woman with wisdom, faith, vision and holiness. She was a spiritual leader to Jeasus and a source of inspiration.

I’ve chosen a few of the plants and legends here.

The rose is probably the flower most strongly associated with Mary. Catholics believe that Mary was assumed into heaven without suffering death. It is said that  when she was assumed, lilies and roses were found in her tomb. Catholic prayer beads on which ‘Hail Mary’s’ are prayed, are called a Rosary and at one time were actually made from rose petals. Rose gardens are often places of meditation and honor to Mary. These rose gardens were also called rosaries in the middle ages.

It is said that when the angel Gabriel spoke to Mary of God’s plan for her that violets blossomed outside her window when she accepted God’s plan. And that the angel Gabriel blessed the flowers endowing them with their fragrance. Violets are associated with Mary because they have long been a symbol of humility and simplicity. They have a modest way in which the flowers nestle among the leaves and grow low to the ground. It is said that the violet dropped its head in the shadow of the crucifix.

Our Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum) and Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
These are both said to be some of  the sweet smelling herbs that made both Jesus’ and Mary’s bed in the stable in Bethlehem and when Jesus was laid in the manger after his birth the flowers began to bloom.

Blessed Thistle, Our Lady’s Thistle (Silyum marianum and others)
The blessed thistle is recognized by the white veins on the leaves which were said to be formed from drops of milk from Mary’s breast.

Rosemary, St. Mary’s Tree (Rosemarinus officinalis)
When the Holy Family fled from Herod into Egypt, rosemary was one of the bushes that gave shelter to them. It is said tht when Mary hung her cape on the rosemary bush it’s flowers turned from white to blue and became forever green and aromatic.

A Mary’s Garden often recalls the life or physical attributes of Mary. For instance a booklet from one Mary’s Garden reads: "Picture her eyes (Forget-Me-Nots), her hair (Maidenhair Fem), her five fingers (Potentilla). Think about her apparel: her smock (Morning Glory), her veil (Baby's Breath), her nightcap (Canterbury Bells), her gloves (Foxglove), and her shoes (Columbine). Remember her attributes: Mary's humility (Violet), the fruitful virgin (Strawberry), Mary's queenship (Virgin Lily), Mary's Flower of God (English Daisy), Mary's glory (Saint John's Wort), and Our Lady's Faith (Veronica).

Think about her life: The Bethlehem Star (Bellflower), the Christmas Flower (Poinsettia), Lady's Bedstraw (Dianthus - Mary used bedstraw to prepare a bed for Jesus), the Epiphany flower (Chrysanthemum), the Flight into Egypt (Fig Tree - legend says that the Holy Family ate the fruit of this tree during their flight into Egypt), Our Lady's Tears (Lily of the Valley - tiny white nodding bell-shaped flowers can be likened to a train of tears), Our Lady's Tresses (Asparagus Fern - legend holds that at the foot of the cross, Mary, in. deep agony, tore out a tress of her hair which Saint John preserved), Mary's Bitter Sorrow (Dandelion), and the Assumption (Hosta - Plantation Lily blooms at the time of the Feast of the Assumption)."

Here are some common names of flowers and their medieval name and religious meaning

Carnation – Mary’s Love of God. They were said to bloom at the birth of Jesus.

Calendula officinalis – Mary’s Gold

Rose – Mary is often called “The Mystical Rose”

     White:  Mary's Purity
     Red: Mary's Sorrow and the Blood of Christ. Also martyrdom.
     Gold: Mary's Glory

     Red and White: Visitation

Strawberry – Fruitful Virgin

Sunflower – Mary’s Gold

Sweet Pea – Our lady’s Flower

Tulip – Mary’s Prayer          

Violet - Our Lady’s Modesty


Parsley – our lady’s little vine

Sage – Mary’s shawl

Rosemary – Marys nosegay

Thyme – Mary’s humility

Chives – Our Lady’s garland

Marjoram – Mary’s bedstraw

Fennel – Our Lady’s fennel
Feverfew – Santa Maria
Chamomile – maiden week, Lady’s flower

Will you plant a Mary's Garden and if so, what will you plant?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Dandelion and Dock

Dandelion and Dock Roots

Getting areas ready to plant means taking out some things. both Dandelion and Dock are prolific on my farm and I try to control them by digging the roots and using them. 

Yellow dock (Rumex crispus)
Yellow Dock is a weed found in many pastures. It is also known as curly dock because the leaves have undulating egdes. It is edible and sometimes eaten as a potherb but it is the deep taproots that have medicinal properties. Its main use is as a laxative due to the anthraquinones found in it such as emodin and chrysophanol. But has also been used to improve the absorption of minerals and the help a headache.

Yellow dock is a purifying tonic and so can be used topically for a number of skin conditions. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties. Although it is most widely used for acne it has also been used for eczema, psoriasis, rash, boils, and abscesses and to calm irritated skin. It is said to improve blood flow (a good thing for most conditions). Because of tyrosinase inhibitors dock could potentially decrease age spots on the skin.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
The word Dandelion means ‘lions tooth’ referring to the jagged edges on the leaf. There are many similarities between dock and dandelion in that they are both detoxifiers and great for skin care including acne. Dandelion is also a pot herb (cooked) and the raw leaf can be used as a salad green. The flower is used to make wine and fritters and we’ve made coffee substitute from the roots before. The herb is very nutritious and a source of vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc.

Dandelion is both a laxative and a diuretic (increasing urination to decrease water content of the body and thus decrease blood pressure). It has been used to detoxify the liver and gallbladder and to help decrease a headache.  In skin care it has been used to treat acne, eczema and psoriasis. It is antiinflammatory and an antioxidant. It has an effect on the cells of the dermis to strengthen that layer of skin. Many herbalists recommend it for breast health and medical science is looking at the possibility of dandelion to inhibit cancer cell growth.

Don’t plant dandelion or dock though; come to my place and dig them up if you need some; both spread wildly!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

10 Skin Care Tips

Skin Care doesn't have to be complicated. Here are 10 tips to better skin.

1. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
2. Eat foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin A and antioxidants – that means fruits and vegetables!
3. Apply lotion/cream or oil to the skin after getting out of the shower while the skin is still damp.
4. Don’t overwash. Excess soap/detergents and hot water can dry the skin. Handcrafted soaps are generally mild enough to use frequently. Focus on washing underarms and genitals since they contain apocrine glands which secrete a type of sweat that can lead to rancid odors.
5. Get occasional massages as they help move blood and lymph.
6. Exercise regularly.
7. Examine your skin regularly for abnormal moles as well as for scratches, scrapes or sores. If you have an abnormal mole, get it checked out right away by a dermatologist. If you have persistent sore that doesn’t heal, get it checked out by a dermatologist.
8.  Treat very dry itchy skin with a salt scrub in the shower or add a tablespoon of bath oil to your bath.
9. Be sure to use a product with an oil containing linoleic acid; these include evening primrose oil,  pumpkin seed, grapeseed, hemp, raspberry seed, rice bran oil, rosehip seed, safflower, sesame, soy, and sunflower.
10. Drink Green Tea. Studies show that antioxidants in green tea can help protect collagen, decrease the risk of skin cancer and help prevent UV damage.


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