Sunday, November 26, 2017

Ten Ways to #optoutside with Children

It seems we spend less and less time outdoors, leading to a generation that has respects and protects the outdoors less. We can appreciate things better when we experience them.

So how do we give out children good outdoor experiences? Here are 10 ways to help children appreciate the outdoors (and create memories).

1.   Visit the moon every night.  Before going to bed, take a step outside to see the moon. What phase is it in? How bright is it? Is it visible?

2.   Collect things outside to use for crafts or just a table decoration inside. You can do t his in your yard or a park. Look for unusual rocks, for seed pods, dried flowers, unusual shaped sticks, dried leaves, etc.

3.   Plant a garden. If you don’t have the space outside for a garden, plant something in a pot that can be outside or if absolutely necessary, inside.

4.   Go for the same walk at different times of year. Going for the same walk at different times of year helps children to recognize the changes that happen with the seasons from green leaves to colored leaves to no leaves.

5.   Visit a farm. Its easy to visit a farm in autumn when many have pumpkin festivals.  Better yes, volunteer on a farm. Organic farms are very labor intensive and often welcome volunteers. We certainly do on our farm.

6.   Learn a constellation. Look up at the skin at night and learn at least on constellation. The Big Dipper is one of the easiest to learn if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. Learn about the Big Dipper here. 

7.   Identify the parts of a flower. Take a really close look at a flower. Do you see the stigma, the petals, the anther? Here is a nice flower diagram.

8.  Find a nice looking rock. Bring it home and paint it to use as a paperweight.

 9.   Walk along a stream. Look for life in the stream. This can be small fish, algae, even crawdads.

10.   Take a short walk outside everyday, no matter what the weather. Even if its only for 10-15 minutes, being outside can improve health and bring an appreciation for nature.
Read the REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) Report “The Path Ahead”

Monday, October 9, 2017

Early Snow

After a beautiful 70 degree day yesterday, we woke up to snow this morning and so far its about 3 inches. We knew it was coming of course; modern meteorology has a way of knowing these things.

We spent the weekend preparing by gathering all of the squash we were growing. We picked about 12 pumpkins, 30 butternut squash and 10 spaghetti squash. I picked as many calendula flowers as I could. Because this is one thing we really use a good deal of in our skin care line, I covered as much as I could with plastic. The temperature tonight is predicted to be 21 degrees, maybe too low for plastic but I can always hope.

As I worked I watched the butterflies flitting about wondering if they knew of the upcoming frost and what they will do. We've got swarms of Painted Lady butterflies migrating though right now. The local news said that some will flee and some will die. Are they getting their last meal now? How sad.

We spent the morning today outside with brooms and poles trying to hit snow off the the tree branches still fully leafed out. We don't want the branches to break from the weight of the snow. I doubt we'll see colors this year as the frost tonight will probably cause them all to loose their leaves. The coming of winter is always bittersweet. I look forward to the lessened workload without the farming, however, I also miss the warm days and seeing the plants grow. This year it is sudden and I'm sure we will still have plenty of warm fall days. I'll enjoy the lessened work load, but look forward to next summer  and seeing and smelling the lavender.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Butterflies in the Garden

Gardens are a lovely place to enjoy birds, bees and butterflies. Do you want to attract  more butterflies to your garden? Besides being beautiful to watch, butterflies also pollinate our gardens.

Butterflies eat liquids that include the juice from fruit and the nectar of flowers. You can probably attract some by leaving out pieces of cut fruit for them to dine on. Butterflies eat, or rather drink through their proboscis.  Flowers that butterflies love include lemon balm, lavender, fennel, anise hyssop, bee balm, catnip and yarrow. These are all herbs that we grow on our Colorado Aromatics farm.

Be sure to feed the larvae, or caterpillars too. This early stage eats only leaves and includes many vegetable plants unfortunately, but also clover, fennel, hollyhock, hops, lilac and mallow.

Want a butterfly to land on you? They enjoy the salt in sweat, so exercise a little first to increase the likelihood of one landing on you. Butterflies are very active during the day looking for food. At night, they tend to sleep on the underside of leaves or in small crevices between rocks.You can also build them a house that has narrow openings where they can hide.

A butterfly has 4 stages to its life cycle. The egg,  caterpillar (or larva), chrysalis (or pupa) which overwinters on a plant, and the butterfly. The lifespan of a butterfly is only 2-4 weeks, so enjoy them while they are around.  There are 28,000 different types of butterfly species worldwide, find out about species that are common near you.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Colorado Lavender Growers

Lavender growing in Colorado has dramatically increased over the past 10 years and this weekend we celebrated a get together of lavender growers in Colorado.

From what I know, the first lavender farms started appearing in Colorado 10 years ago, about 2007/2008. We planted our first small field in 2008. At the time it was difficult to find good information or to network with other lavender growers. The Lavender Association of Western Colorado was formed in 2009, but I live on the front range of Colorado. The United States Lavender Growers association was founded in 2012, giving lavender growers across the country needed support. Our get together was for Region 4 of the USLGA. We were happy to host 18 people from across Colorado. 

It was an information gathering that started at our store, Colorado Aromatics. We talked about what type of business models we have and how we market the products we have. Lavender scones were a highlight! We then did a farm tour at our farm and talked a little about soil fertility and being part of the community.

We also enjoyed a great lunch! After that we headed to Heritage Lavender in Berthoud where Trudy showed us her lavender, greenhouse, still and bud cleaner.

 It was a full day that ended at the Pumphouse for dinner and beers. There is nothing like networking in person with growers that face similar climate/weather challenges and learning from each other.

We'll be attending the Lavender Festival in Palisade in July - hope to familiar faces there.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Everything Lavender

We headed to Mesa Arizona last month for the United States Lavender Conference (USLC) in Mesa AZ with my husband. This was the 3rd conference put on by the newly founded United States Lavender Growers Association (of which I am a founding member by the way). We had three tracks of speakers; for beginning growers, experienced growers and for people who may or may not grow, but do use lavender. Lavender is used extensively in aromatherapy, cooking and in skin care products as well as for crafts and availability of US grown lavender is growing.

Lavender can help with stress, anxiety and promoting sleep.  These are important applications because trouble in any one of these areas can lead to a host of other health problems.  Our keynote speaker, Nancy Baggett just released her cookbook, “Cooking with Lavender” which you can actually purchase in our store in Longmont now.

During the conference there was much focus on a common pathogen that is affecting lavender in our country now, Phytophthora. The goal is to stop the spread by controlling it at the source; small plants that are purchased for field planting. We learned about making products with lavender, cooking with lavender and more.  We learned about marketing our products from one of my mentors, Indie Business Network owner, Donna Marie Johnson. 

I gave a talk on cosmetic regulations for people who are making skin care products with lavender; “Your Product Smells Great, but is it Compliant?”  Maybe not the most stimulating topic there is, but one that indeed makers need to know about. Here is a brief overview:

Even though we know lavender is wonderful and a valuable contribution to skin care, the FDA requires that we make no claims, either for aromatherapy benefits or skin care benefits.  Doing so categorizes lavender as a drug and that is not approved by the FDA.

A cosmetic label has several requirements;
it must contain the name and use of the product
it must contain the weight of the product
it must contain the company name and contact information
it must contain the ingredients of the product.

I also addressed how to make a safe cosmetic, the use of preservatives and antioxidants (they are not the same thing) and good manufacturing practices.

Some of the best moments of the conference were the unscheduled moments when we learn from each other, by talking and networking.  There was a pre-conference farm tour as well as a farm dinner that we did not make. It would have been interesting to see farms in such a different climate than ours.

And then of course there was hiking in the Superstition Mountains. You can read about that on our other blog here.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The pH of Skin

The surface of human skin has a naturally acidic pH in the range from 4-6, probably averaging 4.7. This acidic nature of skin is called the acid mantle and is vital for the proper functioning of skin. The low pH helps to protect the skin from bacterial infection, protects the barrier function of skin and helps the skin enzymes function properly. If the pH varies greatly, skin problems arise which may include infection, dehydration, dermatitis, roughness, acne, irritation, and noticeable flaking.

For a refresher, the pH refers to the concentration of hydrogen ion. It is a logarithmic scale that goes from 1-14 with 7 being neutral, less than 7 acidic and higher than 7 alkaline (basic). The pH of a solution can be measured with a pH meter, pH of skin is more difficult to measure and requires more specialized equipment. Read more here.

 What can affect the skin's pH?
The most common thing that we do that can change the pH of the skin is cleansing the face with soap or other cleansers that have a high pH. Healthy skin can come back to its normal pH after a few hours, but not all skin can tolerate that challenge. Face toners are often used after cleansing to restore the skin pH back to acidic. Toners should always have an acidic pH for that reason. I like to use herbaldistillates/hydrosols for a toner.  Modern face cleansers though are typically not soap and are buffered to be an acidic pH. Soap however has a basic pH of about 10 which cannot be changed, that may work great on most of your body, but if you have problems with skin on the face, do not use soap there. You can find a good face cleanser here that is pH balanced to skin.

People have often asked me about cleaning their face with baking soda. This is a big no no because baking soda has a high pH between 9-10 (similar to soap) and is sure to disrupt the pH balance of skin due to its alkalinity. Even plain tap water can affect skin pH. Theoretically, tap water should be pH 7, but it is typically closer to pH 8 because of impurities.

Age also affects skin pH, increasing as we age. For this reason it is important that products for mature skin have a pH from 4-5. Skin moisture, sweat, sebum, anatomic site, and genetic predisposition also affect skin pH.

The skin's pH is maintained by secretions from the glands of the skin; both eccrine and sebaceous secretions.

Understanding the anatomy and function of skin can help you be a better formulator. If you would like to learn more, download our ebook “The Nature of Skin.”


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