Monday, May 28, 2012

making lavender oil

I go through a lot of lavender oil... a few drops are so nice in a hot bath, or in the car or closet, and then the biggest quantities I use to infuse rice for the little herbal therapy pillows I make.

So I started wondering why I wasn't making it myself instead of buying half-ounce bottles that are about $12 each?  I found varying recipes that involved shoving lavender into dark bottles with olive or almond oil and letting it steep for a month or two to make a 'carrier' oil, which wouldn't be pure lavender oil, and doesn't it sound greasy unless you just want it for a massage or the bath?... or steam distilling, which overwhelmed me the deeper I got into it... and then, I stumbled across a very simple recipe on this blog, which I think is a crude method of the 'solvent' technique for extracting essential oil using alcohol (to put it very roughly and vaguely).  Oils extracted this way are not 100 % pure, as 2 - 3% of the solvent remains in the oil, but their fragrance is supposedly very potent, and as far as I can tell, there isn't anything harmful about a little bit of solvent residue.  Anyway, in the spirit of inexpensive experimentation, I've attempted the blogger's simple technique, which the doubter side of me is thinking is too simple to be legitimate.  If it fails, I've lost a couple cups of lavender and a couple cups of Aristocrat vodka.  The time it took to lightly crush and chop the lavender was time I enjoyed outside on the porch on a beautiful evening.  If the recipe works, I will have my very own homemade lavender oil around June 7th.  We'll see!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

coreopsis & larkspur

Treasures from my mom's garden...
I am living in a very woodsy place where none 
of the summer flowers I love will grow.  But I visited 
my mom yesterday evening, and she is generous with
her beautiful flowers and let me gather up a 
sunny bouquet to take back to the shade.

Monday, May 21, 2012

first little harvest

This morning in the drizzly mist, I clipped my first lavender bouquet from my lavender patch.  Last Sunday, I planted sixteen plants at my parents' house, in a bed made on the old spot of my favorite childhood climbing tree, which finally kicked the bucket last year.  It was the tree that held our hammock, the tree that shaded our tree fort, and the tree that I saw my first owl in - a little screech owl my sister and I heard through our bedroom window on a hot night in August before I went to college.  We'd been talking, and I heard it calling, shushed my sister, and made her creep out into the dark toward the tree with me and a flashlight.  Sure enough, we found him with the flashlight beam, perched in the branches.  I don't think there could be anything better than a lavender garden in place of such a special tree.   I'd collected a real assortment of lavender plants over the weeks - a few older ones from the Orange Co-op (from whence these blooms came),  younger ones from the Culpeper Co-op and from Whole Foods, and then a whole bunch of teeny tiny plants from the Garden Patch in Orange.  I can hardly wait for them to grow and bloom!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

tea time

 Last week, I clipped and collected a whole bunch of German chamomile blooms and laid them out to dry in a clean, shallow cardboard box in a dry, airy room.  Is there anything nicer than a box of flowers that practically turn themselves into a beautiful tea?  A tea that can help you sleep, and that helps fight infection, inflammation and  indigestion!  Just pour a cup of boiling water over a couple heaping teaspoons of dried flowers (or three if you'd like it stronger), and steep for about 12 minutes.  Unless you're pregnant.  No chamomile tea for pregnant ladies.  You can also make a chamomile bath to treat bug bites, but you'd need a whole quarter pound of dry flowers.  Here's a link if you'd like to read more about the medicinal potential of chamomile!  
 For years now, I've been wondering where all the luna moths have been.  I used to see several of them each summer, and aside from a piece of wing I found in the mountains while hiking last year, I haven't seen one for many summers on end.  Saturday night after work, I got a wonderful surprise.  As I was pumping gas in the town of Orange around midnight, my eyes fell on this gorgeous moth, sitting still on the concrete ground.  I wasn't sure where it was in its life cycle, but if it was dead, I wanted to keep it as a specimen to paint, and if it was alive, I wanted to take it out in the country away from the discombobulating artificial lights at the gas station.  So I scooped it up carefully using two flattened cardboard coffee cup sleeves that I had in my glove compartment, and put the moth in a paper bag.  When I got home, I left the paper bag open on the steps, so it would be free to fly into the night when it was ready.  The next morning, it was still there.  And it spent the day laying low on the brick steps.  But the following night, it finally flew off to seek its fortune... We've got several walnut trees in the backyard... so I hope they'll be some luna moth eggs there now!  Here's a video if you'd like to learn more about the life cycle!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

spring clean

After all that preparation for the farmers' market, I only sold 2 bunches of lettuce, some honey cake, and a few postcards.  The traffic at the market was a bit slim, and the main demographic was older ladies looking for $1.99 four packs of tomato seedlings.  However, I enjoyed an early morning, lots of sunshine, and some good conversation, and I'm still glad I went.  

So far this week, I've been spring cleaning.  I've got a whole box of stuff to go to the Goodwill, have folded and organized everything in my closet, swept up enough dust and debris to fill the Grand Canyon, and snaked my bathtub drain.  It feels good!  I'd been thinking lately about how nice it would be to get some new clothes... but if I do get new clothes anytime soon, I'm going  to strictly follow the principle 'less is more.'  How psychologically refreshing (and simple!!) it would be to have 5 pieces of clothing that are completely comfortable, flattering, versatile, and well-made, than it is to have 50 pieces that range from great to so-so.  I want to get away as far as possible from that nagging, almost guilty feeling that can accompany certain articles of clothing... the feeling that maybe you should hang onto it because of this or that, but you know you just don't really like it.  I haven't achieved it yet, but my goal is to someday have my closet pared down to a beautiful, harmonious, reliable supplier of good outfits.  I've still got a bit of a hodge-podge going, but I'm getting closer to my goal.

This morning, I enjoyed scrubbing some of my copper things with Bar Keepers Friend.  If you don't have some, you might like it.  Yes, I'm pretty sure it's toxic. And you definitely don't want to be wearing any rings while you're using it.  (A few years ago it completely stripped the silver off of my spoon ring). Other than this, all I have around my house is baking soda, vinegar and dish soap for cleaning.  But if you want your copper to shine in that cheery way only copper can, I don't know how else to do it except with this amazing powder.  Hot water, a sponge, some dish soap, and a generous sprinkling of powder, and your copper things are glowing again.  Just make sure you dry the copper quickly and thoroughly after cleaning it, or else it will spot right back up.    Barkeeper's Friend is less than $2 at Family Dollar.  

These wild roses are blooming all over the roadsides and they smell so sweet!
Today is rainy and overcast, but the leaves and grass are so young and fresh that they're glowing a kind of phosphorescent green and it's not hard to imagine I'm in the middle of a jungle! 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

to market, to market!

some of the homemade bug spray I've mixed up for the market
Things are looking up.  My grandma and cousin are recovering.  Both are now able to walk and talk, and they are getting a little bit better each day, thank goodness.  Today, I am getting things ready for the grand opening of the farmers market in Orange!  It's this coming Saturday (May 5th) in the Faulconer's Hardware parking lot from nine in the morning til one in the afternoon.  I'll be there with all sorts of things made out of my fabrics, bottles of homemade all-natural bug spray, baby lettuce and just-clipped herbs, sachets of fresh local cedar shavings, and whatever else I can make between now and Saturday morning!  I'm having a good time getting ready.  It's much more fun to be hunched over the sewing machine than hunched in a hospital chair.

PS - Alyson, it's YOU!  I pulled your name out of the mixing bowl, you won the raffle!  What would you like as your prize?  Postcards, mini cards, or a lavender + rice pillow?  Just send me an email and let me know what you'd like.  Thank you to everyone who played along and left comments and joined the blog!