If you know me, you have probably heard me yammering on and on about the wonders of tinctures. Perhaps you don’t know me, and you are asking “what is a tincture”? It is simply an alcoholic extract of a natural material. Years ago, the desire to learn more about herbal medicine and tincturing is what lead me to my husband. I was a newcomer to the extremely groovy college town of Arcata, California and though I lacked the funding to actually attend the college, I was determined to continue my education in more of a self-taught way. A friend of mine introduced me to him when I asked if he knew anyone who could teach me about herbalism and wildcrafting, and meeting him has sent me down an intriguing and “less traveled” path which I have never regretting taking! Herbal medicine requires a sort of responsibility that conventional medicine doesn’t seem to ask of you, which can be intimidating at first, but is really empowering and becomes a way of life. While I have been making herbal tinctures for years now, it is only recently that I discovered that tinctures have applications in the natural perfume world, through blogs such as erlithe and Roxana Illuminated What talented ladies! I would like to thank them right now for sharing so generously of their inspiration, it’s like a light bulb has been lit! No more will I be completely limited to availability lists and suppliers, rather I can look to the material in the world around me to truly capture a moment in time. The moment when the lemon balm is a buzz with hard working bees. The moment when sweetly scented ethereal pink fluff is drifting down from my mother in law’s mimosa tree. For the time being all of these balmy moments will have to wait for winter to pass, so I am taking this chance to cook up some scent extending base note tinctures. Today it was apricot, jasmine rice, and lightly toasted coconut. I can attest to the delicousness of the coconut in particular! The apricot is leaving an interesting faint sticky trail behind on my skin, which I am hoping is an indication that it will help the other scents in a blend adhere and persist
Now we wait, my least favorite part!
This week has been full of inspiration. I love to hear from friends about their favorite scent combinations, and then riff on the theme. One friend told me of her mother’s favorite combination, lavender and vanilla. The effect is very comforting and harmonious. I started with a homemade oil infusion of vanilla beans, which I heated very slowly over the course of a week in order to coax the fragrance of the pods into the almond oil which I used as carrier.
By the way, it’s unbelievably easy to make your own vanilla extract. The most challenging part is finding an affordable source of the beans. I was fortunate to find organic beans on E-bay. All you need to do is take a few beans, carefully slice them down the length and scrape out the seeds into a jar. I chopped the remaining pods into 1 inch pieces, or you could just leave them whole. Then you take a high proof, neutral flavored alcohol like Everclear or Vodka, and pour over just enough to cover the beans and pods. Leave this mixture somewhere dark for about a month and give it a shake about once a day. It will turn from clear to rich amber brown and fragrant. All you need to do now is filter out the beans and pods and you are left with vanilla extract. Don’t throw away those beans and pods, they can be put back in a jar, and covered with alcohol to make a whole new batch, over and over again until you notice the scent fading.
Back to the perfume making! Since this was already such a precious base, I turned to a very high quality lavender oil, a variety from France. Lavender is the classic oil for relaxation, so gentle and calming. It’s scent can be used to soothe a headache, and it has great antiseptic and wound healing properties.
To increase the depth of the blend I added my tonka bean infused oil. Tonka was once added to vanilla extract, and as I said in my previous post, it has an almond-like or fresh cut hay scent. Balsam Peru is a resin with a sweet, almost syrupy smell which can overpower easily if used carelessly. The whole character of an oil can change drastically depending on dosage, and this was no exception, so I used only a drop or two and am very happy with the results. Finally, to give this blend some roots, I added the incomparable sandalwood
Sandalwood is such an amazing scent, at once sweet and earthy, crown and root, sacred and profane. Commonly used to make incense, it has been long used as an aide to achieving a meditative state of mind, including tantric meditation. It is non toxic and suitable for all skin types, and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda for digestive, respiratory, and mental healing.
This blend is charming in the bottle, and on the skin it blooms into a lovely dose of the comforts of a happy, well kept, and well loved home. This is one aspect of the divine feminine principal as exemplified by Hestia, or Vesta: goddess of the home and peace, whose name means “the essence”. She left the Pantheon, finding their quarreling tiresome and made her home instead on earth. She is the gentlest of the Olympians, and refused to take part in the attempt to overthrow Zeus, as well as the Pantheon’s many other “grand” battles. She symbolizes the sanctity of home as refuge and temple. An interesting counterpoint to my previous blend, which as you may recall was all about wide open spaces and animal musk!
On their own, each scent in the blend has a distinct personality, but once you combine two or more which share an affinity, a synergy occurs and something new is born.
So gentle readers do tell me, what is YOUR favorite scent combination?
I was never the kind of little girl to play house, with Barbies, or baby dolls so much. Rather I was most definitely a “horse girl.” You know the type, going all starry eyed at the thought of a nice long trail ride off to destinations unknown, just me and my cayuse. Gazing longingly at all the pretty horses scattered in the fields on a country drive. Unable to walk by one who may be standing with their head leaned over a rickety fence, without pausing to offer it a handful of grass from “the greener side”, and stroke its velvety coat. Please forgive my nostalgic tendencies!
I have very fond memories of the wise, bombproof old mare named Hollywood who took me by the hand through some very difficult times. She was a chestnut quarter horse mare who in her day had been quite the star in the ring. By the time I met her she had mellowed considerably, but retained a canniness and a confidence that was very reassuring to an insecure preteen whose home life was in fragments due to family illness. Lifting myself onto her impossibly high back as she waited patiently, and breathing in her smell was a high point in the day. Yes, manure of course, but also oats, hay, musk, leather,and molasses. I love how a scent, like the fresh cut hay smell of the tonka beans I am working with now, has the ability to speak in the language of memory with such ease. Hollywood deserves her own scent blend, I do believe. This seems to be the perfect time to begin blending, with the recent arrival of the Chinese Year of the Horse. According to the tradition, the Year of the Horse brings with it an impetuous, adventurous, and lively energy. It is a time for decisive action. Hold on to your hats, folks! This blend brings together notes of fresh cut hay, herbal sagebrush, and animalic botanical musks. For the musk note, I relied primarily on labdanum, amyris, and patchouli. Carrot seed surprised me by how well it contributed to the picture, as I am more accustomed to utilizing it for it’s amazing skincare properties rather than its scent. Clary sage can have a euphoric effect on some people, and has a sun-warmed dry grass fragrance to my nose. I added a touch of cheerful clementine and sprightly peppermint to give the blend some “wings.” Two more ingredients which I was very excited to get a chance to use were my handmade tinctures of tonka bean and cleveland sage. I can’t tell you how much I love both of these totally unique scents! Tonka reminds me of many things: hay, and also notes of fine quality lavender and almond extract, or tart cherries. I used just a touch, so as to make this blend not too sweet and still accessible to the cowboys out there! Salvia clevelandii is native to California, a place I called home for many years. Its scent does bear some resemblance to the garden sage to which it is distantly related, but it is very much it’s own thing. More resinous, less harsh, fuller and with some the edges rounded off…my favorite of the sage scents, or perhaps tied with salvia apiana, the white ceremonial sage variety. Oh, and maybe pineapple sage too! Isn’t the salvia family wonderful? I really had a blast in the creation of this blend, and hope you will enjoy it. It is a fairly masculine fragrance blend, but one I have really enjoyed wearing regardless! I think anyone who has a thing for wide open spaces, sagebrush, and trusty steeds will as well. Visit my Etsy shop to check it out!
Well I’m not quite sure how to begin, so let’s start with today. Valentine’s Day.
Not a happy day day for a lot of folks, I know. But I can’t complain, I have a lot of love coming my way and a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which is my studly husband, and awesome crazy kids. Love is indeed in the air today on this full moon, as I listen to the sounds of our horny, lovelorn pet dwarf rabbit chasing our poor, confused Maine Coon cat about the kitchen. But enough of that, let me give you a taste of the raison d’etre for this blog, to familiarize you all with the goings on Bellair Farm. We are a small, chemical free homestead in Central Missouri. Right now, in the offseason I am keeping busy by launching a natural bodycare line, you can check it out here: Bellair Apothecary
Today I made a fabulous rose cream
Is there anything more perfectly fragrant than a rose? Well, maybe the smell of a newborn’s scalp, but few smells can really compete with the Queen of Flowers. And she is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. One of the featured ingredients in this blend is rose floral wax. At first glance it bears a striking resemblance to black tar, but when you lean in the smell it, that unmistakably rosy perfume rises to meet your nose. Floral wax is composed of natural plant waxes, generally from flowers which are too delicate to be steam distilled such as rose, jasmine, and tuberose, and adds fragrance and body to the final product when blended into creams. Another notable ingredient is rosehip seed oil. It has wonderful antioxidant properties, and thus is used in many anti-aging formulas. And the final rose component is rosewater, an ingredient with timeless appeal which was a great favorite of Cleopatra’s. Rosewater has its origins in ancient Iran, where its use dates back 2,500 years.
To complement the rose’s natural beauty, I have added essential oils of rosewood, clary sage and geranium, as well as rejuvenating carrot seed oil. I will go into more detail with these ingredients in a another post, but for now I must sign off and figure out how to post this! Wish me luck!
Here’s hoping your Valentines Day is full of love, in it’s many many forms!