April Showers

Rainbow!

Rainbow!

Okay, this photo was actually taken in March, but it still applies today as I listen to the hail pounding on our roof. These are no gentle spring rains we’re having now, the creeks are churning and swollen with debris. We showed 2 inches in our rain gauge this morning, but I’m sure we had more than that as the wind probably blew the gauge around a bit.  Storm totals in our area are  rumored to be 4-6 inches, and tornadoes were reported south of us.  The Midwest might not always be at the bleeding edge of culture (and living on a country road as I do only exacerbates matters), but the weather is never dull out here! They have a saying that really is true here in Missouri: If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it’ll change.  From one year to the next, conditions are very different too.  Notice how brown the land is in the above picture.  Soil temps are only in the 50’s.  Last year was a whole different story.  I’m a little concerned about the seeds I sowed last week.  Have they been washed away by the torrent?  Time will tell, I may have to re-sow the whole bed of greens and radishes.  If I were really on top of things I would have mulched immediately, but nobody’s perfect, right?

 

Unscented cream

Unscented cream

I was approached by someone on Etsy a few days ago with my first custom order request!  She had dry sensitive skin and wanted me to make her an unscented cream. As a woman who lives in a world of scent (admittedly both pleasant botanical scents, and unpleasant animal and kid related scents), I was mystified at first, why would you NOT want scent?   Once I held the cream in my hands, I was won over by its simplicity and purity.  Here, after all, is a gentle nourishing balm for any number of sensitive individuals: anyone whose nerves are fried and overwhelmed by our hectic and often overstimulating world.  Consider it a blank slate upon which you may do whatever you wish:  use it as a primer for use under makeup, or as an unassuming-yet-fortifying overnight moisturizer at day’s end.  Because it includes elasticizing cocoa butter, it would even be suitable to use as a balm for the pregnant belly, and would be gentle enough for baby as well with the inclusion of healing calendula oil.  It would work as well for men who don’t want to smell like a French whore OR like that nasty smelling stuff with the awful misogynistic commercials we’ve probably all seen (so…hot women are inexorably drawn to smells that could strip the paint off a wall, dull lackluster attitudes, and painstakingly messy hair does?  Mmmmkay), but would still like something to smooth on after shaving.  So versatile, a quality which I value more and more with the unpredictability of life!

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Tincture time!


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!

Lavender and Vanilla

Vesta

The latest from my shop!

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.

Lavender

Lavender, THE classic relaxation herb

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

Wood

Sandalwood’s appeal is broad and it is a wonderful aide to meditation

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.

Vesta

Vesta, the goddess of domestic bliss, keeper of the homefires

So gentle readers do tell me, what is YOUR favorite scent combination?

Valentines Day!

Well I’m not quite sure how to begin, so let’s start with today.  Valentine’s Day. 168093775_325af57b48_o
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
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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!