Spring Fever

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Lovage seedling

Sick children have taken precedence lately, but I will try to squeeze in a quick post while I catch my breath momentarily!  I’m afraid that whatever the children have rather resembles the stomach flu, and I’ve come down with a terrible case of spring fever as well! Springtime in Missouri is a tumultuous time. Bluebirds are scoping out this year’s nesting site, geese are flying high overhead, and my chickens are showing renewed interest in the tiny sprouts of grass that are peeking out through last year’s dead sod. The wise native trees have yet to show any greenery, they know full well that today’s gentle warmth could be cruelly cold and re-frozen in the next moment. I went to a fruit tree pruning workshop recently with the Young Farmer’s Group, and gained the confidence to make some well placed cuts on our young orchard.  I have finally started a few flats of seedlings (mostly herbs, greens, cabbages, eggplants, and peppers), and still need to clear the winter’s accumulated clutter and fire wood out of my greenhouse to make way for the oncoming deluge of transplants.

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Roselle

I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of my roselle seed, which sprouted the day after sowing despite the fact that the seed is about 3 years old! I bought the seed from Baker Creek Seeds, and if you’ve never heard of them you are in for such a treat! They have an incredible selection of heirloom seeds, and have signed on to the Safe Seed Pledge, so you can be sure it’s all non-GMO.  Roselle is a kind of hibiscus, and the calyces are used to make Red Zinger tea.  The tea has a pleasant sweet-tart taste and a gorgeous red colour.  It’s such a fun plant to grow, and in our summer heat and humidity can grow dramatically huge, flowering in the fall with pretty cream coloured hibiscus blooms.  Perhaps this year I’ll also try making a jelly out of it.  I still have a freezer full of last year’s berries that are waiting to be dealt with however…

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Kodama solid perfume

Today I’ll be talking about the first scent blend I conceived. I had been studying and using essential oils for several years already at the time, but hadn’t really strayed beyond mixing two or three oils at a time. Which is nice, as far as it will take you. Sometimes what you have to say can’t be compressed into a tidy little soundbite however. Spending time in nature has always been an important source of inspiration for me, right from early childhood when my parents would take me on camping trips along the Oregon coast in our musty wall tent. The sights, sounds and smells of those excursions are with me still, the dazzling sunlight glinting off the waves on a rare sunny day, the silken mist wrapping itself around me on a more common foggy day, the crash of the surf, the cascading song of the wood thrush, the luxurious cushion of moss covering nearly every surface of the forest floor.

The wonderfully wild Oregon coast

After moving away from my beloved coastal forests, I was filled with longing for those craggy, misty wild places I had wandered through. I wanted to create an immersive experience, a scent picture that I could dive into whenever I wished, regardless of whether or not I had the time to go on a long, lazy hike through the woods. To do this I would have to think in a new way, and pull out all the stops, reaching into some new corners of my repertoire.

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Guidepost tree

I started with one of my favorite aspects of the woods, moss, which was represented by lichenous oakmoss. The absolute is incredibly potent, deep, and dark. To represent the fragrant moist soil, patchouli makes a fine base. I was once repulsed by the smell of patchouli, until I smelled a bottle of beautifully aged high quality oil. It was a far cry from the rough edgy stuff that many people associate with the hippie era. Or perhaps it was me,and not the oil that had changed, and matured somehow. Powdery, earthy, soft, and bitter in a pleasant way. Next the trees themselves would need to be taken into account. For this I chose brightly scented black spruce and rosemary. To bring out the scent of sun warmed tree bark, I used warm scented vetiver. Often when you are in the woods, you will smell intriguing scents which are impossible to pinpoint. Perhaps a hidden wildflower is in bloom, or a tree is seeping with resinous sap where a woodpecker has been prospecting. To bring these into the picture, I turned to clary sage and some cheerful citrus oils.

Kodama scent roller

For my recent reformulation, in a base of jojoba and almond oil, I have added the complex and difficult to classify oil of spikenard. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine primarily for its sedative properties, and is mentioned in the Bible in the Song of Solomon. I also added the clean, herbal tea tree oil. The oil base has the advantage of showing its top notes with more ease than the solid perfume, which seems a bit more persistent but also heavier.

Shimenawa

The name of this blend is from Shinto folklore, the ancient native religion of Japan. The Kodama are tree spirits, similar to the Dryads of Greek mythology. They are said to inhabit certain trees, and to be able to wander though out the mountains at will. Cutting down such a tree is thought to be a cause of misfortune, and thus these trees are marked with a rope known as shimenawa.

Lavender and Vanilla

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!