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Living Large at the Micro-Farm

new garden

One of the expansions I hinted at last week is ready for unveiling: Ta-da! Here’s my new garden-to-be!

I am thrilled about the space- 3/4 acre- though it takes a little over 20 minutes for me to get there. The saving grace is that I drive a greasecar which runs on waste vegetable oil from restaurants, so I don’t have to worry about the price of gas (and emissions-wise, greasecars are considered “carbon neutral” because the carbon dioxide absorbed by the plants grown to generate the vegetable oil exceeds the carbon dioxide released when the oil is burned).

Though originally very hesitant to garden off-site, I have come to embrace the idea. I worked my butt off this year trying to grow as much herbs and veggies as I could, and was sorely disappointed to learn my limitations the hard way. Space being the biggest limit (my house sits on 1/5th acre), sunshine the next.

This new spot is wide open old farmland. It’s so exciting to imagine what it will look like next year! I’ll have lots more herbs for my bodycare, moving me closer to my goal of self-sustainability, plus tons and tons of veggies!

Well, I will if all goes well. Wish me luck and good weather!

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Eco-Conscious? I’m Eco-Neurotic!

bunnyluv

Eco-Conscious? I’m Eco-Neurotic! I worry about each and every ingredient used in my skin and body care just like I worry about each and every ingredient that goes in my food.

(And to keep going with the food analogy…. ) I worry about these ingredients from soup to nuts: where they came from, how they were grown and harvested, how they were stored, etc.

So I spend alot of time researching. Unfortunately, it’s a moving target.

I stopped using rosewood essential oil and substituted ho wood essential oil when I learned of rosewood’s endangered status. But like so many trees and plants today, ho wood is suffering from over exploitation and habitat destruction, and is now also considered threatened.

Ditto for amyris essential oil, which I use to substitute for sandalwood.

(check out “Unethical Use of Rare and Threatened Plant and Animal Products in the Aroma Industry” by Tony Burfiel)

The plight of animals in the beauty industry is well known. Legislators consistently let us down when it comes to animal cruelty. The much-lauded “Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011” does little to live up to its name and will likely result in even more animal testing.

These things could, and do, drive me crazy. Sometimes I feel like I’ve hit the wall, but I can’t give up.

An overwhelming majority of people say they would choose natural, cruelty-free products if they were more available. I’m dedicated to helping create this reality 🙂

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The Minimalist Garden Grows….

skin serum

My mother-in-law remarks, “So now that gardening season is winding down, you can get back to your crafts.” Uhhh…. Say what?

Actually, I’m herbal crafting all the time! It’s partly for my business– I want my skin and bodycare to always be as fresh as possible- and partly because, well, herbal crafting is what I’m into!

My focus this Summer was skin serums: deeply penetrating, deeply moisturizing, lightly textured facial oils that sink right in to leave skin soft and dewy, but never greasy.

A minimalist at heart, I’m content using straight hemp seed or rosehip seed oil. But my mom, who is a bit more refined, put in a special request for a special serum, and the experimenting began….

These balancing, nourishing serums will be rolling out over the next couple of weeks in three different blends, adding to the new varieties of cleansing grains and face masks now available in the online store.

I’ve got a few more surprises up my sleeve too, including news of a major expansion (garden and otherwise!) but those will have to keep for now 🙂

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Love essential oils? Or Avoid them?

essential oils

Talking with a friend who’s just beginning to use essential oils has me reflecting on my own journey with these remarkable (and occasionally controversial) oils. It was an interest in aromatherapy that put me on the path to herbalism, so I’m curious about how others view and use these plant treasures.

Do you love essential oils? Do you use them individually, or make your own blends? How do you use them?

Or do you choose not to use them? Some people consider them “unnatural” because they are distilled. I remember being a bit surprised when my friend Melissa of Naturally Good Soaps posted in the Herbal Pantry that her herbal teacher called essential oils “drugs” and flatly stated they should never be used.

It was sage Becki of La Yerberia who reminded us that the origin of the word drug likely derives from the 14th century word “droge”, loosely meaning dry plant.

As I’ve worked with essential oils over the years, I’ve come to feel that less is more (my bodycare products are made with the lowest-possible concentrations). I don’t actually consider them “essential”, but would be so sad to have to live without them! They bring a depth of aroma that fragrance oils could never capture, not to mention psychological and physical therapeutic benefits.

What do you think? Please comment here, on my Facebook page, or Tweet me. Thanks!

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Autumn chill? Add a little spice!

spicy herbal tea

Autumn seems to have started early for me! I’ve been cold and craving spicy teas like this awesome Herbal Chai for a couple of weeks already!

Ingredients:
1 part Star Anise
1 part Ginger (1 part if dried, 2 parts if fresh)
1 part Cardamom (whole pods or crushed)
1 part Cinnamon
1 part Black Pepper
1 part Licorice root

Directions:
To prepare this tea combine herbs with water in a medium saucepan. Use 1 Tbs. tea for every cup of water. With the lid on, heat the water and herbs gently until steam or small bubbles begin to emerge, do not let it boil. Continue to let it steam/ simmer for 20 minutes. At this point you can strain the tea and enjoy or continue to let it steep with the lid on until you are ready to drink it.

(recipe by Brittany Wood Nickerson, Thyme Herbal)

 

Another favorite is Té de Canela (or cinnamon stick tea, which I learned from Jessica Morgan, Morgan Botanicals). So simple, but soooo delicious!

Ingredients:
4 cups water
3 – 4 cinnamon sticks

Directions:
In a medium saucepan, heat the water and cinnamon sticks over medium-low heat, until the water turns a golden amber color. Sweeten if desired. (I like this one nice and strong, so simmer for about 1 hour, then leave on stove to steep all afternoon as I sip it, as Brittany does above).

 

Mmmmm…. I’m feeling warmer already…. 🙂

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Is it Garden or Micro-Farm?

Rescued this old post from my original (now completely lost) blog. I was glad to find it, so thought I’d repost it even though the timing is off- it was written in the Springtime 🙂

Here’s my husband Hawkeye just before he heads to the Co-op with a fresh harvest of Welsh Onions. This is our second “cash crop” this year, the first being pussy willow stems sold to a local florist earlier this spring.

Seems that it’s taken me awhile to realize what everyone else already knew: My herban garden has become a micro-farm.

Hawkeye always kept a vegetable garden and did canning. But for me, the garden was a hobby until I became interested in herbs. Then it became a passion. I started digging up ever-larger patches of lawn to make room for my ever-expanding collection of herbs.

I got hooked on herbal oils and salve-making, then started making all kinds of bodycare and perfumes. My stuff was so much better than anything I had experienced before (if I do say so myself)! The textures rich and luxurious; the aromas fuller, more complex and satisfying somehow.

Friends encouraged me to try selling my handcrafts at local craft fairs and farmer’s markets, and my business, Paradise City Herbal, was born.

So I’ve been growing herbs to use in my products for several years now. But it wasn’t until Richard, a micro-farmer I met on Twitter, remarked that I’m underestimating our efforts by calling it a garden, that I suddenly saw my backyard for the farm it is.

We’re growing so much food this year, and more herbs than ever before. We’ll have lots to eat, share, and preserve. Guess I’ll have to get me some Wellies and make it official!

Originally 05.15.2010