Monthly Archives: September 2011

the Sonoma Aroma

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Woowee! Dispatch from this Sonoma garden reports that this morning the Sonoma Aroma is alive and well. It actually made me cough, the smell was so strong when I loaded the kids into the car to go to school. A drive down the road did prove that today was manure spreading day on the fields.
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(kent beauty oregano)
While we aren’t spreading liquid manure in this portion of land, we have been doing plenty of compost spreading (had another 5 yards delivered), gypsum sprinkling (helps break up clay soil), and planting. I had collected an entire picnic table full of new seedlings, nursery sale goodies, and transplants from the old garden. Now as I find a spare few minutes I’ve been slowing planting them out.
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Many years ago I read a great book called The Well-Tended Perennial Garden, which I learned a lot from. I learned for instance that my favorite thing to do in gardening is to prune. Some people are in it for the watering, some for the digging, some for the careful nurturing, me, I’m in it for the pruning. The most important thing I took away from that book is that when you plant a new perennial (and fall is a good time to transplant or plant), you should cut the plant back by half so that the plant can concentrate on building a good root system rather than expend it’s energy keeping all that foliage alive.
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(nicotiana)
I am completely replanting the front flower bed and once the plants are in, we’ll put in our new irrigation system, which I will share with you. But for now, here are a few pictures around the yard:
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(amaranth between the asparagus and tomatoes)
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(new life among the old artichokes)
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(the chickens now can go in an out as the please)
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(the melon bed nearing it’s end)

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Filed under state of the garden

The Winner & Garden Photos

And the winner of the book Urban Homestead is Liz Hardwick! Congratulations! Expect an email from me shortly.

To accompany, a few shots from the garden last evening:
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Enjoy your day!

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How to Make an Easy Beeswax Lotion

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My new e-booklet is just out:
Simple Handcrafted Body Care.
If you like this recipe, you’re going to love the booklet!

At long last I have figured out an easy beeswax lotion recipe! This has been months in the making, months to think about and months to come up with something easy and worth making over and over again. After using my original easy handmade lotion recipe for three years now and having posted it for all to see, I have received many comments on if you can make the lotion with beeswax. Well, you can, but it’s sort of tricky to do, requires a different set of instructions and I wasn’t thrilled with the result. So I started researching beeswax lotions, all the ones I found either resulted in an almost solid cream or required a dozen different ingredients. Some even called for adding borax to the mix, yuck! I wanted an easy beeswax lotion recipe. It became apparent that I’d have to invent a recipe of my own.

My requirements were, well, that it be easy, that it result in a lotion that you’d want to make again, that it would feel good on the skin and that didn’t require the oils to be mixed with water. Over the years of collecting comments on my original lotion recipe, a couple of people have commented that mixing oils with water results in a lotion with a short shelf life. While I haven’t had a problem with my lotion going bad, at least visibly, I wanted to give you a water free lotion option that was truly all natural.

It became painfully apparent that the ease of clean up after making this beeswax lotion be just as important as the final quality of the lotion. I say this because the first beeswax lotion recipe I read and tried required blending the lotion in a blender. If you’ve ever blended melted beeswax and then gone to clean it up after you’ve fed and changed the screaming baby, you know how terribly awful it is to clean up. It’s almost easier to throw out the blender and buy a new one. I couldn’t in good consciousness, advise you to blend any sort of beeswax lotion, as you’d surely be cursing my name for years to come. This lotion recipe can be mixed, melted, cooled, stirred, and stored all in the same container. Very convenient!

The final lotion consistency is lovely. It’s smooth and has just the right thickness. I keep the jar on my countertop and scoop it out with my fingers, however if you reduce the amount of beeswax by a few tablespoons it will loosen the lotion enough to put into a pump bottle. If you’ve made my other lotion recipe before, you’ll notice that this beeswax lotion is slightly oiler on the skin, but that is to be expected since all the ingredients are either oil or wax. It’s so good for your skin though and the oil dissipates quickly. I even have been using this as a morning facial moisturizer with good results.

Because there isn’t any water in this recipe, it should hold up for quite some time, but for added measure I mixed in some Vitamin E drops for an added preservative. You can get creative with the oil too. Instead of olive oil, try jojoba oil, or almond oil or grape seed oil. Or try a mixture of oils. Coconut oil is so good for the skin. And I used the pastilles version of beeswax as it melts faster.
Homemade Beeswax Lotion
I think you are going to love this lotion, but let me know what you think, honestly. I’d love to hear of your results.

How to Make an Easy Beeswax Lotion

1 c. olive oil
1/2 c. coconut oil
1/2 c. beeswax (I prefer the pastilles for easy melting, if using solid beeswax use 2 oz.)
1/2 t. Vitamin E oil (or about 5 capsules cut open and squeezed out) (optional)
20 drops (approximately) essential oil (optional)
Homemade Beeswax Lotion
Homemade Beeswax Lotion
Combine olive oil, coconut oil and beeswax pastilles into a pint sized canning jar. Put this jar into a saucepan and fill the saucepan with water until it comes 3/4 of the way up the canning jar, being careful not to get water into the oil mixture. Put on the stove over medium/low heat. Heat and stir occasionally until melted. Let cool to room temperature either by leaving out or quicken the process by putting into the refrigerator. During the cooling process, put a fork into the jar and stir vigorously every 15 minutes or so. Once at room temperature, add in the Vitamin E and essential oil. That’s it. You have lotion!
For free beeswax lotion labels, click here!

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Filed under recipes

Urban Homesteading : : A book giveaway

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(update: This giveaway is over, thanks to all who entered!)
We had a lot to celebrate yesterday. First, our baby girl turned one! What a fast and full year this has been and what a joy she is to have. (when she was born) And second, our original Sonoma Garden officially changed hands to a new gardener, and if you can believe it, a blog reader! We wish them the very best.

With all this celebrating, I wanted to share something with you too. A few weeks ago I ran across this book, Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living, being sold at a local coffee shop, of all places. I bought it right then and there and was so inspired looking through it. I’ve noticed in recent trips to the book store that there are many books out there on homesteading, both for urban and rural areas. What sets this book apart, and what made me buy it, is that it seems very personal and almost homespun. There are many stories and pictures of people and their own urban gardens. It is so nice to see pictures of people and their actual yards. Plus they feature many drawings of how they’ve laid everything out in their yards, where they put the raised beds and the chicken coop etc. which I find very helpful.
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What I also liked is that it features projects that are a little different from what you normally see, like making cob buildings, lacto-fermented sodas, keeping quail, making your own bee veil, growing medicinal herbs, making a compost toilet and lots more unique ideas.
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I think it could be easily said that with this recent move we are safely out of an urban area and smack dab into a rural setting, yet this book got us out and experimenting. The boys and I gathered all the materials needed to make cob: clay mud, straw and sand.  In the shade of a walnut tree we got to work making this little sun and a few bricks one summer day. It was very fun! And I also experimented around with making a peach ginger fermented soda. The pictures of the gardens made me get outside and plant some more seedlings.
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So I decided you need this book too. No matter where you live, either in a rural or urban setting, no matter if you live here in Sonoma or halfway across the world, you’d benefit from this book. Just leave me a comment and next Wednesday, September 21st (our anniversary, see lots of celebrating going around) I’ll draw a winner at random. Sound good?

Much luck to you!

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Filed under books

Watering the Garden

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Friends, meet Ross. Well, ‘The Ross No. 11′ to be formal. Ross and I spend a lot of time together. Most mornings, in fact.
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Ross is a great water nozzle. He must be old as I can’t find any web links to direct you to buy one of your own. Which is too bad, because you’d like him too.
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I water first thing in the morning, right after breakfast and this morning was particularly beautiful, so I thought I’d share with you.
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When we first moved into this house, I wrote about how it was like we were on vacation. We had a very wet spring so things stayed green, flowering and lush for a long time without us having to water anything. After a few weeks, still feeling the change of the move, I felt we had moved to this dream land where we didn’t have to water, things just took care of themselves. Soon though the hot weather started and things started turning brown and droopy. Turns out this property is no exception to any other property, we had to start watering. It felt overwhelming to know even where to begin, as I’d say that half of our two acres is planted. It took me a month or so, but I mentally divided the yard in sections and every morning starting with the left side in back I’d water each ‘zone’ for an hour until, by the end of the week, I’ve circled the entire house. Then on Monday I start all over again.
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However, very slowly, change will be coming as we bought our first set of drip irrigation supplies last weekend. This new set up is particularly fancy and I’ll show you as soon as we get it set up.
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But don’t worry about Ross, even with drip coming in, he’ll always be my first choice in watering.

p.s. Next week I’ve found a great book that I want to give to one of you, so check back for a chance to win!

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Filed under water

Collecting Wild Fennel Pollen

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A couple weeks back I got clued into fennel pollen. Have you ever heard of that? I hadn’t. Apparently it’s a very expensive & coveted spice out there in the spice world, much like saffron.  There is wild fennel growing all over the place right now and it’s it bloom. So I stopped my car at the side of a good patch, cut off a handful of blossoms, let them dry at home. Once dry I separeted the blossoms from the stems and poured them into a little spice jar.
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I realize after having researched collecting wild fennel pollen a little more that what I should have done was simple shaken the blooms into a paper bag to get only the pure pollen, rather than the entire bloom. However it tasted great none the less. The taste is a sweet fennel/anise taste, which I tend to love. So good in home fries!
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Now I have my own fennel pollen, but for free! And I plan on collecting much more. (make sure to carry some sissors or a knife when you go collect, using only fingernails to pinch the blooms off was rather tricky!)

If you live in California, or anywhere else wild fennel grows, go collect some and try it for yourself!

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Filed under in the kitchen, just picked

How to Make Apple Vinegar – so very easy

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I have a new project for you to try this weekend, making apple vinegar. This is the second fruit vinegar I’ve made and its really tasty and so very easy to make. First thing is that you’ll have to make an apple pie or apple tart or apple sauce this weekend. Make anything where you need to core and peel the apples. Save those cores and peels and put them into a bowl. The number of peels or apples isn’t really important, just add enough water to cover the apple scraps by an inch or two. Add a 1/4 c. of sugar to the mix, cover with a small plate and weight it down. In my case I did this with a ramekin filled with water.
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Let it sit out, covered with a tea towel (to keep flies from getting in) for a week, until the liquid darkens. Yes, a little mold will form on top, that’s okay. Really.
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Just spoon it off. After a week, strain out the apples and pour the soon-to-be-vinegar into a canning jar, fit with a square of cheesecloth and canning lid. This allows the vinegar to breath as well as keeps it from touching the metal, otherwise the metal will corrode. Leave it alone in your pantry for 6 weeks and then you’ll have vinegar. So easy, isn’t it?
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I learned this method in the book Wild Fermentation, which is a great book to own and refer to. Happy vinegar making!

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Filed under preserving, recipes