Friday, February 24, 2017

On the Farm

Got some wee bars of soap done for the Etsy Apothecary, and a huge batch of soap done for a client in Hawai'i. The apothecary soaps are patchouli/neroli, and later today we're making blood orange/basil. When I say 'wee', I do mean wee. These are roughly three to three-and-a-half ounces each, but they pack an olfactory punch. Why so small, you ask? Because we had to use what was at hand as far as molds go. My molds are put up somewhere that I can't find them. We're using old wooden wine boxes as molds and they make either enormous bars of soap or wee bitty bars of soap. To remedy the wee bittiness of those apothecary bars, we dumped a ton of stank in 'em. I think you'll like them.

The Apothecary Farm looks nothing like it did when we began. There are trees where there was once bare ground, blueberry bushes where clods of bare dirt once sat, and grape vines and cedar and elderberry and honeysuckle and geraniums and . . . did I mention we're also growing plants for a nursery at the farm as well? In addition to growing medicinal herbs, food, sweet grass, white sage, lavender, and really beautiful garden plants, we've added a nursery component so when you come for a visit, you can take something living and breathing home with you, something we more likely than not propagated ourselves.

Opening date for the Seasons of Spirit store is March 12, 2017. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Soap Day!

We're looking at a few days of dry-ish weather, so before it begins to rain again, I and the other apothecary farm lady are going to whip up some fresh soap for the farm shop, and I'm going to make a batch of patchouli-neroli soap for my Etsy apothecary. I still have not located my brand new, never before used soap mold that I bought before moving, so I'm reduced to using this weird long loaf pan I found at a discount store just before Christmas -- that is if I can find that now. Things get moved around here in the temporary housing situation on a constant basis, so you could literally set down a piece of paper at 9 am and by 10 am it's found its way to a closet or a trash can without you ever having touched it again. The building of the Plum Palace seems to drag on into infinity when these situations arise.

The Apothecary Farm is shaping up. The hyacinth is blooming and the work of enfleurage is calling. A fire pit was placed in the four points garden, and now the work of getting the shop together begins for the March 12th grand opening. It's all work, work, work from here on out, both at the farm and in The Scented Djinn Etsy shop.

See you on the other side.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Fennel & Orange Blossom Shea Butter Soap

I just listed these soaps, even though I made them back in December. They took their sweet time getting solid enough to sell and ship, and I used a fair number of them as gifts for friends and family. The listing is for three of these big, clunky bars, roughly 7 to 8 (maybe even 9) ounces each, made up of half shea butter to one-quarter olive and one-quarter coconut oil, scented with a couple ounces of orange blossom floral wax, fennel essential oil, some clean steel distilled patchouli oil, a bit of cloves, and some other stuff -- cedarwood and a dank patchouli. Because I put so much essential oil formulation and shea butter into the mix, they took a long time to harden up, and even now they're a bit spongey. If you buy one, please give it time to air dry between uses or it will melt like ice cream in a damp shower.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Apothecary Farm Becoming

The past few weeks have been filled with . . . dirt. And ants. And pruning and planting and scratches and scrapes. It's also been filled with the wonder of nature as our newly planted calendula begin to bloom, and the daffodils shake out their yellow bonnets, and the hyacinth point to the sky with their tightly closed grape cluster blossoms. The scent of the white sage, grown big and round and fragrant from all of the rain fills the air as we weave between them. The giant musk sage perfumes the farm, and the pit fruit trees half abloom buzz with the sound of a million winged workers. It's gaining its magic, the old apothecary farm, finally awake and ready for its purpose. Just a few days ago we set up the four points garden with incense cedar trees at the east and west points, and lodge pole pines at the north and south. Between the points, at the quarter points, are elderberry bushes and a cute little pink flower throwing manzanita. Last night the fire pit was placed in the center of it and an initiation fire was lit. We're on a break now as the rains have returned. As lovely as it is to work in the rain, it's also a fat muddy mess, and much too hard to pull one's boots out of the muck and mire of a freshly plowed field. These rainy days are for contemplation and inspiration for what to do next on the farm. More planting, of course. More planning. Getting the wee shop ready to open, and waiting for everything to come alive with a vengeance.

The incense I created went off. The cones molded in the damp, even inside with the fan and heat on them, and the sticks are having a difficult time burning. Many factors are at play here. One, I lost my scale so I was measuring by the spoonsful, so I'm pretty sure my paste was myrrh-heavy. Two, the rain. The blessed and cursed rain. And three, the mojo where I'm staying is OFF. I'm off. It's all off. I need to get to the new space to work these bits of magic out. Here I feel like I'm working with both hands tied behind my back. So, in the meantime, I will write it all down. All the ideas, the fleshed out work, the incense that wants to be born, and when I'm in a place where I have room, both inside and outside of my head, I will work on it. On the up side, the farm shop is receiving soap orders, so that is the next big project. Just waiting on the scenting material, and then we'll get to it.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Cold Virus & Finishing Off Self-Combusting Incense

I caught a cold a few days ago from one of the wee gremlins I live with. It was a bad time for me to have that cold (work, work, and more work is calling), so I killed it off with mega doses of Vitamin C and zinc. Took two days to go from a stuffy head, watery eyes, brief bouts of feverishness, sore throat, cough, and general malaise to getting back to work. I can smell again! And sleep with my mouth closed! And wake up not feeling like I've swallowed glass shards! And did I say I can smell again?

It's raining buckets at the moment, I have a few minutes before I have to wake the wee one for school, and then it's out to the Farm to do a bit of bookwork and planning for the future. We've got fairs and gatherings to set up. More planting, though not today, and building up the farm to do.

The latest incense is slowly drying in the closet. I burned -- or tried to burn -- the test cone a few times and it wasn't good. I have to chalk that up to the fact that my nose was out of sorts with that virus, so I didn't get a good burn out of it. There's still a bit of it left and I'll try it again in a few days when all the congestion is cleared. And when I can find a lighter. All of mine have disappeared -- poof! -- and nobody seems to have the slightest notion where they may have gone. 

I recently opened a Kyphi course with the Natural Perfume Academy and we've already gotten people signed up and others waiting to begin. It's really exciting for me because as we go along, I plan to add videos of the process, class clips from real-world workshops, videos of burning incense, and maybe some video of sorting through resins, like frankincense and myrrh. Yeah, this is going to be a lot of fun.

Hi-ho, it's off to work I go!

Tuesday, February 07, 2017


Abarakku is the latest natural and botanical incense I've created. It's name means 'steward of the temple' in ancient Sumerian (Abyssinian?) -- anyway, some really old, dead language. This incense began as an homage to myrrh and rose petals, then morphed into something a bit louder with the addition of sandalwood and jasmine grandiflorum. Since I don't have a proper studio anymore, and it's been raining off and on for a few weeks, the incense needed a nice, warm place to dry, so I settled for a well-ventilated closet -- in my bedroom. I fall asleep to the scent of mystery. In a week or so, both the cones and the sticks created with the incense paste will be ready for sale.

Kyphi Making Course ~ Walking the Kyphi Path

The new Kyphi making course, Walking the Kyphi Path, is set up and will be ready for students in a few days at The Natural Perfume Academy. The price for the course is $59.88 USD (€56) and includes some history, step-by-step guided instructions, and solid information regarding the ingredients used in Kyphi making. Students can sign up any time they want and begin their journey. There's no end date, so it is entirely feasible a student may take anywhere from a month to a year to complete the journey. Because of this, anyone signing up for the course will remain in the course indefinitely. We hope to create an avid Kyphi-loving community as well so discussion of issues such as environmental impacts of over-harvesting, bans, and sanctions against the countries of our suppliers, and general discussion pertaining to the evolution of Kyphi will be encouraged. 

This course is highly recommended to students of natural perfumery and aromatherapy, as well as suppliers of the raw materials used in Kyphi making, and lovers and makers of incense.

Contact Ruth (administrator) at The Natural Perfume Academy ( to join us!

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Apothecary Farm

The work at the farm has begun with pruning. I began the prune on the apricot trees because apparently, they bloom out in February, and they were in dire need of some thinning. Now, mind you, I've never pruned a tree in my life, so I did what every modern human with a computer does, I YouTubed the process. In two hours I pruned something like eight trees? And I'm paying for it now. My arms are sore, my hands are killing me, and they're covered in pinch marks, scratches, scrapes, and scabs. But that is to be expected. I also planted some bulbs -- late, I know -- for next year. They may surprise me and pop up in a month or so anyway -- we'll have to wait and see. If so, the enfleurage class is a go.

There are two more rows of pit fruit trees to prune before that part of the work is done. In the meantime, we'll be preparing the shop for its official opening in mid- to late-February, and the "Grand Opening" on March 12th. Some of the crew at the farm are also going to be working on a class space for the farm classes, and a workshop to concoct all the butters, balms, and salves made from the medicinals grown on the farm. Plus we'll be distilling a lot of what grows there too. Like lavender, and white sage.

In addition to the medicinal plants grown on the farm, we're also putting in vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beets, maybe a few parsnips as well. Basically, we're going to grow a pantry and medicine cabinet out there.

The farm finally has an official name. The Apothecary Farm. It just makes sense.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


All that glitters might just be snow.

Every year for the past few years, we've taken a trip up to the mountains for one of the granddaughter's birthdays. We rent a cabin, make a big fire in the fireplace, and spend some time shoving kids down hills on sleds. This year was no different, with one exception -- there was significant snow up there this year. And then there was sleet, rain, soft powdery snow, and snow like little rocks. The power went out in the cabin, one of the two vehicles we took up had to be towed out, and a pretty big chunk of time went to digging things out of snow, like shovels, and cars, and drinks hidden in snow banks. One thing I love best about the snow, and particularly while it's actively snowing, is the quiet. There's nothing ever so peaceful as a world blanketed in snow, that is, unless you need to be somewhere. There was a moment, in the dark, when the soft yellow light from the cabin window shone down on the mound of snow on the back deck, that the snow glittered and sparkled, like tiny diamonds. It was great up there, and I didn't take a single picture.

I had hoped while up there I'd be able to do a bit of wild harvesting, but the depth of the snow was a huge deterrent, and the fact that I didn't have much in the way of snow gear. I was also a bit disheartened to see the wee cabin surrounded by dead pine trees, victims of both the drought and beetle blight. Enough trees are dead and brown up there that they will keep the local logging industry alive for at least another five or six years. And the landscape won't ever be the same, at least not in my lifetime.

The Plum Palace is coming along beautifully. Despite the strings of days of rain we've been having here lately, the foundation has been laid, and the walls of the ground floor put in. It's funny how the bare earth with trenches and plumbing poking out of the ground looks so small, and then when the foundation and walls have been put up, suddenly the square footage appears. We've picked out a dwarf manzanita to put in the front of the house because of it's showy spring flowers and deliciously maroon colored bark. The bark of the tree will match the color of the shutters on the Plum Palace.

Yesterday, I spent some time with the oldest grandchild. She's a dancer, an accomplished artist, a singer, actor, and she carries a 3.8 GPA and takes college courses while still a junior in high school. She's one little determined bundle of woman. Her art is fabulous, mostly drawings, but she's moving toward painting and hopes to work with watercolors. I've commissioned some art from her for the new house. Crows and still life drawings of things she finds interesting. I can't wait to see what she comes up with.

I haven't worked on the new incense in a couple of days, but I have been burning a lot lately. Right now I have some of my reserve stash of Amber Rose warming in the heater, and it smells amazing, if I do say so myself (and I do). The new incense, after allowing it to meld for a few days, smells of myrrh and roses. I like it, but I do plan to sweeten it up a bit with some sandalwood, and then it might be done and ready to form. Even though it's "just incense", it still needs time to mature, time to show the incenseur which direction it plans on moving toward. When this newest batch was first formulated, it leaned toward rose, and now it's leaning heavily toward myrrh. My intention is to get it done this week, but like I said, it needs time to reveal itself. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Dragon Tears

The next new incense stick/cone favors roses and sandalwood and myrrh. It is a work in progress and may morph in small ways over the next few days. It feels good to be back at work.

I've been burning a lot of incense lately. As I've said in the past, it's my Valium. Today I'm burning Dragon Tears from Mermade Magickal Arts, and it is amazing. The ingredients are dragon's blood resins and Omani frankincense, and the scent is out of this world. Neither dragon's blood nor frankincense, but an intoxicating blend of spicy hot temple incense. It speaks to the quality of the raw materials used, and the artful hand of the creator. Oddly enough, it reminds me of gourmet cayenne chocolate truffles! Sweet, spicy, chocolatey. Strangely beautiful. It requires low to medium heat on the electric incense burner, otherwise, it tends to go acrid and burnt smelling (as dragon's blood usually does).

Monday, January 16, 2017

Reopening the Etsy Shop

A few days back I reopened the Etsy shop with the few items I was able to find. I haven't a clue where the other shop boxes are at the moment, and it's really frustrating. My stock is nearly cut in half, which means only one thing. I'd better get cracking on new stuff.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Incense Box Exchange

Remember that? Back in September, I received a box full to the top with handmade incense from incenseurs around the world. I poked around in it a bit when it was first received, burned some lovely Kyphi from Australia, and then took it to the incense class on the 5th of November last year to share. Since then, it's been packed away in the shop stuff -- until last night. I'd forgotten how much there is in this box.

Dirty Violets by Lisa Woodward is a granular incense, not powdered, not formed, but loose and lumpy and interesting looking. From the tin, it smells agrestic, hay-like, rooty and sweet. Upon burning on an electric heater set to medium, it becomes more resinous and cedar-like, with sweet, tender, powdery notes of orris/violet.

This morning I pulled another tin from the bag of Lisa's goods and broke off a few pieces of Juniper Rose Kyphi and tucked them into the electric heater. The rose is very soft, in the mind's eye, it is pink and light, like a pillowy cloud. There's also a sweet, juicy fruit note with a hint of juniper. It reminds me of spring gardens. It's a lulling, narcotic kind of incense whose scent slowly envelopes the room. Very calming, very relaxing.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Bulbs & Incense & Fairs

Now that I'm back in the valley, mobile, and with a new perspective, I've decided to work a few crafts' fairs this year. Intermountain Nursery's annual Harvest Art's Festival is definitely one I'm heading to, only this time the wares will be a slight departure from what I've brought in the past. I'm only doing local shows and plan to hand out information about the farm (which still has no name) and shop (which does have a name -- Seasons of Spirit). We also plan on hosting a few craft fairs at the farm this year as well, probably one in the spring (March/April/May), and one in the fall (late October/November). If all goes well, this will be a busy year for the nameless farm, Seasons of Spirit, and The Scented Djinn.

Part of the farm plan was to plant bulbs, but I think it's too late now as the bulbs I have in my little grow bags have already begun to sprout! Next year's bulb crop at the farm will be fab. I'm not sure if planting fresh bulbs now will result in sprouted flowers this spring. The farm already has little bundles of jonquil popping up, and in one of my planters at the Atascadero house, the paperwhites were up in early November. I've got to get those bulb schedules down so there are things to enfleurage throughout the year.

I still haven't gone into the shop to work out those incense formulas that are dancing around in my head. It's either been too cold or too damp or too much babysitting getting in the way. Today, tomorrow, and most of Monday I will be blissfully alone, so I'm thinking later today I'll get to work out there. At least get some of the raw materials ground up. I'm really anxious to get some incense on sticks.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Farewell to Natural Isolates

I no longer use natural isolates. I experimented with them extensively, studied them, wrote about them, made a few perfumes and many, many accords with bits of natural isolates, I even advocated for them in my book Working the Bench II. But in the end, they're just not for me as a long-term solution to my constant exploration of natural perfumery.

Before I moved from the coast back to the valley, I had already made up my mind to give away all of my natural isolates, as well as a few weird things I received -- a couple of synthetic whoozits that I never used, and acetic acid, which I have no earthly idea what it could be used for. All that's left to do is ship them to their new, and perhaps by now, anxious owner.

I thought I'd feel a little bit of separation anxiety giving them away. I'm finding there's very little emotion involved. Not at all like how I might feel giving away an ounce of my own hand made hyacinth extract, or a bottle of 15-year-old Sri Lankan patchouli oil, or a bag of Indian sandalwood chips.

I don't want to use natural isolates anymore, partly because I could never really get a firm grasp on them, the wily buggers, and because I recently made an oath not to. I'm also committing to the use of more organic and home distilled oils, more handmade extracts from enfleurage, and just really digging back into naturals. Reigniting the flame, as it were.


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