Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Soaps and Goals

Sky ~ A Natural Handmade Soap ~ White Sage Soap

I've been on a soapmaking roll for a few weeks now, and I can't seem to stop. This is the latest soap ~ Sky ~ A Natural Handmade Soap made with the usual suspects (olive, coconut, shea) and scented with a just-distilled bucket of white sage hydrosol and a few milliliters of white sage essential oil. The actual soap is much whiter than the picture here depicts, which surprised the heck out of me since usually to get that level of whiteness in a bar of cold processed soap, one must use colorants. I did use colorants, but only blue.

I've been so busy with other projects here, like the balms and the distillation and the soap, that I've left myself very little time to work on incense, which is my favorite thing to do. In fact, I'm getting more requests for incense than anything else in the shop. I do have my skincare clients, though, so I'm trying to maintain a happy balance between hedonistic fragrance and useful skincare. Since I use the skincare I produce, I can't just drop it from the business -- not that I'm entertaining that idea. I went too many years trying to fit myself into a mold that didn't quite fit and I have no intention of changing what I'm doing now that I've finally got it all figured out. Or me. Got me  in relation to my business/art all figured out.

I want to expand the magical bits of my business as well as it plays such a large role in my day-to-day life. It's difficult not to have some sort of cross-over from useful to hedonistic to magical when it is the way you live. Incense and cartomancy are the bridges, and I'm working on expanding my cartomancy skills. I used to read Tarot all the time but got out of the habit when life (teenagers) got to be too soul consuming. I didn't look at the cards the way I should have back then as tools to help me through a rough patch. Instead, I saw the whole spiritual side of my life as an indulgence. Stupid, right? In the past couple of years, I've eased back into it, getting more into ritual, and not 'witchy' ritual; the ritual that keeps me moving forward, point A to point B type stuff, to keep things in balance as I am living in chaos. Ritual helps (both types) to keep me focused. I can see the benefit of ritual in my business these days. There are certain things I do pretty much every day in an effort to move things forward. In some cases, on some days, 'moving forward' means making money. As much as I hate that whole gotta hustle mentality, it's a must if what I've worked the last 20 years for is going to pan out. It IS panning out. It has panned out. It's just a matter of keeping things going. Historically, I've had a habit of letting pinnacles of success fall to bits because I was emotionally and physically drained. Instead of riding the wave of success and making efforts to go above previous levels of prosperity, I retreated to rest and ended up back where I started, beginning again. It isn't going to happen anymore. I'm not willing to allow personal stuff -- no matter how painful and disruptive -- to interfere with my long-term goals. Let's face it, I'm not getting any younger, and long-term is nearly here, so I must get cracking!

My youngest is a proponent of the 'ask the Universe and you shall receive' law of attraction blabidyblahblahblah (his terminology). I am not. I used to be until I understood what it really was. What is IS NOT is passive, and that's the way it has always been presented. Passive, like dropping to one's knees and praying to the dead gods for a miracle (though this does work in the rarest of cases). Asking the Universe is about solidifying the desire, putting it into your head, and then working on it. It may not seem like working toward a goal; to some, it may seem passive, because once that thought is in your head, you begin to 'attract' what you desire because you subconsciously follow the path toward your goal. Or something like that. I'm not subconsciously following a path, I'm fully awake and working on what I want every. Single. Day. I just hope that there's a little Universal magic in there to help me along, because what is life without a little magic?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

First Run of White Sage Hydrosol

The first run of the new community still was a partial failure -- partial in that I may have ruined the 'heads' (if they're called that in hydro/oil distillation) by boiling the pot too hot, and ending up with an initial two-quart jar of yellowish hydrosol with a nice layer of essential oil on top -- or that could just be a result of filling the pot too full. There is quite a learning curve here as I'm distilling higher volume at one time than I ever have before. A 2L copper stove top pot behaves nothing like a 30L steel pot. I caught some crap from a few old-time distillers of hydrosols who said my hydrosol wouldn't be good distilled in steel -- I beg to differ, though, as one of the very best distillers in the USA uses steel and her distillations are top drawer and highly sought after. I compensated not having a solid copper pot by inserting my freshly scrubbed 2L copper retort right into the pot of the steel still. Plus the column on the steel pot is solid copper. There's copper touching the end product at every turn!

Anyway, I am a little bit disappointed with some aspects of this first run, but I'm pleased with others. This is something I'm going to have practice using to work out all of the kinks.

Some of the yellowish oil-drenched heads of this distillation session went into a batch of soap in which only the hydrosol and 4 milliliters of freshly distilled white sage essential oil was used. It is out of this world fragrant, and frankly, making me a bit sick of smelling white sage! Upside? There isn't an evil spirit within a mile of this house ~ ha! Downside? It does nothing to repel the nosy people living in this house from offering their unwarranted and unwanted opinions pertaining to the art of distillation. As if watching Moonshiners twice has made them an expert in the field of hydrosol distillation.

The soap is pretty. I used more of that luscious mica -- blue this time -- to color the soap, and I'm calling it Sky. Something about white sage that really opens things up. It makes one feel relaxed, as if pressure has been lifted, and it has an airiness to it. Some of its chemical constituents include 1,8-cineole, camphor, B-pinene, a-pinene, some weird symbol-carene, camphene, limonene, myrcene, terpinolene, and borneol. It's the cineole that's responsible for alleviating symptoms of asthma and other respiratory things, like coughing and mucus build-up. Bleh. The oil displays some anti-inflammatory action, so I'm thinking maybe using some oil in a chest rub? The soap should do well for folks with breathing problems, especially during the flu season. A nice steamy shower and a bar of stinky white sage soap? Could be the beginning of a nice day.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Six Soaps

Just finished up a new batch of sea green kelp and aloe vera soap with bergamot petitgrain, peppermint, and lemon.


Soap News

After receiving a shipment of natural soap pigments from the soap making supply store, I started up a batch of soap in pretty molds. The soap making supply company included a half ounce sample of pumpkin maple fragrance oil in the package, so I used it. In the pretty molded soap. I also used a little bit of lavender pigment. These are giveaway soaps; practice soaps to see how the color works since I've never used these type of colorants before. I learned something, so it was worth it, and I have 10 really pretty molded lilac and purple pumpkin maple scented soaps to give to the kids. I know. The scent and the color don't exactly jibe, but again, it was experimental and I figured something out about the colorant I didn't know before, so . . .

I'm anxious to begin the butters and balms this season, however, a check of the weather for the next 10 days has set the production back. It's supposed to be 102F this weekend, not conducive to butter making AT ALL. Balms can withstand temps that high, and there are a few of those on the list -- mostly perfumed balms rather than the recent medicinal balms I've been making lately. So the soap production will probably continue for a few more weeks before I realize I'm flush with soap for the season.

Right now in the Etsy shop there are five soaps ~ Mystic Marigold, LEAF Natural Soap, Double Butter Rosemary, Root Natural Handmade Soap, and Petal Natural Handmade Soap. Of these, Root, Petal, Double Butter Rosemary, and Mystic Marigold are my favs. Leaf leaves me -- meh. I think it's because it is a hot process soap and the texture throws me off. I was excited to be making hot process soap when I began to work with them, but I just can't get past the way it feels. Plus it can be a little bit drying. I think I'll stick with cold process from here on out. It suits my slow, ass-dragging, procrastinating personality. Of my favorites, oddly enough, Petal is my favorite. Yes, me, the ylang-ylang hating perfumer loves the way Petal, ylang-ylang rich, smells mixed with marigold and cedarwood and patchouli and whatnot. It smells so nice, in fact, that I can't stop sniffing the bars.

Double Butter Rosemary

Root

Petal

Mystic Marigold

LEAF

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Bug Begins School

I can always tell based on the lack of attention (sounds all me-me-me, doesn't it?) the Etsy shop receives when a 'holi-day' or another far-reaching event is occurring. Recently, sales have slumped, views on the site have dipped, and before I remembered it's BACK TO SCHOOL season, I thought, once again, I had lost my mojo. I remember this now. There's nothing else like it. The mad scramble to get the t's crossed and the i's dotted, the digging from the family archives immunization cards and birth certificates, the scurry and rush and fake sales blanketed in ads professing time is running out, hurry and buy these jeans or whathaveyou's before they're all gone and we pretend they will become more expensive. It's all must-have backpacks and markers and pens and pencils -- and back to school night where you and your children get to meet their teacher for the first time, where a list of have-to-buy's are provided (one year a request for spare underwear was on the list), and you begin to see the fear and excitement in your child's eyes when they realize this is really real.

Bug starts school next Monday. Tonight is back to school night and Bug's mum is on the verge of tears because of it. Her wee Bug is going to school. In conversations over the past few weeks, Bug has indicated the extent of her knowledge about school seems to be focused on dress code. Every time I'd hold up clothes at the store for her to approve, she'd simply say, "There's a dress code," without actually stating what that meant. She doesn't know what codes are outlined within the mysterious dress code, she just knows that they exist. Aside from that, she seems completely ambivalent to the fact that she's going to go to school from now on, five days a week, week after week, until holidays and summer vacation release her from the drudgery. She's not excited; she's not sad. She's just accepting. Gotta go. And there's a dress code.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Incense & Soap

Thurifera on the barbie

Every morning I burn frankincense. It begins moments after I roll out of bed, between setting up the percolator and flipping on the computer. One day there will be sacra burning, the next a thurifera. Of the sacras there is often a rotation of green first, then white, then red (Nar). On days when the stress promises to bust down the door, the elongota joins the sacra. My nose is just beginning to discern differences between these frankincense resins when burning. What makes it difficult is that the current stress level is really up there -- like stratospherically up there, and that makes it hard to concentrate on the nuance of scent. There are many factors contributing to the stress, all of which are mostly out of my control. However, I do what I can do in the form of burning incense to reduce the stress so that peaceful and encouraging thoughts can manifest. Working helps a lot too. Keeping myself immersed in the building of beautiful scented things at least occupies my mind enough that I can breathe. The past 18 months has been hell in terms of stress. I've discovered lately that I unintentionally hold my breath when I'm stressed, which results in more stress, and exhaustion, and light-headedness, and brain fog. I also discovered that when I'm this stressed out, I don't move much, as if moving will draw attention to my worries and will result in the worries becoming a reality. It's nuts, I know. Today I'm getting out. There are some errands to run, but there's also some resin to hunt down. I think I will weather the strange looks and nosy behavior of the camp manager who stalks the day use area at the campground up the road. The last time I went up there to gather resin, this guy asked three times if I wanted to rent a camp space while I was clearly parked in the day use area next to the toilets enjoying the outdoors. I'm going to assume the reason he acted the way he did is because the campground is close to town (I live in a semi-rural area) and easily accessible to people going in and out of the campground for nefarious purposes. Even this scenario, this hunting for resin, brings its own forms of stress! 

 








 Yesterday was a fairly productive day. I kneaded the new Kyphi dough and spread it out to dry more. I made bread. And a batch of soap. 

New soap: Root, y'know, to go with Leaf, soon to be (possibly) joined by Fruit, Petal, Resin, Seed, and Wood. Who knows? This may be as far as this theme goes. Root is made with some of my favorite essential oils -- vetyver, patchouli, cedarwood, mushroom, choya.

I recently ordered soap colorants -- natural soap colorants -- to jazz up the soap. I have this peacock color scheme going on in my head that I'd like to add to a sweet and refreshing soap. I make nice soap, but let's face it, they aren't always aesthetically appealing and a good many people (all people?) go for the look of a thing before they fall for the scent.

Monday, August 15, 2016

New Electric Incense Burner

I'm burning resins and compounded incense. I'm blissed out. More later.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

New Lotus Kyphi

A few years back I presented a Pink Lotus Kyphi to the world and it was gobbled up like plum pudding at Christmas. In September I will be presenting a new lotus Kyphi, this time in blue. This new Kyphi includes blue lotus petals and blue lotus resin, neither of which carries much impact olfactorily, but packs quite the psychoactive punch. This is meant to be an oracle's incense, something burned before spreading the Tarot or scrying or reading the bones. Or if they just want to take a nice nap. So far it's smelling pretty good too. There is a fair amount of turmeric and saffron in this Kyphi, lots of frankincense Serrata and a handful of Thurifera. 


The landscape of Kyphi is almost always the same no matter what it contains. One batch of Kyphi 'glue' looks much like another and doesn't become itself, an individual, until it is finished. This one will, I believe, sport a lovely bright yellow skin when done. Pink Lotus Kyphi was dark burgundy when done, and Red Kyphi was the color of brick. New lotus Kyphi will be yellow-brown with strands of orange and flecks of red.

 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Incense Dreams

So I'm organizing the shelves in the new studio space with the addition of some nifty dollar store baskets to separate the incense and perfumery goods when 'lo and behold I find two full jars of Lavender Kyphi Supreme tucked back on a top shelf in the HP closet. Two. Full. Jars. Two. And now that they're two plus years old and well 'fermented', they smell out of this world amazing. So amazing, in fact, that a few pieces are going on the burner to honor the goddess. The melty piece of Nar I placed on the burner earlier this morning will have to scooch over to make room for this gorgeous LKS incense. I've been religiously (see that? I wrote 'religiously') burning the frankincense resins every morning first thing, before coffee is made, before the computer is fired up, and before packages are prepared, and I feel a shift of sorts, a euphoria. It could be nothing other than the physiological effect of smelling frankincense, but I feel like my day is brighter and less stressful when I do.
Lavender Kyphi Supreme c. 2014 ~ now in the shop!

All night last night I dreamed of incense. Pastilles and Kyphi and sticks and beautiful cones. One after another, I worked those incense batches throughout the night (dream) and lamented the late arrival of that electric incense burner. I woke to the thought that in this case, my practice of determined patience was hokum. Instant gratification is what I want! Deliver that stinkin' burner already, mail person, I got some ritual stuff to do!

The incense dreams were strange. I haven't had dreams of work like that in years. I usually have those kinds of dreams when I start a new j-o-b where I'm freaking out over procedure and whether I'm doing the work correctly, and if my boss likes me. I've rarely experienced dreams of this urgency relating to my business. Back when I first began making soap in the 90's I'd have soap dreams, but they weren't like these incense dreams. The soap dreams were about cutting soap or finding neat molds. The incense dreams last night were frenetic, steeped in urgency  -- I dreamt of formulations and getting angry that the ideas I was coming up with were old and tired; I dreamt of rolling out incense in a big shop where bags of raw materials were laying all around.  I dreamt of huge burlap bags of frankincense from all over the world -- rare stuff like the hard-to-find Socotra types; the red and the green and the bone white sacras, and myrrh sweet as sugar. The whole time I was dreaming in incense, it felt busy. Like there was a deadline. Perhaps it was a subconscious nudge (smack in the face, more like it) to get back to work finishing what I've started in the studio.  It was agitating and inspiring.

Back to the grind (literally).


Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Steel Still & Resins

I bought an electric incense burner. It's hard to believe that I don't have one, right? I've put it off because there were more exciting things to buy, like resins, and containers, and paper wrapping, and food. The necessities of life. Ha! I don't have it in my hands yet, but I will take pictures and report on its handiness once I get it.

I've been a bit antsy all day -- actually, since yesterday when I was blocked from the studio by my youngest son and his posse of miscreant friends who use the garage as a hookah and vape den. I have a mental list of incenses I want to work on, plus the two that are sitting in the studio waiting to be finished, and I can't get in there because the work needs quiet and the room isn't quiet at all. It's loud with guffaws and Pokemon Go, D and D talk, and Japanese anime fantasies. I literally hear them talking about katanas and dragons and wonder how old these people are because they look like adults but talk like 12-year-olds. Anyway, the point is, I can't get in there to work and I want to hit something, like a chunk of resin with a pestle.

I worked on some homemade charcoal to burn incense resin on and found that the recipe makes a crumbly, useless block. They won't catch fire and when they do they sputter and spit and instantly go out. I bought a huge box of coconut husk-based charcoals the other day and I'm bothered that they need to be re-lit often before they get a good burn going. Which is the reason I broke down and bought the electric incense burner. My daily frankincense ritual depends on this new burner. This morning I found that my stress level rose to a dangerous level when I couldn't keep the charcoal burning. I snapped at the dog, who looked at me confused, and then ran from the room. I never snap at the dog. He's hiding from me now and I feel like a schmuck. Even the cat who likes to tangle with my legs caught my ire when I yelled at him, "No! I don't have any chicken!" as he chirped pathetically. He's a chicken fiend and any opportunity to get chicken, he's johnny on the spot. There was no chicken to be had, and I sounded like a lunatic screaming at a begging cat.

Packages arrived today. The nifty steel still arrived, as did a few ounces of lovely raw resins. The still needs assembly and extra parts; tubing and clamps and some sort of water circulation set-up. I'm hoping to get the first distillation going the weekend after next. White sage is first as it's available.

I am looking forward to working in the studio. I've got a customer who claims to want to buy a 'Costco sized' portion of Himaya incense. I don't want to be the Costco of incense, but I do want to make my clients happy.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Himaya ~ A Natural Incense

The newest incense batches have been receiving rave reviews, even the ones I thought were over the top weird or off the wall strange have been getting just crazy grade A comments. One of my clients (we'll call him Mr. M.) writes the most fantastical vignettes as reviews for the incense, which I find amusing and wonderful -- it makes me feel giddy to read the reviews because I know that A, they're all in good fun, and B, my creations inspired this burst of word dessert.

On Himaya, he writes: "A skilled swordsman, and defender of your master's Daimyo; while on duty, you're confronted by a beautiful Ninja wielding a Tanto. Drunk from having too much Saki earlier, she evades your Katana, cuts your Achille's tendon, and you fall to the ground. Ready to slip her slender knife between your ribs, she leans over you… you catch a scent of her wet hair which smells like rain, and the woods, and sweet herbs; a scent of beauty and mystery that would transport your spirit to the gods, which is where you’ll be going shortly when she slides her knife into your heart. What…??? What is that heavenly scent in the hair of our mysterious Ninja-Assassin Girl? Why it’s Himaya of course, and you can experience it’s unearthly mystery and beauty without having to die a brutal death; right here at the Scented Djinn." 

Isn't it fabulous?

And here he writes on Tents of Kedar: "This is the scent when that sexy damsel in distress comes into your detective office on a dark, rainy night. She's dressed in black; dark and mysterious... but look out! She has a derringer tucked away in her garter! She glides slowly across the old oak floor, smooth like a snake. You're captivated by her movements; she's provocative, and yet... a little dangerous. She sits in an old leather chair by the fireplace, and shakes the water out of her hair; what's that scent? Our mysterious damsel-of-danger smells like... the Tents of Kedar (of course)."

On Thracian Rose, another client writes: "I've been using all natural incense ritually for over 30 years: and this is THE BEST quality I have ever come across."

And more write: "This is spectacular! Wow, she's using some super quality oils/resins/woods. Scented Djinn is rocketing to the top of my favorite incense makers. I like the touch of rose, it gives it a little something extra. Nice!" 

"I collect resins and absolutes and oils. I thought my library was complete. But this incense is a revelation. Camphor? No idea it was this unusual and pleasant. The tiny bottle and seal, all just perfectly addressed." 

And these are just the ones I've received officially as reviews. Many others came as personal notes and a few came over the phone. To say I'm surprised by all of this incense attention would be putting it mildly. I'm stunned, really.  


On another creative front, the skin care line is receiving some good attention as well (I just knocked on wood over here) -- the Frankincense Vinaigre is also getting raves. I've got two clients who claim their persistent acne is beginning to clear up, while another just likes how it makes her skin feel silky and smooth after she uses it. I use it every few days or so and I feel a difference almost immediately. My skin just feels refreshed and clean. 


The Bee & Boswellia was credited with helping to clear up a nasty rash, while the frankincense infused oil supposedly made some crepey skin issues disappear. I'm not saying these products actually did those things, but I can attest that they are made with top quality and handspun ingredients (when possible). I am already receiving requests to make another batch of handspun organic apple cider vinegar to infuse more lovely things into. 

Today I'm expecting shipments of extraordinary things. A large-ish steel and copper distillation unit is scheduled for delivery today, and a kilo or two of lovely frankincense resins -- reds and golds and greens and sacred. Plus later in the week another larger shipment of sacra is due at the studio. I'm beginning to feed my frankincense obsession with more frankincense. I'm not sure this is healthy ~ ha ha! Oh, but it feels so good. I've begun a ritual drawn from the Egyptians of four-thousand-years ago of burning frankincense (my favorite at the moment is Socotra's delicious and rare elongota), a powder blend in the afternoon (right now it is Jannia, who I am very deeply fond of), and in the evenings I burn something sexy and sweet, something ambery and floral, like Amber Rose or something else I've worked out. But the morning always begins with frankincense. Frankincense is my Prozac. It's my Xanax, and my Lithium -- it's my St. John's Wort and Valerian Root all mixed into one wee gummy resin ball. It calms my jittery nerves and anxiety like nothing else I've ever used (with the exception of the brief few months years and years ago that I used Serax to allay panic attacks). It's made a world of difference in the day-to-day, and may even be responsible for the burst of creative energy that is contributing to the near daily grind of new incense. 

I know this sounds like one long drawn out advertisement for my wares, but I assure you, it isn't. Or maybe it is, but only a little. The point is, I'm surprised by the reactions of my clientele. Stunned, surprised, and very pleased. It finally feels like I've gotten a toe hold here and I'm ready to move to the next big adventure.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Quibbles 'n Bits

False stats again. This has been going on for almost three months now with some type of bot using Macs to boost views on this blog -- views which are not reflected anywhere else, such as where a view came from (like google or another website or a link somewhere), so while my stats say I've had 567 views in a day, I've only really had 20. I won't be posting anymore stat milestones as they're all fake. I'm nearing 300,000 and the past 30,000 'hits' are bots. I've done what I can to stop it, but it appears that it can't be stopped until whoever controls the bots decides to pull them off this blog's circuit. Why am I telling you this? Because it frustrates the crap out of me! It throws off all my stats which help me to determine what YOU want to read about here. I have to do a lot more research and calculations in this area, and I've got better things to do with my time than to poke through analytics and try to figure out what that crap's about.

Like, teach myself how to make my own non-toxic charcoal disks for burning incense. I really don't like burning incense on charcoal, but I'm late to the party in discovering that RESINS burn beautifully on charcoal, and should be burned on charcoal. Compounded incense is best burned on heaters and over indirect heat. So. I'm working on some charcoal recipes to create my own since lately, I've been running through rolls of charcoal at the rate of about two per week -- two rolls. Yeah, I burn a lot of resin. I also have a good source for organic bamboo charcoal powder, so . . . .

As if I don't already have enough to do, right?

I'm heading back to Fresno again. Saturday is one of the grand's birthday and there's a luau involved, so swimming, hula-ing, bounce houseing, and water sliding commenseth. Oh, and grub. The menu is a Hawaiian-Asian fusion of sweet and savory pork, Laotian style fried chicken, egg rolls, pineapple salad, mango slaw, and sticky rice with jeow.  That just made me hungry.

One more thing -- I've been super stressed out lately because of, well, the world! Politics are literally making me sick. I've got friends and family from all sides of this presidential election, and I'm just sick of the nastiness that comes out of it all. I had to block some websites on my Facebook page so when friends or relatives share posts from those hateful sites, I don't have to see them. It's okay once in a while, like, maybe one nasty political post for every 10 in my feed, but, oh, no! It's flipped the other way with 10 nasty political posts and one or two normal, non-violent, artsy, loving, sharing, caring, informational, and educational post. Day in, day out, the hate just keeps rolling on. Sh*t's going down on the family front too, which isn't helping. Business is good, so there is that. Why can't it all be good at once? Even for just a few days? Maybe a change in perspective is in order.

I'm going to go grind some sandalwood for that lotus Kyphi. I'm done with this ca-ca.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Happy 20th Soap Making Anniversary to Me!

When I returned home from teaching the soap class last Saturday, I had 7 orders waiting for me to fill. It seems like that always happens. I'll be home for days on end without a single order, then the moment I leave, boom! I get bombarded. I come home exhausted and the exhaustion continues as I wrap and package and seal and post all the goodies to the far corners. I'm grateful, don't get me wrong, but it's tiring to work outside of the home and then come home to more work. This repeated experience has kind of turned me off of getting a 'real' job. I've done this before, the real job and the dream job at the same time and the dream job suffered immensely due to lack of attention. I'm lucky that now the dream job has somewhat bridged the gap and become the real job. So I guess I should probably stop complaining about it, huh?

I ordered the 8-gallon steel distillation unit yesterday and they've already shipped it. I initially thought I was getting a 10-gallon, but I mixed up the information a bit -- the copper unit was a 10-gallon, but I opted out of that because it required welding and whatnot and I'm not equipped. Maybe I'll get the copper next time, when I expand the distillation part of the business. I also had a heating element added to the unit, but I might not use it all the time. There are some really great stand-up propane burners meant for outdoor cooking that would work perfectly and be less of a pain in the butt what with temperature controllers being required on the heating element -- controllers that are not included in the package but that I have to somehow track down and make work. I'm actually half-owner of the new unit with my long-time sister-friend, Shannon, who grows these stunning rows of white sage, musk sage, and sometimes lavender. We're intent on getting that sage distilled, and then maybe later in the year planting some bulbs -- tuberose and hyacinth -- for enfleurage/pommade/extraction purposes, and maybe some hydrosol. We're also looking at distilling some conifers and maybe some citrus blossoms. Our goal is for hydrosol mostly and essential oil if possible. Oh, and I'm working on getting some distillations of frankincense going -- papyrifera, sacra, and maybe some super rare, super expensive stuff from Socotra; distilled for hydrosol, some oil, and then using the washed resin (sans gum now) for medicinal purposes since the boswellic acid doesn't wash away with the water/distillation process. Basically distillation purifies the resin so that the gum washes away into the hydrosol/oil and leaves the pure resin, which is much easier to work with and contains all the medicinal properties people are looking for. So literally nothing will go to waste with a frankincense distillation. Hopefully I won't blow the still this time as I've done nearly every time in the past when I put frankincense into the pot. The new still will also help with the blossoming spagyrics experiments I'm planning on conducting over the next few months. Wish me luck as I may have just begun a new and potentially bumpy roller-coaster ride obsession.

I've also made an executive decision to create just one perfume a year. One well-worked-out and (hopefully) gorgeous perfume per 12 months as I find when trying to put out too many (unless inspiration hits, directs, demands, and forces something to life) that the work suffers overall. I'm not being lazy, promise. Perfume creation takes so much concentration and mental (sometimes emotional) effort that killing myself year after year with three or four new and mediocre perfumes just isn't worth it. I want the time and expense of creating perfume to actually produce something worthy. Not that my former works haven't been good -- just rushed, maybe, and perhaps not finessed enough, or perhaps I'm just being super hard on myself, as usual, and now I should just shut up about it.

Over the past few months I've been inspired by natural medicinals like balms and ointments and liniments. This takes me way back to the beginning of my journey here with herbal infusions and smelly things, when the focus was more on results than hedonism. I think I'm coming to a balancing point in this gig where I'm combining these elements to create good medicine with good scent.

And one more thing, I realized at the soap class as I was introducing myself that I've been making soap for 20 years, since July of 1996, when I made my first beef tallow and lavender soap. Twenty years. Wow. It seems like yesterday that I filled the house with the rancid stench of boiling bovine kidney fat and enjoyed the texture of a fully cured and curled, semi-beige, hard-as-a-rock bar of cow fat and lavender soap.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

All In A Weekend's Work



The Prather/Intermountain Nursery soap class was good. Very good. It began early and ended a bit earlier than normal because the heat was already beginning to make me and a few of the attendees uncomfortable. By the time the class was over at just before noon, it was already 95 degrees, pretty hot for Prather, CA. Even though the class time was cut short, nothing was missed. The students were attentive and asked a lot of questions -- just the kind of class I like. Questions beget answers which beget more explanation, like a chain of information that goes on and on. The soap we made set perfectly due to the insane heat. I just popped the un-set stuff into the trunk of the car and that was as good as putting it in a warm oven, only hotter. Much hotter. After the class, my 'assistant', Shannon, and I drove up into the higher elevations since we were already halfway there. It was gorgeous. Both lakes Shaver and Huntington were full to brimming and blue as the mid-day sky. And it was cool up there -- a balmy 83 with a soft breeze compared to the 110 in the valley. We drove around up there a bit, then came back down, and literally 15 to 20 minutes after we drove out of Prather, the place caught fire! No kidding. They're calling it the Goose fire and as yet no one knows how it started, but it's burned several homes displacing a lot of people and has sent livestock and pets wandering through the hills. Sunday evening as the sun was setting, I could still see the heavy smoke burning through the hills. Between the fires down south near LA, the Big Sur fire, this new Prather fire, and the dozens of other fires burning the length and breadth of the state, it seems that California is burning to ash.

I stayed in Sanger for a few days to harvest white sage and sweetgrass. These are some of the goodies we made:

Three white sage; four sweetgrass

This white sage was bound with rose geranium

White sage bundles

Other things we harvested were:

Loose leaf white sage



St. John's Wort


Evening Primrose

Mullein seed head

Seeded yarrow

Friday, July 29, 2016

Soap Making Workshop at Prather's Intermountain Nursery

Off to Fresno in an hour or so to set up for the soap class tomorrow in Prather. My only fear is that I forget a vital tool in the making of said soap, like the lye, or the molds. Other than that, I'm completely calm about the workshop, even a little excited. I'll be fine. Snoop Dogg told me so in a dream last night. Yeah. It figures that my spirit guide looks, acts, and speaks like Snoop Dogg. Every night before bed, I ask the Universe for answers to questions and the Universe answers via Mr. D-O-double G. My mind is a strange and wild place to live.

We'll be re-creating the Mystic Marigold soap at the soap class. I really like that one. Marigold has been one of my favorite scents since forever. One of my goals is to grow a row of marigolds or tagetes and harvest them for enfleurage. I think a marigold pommade would be beautiful and could be used in any number of ways, as a hair treatment, or folded into a perfume solid or a body balm or butter. Patchouli would make a nice addition to a marigold pommade.

I'm going to take extra soap making materials, including a few single soap molds, to make more soap later after the workshop, and perhaps the day after while hanging out with friends. It's soap season and I can feel it creeping up on me. I'm thinking a nice cineole-type rosemary soap with freshly harvested rosemary herb tips and then perhaps a palmarosa and patchouli with some rose geranium leaf and lemon peel. It's feeling kind of herby in the soap department, isn't it? I'm also thinking that making a straight patchouli soap might be a good idea, since, ya know, I found all those bottles of half-used and unused variations of patchouli oil.

I have an idea about ramping up production of Kyphi incense -- I'll have to run it past a few people to see if it's do-able and if so, there will be Kyphi production workshops going possibly every other weekend in September and October, as well as other types of incense training. There has also been some interest in the valley for the training of stick incense making, so that could be going into major production as well.

Blurry picture of Amber Rose Compounded Incense Resin

Slightly blurry picture of Himaya stick incense

Kyphi sticks that don't burn properly

A berry cake just to make you hungry



Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Mystic Marigold Soap

Lyll and I made a beautiful marigold inspired soap -- she wants to call it marry gold so it can be a wedding soap -- that is chock full of turmeric powder, to the point that it is a delicious red-orange color. We made a soap scent formulation using lots of tagetes oil, spikenard, patchouli, and atlas cedarwood. It's the soap I will be giving the soap class students as we carry on and make another identical batch for the apothecary. I'm absolutely in love with tagetes and marigold scents, always have been since I was a kid and we used marigolds as bug repellent in our vegetable gardens. To me, marigold represents slow summer days and warm breezy nights with its sunny spicy scent filling the air. Very comforting and yet another herald of the coming fall.

I had hoped to get to the valley a couple of days in advance of the soap class in Prather, but plans changed when the kids showed up for a mini-vacation. Despite the full house and chaos that comes with it, I've managed to get work going on another body incense with tuberose as the featured scent. It's still in the works and I hope to have it finished in a week or so. More soap is on the roster as well as this last batch made with Lyll turned out to be such a fun project that I'm actually looking forward to busting out the soap molds and strange scents. I got my wee pointy fingers on some lovely raw shea butter that I can't wait to use in soap and skin care for the fall and winter months. Lots of delicious skin goodies on the way. And another perfume is turning over in my mind -- something in line with Atay and Kush Bakhur -- an exotic and lush scent.

This camera doesn't pick up the bright oranges and reds that this soap displays


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