Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Bountiful Boswellia & Honey

The Labor Day weekend was fairly productive. I initially went back to the valley to be 'there' for a family member during a rough spell but had the foresight to bring the distillation unit in case the  co-owner of the still wanted to check it out.  I ended up distilling the two kilos of boswellia sacra I brought along, y'know, just in case. Out of those two kilos we received just over an ounce of frankincense oil per pound of resin, which wasn't the goal -- we were going for the hydrosol -- but we'll take it! Nothing goes to waste here with a frankincense distillation. Once the distilling part is over there are two potentially useful products to 'harvest' which some folks just toss -- first is the leftover resin, which by now is actually just resin as the gum has been distilled out. The resin is where all that beautifully healing boswellic acid resides. This by-product (ha!) can now be easily crushed and melted into oil for skin balms, or for the more adventurous, crushed and encapsulated for internal use. It is incredibly healing and should never, ever be thrown out. Second is the soupy cloud-water left in the still. This too can be incorporated into skincare, like soap, or as the water portion of a lotion, or straight as it is -- a sterile face wash. Almost nothing from this distillation went to waste except for the soupy water. I had already (foolishly) thrust my hand into the cooled pot to retrieve the resin before I remembered I wanted to save that water! Ah! Next time. 
This distillation unit has an internal heating element, a coil like thingey that is inserted into the bottom side of the pot -- you can just see it there in the photo above with the electric cord sticking out -- and the problem with that is it takes a while to heat up the entire pot of water, more so than, say, a propane flame. It takes at least an hour for the pot to go from less than 100F to 212F (boiling point). Once the hydro/oil start flowing, I have to shut the heat off for a period of time, then turn it back on (no thermostat controller as yet) so that it isn't running at a constant high heat. That's good for oil production, not so great for hydrosol. With each batch (so far just two) I'm learning something new about this unit, and what I can do to help it produce some premium product. I hope to be distilling throughout the fall and winter at least once, maybe twice a week, depending upon the availability of raw materials. I'm considering getting in touch with an arborist or tree cutting service here locally for when they're employed to cut down conifers and see if they will allow me a few bags of wood and needles. Also, in the valley, there are a number of organic growers who might allow us to use some of their branches and leaves of citrus when they trim the groves. It's a matter of contacting them and setting things up.

I also received a half a frame of beeswax and honey that I brought home and processed last night. I was hoping to get more beeswax than I did, perhaps an ounce (I haven't weighed it yet), but I did end up with a ton of luscious white sage and wildflower honey. The wax will be used for balms, the cappings for incense, and the honey -- well, the honey's going in my belly!

I'm a grateful woman for this bounty. Truly.

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