Thursday, April 27, 2017

Repost Vintage & Antique Oil Collecting ~ From the LPR Blog

Vintage & Antique Oil Collecting ~ Repost from LPR Blog

Acquiring vintage and antique raw materials for perfumery is often just a one-click bid away. Many Natural Botanical Perfumers spend a great deal of time and money obtaining rare vintage and antique raw materials through sources such as Ebay, through private collections, at flea markets, auctions and estate sales, and less often at garage and yard sales. A great deal of these vintage and antique bottles sold on Ebay are acquired by the seller through auctions of lots of materials from old turn-of-the-century pharmacies.

The demand for vintage oil collecting has increased as the number of Natural Botanical Perfumers has increased, and bidding for the most rare oils can be extremely competitive. Horror stories pop up on occasion about unethical collectors and sellers making surreptitious deals, bargaining off individual bottles from auction lots without the current bidders of the items being aware. Only when the parcel arrives does the bidder realize that they have been ripped off. One such story in circulation relates this very situation. Several years ago a cooperative of buyers won a large lot of vintage and antique oils for which they paid a premium price, with one oil in the lot of particular interest -- the single bottle of oil for which the cooperative was formed and the reason bidding went so high. When their parcel arrived, the rare bottle was missing, and after a short investigation, it was discovered in the collection of another NBP. In these cases there is often little recourse. Buyer, or rather bidder, beware!

There are also stories of happy fortune as well, as one perfumer recounts her experience with purchasing a lot of antique oils for which she paid a very reasonable price. Excited about the prospect of receiving the oils, her joy was amplified when she discovered a nearly full one ounce bottle of vintage sandalwood tucked in the parcel, a freebie the seller slipped in, clearly unaware of its value. When conducting a search of vintage and antique oils, a few of the more popular perfumery and essential oil manufacturers and suppliers names to look for are: Fritzsche Brothers, Dodge & Olcott, Magnus, Maybee & Reynard, Givaudan

Less popular are:Field & Company (Aromatics) Archer-Daniels Midland Co., Ltd.,
Plaimar Limited, Schimmel, W.J. Bush &Co., Ltd., Antoine Chiris Ltd., Mallagh &Co., C.W. Field Ltd., Payan & Bertrand, Robertet, Albert & Laloue Camilli, Charabot & Co., C.A. Charpentier, Bruno Court, Pierre Dhumez, Flora Aromatics Co., Ltd., W.H. Hobbs & Co., Ltd., Lautier Fils, Ltd., Victor Mane Fils, Old Strand Chemical & Drug Co., A.W. Munns & Co., Natural & Synthetic Perfumery Essence Company, Stanley Nicholas & Co., Roure Bertrand Fils, P. Samuelson & Co., Schmoller & Bompard, Tombarel Freres, Alfred Paul White,Wilson & Mansfield, Ltd.

Why would anyone wish to collect old oils? Because without a scent history, without a tangible piece of our Natural Botanical Perfume past, we have few points of reference. As important and helpful as Steffan Arctander's book "Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin" is, it is not a replacement for physically smelling a 65-year-old Mysore sandalwood, or a perfectly preserved 40-year-old cassia. Most perfumers who collect these old oils don't use them in formulation. They save the contents in a scent library or in a focused personal museum collection as a form of preservation.

Some perfumers decant the contents into a more appropriate and safe bottle, send a few samples off to friends, and display the empty bottle as a museum piece. Though in rare instances, as with oils of resins, woods, grasses, and patchouli, using these old oils in perfume formulation is an exhilarating experience, and can also be a selling point in marketing a perfume.

Anyone can collect rare and vintage oils. There isn't a trick to it, just a matter of research, investigation and investment.Happy Hunting.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Aged Oils

I was just inspired to write about aged oils as they seem to be a topic natural perfumers can be quite excited about. For example, hundreds of vintage and antique oils have been sold on Ebay over the past 15 years with natural perfumers in the forefront as buyers. Aged sandalwood, aged vetiver, aged patchouli, aged rose -- all of these are highly sought after by the natural perfumer who seeks to bolster his or her library with these oils which hearken back to a day when everything was better -- right? Maybe not. Well, I don't know for sure, I wasn't there, but the oils may have been, so let's let them do the talking.

A few years ago I was 'gifted' a full 1 oz bottle of vintage sandalwood oil when I bought a lot of vintage oils from Ebay. Why the seller thought giving away such a valuable commodity was a good idea, I will never know, but I am forever grateful. It was good stuff and I couldn't help myself but to use it, all of it, in a matter of a couple years. All trace of this rare gem are long gone as I sold off most of my vintage bottle collection three years ago to pay an old debt, and that empty sandalwood bottle went too. I still have a few bottles of oldies but goodies, but I have to admit, a few aren't so good anymore, which lays to rest the idea that these old oils never go bad. All oils will go bad -- eventually. If kept cool, in the dark, and as air-free as possible, most oils will survive a little while after their sell-by date. That one-ounce bottle of sandalwood must have been buried deep, and the fact that it had never been opened proved it had very little contact with oxygen. Which is why it was so flippin' good.

I still have in my collection a bottle of vintage sandalwood oil that is gooey and resinous and stinks like sandalwood dancing in a jar of dill pickles. This would be an example of how not to store essential oils. And its existence proves that ALL vintage oils do not improve with age. There's a 50-year-old bottle of patchouli oil in my collection, a one-ounce bottle about 3/4ths full, that is nothing to sing about. It's okay, but not like a smooth, creamy Sri Lankan patchouli, or a honied copper distilled patchouli out of India. I bought this vintage oil with the hopes of sharing it in 1 ml bottles with whoever would like to smell the late 1960's, but it just wasn't up to snuff. Or sniff. It's not adulterated and doesn't smell like the hippie patchouli, it's just pale scented and doesn't have the depth that I'm used to.

So what did those vintage oils tell you?

Honey From the Farm & A Honey Extraction and Exhibition

Yesterday's distillation was put on hold. It was hatefully windy and the still needs to be outdoors as 1) it's huge, and 2) it gets super hot like a furnace and we weren't interested in heating an already 80F degree room. It was so windy that when I set out to water the air dried farm plants, the stream kept blowing off to the left or right and never on the plants being watered! It took some patience to get everything watered, but I finally got it done. By that time, I was finished with being outdoors. Today we're going to begin setting up the little store-in-the-vintage-trailer. At least that work is out of the wind.

Our house is coming along very slowly. What with the spat of dry weather, however windy, there's been a mad rush in the new neighborhood to get these houses done. Ours is one of those houses. They've got the stucco on outside, finally. Last week I saw boxes of tiles in the garage and peeking through the door I see that nothing downstairs has been tiled, so I can only assume that tile was for the upstairs master shower. Those boxes weren't there when I drove past yesterday, but the garage was full of door trim and doors, so . . .

Sold at Curio Apothecary on Etsy or at the Apothecary Farm in Sanger, CA

So, we finally got a farm-grown product for sale! The farm hosts the beekeeper, Francisco's, bees. We find the bees in the white sage, the lavender, they were all over the jasmine and hyacinth when they were in bloom, they're also visiting the neighbor's orange trees, and they've been known to kiss a few calendula and tea rose blossoms. I guess this would be considered 'wildflower honey' as the bees feast on a flower buffet around here! Don't forget, we're hosting an exhibition on May 13th at 1121 N. Nelson Avenue in Sanger, CA (the Apothecary Farm), presented by the beekeeper. The fee for this exhibition is $10.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Distillation Begins

So begins the season of distillation. We, Shannon and I, distilled a fair bit of Myrtus communus, aka sweet myrtle, and got a nice gallon of deliciously aromatic hydrosol with wee droplets of essential oil floating about. Sweet myrtle is great as part of a refreshing skin care regimen. Myrtle oil is known to help with acne and other troublesome skin ailments, but only if highly diluted. Our hydrosol is highly diluted, yet so very fragrant. Next up, if I can get out to the farm today, is the rose geranium. They're in bloom and ready for the picking. That should yield another gallon or so of fresh rose geranium hydrosol. What I REALLY want to get going is tea rose, but I think I will have to gather buds for a few days before I have enough to get a good, fragrant hydrosol out of it. There is the white sage, of course, and the musk sage, which is intoxicating, but it is the rare beauties I'd like to get done while they're blooming and throwing out new growth. We may distill some sweet grass for hydrosol further along in the year. And maybe some spearmint or peppermint, depending on how well they grow and multiply this year.

Monday, April 17, 2017

IPF, Farming & Perfume

It's a teeny bit depressing when you get some major recognition and write-up within your own association and nobody seems to care. I told my daughter about it and she immediately went back to scrolling through her phone. It just makes me want to run out to the shop and dig through the goods for inspiration. I'm sh!t at promoting myself, and when I do I feel like my daughter-in-law's dog Muppy, hopping around on her hind legs begging for attention. In a very cute way, though. Ha!

International Perfume Foundation interview.

 This past Saturday I received some seeds in the mail from India. I had ordered santalum album seeds, Indian sandalwood, and also received osmanthus seeds and palmarosa seeds. I've done some reading on all the seeds and found that the palmarosa will be the easiest to grow, the osmanthus nearly impossible to grow, and the sandalwood a very close second to the osmanthus. Osmanthus requires temp variations from cold to warm in three-month intervals before it will germinate. Sandalwood, if the seeds are fresh enough, will germinate with a host plant/tree to feed on. It's all very complicated, except for the palmarosa, which, honestly, is just grass -- but oh so sweet smelling grass -- that I probably won't do anything with them until I get into the new house. Which won't be ready until early June now due to the drought busting rain we've gotten this past winter and spring.

I've gotten back into the habit of burning resin daily. It helps with the feelings of anxiety and the blues over still not having a place to unpack my suitcase or my studio. Thank heavens for the farm or I'd be a mess. Planting, harvesting, watering, and planning things at the farm have saved my sanity many times over, which is why, despite the setbacks there, I've continued to do it. It just feels good, and I know that something good will be borne of it once things begin to grow in earnest.  We've done a fair bit of harvesting -- that Cecile Brunner tea rose is really throwing off the blossoms -- that soon we're going to be packaging things up for sale. At some point, probably mid-summer, we'll begin saving the tea rose blossoms for a distillation of rose hydrosol. We also planted over 60 tomato plants of differing varieties. Plus squash and cucumber and okra and eggplant and dozens of other things, and that's not getting into what we've started with seeds.

The Four Points Garden, or the witch's garden, is coming along nicely. We've got mugwort, lavender, rosemary, black hollyhock, nasturtium, Christmas holly, honeysuckle, cedar, pine, manzanita, blue sage, lupine, ivy, wisteria, and other things I'm sure I've left out, that are growing beautifully.

I wish I had more to say on the perfumery front. There just isn't space and time now to work out perfumes, but come June, I will be a formulating fool.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

John In The Wall Update

Okay, so, after a thorough examination, it appears that John-in-the-Wall isn't a 'he' but an 'it'. Several its, actually.

I was alone, everyone else was either out of town or working late, I was watching scary stuff on the telly and then just spur of the moment got up with a screw driver in hand and began pulling down vents. The intake vent was painted over, screws and all, so I had to pick the paint out just to find what type of screw driver to use. Turns out, all of them. There was a Phillips head screw, a slot head screw, and an Allen wrench head screw! Whoever put this vent back after removing it years and years and years ago used whatever was in their junk drawer to secure it. The only thing I didn't have was a flashlight when I removed the vent, and it was dark in there. So dark, in fact, that I quickly retreated from the enormous pile of long white fur that lay snuggled against the inside of the vent with the long-dead maggot larvae throughout. I called the sil and told him to bring home a good flashlight -- and a stick. Long story short, it was just a pile of dog hair, and the 'maggot larvae' were old rat poops. Not that that's good! But it's a smidge better than a dead animal and maggots in the vent. And the smell, it turns out, is just old dry rotted wood and drywall as the heater closet used to house a swamp cooler back in the day. A big, cumbersome, leaky swamp cooler. It's a matter of sweeping out the fallen rot, getting out the dog hair and rat poop, and spraying the whole thing with bleach water, but has anyone done it yet? No. Apparently I'm staying in an if-it-ain't-in-yer-face-it-don't-exist house.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

John In The Wall

Life switches up on a dime. One minute you're minding your own business, sewing curtains or whatnot, and the next minute you're the bewildered 'grandma' of a new baby pig. A literal pig. "Meet Jake," she says, stuffing a cold black snout in my face. A. Pig.

There's been some speculation here at the daughter's new homestead that something is off. First, she claimed ghosts, now we're beginning to wonder if she's not too far off the mark. No one has had the courage to find out, but we must, and soon. There's a smell in this house that when traced to its source is found in the hallway under the heater in the closet, a crawly space that serves as the intake for both heat and air. It's an odd smell, not quite mold, and not quite poop, but somewhere in between, with a bit of rot and toe jam thrown in for 'flav'ah'. While the entire house appears sound (there are no water stains on the ceiling or crumbly walls), the closet which houses the heater tells another story -- one of dry rot and general abuse of sheetrock. It looks as if someone took a hacksaw to the closet ceiling (a dropped ceiling as the house doesn't have a proper attic space except for where the ducting resides in the hallway, bathrooms, and that nasty heater closet), and just ripped the thing to shreds in order to get a too-tall heater in with its piping. Below the heater is an elevated floor, and beneath that floor is the intake, where the scent of withered zombie emanates.

A few weeks ago, on one of the rainiest nights we've had this winter, a young man and his mother came to the door claiming to be the previous tenants. They asked if my daughter had received any mail for them, which she hadn't, and then the woman stated that her husband had passed away and things were crazy with life, and maybe some mail of hers had come to her old address, my daughter's current address. They didn't leave us a forwarding address, or even their names, as they walked away from the door in the dark and the rain. I thought nothing of this encounter until the weather began warming up and the smell in the hallway began to bloom. Then I remembered the woman saying her husband had died, but she didn't say where. I've been trying to get someone to open up that vent or check in the attic above the heater to get some idea what the stench might be, but so far everyone's poo-pooed my concerns. My son-in-law said he will wait until we move (within the next six weeks or so!) to call the landlord to check what's up with the stink. In the meantime, there could be body parts inside the walls and nobody but me seems to be the least bit concerned by it. Go light some incense, they say.

We now live with a pig, Jake, and Rotten John-In-The-Wall, whoever or whatever he may be. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

I can feel it in my bones, the impending move. For giggles and grins today, me and two of my offspring drove through the new neighborhood to see how far along the homes are, and lo and behold! People are beginning to move in on the street over from ours! That means soon, folks. Very, very soon. It's hard to believe that less than four months ago our new 'house' was literally a dirt pile and today it is a house! A full on house, albeit without inside walls or toilets, but a recognizable house, nonetheless.

Today I've been spending a bit of time in the garage picking through incense materials and working on a loose incense project -- I know, I said it's difficult to do with the space restrictions and time and generally not having anything to inspire me to create, but this itch struck this morning while I was doing laundry, and again when I got the mail and in it was a wee package from a land far away -- frankincense seeds nestled in paper ready for the hazards of germination. Wish me luck. I hear it is notoriously difficult to germinate frankincense. All I need is lime, sand, and lava rock crushed to dust, a spray bottle, and the blessing of all the gods, and about 40 to 50 years of growth. Shouldn't be too difficult. Ha!

I have an enormous bag of balsam fir needles just yelping for some companions and a lighted charcoal. In fact, I'm burning some of the balsam fir with myrrh and previously distilled frankincense resin right now and it's quite frankly divine. It's put me in quite the uplifted mood, let me tell you. I'm thinking of soap with that black frankincense resin throughout, and perhaps a sprinkling of balsam fir and balsam fir absolute atop.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Another Rainy Day, and a Full Body Rash

So we're staying with my daughter until our house is built, and all of my studio stuff is in various and sundry boxes spread from one end of her garage to the other end of her garage, and a few boxes are MIA, which means they're at another one of my children's garages, that I feel like I'm spinning my wheels here getting nothing done because of space restrictions. I don't feel motivated to open and empty too many boxes because, in a month or two, I will be repacking those boxes to move. I've managed to locate most of the boxes with most of the things I normally sell on The Scented Djinn at Etsy, but I'm having zero luck creating anything new unless it's at the farm, and there are some temporary space restrictions there as well. I've also not been cooking much, one of my other great passions, for a few reasons. One, the stove here is electric and I have a hard time cooking on electric stoves, and two, there's no space make things. The stuff I love to cook and make, like bierocks, homemade pizza, enchiladas, marshmallows, bread, they all take up counter space, and there just isn't any here. It's a wee cottage of a house, cute as a bug's ear, but not for someone like me unless some major kitchen remodeling is done. I'm really feeling the short-timers fiercely. I cannot wait to get into my own place again.

This area has an annual clean-up-your-junk garbage pick up where you can get rid of your old appliances, furniture, and general junk, so my daughter and her husband cleaned their junk out of the garage, as well as a few pieces of furniture of mine that did not pass the test of time in a leaky garage, which led to her husband getting a severe allergic reaction. The cause is all speculation, of course, but my feeling is that he moved a box of eo's of mine in which something leaked and got on his skin resulting in a full-body rash that required a visit to the ER, a megadose of Benadryl, and a handful of Epi-Pens to take home.  I could be entirely wrong on the eo's. I don't know what else he's been doing, eating a new food or using a new body wash, I just found the timing of the rash fit perfectly with the garage cleaning. He's okay now, thank heavens. This demonstrates the need to get my stuff out of here, inventoried, and then safely stored. Besides, when they "clean" the garage and move all my things, they're like baboons looking for food, pushing and shoving and dropping and smashing everything in their path. I'm not surprised I lost furniture given their propensity to uncover the covered and stomp around on top of boxes clearly marked "do not crush".

With the house nearly done, we've been doing a lot of window shopping for things like washers and dryers, curtains, ceiling fans, chandeliers, cabinet and drawer knobs, and things that are both functional and reflect our eclectic tastes.  We've also been looking at and "collecting" more art for the house. I was at a discount home goods store the other day and found 10 gorgeous Moroccan tea glasses for less than half the cost of what I'd been finding them everywhere else. I love my Moroccan tea and it just doesn't taste the same in a regular old teacup. I bought a couple of prints from Harold Roth that I feel would fit perfectly in the Plum Palace. There are a few new things stashed here and there, but for the most part, it's all seeking out and making a mental record for when we are in the house. As I said, space here is restricted.

We go to the house on Monday for a pre-drywall inspection. Can't wait.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chapman Plan B

It's raining and things are on hold at the farm. There's just too much to do to have a deadline for opening the shop and farm, so we're going to wait until we have things set up and ready before setting the date again. Today is a shop day. We'll be working to get things in order in there. Forward motion, always.

I'm getting the final submissions in from the perfumery students at the Natural Perfume Academy, and I must say that these perfumers are pretty good already. They are thinking outside of the box and putting in a lot of effort to formulate cohesive and harmonized scents. I'm so proud of them all! When I work on their evaluations, I feel guilty that I'm not working so diligently on my own formulations. I think to get more deeply into it, I'm going to work on formulas I've already created, like Sahar, and perhaps tweak and twist until I get something much more beautiful -- though, Sahar won a blogger's choice award a few years back as-is. I think a less sweet version of Atay, and an exact duplicate of Jamaal are in order as well. It requires space and that's being worked on as well, in the Plum Palace.

It's coming along, our new house, but with this new spot of rain which is to last for a few days, things will be delayed -- again. The electric is finally in, and the outside of the house is being prepped for stucco, all the windows are installed, and the plumbing, air vents, AC lines, etc., so the guts of the house are there. Because we are gluttons for punishment, we spent a good deal of time Sunday looking at other model homes and came to the conclusion that our house was made of better stuff. One model home we looked at had trim in the kitchen area that was broken off, and when I picked up the broken piece and tried to refit it, I noticed that there were several nails in it and the wood that it attached to, and I saw the reason why it kept falling off -- the wood that made up the counter was not cut but torn, as if someone had set it up against a rock and stomped it to break it in half. It was that jagged, uneven piece that they tried nailing the trim. That was never going to work. Plus the cabinets and countertops were made of the cheapest materials they could get. And the homes were about $50,000 more than ours for less square footage. One set of models was made of nicer stuff than our house, but they cost more, and they were being built by the same developer as our house. Speaking of which, when we went to the model of the Plum Palace, we noticed the decorators were there in the back resetting the patio furniture and changing out cushions and whatnot. One of the decorators came in when he noticed we were talking about the upgrades we were going to do with the house on our own, and he said we were right on track with that idea. Why pay the installer all that money when you can have it done by yourself after you buy the house and pay two-thirds less for it? We all agreed it was a good idea. How do you like the house, he asked? And we told him we were having one built and were over the moon about it. Then he asked, "What's your name?" and extended his hand. I took it, told him my name, and then he said, "I'm XXX XXXXXX, good to meet you." He was the developer -- the builder of our home! He was incognito for the first few minutes of our conversation to get a feel for what we thought of his houses. I took it as a sign our home is going to be a good one when the guy building it takes a personal interest in how the models are decorated, and, more importantly, that he thinks it's a good idea to make upgrades after the home is in the owner's possession. He also told us a lot about the appliances that come with the house, which was nice.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Back Out On the Farm

Things are rolling once again on the farm. All of the hyacinths bloomed and have been picked and are stewing in coconut oil for next season's extract. The calendula is really popping and throwing off flower buds for delicious skin-loving potions. We've been planting seeds to grow some seriously witchy herbs, like rue (which are starting off their germination in the refrigerator), elfwort, mugwort, sweet william, black-seeded poppy, black hollyhock (which I'm SUPER excited about), and various other medicinal and magical herbs. We also planted seeds for a seriously well-rounded vegetable garden -- dill, basil (two types), tomatoes, rainbow carrots, several types of cucumber, beets, peppers, cabbage, lettuces, mustard -- you name it. Later this week and into the coming weeks we'll be planting more and more as seeds and plants we've ordered come pouring in. We also planted lavender in the Four Points Garden. When we first broke ground in the spot that we call the Four Points Garden, it was nothing more than a flat expanse of freshly plowed earth. I think if you come out to visit on the 26th of March for the grand opening, you'll be surprised with what's been done there. Prior to the plowing, there was a travel trailer, two large car canopies, and a mound of chipped mulch where the FPG now resides. It's an amazing transformation. Plus the gardens themselves have been transformed. We have a row of table grapes and Oregon grape and blueberries and boysenberry and in between each large plant is a creeping strawberry plant -- this was fallow ground two months ago, and all the plants dormant, but now they're just bursting! Even our wee hops plant has shown signs of life just as we were wondering if it had gone to green heaven. It's all coming together.

Yesterday my kids surprised me with a trip to Murphys, CA. I haven't been there in over five years and I really missed the place. We did a little wine tasting, got a little tipsy, bought a few bottles of wine, ate a great dinner at the Fire Wood restaurant, and then brought our tired bums home. It was a nice, easy, relaxed mini-vacation that really lifted my spirits.

I've begun burning frankincense again for the purpose of mental health. I found that I had gotten away from my daily doses and was feeling the difference in a big way. I was becoming easily stressed out, snappy with the grandbabies, slightly depressed and completely off-balance. I've been burning for three days now and I'm back to my old self. Who needs valium when there's frankincense to burn? Well, some people do, but not me.

Friday, March 10, 2017


I've been feeling a bit of melancholy the last few days. The fervor and frenzy on the farm have slowed as we wait on a few major projects there that need to be done before we continue and also waiting on seeds for germination to arrive in the mail. It's a case of hurry-up-and-wait at the moment. We were forced to move the opening date from this Sunday, March 12th, to March 26th because of delays. A lot of work has been done, it just turned out to be a much larger project than anticipated when we set the opening date for the Farm/Shop. Plus the elderberry bushes we planted in the Four Points Garden were killed by a brief night of frost last week. We potted up a lot of bamboos and only a fraction of those have made it. This is all normal stuff for a gardener, but it is a bit disheartening to see some of your hard work take a dump in a pile of fallen leaves and wormy soil. But there are the seeds coming, and in a few weeks the vegetable garden will get set up and we'll have tomatoes and peppers and cukes and other delicious food to care for in the coming months. Forward progression, however slow, is better than no progression.

It's just been a bummer of a week.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Home & Garden Show

Normally these home and garden shows aren't my cups of tea, but this time around (the 31st if we are to believe the advertisers), I put on my long-sleeved shirt and gardening hat and bore the teeming masses of folks who went to see that treehouse guy, Pete something. No, I didn't go see him, y'know, because of those masses, but I did at least a 10-mile walkabout in and out of exhibit buildings and over the roasting asphalt to see what kinds of things we can do at both the farm and the Plum Palace. My favorite exhibits were the plants and the antiques. The rest of the show was a repetition of solar panels, outdoor grills, metal yard art, and salesmen of every ilk forcing exhibitions of dog hair gobbling brooms and knives that cut through rocks down our throats, and, of course, fried twinkies. There were also soap and lotion booths that seemed out of place, and jewelers and other things that just didn't seem to fit the prevailing garden theme at the 'home and garden' show. One heirloom seed salesman commented that it was his first time ever at this show as his farm in Half Moon Bay was flooded and he had nothing better to do this weekend. His seed offerings were great and I plan on ordering a few of his beans to plant -- purple beans -- ha!

We also took a ride over to the Plum Palace to see what progress has been made since the weather's gone from monsoonal to spring cool, clear, and breezy. I've been driving by at least once a week after hours to see what's been going on with it, and from the curb, it looks like nothing. The only visible change was that the roof now has bundles of Spanish tiles on it. Yesterday, we got out of the car (something I had been told by security NOT to do without permission from the builder, which we got) and strolled in. Apparently, they've been busy as bees in there. All of the plumbing is in -- the sprinkler systems, the sewage lines, the water lines, the AC lines, the valves and hoozits, and the showers and tubs. So there has been some progress, but the PP and the bigger house next door are the only ones on the block without stucco and, well, walls. We met our new neighbors, Victor and Angela, who were out looking at their home, which had only the foundation framed and isn't expected to be occupied until sometime in July or August. We also spoke to the builder's rep and she said that all of the houses being built were now on the fast track since the weather dried up, which mean the weekly visits will reveal big changes, and most of the promised move-in dates would still hold. Ours is April/May -- the wee one predicted April 14th, but given the current status of the Plum Palace, I am more than doubtful. All I can say is moving day can't come soon enough.

It's another beautiful sunny late winter day and I'm champing at the bit to get out to the farm and put some things in order. I ordered several packets of witching herbs' seeds (mugwort, elfwort, vervain, yarrow, black cornflower, black viola, black hollyhock -- you get the idea), among other medicinal herbs, to have a nice stock of out of the ordinary herbs for the farm nursery. At some point, once we get a greenhouse going, I may donate a couple of patchouli bushes, and in the field try my hand at frankincense trees. All in good time.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Farm Works and Enfleurage

This past week was busy! We planted and transplanted, made soap and started a hyacinth enfleurage, bought some real violets to start a shade garden, got some stuff yesterday to plant next week (fruiting mulberry, boysenberry, pink flowering magnolia, Hidcote lavender), dragged stuff from one place to another, scavenged from the bone yard dozens of useful things for the garden, got some grapes and blueberries into the ground, and a new apple tree to plant. It's been a mad, crazy, satisfying week. Resting up for the next one ~ ha! There are going to be so many wonderful things to see and buy at the Apothecary Farm.

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).


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