Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Writing Again

It's been nearly two weeks since I started rewriting the course curriculum at The Natural Perfume Academy, also known as The Academy of Perfuming Arts. I'm taking a break from it today while the course administrator, Ruth, works on some technical issues. The school is down for maintenance and even I can't get in. I'm getting time off from this enormous pile of notes and print outs and the long list of add ons and fixes. I can't say I haven't enjoyed it, because I have. This newer course is truer to my feelings and beliefs when it comes to the art of natural perfumery. It's real. It's also much less overwhelming for a six-month course, and much more revealing. The exploration of natural perfumery moves away from basic facts and plodding themes to getting down and dirty with the experiential exercises.

What all this writing has revealed is that at the core of it all, I'm experiencing a lot of depression over not having a proper studio. Making soap here and there is fine and well, but it doesn't go far enough to feed the creative fire. My perfumer's studio, my work space, my art, is my anti-depressant. Whenever things get tough -- and believe me, the last 5 months have been nearly intolerable -- I always had my art to turn to. I don't have that right now, and my only recourse -- my only creative outlet -- is to write about perfumery, like a long, lost love.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ah, Life

It's a funny, fickle jerk for sure. I came as close as I've been in a long time to a break down yesterday -- over that damn house! Move in date is August 11. I should be happy, right? I'm happy that there's a definitive date, not happy that it's all the way in August! Back in November we commissioned the house and were told April or May -- yeah, yeah, I know, add a month to six weeks to that and that's the real date. But in December it began raining, and it didn't really stop until last month. So add another month. Throw in a shortage of house painters, and add yet another month. And here we sit. Firmly planted in August. The house is soooo close to being completed, I actually already see my furniture in there. There's even landscaping in the front yard. But there it is, naked of trim, carpetless, no appliances or lighting fixtures. I know I go on too much about that house, but to truly appreciate my frustration, you need to understand the situation in the current home. It is my daughter's place, we were invited to stay, but since we made that agreement one of my son's had some family issues and ended up moving in, then another son who moved out of state came back and is just getting back on his feet, so he moved in. Then the first son mentioned here sorted out his family issues and his family moved in. We are all waiting on this house. It's a multi-family type of thing and close to 3000 square feet. My daughter's house? It's about 1000 square feet and it's busting at the seams with bodies. There are ten of us now, plus a dog. Thank heavens most of us have somewhere to be during the day, or this situation could get ugly. So far everyone's been very patient. I'm trying to be patient, but this situation got old way back in December when I couldn't get a foothold with the perfumery, so . . . I probably won't say anything about the house here until we're moved in. Subject temporarily laid to rest.

I'm going out to open the store and farm today. By myself. My partner in crime is with the bookkeepers out of town for a while, so I go it alone. It's okay. I'm bringing a book and some snacks, plus there's always something to pluck or plant out there. I'm waiting on a shipment of shea butter and then we'll be back in the soap game. I've got a fat bottle of petitgrain sur fleur neroli just screaming to be made into soap.

Feeling kind of de-energized right now. Because of -- well, you know why.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

More Shuckin'

Part of yesterday was spent shucking the other pile of white sage flowering head/branch things. Which means a little more resin came my way. Because we've run out of drying space, and because there is still so much more to dry, we decided to let go of the tippy top of the flower heads instead of drying them for incense (we have four more white sage bushes to trim, so there's plenty left). A local artisan is coming to pick them up this afternoon and use them for whatever purpose she chooses. For free. Sometimes the bounty is more than we can handle. If we were more, and had the extra woman power, we'd be okay. But with just two of us handling the minutiae beyond the basic stuff that keeps everything going -- and we do have help with the watering and weeding and planting and whatnot -- it can become overwhelming. It took two hours to shuck the first pile of white sage, and another hour-and-a-half to shuck the second. It was tedious, but it was also a good time to think. I don't get a lot of thinking time anymore, what with the house becoming fuller in preparation to move, and the ebb and flow of various and sundry personalities and moods pushing against one another. It gets downright stressful and stays that way for days on end. Too many bodies crammed into too little space and that big house just sitting there waiting for baseboards and carpet to complete it and no movement on that front, it just gets to be too much. I fear I am quickly reaching a breaking point.

I was going to schedule a soap making class for this upcoming Saturday, but decided against it when the main road to the farm became more difficult to traverse. Now they're paving, and I'll give those guys their due, it's a lot of paving they have in front of them. However, when I can't get through via either end of the route and I'm told by the guys holding the stop signs to go the other way, well, I kind of lose my patience. After the second time being told to go the other way after just coming from the other way, I told the guy no. I just came from there and they sent me here. Finally I made it through after almost 30 minutes of back and forth, and mind you, this is less than a five minute trek -- heck, it may be less than two minutes! But there I was, going this way, and then that way, burning gas and time. Not a good way to start the work week. This crap, along with the current housing crap, and the future housing crap, it's just too much crap right now. My enthusiasm wanes.

But good things are happening. After hitting a few hitches and bumps, we finally got the Natural Perfume Academy's big announcement out of the way. We've teamed up with the International Perfume Foundation to present the New Luxury Code, and to become a certified natural perfume school with the IPF. Our graduating students will now receive a one-year membership to the IPF and certification from the IPF along with a course completion certificate from NPA. It's really more of a big deal for our students than for us as it gives our fresh new graduates opportunities internationally to attend workshops and classes given by other IPF certified teachers. It isn't so much about permission as it is about access. And community. And a hand up instead of a foot in the face. If you're interested in what the IPF is all about, follow this LINK. And more good news -- we are going to have a Spanish language course to add to the Academy soon.

It isn't all about dire personal struggles and self-doubt.


Monday, June 12, 2017


I Want A Yurt


Pricey, but what fun, right? Take the yurt camping, to the beach, hanging out by the river, or -- or use it as a portable classroom. I mean, how fun would it be to reserve a spot in a beautiful park and then set up the yurt to learn perfumery?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

White Sage Resin

I spent a little bit of time this morning 'shucking' white sage stems gone to seed. What I was doing was removing the few leaves and cutting the bare stick (wand) leaving only the flowering end. All parts of this will be used somewhere -- the leaves, the sticks/wands, and the flowering heads.  By accident I discovered that the white sage shucking left a heavy resin on my cotton work gloves. It so reminded me of the stories I'd read about labdanum and how it is harvested with big rakes hung with strips of fabric to pick up the resin on the bushes. The 'ancient' way this was done was by scraping or pulling the bits of resin off of a shepherd's goats after they walked through the rock rose covered hillsides. That type of extract created a labdanum that had a hint of animal funk. Anyway, I digress. I scraped the resin off of my gloves and rolled a 1.5 gram ball of white sage resin that smells so intense, so deep and soulful. I'm thinking of performing some experiments with boiling the flowering heads to find out if I can get some resin to rise. Or maybe the stems. Probably both.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Plums!

I finally made it out to the farm and did a bit of harvesting. Not a whole lot because we're still a wee bitty place and a lot of our plants aren't full-fledged big harvest plants -- yet. We have most of the lavender harvested, but there isn't a lot. Not enough for a big distillation, but enough to keep us supplied with lavender for potpourris, teas, and sachets. We have a decent sized oregano patch and I chop on it every other day or so. The big bounty is coming up, though, first with the plums getting ready to go as I write this, then the nectarines, and then we'll be into tomato season, and, remember, I wrote earlier in the year that we have over 50 tomato plants to harvest from. We've got all sorts of tomatoes, from Romas to brandywines to heirloom to hybrid, red, green, and yellow. Big ones, small ones, fat ones, round ones, lumpy ones, and wee teeny sweet ones. And we get eggs daily from the formerly free-range chickens in the big coop. There's a mother fox and her kittens living on the farm now and we can't let the chickens do their usual bug hunt during the day anymore because we fear the foxes. But they live a life of luxury, those chickens, being fed farm-raised chemical-free weeds and harvest leftovers along with their usual feed, plus they have lots of room to cluck about in.

We've run into a snag on the distillation front. There are some things we need to do to get the set-up fine tuned. We have two heat sources for this unit, one is electric with a heating coil inside the retort, and the other option is to remove the coil, plug the hole it came from, and heat on propane. However, our propane set-up is somewhat flawed and needs work, and we're also working on the recirculating cooling system so it's more efficient and saves water. The coil heating system doesn't allow for variables without additional equipment, and we're just not ready to make that jump as gas is available and controllable as far as heat settings go, once we get the system perfected. So basically we're out of the distillation game until these issues are corrected. Oh, and we had to buy a new pump because the old pump couldn't handle the new volume. We found a bigger pump in an old fountain out here on the farm, but we quickly burned that one up, so I went to my favorite store in the world, Harbor Freight, for a new heavy-duty pump. We've yet to put it to use. Our distillation of white and musk sage didn't turn out so great. Like I said, we need to fine tune the distillation set-up and then we'll be ready to go.

It's always something, right?

Today is Bug's kindergarten graduation. Boy, how time flies. It just seems like yesterday that I lay next to her tiny body and played with her jet black hair as she sucked on her knuckles, and now she's a string bean with long honey-blonde hair, no front teeth, and a twinkle in her eyes. And a graduate. Ha!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Ah, Life!

Yesterday was a weird day. I got a late start after weeks of early beginnings, and just as I was getting ready to leave for the farm, I got news from the new lender on our home that they needed all the information we'd given the old lender at this beginning of this ordeal, plus copies of our cashed checks proving we paid the required deposits because they didn't have any of them! The original loan company received the money, but halfway through the process, the loan was sold to another company and a portion of the paperwork had to be resubmitted to the new company. What. The. Bloody. Crap? So yesterday I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, running down cancelled checks, trying to remember where the original loan documents were (remember, we're living out of suitcases right now), printing copies of tax returns and bank statements and blood types. I'm just kidding about the blood types thing, but it almost feels like that's a requirement for buying a house. We're so close to this being over, just waiting for that call to come in and sign the final paperwork before they hand over the keys, and then this happens.

Besides all that, I'm also working on this project for the Natural Perfume Academy, and it was a real slam to feel so high and happy over the developments there, and then the house issue came up. Isn't this how life is, though? When one part of your life is going along smoothly and couldn't be better, another part is blowing up in your face. All I can do is step over the shrapnel and keep on walking, like I always do.

And there's the farm and getting that to become a destination point for classes and workshops and goods. It's constant work there with watering and harvesting and tending, planting, replanting, transferring plants, sowing, weeding, and sweating. This whole year, so far, feels sloggy. Like it's all uphill in deep, sucking mud. There is no choice but to keep going. Quitting is not an option, on all fronts.

And there are lots of good things happening still. Like the stuff with the perfumery course, and the lovely harvests coming out of the farm.




Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The Natural Perfume Academy

So, I'm currently working on a project that will, if all goes well, bring more students for enrollment into the Natural Perfume Academy where I teach/tutor prospective natural perfumers. This is a big deal, this project, and not just for the Academy, but for those prospective students as well. It's a game changer. It will require a bit of tweaking of the curriculum, namely removing any instruction in natural isolates, and playing up the importance of gardening and/or sourcing some of your own raw materials. The goal is to get back to basics, to stick with proveable naturals and teach the students how to create natural perfume the right way, without all the hokum. Now, I can't undo the book -- Working the Bench II -- wherein an entire chapter is dedicated to the study of natural isolates, and another chapter demonstrates how to use natural isolates in a formulation, but I can commit myself to never using them again. As I mentioned in a previous post here, I don't use natural isolates anymore, not since I wrote the book and used them in research for the book. I've never been entirely comfortable with them, despite the few successful creations. Earlier in the year, or perhaps it was late last year, I removed all posts on this blog pertaining to the use of natural isolates in a knee-jerk reaction. Now I wish I hadn't erased those posts because no one can change the past, not really, and there are such things as screen grabs. But people change. One hopes for the better and not the worse, and I think dropping the use of natural isolates in my perfumes is for the better. I think one of the points I make in the book is that there is no way for a natural perfumer to be sure that their natural isolate, let's say eugenol, came from a plant source and wasn't created synthetically. That's really been a sticking point for me, not being certain of the source, and despite that truth, I tried really, really hard to love natural isolates so I could use them to improve my perfume formulations. But it just didn't turn out that way.

So now I'm focusing on strictly natural naturals, and that includes proveable naturals, like the stuff I can extract myself. Which is where the farm comes into play. Right now the farm is in its infancy so the only plant materials we have in abundance to distill are white sage and lavender, and a little less lavender than what we need, actually. There is some rose geranium but not enough to make gallons of hydrosol or ounces of oil, but enough to get us started. At the moment, the focus is on witching herbs for the apothecary, and food. But all of this plays into the 'back to naturals' movement we're building upon. Because we were so unprepared this year with minimal wo/man power and not enough hours in the day, a lot of good raw materials were lost to the season. Like jasmine, and rock rose (though that may be remedied later in the summer). We had a small hyacinth bed that bloomed beautifully, but I think we lost the extraction to moisture. All of these things are opportunities for learning more about the earth-to-bottle movement.

If you're interested in learning about natural perfumery, contact Ruth at The Natural Perfume Academy. The fall session begins in September, and that's when the big news comes into play for our natural perfumery students.

Monday, June 05, 2017

This is Becoming Redundant -- More, More Soap


Sweet Scented Geranium (rose geranium) shea butter soap. It smells like heaven!


Sunday, June 04, 2017

More Soap & Farm Stuff


Yesterday at the farm was somewhat productive. We didn't get a lot of customers, but we were able to get some more soap made. This batch is made from some of those oils my friend, Bella, sent. Loaded with rose geranium, clary sage, lavender and rose. We topped it off with an incense blend from the shop called 'India Rose' which is comprised of our own blend of rose petals, clove buds, star anise, and myrrh gum. Just to give it a little dimensional flavah.

The Sun in the Trees soap turned out beautifully. It's a very nice summery fresh scent. Kind of intense, too. The bars aren't as big as the Qayiz soap bars at 8 ounces or better. SitT's bars are more like six to six point five ounces, and I trimmed them up, something I almost never do.









Sun In The Trees features the scent of tagetes, lavender, blood orange, fir balsam, petitgrain, with added ground herbs of chamomile, calendula, and spearmint. These are just stunning.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

New Soap & Farm Stuff

Today the farm and shop will be open for the first time as an entity independent of an event. In other words, we're open today. I wish I could share photos of what we've been up to lately, but I'm not having much luck getting them off my device and onto my pictures' file. I'm not all that tech savvy, and I'm too flippin' tired to figure it all out at the moment. The point is, the changes from earlier photos that I've shared here and now are as different as day and night. The tomatoes are knee-high, the sage is sprouting long flower cones, the chickens are laying over a dozen eggs a day, our culinary herbs are looking good, our blueberries are becoming ripe, as are the berries on the boysenberry bush, the onions have matured and have been pulled, lots of herbs are going to seed, we're making soap -- oh, the newest soap is a nod in the direction of Woodspirits' Sun and Sky soap -- a very sideways glancing type of nod. The color is 100% natural; German chamomile and homegrown calendula for the 'sun' part, and spearmint and fir balsam absolute for the 'sky' part. We were going for pale yellow and pale green. Layers were the goal, but our timing was off and instead we got swirls -- or in this case, gloops. The yellow part we scented with blood orange, petitgrain bigarade, and tagetes, and the green side we scented with fir balsam, and high altitude French lavender. We call it Sun in the Trees, I call it Alshshams fi Al'Ashjar, which is the same thing in Arabic. On the loaf that was made for the farm, we tucked little dried calendula flowers on top, on the loaf going into my Etsy shop we left plain.

Yesterday I received a BIG box of oils from my friend Bella (Kimberly Ayers). I now have a huge bottle of orange oil, another huge bottle of lemon oil, and various smaller bottles of vetyver and rose geranium. All of it is headed for the soap pot. Rose geranium soap! I haven't made a rose g. soap in a while. I also haven't made a lemon soap in ages. I remember back in the day when my cousins would ask me to make a lemon soap and I would struggle getting enough lemon oil into the soap base to make it smell like lemon. Took a few batches, but I finally figured out how to blend lemongrass into a mash-up of different citrus oils, including lemon, to make something that would actually smell lemony long after the soap cured. I'm not even going to try to make a lemon soap with that lemon oil, it's just going to be a secondary scent in a pretty soap later on.

Gotta run. The farm awaits.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Harvest Days

I'm off to the farm early today for two reasons, 1) it's going to be HOT! So I want to get the work done as early as possible before the heat sets in, and 2) I have to pick up the granddaughter from school in the afternoon. That leaves me with about 7 hours in at the farm, so a lot is going to be going on. I'm setting up the distillation unit to do a co-distill of white sage and blue sage flowering tops, and I'm making soap. I have to. It's the only thing I have time or space to make for the Etsy shop. Perfumery, incense, and skincare other than soap will have to wait for another day. I'm also harvesting the lavender, and whatever else needs harvesting. I don't know if there will be enough lavender for a distillation as we are going to use most of it in decorative bundles and for making tea. Oh, and peaches. I've got to harvest peaches and make more jams and jellys. It's going to be a busy day for sure.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Official Word

Despite my depression over the length of time it's taking to get our house done and done, I decided that now that the building schedule for our house is complete, I'd find out from the builder exactly when we're moving in. The official word is July. The final install, the carpet, is scheduled for the last week in June, after that it's going through and making repairs and touch ups to things that got scraped and bashed while putting it all together, and then having the cleaning crew come in and do the wipe-down. That can be scheduled out to mid-July. So this project has gone from a done date of April/May to June now to July. I am reluctantly optimistic. The living conditions at the daughter's place are becoming unbearably cramped with the addition of two new full-time occupants, and two part-time occupants. It's complicated.

The only thing keeping my head on straight is the farm. And soap, since it's really the only thing from my repertoire of goods that I can make at the moment. My friend, Ana, posted something on FB about Woodspirits Soap and their creator, Barbara Bobo. That post brought back a lot of memories for me. Another friend, M., made an almost perfect copy of Woodspirits 'Sun and Sky' soap that was loaded with tagetes and ginger and bergamot. It was a two-sided soap with half being blue and half being bright as the sun yellow. And the scent was divine. It reminded me of how I want to make soap again. I kind of got back on that gig last fall when I made the seaweed soap and the sky soap with white sage hydrosol. The bars were really small, though. I'm back in the big bar game again. I just ordered a bunch of soap from Ana and the soaps, as usual, blew me away. There aren't many soapmakers -- in fact, there are none other than hers -- that I will go out of my way to purchase anymore. Variety is the spice of life, right? I used to buy from lots of other soapmakers, but in the past five years or so, I've been sorely disappointed by them. It seems like no one makes soap with the magic in the mix anymore. Sometimes even I miss the mark. But Ana never does.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Qayiz Natural Botanical Super Fragrant Chunky Hunky Cocoa & Shea Butter Soap!

As some of you may have gathered already, I like patchouli. So it shouldn't surprise you that I have a LOT of patchouli on hand at any given time. Though the bulk of my oils are still packed, I have been buying a bottle of patchouli with every order since November 2016, and now I have a nice little 'collection' of patchouli oils that I use quite sparingly, except in soap. I had a 4 oz bottle of Sri Lankan patchouli oil, which wasn't cheap, by the way, until I used over half of it in this last batch of soap, Qayiz. If you are one of those patchouli haters, I can almost guarantee with 100% certainty that you will at least like the patchouli oils coming out of Sri Lanka. They're velvety and sweet, like dark chocolate with hints of vanilla and deep indolic florals. There is very little of that dusty, musty, dry, brittle leafy pitch that a lot of patchouli oils have (though I do love those as well). I have had perfume clients creating custom scent who proclaimed to heaven that they absolutely abhorred patchouli who wound up choosing the sample perfume that had Sri Lankan patchouli in it as their 'signature scent'.

Newest Soap ~
 Qayiz, loaded with patchouli, labdanum, blood orange, a touch of basil, and an entire wee bottle of Australian sandalwood. This soap is made with virgin olive oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and shea butter. The lather is creamy and copious and intensely fragrant. The bars are 8 ounces each (or more) with every gram smelling of heaven. It's a very sensual scent, sexy, and smells delectable on anyone. The wee sliver in my shower is decreasing in size very quickly as everyone is using it up, even the folks in the house who say 'it smells like everything else you make' like it's an insult. Am I insulted? Not in the least. Not when they ask, 'hey, can you hook me up?' in reference to getting some of this soap. I haven't made a soap this stinky since the Orange Blossom & Fennel soap I made just before Christmas last year. That soap was made with a lot of orange blossom floral wax, neroli, and then patchouli (of course), fennel, labdanum, and a bunch of other stuff I can't remember. What was so special about that one, besides being super fragrant, was that it was loaded to the hilt with shea butter. It took two months to become solid enough to sell. And then I got the side-eye (figuratively speaking) from everyone (customers) who thought orange blossom and fennel was a no-go. Boy, did they find out they were wrong. Sold out quick and was asked for more. I'm kind of hoping the same goes with this new one, Qayiz. I'd give it away if it didn't cost so much to make. In fact, my price on the bars, $11 each, seems a bit high, but I can assure you, I'm barely making anything on them. Just enough to get back into the soap space to make some more. If you want to give this new soap a spin in your bath, go to my Etsy site, TheScentedDjinn, and get you some.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Day In May

I realized I didn't update you on the A Day In May Celebration craft show thingamabobby that we did at the farm last Saturday. That's mostly because I wanted to put it out of my mind. It was awful and great at the same time. Awful because there was major road construction on the main road leading to the road to the farm which effectively blocked off 80%, if not more, of our potential customers, and included our one and only food vendor. I won't get into it, but that guy didn't show up because of the road construction despite a perfectly sound alternative being offered. Next, it got hot fast and a few of our vendors started out in the shade and by noon were sitting out exposed in the sweltering heat. So they packed up and sat with us in the shade for a bit before leaving early. We had customers, new faces, people who went out of their way and braved the twisty, convoluted route to the farm, who truly enjoyed their visit. The scheduled soap making demo never happened because there just weren't enough people at any one time to do one. I did toy with the idea of just making a batch of soap to have soap on hand, but I think I was too bummed out to do it then. Despite the poor turn out, everyone who did manage to make it out had a lovely time, they bought from the vendors and from the wee witchy shop at the farm, and promised, once the roadways were clear again, to return to another of our events. And we did have music. My son and his band mate, Brendan Kelley, showed up for an unplugged acoustic set which went off without a hitch, until Brendan's final song when he made me and a couple of other people cry. They took as their cue to bow out. My son, Daryl, said, "It's probably a good idea to leave once you make your audience cry." We probably won't have another 'fair' like this until the fall, but we are planning classes, demos, teas, moon events, and drum circles throughout the summer months.

I have not been idle these past few days. I did return to the farm and make that big batch of soap. And the same day, I took home a pail of peaches that were in peril of going bad, along with a big handful of freshly cut lavender flowers, and made lavender peach jelly out of them. The jelly turned out beautifully. I'm very pleased with it. A few jars may go on the Etsy site in a few days -- or not. I'm already brainstorming holiday gifts for family and friends.

I've much more to say, but right now my mind is scrambled. I've not been sleeping well and I'm on grandchild duty and have been for the past week. It's exhausting. I'm exhausted. And ticking off the days until I get into my new house and get my life back in some sort of order.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Creamy Delicious Dark Soap!

So I finally made some soap. Forgot to take pictures to share, but rest assured, they're big hunkin' slabs of shea, coconut, olive, and cocoa buttery deliciousness! They don't smell too bad either. I used a LOT of dark Sri Lankan patchouli, the stuff that isn't dusty and musty smelling, the stuff that's sweet and almost floral, then I splashed just a teeny bit of basil in, then a big dose of blood orange, and then topped it all off with more Sri Lankan patchouli, a whole wee bottle of sandalwood, and a healthy dose of sultry labdanum absolute. The whole mess smells of something ambery and lush. I'm thinking of calling it Qayiz, which is the Arabic word for 'sultry'. It's pronounced 'ka-eez(m)' or at least it sounds that way when I listen. The only thing missing from this soap is tobacco absolute, and maybe a dash of oakmoss. Do you realize it's been months since I last made soap? Six since I made a big, old stinky batch like this. These bars are big, too, probably 7 ounces at least, enough to cut off pieces to use one at a time rather than taking the whole bar into the bath, though I do love to hold those big chunky bars and breathe deeply as they get all bubbly. I'm not sure what the next batch will be, but I'm hoping to get some lavender going, and some rosemary. I love ginger soap too . . . so, it's a toss up.

The soap will be up on the Etsy shop website in a week or so.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Day In May Celebration

The Farm's first official introduction to the masses (mini-masses?) commences on the 20th of May at our long-awaited 'A Day In May Celebration' craft show. We're nearly done setting the adorable shop which is housed in a 1952 travel trailer. Oh, the stuff we've managed to cram in there . . . and there's more. The plants on the farm are thriving, though I noted to my partner in crime, Shannon, just yesterday that I'm frustrated the plants aren't on the same page and growing faster to keep up with demand. It's going to be a scorcher that day in May -- predicted to be around 92 degrees F. All week it's been a lovely, liveable 75 to 78, but the day of the event the powers that be decided to turn up the heat.

What a wild and often harrowing last few months it's been getting this farm and shop in order. What we imagined in the beginning as a month or so at most putting things to rights has turned into five months of toil and tears and a niggling feeling that we're still not quite there. But alas, we must forge on with what we've got or else we won't be making any money to get those loose ends tied up.



There is road construction on the main road from Fresno to the farm so alternate routes will have to be mapped so that you arrive on Belmont (the main road) from the east, and bypass all the "Road Closed" signs to reach Nelson Avenue. Parking is provided in front of the redwood trees on the road in front of the farm. Hopefully, we will be able to get the signs done indicating where to park and where not to park.


Saturday, May 06, 2017

Bad News and Other Normal Stuff

This past week has been flush with bad news. First, I discovered that I had single-handedly RUINED an entire early season's harvest of Cecile Brunner tea roses by incorrectly packaging them. Into the incense box they go and not into tea or potpourri as intended. Cecile Brunner's are nice tea roses because they bloom intermittently throughout the summer, so all is not lost. All but that first flush of lovely sweet pink blooms.

Then we were called to pick the granite for the new house -- the actual slabs -- and while talking with the builder we foolishly inquired about the timeline for completion, thinking it would be sooner and not later. Well, it's later. Much later than we had ever anticipated. In fact, the news put me in a funk that I'm having a very difficult time pulling out of. I know this kind of thing takes time and that the timeline changes, but I never thought this would happen. In November we were assured move-in was going to be in April, at the latest May, then the rain came and that was pushed to late May, early June. Now they're saying late July to early August. Up until they told us that, I was driving past the house every evening on my way home from the farm. Since they told us that, I haven't been back. I just don't care to see how close the house is to completion only to be told it will be another eight to ten weeks. And most of these feelings are borne out of where I'm staying now. I can't get in any studio time. I can't locate all of the perfumery. I have nowhere to store things that I might buy to begin perfuming again. I'm in a rut.

And, of course, there's more. I foolishly read yet another poor review of Working the Bench (the first one, the one that ain't that great), and the reviewer was fair and brutal and stated something that was confusing. They said there was no index in the book and there is an index. I don't know where this person bought their copy, but they must have received an older, unrevised edition. Anyway, I don't know if I'm cut out for this anymore.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Harvesting the Blossoms

So far on the farm what we've managed to do most is harvest flowers. Lots of calendula, and lots and lots of delicately pink, sweet Cecile Brunner tea roses. Yesterday I managed to get a few of the seedlings we started back in March into larger pots -- some nasturtium, tomatoes, a couple of Thai basil babies. Today I imagine it will be more of the same. All of the witching herbs I started from seed were eaten by birds as soon as they popped their wee heads out of the soil. Those that didn't get gnawed on were beaten to death by the drying wind we've had in the past few weeks. It's been brutal. We're to be subject to another storm this coming weekend but are trying to see it as an opportunity to not have to water rather than as a setback.  I replanted the witching herbs yesterday and will be much more diligent to their needs than before. There have been many successes too. We've got tomatoes, squashes, and beans coming out of our ears. The boysenberry and blueberry bushes are throwing fruit (duck!) and most of the orchard pit fruit have nice, fat, unripened fruit hanging from the branches. We did get one distillation done, but there are much more that we can do. There's just so much to do that it's reached a point of becoming overwhelming, and that's not where we want to go with it.

Yesterday I purchased a truckload of raw materials for soap making mostly because I'm too disgusted to dig through the boxes in the garage to find what I know is in there (more raw materials). Every time I locate shop items, they become lost again when the folks around here decide to do a bit of housekeeping -- in the garage. I'm still looking for the stuff I had out during the holidays that I used to make soap. That was all sorted back into the wall of confusion. Anyway, enough of that. The point is -- soap's on! I got mango butter and cocoa butter to add to the usual shea/coconut/olive blend I use.  On a different note, I'll be forced to pack all of this up after the next soap making foray as our house is nearly complete. We're due to move in sometime in June. Not sure the exact date yet. Initially, we were told April or May, but thanks to the much-needed deluge of rain we've had this year, those plans were delayed. Yesterday the house was given color and all the doors are on and locked, which is a good sign the interior is getting close to being finished. Just a few houses down from ours, people have begun moving in. The first four houses on either side of the street are now occupied, and most of the homes are near completion. There are a few here and there that are still just frames, but the neighborhood is filling up quick. I think the last time I looked at the little street map in the builder's office, there were only three or four in the entire development that hadn't been sold yet, including the big monstrous one right next to our house. The only part of this that I am not enjoying is the moving -- again. That makes five times in five years. I am so over it.


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

Blues

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!

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