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.

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