My husband is part Lebanese, and Lebanese food is delicious! Every holiday we celebrate with his family, we get to enjoy a wide variety of traditional Lebanese dishes. One of my favorites is grape leaves. We finally learned how to make them. They turned out great! Our family ate a whole batch in one day.
The ingredients are simple: rice, beef, lemon or rhubarb, grape leaves, peppermint leaves, salt, and cinnamon. We added quinoa to the last batch. The kids had no idea! We used peppermint and grape leaves from our garden.
We currently have 6 sheep and 13 chickens. We feed and water them a few times a day. It is always fun to watch!
I checked on my herb garden today. I found more green than I expected!
I planted these lavender plants last Summer. They grew so much! It looks like the winter Chamomile. It is still so green!
did not bother them one bit. They still smell good! The best variety to grown in MN is
Cilantro. One of my favorites. It still tastes good! Thyme. Still smells and tastes great! Permaculture island
Today, my husband and I spent the afternoon creating a vision board. I wasn't too thrilled about the idea at first, but once I got started, I got really into it! It brought out my creative side and was also very relaxing. We ended up spending about 4 hours on it, and we came up with some of our best ideas for our future.
Since we both work from home and live on 9.5 acres, it is easy to get distracted and overwhelmed. The vision board is a place we can keep all of our hopes, dreams, projects and more. It also helps us to know each other's goals and intentions so we can motivate each other and stay on track. We focused on farm projects, personal growth, and business goals. I also included some motivational quotes and gentle reminders for how I want my days to feel.
After we had completed our board, I felt so much lighter. Now I have a clear idea of what to focus on to achieve our goals.
Have you ever made a vision board? If not, you must! The process is so simple and so fulfilling. It is a game changer!
Cardboard or foam board
Glue stick or tape
Before you begin, write down some goals for the current year. We focused on farm projects, work goals, and personal growth.
"When we’re setting a goal, we think realistically. We analyze our current situation and plan out steps on how to reach our goal. Setting goals is based on reasoning and creating a plan. Setting a goal is very cognitive process of analyzing, planning and reasoning. We are in control of the plan and of all the steps how to get there. But as you know life comes between you and your goals sometimes. Something happens and you can’t do what you had scheduled. It is hard to stay on track because there are so many distractions."-Excerpt from Arina Nikitina @ goal-setting-guide.com
Another important step to creating a successful vision board is setting an intention.
"Setting an intention is a similar process like setting a goal, but the difference is that you don’t plan out the way how to get there. You just intend the outcome and surrender the process to the universe. It is like making a wish. One requirement that the intention has is that it comes from your heart. It has to be something you really want. It does not come from the reasonable you but from the alive you. It is not created out of fear but out of love. If you’re aware of the battle inside of you between the heart and the mind you know that many times what the heart wishes for the mind destroys with many reasons."
-Excerpt from Arina Nikitina @ goal-setting-guide.com
We are so excited about what we have planned for ourselves, our business and our farm. We plan on sharing the process with you all on here. Stay tuned!
Have you ever made a vision board? If so, how has it helped you?
Thursday morning is the time I have dedicated to my Herbal Academy and Anatomy & Physiology class because it is the only time all 4 of our kids are in school. So that means SILENCE! For only about 3 hours but I will take what I can get. So after studying the structure of our cells (so fascinating) and about what herbs to use to strengthen the respiratory system, I was ready to take a break, conquer my domestic duties and switch roles with my husband. There were (well, still is) dishes to do, food to cook, laundry to fold, you get the idea.
However, my husband knew that I was excited to use my new still that I received for my birthday about a week ago. So, he decided to push everything aside and fire up the still. I was a bit annoyed, (this is when my perfectionist side comes out) because I was not ready. I wanted to clean up my workspace, study my instructions and decide on the right herb to use. He was having none of that. After a little bit of complaining, I embraced that moment and went with it. I am so glad I did! When I let my perfectionism get in the way of achieving my goals, I don't get very far. For those of you who have kids, you know what I mean. In my perfect world, I would have more silence, a tidy workplace, and unlimited time. However, with four kids, this never happens! If I always waited for the "perfect" moment. I would not get anything done.
My husband harvested cedar foliage from the tree right outside our front door, and we were ready to go.
What is a hydrosol?
Hydrosols are also called flower waters or distillates. They are produced by distilling plant material. They have similar properties as essential oils but are less concentrated and very safe to use for many applications. They capture the aroma of the plant material as well as water soluble healing compounds. They can be used alone or added to lotions, hair care, soaps and more. I like hydrosols because they are so safe you can use them undiluted.
The Process and equipment
I purchased a 1.5 Liter Alembic still from here, and I think it is the perfect size for home distilling. It holds about 48oz of water and about 4oz of dried herb.
The process is so simple and so rewarding! The water and plant material in the pot heats up to a boil and creates steam, the steam (carrying the water soluble properties and essential oils with it) travels through the neck of the still and goes through copper tubing that is surrounded by ice water. The cold temperature condenses it back into water, and this drips out of your still and is the hydrosol.
First, I rinsed out my still to remove any impurities that may remain from the manufacturing process.
Second, I filled the pot half way with distilled water. I avoid using hard water because over time it will leave mineral deposits on the still, not good.
Third, I chopped up my cedar foliage to maximize surface area and added about a cup to the water.
Fourth, I added cold water and snow to the condenser. Another option is ice, but hey, it's winter in Minnesota!
Fifth, I set up a sterilized canning jar to catch the hydrosol.
Sixth, I turned the stove top on high and waited for the water to start to boil. When it is boiling, drips start to come out of the condenser. You don't want a stream, just drips. That's why you turn it down to medium heat. You know you are at the correct temperature when there is a steady flow of drips.
I had waited about an hour before I turned off the stove. The process is over when you have collected about half the amount of water you started with.
The end product
Wow! The aroma of the hydrosol is amazing! It is has a sharp pine scent, a bit floral, fresh, sweet, and it reminds me of a hike in the mountains on a hot and sunny day. If you look closely, you can see the essential oils floating on top. There isn't very much, but it is so fun to see that I captured essential oils! Next batch, I plan on separating the essential oils.
I bottled the hydrosol and now use it for everything. It is great as a room freshener, body spray, cleaner and more!
It is known for its antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Cedar is used topically for its benefits with rheumatism, arthritis, achy muscles, psoriasis, eczema, and fungal infections. It is also used to promote circulation.
PLEASE NOTE: Cedar can be a skin irritant in some people as it tends to constrict the pores of the skin.
Also may contain thujone, a known neurotoxin. This can cause a problem if you ingest a significant amount.
A few weeks ago we were hit hard with a severe storm. There wasn't any talk of a tornado hitting our town, but there was definitely tornado like damage. We watched from the upstairs windows for awhile and it was crazy outside! I had never seen anything like it before, except in the movies. All we could see was a wall of white because it was pouring so hard and the wind was blowing so hard. Even though the tornado sirens didn't go off we still thought it was best to head downstairs. Then we lost our power. Then it started to hail. After about 20 minutes of staying in the dark basement, it started to calm down. We went upstairs to check out the damage. Our neighbors had trees uprooted, one had a tree on their house, yards were flooded, roofs were damaged, electric lines were down, people had a foot or more of water in their basements and the end of our street was flooded. It was a crazy mess! We were lucky, we lost one small branch, our basement stayed dry and some how our big bouncy ball that started off in our front yard, only ended up in our back yard.
My hubby and daughter ventured outside to see the damage around the block. They came home with a wet and cold baby screech owl. He had fallen out of his nest and probably would have died if John didn't rescue him. ( fyi, my husband has a lot of experience with birds)
This screech owl was the cutest thing ever. We wanted to do whatever we could to help him return to good health and bring him back to his momma. Since he was wet and cold, our main concern was hypothermia. We filled a zip lock bag with warm water (since we didn't have power, the water heater was the only source of heat) and while holding the owl close to his chest, my hubby put the bag of water on the owl. This helped him warm up. Then he blew on him for a little bit to help him dry off and then put the warm bag of water back on him to keep him warm. We wanted to make sure we kept him warm and at the same time air dry him without cooling him off. We did this for about 3 hours. We then tried to feed him a bit of raw hamburger. It took him a couple of times before he finally ate some. We let him rest on the couch for the evening and at about 2 am he started making short jumping flights around. This was a great sign of improvement. The following morning we fed him some more hamburger. We spent the day with him then we decided it would be best to bring him back to where we found him. John and the girls walked over to the tree with the nest in it and along with 5 other neighbor kids, watch the baby owl as he climbed up the tree. Later that night, the neighbor saw the momma owl call out to the baby and they were reunited. Every time we walk past the tree we look for him but so far we have not seen that little guy again.
Well, I decided to take a break from blogging for a bit. I am new to this blogging life and needed to step back from it and find my "voice". I didn't really know where I wanted to go with it, what I wanted to share, what topics to focus on. It also started to take up to much of my time, physically and mentally. (And to be honest, since my baby started crawling and cruising up stairs at 7months, this momma has been pooped out!) So often I would think to myself, "Hey, this would be perfect to blog about, stop everything and grab the camera!" this thought was interrupting me way to often. Since my approach to life these days is staying mindful in everything I do, I didn't like this interruption. However, I do love to share and document fun and interesting stories, because with a 4 kids 6 and under, a lot of them happen around here. I also want to let all my customers know what goes on around here when we are not making or selling our Naked Beauty Products. A reminder to all my customers that you are a supporting a small, local and home based business. Not some huge company.
So, I am happy to be blogging again and I am happy that I can do it now without it taking up to much of my time and energy. I already have 4 kids that do that...... It is all about finding a balance.
On our last couple of outdoor adventures, we found so many things to bring home and investigate; Sumac Berries, clam shells, moss, a very old & empty turtle shell, a Coot's foot, deer antlers, and an owl pellet. My favorite was the owl pellet.
An owl pellet is: Owls eat their food whole and since they don't have teeth, they can't chew their food. They use their strong and sharp beaks to rip their prey apart and then swallow large chunks whole. The owl slowly digests its meal by separating the softer materials (meat) from the harder material (bones). It then regurgitates the harder material along with indigestible items like feathers and fur in the form of a pellet.
(See what we found below)
Sumac Berries: These "berries" are really seeds covered with a thin coating of flavoring substance and hairs. Late Summer is the right time to harvest Sumac or as soon as they are ripe (dark purple in color) and before they have been rained on. This is when they will have the strongest flavor. The rain will wash off the sour flavor. Sumac berries make a great sour lemonade type drink or sumac-ade. This yummy drink is so easy to make: harvest 6-8 ripe "berry" clusters, taste them to make sure they have the sour flavor, put them in a pitcher and pour cold water over them. Let them sit in a cool place for awhile, taste drink to see if it is sour enough. When ready to drink, strain the drink through cheese cloth. This will remove all unwanted seeds and hairs. Some people add sugar, but we think it is great without. (I will remind you of this yummy drink when we actually do it later this season)
Just a note: sumac is related to cashews and mangoes, anyone allergic to those foods should avoid it and/or be very careful. Also, there is a poisonous Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix or Rhus vernix) but according to Wikipedia: "Poison sumac grows exclusively in very wet or flooded soils, usually in swampa and peat bogs, in the eastern United States and Canada."
Happy exploring and foraging!
I gave the kids a tweezers, magnifying glass, and pokers and had them open up the pellet to see what this owls last meal was and see what he left behind. They got a kick out of finding tiny bones and teeth and separating them from the fur. Based on our finds, we decided the owl had eaten a mouse.
One of the places that we order essential oils from also sells synthetic fragrance oils and they often send us samples with our order. Since we use essential oils exclusively in our products the synthetic fragrances never get put to use, but the fact that we get samples for free and have never received essential oil samples is telling. It's the reason synthetics are used so much in the first place; they're cheap. So why don't we use synthetic fragrances in our handcrafted soap and other products? There are a few reasons. The first one is that they don't smell as good. This might seem obvious since creating a lavender scent in a laboratory is naturally going to fall short of actual lavender oil. But there are some things you can't get with using natural oils. For example, it would be difficult to achieve a good popcorn scent, or "ocean mist" or lilac etc. But I find that there are so many wonderful scents that can be extracted from nature that it seems unnecessary to use synthetics. Some include: Natural peppermint, lavender, rose, patchouli, eucalyptus, orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, clove. The simple fact is that synthetics are used because they are cheaper and easier. Which is generally a good reason to use something provided that they aren't also worse. Which brings me to the second reason we don't use synthetic fragrances. They are not healthy to work with, or put on your body. Not only do they lack the therapeutic properties of essential oils, but they also have many irritating and harmful properties. When you look at the ingredients on a lotion bottle and it says "fragrance" or "perfume" that one word can represent 200 different ingredients that aren't specifically listed. Many people have an allergic reaction to synthetic fragrances that can range from a skin irritation to headaches and nausea. Here is a short list of scents that you know are synthetic when you see them because they don't exist as essential oils:
Cucumber, lilac ( I get a lot of people looking for this kind of soap), Apple, April Showers, Melons, Bubble Gum,
Rainforest. The list can go on and on, but this is just an idea of what to look for when avoiding synthetic fragrances.
Some companies also use a mixture of synthetic fragrances and essential oils. There are synthetic peppermints and synthetic lavenders. Also, when you see a product scented with vanilla, jasmine, rose and/or sandalwood they are most likely synthetic. These are all available as essential oils too, but are so expensive not many companies use them in their pure form. The price depends on how much plant matter is needed to extract a decent amount of oil. For instance: you need 1,000 pounds of jasmine (3 million flowers) to make a pound of jasmine essential oil and you need 2,000 pounds of fresh rose petals to make a pound of oil. In comparison, you need 100 pounds of lavender flowers to make a pound of essential oil. I have found a reliable source who sells pure jasmine and vanilla oils at a reasonable price so I am able to use them in some of my products but keep it to a minimum because of the price. When buying beauty products it can be hard to know what are essential oils and what are synthetic fragrances. For the most part, avoid any products that list "fragrance" or "perfume" as an ingredient. Look for products only containing essential oils. After awhile, your nose will know what to avoid.
I have found a great company who makes and sells 100% natural and organic flavor oils. I have been experimenting with these oils and currently use some in my products. They are raspberry and coconut. These flavor oils may not contain the many therapeutic benefits essential oils do, but a lot of my customers and my family, love the way they smell. And it is good to know they don't contain the harmful ingredients like synthetic fragrances do. But I love that I have the option to offer these to my customers.
What is your favorite scent? Is there a synthetic scent that you wish was available in an essential oil?
This is why Minnesotans talk about the weather so much.........
Morning of April 23rd 2013:
We have had a total of 17.5 inches of snow this April.
But the good news is 70 degree weather is in the forecast and the Mankato Farmers' Market starts May 4th!!! Hope to see you there!