Happy Lughnasadh

Elderberries!

July was a hot blur of summer herb and garden crafts, canning and distillation.  Oh, and trying to keep up with crabgrass from outer space.  They have to be as they were three feet in diameter!

I know it is autumn at last,  because the Elderberries are finally ripe.  I’ll make syrup and hard candy lozenges from the berries as they help my family stay healthier.

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Distillation for Mosquito Repellent

 

The distillation above was lemon balm, elder leaf, clary sage, lavender, holy basil and peppermint.  It only produced a little bit of essential oil, which I added back in to the hydrosol.

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The bug spray seems to work rather well!  I added a few drops of Eucalyptus Citridora essential oil to the distillation. Scientific studies recently tested it in comparison to Deet and other leading bug sprays.  They found it as effective against mosquitoes as Deet.  We don’t normally even have a mosquito problem in our area, but this year they are a frequent annoyance.

 

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Crazy Patch Lavender Sachet

I recently planted a flag in one of our spare bedrooms and claimed it for my sewing room.   After years of collecting fat quarters or more of yardage I liked, I have a decent fabric stash, so I plan to dive into it to make coasters, sachets, dream pillows, etc., for upcoming holiday gifts. With just my husband and I at home now, I have discovered being an empty nester does have an advantage or two.

 

An unbelievably big Walla Walla Sweet Onion we grew!

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Homemade diaper balm is a lovely gift for new babies.  If you are familiar with salve making you can easily make it yourself.  It is made of gentle herb infused oil of Calendula, Chamomile, Plantain, Lavender and Rosa Rugosa.  I don’t add any essential oils of any kind, but the scent is of Rose petals, Chamomile and Lavender and bee’s wax.  I will happily share my recipe if anyone wants it!

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This is the first soap I ever made that contains all my own distilled essential oil and hydrosol, and Lavender bud I grew myself.  It smells incredible.  Now, to wait six weeks for it to cure!

 

White Sage and Floral smudge sticks
Sweet Basil

I am so thankful for all of our green friends.  They are adaptable and helpful, no matter what.  (even if you forget to weed around them!)  Calendula, Echinacea,  Hyssop, Horehound, Sage, Lemon Balm, Peppermint and Catnip seem to be growing to a double beat this year.  I just made a second batch of Basil Pesto, and will hang further bundles to dry.  Next up, all kinds of peppers and canning.  What kind of harvest activities are you doing?

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Alchemy

Clary Sage blossoms

I just finished my first fresh distillation!  The difference between fresh and dried distillations is like night and day.  Clary Sage was the first plant ready in the herb garden.  It  does not flower until the 2nd year, so I have been waiting for a very long time.  The distillation turned out great, but there were definitely some teaching moments.  Clary Sage is a highly aromatic plant, historically used in perfuming,  love potions, added to cordials or special liquors, and used as a hops substitute in specialty beers.

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Biomass sphere

I learned the hard way to chop this plant outdoors, rather than in my kitchen.  The entire first floor of our home was filled with a cloying, sweet, balsamic scent.  It was a study of too much-ness!  Once I stuffed the biomass sphere with the plant material, the scent became very mild, and almost unnoticeable.

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Clary Sage, at early stage of bloom

Clary Sage has a beautiful presence in the herb garden.  My plants are 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide.  I have heard some plants reach heights of 6 feet!   The flowers first appear as pinkish gray pine cones hanging between the leaves.    Some of the leaves are as big as your hand, and they are aromatic as well.


Steam Distillation equipment heating up

 

Separator

The essential oil and the hydrosol are absolutely wonderful!  The white area in the glass tube above is the essential oil, about 1/3 oz.  It is lighter than water, so it floats at the top.  It is actually a crystal clear oil, but the condenser is cold, so it appears more solid than it will be at room temperature later.  I have two or three more distillations of Clary Sage coming up, and in the end, I should have a little more than an ounce of essential oil and about 5 pints of hydrosol, or flower water.

Hydrosol

Hydrosols are the sweetly aromatic echos of essential plant oil, the life force of the plant.  They can be used instead of plain, distilled water in soaps, creams and lotions, to add scent and healing qualities to the product.   Hydrosol made with healing plants can be used as a wound wash, a healing tub tea, to rinse hair, to hydrate skin, and so much more.  I cannot wait to learn more about it and use it in every way possible.