My First Salve!

I found an interest in herbalism at an early age, and at thirteen I started actively studying the subject.  Save for the occasional infusion, tincture, or compress, I’ve never attempted to make much else.  Either I didn’t have the ingredients needed or it just seemed too complicated.  So for the most part my studies have been purely academic and theoretical.

This winter, though, has been particularly hard on my fiancé’s hands.  The warmer weather hasn’t seemed to do much for them, either.  They are chapped to the point where they crack and bleed around the knuckles.  When the lotions we have around the house either started not being thick enough for his liking and even when the sensitive healing lotions began to hurt, I knew we needed to turn to something more therapeutic.

I decided he needed a salve.  For a while I toyed with trying to find one that I liked the ingredients in for exactly what he needed, but I was afraid that he wouldn’t like the feel of them.  Most salves are made with olive oil since the shelf life is higher than a lot of other oils.  I’ve always found olive oil to be a little heavy for daytime use on my hands.  And, being thrifty, I didn’t want to spend any more money on things he didn’t like.

Amusingly enough, though, I had grapeseed oil and beeswax just sort of sitting around here.  Being a foodie and a jewelry artist tends to keep me stocked in things like that.  I didn’t have the common herbs for skin woes, but what I did have in my cabinet was a glut of chamomile and marshmallow roots – Both anti-inflammatories and the former having anti-bacterial properties.

I didn’t have a double-burner, so I enlisted the help of a small crockpot that we never use.  I set forth with the double-burner and a silicone spatula to create an experimental salve for my sweetheart.

This is how I made it.  I’m not adding the herb measurements – Honestly they’re not my first choice and there are a dozen resources out there that will give you better ratios and suggestions than your purely academic herbalist.

  1. I placed my herbs into the crockpot.  Measuring out in a 1/2 cup, I started adding grapeseed oil until I had covered up the herbs plus about 3/4 of an inch.
  2.  I turned the heat on to Low, put the lid on, and wandered off.  Every 15 minutes or so I came back to make sure it wasn’t actually cooking and gave it a good stir.
  3. An hour-and-a-half later I carefully put three layers of cheesecloth in a bowl, and carefully pour the herb and oil mix into it.  With tongs, I held the herbs to give it a bit of a squeeze.
  4. I cleaned the remaining herb bits out with another cloth before putting the oil back into the crockpot.
  5. I took my beeswax block and cut it up in pieces.  The ratio I used was approximately 1 tsp of beeswax to 1/2 cup of oil.  I put the beeswax into the crockpot.
  6. I wandered off again, coming back every 15 minutes to give the oil and wax a stir.  It took about an hour for the liquid to become completely clear with no clumps of beeswax left.
  7. Once the liquid was clear, I poured it into some tins that I’d sterilized and completely dried – Getting water in the mixture can cause your oil to go rancid before it normally would.
  8. I wandered off again to let it cool off and solidify. 

Awesome.  I’d made a rather dreamy salve that softened but wasn’t horrendously greasy in a heavy way.  And I think I may be hooked on making it, because it was amazingly easy.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

It’s time to start planning your garden for the summer… So I’m asking today about what you grow and how you grow it. Do you grow things to eat, for spiritual purposes, or simply for the beauty? Maybe you pick certain plants and flowers to appease the fairies, or perhaps you only grow herbs that you will use in your personal spiritual experiences. – Pagan Blog Prompts’ Question for 2/17/11

This has taken me a while to get written, because every time I sit down to write it I end up getting distracted by gardening websites! It’s that time of year again, and I have been waiting eagerly for it since… Well, years. This is the first year I have space to garden! Like more than a tiny balcony that has to be used for other things! With a south-facing exposure no less! And an east and west! (And windows facing east and west to keep me happy during the non-growing seasons, but I’ll leave that to talk about in December!)

I am a happy camper. I am going to write through the spring and summer about my adventures with my first garden, wanna-be urban homesteading, and whatever whacky things come out of this. I have said before that my spirituality rests on a very practical plane and it most certainly touches even the mundane aspects of my life.

My garden reflects this. I’ve talked before on making every day and action a ritual, and gardening is an extension of this. Typically I have a specific deity to dedicate actions to or spend time talking to during my day – When I’m not spazzing out so much I overlook doing it; mindfulness, Meganne! Gardening, though, runs a full gamut for me…

1. It keeps me in contact with the Earth. Despite the fact that I have to plant in containers due to living in a rented duplex, it puts my hands in dirt. The rain will give me days off. The hottest part of summer will force me to roll out of bed to start working before it is insufferable outside. I look forward to complaining about the elements of nature like they are any other co-worker that causes me to stay in line.

2. It reminds me that my food has a spiritual source as a living thing that I should thank for its sacrifice. Plants put in a lot of time and energy just for me to come along and gobble them up, after all. Personally I think it would be kind of a bummer to be eaten. Seriously.

3. It keeps me in contact with the cycle of the year. Though I will say that the end of winter has turned into “OMG, please make the winter into spring already!!!” and I should be enjoying the season – I don’t even like the beginning of winter, so this is one to go on the We’ll Work on It list.

4. Gardening connects me to my ancestors, family, and those who have come before me. These groups are very, very important to me. I honor my mother by keeping up on houseplants and what she has taught me about them. I honor my father by planting native seeds. I honor the farmers who have put farming into my blood though I’m just one person with about 60 to 100 square feet to put containers on. Because of this, 80% or so of my plants are going to be heirlooms – Including Trail of Tear Beans, which carried taken on the path where so many died when forced from their homes. I chose these because I have ancestry there and my fiancé has Cherokee tribal membership.

5. I am feeding my soul and conscious. I truly believe that we should be eating organic, non-GMO plants. I also believe that the monoculture that large-scale farming is producing is dangerous. For a while we’ve been living on very little money, and groceries have been one of the places we’ve had to make sacrifices – The cheaper non-organic trap is horrible! It’s not healthy or health-inducing to feel like a hypocrite each time you make dinner or pick up a fork. And with that, I can do my part in making sure that plant diversity continues on, which in turn also makes me feel better because I’m dong my pro-active part to solve the problem.

6. Insert future list of deities that will be honored by gardening – Which demands a full write-up of its own.

As I was saying, I’m growing organic heirlooms in containers – Along with a few hybrids because I simply couldn’t decide on exactly what I wanted and/or they were bought for me or given as a gift. I have no idea how they will do in containers. A couple of family members have sort of expressed concern in the plan, but from what I understand as long as they plant has enough root space it will be fine… We’ll see. It’s a giant experiment! How exciting!

My Plotted Crops

Beans: Triumphe de Farcy (bush), Trail of Tears (Pole), and Dragon’s Tongue (bush)
Tomatoes: Cherokee Purple*, Mortgage Lifters*, and Green and Orange Zebra
Herbs: Catnip, German Chamomile*, Dill Bouquet, Genovese Basil, Sweet Basil*, Yarrow*
Greens: Arugula*, Tom Thumb Lettuce, Merlo Nero Spinach, Bright Lights Swiss Chard
Roots: Chantenay Red Cored Carrots, French Breakfast Radishes
Cucumbers: Straight Eight*
Eggplant: Listada de Gandia*
Luffa Gourd*
Peas: Thomas Laxton
Squash: Early Prolific Straightneck Summer*
Flowers: Candy Cane Mix Zinnias, Sunset Giant Marigolds*, and more to be decided

For those of you gardening, I really, really want to suggest keeping a journal on My Folia. It has been absolutely awesome for keeping notes for me. Also I’m attempting to fill out on herbs, cucumbers, root plants, and Bachelor Button seeds against my better judgment. I have marked swappable seeds on my list with a *. If you’d like to swap with me, leave me a comment with your email so we can talk – I have to approve all comments so I’ll delete it before it’s published! Or you can sign up on My Folia and message me that way if you’d prefer.