herbalicious; or, yogurt face

I like to run. It's not my sole exercising venture. It's not my top pick. But, running can be really good to me, like today, when I was zoning out to bouncy dance beats and later, when the beats and melodies weren't quite as enticing, when I began to process some ideas that I'd had. I'm headed to a certain festival on Thursday, and at this festival, the spirit seems to be about creative freedom without the complications of commerce or greed. Creativity for creativity's sake. And also, giving for the pure sake of giving. Not everyone who attends this festival believes this or can/does follow this credo. But many do. Many, many do. And I realized, on my run, my own creative gift. So, upon returning from my run, I cut a basket full of herbs that I'd grown in my garden, I visited my local New Seasons, and I got to work.

Here's what I now have in front of me:

Cleansing facial wash: Made from my bees' honey, pure castile soap, vegetable glycerine, and lavender. So gentle and soothing. Honey is both cleansing and healing.

Salt scrubs to exfoliate: I made scrubs from lavender and rosemary; chamomile and lavender; bee balm and lavender; hyssop, mint, thyme, and rosemary; rosemary, citrus, lavender, and cloves; and one sugar scrub with basil, cloves, and orange zest. Making these was addicting, especially since I was working with my friend Amy. I can't wait to use them on my skin and to give them out as gifts to others. If any of these entice you, let me know, and I will send some your way.

Facial masks (not exactly sitting in front of me, because that would be gross): I plan to mix together yogurt and oatmeal, adding honey for dry skin and lime for oily skin. These masks, which should help rejuvenate skin that's been exposed to the sun and elements, will be applied for 15 minutes with cucumbers on the eyes.

Toner: A rosemary and rose hips toner spray, and a chamomile and mint toner for especially oily skin.

SPF 30 moisturizer, not made by me. And SPF 25 chapstick.

So next weekend, I will be giving free mini-facials in that order: cleansing, scrub, mask, toner, and SPF moisturizer, as well as a foot bath in minty carbonated water and then a minty foot lotion. I kept having these half-assed ideas: maybe I'd make bracelets or maybe I'd make tea. But this will be so soothing and fun and meaningful for people. And the fact that so many of the ingredients come from own yard is empowering.


Overall, this summer's garden has been more bountiful and more satisfying than last year's garden. Since returning home from our road trip, I have regularly been harvesting early wonder and chioggia beets, green beans (that are purple until cooked) and pencil pod golden wax beans (which are now about done), poona keera cucumbers (also almost done), and an occassional carrot and artichoke. My sunflowers, grown from collected seeds from last year's flowers, have grown taller and with more success than last year. And now, my tomatoes are ripening, and tonight we enjoyed a large salad of cherry and isis tomatoes with basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Yum. I'm still full. I did prune the tomatoes violently today, in hopes of focusing the energy on the green tomatoes before our days of 85 degrees and sunshine fold over to cold and rain.

Tonight, while watering, I noticed that the borage that I planted by seed is blooming in my strawberry patch. Borage is supposed to grow well with strawberries, and of course, the honey bees LOVE borage. Love, love, love it. Plus, the flower is edible and supposedly has a cucumber-like flavor.

I attribute my successes not to weather but rather to better planning and better soil (thank you, chickens and composting). I mapped out my entire garden on graph paper, really considering the light and the hardships and fails of last year.

Sorry about the crappy photo above, from the cell phone. My camera got caught in the nude in a rainstorm in Montana and hasn't been feeling up to working since. I have another and better camera that I am trying to learn how to use, after having misplace, then found and simultaneously replaced the battery. So, I'm hoping to improve my understanding of photography with that venture when there's time.

Life's about to get crazy. There are many changes afoot. I will be updating soon, but this blog, likewise, will probably undergo some changes as well. Until then, let the mystery continue.


Oregon Coast: a love story

Sun, salt, waves, wetsuits, surf, and sun, sun, sun! August on the Oregon coast.


Wednesday Excursions

The blur of the sky as we return west.
 The sky gets smaller as the mountains grow closer.
Wispy white and deep blue.



Here's a description of my kitchen right now: in addition to my laptop on kitchen table, there's an open bottle of Rhone style red wine, a handful of nasturtium seeds, two organic nectarines, two organic peaches, a basket of freshly harvested yellow and purple green beans. On my kitchen counter, a homemade butcher block littered with cucumber, shallots, and basil from the garden. Down past the dirty dishes sit six jars of cooling and thickening blueberry jam, made from blueberries that Brian and I picked yesterday and Willamette blackberry wildflower honey from 2009 before I had bees. It tastes like (guess what?!) blueberries and honey!

This is the best time of year for food. A significant percentage of our meals are from our own backyard. This morning, I made scrambled eggs with shallots, thyme, sage, and goat cheese. Everything was from our backyard except for the butter and goat cheese. It's time to pick your own fruit at farms (raspberries and peaches are next!), forage for figs and blackberries, and harvest from the garden. Soon, we will be traipsing through the woods for chanterelles and lobster mushrooms, boating for Dungeness crabs, and with any luck, feasting on our heirloom tomatoes!


Wednesday Excursions

Alicia's Garden, Chesapeake City, Maryland
In the interest of sharing some of my summer adventures and in the hopes of motivating me to edit and cull through my hundreds of photos (and per request from MIL in Minnesota), I want to share some of my photos from my trip. So every Wednesday (hopefully), I will try to publish a few photos with captions of where they were taken.
Alicia's Garden, Chesapeake City, MD 7/10/11


honey man

This summer has been one intense adventure after another, from camping by a glacial stream under Mt. Hood with amazing people and music to an epic trip around the country via Phoenix, Austin, Atlanta, Chesapeake City (the apex of the trip--my beautiful sister's wedding), Carlisle, Erie, the St. Croix River, Minneapolis, Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Devil's Tower, Montana, Spokane, and then home again; but only briefly, because then we were off to the coast for four days of sunshine, spectacular views, pelicans, cormorants, sea gulls, starfish, sand, surfing, friends, and sunsets (more on this adventure to come), and then a weekend on our friend's boat on the great Columbia River, camping on Government Island--a state park that is only accessible via boat--and soaking in the rare Oregon sun (soaking in a bit too much in my case on Sunday) and again enjoying spectacular views of Mt. Hood.

It's been a summer of travel, of reconnecting with old friends and family, of renewed love, of falling in love with the mountains and the water, of building dreams and setting solid goals--and of course, a summer filled with my garden and reading.

When I got home from the trip, my garden seemed brilliant to my eyes. My friends who watched over it for me had tied up my tomatoes and everything looked lush and spectacular. Still no ripe tomatoes, but I heard yesterday that we have not yet had one day over 90 degrees yet this summer and only seven days in the 80s. Still, my garden grows: for lunch we had a salad of greens, beets, carrots, berries, and cucumber all from the garden, with a tarragon dressing. My herb spiral is lush with mint, oregano, sage, thyme, calendula, and Chinese hyssop. My peppers have many little buds and flowers on them. My tomatoes are green and growing. My artichoke is tall and ripening its 3rd artichoke heart; the sunflowers started blooming today.

The chickens are healthy, although baby has a bald spot from being pecked by the older witches. Poor baby. Still, they get by and we continue to eat eggs from our own backyard. The bees seem healthy and they certainly seem happy in my backyard with the lavender, vegetable and herb blossoms, and blackberry bramble that my neighbor lets grow wild in his untended backyard. However, there is an ant colony that wants to live with the bees, and we are working to fight that off.

The honey man, Allen, came by yesterday. He comes by door-to-door in the summer, carrying plastic bags filled with a delicious amber honey that he sells for about $12. We bought honey from him the first time we met him (before we had our own), and since then, we've often talked to him about beekeeping. He's an odd fellow, always overdressed and looking over heated. He seems far more at ease discussing bees when Brian is around; perhaps Brian is better at putting him at ease. The honey man understands and keeps Langstroth hives, so he's always curious about our top-bar hive. Yesterday, we showed him the hive, and this is when we discovered the ant issue. We wiped away the ants and promised to look inside of the hive today. Then, we gave the honey man a spoonful of our bees' honey, and he thought it was "really, really good." So good that we traded with him for a jar of his. This was high praise coming from the honey man.

Today, Brian and I opened the hive, brushing away ants and just nosing around. It looked as though the bees were doing all right and managing to keep the ants out of their beeswax. We're going to keep on peeking an try to keep that colony away from and off of the hive.