Home-Made Salve

I'm super excited!

The calendula/plantain oil that I made a few weeks ago (here) was finally ready to make into something!  Originally the plan was to make it into a hair treatment, but after getting sun burnt a couple times this year (yes I know, bad bad bad!), I decided I wanted to make it into a lovely healing salve for my skin.

Mind you my sun burn is all gone now, but I'm sure my skin could use some healing even now.

To make a salve you'll need your oil (preferably one of your own making, but it's cool if you don't).  I used extra virgin olive oil for mine, only because that's all I had in my house but there are lots of oils out there for use in home-made cosmetics.

You will also need some beeswax for solidity, and another butter or two.  I used cocoa and shea butters.  Locally you can get both of these things at Simple Remedies herbal shop on Cook St.

First you want to make sure that the jar (preferably glass) is sterile so you'll want to simmer it in hot water while you work on the oil.

So, because I created my own healing oil out of plant material, I have to first get all that plant material out.  This is the messy bit!  First pour the whole jar out into a sieve covered in cheeseclothe  over a bowl.  Once everything is in the cheeseclothe, gather it all together and squeeze all the oils out of the plant material.  This can take some time and will leave you covered in oil...but its great for your skin so it's all good!

Even with the cheeseclothe you may still find that some small particles slip through so you'll want to do another strain.

Once you've removed all the gunk from the oil, you're ready to start creating your salve!
You'll need to finely chop or grate up your beeswax.  As I understand it you can also buy beeswax in 'beads', though I suspect you'll pay more for that.  The butters are a bit easier to deal with, they are generally softer and you can simply scoop or crumble them into a measuring spoon.

Alrighty, you're ready!!  In a pot, combine your oil, beeswax and butters and heat them slowly over low heat.

Once they have melted completely remove from heat and let them rest for a couple minutes then add in some essential oils of your choosing.  You can opt for ones that you simply like the scent of, or use ones that contain healing properties of their own. 

I used Tea Tree, as it also helps preserve the salve, and Sweet Orange.  The scents combine to make a really beautiful aroma.  Make sure you're using the correct essential oils - these are NOT the same as the oils you use to make your house smell nice, just your body!

Do a sniff test of the oil once you've added the essential oils.  Keep in mind that the scent will lessen slightly when the oil is cooled.  Using too little can be so disappointing when you've made up your oil only to find that it smells just like plain oil.

After about 5 minutes it's time to transfer the melted salve into your jars.  Make absolutely sure that your containers are dry.  Any water can cause the salve to go off too quickly.  I like to give mine a good dry in the oven after they've been sterilized.

When you first pour the oil into the jar it will still be quite translucent but it will slowly set from the bottom up until it's completely opaque.  You can see in the smaller bottle in the background how it's setting from the bottom.

It's always best to let the salve set overnight, this allows it to fully harden.  I can't wait to slather this on my over-tanned bod tomorrow!

Here are the general measurments for this salve.  You can play with the amounts slightly to give yourself different consistancies.  Also I based my measurements on how much calendula/plantain oil I had.

12 Tbsp - Oil
6 Tbsp - Beeswax
13 Tbsp - Combination of Shea and Cocoa Butters
50 Drops - Combination of Tea Tree and Sweet Orange Essential Oils

I hope you found this useful and feel confident enough to dabble in home-made cosmetics with this easy step by step.  I promise, other than making the oil initially, this is a simple way to get into making your own creams and salves!


Blueberries Fields

Well, as promised I went back for more blueberries and to take some pics.  We got WAY more this time, now I have to figure out what to make with them!  Definitely going to freeze a bunch for smoothies!



Silly Fun

I mentioned before how much I love the 8mm app for the iPhone so I wanted to give you a taste of what you can create!  My brother and niece at a family picnic decided to have a little dance off.  I added some titles and some music and voila!


Merridale Estate Cidery and the Big Yellow School Bus

A wonderful friend of mine had a great idea to rent a school bus, get a group of friends together and do a tour of some of the many wineries on Southern Vancouver Island this weekend. 

We had such a great time and it felt just like a grown up school field trip, which I personally miss from school.  If only workplaces did more field trips, I think people would be much happier and more productive.

We ended up going to about 5 wineries but I'm only going to write about one today because it stood head and shoulders above the rest...and it wasn't even technically a winery, but rather a cidery.

Merridale Estate Cidery is one of those places that seems to have done everything right.  Their products are amazing, their staff are accomodating and immeasurably kind and their property is jaw droppingly gorgeous.  I could have easily thrown a blanket out on the lawn under the apple trees and spent the whole day there...hell, the whole weekend!

Found in the Cowichan Valley, Merridale Cidery allows visitors to wander the grounds and distillery, partake of tastings in the main building and enjoy lunch in the quaint bistro or lounge on the large patio overlooking the orchard.  Out back, their open air bakery was so inviting with the scent of freshly baked breads filling the air.  Down the hill and tucked away amongst the trees is a spa where you can get a mani-pedi or spend a whole day with one of their spa packages.  I'll definitely be going back for that!

Merridale was incredibly accomodating for our large group of 26.  They graciously asked to split us up into groups of 13 in order to partake in the tastings .  The host was so funny, warm and genuine when he spoke about the Cidery's products that you couldn't help but want to work there!  I may just have to look into that!
In the end, I bought two bottles of cider and one of their foccacia loaves which is undeniably the best foccacia I have ever had and may have only lasted a couple hours before every last crumb was devoured.  There is no doubt I will be travelling the 45 minutes again if only for that bread...that being said I wouldn't leave without lunch and another bottle or two of cider.

They are doing some pretty cool things with apples at Merridale and I'm super excited that my little island can boast such an amazing product.  I only wish I had known about it 5 years ago as it is exactly where I envisioned my wedding taking place.  Maybe a ten year renewal of vows is in order?

If you find yourself on the island or if you live here and need something new to do, get your butts to Merridale and give yourself a few hours to really get to know this island gem!




This Dull Tool Needs to be Sharpened!

Alrighty.  I'm not afraid to say I failed my first attempt at making fruit leather.  Let's just say, wax paper - not the way to go.

This morning I was able to begin pulling the leather off the wax paper, but the liquid content in the berries was still too high and this broke down the waxiness of the paper.  The leather also was not quite thick enough, I don't even think it was 1/4 of an inch thick, though it was definitely thicker when I spread it out initially.  Seems fruit leather looses a lot of its bulk in the drying process.

So today I'll try again.  I'm going to spread it out thicker and will be using something sturdier than wax paper.  I'll keep you posted - I'm determined to get this right!


Fruit Leather Time!

Having never done this before and going loosely off information from my mom I'm jumping head first into making some fruit leather....at 9 o:clock at night.  What am I thinking? 

Well I don't pretend to be the sharpest tool in the shed but at least I'll be a dull tool with yummy fruit leather...if it turns out.  If it doesn't I'll just be a dull tool.  Oh dear.

Alrighty, let's get this leather party started!

Set your oven to 120 celsius if possible, mine is digital and I could only go as low as 170.  To compensate for this and to make sure I was drying my fruit not cooking it, I propped a spoon in the door of the oven to keep it slightly ajar.  Next, line your baking sheet(s) with wax paper.

Next pick some fruits that you want in your leather.  I went with my recent freshly picked berries and threw in an apple to help soften the tartness of the berries. 

I wasn't sure how much whole fruit I would need for the amount of fruit leather my oven can handle so I started small. I don't have a dehydrator but I've been assured that an oven is the next best thing.

1 cup of blueberries
1.5 cups of blackberries
1 cored apple
1/4 of a cup huckleberries

Next, toss all your fruit into the food processor - use this instead of a blender as you still want to keep some of the chunks in the fruit. 

Give it all a good whirl until any large bits are broken down but you still have some texture.

Now spread it out on your wax paper.  Keep it thin, about 1/4 cm thick.

Now throw it in the oven for approx 2 hours.  I ended up keeping mine in for an extra 20 minutes.  Basically you want it to still be flexible but not wet.  I simply did the touch-test near the end of the two hours and found some parts were still a bit soft to the touch.  You don't want it to harden too much either as it can become brittle.  Nobody likes a brittle leather!

So now it's out of the oven and cooling.  In the morning I'm hoping it will have set enough to cleanly and easily pull it up from the wax paper and then I can see if it rolls up just like store bought fruit leathers!  If not, well, I've got a LOT more berries to go through so I'll make a second attempt tomorrow!


I've Got Friends in High Places

Some people consider friends in high places to be corporate fat cats or doctor's, lawyers etc etc.  I consider people who have access to free fruit, berries and land for growing to be in high places!  So today I was so honoured to be invited by my best friend Meghann to go to the farm the company she works for owns. 

We went primarily for blackberries but ended up coming home with blueberries as well.  On top of that we have plans to return to cash in on the overload of hawthorne berries and rosehips!

Of course I curse myself because I forgot my camera as I wanted to photograph the bounty on the branch.  However we do intend to go back again as the blueberries are almost done producing so I'll take pics then.  In the meantime I managed to get a couple with my phone (that I of course forgot in the car) once we were done picking. 


Today my intention is to make some fruit leather out of all these blackberries, blueberries as well as the huckleberries I plundered in the woods yesterday (sadly those are not wild blueberries, just some from home).

I'll share the fruit leather experience shortly!  It's my first time since I was a kid making this so it should be fun!
It was a beautiful morning spent on a couple acres of land and I'm SO happy to have gone!


Mystic Beach

My husband and I love to find new parks and trails to hike on the weekends.  Luckily a friend told me about a place that I've heard about for years but have never remembered to go to - Mystic Beach.

Found at the head of the Juan de Fuca trail (that's a long "u" in Fuca!), the hike to Mystic Beach is absolutely stunning.  It's one of those places that I kick myself for having missed out on for so many years!  I'm SO glad that I went, it easily became my favourite park to hike!

The walk to the beach takes an hour unless you're super speedy (though why would you speed, there is so much to see!!).  The path is super "rooty" though so you do have to keep your eye on the ground so as not to take a tumble!  There are man made wooden bridges, a suspension bridge and at the end of the hike is a staircase carved out of a fallen tree...a HUGE fallen tree!




Nearing the end but before we reached the beach we were treated to the sound of waves crashing against the shore.  By this point I think I'd sweat at least 2 litres so the idea that the breezy coast was upon us could not have been more welcome!


The beach itself is beautiful. Sandy and rocky. Cliffs and tidepools. Waterfalls and caves!  It was pretty busy that day (for the west coast) but we still managed to find ourselves a perfect spot in the shade where we had lunch.



One of the most interesting parts of the hike were all the different varieties of fungus that we found.  I don't really know much about funghi so I certainly wasn't going to pick any, but it got me thinking that I really need to take a local mushrooming course to take advantage of the plethora we have in our west coast woods!



If you live on the island it's definitely worth checking out! We spent 4 hours there and I could have easily stayed longer!