Sparkling Snowflake Soap


Hello Friends,


This weekend I am stocking up on my popular Sparkling Snowflake Soaps


Inspired by nature's artistry of the silent falling snowflakes blanketing the forest and field with snowy white radiance, this exquisite set of six assorted soaps is a treasure. The soap is hand cast in my artisan studio located in the beautiful Allegheny mountains of Pennsylvania. 



I create the bars in pretty pearly blue hues, sparkling clear and stunning white pearl using my own blended high quality transparent soap to create each of these soaps in a wide variety of colors and shapes. My transparent glycerin soaps will fill your tub or shower with mounds of fragrant lather that will leave your skin feeling cleansed and refreshed.



This listing is for 6 beautiful snowflake soaps colored with cosmetic grade soft azure blue, pearl and silver mica that shimmers like a glistening Winter morning. Your powder room will be decked for the holiday to the delight of your guests. Perfect for Hanukkah as well. You will receive two of each shape and color (two blue, two white, two clear) for a total weight of over one pound of soap presented in a white window box that is suitable for gifting.



Just like real snowflakes, each of my snowflakes are unique. Hand cast in highly detailed molds, these soaps come in glittering colors. I scent them with my own blend of fresh mountain air fragrance oil that is a blend of ozone notes, with a touch of fresh floral and sweet orange.






Wonderful little gift item, the perfect token for your hostess or stocking stuffer when you need a little something special to present to family and friends. These soaps would make marvelous wedding favors for a winter wonderland theme.




Thanks for visiting,

Bonnie

Distilling Herbs



Hello friends,



I have a small copper alembic still that I use for steam distillation of hydrosols and it even yields a little essential oils from my garden herbs. The still is truly a beautiful little work of craftsmanship with a long history of centuries of use.



 The still consists of three parts: The cucurbit or pot which holds the liquid and plant material to be distilled, the anbik cap or onion which fits over the cucurbit and receives the steam vapors- it has an attached tube to carry the steam downward into the coil condenser which is cooled with ice water. Copper is the preferred material for distilling hydrosols as copper is an excellent conductor of heat, improves the fragrance and reduces contamination from bacteria.



Legend holds that in the 10th century, Avicenna discovered how to extract rose and herbal oils and waters by distillation. The practice of the distillation process spread to all parts of the ancient world. Steam distillation of herbs and blossoms resulted in "sweet waters or herbal waters".  This water is the hydrosol, a by-product of extracting essential oils.




Hydrosols are similar to essential oils in that they contain the essence of the entire plant but in such a low concentration they can safely be used straight where essential oils are too strong for use "neat" on the skin. The chemicals of hydrosols are water loving acids. Bacteria do not thrive in acids so properly prepared hydrosols have a long shelf life without preservatives. Hydrosols are astringent which makes them great as skin toners and fresheners.




 While the floral water can be a by product of the process to extract the essential oil, the very best hydrosols come when the distiller works the plant material with the intention of creating a hydrosol. This is because the finest quality hydroflorates form in the early part of the steam distillation process. To get the most essential oil yield, the process continues longer to be sure you are extracting as much of the precious oil as possible but that can result in a lower quality of hydrosol. The early floral/herb distillates are brighter, pleasingly fragrant and more desirable than the later portion.  Since the essential oil gathered in small home distillers is negligible anyway, I process my plant materials and end the process early enough to achieve the highest quality hydrosol.


Steam distillation a simple method of extracting the plant's oils.  You can use fresh or dried botanical materials. Herbs are wonderful because of their essential oil content.  Blossoms are desirable as well. When I use fresh plant material I gather the plants, leaves and stems early in the morning while the plant is at its peak.  I find it useful to apply a rough chop and allow the foliage to wilt a little so you can easily fit more plant material into the still.




 If I use dried components, I soak them for a few hours before loading the pot so the steam process is more efficient. If I use a fine ingredient like dried citrus peel or spices, I often place those in a heat sealed tea bag to keep it from settling at the bottom of the still and burning. You want the botanical materials suspended in the water and the grate that fits in my still has holes that would allow tiny particles to burn.


Herbal distilling floral water
You fill the pot about 3/4 of the way with spring water and place the copper steamer disc on the bottom to keep the herbs, spices, citrus and blossom petals suspended above the bottom of the pot to prevent burning. Add the botanical material, spices, citrus peels etc. so that they float freely in the pot. You don't want to pack it tight.






The onion cap is fitted onto the filled pot and secured with either a rye flour paste or silicone tape.  The onion cap is attached to the condenser coil. Cooling water fills the condenser unit and heat is applied to bring the pot to boil.  









   As the water is heated it creates steam, which rises through the plant material, bursting the sacks containing the essence of the botanical materials. That allows the aromatic molecules to be carried along with the steam through the tubing into the condenser coil.  

 The coil is submersed in cold water which converts the steam back into liquid form resulting in a hydrosol and essential oil.  The water surrounding the condenser coil need to be kept cool. You can add ice to the coil cup but I find it easier to use a simple aquarium or fountain pump to keep pumping cool water into the unit.  You insert the tubing that the draws the cold water into the bottom of the cup and the output tubing is at the top of the cup.





Once the vapor comes into contact with the cold surface of the copper coil it condenses to a liquid state and drips down into the final collection container. You won't want a fast, heavy flow. The most desirable is a slow drip rate so if it is flowing too fast, regulate the heat to reduce the boil.  You can see a good rate on the video at the end of my blog post-it shows spurts of small amounts of the condensed liquid flowing into the collection container.



Allowing the final collection to rest will allow separation of the essential oil and hydrosol. I use a separator funnel to facilitate the process of collection the essential oil simpler.  You only get a few drops of actual essential oil from each batch, the majority of the collection is the hydrosol.   Most essential oils are lighter than water so the oil floats on the surface of the hydrosol.  The hydrosol often has a milky appearance.  The French refer to hydrosols as hydrolats  -' hydro’ water and ‘lat’ milk. Properly stored, I like to use dark violet or amber bottles, these preparations have a good shelf life



 
You can make a simple single note hydrosol as we often see in Rose 
Water or Witch Hazel but I also like to combine herbs, spices, citrus and florals. Be sure to use organically grown or wild gathered materials without chemical contamination.



Lemon Balm Hydrosol

Many species are suitable for creating the perfect hydrosol whether you are searching for invigorating, freshening, cooling, soothing, toning or relaxing; you can create your perfect distillate.

Classics:

Rose Petal or Rose Hip
Orange Blossom
Jasmine
Geranium/Rose Geranimum
Yarrow
Plantain
Dandelion

Lavender
Thyme
Rosemary
Mints of all varieties
Lemon Balm or Verbena
Laurel Bay
Calendula
Chamomile
Clary Sage
Helichrysum
Basil
Sage

Juniper
Fir
Cypress
Witch Hazel
Elderberry
Ginger root
Frankinsence


Orange - sweet orange, blood orange, tangerine
Lemon
Lime 
Grapefruit
(to increase essential oil, use just the zest of the fruit peel without the pith)

Cucumber is nice in combination with mints. Placing the hydrosol in a fine mister makes a delightful freshening addition to your facial care routine.

You can add a few whole spices like clove or star anise along with your plant materials, but don't over do it as spice oils can be irritating to the skin.



Rosemary Bay Herbal Water

Hydrosols have many uses:

Facial toner
Facial steams
As the liquid in face clay  masks
Bath additives
Linen or iron water sprays

I do not recommend using hydrosols for internal use. While my small still doesn't provide enough product to sell the hydrosols, I do use them in my products - soaps, creams, lotions and balms.



I hope you enjoyed my journey in the art of steam distillation of herbs from my garden.  Thanks for visiting!

Bonnie

















Sacred Amber


Hello friends,

Today I present my line of Sacred Amber and Infused Oils.




Amber is the king of scents. Dark, deep and mysterious fragrance. Amber resin is formulated with natural essential oils, waxes and powders. Sandalwood, Patchouli, Ylang-ylang, Vetiver, Lavender, stryax tree resin and beeswax.  The pure natural powders, oils, waxes and resins are blended carrying the combination determined by the artisan.


 Sacred Amber Oil

Amber resin was developed in ancient times by a physician as a mood enhancing formula. It is renowned as a spiritual aid in meditation and elevation. Irresistible fragrance enjoyed as a natural body fragrance, sachet, dream pillows etc. 



This fragrance is enticing and very strong. You can use it by gently applying the resin to pulse points, open the vessel and allow the aroma to fragrance your room, infuse it in oil etc. Just a little gives you fragrance that will last the entire day.





I offer my blended Amber as resin nuggets in charming little soapstone vessels or in infused oils.  I infuse the amber resin in pure organic jojoba oil and present the precious oil in one of a kind artisan glass perfume bottles.  





Try a little amber resin and revel in the heady natural aroma - 
an ancient ritual scent that fills the senses and enhances relaxation!

Thanks for visiting,

Bonnie





How to Dry Herbs from the Garden

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Hello friends,




My herb garden yields an abundant harvest of a wonderful variety of culinary and fragrant herbs. There are many ways to preserve these wonders of nature - preserving in jellies and pesto, oil infusions, vinegars, freezing and the simplicity of air drying.


My herb harvest hanging from the rafters of the barn at the White Bridge Farm - the perfect environment of good air circulation out of direct sunlight.

Herbs drying in the barn at the White Bridge Farm

Here are some guidelines to help you achieve success with air drying. Following proper procedures will lessen the chances of your cherished garden harvest turning into a gathering of dried brown failures.


It is of vital importance to harvest the herbs at the peak of flavor. Older herbs become woody and have spent their energy on producing seeds losing their aroma and flavors. The best time to pick your herbs is before they flower, just beginning to form buds is optimum. Exceptions are herbs similar to lavenders and everlasting flowers that you want to dry for floral display and things like chamomile when the flowers are used for herbal teas. These should be harvested when the blossoms begin to open.

Chose a dry early morning just after the dew has dried. I harvest with sharp garden or kitchen shears placing handfuls of good quality plant materials into my harvest basket. Do not choose herbs that are damaged or beyond their peak as it is a waste of time and energy to preserve something inferior. You can trim them back and wait for a second flush of foliage to harvest at a later time. Move quickly to a shaded spot or garden shed to preserve the freshness of the herbs.


Gather each individual herb into small groups, too many stems will lessen probability for the even drying that is desired. Secure with a rubber band which will contract as the herbs dry. If you desire, you can use raffia or rustic garden twine as it is more aesthetically pleasing but it will have to be adjusted as the herbs lose their volume during the drying process. Hang from a rack, rafters or line in a place with good air circulation out of direct sunlight. Do not overcrowd them.

Monitor for obvious problems such as insect infestation, too much moisture, or mold. It will take about a week depending on the size of the bouquets, humidity in the air and other factors such as the moisture content of each individual herb bundle. The herbs are ready when the leaves are crispy dry and the stems are brittle. You want them to retain their color and beneficial oils so do not allow them to over dry.


Once dry you can prepare them for storage. If you are using them for pure decorative purposes, you can allow them to hang as is or simply display them in a basket. If you want to use them for culinary or herbal preparations you should protect them from gathering dust and humidity.

You can store properly dried bunches protected with a paper bag over the leafy part of the herb. Leaves are easily stripped off by hand on to parchment paper then the paper is lifted to fill the storage containers. I prefer to keep mine in large whole leaves but you can crush them with a mortar and pestle if you desire. Place them into labeled glass jars or tins. Always label carefully because it can be difficult to identify once the dried material is removed from the stems. They can be stored in a dark dry cupboard and will retain their desired properties and essential oils for up to one year.


If you are harvesting roots for herbal preparations, you should dig up the mature root and carefully clean it with plenty of fresh running water removing any foreign materials and soil. The cleaned root can be dried on a screen or parchment paper. I recommend turning them every couple of days to assure even drying. Roots typically take a longer dry time. It can be helpful to slice or chop the root into even pieces before drying to insure a properly cured item. Be certain they are dried throughout the thickest part before storing.

Many herbs dry well in bunches: bay, rosemary, calendula, dill, thyme, summer savory, sage, lavender, florals, mints, yarrow, echinacea, lemon balm and everlasting flowers like straw flowers, gypsophilia, cockscomb, pepperberries, wheat grasses etc.




If you are just using the roots, blossoms, pods and petals for teas, potpourri and sachets you can dry snippets on wood trays, screens or parchment paper. Herbs like basil have a higher water content so they do not dry well in bunches. Dry them as individual leaves in a single layer with plenty of space. These herbs do well with screen drying:

Basil, catnip, chives, feverfew, hops, lady’s mantle, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, mints oregano, rosemary, rose hips, sage, savory, yarrow.





I will use these herbs in my products, herbal infusions for soaps, balms, butters and creams as well as culinary pursuits and fragrant decor of wreaths, swags and sachets.





I hope you will give this age old tradition of preserving your herbal treasures a try. It has been perfected through the ages and has stood the test of time with ease and simplicity.

Thanks for visiting,

Bonnie











Reader's Comments


By Guest on 07/29/2012 @ 03:23pmYour photography turns your posts into works of art. Now I'm hankering to go harvest some herbs. I love the farm photos on your other posts as well - what a gorgeous place.


By Guest on 07/17/2012 @ 09:18pmAnother great blog post, Soapsmith. Your herb gardens are great, I'm jealous!


By AmbientLights on 07/17/2012 @ 05:48pmGreat info, thanks for the post! I'll be growing some herbs next season and will refer back to this come harvest time.


By Covergirlbeads on 07/17/2012 @ 01:24pmWonderful blog and love the pictures too. Very informative!


By Guest on 07/17/2012 @ 12:36pmLove that barn and your herbs are beautiful, thanks for sharing.


By luvncrafts on 07/17/2012 @ 12:08pmGreat info! Thank you. Very timely too, as I was just given some herbs from my SIL's garden and wanted to dry them. Beautiful pictures too! luvncrafts


By kgkrafts on 07/17/2012 @ 02:01amwonderful blog post! can't wait to start harvesting more herbs. thanks Bonnie!