Spring is Here!

The daffodils are blooming, the birds are singing, the bees are buzzing and Joy is still in my garden!

It’s hard to believe that we are almost three months into 2010! We’ve certainly had an unusually cold winter, but there’s no doubt, Spring has now arrived!

I’ve planted Sugar Snap Peas and Snow Peas in the garden, they’ve germinated and are just now coming up. The seedlings under lights and on heat mats germinated beautifully and look like they are doing well. This year I sowed less because of time limitations. I chose two heirloom tomato varieties – Rose, which is our all-time favorite and Brandywine which is an old-time favorite but a new one for us. I also chose two varieties of Pepper – the absolutely delicious Corno di Toro sweet pepper and Aji Colorado a medium hot pepper. We’ll have two varieties of Basil – Sweet Genovese and Thai Basil. I plan to sow some Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) as well. I also sowed some of the delicious Rosa Bianca Eggplant. The miracle of Spring and the germination of seeds is a wonder of life that is a joy to behold.

Speaking of Joy, yes, she is still here. I was told that if we were lucky she may stay until March when breeding-time calls for her to leave for the Pacific Northwest. So, every morning when I go into the garden at dawn, I wait and wonder and hope I will see her. The chickadees are the first to call in the still dark mornings with their plaintive song of “fee-bee, fee-bee” as they pair up for mating. At dawn, the cardinals and the other birds join in for an early morning symphony. Then Joy zooms in to the sugar water feeder at the appointed time as the prima donna of the garden. She has survived the coldest winter we’ve seen in SC in many, many years with temperatures consistently less than 20F for days. She is a beautiful, brave, resourceful and resilient little bird. Joy has inspired me in so many ways and has taught me that each day is a gift to be cherished.

The Herbarie has been very busy and it’s been difficult to keep up at times. But Andy, Jean, Earl (not in the picture) and I have been working, working, working to keep shelves stocked and orders moving as quickly as possible! Within a few weeks, we should be back on our usual speedy schedule since we are adding new staff and increasing staff hours.

Our Herbarie customers will be happy to know that our Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) will be ready for ‘first harvest’ in about two weeks! As soon as it’s lush and green, we’ll be able to process our Botanical Complex HCA which also includes Peppermint Leaf, Yucca, Horsetail Leaf, and Nettle Leaf Extracts. This botanical complex has become a best seller and we’ve been out of stock for about a month. Botanical Complex HCA is rich in nutrients that are beneficial for both hair and skin and also has a fresh, clean scent. So, be sure to check the website for Botanical Complex HCA in mid April!

We are excited about gardening this year and look forward to all the fresh vegetables that will be coming soon! Throughout the winter our collards, turnips and mustard greens did well inspite of the snow and freezing rain. We are still harvesting collards and mustard greens although with temperatures around 75F, they will soon be going to seed. So yesterday I made sure to harvest some fresh collards and mustard greens for my dinner. Along with the Pink-eye Purple Hull crowder peas from our freezer, they made a delicious and nutritious meal.

My overall garden plan this year is for enjoyment! With that thought in mind, I am focusing on structure, functionality, nutrition, and beauty. Some may wonder how structure and functionality weigh into enjoyment? I’ve found it’s important to structure the gardens so we can more easily work within them. We spend a great deal of our time mulching and weeding. Two years ago we laid gravel paths throughout the various gardens which made access much easier and allowed for drainage also. This year we are extending the gravel paths into our big, fenced garden where we have beds for our roses, herbs and veggies. This will make access so much easier. As part of the overall plan, we are also building several pergolas in one of the other garden beds. I had considered planting more muscadines to cover the pergola and provide a lush shady retreat in the summer as well as delicious fruit in the Fall. After reading about Hardy Kiwi and seeing pictures of the lush vines that our good friends Patti and Jay have planted, I was inspired to try them instead. As part of that bed we will also build a small pond for water plants. I’m so excited about all the new plans!

All the gardening and hard work can lead to dry, rough and chapped hands. I’ve made a rich, moisturizing Gardener’s Hand Cream that both Earl and I use after a long day in the garden or anytime really. I’ll share the formula with you:

Gardener’s Hand Cream with Sugarmulse

Part One or Water Phase:
68.96% Distilled Water
0.5% HEC

Part Two or Oil Phase:
4% Sugarmulse
10% Cupuacu Butter
6% Golden Jojoba Oil – Organic Certified
3% Botanical Complex LSCD
0.5% Coviox T50

Part Three or Cool-down Phase:
5% Symglucan
1% Myrtle EO and Lavender EO Blend
0.04% Rosemary Antioxidant CO2 Extract
1% Optiphen

100% Total

I prepared a 500 gram batch that I packaged in two 8 ounce jars. Here’s the batch I worked out:

Gardener’s Hand Cream with Sugarmulse – 500 gram batch

Part One or Water Phase:
68.96% Distilled Water = 344.80 grams
0.5% HEC = 2.5 grams

Part Two or Oil Phase:
4% Sugarmulse = 20 grams
10% Cupuacu Butter = 50 grams
6% Golden Jojoba Oil – Organic Certified = 30 grams
3% Botanical Complex LSCD = 15 grams
0.5% Coviox T50 = 2.5 grams

Part Three or Cool-down Phase:
5% Symglucan = 25 grams
1% Myrtle EO and Rosemary EO Blend = 5 grams
0.04% Rosemary Antioxidant CO2 Extract = 0.2 grams
1% Optiphen = 5 grams

100% Total = 500 grams

-Part One: Disperse HEC to room temperature water and heat until temperature reaches 170F – be careful not to scorch HEC.

-Part Two: Combine all oil soluble ingredients and heat until solids are melted.
-When both Phase One and Two are heated, pour Part One (water phase) into Part Two (oil phase) and begin mixing. High shear mixer such as a stick blender can be used.
-Continue to mix until emulsion begins to form and begins to cool
-As emulsion begins to thicken and cool, switch to the hand held wire whisk
-When emulsion is 100F or less, add Part Three (cool-down phase) and continue to mix with the wire whisk until completely cool. 500 gram batch will yield about 16-17 ounces. Package in jars.

This formula is one of my favorites. Each ingredient lends its own unique characteristics to the formula.

● SugarMulse is one of the best of the new nonionic, PEG-free, biodegradable, plant derived self-emulsifiers. SugarMulse offers excellent stability and a conditioned skin feel and is easy to use.

Self-emulsifiers or Complete Emulsifiers provide emulsification as well as stability and thickening due to the fatty alcohol portion. But sometimes it’s helpful to include a low HLB emulsifier or water phase stabilizers. In this formula, no other emulsifier is necessary, but we do include a water phase stabilizer/thickener.

● HEC or Hydrodroxyethyl Cellulose is a water dispersible, water phase thickener and stabilizer. Water phase thickeners/stabilizers provide a structure that allows for greater stability and also enhances the overall feel of the product.

Other water dispersible stabilizers/thickeners that can be used are XanThix or UltraMaize at varying percentages.

● Golden Jojoba Oil is USDA NOP Organic Certified and is simply an outstanding quality oil. Jojoba Oil is nourishing and conditioning to skin and is quickly absorbed without residue.

Other oils that can be used are Marula Oil, Abyssinian Oil, Sunflower Seed Oil, or almost any vegetable oil. I prefer using the more stable oils as mentioned.

● Cupuacu Butter is a luscious butter that has the capacity to moisturize and condition skin leaving a soft, supple feel.

I have also used our Shea Butter USDA NOP Certified Organic with excellent results.

● Botanical Complex LSCD contains nutrient-rich extracts of Burdock, Elder Flower, Lavender, Calendula, and Cleavers and provides emolliency as well.

I have used Calendula Extract OS and our Rose Extract OS (not yet available for sale) with good results.

● Symglucan is an exciting multifunctional, antiaging ingredient manufactured by Symrise. SymGlucan® is made by a patented technology which refines Oat Beta-Glucan to produce a highly active soluble fraction. Symglucan is primarily marketed as an antiaging product, but I use it in almost everything I make for myself. Symglucan softens skin and is the best humectant I’ve ever used. I figure I deserve it 🙂 There really is not a good substitute for Symglucan since it offers unique characteristics.

● Coviox T50 is utilized in the formula for its antioxidant capabilities to help protect the Cupuacu Butter from oxidation.

● I’ve included Rosemary Antioxidant CO2 Extract for antioxidant capabilities also. In addition to antioxidant capabilities, Rosemary Antioxidant CO2 Extract serves as an antimicrobial and an anti-inflammatory – a perfect addition to a Gardener’s Hand Cream.

● The primary antimicrobial is Optiphen. Optiphen along with Rosemary Antioxidant CO2 Extract and the essential oils of Myrtle and Lavender will serve as the entire preservative system.

I have also made this cream with Geranium, Rosemary, and other essential oils, but particularly like the fresh clean scent of Lavender with the Myrtle eos.
I hope you will enjoy this cream as much as we do!

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Happy Spring!

Angie