Mosquitos find me to be absolutely tasty, and we have a severe population here every summer. Before I knew of the harm that the strong commercial insect repellents could do to my sytem and the environment, I never went outside unslathered and sprayed. When I stopped using the commercial products, I suffered greatly, so I began experimenting with naturally occurring alternatives. So far Neem oil is my winner. It does have it's downsides. #1: It is an oil, so if I use it straight, I'm oily. #2: Neem has a distinctive odor. I have gotten used to it. My daughter tells me I smell like food. Well, as long as I don't smell like mosquito food, I can abide! #3: It might not be a good thing for dogs and cats. I have read accounts of dogs and cats being poisoned by neem oil, so I definitely keep my beloved Izzy from licking my legs, and I make sure to wash my hands before petting The Boss Queen and Mack the Marauder. My latest experiment involves putting the neem oil into a smooth on stick form. A blend of 1/3 neem, 1/3 Shea butter, 1/3 beeswax plus 1 tsp of coconut oil is giving me good results, although it is a bit soft. The neem smell is lessened, and the protection is still excellent.
Several years ago, I stumbled upon a loose Lonicera Japonica vine and took some of the root. Finally, it is paying off! We are about to enjoy our first homegrown honeysuckle tisane. When I was a kid, we had a huge vine that grew on our back fence and this yielded many flowery experiments. I made watery perfumes and infusions galore. That vine also made a great fort one year. About a decade later, my horse ran out of hay and ate the vine while I was out picking up his new round bale. He was just fine, although he smelled just like that vine for a day or two! There are toxic honeysuckle species, so I don't advise making tisanes out of just any plant called a honeysuckle. Allegedly, Lonicera Japonica has antiviral and antibacterial properties. Some say it is good for all manners of colds and flu. I have never tried any dried flowers, but maybe this year I will have enough to dry and save for later.
For a while, the only kind of soap I sold was made by cooking it thoroughly. Lately and mostly because of my arthritic foot issues, uncooked but prettier soaps have crept into the shop. These soaps are not as herbally intense as many of my cooked soaps due to the lack of leeway in timing of adding ingredients, and not all essential oils work in unheated soap formulations. My daughter is discovering how interesting soap can be and she is now helping with coloring and swirling cold process soap.
Finding something that I can stand the smell of when burning is very difficult. I mostly hate candles and incense. Recently I discovered a DIY incence recipe on The Practical Herbalist website and decided to give it a try. I like it! The sticks on the left are blanks that I have coated with some herbs and resins. Surprisingly, the frankincense variety works extremely well in spite of being a bit pebbly, but is very strong. Visit www.thepracticalherbalist.com to get the full recipe details if you too would like an easy way to make your own incense.
I have been enjoying the hairy scary purse that I made last year tremendously and since I have received a lot of complements, I am going to make another purse that will be quite similar to this one. It might take a while though! My hands and arms have seen fit to betray me this past year and it has greatly slowed my ability to do detailed work, and any work requiring repetitive motion. This purse was very hand labor intensive! I cleaned, washed and carded the alpaca and most of the sheep's wool that went into this thing, and it is NOT SMALL.
I never did get around to making the hornets to embellish it either, and I can't guarantee that I will for the next purse. I am also going to cheat a bit on the next purse and use primarily already washed and carded fibers because if I push my hands and arms too hard, I will lose the use of them entirely. I am hoping that the Hairy Scary 2 will be even better than the first one! The new model will still be materials and labor intensive, so alas, it will be expensive. It will also be roomy and unique. If you choose to carry it, prepare to get noticed and engaged in conversation!
I have mentioned elsewhere on my site that I have been plagued with bad skin since adolescence and that I got no respite with age. My whole soap mission is founded on the creation of cleansers that at the very least will not aggravate difficult skin, and I have touted the benefits of staying away from synthetic fragrances and complicated synthesized ingredients. This has really worked well for me, but that certainly doesn't mean it will work for everyone. This past holiday brought some heavily fragranced gifts into our home and my nose has been running in commiseration. My daughters are loving their body washes, and I am trying to ignore my nose's complaints. Those delicious to some big name brand washes and lotions are working out fine for my girls, and I have to air out the bathroom after they have indulged. I'm politely trying not to make a stink about it because they seem to be suffering no harm. I too was gifted with a synthetic fragrance blend and some lovely goats milk melt and pour soap base. I once sneered at utilising a melt and pour base, but discovered that Lush employs them. I really love the Lush soaps that I have tried and have greatly enjoyed their unbeatable bath bombs. I will never attempt a bootleg of any Lush formulas even for my personal use because I consider this seriously unethical. Since I have never suffered with the use of Lush products, I have bent my personal indulgence standards and so far, really good! I made a trial bar of the gifted melt and pour goats milk soap with an incorporation of bee pollen and the berry fragrance I received and I have been using it daily from head to toe with great results! Unlike the heavily fragranced big name brand bod washes my daughters received, the berry fragrance is not overpowering for me and my bod so far is not itchy after bath. My face is not sporting new alarming out breaks either. I was pleased to see that the melt and pour base did not contain palm oil. The visual asthetics of not staring down another of my rough and humble home made uglies as I lather up the wash cloth is extremely gratifying. It's fun to make some soap with less emphasis on careful handling of hazardous ingredients as well. The worst thing that can happen with melt and pour is a careless burn from a hot utensil coming out of my microwave. I sometimes turn the daughters and their friends loose with melt and pour, molds and additives so that they can safely indulge in some useful creativity when they desire to do so.
Many soap varieties I make contain lemongrass essential oil, and I have never had a negative reaction so far. I absolutely cannot use any citrus essential oils without unfortunate results and rashes. Lemongrass essential oil gives the lemony without the rashy and photo sensitivity. Lemongrass essential oil is also not a rare oil obtained from endangered plants and is usually not terriby expensive. Lemongrass has so many uses, and this article in Mother Earth Living does a great job imparting some great information: herbs.motherearthliving.com/awesome-benefits-of-lemongrass/
The caustic chemicals that can be combined with fatty acids to make beautiful cleansing agents have proven efficient for these and many other purposes for over 100 years. Soap has been made successfully from less than pure sources of these caustics, but of course, not all recipes result in a safe and useful product. In 1887, a man failed miserably at his soap making attempt in his factory and subsequently died in prison for his crime! Was it due to inaccurate proportions of ingredients, or was it due to injuries resulting from unsafe manufacturing practices? How could something so many of us make and enjoy have such disastrous consequences? The truth is far more freakish and terrible than speculations about errors in the process! Click this link with a mind and spirit fortified against the grim and dark hidden desires of certain specimens of humanity: www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-man-who-dissolved-his-wife
Soap makers come in all forms. Some soap makers have become quite successful due to the quality of their products and intelligent actions, while others have chosen to embrace a much darker path for their creations. Whenever I encounter a tale of the latter, I am amazed and ashamedly, I do admit morbid fascination of a sort. This dark side of soap making has been portrayed in fictional accounts of watered down versions of borderline atrocious behavior. The real characters are indeed insomnia inspiring. For instance, what if you happened to be the unlucky "friend" of Leonarda Cianciulli? Imagine getting a nice little gift basket which she has filled with several handmade items, including a nice bar of herbal soap. You are pleased, and later lather up with her soap, enjoying the way it cleanses your skin. You wonder if she gave a bar to your mutual friend that lives a couple of houses down. You decide to stop by this mutual friends house on your way to market, but discover that your friend has suddenly moved away. Such strange happenings! A week later, you hear a commotion on the street, and look out your window to see police descending on your soap making friend's house! You wait for news, to find out what happened to your friend, and finally, the truth comes out! Gagging, you want to pitch the remnants of her handmade soap as far away from you as possible, but the police might consider it evidence! Want to find out the true story of Leonarda Cianciulli rather than read an imginary scenario? Here is a link: murderpedia.org/female.C/c/cianciulli-leonarda.htm