Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Rosemary's Perfect Face Cream

When I was a teenager I struggled with cystic acne and an extremely oily face. I remember crying about how I wished I could just go out in public without make-up to cover up my angry red bumps and shiny skin. I used every acne topical you could buy over the counter, sometimes more than one at a time, they would work for a little then flare up angry and red again. My skin was a weird combo of extremely oily and flaky dry from all the drying creams I used to work on the acne. I NEVER used face lotion, I thought I never would, I was convinced it would clog my pores even more and make my problem worse. After all it was that evil oil my skin produced that caused this problem in the first  place, at that time the equation was, all oil=bad. It was that simple.

Well it just so happens that it wasn't that simple. After going on an elimination diet I discovered that when I stopped eating wheat, bread in particular, that miraculously the welt-like acne went away! I was a heavy bread eater and literally ate whole loaves of french bread for one meal. I just loved bread! Well that had to stop. Once I cut it out it gave my skin a chance to regulate and heal up. I was still terrified of using anything oily on my face, I was finally getting my skin regulated, why throw it off again? Once my skin balanced out, after I had been off wheat for a year, I was dealing with a different problem, once in a while my skin was too dry and was causing breakouts from the dry skin getting clogged in my pores. I felt so defeated, my skin just hated me! After some research I came to the conclusion that maybe I needed to try adding lotion to my skin regimen. Amazingly it didn't clog my pores and I didn't have tight, flaky skin either! 

Now I am living my dream and go out almost all the time without having to wear makeup to cover and balance my skin tone and it feels great! It goes to show that sometimes the problems in your body show up in the most unlikely ways. Healing begins from the inside out not the other way around.

I am also more concerned now with what is in the lotions and things that go on my skin. I am also more aware that man made chemicals are not good for the body the way wonderful plants and oils God made are. So I like to make a lot of the products I use on my skin. This lotion is one of my favorites. A friend made it for me, and while it seems like it would be too heavy for the face, it is wonderful to put on at night, especially in the winter when the air is drier. The Recipe was published in Herbs for Health magazine and was created by Rosemary Gladstar, a revered herbalist.

Rosemary's Perfect Cream


  • 2/3 Cup distilled rosewater
  • 1/3 Cup aloe vera gel
  • 1-2 drops essential oil
  • Vitamin E (to preserve freshness) 
  • 3/4 Cup almond oil
  • 1/3 Cup coconut oil or cocoa butter
  • 1/4 tsp lanolin*
  • 1/2 - 1 oz bee wax grated 
Combine the rose water, aloe vera gel, essential oils and vitamin E in a glass measuring bowl, set aside.

In a double broiler over low heat melt the oils together. Pour into a blender and let cool to room temperature. It should become thick, creamy, semi solid and cream colored.

when cooled turn the blender on high then in a slow thin drizzle pour about 3/4 of the waters mix into the center of the vortex. You are aiming to make an emulsion.

Listen to the blender and watch the cream. When the blender coughs, and the cream looks thick like buttercream frosting, turn off the blender. By hand mix in the remaining water mix and do not over beat. It thickens as it sets.

Pour cream into jars and store in a cool place.

* Lanolin has been found to contain pesticides due to the way it is harvested. I use Lansinoh HPA brand as they say that the brand is "guaranteed to never have more than 1 part per million of total combined pesticide residues.(.000001)" Theirs is also refined without bleaching. Good to know I thought. They also say that a current certificate of analysis is always available for review, if you want to take a look.

I love waking up to my skin now, this face cream makes my skin so soft and dewy! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
                                                                 The Farmer in the Dell

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

It brings back memories every time I see a bunch of prickly balls laying around the yard. As a little girl I went over to my neighbors yard, and I was forever barefoot, to visit. I would have to go to the front yard to avoid stepping on all the terrible prickly balls that littered the back of his yard. I knew from experience they really hurt! I often wondered why he didn't just cut that tree down but he was sort of an odd neighbor to find in the city.

He had asked the industrial company behind us to farm their empty quarter acre lot that lay between our property and his. On it he grew corn, tomatoes, sunflowers, and had a prolific peach and sour cherry tree planted there. He would be out early in the morning working that piece of soil with his trusty dog rusty, a rat terrier, who I just loved. I would open my window and shout, "Hey Harry what'cha doing?" He liked to go to auctions and get boxes of junk and he would let me pick through them and take some of the odds and ends that I liked. When it was really hot out he had a snow maker in his basement and he would dig it out and make snow cones. He sang weird songs to me like, "There's a ant on a log, on a hole, in the middle of the sea..." when he sat in his back yard or tell me stories about a cursed Indian that would get me if I went in the shed where he kept his bow and arrows he used for hunting groundhogs. Harry made my childhood full of fun memories, including those prickly balls, the fruit of a sweet chestnut tree.

Chestnut History

Those chestnuts also had an interesting history. Originally from the orient, these sweet chestnuts were brought to Europe by the Romans. Before wheat was readily available and inexpensive this nut was used to sustain the poor of Europe. It was ground into flour and used to make "down bread" because it didn't rise like yeast bread does. Typical gluten-free flour. It was probably rather nutritious as it is the only cultivated nut containing vitamin C, about 40 mg for 3 oz. It has a similar protein content as beans and is close to a potato in carbohydrate content. Sweet chestnuts also have the lowest fat content of any nut, only 2%. Chestnuts are also native to America but were nearly wiped out by blight in the 30's. The native Americans used them for many different medicinal purposes; for headaches, chills, baby powder, colds, sores, cough syrup and stomach ache. The tree was also a main source of tannin used in the leather industry and the original telegraph poles were made of chestnut.

How to Harvest Chestnuts?

There are poisonous and edible chestnuts that are grown in the US. How you tell the difference is by the outer husk. The edible has many needle like spikes and can be brown or green with one or more nuts inside. The toxic chestnut has a green husk with few spikes and only one nut per husk. The edible also has a little tuft at the tip of the nut where the toxic is just round and smooth.

You collect these nuts and can store them inside for a week or so in one layer to cure and become sweeter. Or you can put the husk-less nuts in the freezer, after scoring, as some people say the shells come off very easy after they are defrosted. I am planning on trying this method next year. Do not bring in the ones that have little holes in them as they have chestnut weevil inside and worms will come out!

After curing you make a score X cut in the shell and then you are ready to bake/roast or boil the nuts to get those shells off. I would strongly recommend the boiling as the shells came off so much easier and the flavor and texture were no different in my opinion.


Put the scored nuts in small batches in boiling water for a few 3 min. Take out with a slotted spoon and the shells peel off wonderfully. If you do not do this quickly the inner skin may re-adhere and you will have to boil again to loosen it.


The more traditional method. Place scored nuts in small batches on a cookie sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 10 min. then peel off the shells. Again this must be done quickly to keep skin from re-adhering.

I am going to be making a majority of mine into flour and freezing it this year, by putting it though the food processor, using it in place of almond flour in recipes. As it strikes me that it would be similar in texture and flavor. Oh and less expensive as well! You can can them in a light syrup to preserve long term as well. You can make soup, stuffing and of course we like to just eat them as is too.
 Turns out after I was married that we have one of those "pricker ball trees" in our front yard. I have my own little girl who likes to go in the front yard and collect the nuts up. Now I know why Harry kept that tree, the nuts are yummy! Phoebe loves them so much that when I was encouraging her to be entrepreneurial and sell them on a road side stand she looked astonished and said, "Not my nuts! We would not have enough!" They still remind me of Harry and his prickly yard but now we are making new memories with a new sweet chestnut tree.
                                                                The Farmer in the Dell

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cradle Cap Gel

I love snuggling and cuddling my new baby, in fact we all do! Most of the time this happens when we are nursing or putting her to sleep but this weekend we were able to go out as a family to enjoy some fall activities. When we do an all day outing I usually like to carry my baby in my carrier and use the double stroller for the older two. I get to spend more cuddle time this way and sneak in more kisses to her sweet little head. During this time wandering through a 9 acre corn maze I happened to notice, when I was going in to kiss her sweet little head, those yellow, flaky scales that are characteristic of cradle cap. I don't know about you but whenever my children get cradle cap I just get this urge to scratch it off for them; but the more you loosen them off the more there is it seems. Then you just end up with a baby covered in little flakes of dandruff and them looking worse that when you started. What is a mommy to do?

Well first off it is really nothing serious, at it's worst your baby can have an irritating itch on their head. In most cases it probably bothers the mom worse than the baby. It is not really known what causes cradle cap in infants but it could possibly be from a hormone over load that the mother passes to her child, either from late pregnancy or through breastfeeding, causing the oil glands in their scalp to over produce. It is also speculated that it may be a yeast over growth in the hair follicle that causes the yellow flakes to appear. At any rate whether it is too much yeast or oils it doesn't look very nice.

As someone who likes a more natural approach the idea of using cortisone (steroid) cream on my baby's head doesn't appeal to me. Especially as it always seems the worst right in her soft spot where the skin is the only thing protecting her brain and it is so absorbent. So besides using a gentle castile soap and combing out the flakes at bath time I am using this home remedy to lessen Eliora's cradle cap.

Cradle Cap Gel
  • 1/4 Cup aloe vera gel
  • 3 drops Mellaluca or Tea tree essential oil
  • 3 drops Lavender essential oil
Mix it all together in a glass jar and apply to cradle cap 3 times a day. Massaging gently into flakes, then brush out with a boar bristle brush.

It is so hard on mommies all the new stuff that goes on with our babies. As if we aren't stressed out enough as it is! This is a simple recipe that works very well for us, here is her head after one day of using the gel.

Enjoy kissing and cuddling those sweet babies while they while they are still little. Eliora rolled over for the fist time yesterday at 12 weeks old! I can't believe how quick she is growing! Time flies when you are having fun :)

                                                                  The farmer in the Dell

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I Brew Kombucha Do You?

It is controversial in the health world, but you have those who swear by it and those who say it is dangerous. Kind of like raw milk. Kombucha has an interesting history and people have been making and drinking it for thousands of years. While there is not any major scientific studies done on the benefits of drinking it, there is also no big company pushing to have the benefits and safety verified. I am okay trusting what others say about their experiences, seeing as most people are not trying to sell me something that I can make for under a dollar a gallon. That being said you should make this decision for yourself and drink it at your own risk, as if you do not handle it properly you can become sick from drinking it. Just like anything raw and live understand what you are putting into your body and use common sense, everything in moderation!

What is kombucha?

It is a tea that is fermented with a live bacterial culture called a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) or tea mushroom. This culture changes the tea and sugar into a probiotic drink. To gain any benefits from this tea the recommended amount to drink is 4-6 oz per day, however there are people who drink way more than that and are better off for it. Like any probiotic you will want to get your body adjusted before drinking that much.

What nutrients does kombucha contain?

You get antioxidants from the tea, probiotics, enzymes, gluconic acid.
If you look at these key nutrients the benefits you gain are
  • Energy boost 
  • Improved digestion and assimilation from the probiotic
  • Kills Candida over growth with high acid content 
  • Liver detox from the gluconic acid
  • Immune support from antioxidants
  • Joint lubrication
Some say that it is beneficial in cancer prevention and treatment from high levels of gluconic acid. President Ronald Regan reportedly drank Kombucha to treat his stomach cancer and it is noted he died of old age not cancer. However again this is not proven but interesting information to think about.
I feel kombucha is more of a body balancer and when your body is balanced it is better equip to heal it's self. You have to try it to see how and what it does for your body. 

Possible Risks for nursing/pregnant mothers

It is worth noting that the heavy meal and environmental detoxing that occurs in the liver from kombucha poses a possible risk to the pregnant and nursing mother. If you have a moldy SCOBY it can make you sick or if you are not properly hydrated the detox from the acid will be too strong and can cause those toxins to escape your body through milk or to the unborn baby. You can buy pH test strips to see that your brew is not too high in acid. A pH of 2.5-3 is a good level.

Kombucha is rated at a level 5 safety for breastfeeding moms. Now the La Lache League administrator did say it was probably "out of an abundance of caution" because of the lack of evidence either way. So if you decide to drink it while nursing and you notice any change in your infants stools becoming more frequent, blowing out all the time or your baby shows excessive fussiness it would be time to stop drinking the tea.

Also there is alcohol in Kombucha so I would wait 3 hours after drinking it to nurse and avoid altogether while pregnant. It has about .05-1% alcohol depending on various factors. So 12 oz of Kombucha has roughly the same alcohol content as 2-3 oz of beer. To compare, fruit juice that has sat out all day, has the alcohol content of .08%. You know what is best for your body and baby so listen to it.

How do I make it?

It only takes a few simple ingredients to make a batch of kombucha and you can do lots of variations as well by changing types of teas and sugar. I even knew someone who made kombucha with Dr Pepper! However as some of the sugar remains after the bacteria feeds off it I would not use anything containing corn syrup.  The point is to make something good for you that tastes good too. Anyway here is what you will need

Kombucha Tea
  • 1 Kombucha SCOBY
  • 1 Cup of starter tea from the original brew
  • 1 Cup sugar, maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar ect.
  • 8 tea bags of your choice (you can use herbal)
  • 1 gallon glass jar
  • coffee filter or cheese cloth 
  • rubber band
  • wooden spoon
  • 12 cups filtered water

Heat the water to it is just ready to boil then take off the heat and pour into your glass container. Add the tea bags and sugar and stir till sugar is dissolved.

Let tea cool. (Do not add the SCOBY till the tea has completely cooled off.)

Take out tea bags and add in the starter tea then the SCOBY. (Do not use any metal in contact with the SCOBY)

Cover the top of the container with cheese cloth or a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band.

Let it set in a warm area, about 70-80 degrees, for 7 or more days. The kombucha should be tangy, and have a vinegary taste with some sweet in the background.

You can take the remaining tea (all but one cup for the next starter batch) out of the bigger container and keep in smaller glass jars with plastic tops in the refrigerator. Now you can start another batch, and eventually you will have baby SCOBY's to give away for others to brew their own batches, it is the gift that keeps on giving!

 If you find you don't like the taste you can use it in place of vinegar in any recipe. I like to use it for dressings. Some people mix it with fresh fruit juice and let it ferment another two days it becomes more fizzy and soda like that way. At any rate we enjoy it and I hope you give it a try!

                                                                   The Farmer in the Dell