Plant Based Artisinal Ink

Blackberry Calligraphic Ink

Blackberry Calligraphic Ink

This is a departure from my customary post, yet an alchemical expression, uniting our being with nature.  From beginning to end, it is most satisfying being a part of the process.

Blackberries ripening in the morning sun.

Blackberries ripening in the morning sun.

Harvest about one cup fresh, handpicked berries.

Gathered Sun-kissed Berries

Gathered Sun-kissed Berries

Wash well and allow to dry thoroughly, so as not to dilute the concentration.

Dry berries

Clean, dry berries

With mortar and pestle, gently crush berries into a jammy consistency.

Crushed blackberries

Crushed blackberries

Cook in a double boiler over medium heat.  Simmer covered for 20 – 30 min.

Cooked berries

Cooked berries

Strain cooked berries through a 100% cotton cloth.  Double a draw-string tea bag over on itself pouring berries directly into a sterile glass ink well.

Draining berries

Draining berries

Macerate berries with grain alcohol, or at least 80 proof vodka; to further extract essential plant oils while draining.

Ingredients for extraction

Ingredients for extraction

Add 2-3 tablespoons gum arabic to thicken.  I added 1 Tbsp. liquid Gum Arabic with a mineral spirit-like preservative quality.

Final Product

Final Product

Squeeze bag gently until all liquid juice has been fully extracted.

Allow to cool and paint, or write away!

Berry Artistic Ink

Berry Artistic Ink

I could not wait to apply brush to parchment and experience the glide of this yummy medium.  The color is lighter than anticipated, but will undoubtedly darken over time as exposed to UV rays, and the aroma is so “jammy” wafting off the page, that I expect my artwork to be perfectly edible.  This is a quick and simple craft to potentiate your art, and I successfully did it ALL while wearing white!

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Nostalgia Aromatherapy

Lilac in bloom

Lilac in bloom

Our senses conjure memories of time’s past. Distinctive shapes accompany colors and casual conversation, pressing the “play” button on recordings archived in our minds and hearts.

Mom's Lilac Tea Cup

Mom’s Lilac Tea Cup

A welcomed, familiar fragrance is often associated with one who has passed. Lilac floods the canvas that is my Mother’s. The heirloom lilac tree grows just outside our old homestead backdoor where the pale, purple perfume wandered in. My Mom chose this lilac backdrop to capture many family celebrations. She spoke of lilac memories a lifetime apart in such an enchanting way; I was convinced were my own.

Lilac Extraction

Lilac Extraction

Blessed with the lilac bouquet from this tree, its essence is preserved in this carefully created extraction:

Mom’s Lilac Spirit
*Infuse in a 6 oz. colored glass spray bottle
1 dropper full of Lilac Extract
4 oz. Distilled H20
3 drops Lavender Essential Oil
3 drops Sage
6 drops Lemongrass
4 drops Geranium (Bourbon Reunion)
½ dropper full Forget-Me-Not Distillate
6 drops Orange
2 drops Neroli

Cherishing Moms’ memory on Mother’s Day, and every day we are touched by their never ending spirit, wisdom and love.  I share this tribute with you, with every spritz, or two.

Mom's Lilac

Mom’s Lilac

Individual Cheeseless Margherita-Style Pizza

Personalized cheeseless vegetable pizza

Personalized cheeseless vegetable pizza

This colorful vegetable pizza is quick to prepare and filled with flavor. Preheat conventional or toaster oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit while assembling. Begin with Naan or unleavened flat bread. This recipe would be vegan if not for the possible ingredients used in Naan. Our naan is local but contains “DATEM”, which is an acronym for bread conditioners often containing animal ingredients.
Coat the bread of choice with just enough tomato sauce so as not to become soggy. Pesto is an excellent alternative!

Sauce covered bread.

Sauce covered bread.

Heap a generous portion of sautéed vegetables on top. I often choose the same selection of easy to come by garden veggies because I like them. These veggies were previously prepared and seasoned with intention for future entrees, like this one.

Add thick tomato slices or small wedges. Heirloom varieties, like this Black Krim, are known for their meaty texture, therefore; withstand heat well. Heirloom varieties contain higher levels of effective lycopene antioxidants, demonstrating a reduction of blood platelet aggregation. Our tomatoes were not ripening in the cool summer nights so I brought them indoors to save them from both animals and the elements, but only after a hint of color first appeared. This is the formation of lycopene, which continues to develop from the inside out.

Fresh Black Krim Heirloom Tomato

Fresh Black Krim Heirloom Tomato

Garnish with fresh basil to bring forth the flavor of these mouthwatering tomatoes.

Fresh plucked basil complements the sweet tomato.

Fresh plucked basil complements the sweet tomato.

Finally, grind black pepper overall to taste. We use a Turkish coffee grinder as our pepper mill, for a fine dusting of a tri-color blend.

Grind pepper blend to taste

Grind pepper blend to taste

Bake briefly at 400 degrees F directly on top oven rack for just a few minutes. The finished product will be hot all the way through and the bread becomes slightly crisp while remaining flexible. Try different sauces and toppings to suit your individual palate and needs, because it’s all YOURS.

Now that I have fed myself, I will go feed the tomatoes. They are still growing!

Therapeutic gleanings from the garden

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My patio garden

“It’s hypnotic watching you…” my neighbor observed.  “The way you care for your plants is an art form.”  I was taken a bit by surprise at having been “watched” while in the solitude of my little patio garden during off hours of the day. 

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Sun-drenched daisies
BME photo

Pleased to know others share my appreciation for the craft, I had the honor to help restore her lovely wooded herb garden earlier in the season where we exchanged plants from lamb’s ear and bountiful sweet woodruff, to my sun-loving daisies transplanted across her treed fence line.  Like raising the bedroom blind, the hearty American daisies beam with the bright morning sunshine from the east.

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Variegated grasses make a natural fence

Japanese irises and decorative grasses formulate a dense border discouraging deer from crossing her path.

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Hanging double and purple petunias attract wildlife
BME photo

I’m happy to have a place I can go to “take me away”, as the commercial used to proclaim.  For years I have kept hanging baskets of petunias which require dead-heading to encourage growth and stimulate new blossoms.  They can become “stringy” and won’t last the winter.  Personally, I refuse to kill any plants and rather let nature take its course, but have been accused of artificially respirating the botanicals with whom I have shared a bond and come to know fondly in my outdoor home.   In his recent blog post “A Garden for the House”, Kevin Lee Jacobs outlines tips for re-rooting petunias over the winter so as to have beautiful baskets for the following year.

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A rosy view on life
BME photo

This is just a sampler of the goings-on in my garden.  I stop and “take time to smell the roses”, snap a pic or twelve, watch the clouds blow by and commune with nature. 

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One of our many winged visitors
BME photo

My mind wanders with the wind and my thoughts are carried on the wings of the birds, bees and other insects alike that frequent here.  This is my space where I may be one with life’s growing cycle and those just visiting…if only for a brief time.

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Several varieties of bees eat freely
BME photo

It stimulates my mind, my body, my senses and my soul; and is my therapy.

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“Guiding Star Clematis”- colorful cascading fence covering
BME photo

Celebrate the Summer Solstice with Sun Infusions

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Sun infused tisane

Celebrate the Summer season with sun-steeped teas.  These light, bright and refreshing recipes are designed to nourish and hydrate our bodies throughout the year.

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Gathered botanicals

I formulated this equation as a framework on which to build a balanced blend.

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Selected plants to steep

  • 1 tsp. Base with earthy or woody constituents.
  • 2-3 tsp. Flavor with fruits and/or florals
  • 1-2 tsp. Green or White tea Leaves for antioxidant properties.

This is a mere suggestion I have found to work well for a full and satisfying, albeit therapeutic infusion.  When using fresh plants, be certain the plants have not been sprayed and are safe to drink.  Some florals are not intended for consumption and other aerial plant parts are toxic.  Stick with pre-packaged tea bags and commercial loose teas to get the feel for creating the perfect blend.  Eventually, this will become second nature as you spend more time with the plants themselves.  You will instinctively choose flavors and herbs that will address your needs, similar to why our bodies develop cravings.

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Various commercial teas and blends

I am a fan of “Traditional Medicinals” brand teas; herbal infusions naturally designed to address symptoms.

v  1 Madagascar Vanilla Red Rooibos

v  2 Black Cherry or Dark Berry

v  1 “Fusion red, white & blueberry tea

v  1 “Traditional Medicinals PMS” blend

v  2 Echinacea Elder by “Traditional Medicinals”

v  1-2 “Fusion red, white & blueberry”

v  2 Orange Spice

v  1 “Traditional Medicinals Think-Q Ginko”

v  1 white tea

v  1 Earl Grey (fermented black tea)  “Twinings” is known for safe, high quality

v  2 “Gypsy Cold Care” by “Traditional Medicinals”

v  1 white tea

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Cheerful florals for tisanes

Give botanical tisanes a try like these fresh growing flowers and herbs whilst it is summertime:

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Spicy Oregano

v  Lavender/Anise Hyssop and Rose Petals

v  Spearmint/Spicy oregano

v  Lemon Thyme/Lavender.

v  Hibiscus or Jasmine

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Anise biscuits & sugared lemon rind Compliments of Inn Walden

Potentiate the potion with dried plants and commercial blends to substantiate these fresh infusions.

Enjoy slow infusions extracted by the sun as well as a steeped, freshly brewed cup.  Be it the Summer or Winter solstice, stay safe and healthy all year long with home brewed infusions, regardless of your hemisphere.

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High Tea
Compliments of Inn Walden

Botanical witch hazel extraction – traditional complexion renewal

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Botanical Witch Hazel Extraction
‘Biochemical Alchemy’ label

The witch hazel plant has quite a pedigree, offering healing properties as one of a number of its multiple uses.  I have been a fan of witch hazel for decades, housed in my medicine cabinet as a staple, and as a foundation for other preparations such as this “Botanical Complexion Topical”. 

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Dried florals and botanicals from my garden

Maintaining a growing garden leaves me susceptible to insect bites and nettle stings.  I also prefer glove-free gardening and often stick myself on rose thorns, subjecting my skin to oxalates emitted from tomato’s protective glandular trichomes in addition to other prickers and brambles.  Goddess only knows what microscopic goodies get under my finger nails and may be transmitted transdermally.  The bright afternoon sun aids in the synthesis of Vitamin D3 and feels so good on my face, but irritates the Rosacea condition I have also been treating for 20 years. Providentially, witch hazel aids all these conditions. 

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“Botanical Complexion Topical”

This latest incarnation of my botanical toner is suggestive of The Mountain Rose Blog‘s recent recipe.  I extracted a select combination of plant parts I have grown, dried, collected and prefer for fragrance and pH rebalancing.  Most of my food and preparations are intuitive blends I have practiced repeatedly over the years.  This forgiving process welcomes you to invent your own.

  1. Gather your chosen ingredients.  The current batch contains varietals of the following:
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    Measured herbal ingredients

Handful of rose petals

2 Tbsp. Rosemary

1 Tbsp. Comfrey Leaf

1 Tsp. Peppermint leaf

20 or so Lavender Wands

Small Sage bundle

1-2 Dried Persimmon slices

1-2 tsp. Lemon Thyme

1 tsp. Basil

6 gtt. (drops) Orange Extract if no fresh orange oil is available and…

86% double distilled Witch Hazel

*Overall amounts depend upon container size.

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Dried contents

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Liquid infusion in process

Put all ingredients into a glass jar.  Fill with witch hazel ensuring herbs are immersed, allowing room for expansion.  Add liquid extracts.  Seal with a tight lid and put in a temperate location out of direct light for a minimum of a fortnight.  Gently tilt jar daily mixing contents, returning to its undisturbed location.

  1. Strain extraction initially through a sieve.
  2. Allow contents to settle then re-strain through an unbleached coffee filter or fine cotton cloth.
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    Initial straining

  3. Transfer to a glass spritzer bottle or keep stored in sealed jar, applying to skin with a glass eyedropper, so as not to contaminate contents.  Keeps well and yields enough to be shared.  This fruity, refreshing toner regenerates dermal elasticity and stimulates the senses while promoting healing on a cellular level. 

    * The human body is in a constant state of flux so bear in mind that as individuals, we each have unique responses to products at different times.  Use with care.

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    Infused claret product