Friday, 27 May 2016

Walk In The Woods by Susan L.

  I'd gone for a walk a in the park a couple weeks ago but wanted to take some pictures before blogging about the damage this spring's ice storm did. 
  Big trees or small, very few were spared some sort of damage. The staff took over two days to clear the path I usually take. It had been impassible. Piles of brush, or cut up, massive branches were pushed aside and left. It's part of the conservation area's practice to create habitat for God's critters. That includes insects and insect eaters.
  The devastation caused by the weather is awe inspiring and somehow makes me feel rather small in the grand scheme of things. Entire areas of once tall trees were completely flattened but that's mostly where the ground is swampy and wet. Shallow roots don't stand a chance against nature's fury. I've seen similar damage done by a tornado. This was simply the weight of ice that felled the mighty.
  There's a wood duck nesting box the park installed a couple of years ago that was once tucked away safe in the trees but now stands, unscathed, like a guardian of the fallen.
  There are other, rarely seen, residents of the area who are more than happy to take advantage of this easy meal. This stand of poplars didn't stand a chance against the ice. Beavers love poplar. To have sweet, young branches from the tree tops served up without having to any of the hard work must be appreciated! There are many branches like this one that have nibble marks on them.
  It will take years for the trees to recover or regrow. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what different life the altered habitat welcomes.
  "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." Eccl 3:1


Thursday, 26 May 2016

Essense of Lilac by Susan L.

  It was astounding how many different ways there are to make a distillery for capturing essential oils or fragrances from herbs and flowers. Some were incredibly complicated with tubes and burners. The easiest one was to simply place a pie plate in the bottom of a large pan, pour some water in the bottom, add whatever you want to extract the oils or scent from. Place a glass lid with a handle upside down on top of the pot. Heat it on low heat until it simmers. The condensation gathers on the lid and drips into the pie plate because of the handle. Voila!
  I used the cooled, boiled water that had been poured over the crushed lilac blooms to distill. Because I don't own a pot with a glass lid, covering the top with tin foil that was angled down towards the centre worked just fine. I wondered if putting ice on the foil would make the yield higher and create a more efficient way of collecting the distilled fragrance. Perhaps doing it on a cooler day might be better, too.
  I didn't boil away all the water like was suggested on one of the sites. What was left over is more concentrated and unfortunately, a rather unappetizing brown. Don't know if that's how it should be.
  So much to learn, so little time!
  It might be wise to get a neutral nose to do some quality control. I think it has a bit of a cooked spinach undertone perhaps caused by the small amount of green from the flower bases but I could be wrong.
  I will admit, it's much easier to simply pour boiling water over the flowers. It was also suggested to use warm oil, olive or coconut, to create a scented moisturizer.
  There's plenty of lavender in the garden. Once the new growth has fully come in, maybe it's worthwhile seeing if using an oil will capture another of my favorite natural fragrances.
  How nice it would be to pull spring and summer scents out when a howling blizzard is raging and it's minus thirty for the fifth day in a row!
  "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing." 2 Cor 2:14-15

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

A Grand Experiment by Susan L.

  The lilac bushes surrounding my house are in full and fragrant bloom. They are loaded with more flowers than I've seen for a few years. The scent is lovely and wafts in through the open windows. The bushes hum with bumble bees and other nectar drinking insects. I smile at God's planning because just as the apple blossoms are beginning to fall like snow, the lilacs come into their own. Such spring feasts after winter's famine must be so delightful!
  One spring, I attempted to bottle this favorite fragrance. It didn't work out too well. Throwing whole blooms, stems and the odd leaf into a pot, it was supposed to be simmered for a couple of hours so the fragrance was concentrated. It ended up smelling like old socks. Maybe because cooking the stems and leaves interfered. I don't really know but the whole lot ended up in the garbage.
  Therefore today's exploration into capturing the aroma of spring is a grand experiment. This time I've removed as much of the stem as possible. There are no leaves in the bowl. Instead of cooking the mixture, the internet suggested pouring boiling water over crushed flowers then letting it cool. It will be reduced, once the blooms are removed, by simmering the infused water until it reaches an ideal concentration.
  That might be a bit tricky. The house is full of the aroma. So is my nose.
  I'm thinking of rigging up a distillery. It might be easier than trying to monitor the intensity of the fragrance via overloaded olfactory senses. The distilled water would be high in fragrance and would keep longer.
  Hopefully if I Google how to make a small distillery, I won't be flagged as a potential bootlegger!
  "Rise up my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land." song 2:10-12