Sunday, April 21, 2013

Calendula Salve (part II)

A jar of oil has been infusing with calendula blossoms on my dining room table since February, and now's the time to make the salve. Mountain Rose Herbs has a great recipe for calendula salve, among other fabulous things.

I started with a hunk of beeswax. (Whole Foods sells beeswax by the pound. I hacked off about an ounce worth.)

And about a cup (eight ounces) of calendula flower infused oil.

To strain out the blossoms, I covered a glass with cheesecloth...

and dumped the mixture on top.

I poured the oil into my diy double broiler. I don't own one, so my substitute is a metal bowl fitted on a saucepan. I'm never buying a double broiler.

(If you haven't used one, pour some water into the saucepan, enough so it doesn't boil away too quickly, but not so much that the bowl's bottom touches the water surface. The steam from the boiling water heats the beeswax gently, without burning.)

It's melting, it's melting...

And it's melted. I poured the oil-beeswax combination into two small jars.

A few minutes later, I had me some salve!

This was so fast and easy in the end (you know, after the weeks and months of waiting) and it all came about because someone gave me a marigold seedling last year. Next time, lip balm!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Seeds and Seedlings

Peas Go to the Birds
I direct seeded peas last weekend into large containers (after first soaking them in water for 24 hours). This weekend, I discovered large holes dug into the soil. My first guess was squirrels, but we don't actually have too many around here. We do, however, have hoards of birds. Some of the peas had started to sprout but were lying on top of the soil. They're probably goners, but ever optimistic, I put them back in the soil. Who knows? And I planted a second row as my back-up.

Spinach Under Cover
I direct seeded some spinach seeds as well. I put 3-4 seeds per hole, insurance against poor germination rates from seeds that are three years old. I covered them in plastic to keep in warmth and moisture, and keep out those dratted birds. I saw them watching me plant, waiting their turn. When I finished, I had a staring contest with a chickadee. I won. I do love waking up to the sound of birds chirping, but they can find their own food, thank you.

If At First You Don't Succeed...
I started some red butcher tomato seeds two weeks ago. Nary a sign of life two weeks later, so I dumped the tray into the compost. I had used egg cartons, and I think it's great that they're compostable, but the cardboard seems to absorb a lot of the water. If I use egg cartons again, I will water at least once a day, perhaps even twice. And I will be trying again - it's not too late to start tomatoes from seed.

And Then There Were Three
About a month ago, I started alpine strawberry seeds. Only about half of them germinated (they were three years old), and three quarters of those died within a week. They are very sensitive to drying out, so I suspect my lax watering abilities killed a good lot of them. But I have three remaining seedlings, and they're looking good. I'm keeping a close eye on their soil moisture.

From many... three.

And look how they've grown!

From a little munchkin... a bigger munchkin!

What fabulous successes (and failures!) have you had with starting seeds?