Henna for Hair

Widow's Peak

Okay, so some funny pictures and a quick post to share with you how I dye my hair.  I used to dye it with artificial dyes 'cause I like to change up the color frequently (and over the years have had just about every color - 'cept white, gray, and green), but for over a year now have been using only henna because I was having a skin reaction (as my body was dealing with the tail end of getting over Lyme) that was exacerbated by chemicals.  Plus hair dye was one of the last vestiges of toxic chemical exposure in my life that I could take out.

Henna only comes in one color and that is reddish or orange.  I don't mind as my hair has a bit of that naturally anyway and it suits me (being a mutt who is mostly Scot-Irish).  I dye my hair because I am not ready to be gray.  I went gray overnight in some areas after experiencing a major trauma years ago.

Be sure to wear clothing you can get dirty as Henna will stain your clothing.

So, I use just plain ol' powdered henna, no additives.  I mix it with lemon juice until I get a consistency that is easy to spread but not so thin that it will drip and run.  I never measure, but it seems to be somewhat equal amounts.  You can play with it to get the thickness you desire.  I let this mixture sit for 12 hours (so I mix it up the day before I will use it).  I use a glass bowl and then cover it with saran wrap, pressing it down so there is no air exposure to dry it out.

I use gloves when applying it as it will stain your skin.  Then I cover my hair with plastic wrap and leave it like this for 3 hours.  This helps to keep it from drying out and holds heat in.  When this mixture dries out it is harder to get out of your hair (though not impossible as it is very water soluble).  You will notice that as it heats up on your head, it will get a bit thinner and can start running, if this happens just wipe it and take note to make your mixture thicker next time.

The smell of green plant and earth...so much better than toxic chemicals.

After 3 hours, just rinse it out and then shampoo and condition as usual.

Messy (no more so than artificial dyes) but non-toxic and good for your hair and scalp.  The face mask is one from this fine company.


Persimmon Bliss Cake

Okay, so I have to share with you this cake I made recently because it was one of the best eva!

~ Persimmon Cake with Quince Jam and Elderberry Syrup ~

This was my hubbie's Birthday cake; here he is about to devour it.

Depending on where you are, you may still be able to harvest some Persimmons.  We harvested ours mid-November just as they were leaving their astringency for sweetness. 

More like a bread pudding... rich and decadent with a perfect blend of smooth but substantial texture and complex, delightful taste.

Unfortunately, I did not follow a recipe or even measure all the ingredients, but fortunately! I am now going to compile a recipe from memory...it goes something like this:

Play around with it and make it yours.

Using a Foley Mill, or another method, separate the Persimmon pulp from the skin and seeds.  Use as much water as needed to do this and blend it all together (pulp and water).  
You'll want about 4 c. of this blend for the cake.

Mix this blend with 3/4 c. honey, two sticks butter, 2 eggs.

Then add 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour, 1 tspn. baking soda, 1/2 tspn. salt, and 1/4 tspn. baking powder.

Blend and pour into (2) 8-9" greased round pans or similar, bake 350 degrees for an hour and a half
(or until toothpick comes out clean), watch for too much browning, 
this long length of time worked for me.

Once separated, blend the pulp with water until it's the consistency of "slop."  :)

 I topped this cake with Quince jam and Elderberry syrup we just made, but you could top it with any type of jam or syrup.  The sweetness of the jam with the tartness of the Elderberry was perfect.  Lemon curd and maple syrup with some Ginger come to mind as a great combo to try.

A tithing:  Racoon offerings

These seeds got fed to the racoons because we are already loaded down with loads of squash seeds to prep and eat, but you can also roast and eat these.  Let removing the pulp be your Zen meditation for the day.

Elderberry Syrup - A Method and Discussion

From this beautiful bouquet of a flower comes the berry...

 Great as a healing treat or a culinary delicacy!

This medicinal syrup is often thought of as being invaluable to the onset of colds and flu, particularly with fever, as it cools and promotes sweating, opening the pores and releasing the"evils" (as would be said in TCM).  I use this syrup for this, but also for some lesser known therapeutics:  nerve damage and pain (acute or chronic), constipation, and food poisoning.  And it tastes great...one of the easier herbs with which to gain compliance.  :)

Return of the Jedi in my oven.  :)

There are different ways of making this syrup and lots of possibilities of herbs to add.  In this batch I added Pine needles  (Pinus virginiana) my apprentices and I wild-harvested and processed.  This time I did not have fresh berries (was traveling when they were ripe here in Virginia), I used organic sugar for the syrup (you can also use glycerin), and I strained it.  Sometimes I leave it chunky for all the added goodness of the skin and seeds, but felt with the Pine needles included, straining would be good.  Plus peeps seem to prefer the syrup smooth.  ;)  Mind you if you leave the seeds in, you must cook it thoroughly as they can be toxic if uncooked.

Here's how to do this yourself:

(or inquire if you want to purchase or barter from me)

You will need:
1 lb. dry Elderberries 
(see link for Mountain Rose to right side to order)
about 7 c. organic raw sugar
any other herbs you wish to infuse, 
I used about 1 c. of Pine needles
canning jars or other containers

Begin by reconstituting your berries:  bring 8 c. of water to a boil, pour over berries and other herbs, let them sit steeping with a lid for a half hour.  Next hand mash or use a stick blender to break up berries being careful not to break up seeds (they won't hurt you, just taste bitter)Then strain.  I used a cheese press for this, but you could use a mesh bag or the like.  Put this liquid in a large pot with the sugar. 

If you aren't making a divine mess in the kitchen, you aren't doing it right.  ;)

Boil, stirring regularly until it's frothy.  Have your canning jars ready (warmed so they don't break), lids off.  Once frothy, pour the syrup into the jars and put the lids on.  As they cool, they will pop.  You can store these jars unopened a year out of the fridge.  I like to keep it in the fridge once I open it.

Getting frothy.

The marc, or leftover herbs after pressing, can then be composted or used for something else.  As I said, I usually don't strain my syrup and this is why.  This seems like a waste of good nutrients and fiber.  Normally I would utilize this marc, at least as a filler, in muffins or bars.  Or use it externally as a poultice even.  But being swamped for time and, after an apprentice day of remedy prep, loaded up on various marcs that I want to get the last bit of magic out of, let's just say the raccoons will be pooping purple!

I think next time I want to add something like Pine needles, I will infuse them first, strain, and then use that infusion to reconstitute the berries.  Live and learn, always something new to learn, especially when you constantly experiment and rarely do the same thing twice.  :)

I doubled the recipe.  One recipe makes (12) 8 oz. jars. 

Inquire if you want to purchase or barter, $15 for an 8oz. jar.*
All Organic.  Shipping is expensive for liquids and this weight, 
so best if you know me and can get it in person, but I will ship, inquire...

Elderberry Abstract Art

*If you are buying several Ravenwind Botanica products at one time, whether the same item or not, you can save substantially on shipping as I will ship it all together, please inquire and we'll get the payment set up right for you.  :)  You can click on 'Ravenwind Botanica' in the list to the right to see all products available.  Thanks for supporting my work.


Flower Power: An Edible Flower as Medicine

Are you spellbound yet?

Nasturtium is the very definition of piquant:  
 1.  having a pleasantly sharp taste or appetizing flavor.
 2. pleasantly stimulating or exciting to the mind.

Gotta love that, right?  right.

Why hello there.

This gorgeous flower is one of those I grew up with as a child; one of my favorite Aunts grew Nasturtium and they remind me of her and the wondrous time spent at her house.  I get extra delight now seeing that it also makes the hummingbirds and honey bees happy in my garden.  They both visit the flowers regularly.

An unusual site in November; an opportunity within the crisis of global warming.

We are having a late frost here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but it's expected tonight so I am harvesting the Nasturtium flowers before they get blasted by the cold.  Being a native to South America; they cannot tolerate frost, but they will grow all summer long gracing us with their presence - and their food and medicine.  Both the flowers and leaves are edible; both give a spiciness to the dishes they accompany.

Sunshine captured in a basket.

They are also anti-bacterial and can be used medicinally.  I have read of them being used for colds, flu, urinary tract infections, etc.  I am going to tincture them to experiment with this use...  I will do a vinegar tincture so it may easily be used in cooking and on salads.

To do this I will cover the flowers with vinegar in a jar, making sure all the flowers are submerged.  Next I will wait 2-4 weeks, shaking the jar daily, and then strain for use.  It can be used for cooking or taken by the teaspoonful as needed - or as wanted for its flavor!

I used wax paper under the jar lid so the vinegar doesn't react with it.

Update:  4 days later, I had to share with you this gorgeous color!

Oh, and no frost yet.


Samhain: An Inner Revelry

            The brightness of Summer is waning; time to let go as the leaf does when it falls to the ground                                             in its sacrifice to the future.  How do you become nourishment for your coming seasons?

It's that time of year again when the veil thins, as it does during the in-between times, like dawn and dusk.  This time, Samhain, being half-way in-between Autumn and Winter.  A dusk of the year.

Rainy Pumpkin Harvest

A time of harvests, literal and figurative; a time of going within, going underground, into the darkness; a time when we move from the riot of summer's yang:  heat, activity, light - to the calm of winter's yin:  cold, stillness, dark.  A time to honor our ancestors, those who came before; to harvest what we and our lineage have sown...

In this time, as in others, altars, fire, and nourishing foods 
are wonderful tools for presence and transformation.

I like to make altars including items that remind me of where I have been, 
items to reflect what I am currently undergoing, and most importantly, where I wish to move to.  
All of time in this instant, remembering the future...

A photo of my late, great, great Aunt Lucy - a major presence in my life - graces my altar.

Fire is a wonderful tool to burn away the old, making space for the new.  The chill in the night air this time of year makes it perfect for a bonfire.  But even if you do not have the space for an outdoor fire, a simple candle can bring the purifying magic of fire to you.  Light one and sit with it.

My hubbie next to a soon-to-be-lit bonfire we had the pleasure of communing with.

Since I heat with firewood, I have the regular occasion to burn things in order to symbolically release them.  We just had our first wood stove fire of the season last night and I always enjoy this first one, for many reasons, one of them that all the bits of paper I put in it over the warm season get burned away (my version of paper shredding when certain things just shouldn't go in the recycling for other eyes to possibly see).

As we burn away the old, with external fires, and with our internal metabolic fire, we make room for the new.  What we bring in makes what we are tomorrow.  This includes food and other things we consume: thoughts, what we set our eyes upon, the energies of the people and places around us, and so on...
Choose wisely.

 Sweet Potatoes from the Garden

Root Vegetables are very grounding, 
helping to keep our feet firmly connected to the Earth, rooted,
 as we begin to go within to explore this coming dark time.

Enter the Gate to you Inner Worlds, much is waiting for you there...

May Joy be the result of your explorations into the dark, however difficult the path may be.

Garden Harvests:  Nourishment for the Soul.

Entrance to my Kitchen
Looking out into the Greenhouse
Why then have to be human?
Oh, not because happiness exists,
Nor out of curiosity...
But because being here means so much;
Because everything here,
Vanishing so quickly, seems to need us,
And strangely keeps calling to us...
To have been
Here once, completely, even if only once,
To have been at one with the earth -
This is beyond undoing.
– Rainer Maria Rilke