Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Herbal Salt Scrub Recipe

Here is a really simple concoction for affordable home-made salt scrubs. You can make spa-quality scrubs and treat yourself to some yummy skin care or package it nicely and give it as a gift.

Wendell Combest. Ph.D. of Shenandoah University taught this to us when he was here last week. He says, " These formulations are commonly used in health spas as whole body, hand or foot exfoliating/softening/moisturizing treatments. They can be done 2x a week for a quite surprising effect... It is different than most other salt scrubs in that this one has much less oil... You can vary the consistency of the sea salt fine or course or use kosher salt for a harsher effect (may be ok in a foot scrub but not on the hands or body.)

  • Put 1/2 cup sea salt into a bowl, mix with 1 tsp olive oil, 1/4 tbs grapeseed of sweet almond oil, 1/4 tbs jojoba oil and a little vitamin E. (One capsule would work if you have the vitamin form- just squeeze out the contents and discard capsule.)
  • Add 5-10 drops of an essential oil of your choice. I like vetiver and chamomile flowers.
  • Also add about 1 tsp of powdered or coarsely chopped or ground herbs, like lemongrass, lemonbalm, lavender, peppermint, spearmint, sage, thyme, basal, sandalwood, ginger... And Mix!
Moisten your skin, rub a small amount into your skin for a few minutes. And then wash off. This treatment will stimulate your skin and leave you feeling soft and moisturized.

Thanks to Del for sharing this great formula!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A day in the kitchen: Whole Wheat Ginger Bread

Hello everybody Nathan here at the ETC.

Another bread recipe has emerged as a success from the oven. I used the Tassajara method for making whole wheat bread, which involves making a sponge, mixing the remaining ingredients & kneading, then letting rise twice and proof before baking.
This recipe will make one large round loaf or 2-3 loaves in smaller loaf pans.

3 C Warm water
2-3 Tbs Yeast (active dry or liquid culture)
4-6 C Coarse/fine whole wheat flour
1/3-1/2 C Dark honey
1/2 C Safflower oil
1 Tbs Salt
A handful Chopped ginger
4-5 C Fine/coarse W.W. flour

Making the Sponge
I start with the body temperature warm water in a medium-large mixing bowl, adding in the honey and yeast, for this batch I used some yeast left over from brewing a hard ginger beer, which was fermented with dry-active bread yeast, however dry yeast will work as well, this is mixed into solution. Next, one cup at a time I mix in the w.w. flour until it is quite thick and hard to stir. At this time I give it about another 100 strokes with a wooden spoon to smooth it out. This stage is to allow the yeast to build up activity & strength in an ideal environment as salt & oil will slow the yeast down.
The sponge is set to rise for a time until it is nearly double in size. A warm environment is best for this, 70-80 degrees F with a lid/cloth over top to prevent evaporation. I usually head up a wide pot with water in it (120-180 F) and set the mixing bowl on top.

Making Dough & Kneading
Add oil, salt and ginger to the sponge and now instead of mixing/stirring, ingredients are incorporated by folding the dough, slide the spoon under the dough and fold from the edge up and over the top of the dough, spin the bowl a little and continue to fold and spin until it reaches an even consistency. Add flour 1 cup at a time, continuing to fold the dough. At some point this becomes difficult for me to do with a spoon so I fold with my hands in a fashion similar to kneading adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking. Once dough is not too sticky, bring it out onto a floured board or counter-top and continue to knead adding flour as needed, usually for 15-20 minutes or until dough is soft. Form dough into a ball by flipping onto folded side and bring in the sides which stretches the top surface, be careful not to stretch it too tight as it can tear the surface. Set the round dough into a clean oiled bowl and keep warm & covered. Let rise 60 minutes or until almost double, punch down, make round again and let rise 45 minutes or so.

Making loaves and baking
Preheat the oven to 375 F. At this point divide the dough with a sharp knife if you are using smaller pans, or leave intact if your are going to bake it in something larger, I use a large cast-iron pan 18-20'' and the dough doesn't touch the sides so it rises without assistance for a beautiful gently sloping round. A baking sheet may also work to bake a round like this. Regardless of what you bake it in take the dough for each loaf and knead it lightly, using just a little flour and form it into a ball with the folds on the bottom. If your making a round loaf set this in your pan and keep warm until it has risen for 10-20 min. If making in a rectangular loaf pan, let your dough ball rest for a few minutes, then with a rolling pin roll it out about as wide as your pan is long and then roll it up and pinch the seam. Oil your pan and set in the dough seam up which shapes the bottom, then let is slip out onto your hand and set it in seam down which gives you a nice and even top. As with the round loaf let this set in a warm place for 10-20 min.
Bake bread for 45-60 min and pull out once top is well browned, set out of pan and tap on the bottom if it sounds hollow it is probably done if not set it back in for a time. Once loaf is finished set it out onto a rack or cloth to cool and enjoy.

Friday, May 16, 2008


The past few weeks have been an explosion of positive energy and art here at the ETC. We have been making great progress on the Hodge Podge Lodge (a building combining 7 building techniques) and generally embodying the artistic creation of a regenerative culture.
What does that mean you ask...

That means weaving our collective artistic expression into our work and lives.
That means cob dancing

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Building with Buzzards and Eagles

My name is Wade, and I’ve accepted the role as the Natural Building coordinator here at the ecovillage training center. Life here on the site is rich with dynamic energies & plenty solid work to be done. As our team of staff members came together in early March, we knew we had the makings of something tremendous this season. As the month of March elapsed via our strivings to formulate our group’s vision and prepare our gardens to provide a good lot of sustenance, we suddenly noticed how soon April was coming, bringing with it courses to give and apprentices to build with.

April showers brought us a very welcomed 7 inches of rain during the first week of the month, which just so happened to be the same week that all the myriad preparations for the Natural Building course became the requisite. I found myself with more physical responsibilities than I’d had in a good long while, mired deep in mud on all sides. That’s precisely when and where I knew I belonged. It was a combination of the feeling you get when you are able perform a task with strength enjoyably, and a generous helping of support coming to me from all angles. A collaboration of apprentices (gardeners and builders), early arrival course participants, neighbors (Biko teaching stone work), family members (Will coming through with straw bales), and, yes, even bloggers brought about the effort we needed to get April started off right.

Teaching Natural Building is a challenging task, no doubt. Yet expert builders, architects, and storytellers, primed the apprentices and I with the know-how we needed to develop an effective working rhythm. We were able to accomplish quite a bit of building in a short span, and I learned an awful lot about how to coordinate a cooperative building project. Meanwhile, in the midst of all our cobbing, plastering, carpentry, adobe, earth bagging, etc., we were able to get in a few awesome field trips (i.e. canoing, botanizing, visiting a mentor builders home site…), and we got to know each other quite well.

I can’t help but interpret those heavy early Spring rains and bald eagle sightings as good omens. Now that we’re out of the mucky muck beginning of April, when seldom a leave was on the oak trees, there are bounteous gardens promising fulfilling harvests, lotus blossoms in the swampy pond, and a brand new batch of apprentices to join up with in building our new dawn here at the ecoville. I can foresee great things coming together here this season. I must keep reminding myself that sailing on the horizon of the future has its inherent risks. As the outlook becomes more clear, our free reign to create will surely only come proportionally to the amount of responsibility that we take up for it.

Into the world of medicinal plants

Darryl Patton
Being a business school graduate, its safe to say that I did not have much time for the study of plants. Sure, I loved being outside, playing in the woods, climbing, swimming.... But I never cared to learn the identity and uses of my little (and big) plant friends. It was only after a hike in the Bankhead National Forest of Alabama with Darryl Patton, apprentice of legendary herbalist Tommie Bass, that I plunged full of wonder and excitement into the mysterious world of plants. Food and medicines growing in the wild, oftentimes following us humans wherever we settle, as if to cry out "Eat me! Eat me!"

So where do I begin? Wade has Darryl's Book,
Mountain Medicine: The Herbal Remedies of Tommie Bass. It is a great resource for me as a beginner because it only mentions local plants, many of which are right outside my door. It has big beautiful images and describes the medicinal folk uses and preparations of the herbs.

In a wave of excitement I bought
Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide, and I am currently using it in conjunction with Mountain Medicine in my studies. It is a great resource for identifying edible plants in wild (and not so wild) places across America, and also tells me where I am likely to find them, when is the best time to harvest, as well as whether to use the greens in a salad, cook them, boil the roots, make tea with the leaves, make flour with the seeds.... It is well indexed and I can search by common or Latin names, by season, or by geographical region.

I am also reading a third book called The Master Book of Herbalism, by Paul Beyerl, which offers much in terms of medicinal uses, but unlike the first two books, goes deeply into history, religious lore, and herbal magick. This is the book's true gift, for there are many easily attainable resources out there about herbalism, but it is harder to find a book that describes herbs and their relationships with gemstones, links with astrology and the tarot, and rituals. You can't find this book on Amazon.com. Nathan bought it at Blue Dragon Bookshop in Ashland, OR which sells used and out of print books.

So this is where a beginner begins, with a few simple books and the encouragement of all my forest friends.

Dogwood in Spring: Photo by Greg Landua