Make Beeswax Cubes

This is not a new tip for crafty folk, but I finally tried it out this week. Making beeswax cubes was fun and a little messy.

Melt beeswax in a double boiler

Why?

Purchasing beeswax in bulk is usually cheaper and if you’re planning on making homemade lotions, balms, and salves it will be worth it in the long run.

Buying beeswax as “bricks” may not be as convenient as beeswax pastilles or sheets, but if you don’t mind a little work in the kitchen you can get your beeswax into a smaller, more manageable size.

By melting and pouring beeswax into ice cube trays you’re saving yourself a lot of wasted time trying to saw through the brick. Or in my case a few wild swings with a meat cleaver.

Melting beeswax and molding with ice cube trays

How?

I used the double boiler method. In my case, it was a pan of hot water with a glass bowl above. The trick is to not let the bowl rest on the water below.

I bought two bricks from local beekeepers, Beverly Bees during HerbStalk. I melted them in batches and poured the liquid, not too carefully hence the mess, into ice cube trays.

Clean up?

Yikes! I didn’t really think about that and I could have done a much better clean up job. Instead of trying to wash the bowl out with hot soapy water like me, go for a more painless and efficient way.

One herbalist said she heated the bowl back up and wiped it out with a paper towel and another suggested using rubbing alcohol for those pesky flakes that inevitably happen.

What for?

Well, I’m getting ready to make another salve soon. Last time, I made a basic calendula salve but once my St. John’s Wort oil is ready I’ll be making a new recipe! What about you?

beeswax cubes via @cmckane

Plant ID by Facebook

This summer I’ve been bitten by the botanical bug and channeling my inner 5 year old asking “what’s that?” of every plant I see.

I have Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide at home but my plant identification skills are rather rusty so when I stumbled across this large Facebook group, Plant Identification, my biggest issue has been not spamming it with ALL THE PLANTS.

Here’s a smattering of the plants I’ve seen in Massachusetts this summer that I added to the group for identification.

Common Milkweed. Asclepias syriaca.

I usually only notice it when the seeds burst later in the year but now that I know what I’m looking for, it has been so pretty to watch through all its stages.Milkweed plant id common weeds

Pokeweed. Phytolacca americana.

I’m really tempted to dig one of the many plants in the yard up this fall to make a tincture out of its root. But it is toxic so I’d have to handle with care not to mention get a proper shovel! In complete honesty, I’m rather lazy and will probably skip it.Pokeweed common weed plant id

Prickly Lettuce. Lactuca serriola.

This is the one that really got me hooked on using the Facebook group! The detective work that went into this ID included me driving home between dinner at a Korean restaurant and dessert at a coffee shop to get better shots. Plant Id prickly Lettuce common weed

Prickly Lettuce milky sap plant id common weed

Poison Ivy. Toxicodendron radicans

Plant Id poison ivy common weed

Conyza. Erigeron canadensis.

Conzya common weeds plant id

Norway Maple. Acer platanoides.

Norway Maple. Plant Id common weeds

I posted this college on Instagram with #plantid hashtag but dropped a single picture of the top left plant and within minutes got an ID. I should’ve known it was articum lappa (Greater Burdock) since it’s everywhere and even saw on my plant walk in June!

There were a couple more, but you get the idea! What about you? Do you use social media to decode your weed-ridden lawn as well? Share your plant identification tips please, I could use the help!

Three Ways to Mt. Washington Summit without Hiking

One day's exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books. John Muir Click To Tweet

John Muir was a naturalist who transversed obstacles to get closer to nature. I am in awe of hikers of his ilk, yet am inclined towards laziness.

When it comes to seeing amazing vistas and scenic views I don’t mind a walk to get there, but I’m not a great hiker. One does not simply hike Mt. Washington without preparation.

In the meantime, I’m planning to visit Mt. Washington this summer during our annual camping trip to New Hampshire. So far I’ve bamboozled two other humans and a dog into the adventure which limits our mode of transportation. But let’s break down three ways you can visit the top of Mt. Washington without hiking up. Once you get there is up to you.

Photo by benfrantzdale via Flickr
Photo by benfrantzdale via Flickr

Take a train
Interested in gorgeous views and not in a rush to get there? Try taking a steam train (there are also biodiesel trains available) to the summit and back. You can book a three-hour round trip ride from late April to November. Check out Mount Washington Cog Railway website for schedules and specials. Two things reviewers often mentioned about the Cog Railway was the family friendly atmosphere and the knowledgeable conductors.

Cost:  Adult Round Trip $69 biodiesel and $75 steam. Adult One-Way Up or Down is $48.

If you decide to hike halfway, awesome, but make sure you understand that you can get a guaranteed¬†ticket up on the train by calling in advance, but getting a one-way down ticket must be purchased on the summit and that is only if there’s any space available.

Take Mount Washington Auto Road

Self-Guided along the Auto Road
Want to tackle the Auto Road, but at your own pace? You can drive your own car, listen to the audio tour by CD or your favorite playlist while you climb up winding roads. Stop along the way at the scenic¬†points and don’t fell rushed once you reach the summit. You can drive along the auto road from late May to late October but check out the vehicle and other safety restrictions before you go. If you don’t think your car or your nerves are up to the narrow road consider a guided tour!

Cost: $29 for car & driver and $9 per extra adult passenger.

Guided Tour along the Auto Road
Want someone else to do the driving? Take a guided tour by van from mid-May to mid-October where you can enjoy tidbits from your “stage driver” and take pictures at the same time. A two-hour tour takes you straight up to the summit and gives you an hour on top while the three-hour tour gives you chances to get out along the way up.

Cost: A two-hour tour costs $36 for one adult while a three-hour tour costs $65 for one adult.

Bonus: Hikers can get a guaranteed ride up for $31 or a less guaranteed ride down for $31.

Going in the winter? Try the SnowCoach!

One last note is while it may be summer at the beginning of your trip the weather at Mt. Washington is unpredictable and swiftly changes so bring extra layers.

Now that I’ve done lots of “sleuthing” online for my trip I’m more in a quandary than when I started. I’ll let you know which one we ended up taking!

Have you tried the AutoRoad or taken the train? Let me know which you liked best in the comments below.

HerbStalk 2017: Plant Walk

Last month I attended one day of classes at HerbStalk. I picked the urban plant walk around Somerville as my first class. Though a terrible note taker, here are a couple plants we visited. Sorry about the quality of my mobile photos in advance.  Take a virtual plant walk with me!

Our guide began with sharing her “bug juice”, a yarrow, catnip and mugwort tincture. She got us started right in front of the building talking about plantain, dandelions,¬†and maple. That was before I started taking pictures or proper notes. Did you know maple leaves were edible?

A few plants that may be growing unnoticed

Burdock: Arctium L.
Burdock growing in Massachusetts The picture is a first year plant.  In its second year, a tall stalk rises.

Roots are the most commonly used portion of burdock. You dig them up in the fall of first year or spring of its second. Our guide uses them in soups, stews, and chews them too!

Two facts about burdock
1.  You can find it growing in much of North America as a weed. Especially on river banks. I see it along Charles River.
2.  Can be used as a diuretic.

Here is a great overview from University of Maryland’s Medical Center.

Milkweed: Asclepias syriaca L.
Milkweed in Massachusetts Some avoid this butterfly haven because of its poisonous milky sap. But during the late¬†stage in August, you can take the pods. Our guide steams them first and you don’t want to eat raw leaves.

Two facts about milkweed
1.  Native Americans taught colonists how to safely eat it.
2. ¬†The floss has been used as tinder for fires. Now I’m tempted to harvest some later this year for car camping.

Here’s a general overview from Farmer’s Almanac.

White Cedar: Thuja occidentalis
White cedar in Massachusetts One of my favorite scratch and sniff portions of the walk. Can make tincture or tea out of this tree and is good for many things including the lungs. But use with caution and do your research about the quality of any products.

Two facts about white cedar
1.  Some use for managing pain in trigeminal neuralgia.
2.  Used to treat warts and canker sores. 

You love science? Then check out the 2005 article:  Thuja occidentalis (Arbor vitae): A Review of its Pharmaceutical, Pharmacological and Clinical Properties.

Linden: TiliaI love linden tea! I used to mix it with juice when babysitting my sick cousin.

Our guide suggested making a double infusion hot and then cold. A nervine that’s¬†also good for the heart and delicious when added to footbaths. Another great idea she shared was to mix¬†powdered linden with cocoa powder to make chocolate. Yum!

Two facts about linden
1.  It has safely been used for children for centuries.
2. Also called lime blossom in certain regions and drunk as a tea in Britan during World War II.

A great article from Herbal Academy about the sacred tree.

Altogether it was a wonderful way to start HerbStalk and now I keep looking at the weeds in the yard or on the side of the road and try to place them.

Pop Quiz: Which plant is this about a month later?
Wild weeds in Massachusetts

Off-Season Solo Trip to Acadia National Park

Acadia in February. From Bar Harbor. cmckane
I took a solo trip but wasn’t the only one who braved the winter to visit Maine this past February; there were over 12,042 people enjoying Acadia National Park. That sounded like a lot to me but there were over 2.8 million who visited the national park in 2016! Acadia is found mostly on Mount Desert Island and with gorgeous coastal views it’s popularity is understandable.

Why Acadia

Some may want to see the gorgeous sunrise from Cadillac Mountain or drive along scenic Park Loop.

I went for two simple reasons: it wasn’t crowded and I had a couple of free days.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. Especially since our mild winter turned into ALL THE SNOW and I got to drive there and back during storms. Acadia is less than a five hour drive for me so even with snow storms it was convenient.

If you want to enjoy amazing vistas and peace in the woods visit when you don’t have to wait in lines of people clamoring to view the sights.

Why Off-Season

Since it was off-season, accommodations are limited but most places open are at a reduced rate. I got to stay in a B&B, Saltair Inn, right in Bar Harbor on the water for a great price. Not only did it come with a delicious breakfast but I got to meet another solo traveler and the innkeepers were full of great ideas.

Acadia in February. On the way back from Bar Island. cmckane
Off-Season Limitations

  • The fickleness of Mother Nature may leave you snowed in
  • Partial road closures shorten the scenic drive
  • Limited activities in town

Off-Season Benefits

Being the first to Sand Beach! Even if I had to wade through snowdrifts to make it to the stairs.Acadia in February. Sand Beach. cmckane

SolitudeAcadia in February. Driving around Mount Desert Island. cmckane

Different seasons means different views. When I returned in April I discovered there was a path past the fence and led to some breathtaking ocean views.Acadia in February. Park Loop. Overlook. cmckane

Braving the elements to walk to Bar Island during low tide. I’d like to try again¬†when it’s not below negative and so windy my glove blew away! This picture was on my way back and I ended up waiting for a car that got stuck trying to drive back up onto the icy road.Acadia in February. Bar Harbor at low tide. cmckane

Planning and Inspiration

I went on Acadia National Park’s website a ridiculous amount of times. But it’s chalk full of useful information that I found especially helpful for off-season planning.

Now if you truly want to be inspired by some sick images from Acadia check out these Instagram Feeds:
@acadianps
@aybars.png
@cmz.gphoto

Next week: I’ll share my urban walk pictures from HerbStalk this month!

Simple Calendula Salve

I went to massage school in my early twenties and soon became fascinated with reflexology and herbalism. But time wears down enthusiasm and memory, so I finally signed up for a herbal course online as a refresher. I’m going through it extremely slowly, so slow I may need to ask for an extension, but I’ve been getting that giddy feeling of excitement which grows with each new herbal craft I make at home.

Calendula Salve for skin. cmckane

I made a base batch of calendula salve and passed a bunch out to family members. My little tin goes everywhere with me which I use on bug bites, chapped lips and any dry patch there is!

HOW IT WORKS

Calendula is often known for being anti-inflammatory. Combined with oil and beeswax, the only two other ingredients I used, it is safe and soothing to apply topically to any inflamed skin; whether it is diaper rash or mosquito bites.

Calendula has other actions as well, some of which are anti-fungal, anti-spasmodic, and astringent. As an emmenagogue, it is also used to assist with menstruation. A member of the Asteraceae family it is easy to grow and a lovely addition to the garden.

HOW TO MAKE

I used a very easy, straightforward recipe from Herbal Academy. I got the recipe initially in course work from the online class I’m taking but another version can be found on their website (click here).

It’s a two-step process, at least the method I used, because you need to first infuse oil with dried calendula flowers. I like to let it sit at least a month before I strain it. Once you have calendula oil you’re ready to make your calendula salve!

RECIPE

Calendula oil + Beeswax = Calendula Salve

It’s really that simple!

You put beeswax (I used 1 ounce) in a double boiler and then add calendula oil (I used 1 cup).

Blend them together and then pour into containers of choice. I used four small tins and two larger plastics containers. This ratio came out hard but it’s also been in the 60’s here so it will melt when the hot summer days show up.

I’m already curious about how to make it next time; if I should use a mixture of oils or add in extra herbs. In fact, I may try Traditional Medicinals Lavender Calendula Coconut Salve next!

calendula

Nata Shved

Calendula is helpful in many forms and this year I planted a bunch of seeds. Hopefully, a few will survive and I’ll be able to make recipes with homegrown flowers! For more herbal recipes featuring calendula I’d check out Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal, it is still one of my favorites.

Do you have a favorite calendula recipe? Share below!

Next Friday’s post will be some photos and tips from my first solo trip to Acadia National Park from this past winter.

*Part of Homestead Blog Hop 145*

Welcome

Hi there! I’m c. Thanks for visiting my new blog where I hope to chronicle my natural adventures.

cmckane.com
I go by c because I go through the coffee line quicker with one letter ūüôā

What’s the point?

This is a personal blog to help me track my outdoor goals, but you’re welcome to follow along. I’m a very casual and comfortable at being a beginner: so I’m the opposite of an expert!

Expect a weekly post to typically cover:

Herbal recipes, car camping, photo walks, and visits to parks both local and national.

If you’d like to know a little more than visit my about page. You could also sign up for weekly posts or follow along on social media. Currently, I’m on Instagram the most but use Twitter occasionally. I’m working on a series of posts for my Medium page about the benefits of the outdoors for a variety of people and plan to post there bi-monthly.

What’s Next?

This Sunday I’ll be hopping over to HerbStalk.org. Last year I was too late to get a pass for the all day classes but got all these lovely goodies at the marketplace.

herbstalk fromthefoot HerbStalk 2016 Goodies

Upcoming Post: a super easy Calendula Salve recipe that is great to take on outdoor adventures! I’m currently using mine for lip balm and bug bites.

Thanks for stopping by!