Saturday, January 24, 2015

Winter Snow, Willow Water, and Calendula Oil

Woke up this morning to see that a little snow had appeared overnight:

View of the backyard from second story window
Snowy Garden
Chicken Coop

Snowy winter days seem the perfect time for herbal remedies and concoctions.  I don't have much experience making much with herbs and plant material beyond mixing up teas, so I thought I'd try my hand at a few things.  The first attempted item is Calendula Infused Olive Oil.  Calendula has healing properties great for the skin and minor abrasions, so my end goal is to make a salve with the finished oil and my beeswax from my beehives.  The long and the short of it is as follows:  
Calendula Infused Oil

1) Pour olive oil over dried calendula flowers and let steep in a warm place for a month.  I used extra virgin but any grade is ok.

2) Shake occasionally

3) After a month, strain and use in a salve, balm, or straight onto skin in need of a little healing.

I grow Resina calendula is the variety with the highest concentration of resins, and therefore healing properties.  It is a very easy plant to grow from seed, quite hardy to the cold and pretty to boot.  Win-win!  I followed the recipe I found at the rootsimple blog for the oil. 

Calendula oil brewing on radiator
Calendula Oil
Another experimental concoction is Willow water.  Willow (Salix sp) is a very vigorous plant.  It has many wonderful uses as a headache reliever, a source of building material from coppicing, and a rooting hormone, among other things.  It is a very vigorous species and care should be taken to choose an appropriate site that is won't spread out of control.  I know of a few wild stands that I snapped some twigs from for this water.

Willow water is used to encourage rooting for hardwood cutting propagations.  The normal rooting hormones you would purchase in a packet are chemical concoctions and this is a natural alternative.  Willow contains Indolebutyric acid (IBA) a plant hormone that stimulates rooting, as well as Salicylic acid (SA), which keeps the newly rooted plant from succumbing to infection or rot.  More info can be found about uses and properties of willow here at deepgreenpermaculture.  

Willow Water:

1) Take some cuttings from 1 year willow growth.  This will be toward the tips of branches, farther from the trunk, and will have a different bark color than the brown, older growth.  The variety I clipped has red bark but the bark might be yellow or another color, dependent on variety.  You may likely see where old growth turns into the past year's new growth.  

2) Clip cuttings into 1' pieces and cover with boiling water.

3) Steep your "tea" overnight and then strain out the willow bits.  

4) Place your cuttings to root in a vessel with the willow water overnight, then remove them to pots of seed starting medium, or however else you will be starting them (a nursery bed in the garden if it is warm enough).  For the bay laurel I am trying to root, I will give each an indiviual pot of soiless medium, a ziploc bag loosely overtop of the cutting to increase humidity, and a warm, light spot by the radiator.  

5) Label and store leftover willow water for up to 2 months in the fridge.

Left to Right: Cut willow twigs, finished willow water, bay laurel waiting to get rooted 
Bay Laurel soaking in willow water
I appreciate the ease of these experiments and look forward to seeing if the calendula oil heals cuts and the willow water helps my bay laurel cuttings root!

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