[distill, my heart]

At first, Anke was a bit tough to get to know. This was partly because she’s extremely shy when you first meet her and partly because I was extremely intimidated by her. Don’t get me wrong; Anke is diamond in the rough, she’s the type of friend you hope to have: loyal, understanding, and honest. [I hope we can keep in touch!]  She reminds me of the type of girl in this article: http://jezebel.com/being-a-good-person-versus-being-a-nice-girl-979114273 She doesn’t always give out smiles freely, but when she does, you know she’s sincere. She’s incredibly smart, caring, straightforward, and hardworking. I’ve spent most of my time with her on the farm and I’ve learned so much.

One morning, after weeding, I went inside the house to cool down from the sun. I found Anke at the computer looking at different online websites for natural fragrances. One of her dreams is to make her own natural perfumes. She brought out a couple samples that she recently purchased from a US artisan. Each sample was probably as big as my thumbnail, really small. It was great to see the way Anke lit up just talking about the different fragrances or discussing the beauty in adding meaning and artwork to the different scents [this is what the perfume woman did with her products]. I enjoyed my time with her because this was one of the first moments that I really got to know more about Anke on a one-on-one basis and it was so nice just bonding over perfumes. And then Anke said something that reminded me of an excerpt from a book I read in high school. She was talking about perfumes and she said, “It’s just nice to have something good to smell.”

It reminded me of a project I had to do on The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. In it, one of the characters O-Lan was talking about wanting to keep some pearls because it was something nice to look at. I won’t go into the details of the meaning behind the quote because I feel lame for even remembering such an obscure quote in the book, but you can do a quick Google search for it [type something like: The Good Earth O-lan Pearls –or something. I can’t access Google or Bing at our Bed&Breakfast – weird, right?]

Anyway, the book is way depressing but I drew a couple of similarities between the O-Lan and Anke in the sense that Anke doesn’t live a lavish, luxurious lifestyle [in the materialistic sense] and she doesn’t seem to want for anything…except for something nice to smell. And it seemed like such a simple request…another humbling moment; it’s truly the little things that make a big difference.

Part of the perfume making that Anke would like to do involves distilling essential oils for scents. I was lucky enough to help her distill wild carrot seet and lemon verbena leaves [plug for lemon verbena – it’s amazing. go get some!]. Next to making soap, this was another one of my favorite things I learned on the farm.

To begin, we needed to collect some of the plants. With the lemon verbena we must have collected two giant wok-fuls of leaves. For the wild carrot seed plants [shown below] we collected about 3 crate-fuls of the flowers. Anke hadn’t tried to distill either of these before so it was exciting to help her experiment.

The key to distilling is that you want to collect as much as possible to put into your distiller. So, we cut up the wild carrot seed flowers and George also ran them through a mill to turn them into a powder. Once that was complete, we were ready to start distilling!

The distiller is quite interesting. I’m not totally sure how it works but this I’ll try to explain what I can. The bottom picture on the right is the copper distiller we used. There’s three parts to it; the bottom you fill with a certain amount of water, the middle is filled with whatever you’re distilling, and then the top should ideally be constantly filled with cold running water. From what I gathered, the water will begin to boil and the steam will rise up through the middle section. Once it reaches the top part, the cold water will cool it down and send it out through the hose where we put the bottle. The bottle will catch the distilled water and any essential oils that come from the plant. When picking out a bottle to capture the oil/distilled water, Anke said it was important to use a bottle that have a rounded base [so as not to lose any essential oils in the corners – she didn’t have any though so we used square bottles] and a long, skinny neck [to make it easier to extract the oil from the top].

Typically, most of the essential oils that you’ll be able to harvest from the distiller will come out in the very beginning. We had a good amount from the lemon verbena but we got even more with the wild carrot seed. We even had some oil in the 2nd and 3rd bottles! It was pretty neat!

The essential oils can be added to all sorts of things like perfumes, lotions, soaps, etc. Each plant has its own unique scent and different effects and purposes [ex: citronella keeps mosquitos away, lemon verbena helps ease stress, etc]. With the distilled water [also known as hydrosol], we added this to flavor our water, I think you could even cook with it, and we used it for our soap making,  but other than that, I’m not entirely sure what else there is [I forgot to ask].

I really enjoyed helping Anke distill the plants. It’s something I would definitely love to look into…but you do need a lot of material in order to extract anything substantial. One day, Anke hopes to distill rose oil [which you need tons of rose pedals for!] to use in perfumes. I’m excited to see what comes of her distilling.

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One response to “[distill, my heart]

  1. Pingback: [top ten favorites at the orange blossom farm] | simplysheu·

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