ode to spring

A neighbour said recently that this was the most beautiful Spring she'd ever seen. And I think she was right. 

It truly has been a magnificent looking season - the hills and pasture awash (literally) and  brimming with green grasses. Last year we were braving drought, heat waves and even some bush fires that got out of control - but this year we've had a steady, regular fall of rain with creeks swelling and dams overflowing. The garden has never looked so fine, every plant and seed bursting, growing tall, reviving, blooming with flowers.

Every day my four year old out to earnestly inspect the various insects who've made their homes in our garden - bees of different kinds, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, spiders, beetles and ants. Some specimens are brought inside for further consideration and detailed illustrations are made in pencil and coloured pens.

Winter you see was especially difficult for us this year -  we braved what seemed like never ending grey rainy days, illness and fatigue, deep longing for the warm promises of Spring. She took her time coming, and has been for the most part mild and good to us. We've been blessed with better health - with thriving chickens, a new swarm of bees, with farm help and friends, with the birth of a healthy baby boy. 

We've filled our bellies with homegrown herbs, lettuces, silver beet, broad beans, snow peas, sugar snaps, beetroots, cabbage and rocket for our bellies - and adorned the table with magnificent ranunculus, columbines, irises, daffodils, poppies, queen anne's lace, silver dust, daisies and sweet peas... 

We've lived in this house for almost two years and I am amazed at how different each season has been here - never before have I been more aware of the changing beauty and difficulties, the capriciousness, the untameable mystery of nature. Our work as farmers depends upon it, and we are learning to keep a light hold with the things we cannot control. 

But oh it has been a beautiful Spring!

elow is my recipe for herbal body butter/lotion made of all natural ingredients. It also makes a wonderfully moisturising, sensitive shaving cream (for the menfolk in your life) and can even be used for nappy rash or to help give foot massages. It can be a little tricky to get the emulsion process to work properly - that is to introduce water molecules into the fat/oils so that they permanently change their structure, much like the process of making mayonnaise, so that the water and oil are evenly combined and can no longer separate.

Every time I make the recipe it turns out a little differently - I like that by using only natural fats, oils and beeswax (and no artificial preservatives or emulsifiers) the lotion behaves differently in different weather - the texture will be firmer in winter when it's cold and more runny in summer when its warm.

Herbal Body Butter Lotion

210g boiling water
2 tablespoons fresh herbs/flowers (lavender, chamomile, rosemary, mint, calendula, lemon verbena) OR 2 herbal teabags.
35g beeswax
85g solid oil such as lard, coconut oil, cocoa butter
170g liquid oil such as olive, sweet almond, argan,
40 drops essential oils of your choosing
stainless steel saucepan
handheld stick blender
clean glass or plastic jars/containers

Make a herbal infusion by bruising the leaves of your flowers/herbs in your hands or with the back of a knife. Place leaves in a mug or small pot. Pour over boiling water and allow it to steep until faintly warm. Strain the herbs/flowers out.

Gently heat oils/fats/wax together on a low heat in a medium sized stainless steel saucepan until melted. Cool to room temperature or around 30 degrees.

Slowly pour the infused water into the oil mixture, while beating with your handheld blender. Continue to agitate and beat up and down until the mixture is combined and thick. Stir in essential oils of your choosing. 

Spoon mixture into sterile jars and containers. Store up to six months.