Playing with roses

by Cari Balbo


I dream of the day I'll be harvesting baskets upon baskets of rose petals from our gardens here at Ridge Pond Farm. That dream is likely a few years away still. To tide me over this year I had the opportunity in late June to pick rose petals at the home of a close family friend.

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Cathy and my mother have been friends for more than 40 years. She and her husband live on the coast in Northport and have roses planted right along the ocean's edge of their property overlooking a lovely cove. Their roses are just gorgeous with huge, fragrant petals. I picked a few white ones but concentrated mainly on picking the pink petals for their color and fragrance. It took little time to fill my harvesting basket. 

Their scent was simply perfection. I kept getting distracted the next morning in the kitchen by these beauties, repeatedly pausing whatever I was doing to deeply inhale their fragrance. Roses are known to elicit joy and that's exactly what I feel when I'm breathing them in.  

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With my small harvest (I didn't want to be too greedy with my gathering) I made 6 small batches of different rose products for personal use and as research for future Ridge Pond Herbals products: roses infused into sweet almond oil, a rose elixir, a rose oxymel, rose-infused witch hazel, rose vinegar, and rose sugar. 

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Arguably the prettiest concoction was the rose sugar. I pulsed equal amounts of rose petals and sugar (I use organic cane sugar) in the food processor until well combined, then added a tablespoon of lemon juice. The final product was deeply, intensely pink and absolutely delicious. A decadent treat is vanilla ice cream with a sprinkle of rose sugar. The prettiest of indulgences. 

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The runner-up in the pretty department is the rose vinegar. I packed a pint jar half full with rose petals and poured in warmed-to-a-simmer apple cider vinegar to fill the jar. Very quickly the petals gave up their pink and after a week and a half I strained the mix and bottled the rosy smelling and colored vinegar. It takes willpower not to use this in everything. 

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For the oxymel, I filled a pint jar 3/4 full with petals and poured in about a cup of raw honey (warmed to pour easily). After stirring the honey and petals thoroughly I filled the rest of the jar with apple cider vinegar. I'll be straining this soon to make a sweet-tart syrup to add to sparkling water (and possibly vodka...ok, definitely vodka).

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For the rose petal-infused sweet almond oil I filled a jar half-full with petals, mashed them up a bit to release more oils and fragrance and then added sweet almond oil to fill. I still have it soaking and will strain it soon. Still pondering what future Ridge Pond Herbals prototype I'll use this loveliness in. 

The rose-infused witch hazel is made from a pint jar 3/4 full of petals covered with organic witch hazel. I'll give it another few weeks and will then strain to test a facial toner/body spray idea for Ridge Pond Herbals.

At the moment my very favorite rose experiment from last month is the rose elixir. Made from a pint jar full of petals with warmed raw honey poured in to fill 1/4 of the jar amidst the petals. The last step was to fill the rest of the jar with brandy. After sitting several weeks I strained out the petals (they were boozy and delicious, by the way) and have been relishing small doses of utter bliss in every rosy sip of this elixir.

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Tallow Power

by Cari Balbo


Have you ever used tallow on your skin? Tallow, or rendered beef fat, is a phenomenal moisturizer, particularly if it comes from 100% grass-fed cows. I've been using tallow in my personal care regimen for some time now and love how soft and healthy it makes my skin. I combine it with various beneficial-for-the-skin herbs, herbal oils, and powerful essential oils for the highest quality skin conditioners. I source my tallow from local farms here in Maine that raise their cows completely on pasture, with no added grain in their diet, and carefully and slowly render it for Ridge Pond Herbals products. Not only does tallow benefit the skin but it feels good to support Maine agriculture in the process. 

As someone who spent a lot of money in her past on expensive face creams and other products, I have high standards for quality while wanting an effective, simple, and safe moisturizer. When I started making my own bodycare products I continued to buy commercially made face creams because I didn't like how greasy or pore-clogging homemade ones felt. Once I tried tallow, however, I stopped buying face creams and switched to using tallow-based balms and herbal salves on my face. Tallow has properties uniquely similar to our skin making it a great, nourishing moisturizer. It's important to start small when first trying tallow. Apply a small bit with your fingertips and rub in gently but thoroughly. It goes on feeling a little thick but quickly absorbs into the skin. 

Ridge Pond Herbals currently offers three tallow-based products: Herbal Restoration Tallow Face Cream, Comfrey & Lavender Tallow Hand & Face Cream, and "Man Hands" Hand Cream. 

Herbal Restoration Tallow Face Cream is the most complex skin potion we offer. Carefully rendered tallow is combined over low heat with organic lavender, roses, and chickweed (three herbs great for the skin) and left to infuse several days. Once strained, the tallow is then combined with rose-infused extra virgin olive oil and another olive oil infusion made from 10 skin-benefiting herbs. Once the tallow and oils are fully combined and melted, essential oils of frankincense, carrot seed, lavender, and rose otto are added, and the mixture whipped into a creamy mix. 

The scent is fresh and light and while it feels somewhat heavy at first, this cream absorbs quickly, leaving the skin soft and happy. Some people prefer to use tallow-based creams for nighttime and I recommend starting that way. I personally use it day and night. 

Yesterday I whipped up a fresh batch of Comfrey & Lavender Tallow Hand & Face Cream. This cream is wonderfully healing with the addition of comfrey leaf- and root-infused olive oil and lavender essential oil. When whipped up it looks just like a decadent frosting (I even use frosting bags to fill the jars).

The third tallow-based product in the Ridge Pond Herbals line is "Man Hands" Hand Cream. You can read more about this fantastic hand cream for men AND women here

I bring these creams to market every week in Gardiner and every other week in Yarmouth. If you haven't tried tallow on your skin yet, I highly recommend it! 


Herbal experiments

by Cari Balbo


Over the past couple weeks I've been playing around with new products, new ways of putting ingredients together. Thought I'd share a few of my putterings for anyone interested.

This sunny pot of goodness below is a frankincense salve, made with a high ratio of frankincense essential oil. There's more risk of skin irritation at this level but the benefits are higher if your skin can tolerate it. I'm using it for a wrist issue and keep it next to the bed for a fragrant nighttime application. It also makes a really nice massage cream. 

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This elixir below is made from infusing brandy with dried medicinal fruits, herbs, and spices: elderberry, elderflower, schisandra and hawthorn berries, rosehips, hibiscus, cinnamon, cloves, ginger root, and orange peel. Along with a generous glug of honey, it sat for 6 weeks on a shelf, where I shook it once in a while. It's pretty intense, even at a small dose like 2 Tablespoons. I prefer mixing it with water and sometimes elderberry tincture for more palatablity and more elderberry. Next time I would be much lighter handed with the spices. 

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The color is gorgeous but not easy to capture with my camera. A delicious way to add beneficial herbs to everyday life.

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Sweet smelling rose salve. Made with rose-infused olive oil and beeswax. The beeswax I use is highly fragrant so I like to call this Roses and Honey salve. The petals are just for the pretty.

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Roses taking an oil bath.  

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One more rose picture, because roses.

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I love the color green. This gorgeous stuff is my Green Monster salve (for when your skin feels a little scary). The base is a Greek extra virgin olive oil that feels phenomenal on the skin and smells the way the color green would if it had a smell. I infuse the olive oil with dried comfrey leaf and root. Comfrey is just amazing stuff. I'll write more about it another time but enough to say that its healing properties, particularly for the skin, are no joke. Mike has skin issues on his hands and he uses comfrey daily to keep his skin healthy. Having some of this around is never a bad idea. Plus, it's so green!

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Comfrey leaf and root in Messiniako olive oil. 

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These pretties below are made from tallow infused with roses, chickweed, and lavender, combined with comfrey oil and lavender essential oil. After whipping in the mixer, they get poured into these tins to cool and I love the pattern on their surfaces. I have a lot (understatement!) to say about tallow but I'll wait for a separate post. Every ingredient in this cream is beneficial for your skin and the aromatherapy benefit can't be overlooked. Deep inhale...

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- Cari