DIY Herbal Recipe: Calendula Oil

We are proud to say that we dramatically expanded our educational offerings this year at Delight. Throughout the spring and summer, we’ve had the pleasure of sharing the art and process of:  flower arranging, kombucha making, yoga, and DIY herbalism. It is our mission – and a privilege – to educate our community in the ways of land stewardship and self care.

Our three-part Herbal First Aid series is coming to a close this Sunday, August 13th with a focus on our beloved green savior, Plantain (Plantago major). Plantain, usually considered a common weed, is an incredibly useful plant. Its large emerald leaves are antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and wound healing. Plantain tends to be abundant in lawns, gardens, fields, and parkways, so it’s almost always there when you need it most! It is commonly used to treat minor skin inflammation, wounds, insect bites, and irritation from poison ivy. This is, hands down, one of the most soothing remedies for those maddening mid-summer bug bites.

Interested in learning more about this healing plant? Want to learn how to make a Plantain salve to soothe all manner of itchy bites and bumps? Check out this upcoming class! Pre-registration is required. All participants will take home their own Plantain salve, and a handmade zine packed with lots of herbal wisdom + magic.

Photo by JP Goguen

In the spirit of love – of plants and of knowledge – we’re sharing a simple and (VERY) useful recipe for DIY infused herbal oils. We used this recipe to make a lovely calendula oil in part one of the Herbal First Aid series.

Calendula has been used in folk remedies for ages. It’s sunny personality and agreeable growing tendencies make it a fun and easy flower to grow, gather and use! We at Delight adore this flower for it’s bright colors, abundant blooms, and heady scent. You can’t feel sad musing by the calendula patch. Calendula is a famous wound remedy that’s used to soothe and heal all manner of burns, blisters, bruises, stings, cuts and scrapes. It’s an essential to have stocked in your bathroom cabinet or first aid kit. This herbal oil is also lovely as a post-bath or shower skin treatment.

But, here’s the beauty of this recipe: you can use it to make a multitude of healing oils, each with their own unique beauty and medicinal virtue.

Here are some herbs that make a wonderful infused oil:

  • Lavender
  • Yarrow
  • Plantain
  • Comfrey
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Calendula
  • Rosemary
  • Arnica

For more information on making your own herb-infused oils, check out this resource from bulk herb distributor, Mountain Rose Herbs. And read on, too!

Photo by JP Goguen

DIY Calendula Oil

Gather:

  • fresh calendula flowers (wilted for 24 hrs), or dry (amount varies)
  • 2 clean, sanitized mason jars + lids
  • organic extra-virgin olive oil (amount varies)
  • sunny window
  • fine mesh sieve
  • cheesecloth
  • label and permanent marker
  1. Take your fresh-wilted or dry herb (most herbs should be used dry, but a few work better fresh-wilted) and tightly pack into a canning jar. Cover the herb with olive oil (or another fixed oil of your choice) so that no dry material is exposed to air. A good rule of thumb is to cover the herb with 1” of oil. If the herb absorbs the oil, simply top your jar off with a bit more.
  2. Stir lightly, and seal tightly with a properly fitting lid. 
  3. Set your jar in a sunny window. This will allow the sun to warm the oil each day, infusing it with the medicinal properties of the herb.
  4. Give your oil a gentle shake at least once every day, or whenever you think of it. This helps circulate plant material and allows the oil to touch every surface of the herb. Assess the progress of your oil infusion after about 2-4 weeks. You’ll know your oil is ready because it will take on the color and aroma of the extracted herb.
  5. When your infusion is ready, strain the herb + oil through a cheesecloth into a clean, DRY vessel or container. Squeeze the spent herb in the cheesecloth to make sure you get every last drop of your precious infusion!
  6. Cap the vessel tightly, label your oil, and store in a cool, dark, dry place. 
  7. Use this oil on stubborn cuts, burns, or skin irritations. Or use it after bathing to nourish and hydrate the skin. Celebrate your body with a love-filled ritual.
Photo by JP Goguen

With flowery devotion,

Farmer Liz

Delight Flower Farm GROWS

Words from Farmer Holly:

Every time I step off an airplane in the golden state of California I recognize a seemingly distinct smell of the air, a smell that feels familiar and comforting and still holds a sense of home.  I think it’s a concoction of the sea, the mountains,  the dryness, and the plant life that grows year around.  It’s always there to greet me when I make my yearly visit back to the place where I spent my childhood.  With it floods in the memories of giant eucalyptus and fig trees, avocado groves, and cacti so big they start to lift the roofs off of the shed and touch the telephone line (this happened to my grandmother, see photo below!)  Plants thrive in California, the climate is constant and nourishing for the nature’s continual growth.  On my most recent trip to visit friends in San Francisco this past week, I noticed entire hillsides covered with sprawling nasturtiums and citrus was falling off of the trees, I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit of envy for such a giving climate.

It’s been 12 years since I moved to central Illinois, a move made to be closer to family, and during that time I discovered my passion for the local agriculture movement and working on farms.  I’m asked often if I want to move back to California, to the land of abundant sunshine and cascading flora.  Despite my slight climate envy, I don’t feel truly at home on the west coast anymore, I’ve uprooted and found new, enriching ground in the heart of the Midwest.

That said, one thing cannot be denied about the Midwest, and it poses a great challenge to farming.  What I’m referring to is that we have all four seasons, and winters are long and cold.  Yes, I love the colorful leaves of autumn and the fluffy white snow during the cold months, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but as a farmer in this climate it requires a special set of know-how, equipment, and infrastructure to make year-round farming possible.

2017 is a big year of growth for Delight Flower Farm, we are trying to take a leap and transition into farming full time.  We’ve expanded by branching into wholesale with local grocery stores and florists, offering weekly workshops, packaging our edible flowers, growing the CSA and business deliveries, and in so many more ways.  But ultimately, if we want to do this, we know we have to make a big investment in ourselves and in the farm.  One way we did this was just  6 short weeks ago in the form of our new 30′ x 84′ Nifty Hoops hoop house.  Nifty Hoops made a time lapse video of the build, check it out!

We couldn’t be more thrilled to have this structure on our farm now, it’s going to add months to our growing season, allowing our region to have prolonged access to locally grown flowers, further strengthening the movement for consumers to think and buy locally.  This is a big step for us, it’s going to create greater stability and capabilities for our farm.  However, we couldn’t have done this on our own, and other farms shouldn’t have to either.

Here is an important resource we used to help make this dream a reality:

EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) Grant Funding through the US Department of Agriculture

EQIP funding provides financial and technical assistance to farms looking to practice conservation techniques on their land.  We applied specifically for help with funding our greenhouse and went through a rigorous application process to be ranked high enough to receive funding.  We had to prove that our farm is a healthy habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects and that this greenhouse will help us to continue our sustainable methods of farming.

The good news? It can be done!  There is money out there from the government to help farms grow and improve! You can apply for many different things for your farm, not just a hoop house,  and different aspects of your farm might increase or decrease your ranking.  The bad news?  The application process is truly not easy and needs to be started months in advance in order to complete all the components.  Plan ahead and persevere! Double check that you are completing all the steps correctly and follow up with your local office regularly to make sure you are on the right track.

Find more info here: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/eqip/

 

 

We’ve Been Bzzzy!

Things are buzzing down on the farm! No, really.

Introducing our newest friends – a hive of bees! These pollinators have moved into a brand new hive just off the edge of the Delight Farm. The land where we grow flowers is already home to an impressive array of beneficial insects, and these bees are joining the party! Bulking up our pollinator population helps us live our mission to grow flowers that are good for the Earth and its many inhabitants.

We’re Burnin’ Up!

Ever wonder how farmers don’t go crazy over weed pressure? Introducing our #1 love – landscape fabric. This durable, water-permeable fabric helps to keep nutrient-hungry weeds under control so our flowers don’t experience increased stress and competition. But we can’t just roll it out and get planting – first, we gotta BURN! We burn holes in the landscape fabric to create a customized bed layout. We use a homemade stencil and flame-weeder to create the patterns in the fabric. The beauty of this resource is that, once the holes are in, we can use this fabric year after year! We love finding materials that can be reused or repurposed on the farm, so you can see why we cherish our landscape fabric so!

S O L D  O U T !

We did it! Our 2017 CSA shares are completely sold out! We’re stoked to bring fresh + beautiful flowers to our community shareholders in the name of land stewardship, healthy economies, flower justice, and downright DELIGHT! If you missed out on the CSA, but still want to get our flowers weekly, check out our pre-packaged arrangements available at Common Ground Food Co-op in Urbana, and Harvest Market in Champaign.

Take it with you…

Need to hit that floral refresh button? Pick up some Delight at Harvest Market in Champaign starting this Wednesday afternoon! We’ll have freshly harvested and arranged bunches for sale in the floral display – just look left when you walk in the door! Take pride knowing these beauties were grown less than 7 miles from the store.

 

Yoga with Goats! May 28!

Come on down to the farm for some good movement and good laughs. This yoga class – taught by local yoga instructor and Delight Flower Farm owner, Maggie Taylor – will take a goofy twist on plain ol’ yoga. It will include some yoga postures, breath-work, and a little cuddling with goats! Bring your sense of humor and keep your expectations open! Everyone is welcome.

Class is May 28th from 4-5 pm. In the event of rain, class will be held in the remodeled barn located on the farm. Cost is $15 in advance, $20 day-of. Reserve your spot here! Bring a mat if you have one, there will be some available for use, too!

Announcement: Medicinal Herbs by Delight!

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Happy spring, friends!

We’ve made it no secret: this past year was one of immense growth for Delight Flower Farm. We quadrupled our growing space, got serious about business operations, expanded our markets, hosted our own classes and workshops, and gathered more people than ever into our circle of sustained community support.

But, much like the slowly creeping rootstalk of a persistent perennial plant, we surely continue to grow.

We’re incredibly excited to share that Delight will begin growing, processing, and selling medicinal herbs and herbal products this year! We have already seeded some long-beloved medicinal plants in the greenhouse: chamomile, eucalyptus, calendula, holy basil, lavender, arnica, sage, hyssop, St. John’s wort, and many more! These herbs and flowers will be used to prepare teas, bath supplies, body care products, and other herbal remedies for our customers.

We hope that these plants and these products will further our mission to foster awareness of and connection to the natural world, all while inspiring our customers to take good care of themselves – body and soul. It’s becoming more clear to the masses: growing food and flowers locally is essential to the sustained health of the planet’s and our bodies’ respective ecosystems. Using locally-grown medicinal plants adds another dimension to this picture of whole health.

Meet our herbalist!

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Liz is a budding herbalist with a deep appreciation for the inimitable power and grace of plants, and an insatiable appetite for learning. She has worked with medicinal plants in her own life for years. She works to strengthen her relationship with plants, and her understanding of a holistic approach to herbal medicine through self-study and structured herbalist trainings. In the spring of 2016, she began voraciously experimenting with the practice of medicine making. (Check out a little snap of her pop-up apothecary from last summer!) Since then she has studied medicine making techniques and herb cultivation through the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in Weaverville, NC, as well as the science behind herbal constituents (or what one might call the “active ingredients” in a plant) at the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism in Boulder, CO. Liz is undeniably called to work with plants; to help them grow, to understand their uses, and to share them with her community. Their medicine is simple, but mighty.

Keep on the lookout for updates about our new herbal endeavors, like:

  • our DIY skin care class at Harvest Mark in April, sign up here!
  • herb-of-the-month updates in our e-newsletters
  • launch of new products and wholesale opportunities
  • more workshops and classes on DIY herbal remedies

Thanks for reading, friends. May the lightness of spring sink in deeply!

Spring Planting [and all things in between]

We graduated from the Farm Beginnings course mid-February. This course offered through The Land Connection is a 5 month-long farm training program that takes place at Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery all day every other Saturday. The course taught us so many farming and business skills to grow in new ways.  We completed a thorough business plan (18 pages worth!) and presented it to our classmates for feedback. We ordered new business cards, and hit the ground running.  The last month and a half has been busy with much happening “behind the scenes.” We are adapting to new formats/systems, and many “firsts”.  So far, it’s been wonderful.

We are renting a shared greenhouse space out at Green Island Farm Collective in northeast Urbana.  Green Island Farm Collective is another budding farm. They’re present at Urbana’s Market on the Square and have a permaculture/vegetable CSA.  Already we have started as many seeds as we planted all season last year.  We are on a rotation of each going to the greenhouse every other day to check on the seedlings, start a few more flats of seeds (according to our seed planting schedule), and give everything a watering.  We’re planting a lot of new flowers, and all of our old favorites too–the process has felt so good to get into.

We also did another exciting thing in March: we met and visited our farm mentor!  As part of our Farm Beginnings we are paired with a farm that is near in proximity and with a similar vision. We can visit and learn from through this year.  We were introduced to Linda Chapman and her flower farm in Spencer, Indiana–Harvest Moon Flower Farm.  We worked alongside Linda, and camped on her land for two days during our Spring Break. She taught us about greenhouses, winter growing, wedding flower how-to, more efficient planting methods, awesome tools (like a vibra-seeder?!), arranging, drying, seeding, what supplies and products are must-haves, and much more. We really packed in a lot of learning and on-farm work in a short time. And if you know us, you know we had a lot of laughs together too! It was a great experience. We couldn’t imagine a better match. We plan to go back in a few months when things are really in full swing.

Things at Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, the home of our flower farm this year, are coming alive.  This Saturday will be our first Saturday setting up a table at their Spring Breakfast Open House. They open the barn doors for visitors to play with the baby goats, eat delicious pastries, and drink coffee or goat’s milk hot chocolate.  We’ll be selling flowers, signing up folks for CSA shares, and letting people know about all that we’re doing this year!  We have daffodils bursting open, woody blooming apple branches, and forsythia. Tulips are just behind them (for next week we hope!)  These Spring Open Houses are happening every Saturday from 9am-noon until April 30th, come see us and our farm!

Delight Flower Farm Fall Updates: Farm School+Exciting New Land

IMG_7646We are doing it. We’re taking it to the next level. We are leaping!  Leaps are scary, they imply a big jump, which mean threat of free fall and unexpected landings, but in its common context, leaps are taken in faith for a brighter outcome.

We’re expanding the farm. We estimate by about 4 times in size and productivity. We are moving ground, out to a property on Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, a goat farm and cheeserie in north Urbana.  We are expanding to offer wedding services. We are planting bulbs for spring, which will extend our start of season in 2016. We’re growing in little ways too, like establishing a logo, making merch and compiling a email list. We think the future looks quite bright for Delight Flower Farm. More land=more flowers=more business=more flower justice. [That’s the phrase we’re unofficially coining around the farm. Flower justice is implying, we grow flowers that are good for the planet and good for you.]

FullSizeRenderGrowing in all these ways is not effortless, or so we are all noticing.  More land means more projects. Planning has to start now.  These days we’ve been sourcing and planting spring bulbs for some early season flowers next year, scoping out fencing for the new plot, preparing for pest management [we may have voles…], and we’ve gone back to school.  That’s right, school!  The three of us have enrolled in a 5 month farmer training course, through The Land Connection.

It is going to help us a ton with the growth and business management side of things. We go to class for a whole Saturday every couple of weeks and hear from regional farmers about their trials and tribulations. In addition, we have plenty of readings and assignments on farm management, business planning, and organization.  It’s very stimulating and enjoyable, and so fun to be back in a learning environment. But the adjustment is real and takes focus, new sacrifices, and organization. That’s ok–this is what it takes to transform and take steps towards where we want to go. It’s nice to be reminded that we can keep growing even when the flowers are dormant.

The Flower Farmer’s Ethic

“Think globally, act locally.”

The phrase of our time, a time where we have become aware of the fragility of life on this planet and the impact we humans have on it.  The locals of Urbana know that the Saturday farmer’s market has become so crowded that walking through the first two rows can be like floating through a sea of people, it’s so crowded it can sometimes be described as stressful!  But assuredly it’s better than the alternative, people of this area love to shop for local produce and goods, and believe it’s worth the premium price and effort.  It seems people are starting to change the decisions they are making regarding the type of food they are purchasing, and in turn, putting into their bodies.  The correlation between these choices and the health of the planet and one’s self has become commonly pronounced undeniable.  People are starting to see that chemicals on food means it gets absorbed by the food, in the ground, in the water, effects the bug biosphere, our health, etc. People are starting to say, I don’t want that.

But it seems the flower industry is still not quite up with the times.  Organic, and even local, flowers are few and far between, even nowadays when the organic and local movement is so trendy and publicly justified.  The flower industry is HUGE, and the use of pesticides and chemicals is just as dangerous as that in the produce industry, it still effects our planet, the local environment, and our own health.  You don’t want to stick your nose in a bouquet sprayed with chemicals, do you?

On a recent trip to New Orleans I did some research at a Whole Foods to see what the going rate for “sustainably grown” flowers was–and wanted to see what “sustainably grown” meant. What I found was surprising!  All the flowers they carried were shipped from South America, even in the dead of summer.  Why weren’t they buying locally?!  I also noticed they were all labeled “responsibly grown”, but not “chemical free”, which I wondered about.  And their prices? Very comparable to our flowers on a weekly basis, if not pricier.  I’m sure at the local farmer’s market I could have found some locally grown flowers, but much like Urbana and towns everywhere, your local grocery stores and one-stop-shops aren’t selling the local flowers, they are selling flowers shipped from all over the world, which like produce, isn’t the most ideal when it comes to fossil fuels, and are grown with chemicals.

Here is a quiz another local flower farmer gave at a class we just participated in, it gives the breakdown of the current flower situation:

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We grow flowers at Delight Flower Farm to provide a local and chemical free option for the people in and around our area.  We hope to enhance the planet with our farm, and provide joy to all living beings through flowers.

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Delight on WEFT 90.1

Click here to enjoy the April 21st “Alter Ego Show” on WEFT 90.1–Maggie, Holly and Liz guest appeared on the local morning show to talk about the Delight Flower CSA–you can catch our part specifically in the last 30 minutes, but we highly recommend you give the whole show a listen-great music and talk show on Champaign’s Community Supported Radio Station-WEFT.

And for your enjoyment, here is my Delight story:

When all the world is quiet, when I can get away and all of the chaos of chaos lifts, I find myself happiest in a patch of grass admiring the flowers and the bees and the fresh air.  When I’m left to the land I feel quite simply at home, enveloped in care, and most connected to myself, others, and the clarity of what love feels like.  In nature, we can plant seeds, give them the purest love and attention, and in return, we are given the most glorious gifts I’ve ever seen.

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It was last Winter when I bumped into Maggie in the street, it was the evening time and the snow was coming down and she was walking home from work, I was walking in the opposite direction. She said she’d come to where I was going because she wanted to talk to me about something, and once we sat down she told me about the flower garden for the first time. We had only been becoming friends since that Fall before, but we had a lot in common and we knew that about each other, so it only seemed fitting that this was happening and I never hesitated in knowing that I could be there for her.

What I mean by this was that Maggie had started a community supported and shared flower garden three years before that time, this was her business, her hobby project, and now she was facing not being able to continue because her body was about to undergo surgery due to a spinal condition. She had heard I’d been working on gardens and farms in my recent past and we must have spoken at some point about how much I loved such work and the natural lifestyle. In the dim lighting, over a drink and the murmur of the crowd around us she told me more about this surgery to help her back; she was still uncertain, it was risky, the recovery was long, and she wasn’t sure it would work. But it was either that or her back would only get worse and she knew she needed to be brave. There was another thing, the matter of the flower garden, she’d be in recovery during much of the beginning of the season, she needed an assistant to keep it going. She asked me if I thought I could help her, she assured me she would do what she could until it was time for her surgery, and from there I had know idea how I could help us succeed. I had never taken on such a serious gardening project before, I had less experience than I think Maggie or I knew that I had at the time, everything else in my life was transforming at an overwhelming rate, and there would be shareholder’s money at stake if I failed. But without knowing what I was saying, and recognizing this gift as absolutely extraordinary, I told her that I would be able to help her.

We started out the first few weeks together, she taught me the basic techniques and plan, we dug the first few beds together and planted some seeds before it was time, and from there she came to be my mentor. I visited her weekly to learn what I should do in her stead while she healed, and I would walk over to the garden in the early Spring and dig beds with my hands, and pick out all the weeds that I could, sometimes I would have help from my friends, sometimes Maggie would come out and sit by the garden and guide me, other times I would pass hours of the afternoon nearly unknowingly, planting seeds, always weeding, thinking that it felt like meditation.

holly in the garden

Weeks passed and seeds turned into flower sprouts and more and more of the little garden plot became groomed beds, and with each turn of soil it seemed that Maggie became stronger and stronger in her body. I too felt that I was becoming stronger in my body and in my mind and myself, surely more so than ever before. I remember the first time Maggie walked over to the garden from her house, it was just down the street but the sun hadn’t shined like that in a long time and Maggie had not been able to do something like that in weeks. By that time it was getting close to our first harvest. We still weren’t there yet, there were some late seeds that had yet to be planted, some gladiola bulbs, Maggie still couldn’t push her body too hard yet, healing is slow, her strength grew like the seeds, slowly but steadily, and with care and patience. More weeks passed and sprouts turned into flowers and lots of bees started visiting the garden and Maggie started to be able to move with more ease, and nearly two months later we had a quarter of our plot filled with blooms and it was time to deliver the first share of bundles to our 8 starting members of 2014.

We had goosenecks and asters and cosmos, coneflowers and daisies, others I’ve already forgotten the name of, just enough to fill all the water buckets we’d place the cut flower stems into as we picked the harvest in the early morning before the heat of the day struck. The season had officially begun and it seemed that although still taking it easy, Maggie was back in action and we still had the rest of the garden to finish up. We took our time and gently finished weeding the plots, planting the finals seeds, and tending to the garden as the summer days passed, making sure not to push ourselves to hard-life, flowers, seeds, the body-all too fragile.

Ten weeks passed and zinnias, sunflowers, gladiolas, dahlias, more and more zinnias all came up, the asters and the cosmos lasted all summer long, the first seeds we planted together.  Maggie’s recovery went smoothly, and I learned so much about myself, about care, giving, friendship, commitment, community, and my connectedness to what I do during this whole experience. From start to finish we worked on this for about six months.

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Liz

It’s one year later and we are only a few days after the time when Maggie had her surgery. We’re already about a third of the way done with prepping the garden-weeding, bedding, planting-we’re much further along than we were at this time before but we’ve had so much extra energy this year. Maggie has made a full recovery, I am by her side again with last year’s experience under me, and our friend Liz has joined our efforts, she lives at the house where this garden grows and is enthusiastic to be a part of the Delight CSA project. So many people working in the Delight garden has meant we’ve been able to redesign the space to be in the pattern of a sun, creating more room for more flowers and more members, each ray varies between a garden bed and a walking path. We’re also reconstructing the fence, moving the compost pile out of the garden to plant in the rich soil beneath, adding more perennial plants to grow back every year, and making room for a sitting area for the gardeners and the CSA members to enjoy.

Only six days remain until the deadline and only a few spots are left for this year’s CSA season, so sign up while you can! I’m so excited to be able to be a part of giving this gift back to the community.

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Love,

Holly Monet