About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

How not to get eaten alive

I've never been much bothered by midges and other biting, flying things before. I think I've usually managed to hang around people who are tastier than me, so get off lightly. Here, though, we have Welsh monster midges, and I tend to be out in the garden in the evenings, so my arms have ended up covered in itchy spots. Time for action!

We have a huge wormwood bush in the garden, which, apart from providing absinthe with its mystique*, is reputed to repell insects. It was the latter property that I intended to use.

I cut a bundle of branches of wormwood and stripped the leaves off into a basin (pudding basin, not the kind you wash your hands in). This was very tedious. I then added enough olive oil to coat all the leaves, mashed it about a bit, and left it to infuse, poking it from time to time. The next day, I separated the oil from the leaves with the help of a bit of old net curtain, i.e. I bundled the mixture into the net and squeezed all the oil out. The last bits were very dark brown, but I reckoned they'd probably have most of the scent in. I also added a couple of drops of lavender essence, as I happened to have a bottle.

I could have left it at that, and just applied the oil to my skin, but I fancied something a bit nicer, so I made it into moisturiser. This required first heating the oil. I had some chicken stock on the go, so rather than heat another pan, I stuck the basin in the top of the stock. A bit sticky, but effective!


Scented oil and beeswax stealing heat from chicken stock

The reason for heating the oil is that beeswax must be melted into it, so I added a bit. Once that was melted, I took it off the heat and whisked while it cooled down. Here I discovered the difference doing this in summer rather than winter. In cold weather, it very quickly reached the creamy stage and I had to act quickly before the whole lot went solid. That didn't happen this time. In fact, it didn't reach the creamy stage at all. I was aiming for body butter but got cold gravy.

More beeswax needed, then. I repeated the process, adding a bit more wax then whisking as it cooled. I also added a bit of water when it started to thicken, which it did this time. I'm not particularly fussed about the moisturising properties of this - the water was mainly to help reduce the resemblance to gravy. In this it was successful, and once it was in a nice glass pot, the finished cream didn't look too bad at all.


Insect repellant cream

The important question, though, is does it work? I tested it this evening, applying it to face, neck and arms, and going out to brave the midges. I did a bit of weeding round the onions and carrots, from where I've been driven indoors on other occasions, and... I didn't get bitten! It's possible that with today being a bit cooler and windier than other days there weren't so many of them around, so it's not a definitive test, but so far so good! I'll keep using it and let you know whether it's any good.

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*Wormwood is used to flavour absinthe. It contains a chemical called thujone which is hallucinogenic, which did much to bolster absinthe's reputation as a dangerous drink. In fact, if you drank enough absinthe to get hallucinations, you'd be dead from the alcohol.

2 comments:

  1. Wow! I am quite impressed. I have yet to venture into the field of making creams from scratch, but I have had good luck with eucalyptus and citronella oils - and wearing long sleeves & pants when outside at dusk also helps.

    I have a friend who swears that eating processed sugar attracts mosquitoes - and that eating nutritional yeast discourages them. I haven't eaten sugar in years, but the yeast was too much for me to stomach.

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  2. Here's the post where I talked about the first time I made moisturiser, with a link to the recipe I used, which has instructions and quantities and everything!

    I have it on good authority that eating marmite, which is yeast extract but not the same as nutritional yeast (and is very salty), discourages mosquitos. I'm not sure about the yeast - I wouldn't want to eat that much salt.

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