Homemade Beauty Products.

I have been interested in making my own beauty products for a number of years. It is one way of knowing exactly what you are putting on to your skin and is definitely cheaper than shop bought items. This period of lockdown has given me the time and opportunity to have a go.

I have been using shampoo bars to wash my hair for over a year and several weeks into lockdown I was nearly at the end of my last bar. I have never made soap before and had no idea how difficult it would be, so searched the internet for the simplest recipe I could find. This is the recipe for the one I chose to make. Check this hair shampoo link for information. I had to buy a couple of items and alter the recipe a little but it made 2 large bars and I really like the way my hair feels.

Two finished bars of soap.

The items I bought online were a glycerin soap base and a pot of shea butter. I already had olive oil and coconut oil in my kitchen cupboard. I left out the orange and seasalt completely as I didn’t have either of them. I used some essential oils I already had first checking that they would be okay for my hair and skin. The oils I had were rose, geranium and bergamot. As I didn’t have any soap moulds I used some old soap dishes which worked really well. 

I started running out of skin moisturiser a few weeks after lockdown started so again looked for the simplest recipe I could find using the shea butter I had bought for the shampoo bars. I found a recipe and then altered it slightly. My final moisturiser was made by melting 40 gms of the shea butter in a pyrex bowl placed on top of a saucepan partially filled with water over a medium heat.

Once the shea butter was melted I took it off the heat and added 25 gms of carrier oil. I used jojoba oil as I already had some of this but you could also use sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil, or avocado oil. I had some vitamin E capsuals so split a couple of these and added the contents as well and a few drops of the essential oils I already had. I let the mixture cool and then put into the fridge for a couple of hours. Once it had become thick and creamy I gave a stir and then put into a sterilised tin ready for use. I have read that a calendula infused oil would also be good for this recipe. I am growing calendulas in the garden so this is an idea to try in the future.

Homemade face cream ready for use.
Calendula flower

I also wanted to make a body scrub and the first one I tried was 50 gms coconut oil, mixed with 50 gms brown sugar and a couple of teaspoons of vanilla essence. I found it best to rub over dry skin and then wash off. It smells delicious. A word of warning however, be careful that it doesn’t make a bath or shower slippy. You could also add sea salt instead of sugar. 

Brown sugar and coconut oil body scrub

One item I tried to make but unfortunately it failed was a rosewater skin toner. Mine did not smell very much like a rose. Here is a recipe which looks good to make rosewater. It is not the one I used so I will try again. I love the smell of roses and they are meant to be really good for your skin.

Getting to know Garden Bees

I have to admit that most of my life I have not taken too much notice of bees. I have not been afraid of them because I believed they wouldn’t want to sting me and only do so as a last resort, unlike wasps. My ignorance was so bad that I didn’t realise that there were bumblebees and honey bees. I thought that all bees were black and yellow striped and fluffy looking. When I heard about bee decline and how important they were for pollinating and therefore our survival, I started to take more notice. I was amazed to discover there are several hundred different species of bee in the UK alone and that not all bees make honey, but all I believe collect pollen.

Tree Bumblebee on the cotoneaster

There is so much information today on the internet that anyone who wants to find out more has no excuse. Sites such as the different Wildlife Trusts , Countryfile , Blooms for Bees , and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust , to name just a few. It can be rather daunting however as within one species of bee the Queen, the Workers and the Male bees can be different sizes and have colour variations. As to really get to grips with bees would take a lifetime, I decided that with the lovely weather and restrictions on movement during lockdown, I would try to discover what bees visit my garden and learn to recognise them. 

Just received this by post, published this month May 2020

I have also been reading some really useful books on the subject such as The Secret Lives of Garden Bees by Jean Vernon, hot off the press this spring. It is a most beautifully produced book with fantastic photographs, perfect for anyone of any age who would like to get to know a bit more about the world of bees. There is a book review here, Kids of the Wild.

I have also listened on Audible to the book by Brigit Strawbridge Howard, Dancing with Bees, a journey back to nature. Brigit writes about her love of the natural world and how important it can be for our mental health. She gives us a lot of very interesting information about bees and other garden wildlife. This book was published in Summer 2019. More information can be found here on Brigit’s Blog. I can thoroughly recommend both of these books for a beginner who would like to know more about the world of bees.

Anyway to get back to my garden bees. So far I have discovered four different species which I now hope I would be able to recognise again. The first and probably the one I have seen most of is a new comer to our UK gardens, the Tree Bumblebee. This bee has been very obliging and I have managed to take a few photographs.

I have designed a knitted bee that has a resemblance to the Tree bumblebee. I will add this pattern to my next blog post for anyone who would like to try knitting one. The Tree Bumblebee has only been here since about the year 2000 but does seem to like the flowers we have in our garden. More information can be found HERE

The second species I have noticed in the garden is the Buff-tailed bumblebee. This one is a bit confusing as apparently it is the Queen whose tail is buff coloured but the workers have white tails. They have two yellow stripes not three like the Garden bumblebee. I noticed one of these bees on the cotoneaster but it would not stay very still for me to photograph consequently my picture is very blurred.

Buff Tailed bumblebee

I found a bee lying on its back in our dining room, thinking it was dead I got a piece of kitchen roll to pick it up. When I put my hand near the bee it moved and clung onto the paper towel. I quickly took it outside and placed on some weigela flowers, the bee immediately moved into one of them. It spent about thirty minutes eating and resting before flying off. I believe this was a solitary bee called a mason bee. I have now bought a home for mason Bees and really hope someone moves in https://www.masonbees.co.uk

We also have some bees nesting under our shed but to be honest I am not sure what species they are but could be the Buff tailed. I have noticed a bee on our walks which seemed to like to burrow into hard ground and I think this may have been a Mining Bee.

A small selection of UK bees.

My next blog will have details of knitting your own Tree bumblebee or possibly bee species of your choice.

#showthelove Event Belper

Belper’s first ‘Show the Love’, Eco Event took place on Saturday February 15th in St Peter’s Church. It was a very wet and windy weekend but this did not deter people from attending which was fantastic. The idea was to have a variety of organisations for the public to talk to about the issues of our changing climate and how we can each take a few steps towards living more sustainably.We are not all going to agree on all the issues but it is important to have conversations and then decide what we feel is our personal next step forward. Maybe the biggest thing we can do is consume less and consequently waste less, working towards saving both money and our planet.
Last Saturday we were challenged by India to consider eating Edible Insects and if this was not something you could do, what about your Pets? The Guardian newspaper published an article which said that 25% of the impact of meat production comes from the pet food industry. Is it time we changed what we feed our cats and dogs? India had a selection of Edible Insects from Crunchy Critters at Ilkeston and had baked some chocolate brownies made with cricket flour.George with his Belper Beats Plastic stand had hints and tips for reducing plastic but also asked people to sign his petition. The petition hopes to persuade Amber Valley Borough Council to give better information on items that can be put in our household recycling bins. George is concerned that many people may be contaminating their recycling unintentionally  causing lorry loads to end up in landfill. He also wants the council to take food waste and turn this into compost.Marisha and Andy had information and examples of things that can now be recycled through their small business Hidden Potential Recycling.Sue from Sue’s Sustainables had lots of help and advice on changes we can make to live more sustainably. She also started the food waste initiative, Sharing not Wasting and of course runs Belper’s first almost plastic free shop.

Charlotte continued to promote the Refill Belper, scheme and sell reusable water bottles. She has worked hard to persuade cafes and other businesses to fill the publics reusable bottles so that less single use plastic bottles are bought and then very quickly end up in the bin.There were stands with information about local initiatives and volunteering opportunities. These included Belper Parks Wood Volunteers, St Peter’s Community Garden, Belper Permaculture Network, The Woodland Trust and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. We we’re encouraged to consider how we manage our own gardens and consider leaving areas to grow wild for insects, birds and small mammals. There were free wooden blue hearts and fabric blue hearts, plus packets of free seeds. The idea of the blue heart is to show that an area is being left and why, hopefully to encourage more wild areas in the town.Noah gave away Show the Love badges, made and designed by India. He also encouraged people to give donations for some Eco booklets written by four young people and the money raised was given to The Woodland Trust.Derby Greenpeace had information on electric cars among other things and we were very lucky to have two parked at the front of the church. The Derwent Valley Trust had a map of their proposed Cycleway along the valley thus making cycling a safer and more enjoyable option.Transition Belper had a very informative stand detailing their many projects in the town. Through them households can get help and advice about their energy use. They also promoted Belper Goes Green which this year will happen on the last weekend in May 2020.Its important that we help to educate young people about the effects of climate change and they need knowledge about what their personal carbon footprint is. These are issues that will effect them all but we need to be careful not to frighten.  One way of doing this is through story books such as ‘Carbon Monster’. Katherine Wheatley author of this book helped to run a children’s activity and gave us the exciting news that her second book will be published in April this year.There was an opportunity for anyone of any age to print a design of their choice with Jane a member of Derby Extinction RebellionKim and Heather had lots of information and examples of sustainable fabrics such as wool, linen and flax. Heather had examples of yarn she had spun from banana skins and mint tops and Kim had examples of how she uses sustainable fibres in her work.There was a cafe area and plenty of time for people to chat.The conversations about caring for our environment will continue in Belper and hopefully we will all work together as a community who cares.