Of value.

We have a towel floating around the house that bugs the shit out of me.

It once was a really nice, well-made towel from Restoration Hardware. I only bring up the brand name, because it depicts a certain level of value - stay with me on this (spoiler alert: perceived value). Back in the day, my husband's best friend Nicole, bought him a giant set of RH towels (giant because he is tall and the towels are huge, also giant in quantity.) which we love and use to this day. A good towel can be hard to come by, hard to afford, and is not something I throw out when I'm sick of the color or pattern. Even though these were not my first color palette choice, I can recognize them as fancy af towels. They have sturdy cloth hooks sewn into them, commanding that one should hang the towel instead of fold. You know, that type of towel. Bygone are the days of haphazardly folding and tossing a mishmash stack of ratty towels in the back of the bathroom cabinet - these new towels are a part of the whole bathroom vibe

A few months ago one of the towels got bleach stained on them. Visually, it bugs the shit out of me, and every time I see it pop up in the bathroom, I feel like I should throw it away or cut it up to use as a cleaning rag. There have been no fewer than a dozen times that I have held the towel in one hand, and scissors in the other - only to fold it up and put it back in the bathroom. For some reason I just feel badly for the towel - and gross at myself for giving a shit. 

I'm sure I'm overthinking this a bit. OK - Hold on, let me rewind back to 2016.

I was in Belize - actually a small village slightly north-east of Punta Gorda to be exact. I had just been on a hike in the jungle, noting a certain grove of Theobroma cacao that grew wild in a part of the jungle that bordered Guatemala. I was working with a small organic farmer, specifically learning about the fermentation process of cacao beans, prior to drying and roasting. When we got back to the family's homestead we sat under the thatched roof and relaxed, drinking boiled corn cob water and eating red beans and rice with a bit of stewed chicken. After lunch we worked on splitting the cacao pods open and emptying out the beans to put in the buckets for fermentation. As is part of the process in most fermentation cycles around the world, we routinely sucked and lightly chewed on some raw beans, then spit them into the buckets with the other beans (saliva aids the chemical process, plus the raw pith of the bean tastes exactly like Mentos candy). The fermentation bucket had an innocuous white towel tied to it, for wiping down the lid and your hands after filling the bucket. The towel was stained with chocolate, dirt, sweat and god knows what else. Since these buckets stayed outside in the elements, rain often cleaned the towel, and day after day it was used again.

As I looked around the workspace, I noticed every station had the same white towel or rag tied to an object. The clay hearth had a tea kettle with a worn, thin rag around the metal handle. The broom had a small, frayed towel strip covering the worn section of the wood. The neat pile of chopped wood had a towel tied around the ax, resting on the ground, red clay staining the edges. There was a tea towel soaking in lemon water that hung from a brass hook near the hand washing station. It felt so good to wash your hands and face, and then "dry off" with the lemon water. With the weather so hot and humid, citrus water feels like a luxury. 

Obviously these were not RH towels. They were whatever you find at the local bodega, a bus ride from the village. A thin, cheap towel that lasted, until it didn't. Thread count was not exactly offered up in a sales description, nor was a corporate strategized nudge to choose this year's current Pantone color. There is no Instagram ad to follow your every scroll, urging you to replace your current towels with a newer set. And despite them being worn and stained, I fucking loved those towels.

We had them, they worked, and that was it. 

At home when I'm holding my perfectly good, bleach-stained towel, I have such a conflict of interest in my instinct to toss it. Why would I throw this out? It's perfectly usable, despite looking a little funky.

We are conditioned to buy new, buy often and buy what is trendy. A stained towel is considered disgusting and disposable. But in my fondest memories of my trips to the jungle, I often think about the little objects that made my days so much easier. A rag that was so worn and thin that it was the best to swat mosquitos away with. A towel that could roll up so small I could hike with it, and dry off when my face was covered with sweat and dust and sunscreen. I totally remember the feeling of finding a raggedy towel in my backpack, reaching down and soaking it in the river, and cleaning my body when it was so hot I was seeing stars and ready to pass out. That strip of cloth wrapped on the neck of the rum bottle at The Pickled Parrot, that kept the bugs out. A welcomed drink after an exhausting day.

I love having experiences of needing so very little, and being so appreciative of these simple objects - especially when I'm back home, emerged in a culture or "shopping season" that commands the exact opposite.

December is about needing more, buying more, having more - right?

Fuck that. 

For now, I'm keeping this lowly towel. I will not let RH or Anthro or Nordstrom's tell me it's time to buy a new one. As it is - stained, dull in color and slightly worn - it's still working for us. It's still of value. 

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Side note: I have recently fallen head-over-heels with the movement of visual mending. I know this isn't a new thing by any means, but there are some amazing artists who are slaying by changing the tone of what is trash vs. treasure. As someone who loves to discuss value, culture and use within everyday objects, my little story dovetails nicely with this artistic darning. 

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Double side note: Thank you to all of our friends and community that shops with Garden Apothecary. Please know that with every item made and sold, we are hoping you enjoy our objects enough to love them, keep them, and extend the value for as long as you can. Reuse the skincare bottles in your own unique way, write notes on the packaging or use as scratch paper, recycle the packaging material we ship with in your garden or compost pile. You're money and time is of high value - get every damn use out of your purchases as you can. 

 

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Chai tea pour-over with a side of wildfires.

Well, WTF. 

That's about as much as I can muster after weeks of farm and ranch evacuations, wildfires and smoke (and fog) so thick the sun just didn't come out today. As a farmer, I'm used to working in the heat, rain, cold, wind, even ash - but when the sunshine doesn't come out and it looks like 11pm at 11am, that's when I throw in the towel and go back to bed. (I guess I should have said, "throw in the trowel..." Oh well, another pun for another day.)

But before I pull the covers up, I'm making this herbal recipe for a little cold comfort. I call it a chai tea pour-over. Think of it like an affogato, but with caffeine free chai tea. 

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Brew a strong chai tea; bring your tea kettle to a rolling boil and pour hot water over 1 tbsp. of chai herbs. Fill up your teapot to make about 4 cups of tea. Allow to steep for 5-10 minutes, depending on how strong and spicy you'd like your tea. Once well steeped, remove the herbs and allow your tea to cool to room temperature. 
  • Scoop as many scoops of ice cream until you forget about our horrible government and our impending doom. For me, it's one hundred scoops. 
  • Drizzle honey over the top and sprinkle a pinch of sea salt. The sea salt flakes, rich in texture, make a world of difference to this recipe. 
  • If handy, chop up some mint or Thai (or purple) basil. A few leaves is enough. 
  • Pour about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of chai tea over your bowl of deliciousness. 
  • Get in bed with your ice cream and dream of better days. 

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Lavender Simple Syrup

With our lavender crop waning and cool-season veggies coming in, I find myself missing the lavender field. The huge expanse of purple is always so striking when the plants are in full bloom, and as you can imagine, the scent is calming and restorative.

This year, I decided to add lavender stem to our lavender tea, instead of just using the flowers. Making for an excellent, well-rounded taste and fragrance. Try our recipe below in a cocktail, Italian soda, or any afternoon drink you prefer.

Lavender Simple Syrup

The Syrup:

2 tbs of dried Lavender (more or less to taste)
2 cups fresh water
1 cup Half Moon Honey

Bring water to boil, remove from heat. Add the dried Lavender to the pot and steep for 15-20 minutes. Strain tea into jar. Add 1 cup of tea and the cup of honey into a pot and stir mixture together over medium heat. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and gently stir for about 3 minutes. Pour into a jar that seals tightly and the syrup should last about a month refrigerated. You can sip on the leftover tea while you make this! 

 

Lavender Gin and Tonic

1/8 to 1/4 Shot Lavender Simple Syrup
1 Shot Gin
1/2 Lemon (about 1 tbs Lemon Juice)
Tonic Water
Lemon Slice for garnish (optional)

Add Lavender Simple Syrup, Gin, and lemon juice to shaker with ice and strain over ice in a glass. Top with tonic water, add more Lavender Simple Syrup to taste, garnish with a lemon.

Want it to be a mocktail? Just omit the gin!

 

Lavender Simple Syrup Champagne Cocktails *two ways

1/8 to 1/4 shot of Lavender Simple Syrup
Sparkling Rose
or
Champagne

Add Lavender Simple Syrup to glass with ice and top with either sparkling Rose or Champagne. Add more syrup if needed.

Use soda water to make a Lavender Spritzer

 

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Skincare, with Elizabeth Chambers.

Our old friend from the Coastside, Elizabeth Chambers, had a light, fun interview with The Cut, about her skincare routine and the troubles of facial melasma during and after her pregnancies. Read on to see how she uses our Spun Gold cleanser and Higher Ground serum - among other great brands. 

 

Elizabeth has just started a new company, kids visors. Take a peek

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Harvesting emails and Gram's garden.

“Write about ‘Meyer’ lemons.”

“CA poppies touched my butt.” 

“Smelling the roses in front of Mary at Mission Basilica.”

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I have a folder in my email titled, write. It’s mostly filled with emails from myself with one or two hastily written sentences of writing ideas. In the moment, these ideas seem fantastic, and I am sure that I will remember exactly what I meant when I wrote them. 

One email says, “each leaf of tea.” 

Another says, “that goat that time.” 

I have the best of intentions to follow these sentences on a winding path to a great novel or personal essay or something that the NY Times would die to publish. Human interest stories about plants - what could be better? Mostly though, these emails stay in their folder and when I visit them on the rare occasion, I have no clue what the fuck I was talking about. “Write about ‘Meyer’ lemons” - Hmm, that doesn’t narrow it down. Should I write about how to grow them, the origin, a few recipes? I guess what pops up in my mind the most when I think of ‘Meyer’ lemons, is my Grandma Lee, who had a huge lemon tree in her back garden in San Francisco. It was planted back in the early 50’s, and by the time I was old enough to fall in love with it (around 5 years old), it was 1987 and the tree was enormous, with thick branches and bushels of foliage. My Grandpa Charles (pronounced, “Challles” with that old-fashioned native SF drawl, especially after a drink or two) pruned the tree in a uninspired rectangle, like most of the shrubs on the property. He was a good gardener, but not exactly a visionary when it came to design. I used to sit and watch him spray the shit out of the back orchard, filling the air with pesticides while I opened and closed the old brass spigot, watching the thick stream of water hit the pathway and bounce in different directions. I distinctly remember thinking, these chemicals are bad, as he sprayed the plum, apple and guava trees. But, a la The Godfather, I just sat and watched him, enamored with the visual and tactile delights of gardening. He wore a white tank top with slacks, and he smelled like church. 

When winter came, the tree was filled with heaping clusters of fragrant lemons and virile bright green leaves. The garden was a traditional postage stamp-size, outlined by a thin concrete pathway, leading in a rectangular round-about, through the garden. The lemon was on the left, but it dominated the garden. We all loved that tree; grabbing lemons off of it almost year round. Pulling at the branches and gathering the citrus in outstretched clothing at the waist, letting them weigh down our t-shirts or hoodies. The soot from the city often covered the outer growing lemons and leaves, so I would go under the tree, harvesting from the middle. My grandma told us a story once of a tortoise that lived under the tree for many years. Every time I butt-scooted under it for a lemon, I’d secretly hope to find that tortoise. I never did - and still don’t really know the full story of why my grandparents had a giant tortoise in their city garden. 

Originating in China, the ‘Meyer’ lemon was introduced to the US in 1908, and continues to grow excellently in the Bay Area - and in my opinion needs to be in every single garden. Beyond it’s great taste and medicinal qualities, it makes a lovely companion, planted along side of anything from succulents to roses. There’s little pretense with a tree like this, you just grow it and enjoy. 

The lemon tree is still there, long after my grandparents passed away. Another owner is living in the house and I have always wanted to knock on the door and visit the garden again to see that tree. 

The feeling of ‘Meyer’ lemons is what sticks with me the most. Origin is irrelevant. Recipes bore me. I want to spend time feeling like a little girl again - remembering what the blossoms smelled like for the first time and feeling the soft weight of harvesting lemon after lemon. Oils on the hands and green stains on our clothes.

“Write about 'Meyer' lemons”. One email down.

 

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