There’s nothing like a rainy day to remind me to capture sunshine! This is the first weekend in three months that I’m not working, and I spent my morning looking at all the colors and flavors of spring that are already beginning to fade. I could see the bright red rose blooms from the window, the sunshine yellow meyer lemons beaming from the kitchen table, and the kumquats bunched in a bowl. If only I could keep them with me through the seasons.
Though I can’t hold on to what’s fading, I can make them something different, something new. So, I layered the rose petals with sugar and meyer lemon slices and kumquats with salt.
What does one do with these sugars and salts? The rose petal sugar balances tart fruits, like green apples, blackberries, and early Albion strawberries. The salts can be used to season anything, but my favorite use is to take the citrus and mash it with sugar in a glass. Then, add water and ice in the summer for a delightfully bright and hydrating drink. This Vietnamese method of staying hydrated — with its electrolytes and vitamins! — kept me conscious while farming in 110 degrees, lifting large water barrels in Southeast Asian refugee camps, and excavating hurricane-damaged homes in New Orleans.
The impending heat and need for hydration reminded me that I need to keep my skin hydrated! We farmers don’t take very good care of ourselves, inside and out. We’re harvesting and hauling without stopping to take a sip or a bite. You can imagine that if we don’t have time for that, we won’t make time to wash up.
But it’s actually very important to farming! Our skin is part of this body, this tool that makes farming possible. Yet we subject our skin to daily abrasions and desiccation. The first time interns usually engage in a perma-dirt competition, showing off who has the deepest cracks in their skin that’s full of dirt — so deep you can’t wash it out. The dirt soaks up moisture, taking it away from your skin. After a few seasons, or hopefully sooner, they realize that it’s not a badge of courage. It actually means you’re hindering your work because it’s tough to harvest when your hands are cracked and bleeding. And it doesn’t help that the summers become desert dry around here.
What can you do? As we learned in 6th grade, always have protection! I always cover myself head to toe and top off with a hat. Unfortunately, last year I discovered some skin pre-cancerous growths on my face that jolted me into being more vigilant about protecting and caring for my skin. I developed a regimen of exfoliating my skin with baking soda through gentle rubs, then washing with an all organic, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil soap, and moisturizing with nourishing oils. I created a blend that is moisturizing and absorbant so I don’t go to bed with an oily face. The jojoba, rosehip, and avocado oils create a vitamin e-rich base. Lemongrass, roman chamomile, grapefruit and rose bring hydrating qualities while lavender’s touch dispells bacteria. I’m full of citrusy concoctions! I made extra moisturizer this year so let me know if you’d like some. You don’t have to be a farmer to need skin food.