We spent this past weekend deep in the woods in one of the magical, old-growth forests we have here in the Pacific Northwest. We were saying “goodybe” to Summer by spending a few days camping with some of our grown kids. Since we tend to take Raggedy Hen Farm wherever we go, we spent a little time ethically wild-harvesting some wonderful natural ingredients that we will be using in our soaps–cedar tips and conifer resin.
I grew up calling the super sticky stuff that can be found on conifer trees like fir, pine, cedar, and spruce trees “pitch,” but have since learned that is not exactly correct. This resin is what the tree makes and sends to areas where there is injury to the tree to help heal those wounds. Because of this, we are careful and only take a little bit of the older resin from several different trees and we harvest it with just our hands and a dullish knife, so we don’t cause any further injury to the tree. Over our camping weekend, Teri and I gathered a bit while on an afternoon hike; and our daughter Lucy and her boyfriend, Alex, gathered a bit too while they took a long half-day hike through another part of the woods. We mostly harvested from fir trees, but gathered some cedar resin too.
The resin smells amazing and has wonderful healing properties. It is also fat soluble, so when we bring it home, we put it in a jar and cover it completely with olive oil. This will infuse for several weeks before we strain it, and then use the oil in making soaps like our Forest Pine. Resin is not the only gift we brought back from the woods, however, and we also gathered some very aromatic cedar branch tips. These smell just like Christmas to me! We’ve also tucked those in a jar and covered with olive oil and we’ll have a deliciously infused oil from this in a few weeks too.
While we will mostly use these oils in soaps, you could actually use these in cooking. Resin is also used in making incense and it can be dissolved in alcohol too. Since we are dedicated to using only all natural botanical ingredients and organic whenever possible in our soaps, we are learning ways to tap into the the goodness that the natural world has to offer. Besides, there is something that feels a bit magical knowing the beautiful, old-growth forests high in the mountains (we were at almost 3,000 feet elevation), growing along a clear, spring and snow-fed stream are giving a little of themselves to folks all over the U.S. who use our soaps.