Ripping Qaspeqs & Cottonwood Salve

Wow is all I can say. My heart is overflowing with awesomeness from last nights evening of learning how to rip qaspeqs the traditional way like my great grandmother, grandmother, mom and aunties learned. There were no rotary cutters, cutting mats all they had was their nussiicuaq (scissors), fabric, and their body to use for measurements. What an amazing experience and I am so glad I learned how to finally rip qaspeqs the traditional way.

Traditional qaspeq making involves using your hand as a measurement tool as well as arms, elbows, and body to make a pattern. It is an amazing experience to witness as well as to make one based on your body. No pattern. No sweater. No shirt. Just your body, elbows, hands, thumb. I am grateful for Bethany for being eager to learn from the wonderful teachers in Toksook Bay and for her eagerness to pass this knowledge to anyone and everyone who wants to learn. Quyana to her!

I never really sewed as a young girl. My mom was never around to teach me how to sew and my aunt who was like my mom passed away when I was 9. My cousin/auntie/sister stepped in and showed me how to make my first qaspeq maybe when I was 10 or 11. And she helped me to make a quilt for my pops and other projects along the way. She was the first to introduce me to sewing on a sewing machine. If it wasn’t for her I don’t know if I would have learned to sew at a young age and I am forever grateful to her 🙂

After ripping qaspeqs, munching on musk ox (thanks to my brother-in-law and sister for sharing) it was time to finally make some cottonwood bud salve. The cottonwood buds had be infusing in the extra virgin olive oil in the sun since April 20th and they were ready and strong.

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Most recipes called for the olive oil, vitamin E oil, beeswax, and shea butter. I found these cute little tins at the local thrift store, and then I also had some small jars. Since this was my first it making it I wanted to put them in as many containers because I plan to give these away as gifts. And course share with the two helpers Naan and Bethany 🙂

So in order to get all the oils out of the cottonwood buds Naan squeezed all the cottonwood buds because I forgot to pick up the cheesecloth. It worked out awesome!

After the oils were all squeezed out of the cottonwood buds we just put them back in the container and those will be used down the road to make salve or include them in another type of salve.

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Then we cut up the beeswax and shea butter and melted them down in a double boiler method.

While the shea butter and beeswax is melting we turned on the burner low on the cottonwood bud oil so that it could slowly heat. Don’t let it boil. Because these had been infusing in the sun since April 20th we didn’t need to cook the oil too long. Usually if they are not solar infused for awhile you can turn the burner on low and let it cook for a few hours. These were strong and ready so we just let them warm up.

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Once the beeswax and shea butter was melted we added it to the cottonwood bud oil. The cottonwood bud oil came out to about 5 cups which is a lot. So I ordered beeswax sticks and used 5 of them. So we estimated one bar per cup of oil. For the shea butter we just guesstimated and put in a handful.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00455IWK6/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Here is the beeswax that I ordered and it worked awesome. We also added some shea butter so that it could firm up the consistency. To test the consistency we just dipped a spoon in the oil and pulled it out. Let it dry and checked it. It wasn’t quite thick enough we added another bar of beeswax which totaled 5 bars, and a little spoonful of shea butter.

This is the shea butter we used:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00D9NV2D4/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Vitamin E oil was also added to the oil but we didn’t measure just guesstimated.

Once the extra beeswax, and shea butter melted we let it cool. While it was cooling I quickly finished up this qaspeq ordered and showed the gals how to add the knit on this qaspeq 🙂

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Once it was cooled down enough we poured them in the containers. And the consistency was right because you could see the bottom of the jars the salve was firming.

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And here is the finished product! Cottonwood bud salve is excellent for achy muscles and joints, burns, cuts and wounds. And much more!

I am grateful for Naan. She came into my life at the right time and she is showing me the traditions of what she learned from her parents. I want to document and share this knowledge so that it can be passed down for generations to come. I am always learning about new plants and their uses. My goal is to document and share it so the younger generations can know the traditional ways of using plants as medicine.

Happy harvesting! Happy salve making! Happy Day!

And just for reference here is the recipe that we used as a base and just added shea butter and vitamin E oil from other recipes found on the web:

http://www.wildernesscollege.com/cottonwood-salve.html

Recipes for Salves

I am not an expert in gathering or making salves out of cottonwood buds, devils club, dandelion flowers and spruce tips. I am learning as I go and I will share the recipes that I plan on using once they have all infused in the extra virgin olive oil and are ready to be made into salves.

I didn’t grow up learning about them other than caiggluk, berries, wild celery, the grass that you pick in marshy areas and it tastes sweet, ayuq (tundra tea), the tasty pink flowers from the tundra, and the tasty bluebells.

And I am grateful for participating in the Ethnobotany  certificate program thru the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. It has been an amazing experience and I am three classes away from getting my certificate. I was lucky to be able to travel to Nunivak Island for a 2 week class in 2009 and it was amazing and really opened me up to a new world that I never really understood. And I talk to anyone and everyone who knows about using plants and medicine and try and soak up all their information. The internet is also a wonderful tool to find out recipes, and information about each plant. I also have some books at home and I will share those titles because they are also wonderful resources.

So far I have gathered cottonwood buds, devils club, spruce tips, and dandelion flowers. I usually pick them in a jar on my quick 30 minute lunch breaks and cover the tips, or dandelion flowers with extra virgin olive oil until they are completely covered and I let them sit in my car in the sun. I have heard and read different times to let them infuse in the sun and so I am just winging it. I check to make sure they are covered in oil daily and shake up the jar or add more oil if need be.

I have heard that you can use other oils like sunflower oil, almond oil, coconut oil. But I just extra virgin olive oil because it seems to be the cheapest and I get more for my dollar.

If I am going to use the spruce tips for jelly or tea I let them infuse in water in the sun. They are also good just to snack on and they are pretty citrusy and sour but you get used to the taste.

I also plan on making some dandelion jalapeno jelly and I will use this recipe and just add a couple jalapenos in the mix.

Dandelion Jalapeno Jelly:

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/dandelion-jelly

Dandelion Sunshine Jelly

Spruce Tip Jelly:

http://frontierfreedom.blogspot.com/2010/12/spruce-tip-jelly.html

Spruce Tip Jelly

http://www.pbs.org/food/kitchen-vignettes/spruce-tip-jelly/

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This is my jars at home now infusing in extra virgin olive oil and they get plenty of sun, maybe they are sunburnt 🙂 I jokes.

Here are the websites that I have been using as guides for when I do make the salves I will be using these websites and recipes for guidance.

Spruce Tip syrup:

http://honest-food.net/foraging-recipes/sweets-and-syrups/spruce-or-fir-tip-syrup/

Spruce Tip tea:

http://medcookingalaska.blogspot.com/2008/06/how-to-harvest-spruce-tips-with-recipes.html

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http://plants.gwichin.ca/node/6

Wild Foods & Medicine:

Fir, Hemlock and Spruce Tips

Spruce Tip Salve:

Spruce Tip Salve Recipe

Make a wonderful winter chest rub-From Spruce sap

Cottonwood Salve:

Cottonwood Bud

http://www.wildernesscollege.com/cottonwood-salve.html

https://feralbotanicals.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/harvesting-cottonwood-buds-for-medicine/

Make Balm of Gilead / Cottonwood Oil

http://bearmedicineherbals.com/harvesting-medicine-making-with-cottonwood-bark.html

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Devils Club Salve:

http://www.alaskafloatsmyboat.com/beachcombing/2013/5/15/making-devils-club-salve-and-tincture

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Healing Qualities of Devils Club:

http://herbs.lovetoknow.com/Devils_Club_Salve

And this video is Ahhhhhmazing! If you haven’t already you should check out all the UAMuseumOfTheNorth film series on YouTube. They are all wonderful and informational so grateful for videos like these to learn from.

Dandelion Salve:

Dandelion Salve Recipe

How to Make Dandelion Salve

DIY Dandelion Salve

http://www.freshbitesdaily.com/dandelion-salve/

http://littleseedfarm.com/to-be-a-farmer-blog/kitchen-witchery-dandelion-salve.html

Dandelion Salve

Happy Harvesting!

Remember not pick spruce tips from the young trees because it will stunt the growth.

Do not over pick one tree, one area, and always leave a token of thanks to the plant or tree that you harvest from.

Go out and pick with your friends, family, niece, nephew, son, daughter or whoever and keep spreading the knowledge that plants are medicine. We are surrounded by plants and they all have strong medicinal qualities that could be better for you than any pharmacy or prescription. Be sure to consult with your physician or provider if you are on any types of medications as some of the medicinal qualities in the plants or trees can affect your medication.

Quyana and happy harvesting!

Qaspeq, Kuspuk, Atikluk

Another busy last couple days sewing! I got some Mother Day gifts in the mail 🙂 I treated myself to a nice new rolling bag for my fancy machine! And I upgraded my cottonwood buds in a nice new big jar so they can steep away nicely in the extra virgin olive oil.

Qaspeq Fun

Its been a busy month of April! Sheesh its almost May time flies when you are having a BLAST 🙂

I have been on a motivated sewing binge and have been able to whip through orders. Thankfully all my customers are patient with me and I am forever grateful to all of them.

It is also a busy month of harvesting cottonwood buds. Cottonwood bud salve and oil is really good for achy muscles and joints. I have been trying to gather a jar a day because I love sharing with those who cant go out and pick them.

We also tried our luck with fishing. We skunked out and caught a cod and a flounder but sent them back to the ocean floor. A friend of ours caught two halibut and I deskinned them. I need to clean them and tan them and hopefully can get back in the groove of fish skin sewing.

And I finally brought home my big beautiful machine and put away my trusty Brother machine for a rainy day. It has been soooo ahhhhmazing to be able to sew on a super duper nice machine 🙂 maybe that’s where I found my motivation!

Happy Days to all of you and summer is right around the corner!