Archive | May 2013

Weeds. Oh my God, the weeds

Have you ever made one of those gross navigational errors that in retrospect look sooooo obvious? It looks like we may have made one. Stepping over the dollar to get to the dime, I think.  Originally, the lavender planting seemed pretty reasonable. Four hundred plants, weed barrier, irrigation on timers. But hey, guess what? Weed barrier is really expensive. Like painfully, really, super expensive.  Even though the time it will likely save is pretty valuable, too. So we get this genius idea that if we stay on top of it, the weeds will be manageable and we can do without it.  So here I am, with a hula hoe, dealing with weeds by hand. You know, all old school.  And it stinks.  Three of our rows are over the leach bed for our septic system, which means when we tilled it, there were rocks. Lots of them.  So I find myself with an abundance of weeds in an abundance of rocks. Literally, a tough row to hoe.  Isn’t that funny?

I don’t think so either. Photos to come.

Soap, Dirt and Rain

Wow, I just can’t seem to get back into my blogging groove. I’m trying to achieve some kind of balance in getting Bucklepenny off the ground and to have some kind of controlled roll out, but this is just taking on a life of it’s own.  I thought we were just about done plant this year’s babies, but we ended up buying another 400 plants, so I’ll be shuffling around on my knees in the dirt for a little longer.  Many of the initial 400 plants are doing really well and in fact we have a few spikes in bloom already. One of the varieties we selected has already shown itself to be a little weaker than the others. Hooray for test plots.

I’ve also been soaping as much as I can.  Last Thursday was a terrific day. I got a new job and came home to a pile of soaping supplies waiting on the porch when I got home. A big bucket of sustainably sources palm oil (because palm-free soaping was an epic fail), lots of new fragrance oils and two new 10″ silicon molds form Brambleberry.  You can get them here. That order and a trip thru Kenna’s masterbatching e-book resulted in 3 batches of soap that were practically perfect in every way.

yuzu

Here is a beautiful batch of Trinity Soap with Yuzu fragrance. I’m very pleased with the textured top, the color and oh, boy does it smell good. Yuzu is an Asian citrus that smells very similar, I think, to grapefruit.

milk and honey with Hera

The one on the right is called Trinity Land of Milk and Honey, a nice little soap scented with Oatmeal, Milk and Honey and colored with a titch of titanium dioxide and Brazilian purple clay.  The one on the left is Hera’s Garden Trinity.  It’s colored with micas and scented with orange and lavender essential oils.  These soaps will be available on my Etsy shop in about 4 weeks.

We had some rain, but not too much. And the iris’ are blooming.  I love those great big bearded iris’. Bean’s middle name is Iris, so they make me think of her and that just makes me smile.

iris 2013

Work continues on our logo design. Business opportunities are presenting themselves. Friends are popping out of the woodwork to offer leads and business advice. I particularly  want to single out my friends over at Balsamroot Ranch, where they make lovely, rustic handmade jewelry.  You can check our Sherry’s treasure’s on her web page here.  Her daughter also makes very cool steampunk inspired jewelry. You can also visit them at the Wenatchee Farmer’s Market.

We plowed in another section of lavender field, so I guess we have a lavender field now instead of a lavender patch.  Watch us grow.

Mother’s Day Weekend

I’ve been thinking a lot the last couple of days about community and friends and opportunities.  You know, really deep thoughts about gratitude and stuff.  In recent years friends have pointed me toward opportunities for new jobs, new homes, childcare, all kinds of things.  This year, my friends have been helping me with Bucklepenny.  Old friends are field testing products and buying soap. Neighbors are pointing me to new opportunities for sales outlets. New friends are sharing farm implements that we can’t yet afford. Even Bean and Liliputian are doing their part by providing moral support. And Fixer? Forget it.  He’s just my rock. Not only supporting this hobby, but literally doing all the heavy lifting for this cockamamie scheme I’ve cooked up. I feel really, incredibly blessed. 
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Remember this guy?

IMG_5696What a difference a week can make! It’s been incredibly hot here this week, popping up into the 90s several times.  We’ve been planting our veggie garden and the heat has just been scorching the starts in pots so it’s been a scramble.

IMG_5701The potatoes are fairly rocketing out of the ground. I can’t wait to see how big they get my harvest time in September.

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The lavender is doing well.  One variety has bloomed. Yeah, that’s right. Four whole stems from 64 plants, but I’m stoked since it’s the first season.  My plan was to get them in now so we could get a season of good growth in before winter and maybe have a small harvest next year.  Lavender takes probably three good years to grow to any real size.

coconut milk soap apricot freesiaI’ve been soaping a fair bit the lately, but not nearly what I want to be.  The top photo with the blue mica swirl is my first try at a coconut milk soap. It’s unscented and I got the recipe from Amanda at LovinSoap.com. You can find the recipe I used here.

The bottom soap is a lovely apricot freesia swirl. I’ll post when these soaps are available on Etsy.  I posted several new soaps to Etsy this week. You can find my shop here.

I also picked up a book this week on masterbatching from Kenna over at AmathiaSoapworks.com. Masterbatching is a means to speed up production prep.  Making soap a single batch at a time can be very time consuming while I wait for the solid oils to melt, add in my liquid oils and wait for that to cool and then do the same for my lye solution.  Masterbatching allows a soap maker to spend less time waiting and more time designing.  Yay for that!

I’m not quite ready for masterbatching since I’m in a period of reformulation.  Amanda has convinced me to remove palm oil from my oil repertoire because it’s not a sustainable oil and it’s production is evidently very hard on the orangutan population and who wants to be a part of that?  I do feel like I could probably have taken a more measured transition though, since all of my recipes contained palm. Every. Single. One. But I went cold turkey because I ran out of palm and didn’t have a local source anyway.

Last night’s project was coconut passionfruit papaya with poppy seed soap.  I’ll post more pictures later.

Today we rototill one last section of lavender field so we can plant the last 120 plants or so. Then I think we’ll call it a season.

Planting plants

I just knew I should have taken my camera with me out to check on the lavender babies this evening. They sure are coming along. We’ve got 25 rows in now, with somewhere close to 400 plants in the ground before I ran out of irrigated rows.  There are another 120 plants on the front porch waiting to be tucked in, but Fixer has some trenching to do before then.  Ugh.

While I was out I discovered that watching those plants take off is a lot like watching my daughters grow. Lots of planning before you bring them home, plenty of preparation and reading while you wait on them to arrive. Some trepidation while they grow and a little fear when you tuck them in by themselves for the first time.  But the real comparison is the joy and satisfaction as they start to grow and flower.  I have to admit that I was surprised by the little tingling thrill I got when I stepped out for the first time in three or four days to check progress.

A couple of varieties are sending up spikes and one variety even has a few buds ready to open. It’s kind of hilarious. Our first cutting of lavender is about 4 stems.  I feel like I should cut them and save them for always.

Elsewhere in the garden, our potatoes are going like gang busters. We planted a row of Yukon Gold and a row of Adirondack Blue. They should come ready in September I think.  Also in the ground today are peppers, cukes, garlic, melon, onions, tomatoes.  Our peach trees were pruned aggressively this spring and are now showing a stunning number of buds. We need to consult our orchard expert to find out if and how to thin the buds for bigger fruit.  I think I’m going to be canning a pile this summer.  Ditto for the plum tree. She looks pretty satisfied with herself, too.

The kiwi vine we nearly killed last summer has recovered and is moving toward the espalier wires.  Our vining friends the wisteria, clematis and grapes are all boogying right up their respective trellises, too.  I just can’t seem to get my act together to plant my asparagus, which is a shame because they take several years to establish.  Raspberries are another challenging plant for us.  They still look pretty sorry after a couple of years of disregard and a brutal pruning last year.

I’ve ordered a couple of books on intensive vegetable gardening from Amazon. It’s probably too late for this season to really have a careful plan, but maybe for next year.  Wish us luck!

Lavender going in

lavender planting 0402613TA-DA! Here they are. The first 200 or so plants in the ground. And then I ran out of rows with the irrigation installed.  And Fixer was out of town, so there was some more waiting. But now that spring is here, it’s been really nice to spend a couple of hours each evening in the field planting after work and before dinner. The Liliputian sits in her stroller with the breeze in her face while Little Bean digs in the dirt and gets mud between her toes and we argue over who gets the little spade, since I’m forever leaving my garden tools in places that make perfect sense at the time but don’t spring to mind later.  Sigh.

Bean and I also managed to get a couple of window boxes planted for the front porch and two rows of potatoes. I’ve never grown those before, so I don’t know what the hell I’m doing (a common theme these days) but a girl can’t just sit around. The potato plants are coming up now, so hopefully we’ll have a decent crop of Yukon Golds and Adirondack Blue spuds.  Grant county is big time potato country, so conditions should be good.

I’m looking forward to planting tomatoes, too. I canned tons last year, but just not quite enough. I’ve got stewed, salsa, ketchup and spaghetti sauce planned.

New apricot freesia soap was made this evening, too.  I used Romance Pink mica from The Conservatorie, which I thought was going to be a nice rosy pink. Currently it is a lovely creamy yellow with a nice mica swirl on top. I’m pleased with the color if it stays creamy or if it goes rosy.  Either one will suit the fragrance.

IMG_5678The blue berry bushes look like they are going to put on a nice looking berry set this year. Next year the bushes should be even more established and bearing even better.

IMG_5676Our wisteria has really taken off this spring, too.  Last year the poor thing really struggled, so we changed the watering schedule and trimmed the trees back to good effect.

IMG_5681Last year, I took a gander at some YouTube videos on pruning clematis.  The vines at the house when we bought it were so neglected and tangled that after attempting careful pruning, I gave up and hit it with the hedge clippers.  So this year, I skipped the careful pruning and had Fixer whack it back.  And just look at it! It looks like a wave sweeping up the shore. It’s still early in the season and still getting really cold at night, so growth will really take off as things warm up.IMG_5680And Bleeding Hearts, ever my favorite.  Cut soap next!