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Lemon Verbena Candles

Well, that’s it. Another magical day in paradise is in the can. (Like a film can, not a toilet) Spring is definitely here.  The Little Girls and I spent the day in Wenatchee. Bean wanted a kite and since she’s been fashioning kites from notebook paper in preschool all week, I figured it was time to get her the real deal. So we stopped into Go Bent Bikes and Kites and picked one up.  It’s kind of a bummer that we have all that space in the lavender field just crying out to fly kites, but power lines are on two sides. So the next best thing is to go fly it on the irrigation ditch road thru the field across the road where we can get safely away from the lines.

 

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Another thing that’s been going on recently is that I’ve started playing tag again. I know what you’re thinking. And you’re right. It looks just like it sounds.  But Bean likes it, so I play. An immediate consequence is that we spend a fair bit of time flopped on the grass giggling which gives me cause to stare up at the beautiful blue sky with the blossoms from the ornamental plums up against it. Which leads me to my camera and some springy photos.  And the dirt booger on the sensor of my digital camera.  So I’ll have to spend some time cruising the internet looking for a how to on cleaning the sensor.  I miss the days when you could just clean your lens and be done with it.

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I also got to spend a small part of the afternoon on Saturday pouring soy candles.  Lemon Verbena soy candles. Heaven. Just Heaven. I love that smell. Maybe that’s what I’ll call them.  Just Heaven Verbena candles. Yeah.  That sounds like a winner.  I ended up with some travel size, tumbler size and an apothecary size.  The apothecary candle is mine. I don’t think I’ll be sharing that one.  Or selling it for that matter.

The product testing for the tarts and massage candles continues.  While the fragrance amount in the tarts was just right for candles, it just wasn’t smelly enough for the tarts. That’s an easy fix, I think. As for the first try at the massage candle, it smelled fantastic (cocoa butter) and would make a terrific lotion bar, but just didn’t have quite enough slip for a good massage oil, according to an aesthetician I asked to test it out. That’s going to be an interesting challenge. How do I get enough slip to make a nice massage oil, but enough hard oils to keep the candle from being liquid all the time?

I also heard another good use for beautiful soap this week. The salon owner in town said she was using one of my oatmeal, milk and honey bars to fragrance her RV.

Sunday afternoon was soap day. Four batches made, so I proclaim success! Lemon verbena to match the candles, yellow with poppy seeds and a pretty textured top.  Lavender Orange, scented with essential oils and poppy seeds added for texture. It’s also my first batch with my cylinder molds.  Also a pale pink and green apricot freesia batch and finally peppermint, pink grapefruit and sweet orange essential oils.  Those batches should make their debut at the Fancy Farmgirl Vintage Market in May.

Rainbow over Rock Island

Rainbow over Rock Island

Weed control in the raised beds

Weed control in the raised beds

We’ve decided to ease our weeding chores this year, both in the lavender and in the vegetable garden. We have weed barrier remaining from last summer, so Fixer laid it down in the raised beds for the Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

If it seems like there isn’t much talk about lavender these days, you’re right. We’re stalled right now waiting to burn a giant brush pile that’s right in the middle of the next stage of lavender planting. Burning didn’t happen this weekend, so we’re hoping for midweek burn so we can disc up the rest of the sod and get going.

So the weekend is now at an end. So I’m going to have a beer and a steak for dinner and brace myself for the week. I hope yours is fantastic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weeding Time Again

It’s that time again. Time for weeds to rear the unwelcome little heads and time to start digging them out of my lavender. There have been a couple of interesting developments since last year.  One is that the weed barrier that we laid down last year is really paying dividends.  Big ones.  Huge. Last year it took half an hour to an hour to weed out a row of lavender. This morning Fixer and I knocked out 14 rows in an hour. That doesn’t count pulling out all the unwelcome unpleasantness between the rows, but Fixer made short work of those with the tiller, so things are looking pretty good out there. We still have about 10 rows from last year that need to be papered, so that’s the plan for tomorrow.

We’re planning to switch from 2 foot wide barrier to 4 foot wide barrier so we can avoid tilling between the rows altogether. The idea is that we will be able to leave it for 2-3 years and it should kill any remaining weeds and seeds.  Also under consideration is planting the rows between with grass, purely for aesthetics.

Fixer also tilled up last year’s garden plot today, which is where we will plant all of our tomatoes for this year.  Last year we had the whole vegetable garden there, but we got a little crowded, so we’re moving the rest of the veggies out behind the shop, where there’s room to spread out.  Again, driven by weed control.  I’ve been reading up on intensive gardening, which will conserve space and help control weeds, but I’ve just not had the time to complete my research.

One other interesting finding from last year is how many of the weeds on our property aren’t really weeds. More like beneficials gone wrong.  Three examples: shepherd’s purse, purslane and dandelion. (I know, right?)

Shepherd’s purse is a medicinal herb that can be used as a styptic and antihemorraghic both from the inside and the outside. You can check out more information here. I’ve not tried it out yet, but as often as Fixer cuts himself, it can’t be long before we have a chance to try it out.

From Wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsella_bursa-pastoris

From Wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsella_bursa-pastoris

Purslane is a constant irritation because it’s like the Hydra. Cut it in half and you end up with two plants. God help you if you don’t pull it all out. Turns out it’s an edible green.  I bet if we were trying to cultivate it for eating, we’d have less prolific plants. Ain’t that always the way? You can find recipes here.

And dandelion.  Ah dandelion. I’ve learned lot about dandelion this year.  Under cultivation, it just looks so wrong.  All these years of trying to eradicate them from our lawn, only to discover that it’s useable as a salad green, a soap colorant, and a medicinal herb both from the leaf and root.  Who knew? You can find more information here and here.

Check out some herbal books from your local library or bookstore and see what’s growing in your yard.  What unexpected edibles are in your yard?

Friday was also a big soaping day. I’ve been on the road quite a bit the last couple of weeks which slowed me down a bit.  Here’s a couple of photos of what’s coming soon to our Etsy shop.   Cranberry figCucumber MelonUnnamedWhite tea and amber

These were my first purposeful attempt at drop swirls and I’m pretty pleased with them.  What do you think?

Dear March

This morning, my friend Kate said. “Dear March, December called and she wants her snow back.” I laughed and laughed and then I thought, you know, she’s right.  It hasn’t been a very seasonally usual winter around here. Not much real snow until here lately and now it’s not hanging around, it’s just making things miserable. Planting time is coming on, so I’d really like to see the last of this kind of weather. How about those lovely May showers? Can we get some of those?

Fixer is working on his seed starts and garden planning. Since the tomatoes did so well last summer in the established garden patch by the house, we’re going to leave them right there and plant a few more rows. I didn’t realize how much tomato sauce and diced tomatoes we use in a year, so it seems like every year we plant more and can more.  I’ve been reduced to rationing the tomato sauce from last summer because there’s no way we’re going to make it until July for the new crop. One mistake I made last year was not considering harvest times. I ended up heavy on the late season Black Prince tomatoes so I had green tomatoes on the vine still when the weather turned. It was OK in the end when I found a fantastic green tomato chutney recipe, but still seemed a bit of a waste.  So this year, I’ll be looking for some earlier season varieties too. The Black Prince was a Russian heirloom variety, so it was supposed to do better in cooler weather and was a crazy streaky green/pink/gray-black.  It looked cool, tasted good and had the odd effect of turning tomato sauce a little grayish. I might do it again just to stretch out the growing season again.  More on gardening later.

If you want to read more about the real deal of producing almost all of what you eat, check out this blog, Matron of Husbandry. I really enjoy it. Photos, occasional recipes, lots of discussion about seasonal chores on a homestead.  I find it fascinating and I hope you will too.

In other news, there are some new business opportunities brewing for Bucklepenny. We’re investigating a chance to have a booth at my very first flea market. It’s going to be a one day affair, but it could be the start of something big. I’m pretty excited. It’s a juried event, so I’m waiting to hear back from the jury about weather I’ll be accepted or not.  I’ll post more information when I have it.

We’re working on more products, so check out the Etsy shop regularly to see what’s new.  We are also in discussions about placing our products in another shop. I’ll post a link when we’ve settled details.

New offeringsWe’ll be posting a line of natural soaps, which means that they won’t have cosmetic micas or the nifty fragrance oils, but they will be colored with natural botanicals and scented with essential oils.   Also our tea cup candles made with soy wax and hemp wicks, and soap dish gift sets.  I’ve also got a couple of other products in development.  If you have any special requests you’d like to see me offer, please email me at heather@bucklepenny.com. I’m always glad to try something new and different.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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!

Where have you been, young lady?

Where have I been? Well, let me tell you about that.  I’ve been soaping and digging.  Well, really I’ve been soaping and Fixer’s been digging, with a little help from his friends. So here’s a picture of the cut Fir Needle soap:

cut fir soap endThen I made this nifty soap, scented with Kiwi, Sage and Ginger. I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

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Then I made this ducky little loaf I’m calling Fat Tiger. It’s a tiger strip soap scented with Black Raspberry Vanilla fragrance oil. I’m going to be using it for a Brambleberry’s 2013 Soap Swap. You can sign up here. It has a nice little glitter swirl on top and smells soooo good. I also submitted a photo as my tiger stripe entry in the Greatcakes Soapworks Challenge here.

IMG_5641So then I made this swirl for another Greatcakes challenge.

Lavender Mica Swirl

I took this really neat photo as it the soap cured.

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These photos are yet another Greatcakes, this time an elemental swirl.
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IMG_4384Then I made this test soap with french vanilla fragrance oil. Vanilla is famous for turning dark brown in soap.It will darken even if you use a stabilizer. So I thought I would try to make it work for me with a vanilla swirl in the soap.  It turns out I’m cursed with the urge to over mix, so the vanilla part got really thick on me before I could swirl.  So I mixed it anyway and got this really neat soap that looks like a slab of fancy granite.  I’m pretty pleased.

IMG_5655Here’s a little snap shot of part of my curing rack.  The scary yellow soap smells great. It’s mojito flavored.  The color was pretty startling, but gives an interest effect.  Yeah, that’s it. Interesting.  Maybe I should target market to teenage boys?

So after all of that, well, during all of that really, we started working on planting our lavender plants.  Turns out that anything that can go wrong will,indeed, go wrong.  I’m also continually surprised by the good will of neighbors.  Good neighbors really are a blessing that go under appreciated.   In this case, as Fixer has been working on our irrigation, the bladders in the pressure tanks failed. Awesome.  Yellow water. Double awesome.

So then our awesome neighbor Bob brought his tractor over and our awesome lavender supplier Scott brought down his tractor and implements and boy, those guys made short work of the project. Check this out:

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IMG_5645That last one I just threw in there because the plums are in bloom. That purple flower in the front is a weed called purple mustard, but it’s just so stinking pretty that I can’t bring myself to spray it out.

IMG_5653And then it started to snow. Can you believe it? And because weather here is funny in the spring, this is what I had the next morning.

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Scott delivered our first 400 babies this weekend also.

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You can reach our buddy Scott at Trinidad Lavender here.  So that’s where I’ve been and that’s what I was doing there. We’ve decided (and by “we” I mean me) that chickens aren’t going to happen this year.

Our new tanks are going to be delivered tomorrow and then we start digging holes. Lots and lots of holes. But at least they’re just going to be little howls. I mean holes.  The howls will be mine.  Wish us luck!