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Lavender Hydrosol

I want to talk about lavender hydrosol. I know, I know. I’ve been away for awhile. Now I just pop back up like I haven’t been gone and want to talk about hydrosol. What can I say? It’s been a busy summer. We’re now up to something over three thousand lavender plants, which is a bit over three acres.  It’s turned out to be considerably more weeding than I had banked on, so we ended up hiring some help to stay on top of it. The plants we put in last year came along wonderfully and so we had our first harvest this spring, much earlier than we planned.

First lavender bundles of the year

First lavender bundles of the year

Fixer and I harvested and bundled and discovered that I’ve made some great selections for color. Another thing that we discovered is that some varieties, while having tremendous color, have strange stems that twist when they dry and leave really funny looking bundles. So we bundled, tied and dried and then ran out of space to hang and dry the bundles. So it was time to distill.   Because we’ve grown so many angustifolia varieties, the fragrance is very light and fresh, but the oil yields are low. The fantastic discovery is the hydrosol.

Hydrosol is the water fraction of the distillation process. Once the oil is separated off after distillation, the fragrant remaining water fraction is the hydrosol. The fragrance comes from small micro droplets of essential oil suspended in water. And. It. Is. Fantastic.  One of the really great things about distilling your own is that even though you may only get a milliliter or two of oil in a small still, you can still get a couple of gallons of hydrosol to use for other things: linen spray, room freshener, facial toner. Some people even claim it’s useful on minor burns. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it sure feels nice to have a little spray on the back of your neck on a hot day.

It’s October now, and we’ll be doing our last distillation this weekend from our second cut and hopefully we’ll be able to produce enough to get me through all of the lotion making I’ve got planned for this winter.

Sometime last winter, I started to expand Bucklepenny’s product offerings to include lotions and body butters. A significant portion of those kinds of products is water. Lotion at it’s most basic is a water, an oil and some kind of emulsifier. You can use distilled water for the water fraction or you can get a little more creative and use hydrosols or other skin loving goodies. Another fantastic thing about it is that it imparts a sweet, subtle lavender scent to lotions before even adding any kind of fragrance.

If you want to try out making your own lotions, check out this website for all kinds of great information. We’re working on revamping our website so you can contact Bucklepenny directly if making your own is more commitment than you’re willing to make.   Bucklepenny is expanding into private label production in recent months. If that’s a service you need, you can contact us at heather@bucklepenny.com.  What kind of products would you like to see in our Etsy shop?

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Soap Conference 2014

I’ve made it. I’ve arrived in Tucson for the 2014 Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild Conference.  It’s very exciting to have a community of likeminded artisans to mingle and network with.  I’m looking forward to some fantastic professional training and also to be able to take the HSCG certification tests. Tomorrow evening I’ll be able to take my basic certification test and (assuming I pass) on Wednesday I’ll be able to take the advanced certification test.

We spent yesterday afternoon in the lavender, weeding.  Because, you know, weeds never stop.  I also noticed that several varieties have buds already, which means our first harvest just isn’t that far off.

Last week Fixer and our nurseryman disced up the next section of field for our next phase of planting.  There’s still trenching to be done so the next section of irrigation can go in.  I haven’t made a thorough assessment of winter kill yet. It looks pretty good in some areas of the field, but some varieties look like they’ve experienced some damage. Growers all over the country are reporting significant plant loss and I’m very grateful that we weren’t similarly touched.

Fancy Farm Girl Display

Fancy Farm Girl Display

I also recently participated in my first market event, The Fancy Farmgirl Vintage Fair.  It was a very cool event and I’m really looking forward to doing it again. I learned some great things about merchandising and had a fantastic time talking to people.  I also met some lovely vendors, including another soaper.  I’m making it a project to meet as many of my online acquaintances face to face as possible.

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While I was at the market, I bought this very neat repurposed chicken feeder that was planted with strawberries.  We plumbed it into the drip lines on the front porch and when I checked it last night, the berries are starting to ripen. Can you believe it? It’s not even June yet and berries!

 

Jewelweed Infusion

Jewelweed Infusion

Last month I made a lovely infusion of jewelweed and olive oil, courtesy of my lovely friend Beth. Jewelweed doesn’t grow in my part of the country, so Beth was kind enough to mail me some of her stash. Jewelweed is thought to ease itching from poison ivy and similar irritants. I’ve been having a little bit of a rash, so I made an infusion and then used the infusion in my soap recipe. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet because the soap is still curing, but it will be an interesting experiment to see how it works.

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?

Hey Good Looking

Well, hi there! I bet you thought we’d gone. Nope, I’m back.  I just realized that it’s been literally months since we’ve updated.  It was a busy summer, that’s for sure.  Five days after my last post, I quit my job of ten years and left to head up the quality assurance department for an organic herb farm.  And hasn’t that been a steep learning curve.   The switch from manufacturing frozen veggies to medicinal herbs has been eye opening.

In the meantime, we caved in the face of weed pressure and ordered a pallet of super heavy duty weed barrier.  By the end of the summer, we had planted close to 600 plants.  The early season babies grew wonderfully. The late season babies will be fairly lucky to have survived the winter. As recently as January, many of the plants were still pliable and looking pretty ready to come out of dormancy.  Then about a week ago, Central Washington suffered a significant cold snap. Although it hasn’t been nearly as bad as the winter weather afflicting the rest of the country, it was plenty cold for us and gave me cause to worry a little bit about plant survival. After a few inches of snow to go with the cold,  a strangely warm wind kicked up and there went the snow.

Planting season is now looming and with it, the arrival of our plants for this year. Phase 2 of lavender expansion was initially expected to be another set of 600 plants. Our grower decided that this year was the year that he would buy a mechanical transplanter, so instead of ordering 600 plants, we ordered 2000.  Standby for photos of planting.

Also this winter we purchased a small still for our own use in distilling small amounts of lavender oil. We successfully produced about 10 mL of oil, which doesn’t sound like much until you consider typical yields for lavender distillation.   Plus, it was really exciting to produce it.

I’ve also been soaping up a storm and resurrecting my neglected Etsy store.  My current offerings are in draft form, so you can’t check it out yet, but soon…

Here’s a few pictures of our labors.

Midsummer Babies

Midsummer Plants

November babies

November babies

three loaf arabian night wip arabian night white tea and amber

Coconut Lemongrass Feb 2014 White Tea and Amber Feb 2014 Energy Feb 2014 Black Raspberry Vanilla Feb 2014 Duc D'Anjou Feb 2014 Yuzu Feb 2014 Knock Out Feb 2014 Black Lavender Amber Feb 2014

 

You can buy any of these soaps and other at my Etsy shop.

First Distillation

First Distillation

 

Alkanet infusion and lavender

I’m changing jobs this week. After over a decade at the same place, I thought I’d take a break in between. Soaping hasn’t been happening as much as I’d planned, but here’s what I’ve been up to:

lavender and alkanetHere is my baby grand recipe colored with alkanet infused olive oil and scented with lavender essential oil. The soap has almond and avocado oil, shea, castor, coconut and palm.  Strangely, this recipe is especially popular with the men in the neighborhood.

White tea and gingerWhite tea and ginger. I thought this one was going to go wrong while I was making it, but those always seem to be the batches that come out the nicest.  This is my trinity blend colored with mica.

days workLavender rebatch with fuschia shaved on top, yuzu with gold mica and a tiny test batch of baby powder fragrance oil and an in the pot swirl.

Fixer and Bean spent some time on the tractor working on the irrigation system so we can start our next planting phase. I’ve been saying that for awhile, but work doesn’t seem to be moving at the pace we hoped. Bean had a good time on the tractor anyway.Troy and Bean on the tractor

More planting to come tomorrow I think. Also an order of weed barrier is on the way. We underestimated the pervasive power of lambs quarter and russian thistle.  I’d like to point out that when you have a carefully considered plan of attack, you deviate from it at your own peril.

 

 

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.