Tag Archive | lavender

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?

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.

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.

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!

Now we’re cooking

No pictures today, but we’re moving now, by golly.  Twelve rows of babies are in the ground, Nine went in yesterday before the wind kicked up and put me out of business. The rest went in today between work and dinner.  I think  I’m going to run out of irrigated rows before I run out of plants and Fixer is out of town.  Erg.  I’m also a little worried about drainage. I’m really surprised how the soil varies across the field within a space of about 15 feet.  Lavender needs plenty of drainage, but large swaths of the rows I planted today had pretty thick soil. I wanted to take a picture, but I’m single momming it so I just couldn’t manage baby, toddler, dirt and camera all at once.  Sorry.  Hopefully I’ll get some pics up tomorrow. I’ve also been soaping a little bit and made a nice little chicken wire picture frame deal so I can post pictures of the soaps that are on the curing rack.  More photos to come.  

Soap on a Rope and Lavender Fields

Hi there! I bet you thought I’d gone. I guess I should have warned you. I was on vacation. In Hawaii.  With the kids. Which isn’t.  Isn’t a vacation, I mean. It was lovely, but kids are a lot of work, especially when they’re little. And barfing. Three times a day. Until we got on the plane to come home.  Cool, right? At least she stopped. That gives me an idea: End of my Rope Soap.  What would that smell like? Wine?

Me and Bean on the Beach Hanalei Bay

Bean on the Beach

 

So this soaping thing is taking on a life of it’s own.  Right before we left on vacation lovely Miss Betsy at Tangles mentioned another business owner in town might be interested in carrying my soaps and stuff. So of course I scooted right over with some samples to show her, thinking that I might have a couple of months to get some additional inventory going, since I’ve been soaping in a leisurely sort of way.  Not so much. I need to have enough stuff made and labeled to stock a display in a little less than three weeks. Here’s my list:

Bath salts in 3-4 flavors

Bath tea

Sachets

Soap

Bulk lavender buds

Minute Manicures

Owie Salve

Lotion bars

Lip balm

More soap

Neck wraps

Scented pillows?

It’s a lot to do, right? Am I crazy? I think maybe a little bit.

This is actually great news, but also very scary since I hadn’t really gotten my labels all squared away yet.  Like I said, it’s got a life of it’s own these days. I really believe that when things are meant to be, everything lines up just right.  I guess I was hoping for a little more space, but I think I can make it work.

So on the way home, we stopped at Apple Annie’s in Cashmere and picked up a few treasures for the display, but I need a really big hutch or credenza or buffet or something to really make this work. I’m pillaging apothecary jars and baskets out of my house, but boy, I really need to get going on this.  Anything in particular you’d like to see my offer?

Also, our first stack of irrigation supplies were delivered right before we left and our first flight of lavender plants were ordered. It’s going to be a busy spring.

Fixer has to get going on a chicken house too.