This week we are finishing up our herb harvests (sad) and we pulled dandelion! Despite what you may think, we harvest the roots instead of the flowers. Dandelion is used in our Tulsi Chai Tea and is very beneficial for the digestive system and for the liver! It look so long to clean because they are very rooted and were caked in mud. After many rinses, we chopped it up and screened it to dry!
Cutting soap into squares to be sold as little bars at the holiday market sounds pretty easy right?
This week I learned that it is not as easy as it sounds. After some practice I think I figured out the best way to get the large soap straight from the mold into identical sized bars (or at least close enough).
Step 1: Cut the 27.5in long soap rectangle into two 13.75in halves and stack the two halves on top of each other.
Step 2: Measure 3.2in and make a mark, measure 3.2 in out from there and make another mark so that you have three segments. Repeat this on the other end of the rectangle as well. To ensure a straight line you can use a piece of string to connect the marks from end to end to make your cutting line.
Step 3: Use the long soap cutting knife to cut the soap into three even strips. Stack all 6 strips on top of each other.
Step 4: Mark every 1.8in along the top piece of soap. Cut along each mark to form 7 little 3x2in rectangles. Have someone hold the stack in place while you push the knife directly down through the soap from the top piece to the bottom piece. It is easy to make a mistake and push a little to one direction which will result in the top piece being a different size than the bottom!
Step 5: Smooth out all the edges of the soap to ensure that any loose soap particles are formed back into each individual soap square for a clean look.
This week at UGArden we made soap to be sold at the end of the year holiday market. Cold process soap making is a very lengthy process due to the curing process where the soap has to sit for 4-6 weeks. During this time, the soap continues to harden as the water evaporates out. The cured soap then has a firmer texture and will last longer in the shower.
Soap is made with Lye which can be very corrosive. It is important to take the proper precautions when making soap such as wearing a mask!
Below is a few of the soap making steps!
Impending freezing temperatures put us into high gear for frost preparations. Because of this, on Halloween, we immediately went to work harvesting all the ginger and processing it. It is not a very cold tolerant plant. It turned out to be one of our best days yet on the farm. Through some chilly weather and light drizzling rain, we harvested and cleaned all of it with time to spare.
Also not pictured, a few of us interns and our farm manager tried to put the side walls on our high tunnel…it did not go well because it was so windy! A take for another day, but this did not break our spirit. We all ate pizza together after. All in all a wonderful day!
I have recently been seeing a ton of butterflies around the farm and they are too petty not to share! The one on the right is a monarch and is even hanging around my favorite vegetable plant, okra. We love our pollinator friends!
This week we finally got to make our first soaps!! We combined multiple oils commonly used in soaps (such as olive oil and coconut oil), a lye solution to make it harden, and finally lavender essential oil, dried rosemary, and dried lavender to make it smell nice. We can’t wait for the holiday market, there are going to be such amazing products for you all!
During another week’s Monday meeting, we learned how to propagate! That day we were propagating two different types of roses and mulberry just for fun. This technique is actually used frequently at UGArden for other plants such as elderberry. The rose and elderberry are grown on the farm for the various medicinal products we make. Look for the rose in some of our teas!
Dr. Berle told us about different substances you can use to encourage root growth on the less woody stems, but we did not use any because some are not considered organic. Fun fact: one of the interns interestingly said you can use saliva or honey…no word on if these work yet!