Monthly Archives: June 2015

A Tribute to Mom

It’s been 4 years since she left and I miss her so much. Since then June 30th has always been a difficult day, as have Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and Mothers Day. It’s also difficult when the kids (who are now all adults) do something exciting, and my first thought is, “I should call mom,” because even the little things that they did were exciting to her. Her grandkids were her greatest joy.  I am sure she is so proud of all of her grandkids and great grandkids.

As I  look around I don’t see anything that I own that mom actually bought for me, but the gifts she gave me are countless and more precious than anything money could buy. The afghan that she crocheted for me 25+ years ago hangs over the back of my recliner and on the chilly days when I nap in my recliner it warms and comforts me. I often use the potholders she crocheted when I pull something hot out of the oven. Some of the doilies that protect my oak furniture from scratches, and the blue and silver fun fur scarf that keeps me warm in the winter, are also among the tangible reminders of my mom. Better yet is the connection I have with my mom when I crochet. Mom taught me the basics of crochet many many years ago. I did not do a lot of crocheting while she was alive, but since her passing I have increased my skills and crochet quite often.

Cooking and canning are other skills that I learned from my mom. I don’t remember her ever giving me lessons with step by step instructions, I guess it was just by being there, and helping while she was doing it, that I learned. I, along with my husband and children, am grateful for this

I inherited her love for flowers and when I see violets, sunflowers, or trilliums I think of my mom. Mom left earth before getting to visit our farm, but two years ago when two sunflowers came up, side by side, in a highly unlikely place, near the front of our property, I was sure mom must have planted them to let me know she was there.

I am not sure why it is, but anytime I am up and out early enough to see the sunrise I feel her presence and I say “Good morning, Mom”. This usually makes for a great day.

Some of the other gifts I received from my mom are the abilities to love deeply and to take care of other people. I have her calm and gentle nature, her strength to endure hard times, her ability to “make do” with what she had, and her love for family and food.

I am not the only one who has reaped these benefits, as I have three sister who each received their own similar set of gifts from mom. They, my sisters, are probably the greatest gift that she gave me.

I was blessed by her physical presence for 46 years of my life, but even in her death I continue to be blessed through the gifts she gave me. Although it will again be a difficult June 30, I will honor My Mom by using the gifts she gave me.

Thanks Mom. I Love You!

((Hugs)) To My Sisters, My Dad, and Everyone Else who is missing Mom today.

Plantain: wonderful or weed?

The other day, while rescuing a portion of my garlic bed from weeds that were threatening to over take it, I realized that some of the “weeds” that I was discarding were in fact valuable plants. Remember the definition weed  from Merriam Webster.

1weed  n \ˈwēd\

Definition of WEED

a (1) :  a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth; especially :  one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants

This does not say that that the plant has no value, just that it is growing in the wrong place.

So, while pulling “weeds” from the garlic bed I realized that I was pulling out a lot of plantain and throwing it aside. I decided to stop right there, work ahead and pull the plantain and save it. Then I went back and pulled the rest of the weeds.

Plantain, Latin name:  Plantago Major, is one of the valuable plants that most people see as a nuisance and is not given the respect it deserves. It has multiple health benefits, but if you like the nice manicured lawn look you are probably poisoning it with herbicides. This link will show you what it looks like and describe some of it’s uses.

A few years ago when I started studying the benefits of different wild plants and herbs I learned about using crushed plantain leaves on a bee sting to stop the pain. So for the past few years whenever I, or someone I was with, got stung by a bee I would grab some plantain leaves (they grow almost everywhere) and crush them up so some of the juice was coming out, then rub it on the bee sting. Almost instantly the pain would stop, and in most cases the pain did not return. As a bee keeper this is very valuable information to have.

This year I decided to try to incorporate this in my products by making it into a balm. So I infused some olive oil with plantain leaves and am currently testing my Bug Bite Balm before I actually have it for sale.

This most recent bunch of plantain leaves, that I harvested from my garlic bed, is being infused in alcohol to make a medicinal tincture, so that we might take advantage of some of plantain’s other health benefits. (it’s not legal for me to sell this, so you will have to make your own). Next I will pick some to dehydrate so that I can make plantain tea as well.

If you visit our farm you might notice the spot in one of our gardens where my husband decided to transplant this important plant, so while it might be a weed when it is coming up in my garlic bed, it is certainly a wonderful, respected plant in it’s own little garden spot.

Although, I pat myself on the back for saving those valuable “weeds”, I am also feeling a little guilty that I did not save the dandelion leaves for my salad.

A Busy Morning

This morning I pickled 5 pints of garlic scapes and made 4 jars of jam. All before noon.

What are Garlic scapes? See the previous blog entitled Garlic Scapes.

What kind of jam? Well I guess you could call it mixed berries. Yesterday we picked our fruit that was ripe; some currants, raspberries, strawberries and cherries. I didn’t have enough of any of the berries to make a batch of jam so I just decided to combine them all. Unfortunately there was no recipe for this in the Ball Canning Book, the Betty Crocker Cookbook, or the package of sure jell. So I kind of had to wing it. I found a recipe that called for mixed berries, and while it listed different types of berries than what I had, I used the proportions for that recipe. When I came up a little short on the berry amount, I added a partial package of frozen raspberries that were hanging out in my freezer. Well, the results are fabulous. While this is not the way Betty Crocker would do it and I’m sure it’s not the way Martha Stewart would teach you, I am certain this is the way my grandmother (and probably yours) would have done it.

Just don’t ask me for the recipe.

Summer Is Here!

WOO HOO! Summer has arrived, and I hope you, like me, have lots of activities planned in the great outdoors.

Now, visit my store to make sure you have everything you need to care for your skin this summer. These handcrafted soaps will not dry your skin, can be used to wash your hair, and they are nice to use when shaving your legs. The face, hand and body balms are great moisturizers, and the zinc oxide in the sunscreen is said to protect against UVA and UVB rays. Don’t forget to stock up on lip balm, and grab a keychain-lip balm holder, so you always know where to find your lip balm (no more trips through the washer for them).  All of these products can be used on the kids, and because they are not highly perfumed the guys like them too. So be sure get enough for the whole family.

Happy Summer! 🙂


Lye is the key ingredient in turning fat and oils into soap.

Lye is actually a common name for two different chemicals, sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and potassium hydroxide (KOH). Both of these forms of lye can be used in making soap, however they are not the same chemical, and are not interchangeable in soap recipes. This means they are required in different amounts in a recipe and will produce a different type of soap. While sodium hydroxide will produce a hard bar-type soap, potassium hydroxide is more often used in making a liquid or soft soap. Sodium hydroxide has a PH of 14 while potassium hydroxide is reported to have a PH between 12 and 14.

Sodium hydroxide was once readily available in grocery stores and hardware stores, most commonly packaged as Red Devil Lye, it was used mostly as a drain cleaner. Because of it’s illegal use in the production of methamphetamines, it has become harder to find. While I’ve read that it is illegal to sell in retail stores in the U.S., I have been able to purchase it in a few stores. The easiest way to purchase it is online through soap making suppliers.

Potassium hydroxide is made from wood ash and water. I have not yet made soap using potassium hydroxide, but this is on my to-do list.

Because of it’s high PH lye is a dangerous chemical and must be use with caution. If it comes in contact with bare skin it can cause severe burns. It will erode some metals, but it is safe to use in glass, plastic or stainless steal containers. If mixed improperly or with certain substances it can create dangerous gases.

Once lye has been properly mixed with the liquid and oils and the chemical changes occur lye becomes safe to use on the skin. Soap should have a PH between 7 and 10.

You don’t see lye, sodium hydroxide, or potassium hydroxide listed as ingredients on commercial soap products. Instead you will see thing like sodium cocoate, which would be the combination of coconut oil and sodium hydroxide after the chemical change, known as soaponification, has occurred. Other examples would be or sodium palmate or potassium tallowate.  I, like many handcrafters, list the ingredients as the raw materials put into the soap even though the chemical change does occur before the product is finished.