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Tips for Hot Process Soap Making Beginners

Once. I admit it. I bought all the stuff, designated a hand mixer and a stainless steel pot, and made soap from scratch with my sister, just once. Now the soap-making equipment sits in my basement. But, after reading this post on hot process soap making, I’m starting to feel inspired to get another batch going. It’s really a fun bonding experience, as long as you have patience. Homemade soap takes about a month to cure before you can use it. We did not use a crockpot, but I really like the idea. A professional soap maker on Twitter assures me she uses a crockpot. It’s not cheating.

Check out this pressed article from Natural Beauty Workshop for more about hot process soap. Source: Tips for Hot Process Soap Making Beginners

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Make Your Own Garlic Powder

garlic cloves in a basket at Off Center Farm Stand Woodbridge

Here’s a How-to that I recommend you don’t do. It sounds labor-intensive and smelly. Still, the impressive people behind the Two Branches Homestead went above and beyond in finding a use for extra herbs. You can learn more about all they went through to Make Your Own Garlic Powder

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Revealed! The stand that inspired me.

farm stand with a money slot cash only

Down the street and around the corner there’s a small, homemade farm stand. I’m sure most of my neighbors don’t think much about it.

The little stand is painted dark red with a blue umbrella. It has a brilliant little slot you can slip cash into on the days when there is even something there for you to buy. It’s not a new stand. It’s been there for years and years. They don’t stock it very often any more.

One night this week, they set out three recycled egg cartons and pushed up the umbrella. I had to stop and buy one. Not because I needed eggs, truthfully, I had two dozen at home. I stopped because this was the stand that started it all for me, and I had yet to actually visit it.

farm stand sign

I drive by this stand almost every day. Over the years, I started thinking about where the people behind the stand got the plans to design and build a custom farm stand with a money slot. What inspired them? Was it an abundance of produce or a desire to connect to their neighbors?

Why would anyone have a farm stand anymore? There are grocery stores and farmers’ markets in every town. There are very few, if any, neighborhoods left that need a farm stand to offer fresh eggs, produce or goats.

Yeah, goats. I’ll explain in a minute.

One night, I was driving home past this stand and the idea hit me. It’s only very recently that we stopped having a need for local farm stands. It’s sad, if you think about it. We don’t need our neighbors to share their saved seeds or host a “First Peas” party. We can go to the store and buy peas anytime. Just buy your seeds from Amazon. Done. Easy.

Maybe there is still some need for farm stands. Maybe it’s actually reemerging. It’s very personal to get to know the people who grow your food or make your skincare products. They will tell you what made them choose a certain variety or process. They’re not squeezing profits out of their operation. Some motivations are purer than profits.

goats for sale

Or maybe they just have too many goats. Occasionally, when there is an abundance of goats, they write “Goats for sale” on the little sign next to this farm stand. They don’t actually, technically sell goats at the farm stand. There’s never been goat milk or soaps available at this stand, but I’ve always thought the little goats for sale sign was adorable. It also highlights the variety of goods you can buy from your neighbors. We might think it’s a little funny to procure goats from a neighbor, but we might be the first generation in history to think that way.

I don’t know if I myself will ever have the flexibility in my schedule to open a farm stand. Writing for Farmstand Culture might be as close as I come. I’d be ok with that outcome. The name, the original series and the inspiration behind this site all began with a little red farm stand that captured my day dreams.

farm stand with goat sign

There aren’t enough items available at this stand to list the Top 5! But there were at these other farmstand5 hot spots.

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Forgotten herb: calendula

Weird name. Amazing herb.

Close enough pronounciation “ca-len-juh-la” (how a “d” makes a “j” sound in English, I suppose it’s my Connecticut accent.)

calendula colander.JPG

Calendula is the weirdest looking seed I plant in my garden. Really, it looks like something from an alien nation. It’s mildly spikey and curved, almost in an arrogant way. It grows easily and goes to seed easily, if you don’t harvest the blooms.

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Planting is easy. I just mix the seed lightly into turned soil with my hand, and it fills my cedar raised bed with bright yellow flowers.


When your flowers are almost fully open, it is time to harvest. If it rained recently or the petals still have morning dew on them, take a photo but don’t start your harvest. It pays to wait until the sun dries off any dampness. The blooms snap off the stems easily. You can layer your plantings a bit and gather them by hand almost all season from summer to fall. Consider getting yourself an airy and convenient basket for harvest time.

I don’t eat my calendula with the exception of a little petal here and there. They have a bitter taste.

In terms of other uses, I am not sure why would you need to do this, but Dr. Weil notes that you can mix white rice and calendula flowers together to color the rice without adding flavor. Someday, I may suggest that to my kids as a fun and interesting STEM experiment.

My favorite use for calendula isn’t making a stunning bouquet, although you could. I like to infuse olive oil with a bunch of dried calendula flowers. Then, I can add the infusion add it to salves. Salves are just heavy, solid lotions that are intended to be soothing to the skin or to wounds.

Not one to waste something so precious, I like the idea of chopping up those oil-soaked petals and mixing them into homemade soaps. Do not compost them. You shouldn’t compost oil or oil-infused herbs. Your bin will stink.

How do you dry calendula flowers? It doesn’t take much effort.

Oh, I know the internet will tell you to separate out the blooms on an old screen in a dry, dark place between two elevated stands. But I’ll tell you that during our BIG reno last year, I put my calendula flowers on a paper towel on top of our refrigerator. How’d it go? Just fine. I must have left them up there for a month or two, and dutifully, they dried out. I will likely include some in a salt or sugar scrub for beauty’s sake.

calendula marble2

I should confess that my husband is 6’3″ tall. He could see the top of our old fridge and was not a fan of my messy flower drying station. Everyone else was oblivious.

About the scent, I am almost at a loss for words to describe it. Calendula is only lightly floral. It’s about 5% tangy, 5% medicinal, 60% fresh, 20% floral and 10% other. Mainly, I would describe calendula as a fresh scent. It’s not earthy. It’s more like the woods after a rain shower.

My calendula bed went above and beyond this year, producing three harvests. I only actually reseeded it once during the mid-summer season.  Calendula is so easy. It is one of the best students in my garden class. I feel like I ask calendula nicely to keep producing blooms, and it does its best to comply.

Calendula is such a happy flower. As you go about your day today, from time-to-time think back to this joyful bloom.


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Return to the Forgotten Herbs series.

Find out what borage is.