Soap & Herbs
Processing hardwood ashes into potassium hydroxide involves "leaching" pure rain water through multiple batches of ashes, until the liquid is a deep tea color, with a slippery feel and a metallic taste. Then it must be boiled down to concentrate the lye for soap-making.
Authentic historical soaps were made with hardwood-ash lye, called potassium hydroxide, rather than the sodium hydroxide used in modern bar-soap making today. Potash lye saponifies fats differently, resulting in a liquid soap or a cream soap, depending on the other minerals present in the natural wood ashes. Most medieval and early American soaps were creamy, and stored in tubs or wooden boxes, with a spoon or scoop to dish out portions of soap at need (for hand washing, dish washing, bathing and any general scrubbing). Later recipes changed to adding salt, to create hard soaps, and eventually switched entirely to the sodium hydroxide used by modern soap crafters, but liquid soaps remain popular and are actually the original style (see a History of Lye Soap on our farm's other blog).
We make small batches of pioneer soap, using just two simple ingredients: hardwood ashes from our own woodstove, and lard. It's hard to get more sustainable and natural than that. Better still, the wood we burn is harvested sustainably from our own coppiced woodlots, and the soap cooking is done on the same woodstove in winter, so no waste fuels are consumed to create the soap. The lard makes a soft, creamy soap that feels more like lotion and does an excellent job of moisturizing the skin (important when you're washing your hands often, as is so important in modern times).
Did you know that luffa grows as a gourd? It's true! Luffa sponges are natural, renewable beauty tools, dish scrubbies or disposable cleaning wipes. No dyes, petroleum products or factories needed; the luffa grows as a vigorous, beautiful vine with enormous flowers that feed bumble bees, butterflies and other pollinators from June until November!
The young luffa gourds are tasty vegetables, cooked like zucchini, but if you wait until they mature on the vine, the gourds grow into large, fibrous, hollow cylinders that can be peeled and cut up into sponges. The seeds are edible and medicinal, too; luffa seed oils and extracts are used for immunoregulatory therapy, and the whole seed can be eaten as a food-medicine to help balance the immune system.
Email us for seed, or to buy dry sponges. See our blog for sponge options.
Not ready to grow your own garden yet? Not everyone has room or time for it, and that's okay. You can still get the tea, dye or medicinal herbs from a safe, organic source that you know uses regenerative permaculture to ensure the health of the garden. See our blog for details on the plants we grow, and updates on dried herbs we have available.