Monday, February 6, 2017

Spicing Things Up

Schinus Molle Tree

Spicing Things Up

Things have been slow in the gardening scene around here. We have no vegetable garden to speak of this year. A few snow peas are doing well along the welded arbor/fence. We've been concentrating on interior improvements during the cooler weather and will be moving outside as the weather warms up a bit.

However, we did break from the interior focus after a mail order disappointment for some pepper tree seedlings.  We found a local retailer that had an 11 gallon Schinus Molle tree available and we decided to take a look.  

When we got there, we discovered the tree is actually quite tall and marked down to $29.  We had to get it because it is one tree we agreed on and were looking forward to.  Our plan is to replace the tree that provides shade to the bee hives with a tree that is edible, medicinal and good for the bees.

Our honey is currently very citrus during the flow. Adding this will probably make it a spicy citrus flavored honey.  We are really looking forward to the end result.

About The Tree

Pepper tree (Schinus molle) occurs in California along the coast and in the southern part of the state as far north as the Bay area.

Hardy in zones eight to 11, this species resembles Brazilian pepper tree, but
Schinus Molle Leaves and Peppercorns
is slightly taller and wider with drooping, slender shoots. This broad headed tree develops a contorted, thick trunk and wide spreading branches. It features delicate-looking foliage that is smaller and features a greater number of leaflets. In addition, its flower panicles are less dense.

Schinus Molle flowers
The tiny yellow or white blooms can appear several times a year from Spring through Fall with the main blooming period between May and July.

Both of these species are excellent, reliable, consistent, major honey plants in Florida and California. Yielding lots of nectar, the flowers are much loved by bees. The flow is heaviest when temperatures are elevated. These can bring 50 pounds of honey per colony.

The honey is rather dark, usually some shade of amber. It has a strong, somewhat spicy flavor and spicy aroma. In Florida, the honey is popular among local consumers. ~ Bee Culture

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Good Clean Fun

Lavender & Lemon 'Kick Brass' Bars

Good Clean Fun

This year, we decided to make some cold process soaps for gift giving. These soaps can be $4 - $7 per bar. We made some good size recipes rendering 24 bars each which will be more than enough to share and plenty to keep for ourselves.

Recipes were found on, and Changes were made here and there to make them our own.

Our Xmas list is: Kick Brass shampoo bar, Baby Bar (for human and hound), Minty Scrubby
Chocolate Orange Soap Bars - Smell Like The Real Thing!
Gardening Bar, Four Thieves Castile, and Chocolate Orange.

We have so many things going on, the last thing we needed was another project for making the molds for the soap and we didn't want to buy special tools, outside of the soap ingredients. We used:
  • 12 x 4 inch boxes, bought on, here.  These are the soap molds.
  • Stick Blender, can be found on here. We bought ours from Costco Business - stainless steel recommended.
  • Digital scale for measuring.  Soap ingredients are always measured by weight, not cup or spoon measurements.  Stainless steel recommended, as on here.
  • Double Boiler, can be found on here.  We bought ours from Costco business.
  • Bamboo cheese slicer, can be found on here.  This will make straight cuts down the soap loaf. 
  • Cheese plane to shave the sides and edges, can be found on here. The corners were shaved off pretty nicely!
  • Parchment paper for protecting the cardboard. Recommend buying at a local grocery.
  • Lye calculator.  Many apps available for phones and such, but I use SoapCalc, here. It's free!
Standard Soap Mold Lining
We made the Kick Brass and the Chocolate Orange bars using the standard lining method provided on the web site (here).  This method left gaps in the corners, which leaked into the boxes.  

I agree with Lining soap molds pretty much sucks!  I decided to try another method.

To keep things cleaner, finesse the soap corners and because I would rather 'eyeball' the measurements, I decided to line the mold in kind of a gift-wrapping technique, explained below. If the mold is more production style and really large, this probably will not work for you.

Modified Boxes For Soap Loaves

Sizing It Up:

Determine the size of the soap mold and then estimate the amount of 'gift wrapping' it would take to cover the ends and bottom of the package.  The box was set up with the flaps removed from the top, and two end flaps and one side flap removed. Then the remaining side flap was folded and taped across the bottom to form a very square soap mold.

Easy view of how much is needed
One of the side flaps was reserved for eyeballing how much parchment paper is needed. The remaining is shredded and thrown in the compost bin (earthworms seem to like paper and cardboard).

Because the parchment probably was not sheared at a 90 degree angle, the flap was aligned with the sides of the parchment to guess at a straight fold.  Everything from here on out will be easy angles, not a difficult process.

It's Origami Time

This felt a bit like gift wrapping, but more like origami, as there was no 3d guidebox on the inside. A series of creases were made, following the shape of the box flap to clearly define the bottom of the soap mold.

Side Creases Using Box Flap  For Straight Lines

Side Creases Formed and Well Defined
Ends Folded Over Based On Box Flap Size, Well Defined
Folding the End/Side 45 Degrees For Squared End
Both End/Sides Folded 45 Degrees (Like Gift-Wrapping!)
Both Ends Folded And Stapled
Finished Lining In Box! No Openings!
Baby Bar Loaf and Minty Scrubby Loaves