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making your own lavender soap

Making your own lavender soap with olive oil

Today I made real lavender soap. Making your own lavender soap is not difficult, but something can go wrong. As I wrote yesterday. The problem was mainly in the right temperature and the NaOH, which didn’t get warm, so it wasn’t good anymore.

The recipe is the same as yesterday, but with less water. A tip from the website thenerdyfarmwife.com if you don’t use palm oil.

The recipe to make your own lavender soap is made in this soap calculator

  • 276 grams of olive oil
  • 184 grams coconut oil
  • 67,55 grams NaOH (sodium lye)
  • 151.8 grams of water (lavender hydrolate, tap water or distilled water) 33% instead of 38%
  • 10.5 grams of essential lavender oil, this should be 13.8 grams. But I don’t have that much at my disposal today. Soon I will be distilling lavender.
  • Dried lavender

I have the pan au bain Marie set up with the olive oil and coconut oil and heated to about 54 degrees. About the same time I added NaOH to the water. Stir well until everything is dissolved. Note: in a sturdy plastic container or in heat-resistant glass. Then the heat doesn’t disappear and the material won’t be affected. The first time I made soap, a few years ago, I used a wooden stirring spoon, which I could then throw away. Now I stir with an ordinary spoon and that goes well.

Making your own lavender soap is an accurate job

Now we have to wait until the temperature of the sodium caustic soda drops back to about 54 degrees Celsius. While the temperature of the oil mass rises to about 54 degrees. I have already mixed the oil a bit. If both are about 54 degrees, you can carefully add the lye to the oil. And then mix it.

trace in making your own soap
I think this is a real trace

Yesterday nothing happened after 45 minutes. And now the ‘trace’ was already visible after 10 minutes. That means you can draw a line in the mass. Then you can add the lavender oil and mix briefly. Then pour the mixture into the moulds. A clean and cut-up pack of soy milk will do just fine and there was enough left over to fill three silicone soap moulds.

I smoothed out the mass in the moulds, which looks the most like a thick vanilla lettuce with a spatula and added the dried lavender flowers. A lovely smelling and beautiful blue colored lavandin called Heavenly scent.

making your own lavender soap
A clean and cut-up pack of soy milk will do just fine

Sodium lye that doesn’t sound very nice in a natural soap

The NaOH with water or sodium lye is necessary for the saponification, without which it will not succeed. Fortunately, the substance will disappear from the soap by itself, at least if you do it right. NaOH is a natural product, but during processing it can burn a hole in your skin. So be carefull. If the saponification goes well and you let the soap dry long enough, I keep it for at least 6 weeks, all NaOH will have been disappeared from the soap.

How to make sodium lye safely?

Weigh the right amount of cold water and put it in a sturdy container. Then add the right amount of NaOH to the water. Never the other way around. Work with safety goggles, gloves and a face mask. And make sure that nothing can fall over during the process. So work with sturdy pots and pans and a clean countertop. The sosa, as they call it here in Spain the NaOH, got quite hot today. The temperature rose to over 70 degrees after it was added to the water and stirred.

By mixing at the right temperature, the saponification should start relatively quickly, now after 10 minutes. The ‘soap’ from yesterday of which I suspect that the saponification did not take place properly, is hard today. Tomorrow or the day after I will cut and dry both. Then the test. When in doubt you can taste whether the NaOH has disappeared or not. If the NaOH is still in the soap it will tingle. So you can’t use that soap for your skin, but maybe you can still use it as a base for a detergent for your clothes.

Propagating lavender by cuttings, is that really that easy?

Everywhere I read that propagating lavender by cuttings is not difficult. Easier than sowing and much better too, because you keep the original characteristics of the plant. But with my lavender cuttings this spring I went quite wrong.

Propagating lavender by cuttings, is that really that easy?

Propagating lavender in a cutting tray

I took extra precaution. I bought a cuttings tray to keep the temperature at a desired 22-25 degrees. And cutting powder, from two brands. I watched videos on the internet about propagating lavender by cuttings and made at least 100 cuttings, with and without two different cutting powders.

But the result was 0. Only 1 out of about 100 cuttings got significant root formation and eventually died.

What did I do wrong?

According to a friend here in the Alpujarras I had pampered them too much. Furthermore I read about the soil, potting soil was wrong. I had mixed the potting soil with poor garden soil, but it was fertilized potting soil, others were not available here.

Lavender cuttings in autumn in four ways

At the end of September I tried again. This time no cutting powder and no potting soil. And according to four different methods.

  • Outdoors in the ground, under a small tunnel against the still relatively warm Spanish sun.
  • Outside on the terrace in two planters in the shade.
  • Inside in the cutting board, but without heating because it is still warm enough.
  • And I have partly dug in a number of side branches of lavender plants, in the hope that they will form new roots.

Cuttings soil

In the planters and cutters I put 1/3 part sterilized soil of the land (sterilized in the solar oven) 1/3 part perlite (for better drainage) and 1/3 part coconut substrate (contains no fertilizers and retains water). Outside on land, the cuttings are simply in the ground.

Water, what is not too much and not too little?

Something I hadn’t thought of before is that it’s quite difficult to know when the cuttings need water. Larger lavender plants don’t need a lot of water, but cuttings shouldn’t dry out. What is neither too much nor too little water?

I use a handy device. It was for measuring the PH, but that doesn’t work at all. There are 2 positions more on it. Light and moisture. I don’t really see the point of the first one yet, but the second one works well. The moisture gradations are useful to keep track of. At position 4, the lowest position of moist, I give (a little bit of) water. Maybe it’s too late or too early, but it feels good to be able to measure something.

handy device for measuring moisture. Normaly with 2 legs but PH and light doesn’t work, so we cut of 1 leg.

Update: two weeks later

All the cuttings seem to be alive and looking good. Except for 12 cuttings in the cutting tray. They even started to mold. Apart from the mouldy cuttings I also removed the plastic caps from the plugs. That’s right, pampering lavender too much is not a good idea.

To be continued

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wild fennel pollen

Wild fennel flowers, a luxury in the wrong place

This week I removed some black plastic on the land of my future lavender farm. How are the weeds after 3 and 6 months covered with black plastic? The good news: the bindweed is gone. And even in the last few days, even with an unexpected rain shower, it did not occur again. But, I seem to have a new enemy. A plant that is apparently much more persistent. Namely wild fennel.

After six months of darkness, it’s still there

After six months of total darkness, it is still there. Small and white, but still. Even after weeding, they emerge again. 1st round: 42 pieces on 35 m2. 2nd round 13 pieces (that goes well!) But then the 3rd round again 21 pieces. Fennel, that’s just a tough one.

I am shocked to see that the field next door is completely filled with fennel. And in bloom. Fennel flowers everywhere I look. If all that seed comes loose, I have a lot of extra work.

The wild fennel may not go well with the lavender, but it is actually a fantastic plant. You can use just about every part of the wild fennel. On the dried stalks, fish is smoked at the chirinquitos on the beach, I understand.

The wild fennel flowers are delicious in a stew and the young leaves very good in a salad. The seeds you can put in your bread or make tea with it.

One part of wild fennel is even healthier than the other. Against gases, against high cholesterol…

And now they are in bloom, exactly on my future lavender field. It is actually too late to mow, because seed is already falling out. So I make a virtue of necessity.

Manually harvesting the flowers and seeds of the wild fennel

Today and tomorrow I spend a few hours manually harvesting the flowers and seeds. It smells wonderfully of fennel, on the land and now also in the house. It is a shame that they have to leave the lavender field, but luckily they are in many other places on the land and I don’t have to worry about whether they will manage there. They are realy strong, that has been proven.

Recipes and background about wild fennel on the website ‘eat the invaders’.

How to get rid of invasive weeds in ecological farming?

Of course no pesticides are used in organic agriculture and horticulture. But how am I going to get rid of invasive weeds on the lavender farm?

how to get rid of invasive weeds, looks quite beautiful, but bindweed is too agresive.
bindweed, very invasive

New innovative methods to get rid of invasive weeds

Wherever the law stipulates that pesticides may no longer be used, new innovative methods are created to remove weeds ecological. You can use use machines, that attack the weeds to the root with hot steam or hot water. Weeding itself, with the hoe or with hot water, is not necessarily an annoying job, but it is when we are talking about a large area and a very invasive weed.

No weed as persistent as bindweed

No weed grow so fast and is as persistent as bindweed I think. The plant speads with an extensive root branch that can go up to 10 meters deep. And each individual plant slums up through the stem of the lavender. My land unfortunately has a lot of bindweed.

Deep plowing and leaving the ground bare is a method used here. I suspect that the plant will only be multiplied. In addition to that it is bad for biodiversity and can lead to erosion.

Wherever there is water, the bindweed appears. I am quite sure that the seeds come in through the irrigation channels (asequias) here in the Alpujarras.

how to get rid of invasive weeds. Seeds of bindweed spreads by irrigation channel.
bindweed next to an Alpujarra asequia

Picking flowers to prevent them spreading seeds

Bindweed blooms in summer immediately after watering. I pick those flowers on my land where possible, to prevent them spreading even more seeds. And leave not even one dead plant on my land because the seeds will still ripen. I think.

Fortunately, newly sprouted seeds can easily be eliminated with weeding. The deep root system is another story. That doesn’t get exhausted. Also steam or boiling water does not get that deep.

Where other plants die because of pesticides, bindweed simply returns and now with no competition

Neighbors spray pesticides. That seems like an option in the short term, but in the long term it’s very bad. Where other plants do die, bindweed simply returns. And then you just killed the competition.

Mulching the soil, so covering it with compost or straw, is also not a solution. Precisely from underneath the mulch they come out even harder than elsewhere.

So I came up with black agricultural plastic

Black plastic is a permitted method in organic agriculture and horticulture. The black plastic warms up the soil and weeds die because there is no photosynthesis without light.

black plastic on my land to get rid of invasive weeds

Doing nothing makes the problem bigger and bigger

Plastic contributes to climate change and plastics in the sea are a disaster. See my blog about plastic. It’s not easy to do everything well. But doing nothing or waiting longer is not an option, because the root system grows at lightning speed.

So I went looking for plastic that had already been recycled and can be recycled again. After 1 month all weeds under the plastic were dead, except for the bindweed and another stubborn specie. Where I planted my first 40 lavender plants the plastic was only there for two months, but that was clearly too short. I still have to weed every day.

5 months later all bindweed is dead

Now 5 months later all bindweed under the plastic is dead. I am very curious if they will reappear when the circumstances improve. So when sunlight and water comes in again. I’m going to try that soon. Am I able to plant more lavenders in autumn or should I wait longer? Fingers crossed!

More about bindweed on wikipedia

Lavender harvest for the very first time

The first lavender harvest could never be great. The test field I started with this spring contains only 40 plants. Moreover, the harvest in the first year is simply not high. But still, the first results can be there.

first lavender harvest
First lavender harvest: an explosion of scents and colors

Explosion of scents and colors

Not all lavenders gave a good yield right away, but some varieties just kept on flowering. The smell of 13 different types of lavender comes to me as I descend the stairs to the basement. Because that is where I dry the harvest bunches. What an explosion of fragance!

The sweet scent of the lavandula angustfolia

Especially the sweet scent of some angustfolias is fantastic. And then the colors. Varying from white to the darkest blue. In comparison, the lavandin that I was allowed to harvest from a friend is a bit pale in color.

lavender harvest of lavandin
Lavandin, harvested in the Alpujarras at the foot of the Sierra Nevada

I was actually a bit late with the harvest. Within a few days the lavender flowers automatically felt from their stalks into the bed cover that hangs underneath the bundles. I think I should harvest earlier next time.

Sustainable lavender harvest

But what to do with all those buzzing bees above those beautiful flowers? Harvesting the flowers sooner is not necessarily in favor of the bees, who already have such a difficult time. If I have more lavender plants, I will leave them some flowers.

Lavender flowers, good for the bees
Next time I’ll leave more flowers for the bees. They have a hard enough time. Even in the nature reserve where I live, pesticides are unfortunately the most common thing.
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