Garden Diary - July 2018

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Soap Making Workshop at Wave Hill

Sunday, 8 July 2018

I was in the bathroom at Wave Hill. Wet my hands, added a fluffy bit of soap foam and started lathering up. And began to think how, just in my lifetime, soap has changed. It used to be cakes of soap. Ivory 99.44% pure, it floats. Smelly soap, Irish Spring, good as a deer repellent.

Fels naptha, for laundry and lathering my hands
and bare arms when I've gotten into poison ivy.

My local apiary sells not only honey and beeswax candles but also soap, with scents of lavender, rosemary, and more. The price for a cake of soap is going up.

A neighbor makes "soap" - they buy a glycerin soap base, melt it in the microwave, add a few drops of essential oil, and then pour the glop into attractive little molds to re-solidify.

A recent New York Times article discusses soap for the 1% - "Byredo Suede Hand Wash sells for $65, Aesop Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash sells for $39, and Le Labo Hinoki Hand Soap sells for $38. Even boutique bar soap ain't cheap: Saturdays NYC Moisturizing Bar Soap, made by a men's wear label, is $20 and Binu Binu Shaman Black Charcoal Soap is $18 (yes, charcoal - that which used to smudge chimney sweeps). "

What IS soap, anyhow. Soap is made from lye and fat. Back in "the old days," (you know, when it was more Little House on the Prairie rather than shopping on-line) lye was made from water slowly dripping through a barrel filled with wood ashes. Fat might be tallow. When soap is made in a craft workshop today, it is more likely to be coconut oil or olive oil.

Today is one of Wave Hill's plant themed culinary days.
In addition to a plant walk and a culinary demonstration -
both with a focus on scented geraniums (pelargoniums)

there is a soap making workshop lead by

Melissa Rivera of Essence & Aroma in
Cornwall-On-Hudson, New York.

Workshop participants get to make a box of soap
that they will take home, then patiently wait from 24
to 48 hours before unmolding and cutting into cakes.

Take care, measure carefully, use appropriate safety gear and equipment.
Don't rush. No interruptions. Slow and careful. Clean up when done.


A jug of coconut oil and a bottle of geranium essential oil.
Other options today were lavender, rosemary, or eucalyptus.

And at the end of the workshop a box of proto-soap
that will, with saponification in a day or two, become
actual soap, priceless because the students made it.

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