Monday, April 20, 2015

Is It Spring Yet?

I love the New England snow here so much that in all my fifteen years of the cold season I have kicked against us getting a snow blower. I have always been out there at the first sign of snowfall with my shovel at hand. I wait through the fall with the eagerness and expectation of a child at Christmas time. I polish my snow shovel with olive oil to a gleam, and I finally put it away over the weekend but I think my love affair with the New England snowy winters maybe over.

Ordinarily, I relish making soap over the season of nip and bite. The lye goes out on the deck, and it's cooled before I even have time to make me a cuppa and line the molds. Production is much faster, smoother, and the workshop is just a great place to be. But this past winter has been brutal. It just never stopped. One day after the other. One 48 hours into the next. Weekdays or weekends. Just the same falling white, ice, wind and freezing rain. It made the news daily, and broke records across the state.

A yield in the basement wall. On the rainiest pour from the dark of winter skies I have ever experienced in my whole life. Outside, courting midnight with a yard brush, scooting the ponding slush of wet and freeze the full length of our front path to keep it from breaching the basement window sills. No wellingtons to wear my feet, I had to pull on my best black GAP knee high biker boots... and of all the things to reduce me to tears that night it was feeling my sodden socks ruffling the plush in-soles in the knowledge that come the morning my fave boots would forever be relegated to gardening work.

Though the night was a horrendous one, the water damage indoors wasn't much to write home about once it had all dried out. Oh, at the time we were ankle deep at the front door and it was a dreadful catch 22 situation. The room below needed towels, and a truckload of them at that. But it was no use attempting any kind of mop-out while the water was enjoying its new found freedom through the hairline crack in the foundation wall. My wet woolly hat was icy cold against my head, but I grinned like a Cheshire cat with every push of the brush past the dry of the mulched bed under the workshop window. In a weird way, the safety of the workshop kept me going. An hour and half later, it was all done with. The rain slackened off, and we spent most of the night mopping up and thanking our lucky stars.

I lost eighteen days of soaping all tolled. Sometimes the personal side of life has to take priority, and the knock on effect was many delayed soap batches as I gave the time needed to home and family. February's annual Manor Mania event almost didn't happen. But I made the decision to go ahead with it in March so everyone could still enjoy buying their faves at the silly prices they wait all year for. My Manor Maniacs have been fantastic, and have waited so patiently for their soaps through the curing delay. There's only four more batches on hold for the cure, and by the end of next week as April leaves us, the last of the Manor Mania follow-on soaps will have shipped and what has been an awful and trying time will all be behind me. It will be nice to move forward.

Though very late this year, Spring has finally sprung here in Springfield, MA and I've just had a wonderful weekend in the garden with some beautiful sun shining down. However bad things may be, there's comfort in knowing that nothing stays the same forever. The green shoots of the new season's life are upon us and you know what?... maybe there's something to be said for wearing knee high GAP biker boots while heeling on a spade in the soil.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Ohhhh Is For Olive

The olive tree has a commanding tenacity. No matter how harsh the winter, or burning dry the summer, it still grows strong and upright in stoic resolution to bring us a fruit renowned for its nourishment and salve. A very emollient oil, it has been used for thousands of years on the skin to calm, to cleanse and to moisturize.

The olive is very high in polyphenols. These are a broad class of antioxidants that include flavonoids and catechins, common also to red wine, chocolate, grape juice and tea. Antioxidants are useful in the aging process... they help slow it down.

But antioxidants also hold other qualities of importance to us. The phenols found in olive oil have an antifungal and antibacterial action. Phenols also prevent "Oxidative Stress", a highly oxidized environment within cells where there is an overflow of free radicals and a lack of antioxidant support. Oxidative Stress always leads to inflammation, a common aggravator in dermatitis and other similar skin conditions.

Olive oil is a great humectant. Attracting external moisture to the skin, it still allows normal function to take place such as shedding, sweating and sebum release. Olive oil doesn't clog pores, It is gentle, and hypoallergenic.