Soaping the weeds, and hot flights to the other side

The past few weeks are a blur. In my head are the posts I had planned to make about the springtime weeds, and combing the local streets with the Supervisor, looking for dandelion flowers. As it turns out, we seem to have gathered and made soap from the flowers of sow (not sour) thistle – clearly the Supervisor and I are no botanists.

y    image     image   Pete had to taste a few weeds just to check.

We found the best crops in the most neglected places – vacant yards and houses for sale, and curiously – our own backyard!!

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It took a lot of walking to gather even a small handful.  I found myself plucking yellow heads and pocketing them as I stood at bus stops, and eyeing off the weeds at work and in various gardens where others might admire the cultivated flowers.


I had a little moment of conscience niggle even plucking the heads off these “weeds” when I saw how much the bees liked them too – so I did a deal with the bees.  I left them plenty, and would only pick the flowers every few days. Each flower seemed to open for only a day, so I think the bees did OK.  Funnily enough the recipe for this soap (another Nerdy Farm Wife recipe, from her free dandelion e-book), also contains honey and beeswax – so a deal with the bees all round!

image   I love watching the flowers turn into “tea” – when this had infused and cooled it was a yellow / green colour, and smelled fresh grassy, and green.

Earlier this year, I had attended a poetry book launch, for Shane McCauley, one of our local poets.

Shane’s partner, Hyang-Ja, had created an aesthetic wonderland for the launch day, which included the gift of a little jar of fresh honey – with honeycomb – when the poetry book was purchased.  The honey was delightful, and with this soap recipe, I found the perfect use for the last scrapings of the honey, and it’s waxy housing.

The resultant soap was a brilliant yellow colour and is biding its time in the shed as I write.

I, on the other hand, am half a world away!!

With my baggage stuffed with soap as gifts for relatives, my partner and I farewelled the Supervisors a few days ago.  We were delayed by an 8 hour transit in very hot Dubai, while the plane underwent some unscheduled repairs.


As we melted inside the cabin, with failing aircon and an overheated plane, I was having visions of my superfatted soap melting back into oils, and my luggage sliding out at Heathrow in an oilslick.  I am chuffed to say that it survived the trip!  And also chuffed with the impulse camera purchase made in Dubai.  Photo quality should improve henceforth!!

My English cousin is far more au fait with gardens and herb identification than me.  Whilst testing out my relationship with the new camera,  I learned the difference between dandelions and sow thistles – and so it seems my soap is made of the more dentated leaf and smaller flower of the sow thistle.  One of the problems of growing up in a “colony”, far from your own “tribe”.

I think I have learned to just make it up as I go, and run with the consequences.  Maybe I will have to write a recipe for Sow Thistle soap 😕

In the meantime, I am loving being here in England – where my genetic heritage runs deep, and where I am a stranger.

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