Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Come Learn to Make Handcrafted Soap with a Certified Instructor.

I’ve been a soap maker over 20 years and was addicted after my first attempt. Back then there was no Internet or instructor to be my guide on the side. I did a lot of footwork to find my information, elated to find the advice in Anne Bramson’s book, Soap: Making It, Enjoying It – mainly because it was the only one you could find.  This was after being intrigued by a bar of old timey lye soap I bought from a granny-lady demonstrating soap making in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. 

It was a marvelous experience to bathe with my new purchase in the claw-foot tub at the rustic cabin rental in the mountains that crisp fall weekend. My skin felt smooth and moisturized all night; it didn’t need lotion.  Instead of going shopping the next day with the other family members, I stayed at the cabin and soaked in the tub again. After that weekend, I was determined to learn how to make this miraculous stuff for myself.

I transferred this research into a culminating spring time lab for my second year chemistry students.  We crafted homemade soap for Mother’s Day presents.  Of course, they had to describe the chemical principles of the saponification process to me on the final exam.

When Creative Hands Artisan Center opened in Lyman, SC, I began to sell bars of slightly more sophisticated versions of the mountain granny’s old timey lye soap. That was the beginning of Tygerheart Fine Soaps in 2001.  Just last year, I became a certified instructor through the Handcrafted Soap Makers Guild.

With the opening of The Grain Loft on Hwy 101 in Greer, SC and their commercial kitchen, there is a great new venue for me to teach interested students the basics of soap making.  Classes are currently underway.  You can register at grainloft.com.  Soon I will be offering classes on more advanced techniques as well.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Have you seen my honey?

This year I'm trying to be a beekeeper.  I've been interested in it all my life because my grandparents had hives out in the apple orchard on their dairy farm in Pelzer. Nobody ever let me get around those white boxes in the tall grass though.  I watched from a distance, usually from a low branch in an apple tree, when Papa or Uncle Henry robbed the hives. Somehow I stumbled on an announcement about the Clemson Extension Office in Spartanburg offering a beekeeping class back in the winter. I signed up just to find out more.  I found out that it's a lot harder to keep bees these days than it was.  There are pests and diseases now that they didn't have back then.  I was almost turned off by the first class because it was mostly about all the diseases you have to watch out for.
I started by purchasing two hive kits from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm in NC and two packages of Italian honeybees.  Installation day was April 6.  I pretty much left them alone for a month before I opened the hives, checking only the outside activity. In August I felt brave enough to rob a frame of honey from each hive. Here is what it looks like.
It's a very dark honey with a strong flavor.  Momma says it's the best tasting honey she has ever put in her mouth.
That's all I'm going to take this season.  I'll leave the rest for the bees to eat over the winter.  My goal this first season with bees is to get two colonies to survive the winter, start out strong next spring, make more bees, and make more honey.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gamecock and Tiger Swirl Soaps

Sometimes the creative side of me takes over, even over the soap pot. The darnedest things inspire a pot of soap. For this batch, it was who, not what. I wanted to make something to honor Marcus Lattimore's first season with Carolina, you know, back in the fall when we were all in a football frenzy. Even most of us RebelTigers were pulling for the Cocks except for our game. I know a few who weren't, and y'all are welcome to pipe up here. Then I had to give the Tigers equal effort and made an orange and purple swirl batch. So here are the results of that inspiration.


With swirls of garnet and black, Gamecock is scented with Spiced Mahogany from Bramble Berry, and described as a deep, rich woody scent with notes of Italian Bergamot, and Apple Wood to round out the darker, more sensuous Patchouli, Cedarwood, and Oakmoss. Also spices of Cardamom, Vanilla Bourbon and allspice are added. The resulting fragrance is one of sophistication and verve.

The Tiger was scented with Energy fragrance oil, also from Bramble Berry. It is described thus,a stimulating blend of citrus, including grapefruit, lemon, and lime, with hints of fresh cucumber and jasmine, and a touch of pineapple, blackberry and champagne.



And here they are tailgating together.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tygerheart Fine Soaps

If you're wondering why I've not written a blog post in a while, it's because I've been making soap like crazy. I've had the soaping bug for quite a long while. I don't think a bar of store-bought soap has touched my skin in nearly a dozen years. My soap is good. Take a look here at my Etsy Shop, Tygerheart Fine Soaps. Locals can get their paws on these bars at Creative Hands Artisan at the intersection of Groce Road and Highway 29 in Lyman, SC.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Version of Carolina Gold aka Yaller BBQ Sauce

Since "yaller sauce" is getting kind of hard to find around here, I figured out this recipe after several attempts. We like it better than the store-bought kind. Put this stuff in the blender for a few seconds then store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Shake before using.

1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Friday, April 16, 2010

For Gary Carden

Gary, this is the Wordle of your interview in the Smoky Mountain News.
Wordle: Gary Carden's interview with the Smoky Mountain News

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wordling Favorite Poems for National Poetry Month

The Exchange by Ron Rash


Wordle: The Exchange by Ron Rash



Mountain Bride by Robert Morgan

Wordle: Mountain Bride by Robert Morgan

Work by Darnell Arnoult

Wordle: Work by Darnell Arnoult

Good News for Me!

The good news is that I won the 2010 Hub City Award for Poetry. Click to read the article.
My youngest suggested that mine must have been the ONLY poetry entry this year. Oh, nay, nay, I said. There were prizes offered for 2nd and 3rd places as well. And the icing on the cake - I also took third place in fiction.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Playing with Wordle

My students introduced me to Wordle.com. I noticed their interesting notebook covers and asked them how they made them. I put in the text to one of my previous posts, Kudzu Cousins and Lye Soap, and got this.

Wordle: KudzuCousinsandLyeSoapEssay

Then I put in Robert Morgan's poem, Honey, and got this.

Wordle: Honey by Robert Morgan

Go play with Wordle.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

smell and memory

Have you ever run across a long forgotten item or sense that reminded you of something from way way back yonder? For me, it’s smell. I would like to make an incense blend of Swisher Sweets cigars, Old Spice, line-dried flannel, the metal, oil, and weathered upholstery of an old pickup truck, cows, milk, sweet feed, and wet cement, with a high note of manure. And every time I burned it, my grandpa would aromatize out of the smoke and stay with me for the rest of the day. I would keep fishing gear in the utility room so that when he wafted in, we would head up Highway 276 to the creeks in that part of Greenville that points the accusatory finger at something over in Pickens County. Or perhaps we would take off up Old Highway 25, through the watershed area, and he would ask me to keep a lookout for that shed in the woods (it’s out there, you know), to keep my mind off the nausea that always crept up on me on our trips to see his cousins around Tuxedo and Flat Rock. But this time, since I’d be driving, I wouldn’t get car sick.

Monday, July 20, 2009

1940 Cotton Mill Pay Voucher

I went to the last Tucapau/Startex Reunion back in the spring and I promised that I would show you some of the pictures I took there. Finally downloaded them off the camera. I think this picture merits its own blog post. Below is a picture of a 1940 pay stub from Spartan Mills Startex Division. Knowing who it belonged to, I’d venture to guess that this may be a first pay check. I’ll not comment and let the numbers do the talking.


Hours worked – 32
Gross pay – $10.72

Deductions
OAB – $0.11
Thrift Club – $3.00
Rent, lights, water – $5.73
Store – $0.35

Net pay – $1.53

This year I plan to have a display about the early years of Tucapau in my classroom. This photo will be prominent in the display.


Monday, July 13, 2009

The Tornado that Wasn't and the Wall-O-Maters



Tomato cages, like atoms, are mostly empty space. I've had my hog wire tomato cages for as long as I’ve lived here, sixteen years. I made them by cutting one-yard sections of the fencing and rolling them to make a tube by connecting and twisting the cut horizontal wires around the vertical wires. They are set in place with green metal fence posts stobbed into the ground. I hadn’t needed the cages for the last three years while they stayed stacked in a pyramid of air behind the garage. I thought I could grow some really fine tomato plants in large five to ten gallon containers around the sides of the driveway where it would be easier to tend rather than tromp out to the big garden at the back of the property. But I was only kidding myself. Even when I did what all the container gardening experts said to do, I couldn’t get a Park’s Whopper much bigger than a lemon. I’m used to growing a tomato big enough to make a sandwich with one single slice. And that Topsy Turvy tomato planter thing is a joke. Don’t waste your money.


Well, sir, I decided back around Thanksgiving that I was through with container gardening. Heck, I have the land and ought to be using it like the good Lord intended, growing something to stuff in my face. But my hog wire cages had succumbed to the elements back there behind the garage, being no more substantial now than so much brown cobwebs. It was the tornado last year that drew my attention to that fact.


The 2008 Brookdale Acres/Gap Creek Tornado that formed over Tab’s Flea Market on Wade Hampton Boulevard, Highway 29, with no warning and undetected by the National Weather Service, shucked off all my shingles, uprooted many trees and bushes (including my thirty-foot pink dogwood), twisted others like licorice whips, turned my eight-foot wooden fence into splinters, sucked the water from the hot tub, smashed cars, spun shingles through the neighborhood like circular saw blades into anything in their way, and sent the metal walls of an above-ground pool whipping and writhing in the air like a streamer of toilet paper to land crumpled on a neighbor’s front steps 100 yards away. The tornado, which the NWS called straight-line winds instead (because they didn’t send out a warning), but the neighbor said on TV he “seen” a tornado coming up the road, lifted the house across the street off its foundation and smashed it right back down, causing the roof to split along the ridge, warp the whole frame, shifting the bricks and foundation. It took the insurance people a couple of days to decide to condemn the structure and rebuild the house.


As Ken and the State Farm man assessed the damage, starting in the front of the house and working their way to the back of the property, while local new teams swarmed the neighborhood, I started in the rear where I discovered the tomato cages, mostly rust dust, smashed to smithereens by a small pecan limb. Oh, well. I wasn’t using them anymore, I thought. I had my containers, right? many of which were shoved over and emptied on the ground by the winds. We found one of the planters cradled in the top branches of a giant white oak in the woods across the street. It’s still there along with a Christmas wreath from who-knows-where. Spring break was just around the corner and I thought I could make some new cages then, but I never did. My rheumatiz-stricken hands couldn’t squeeze the wire cutters as easily as they could fifteen years before. I tried the container garden one more time, but decided to go back to a real garden after that third season of puny produce.


In late January, Ken began tilling the old garden spot we had been using for a burn pile. He tilled it about three different times. I expressed my doubts that we would be able to grow anything there this year, thinking it would be too alkaline because of the ashes. And sure enough, as the days warmed, when there should have been weeds sprouting, not even a sprig of chickweed grew. The spot was nothing but a scald. However, I didn’t want to break new ground just yet. So we transformed the old flower beds around the patio inside the new wooden fence (complements of State Farm) into a cool crop garden with lettuces, cabbage, and broccoli. During spring break I planted six Park’s Whoppers I had started from seed back in February in the patio garden. A couple of weeks later we noticed the tilled spot had some little weeds growing in it. I figured all the rain we had in early spring diluted the natural lye from the ashes and decided to take a chance with some more crops out there.


I bought a real cheap nine-pack of Rutgers tomatoes at Walmart, marked down because they were yellow and scrawny as pencil leads. If they died in the ground, it didn’t matter. I had to do this experiment. But how was I going to stake them up if they did thrive? I’d used most of the old metal posts in the patio garden. This is when I realized the tornado had given me an answer. We still had the old drive-through, chain-linked gate leaning against the fence in the back yard, all ten feet of it, the one that was warped when the kids’ trampoline was flung into it. I never did like that gate, it was too heavy, and I had to use two hands to open it. We replaced it with an easy-open double gate.


With the old warped gate and the last three metal fence posts, I created a 5:1 incline for the tomatoes to creep up if they grew at all. And they did grow like crazy after being stunted for about a month. As the vines grew, I lashed them to the fence with some ties I made form an old pair of pantyhose cut calamari style. What I have now is a wall-o-‘maters. They are loaded with green tomatoes, and I’ve been harvesting ripe tomatoes since July 4th weekend. I like this new arrangement very much. And it’s way easier than empty space that takes up so much space.

Here is a slide show of the damage.












The Wall-o-maters.







Friday, June 26, 2009

I saw the signs.

I saw the telltale signs,
stripped stems and dark green dookie pellets.
So I've been on a tomato hornworm
search and destroy mission.

I miss my little red hens.
They loved to follow me
on a worm-hunting adventure.
I'd pry the fat boys off the plants
and flick them at my girls' feet.

Did I ever tell you about
my first encounter with guacamole?
Thought it was prueed tomato hornworm.
That was back in 1973.











This picture is from Clemson's web site.


http://entweb.clemson.edu/eiis/factshot/images/tomatohornworm.jpg

A Big Girl Now


This week my baby turned into a big girl, passing her drivers test with smooth, flawless parallel parking, which you only need in Greer, got her first little part-time job making outside money (not from my pocketbook), and filled the gas tank with said money. I am getting old.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

975.729

I’ve been lurking in the 975.729 region of the Dewey Decimals lately. The 975 means
Southeastern US, the .7 means South Carolina, and the 29 means Spartanburg County. I like to see what the historians say about my antecedents. One of the most concentrated of the Spartan District tomes I’ve run across is a little self-published jewel called Indians, Bloodshed, Tears, Churches, and Schools – It All Started at Fort Gowen by James V. Gregory and James Walton Lawrence, Sr. 2003.
The idea for this book began with the authors’ and the National Park Service’s search for the original site of Fort Gowan, one in a string of several forts, all within a one-day’s walk (or run) of each other, built during the times of Tory, Indian, and outlaw gang attacks on the settlers in the South Carolina backcountry. Often mentioned are the dastardly deeds of the outlaw William “Bloody Bill” Bates along the Indian Line (Spartanburg Co. and Greenville Co. boundary). We also had another Bloody Bill in the region, William Cunningham, most noted for his attack at Walnut Grove Plantation near Roebuck. Bates reminds me of the pirate character, Stephen Bonnet, in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series. I imagine his maraudering band to be a lot like the gang of bandits who kidnapped Claire in A Breath of Snow and Ashes. Very nasty fellow.
Much of the information for Fort Gowen was gathered from aerial maps, the SC Archives, Greenville and Spartanburg County records, old newspaper articles, and the writings of local historians Dr. Lyman Draper, Dr J.B.O. Landrum, and Mann Batson. This little book reminded me that some of the greatest suffering and bloodshed before and during the American Revolution was borne by the original settlers of the backwoods Spartan District of South Carolina.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I wonder about that Guy guy.

s Today we went to Harold's of Gaffney, featured on The Food Network's show with spiky-haired Guy Fieri, for their famous chili burger. No wonder they don't tell you how they make the chili on the show. I need Imodium and Nexium. If Dewy's Duck Inn in Startex were still open, Diners, Drive Ins and Dives would have ignored Harold's - best chili ever in this world at the Duck Inn. I'd kill for that mill hill recipe. We went to the Duck Inn for our dogs and to Walt's Mr. Hot Dog for our chili-cheese burgers. That was twenty-five years ago, so it may just be my old lady innards and not Harold's food. But the amazing thing about Harold's is that it's been in business for 75 years and making the food the same way. Now I'd like to give them a second chance on one of the pinto bean Wednesdays. Pinto beans, fatback, corn muffins, chow chow, and onions sound real good to me.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Our Kuykendall Family Album




Folks, this album will continue to grow as I scan and upload the pictures to it. If you click the little blue picture icon in the lower right, you can see the complete album with captions for each picture. So, help me out, cousins, if you see something that needs correction, let me know.