Harvest & Replanting Aloe Vera

 Hello friends,

Today I harvested some aloe vera and replanted the overgrown container.  My aloe vera plant is over 45 years old. My Mother-in-law gave me a pup in the 1970's. It has been divided many times.  I move it indoors for the Winter and keep it outside Spring through frost.  Frost is coming very soon, time to start prepping the gardens for Winter.

Here was the plant this Spring, I should have taken a photo before I removed it from the pot, it has grown significantly throughout the ideal Summer months. It was huge, almost 6 feet across.  I could barely lift it.

The plant was root bound, I had to hack away at the roots to get it out of the pot but these plants are tough and can handle rough treatment.  I wanted to harvest some leaves for my products and to remove any that were partially cut, used or generally scarred. 

 Healthy root system, time to repot.
Peel off the leaf rather than cut it. Once you do it you will see how easy this comes off and leaves a nice clean stem. When you repot, set the plant so all of that exposed stem is covered with soil and it will develop roots from the newly harvested areas creating a strong healthy plant. This method is the best practice rather than cutting.

I save any of the off shoot pups to replant, there were about a dozen of them. 


When you harvest the leaves the best practice is to gently twist and peel the entire leaf from the stem.  It circles the stem but comes off cleanly.  I took off about 8 pounds of leaves. Note the bottom of the leaves, they aren't cut but removed by simply peeling from the mother plant.  This left about a dozen smaller healthy leaves and a 6 inch newly exposed stem with the root system attached at the bottom.  The newly exposed area will develop new roots resulting in a very strong and healthy plant with many more years of life.

The newly repotted plant - 10 pounds lighter with room to grow!

I use the aloe in my soap, bath and body products so I prepare the harvested leaves ready for use.  I use various methods. After washing the leaves, I peel and extract the pure gel by simply pressing.  The larger leaves have enough pulp to scoop with a spoon and cube. The cubes are the same as the extracted gel/pulp but they are so pretty, like clear crystals, I just enjoy seeing them that way.

Truly beautiful crop, sliced and ready for processing.

Peeling, scooping and extracting the gorgeous gel - such a pretty bowl full.

                      The large leaves yield chunky cubes of the pure pulp.

I also process some of the leaves with the green peel.  The food processor works well for this, then they are poured into ice cube trays for a quick freeze for long term storage.

Aloe vera, a wonderful plant that is really easy to grow 
with wonderful properties for skin care.

Thanks for visiting,


Sun Pickles

Hello Friends,

The vegetable garden is in full production mode. Look at what I harvested this morning!

Today I would like to share with you a simple recipe for delicious, crispy, dill pickles made with solar power. This is a great fun project to do with the children.

The containers are filled with an abundance of pickling cukes and fragrant dill from my herb garden. The pungent aroma of the dill fills the air in the afternoon sun.

Soapsmith's Sun Pickles

Makes  about 1/2 gallon. You can use pints, quarts, larger jars etc.
Wash jars well with hot soapy water, rinse with hot water and allow to air dry until ready to use.

 For crispy pickles you need to start with firm, crisp cucumbers.  Best to make them the day you harvest the cukes.  If you are purchasing them ask if when they were picked.  Pickling or kirby cukes are best.  If you use the traditional cucumbers from the grocery store it is more likely you will not be able to get a good crisp/crunch. If you can bend the cuke it will not be crispy when finished.  They will be tasty, just not crispy.  Also, if you decide to process them for longer storage over winter the pickles will be softer because they are cooked during the processing.  You can use Pickle Crisp or Alum in processed pickles to help with crispiness but that won't make a difference in sun/refrigerator pickles.

It is important to use pickling salt. You can use other salts and it will still be good but the brine will not be clear - cloudy but still safe and flavorful.

Dissolve together:

1/4 cup pickling salt

2 1/2 cups white vinegar (or any vinegar combination of your choice)

2 1/2 cups very hot to boiling water

Enough pickling cukes to fill the jars - sliced, whole or spears, your choice.

Add to each jar:

1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

heads of fresh dill weed or dried dill seeds (one to four for each jar depending on the size of the jars)

cloves of garlic   (one to four for each jar depending on the size of the jars)

You can add any other spices you like, pickling spice, dry mustard, black pepper, celery seed, chives etc.

Wash cucumbers, rinse dill heads, peel garlic cloves,
slightly smash garlic to release flavor.

Add heads of fresh dill & fresh garlic to taste.

Pour the warm brine to cover and put on lid or covering.

Set the jar in the sun for a day or up to 3 days - I usually just do one day if it is in the hot summer sun. Bring in, keep refrigerated.  It takes at least a week in the fridge for the best flavor, the longer they sit the more the flavors blend and infuse the cukes but you can eat them at any time in the process.

Optional spices as desired:2 tsp. cayenne pepper, pickling spice, black peppercorns, mustard seed, celery salt etc.This works great for cauliflower as well, you can add fresh hot peppers for some extra kick.

Gather your ingredients and utensils.

Wash the jars and lids with hot soapy water, rinse with hot water and allow to drain while you prepare the recipe. It is not necessary to use canning jars as this recipe is for fresh pickles, not processed for long term storage.

Slice the clean cucumbers lengthwise in quarters or sliced and pack into jar.

Place dill heads, garlic and any spices that you like into the jars. My favorite is cayenne pepper, it does provide some heat so use it to your family's tastes.

Use very hot tap to boiling water, stir in the salt to dissolve and add the vinegars. Pour the warm brine over the cukes to fill the jar. Note, if you need more, you can just supplement the brine with more water and vinegar to cover the cucumbers. This is a forgiving recipe, feel free to improvise.

Put the lid on the jar and set it in the summer sun for a day up to three days. After the waiting period, place the pickles in the refrigerator until full chilled. At least a full day but a week is better. Don't be tempted to try them yet, they need that cold treatment to crisp up and fully develop the flavors.

These pickles will keep well refrigerated for several weeks, but they never last that long in our house!

Please note: The pickles are not preserved to be stored on the shelf. They must be kept refrigerated. If you want to make pickles to last through the seasons, you will have to follow traditional safe canning methods utilizing heat processing with proper canning jars.

I hope you will give these a try. Delicious, spicy, crisp and refreshing, yummy.

Thanks for visiting,


Reader's Comments

By Guest on 06/17/2014 @ 06:32pmAdd a couple teaspoons of hot red pepper seeds. The best!

By Guest on 08/25/2013 @ 06:15pmTo try to see if my solar pickles would be more crisp my recipe called for 3 grape leafs I also tried adding 1 tsp. per gallon of Ball Pickle Crisp Granules I had my cucumbers in cold water for a couple hours before I added all the other ingredients.

By Soapsmith on 08/08/2013 @ 09:52pmSince these aren't heat processed, I wouldn't want to take the chance that they could spoil without refrigeration. I do know that the strong vinegar and salt might help prevent some spoilage but I am not an expert. The home canning advice is to always heat process for long term storage insure safety. I would not want to advise you what to do because I really don't know for sure and I wouldn't want to be the cause of any bad reaction. Sorry I can't be of help, I just follow the directions and refrigerate them.

By Guest on 08/08/2013 @ 09:11pmWhat if you do not have enough refrigerator room? My Mother used to put them in a cool dark place for about 3 months. No processing. Some of my jars have sealed and some have not.

By Soapsmith on 07/30/2013 @ 09:17pmI wouldn't add any more days. The sun helps the process but it isn't vital. The pickles will be fine with cloudy days.

By Guest on 07/30/2013 @ 09:05pmWhat it you get 1 cloudy day? do you just add another sunny day to it

By Soapsmith on 07/29/2013 @ 11:27amI just leave them sit for the three days, I don't refrigerate them at night. After the three days, then I keep refrigerate them.

By Guest on 07/29/2013 @ 04:09amThis looks like an excellent recipe. Thanks! Quick question: Do you bring them in or refrigerate these at night or just leave the jar out for 3 solid days?

By Soapsmith on 07/22/2013 @ 04:29pmI don't use alum. I know some old time recipes call for alum because they require a longer processing time. The alum is supposed to help with crispness when the pickles are hot processed. Since these pickles are not heat processed, I don't thing alum would make a difference. You could try it to see, maybe add it to one jar and compare. If you do try it, post a comment and let me know if there was improvement.

By Guest on 07/22/2013 @ 04:07pmdo you ever use alum

Wild Harvest Yarrow

Hello friends,

A nice little patch of wild yarrow cropped up this year along side the dirt pile from the retaining wall project. It is too rough to mow so we have daisies and yarrow there - conveniently growing right off the back deck.

I harvested enough to distill a hydrosol, small bunch for drying and fresh herbal yarrow tea.

Such a pretty herb - delicate fern like leaves and tiny flower clusters with yellow centers.

Love "volunteers" in the garden! Lots of positive medicinal properties in wild harvest herbs. A delightful herbal tea can be made from fresh or dried yarrow sweetened with a little raw honey from the Amish farms - warm and inviting!

Thanks for visiting,


Visit my on line soap studio

Dead Sea Mud and Clays

Hello friends,

The primordial Dead Sea churning with ancient mineral deposits inspire this mud pack treatment.

Soapsmith's Dead Sea Mud Pack

Pure natural dead sea mineral mud pack treatment for your body is also suitable for facial use. Treat your skin with Dead Sea Spa mineral mud. 

Highly concentrated with 29 essential minerals including magnesium, calcium, sulfur, bromide, iodine, sodium, zinc and potassium; this mud is extracted from the Dead Sea. My mud is the finest quality as it is harvested from Southern areas of the Dead Sea, where the mineral content of the waters is at its highest. I carefully choose importers who employ high standards of operation. The mud is shipped fresh and I process it by hand to improve the texture by removing some of the excess water and filter out any large pebbles.

Soapsmith's dead sea mud is a wonderful skin treatment to stimulate, revitalize, cleanse, purify and soothe the skin. To be used all over the body, prior to showering or as a facial mask. Gently spread a thin layer over the areas you would like to treat, avoiding eyes and mucous membranes, allow the mud to dry and shower off, leaving your skin feeling refreshed.

I also offer a full line of pure natural dead sea and pink Himalayan bath salts and herbal soaks.

My dead Sea clay mud drawing facial mask is formulated utilizing pure all natural ingredients. This mask is perfect for oily to normal skin.

Wonderful earthy blend of natural clays and essential oils. The sea clay is harvested from the Dead Sea. Filled with 20 beneficial minerals essential for good skin care. The sea clay is combined for white kaolin clay which is a mild clay to compliment the drawing properties of the sea clay.

Pure essential oils of Tea Tree and Lavender complete the ingredient list for this 100% pure natural treatment.

For normal to oily skin mix with water, aloe or witch hazel.
Normal to dry skin mix with yogurt, honey, milk or cream.
For a great treat combine the clay with mashed fruits such as banana, avocado, papaya, cucumbers, strawberries etc.

For a gentler clay mask, I recommend
 my rose clay mask.

Thanks for visiting, enjoy!


Strawberry Time!

Hello friends,

Our local farms offer pick your own strawberry fields, I can't resist. Each June, my Mom and I took my sons to pick berries fresh from the farm. My Mom is no longer able to go but I still enjoy the experience. Nothing can beat that sweet juicy tangy aroma and taste. These are such a treat compared to the flavorless supermarket berries that are shipped in from other states.

Acres of fields of glossy red beauties, filling the air with fragrance,
shining in the summer sun ready for harvest.

I picked 16 quarts, it only took a little while. I was home by 10 AM.

We always have homemade strawberry shortcake with sweetened biscuits and fluffy mounds of freshly whipped heavy cream enriched with pure vanilla which is the perfect foil for the rich aromatic berries. This dessert was a favorite of my Father-in-law along with my homemade butterscotch and./or apple pies. When I picked the berries, I would let him know and he would come up for dessert which we enjoyed on the terrace. Pap, Tom and Tommy liked theirs with ice cream , the rest of the family preferred fresh whipped cream as the only adornment.
I always think of Pap when we savor this seasonal delight.

Soapsmith's Strawberry Shortcake
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup cold butter
1 egg
1/2 cup cold half-and-half

whipped cream topping
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat to 425 degrees. Mix flour, salt, baking powder and 3 Tbs. sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in the cold butter until crumbly. Combine egg and half-and-half; pour into flour mixture. Lightly blend with a fork to form large clumps. If needed you can add a little more half-and-half to the bowl if dough won't come together.

Drop into large dollops about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes. It is best served warm, you can reheat leftovers in the microwave for a few seconds.

Hull and slice fresh berries with sugar in a bowl; let stand until sugar dissolves. Beat cream to soft peaks, gradually adding 1 Tb. sugar at a time then vanilla.

Split each cake crosswise; spoon a portion of berries over each cake bottom, then a dollop of whipped cream over berries. Cap with cake top and serve immediately.

We have installed a new strawberry planter this year.  Hopefully it will keep the berries out of the reach of the rabbits and deer.

The remaining berries will be processed into strawberry jam to preserve the summer sun for the deep dark winters. Wild strawberries make the best jam, they are tart and flavorful - of course they are tiny and require much more effort than tame. You need to locate fields and spend time gathering enough, but the rewards are a fantastic jelly.

Soapsmith's Strawberry Jam

5 cups prepared fruit (about 2 quarts fully ripe strawberries)
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine
7 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

Bring boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.

Hull and crush strawberries thoroughly, one layer at a time using the bottom of a canning jar to mash the berries. I like my berries to be lightly mashed so the fruit maintains some texture but you can do whatever you prefer. Measure 5 cups of the mashed berries into 6 quart saucepan.

Stir sur jel pectin into prepared fruit in sauce pot. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. The water much cover the jars by 1 to two inches, you can add boiling water if needed.

Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. If the lid springs back, it is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.

Too bad local strawberry season is so short...up next pick your own cherries from the orchard, yum!

Thanks for visiting,


Reader's Comments

By Guest on 01/14/2013 @ 09:59pmJust found your blog. Pictures are great, and the recipe sounds wonderful for strawberry shortcake. Now I'm wanting some, and can hardly wait til June. Think I'll do desert crepes with strawberries and cream this week. That's yummy too!

By Guest on 06/22/2012 @ 02:29amLooks so good!