A new HARVEST is here.

It’s time to move on to the next stage, and I’m energized by my new name and totem: HARVEST. Even better, I’ve powered a new kind of soap that combines strong cleaning performance with super skin loving support. So whether you’re cleaning the vacation rental, the boat, the dog, the firetruck, the shop, one HARVEST works. You’ll feel the difference.

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My personal goals and my soap making goals are to HARVEST as much potential as possible, to reap performance and use from some awesome ingredients for soap and cleaners, and to get some of them straight from the farm.

I was lucky enough to find creative graphic designer Gregory Grigoriou and his HARVEST HORSE. Love the seed design. So I asked him to make me a dog version. He did. Then a few weeks later, a “seedy” girl with pigtails (my childhood-preferred hairstyle). This lineup represents what I do everyday—taking care of humans, hounds, and horses—and their stuff. This mean LOTS and LOTS of cleaning, so my hands are in soap every day. And my soaps are helping folks get their work done with a versatile, healthy, kick butt, happy clean.

Keep Moving!

Tawana

Oliver Farm helps make good soap

As the cook and bottle washer here at HARVEST, I know the responsibility and commitment that’s required to make a healthy product from the “ground up,” from start to finish. And Clay Oliver and his family have it going on. Thank you Oliver Farm for providing your nutrient rich sunflower oil for my HARVEST “mammal soaps.” Plus, the sunflower oil is great for drizzling on our salads, for smothering our garden red roasted potatoes, and for sauteing our Pawley’s Island flounders.

Tawana

Click on a sunflower below and see a new documentary about this hard working Oliver family and their glorious harvest.

We're only as good as our ingredients.

At HARVEST Soap Project, we forage for innovative farmers and partners who are willing to work with little HARVEST.  Their fresh, simple ingredients are as "whole" and nutrient rich as we can get them. And yes, this means that every batch of HARVEST soaps and products must be made from scratch and the recipes tweaked every batch, just like good cooking. Plus, we LOVE using farmer's fresh ingredients in new ways with new products, hoping to boost their revenues and support their goal of growing healthy, clean foods.  Yeah, we have to work a bit more but we wouldn't have it any other way.

MEET THE FARMERS

Oliver Farm--Good Food Award and South's New Hot Oil.

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HARVEST is so lucky to have met Clay Oliver and his passion for saving his Pitts, Georgia centennial family farm. Oliver Farm is winning Good Food awards in the South and being welcomed in some of the best restaurants across the country. When Clay cold presses and barrels his non GMO sunflower oil for us, he has to load it on his tractor and drive it a long way to get it on the truck and headed our way. Then I get my tractor going and load it from the delivery truck and into my shop. This glorious, golden oil has a earthy, seedy smell that tells me its wonderful waxes, carotenoids, and goodness haven’t been removed. Thank you Oliver family for working with us. You can visit their website and get some of their oils.

 Ahiflower & Nature's Crops

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While foraging for stronger omega 3 sources to create a new soap recipe, I reconnected with Greg Cumberland, of the Bent Creek Institute and Natures Crops International. Luckily for HARVEST, Greg shared samples of Natures Crops’ naturally non GMO Ahiflower, grown by a co op of farmers in the UK. I crafted some new products, shared them with friends, family, pet groomers, and horse grooms. The results are awesome, not surprising since this plant seed oil is scientifically proven to offer a unique blend of omega 3 and 6. Yes, it’s a bit luxurious, but here at HARVEST, we want our humans, hounds, and horses to get clean without drying out the skin  HARVEST is releasing our new recipe soon. We use the Omega 3 Ahiflower powerhouse in supplement form too—for humans, hounds, and horses. Visit Natures Crops’ Ahiflower to learn more.

A privilege to get Oliver family farm's Good Food in TCW's HARVEST soaps

A journey from soil to soap

Clay Oliver has revived his family's centennial farm by growing and selling his artisan culinary oils to executive chefs and restaurants across the country. I now use his sunflower oil to all of our soaps.  What if this awesome oil can work so your skin gets the benefit of it while washing your boat or cleaning your refrigerator.  And you, your dog, your horse, or water buffalo (yes, I know a pet water buffalo who gets washed occasionally) can feel the glorious gold sunflower oil work its magic.

Oliver Farm has won many Good Food awards, and the pecan, green peanut, pumpkin, and sunflower oils are making lots of people happy.  Here's a link to Oliver Farm--the artisan oils make a great gift.

The whole Oliver family works to produce Oliver Farm Artisan Oils.

Oliver Farm's Georgia grown, glorious unrefined, nutrient rich sunflower oil just into my big soap pot in NC.  Stirred it in, and simmered it slow. We're so grateful to get this farmer grown, healthy oil for our products.

Matriarchs

I know there's been a blue jay blueberrying  in my heirlooms this morning--yes, I know this isn't a verb but language evolves.  I head out the back door, to harvest enough for my coveted blueberry pie, a recipe from my mother-in-law that I found delicately stenciled in the back of her ragged Pope cookbook.  My rescues Eddie and Hammer chase the jay out of the bushes and up into the gum tree, where several crows cast watchful eyes for a chance to blueberry too.  

The cocky bird chatters away at us, but the much more fragile butterfly is tenacious and ignores us while gathering blueberry nectar.  I guess this  butterfly is clearly living in the present moment, the now.

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I hope these heirloom blueberry blushes keep living. They're about 60 years old, well past their typical life cycle, per the blueberry bush experts. The berries do more than compliment oatmeal and yogurt, provide a handy snack food on the way to long walk to the mailbox, and battle free radicals in my aging cells. The bushes are more than a seasonal fruitful attraction that hibernates their thin, grey arms during winter and then green in the spring and call beasts and fowl in the sweltering southern summer.

I have been friends with these blueberry bushes for more than 40 years, bonding with them under my grandmother's green thumb tutelage. As I child, I believed she had a stronger fondness for plants than she did people. Her nursery skills were certainly more loving to her array of plants, her vegetable and flower gardens, and to her pecan, walnut, apple and peach trees that fed us year round. Maybe this kind of love is better than the grandmother who might have taken us to Dollywood, to the local public swimming pool, to the magical Belk department store.

After my grandmother died, her 60 acres were parceled out, and some sold to a development company. Before her estate's land sale was finalized, my husband and I dug up her blueberry bushes, making sure to capture a huge root ball for their trip to my backyard, where they now have thrived for some twenty years.  I am glad I harvested them before they were forgotten behind the "No Trespassing" sign at her old drive way entrance, where a thick wall of struggling pine saplings, saw briars, and grasses make it seem as if her home place never existed, that life was never lived there. 

Now, the blueberry bushes are mine, under my stewardship now. But there's more value than just the berries--they're a talisman, an energy source to never lose my inheritance: my grandmother's dogged, persistent "presence," her passion for the earth, the dirt, of green living things, and her resilience to cycle on.

And, once again,  grandchildren--my grandchildren this time, her great grandchildren--will stumble and toddle to their lower branches. Their small, inquisitive hands will pick blueberries and eat them well before their pails return to the kitchen.

 

"I Love Teaching So Much I Quit." TEDx

Teaching took on a whole new meaning for this high school teacher turned biofuel eco-preneur when her students became her teachers. She learned how to transform waste into biofuel while at the same time identifying the enormous waste of knowledge, creativity and expertise that too often happens in our classrooms.

A high school teacher turned biofuel eco-entrepreuer, Tawana Weicker is the founder of Warhorse. Her career turning point came when her students became her teachers, challenging her to live up to her potential and to push past her fears. 

Do Not go Gentle...

My turning 50 didn't even spur a "getting older" blip. No self introspection of what I should and shouldn't do, impervious to those "What You Should Never Wear After 50" articles. That was until  I recently saw a few "ole" friends for lunch at Stone Soup, and realized that we had all spent the first 30 minutes talking about serious stuff--the state of education, retirement accounts, and getting older.  But, just as quickly as I had spiraled into an unrealistic grappling to be "forever young," I experienced a revival of living in the now--to keep moving, moving past that mirror and over to my Sean T CD's or my kayak or a Mud Run with my nephew.  And I remembered that intense "living" has nothing to do with age, it's about attitude.

 A few weeks ago, a winter's-end-blast-of-cold froze and cracked a line in our basement. Well water spewed over a chest of drawers full of old photographs.  After mopping up, I sifted through the damp collection and found this old newspaper article about my Little League baseball game,  in a long forgotten scrapbook.

Tawana baseball

Twelve years old and defiant towards my big brother and the all boys baseball league.

Now, the pigtails are gone, and my knees would probably cement if I sat behind home plate, even just for one inning.  My batting average certainly wouldn't be out of the 100's,  with Barry Bowyer's fast balls brushing me  back off the plate. 

But the memories of playing springtime baseball, of being the solo girl in the field of boys, reminds me to keep moving, to get dirty, to refuse to go gentle.

A challenge propelled me to play baseball.

I tagged along to watch my older brother try out for Little League.

Once we got to Harmon Field in Tryon, the park was a staccato rhythm of thwunking and popping of leather against leather and the dull ting of ball against aluminum.  

I stood near the fencing, sidling up beside the line of hopeful fathers, as my brother walked off, glove in hand, and quipped an end to our quiet argument: "Girls don't play baseball."

I borrowed a glove and signed my name on the try out list.  I don't know what they--boys and men--thought.  

I tapped the plate, when it was my turn.  I hit, I took infield, I threw. I ran. 

The next week, I went to my first Red Sox practice. My baseball season started.

Thirty eight years later, it's another spring, and Little League is getting ready to start. And there will certainly be youngsters throwing, hitting, running at Harmon Field, as they have for the past 75 or so years.  But other young people will be vegetating, hibernating,  over contemplating. And while many young baseball players race and rebel against the umpires' might,  we all can be a player, regardless of age, like Thomas'  "Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight."

Keep Moving!

 

 

Marilyn's Cleaver Does It All (If you're a minimalist, get a cleaver.)

I cooked a Christmas lunch this past Saturday. I'm not sure if it was "duty" propelling me or the chance to flex my cooking muscles--proving to my sons that I could, indeed, still make some tasty dishes, cooking something besides soap.

And I pride myself on slicing, dicing, crushing, chopping, transferring all the food with one wonderful hulk of a slice of steel--my mother-in law's multi functional cleaver. I'm a minimalist sometimes. More truthfully, I can't keep a good knife in my kitchen, with all the "borrowing" that happens to prepare fish or to replace a missing flat head screwdriver--they just never get back to my knife drawer. But nobody bothers with Marilyn's Cleaver because it's not a traditional cutting utensil, apparently.

I love using things that belonged to other people who taught me something, and things that have many uses. The green tray is from my gardening guru grandmother, Lillian--used as a TV tray when we visited her and watched Gunsmoke or Gilligan's Island. The blue pitcher was given to me many years ago by my resilient sister Amanda.  The utensils are all from my mother, hand me downs from her closed-up-shop-because-I'm-sort-of-retired-bakery. When I'm finished with them, my sons can flip a coin for these family items, or toss them in a box for Goodwill. My sons may not be nostalgic about my things, and that's ok. Maybe they will covet their father's john boat, or his old tractor, or our healthy blue berry bushes (that were my grandmother's that we relocated), or our industrious wood splitter that once belonged to my grandfather. 

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I love to cook, but I don't like to follow a recipe to the letter.  Reading a lot of different recipes, I can sometimes find a pattern and KNOW that I had better include a spice or ingredient if I want it to be good because the same ingredient is in Emeril's, or in Barefoot Contessa's, or in Alton Brown's rice pudding, for example.   I did some light reading the night before the lunch, googling information and recipes on turkey, turkey gravy, cornbread stuffing, butternut squash, fresh cranberry relish, and rice pudding.  Chef John from Food Wishes gives a low stress lesson on preparing turkey and gravy.  But I typically don't cook a traditional Southern turkey meal. So I Googled. I do know how to make my mother's sweet potato souffle, but I still refuse to turn sweet potatoes into buttery mush and then cover with marshmallows. I just can't do it--ruin a good super food with too sweet mountains of Ghost Buster Giant Marshmallows...

I love to watch interesting people talk about interesting things when I cook. I've been watching some of the recent meteorite shower and decided to see what astrophysicist Neal deGrasse Tyson had been up to lately while I cooked lunch. But a dose of Anthony Bourndain while I cook--soap and food--is inspirational. He just lets go with his "reporting," and it pushes me to let go with all conformity and fear and formal recipes. So I Googled deGrasse Tyson AND Bourdain.  Oh my gosh, a Star Talk episode with Anthony Bourdain.

So while I chopped my onions and onions and onions, and celery and carrots and onions with Marilyn's Cleaver, which was also used by her mother, and while I sliced the venison tenderloin with Marilyn's cleaver, while I whittled away at broccoli stalks with Marilyn's Cleaver, and crushed and chopped garlic, fresh sage and my rosemary (started from my mother's rosemary bush) with Marilyn's Cleaver, I heard Neal ask Anthony what he thought about all the wave of kitchen gadgets. Bourdain replied, "In almost every case, they are completely worthless. This salad shooter...Is cutting lettuce soooo hard? ...Something cutting onions for you is completely insane...two good knives...is all you need, a cutting board, a few heavy pans...there's very little that you can't do."

Well, surely you can see my euphoria--Marilyn's Cleaver could do it all in my kitchen. And Bourdain would approve! Marilyn's Cleaver prepared the entire my-sons-are-working-on-Xmas holidays-so-I-cooked-early-holiday-lunch.

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Somebody butchered the turkey with Marilyn's Cleaver...

Somebody butchered the turkey with Marilyn's Cleaver...

Emeril, Alton Brown, and Barefoot Contessa, and my mother's rice pudding recipe with a twist. I used my Kitchen Aid whisk and ice cold metal bowl to show my sons and future daughter-in-laws how their mixers will work...the ones that are being Fed Ex delivered from Amazon on Dec. 24.   I hope long after I am gone, they will still be whisking away, ignoring recipes and trying something different.

Emeril, Alton Brown, and Barefoot Contessa, and my mother's rice pudding recipe with a twist. I used my Kitchen Aid whisk and ice cold metal bowl to show my sons and future daughter-in-laws how their mixers will work...the ones that are being Fed Ex delivered from Amazon on Dec. 24. 

I hope long after I am gone, they will still be whisking away, ignoring recipes and trying something different.

Here's a link to the de Grasse Tyson and Bourdain food discussion: Star Talk

I really enjoyed the interesting food talk science, cultural and food history, and the always present Bourdain frankness. The hybrid rice pudding recipe was the final pre-Christmas-lunch-Aahhhh-dish, showcasing finely chopped Ghirardelli chocolate and split, red juice spitting pomegranates. However, the lunch star behind the curtain was Marilyn's Cleaver.

Marilyn and her mother, Angie. Chicago, Illinois, 194O's.

Marilyn and her mother, Angie. Chicago, Illinois, 194O's.




Buck's Tiller

The year end holidays are often a time to reflect, to remember those who are no longer with us.  But sometimes these people are with us just like the seasons, or with us during some ritual undertaking or task, or using something that once was used by them. Sometimes a special belonging can somehow possess their intentions and their goodness. Today, we plowed our onion garden with Buck's tiller, and my mentor and friend was there as well.

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This is Buck, also known as Philip L. Preston, Mr. Preston, Mr. Buck, The Buckster...and other names that his senior Polk County High students named him.  I worked with Buck for 14 years as a fellow English teacher at Polk. Buck taught English for 42 years, pushing students to explore Shakespeare and Fitzgerald, to write well, to work through their knuckleheadedness and turn to newly discovered endeavors.  Early in his teaching career, Buck was a whitewater rafting guide on the James River and taught Outdoor Education like Outward Bound. Clearly, he is a Renaissance Man.  

 

This is Buck and one of his grandsons. Fishing was a religious experience for Buck, and he shared it with his family or in meditative Outer Banks solitude, alone with rod and reel, salty wind, and lapping water.  On a Monday, after he had spent the weekend with his grandchildren, Buck would recount some hilarious episode and his narrative would conclude with a deep laugh so intense that it was clear he was reliving it again, although miles and many hours separated him from the event.

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 In the classroom, Buck challenged my eldest son and thousands of seniors to write clearly and concisely, often seemingly painful dissections and deconstructions of Hamlet's iambic pentameter speeches or Fitzgerald's poetic prose about Gatsby's desire about the future "...the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—"  Imagine the task of writing a well developed paragraph about the connotations and thematic significance of this!  But, Buck was able to inspire and snare the bored boys in his classroom with his introductory stories of a door mat flounder on 5 lb test line, or a blitz of voracious chopper blue fish that gorged themselves on bait fish and regurgitated so they could eat more, and Outer Banks sharks taking his silvered sea trout that was intended for the evening's dinner. Buck even had hunting stories, rafting stories, soccer stories. And most of his resistant writers relented, caved in, and dug into Gatsby's foreign world.

 

This is Buck's Craftsman tiller. I bought it from him years ago, before he moved on to other fishing waters, while we both were teaching English, while we were telling our stories to our captive students.

I love this tiller because it was his, because it tilled his beloved annual summer garden. Now it tills my garden. And today it got a new spark plug to soften its sputtering cough, and it crumbled the hardened chocolate dirt between my winter green onions. Buck's tiller is a talisman, a gardening ritual and symbol. This tiller is a grinding, churning symbol that we all, Buck's family and me too, can continue to push on, to plow hardened ground, to be resilient.  I was visiting Western Carolina University last week, and standing in line at McDonald's to get a cup of coffee, I saw Buck's great nephew Cole Preston. I taught Cole in senior English where we dissected and deconstructed Coelho's  The Alchemist  and O'Brien's  The Things We Carried . Great novels can teach us that their characters' journeys are often our own. And I have often thought about this Preston too, hoping he was plowing on, churning up the ground in front of him, learning to balance all the things he carries.  Cole and I both agreed that Buck is sorely missed.  I also have Buck's teaching copy of The Great Gatsby, with his handwritten notes and insightful commentary. Not surprisingly, Buck has underlined the last passage, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."  Just as Nick asserts in the conclusion of  The Great Gatsby , Buck and I too understand that the past is part of the future.  Buck has left the classroom, moving on to new fishing grounds, I imagine.

I love this tiller because it was his, because it tilled his beloved annual summer garden. Now it tills my garden. And today it got a new spark plug to soften its sputtering cough, and it crumbled the hardened chocolate dirt between my winter green onions. Buck's tiller is a talisman, a gardening ritual and symbol. This tiller is a grinding, churning symbol that we all, Buck's family and me too, can continue to push on, to plow hardened ground, to be resilient.

I was visiting Western Carolina University last week, and standing in line at McDonald's to get a cup of coffee, I saw Buck's great nephew Cole Preston. I taught Cole in senior English where we dissected and deconstructed Coelho's The Alchemist and O'Brien's The Things We Carried. Great novels can teach us that their characters' journeys are often our own. And I have often thought about this Preston too, hoping he was plowing on, churning up the ground in front of him, learning to balance all the things he carries.  Cole and I both agreed that Buck is sorely missed.

I also have Buck's teaching copy of The Great Gatsby, with his handwritten notes and insightful commentary. Not surprisingly, Buck has underlined the last passage, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."  Just as Nick asserts in the conclusion of The Great Gatsby, Buck and I too understand that the past is part of the future.  Buck has left the classroom, moving on to new fishing grounds, I imagine.

Anyone besides me craving a good tomato sandwich?

Anyone besides me craving a good tomato sandwich?

Not just any ole tomato sandwich. My husband tilled the ground and planted the tomato plants. Collected rainwater and soaker hoses delivered water. I pulled the weeds out and picked off the horn worms.  We gather tomatoes daily now.  We eat them daily. There's a reason this simple tomato sandwich is open faced--so I the sweet slices of Cherokee Purple and Early Girl and crunchy flakes of Icelandic sea salt and zingy Indian peppercorns hit my taste buds at the same time.