The Surprises of Nature

December was cold.  We got a lot of snow for Christmas, which was incredibly nice, but now it just feels like it has been snowing forever.  In this weather I just want to snuggle up in bed, preferably under an eiderdown.  It is amazing to me to think that in late November I was out on the allotment, building raised beds and digging manure and seaweed into the soil.  There was quite a lot of weeds that I had to get out before I dug in all the goodness, so I was actually weeding.  At the end of November!  That's a new one to me.

Fortunately Dock is a very common weed in the allotment ground, to the dismay of many people, and my delight.  I dug up quite a few fat and beautiful yellow roots.  This is the most perfect time to dig up roots, when all top growth has died down and all the goodness of the plant is stored in the roots.  Next best thing is this spring, just before the plant starts to put on new growth.  This, by the way, applies (very logically) to all roots.

I still had a little bit left of the dock oil (my dock is Rumex longifolius, but most species of dock have the same properties) that I first infused.  It's colour, dark and glorious, had always produced pretty pinks in soap.  So I was eager to chop up some more roots and infuse more oil.  The oil is reputed to have many benefits for the skin, but I would use it even just for the colour only.  But it takes a while, about 6 weeks, for the oil to acquire the goodness of the root.  It's lovely to watch the gradual change in colour, from the light colour of oil to the dark yellow, with a strange tinge of green that almost reminds me of the play of colours in an oil slick.  Since I wanted some oil for my Christmas soaps I used what was left of my old oil.  It was quite good still, no sign of rancidity, but I had kept some root in it for a lot longer than the 6 weeks and it was very dark and had the characteristic smell of dock root.

Well, surprise, surprise.  I didn't get pink.  I have read that some people only get a brown colour from dock and that has puzzled me.  Mine just turns a light beige when I add the oil and stays that way for a few hours and then, just like magic. it turns pink.  Except this time it didn't.  It was a nice grayish earthy brown.

Fortunately I had decorated it with yellow rose petals (I know - yellow and pink? What was I thinking) so it actually looked really nice.  This recipe was pretty standard, 40% Olive oil, 30% Coconut and 10% Cocoa butter and I forget what else.  I haven't done my January organizing yet, I just barely managed to take down the Christmas decorations.  Come to think of it, I think I never do any January organizing, but it sounds like a good idea.  But I remember that I scented with Lemongrass.  I thought it looked good with the yellow rose petals.  And why I thought this would look good as a pink soap.  Hmm, I'll never know.


  1. Yellow and pink together are challenging, come Easter time my eyes go sore over all the yellows hugging pinks. Your soap looks lovely as ever, Ambra. Your soap carries a very distinctive signature, all your own and that is not an easy task for soap makers as I can see every day. I really love your work! Been looking for Rumex around here in northern Ca and have found some..but it's on private property and I'm afraid I'll get shot if I go around digging up roots.

  2. Well, you never know in the US (and because they may have guns, it's better not to take any chances), but I would think that they would be grateful. Most people hate weeds - I know I used to before I realized what fantastic plants most of them are :)

  3. What lovely soap! Very feminine (as are all your soaps). Soapmaking is just one step away from magic to me, so I accept all the strange happenings and love the surprise :)


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