Along with all the vegetables loading our harvesting baskets this time of year, there are some special ingredients we need to stock up on for the year of soap making ahead.
Right now, bayberries are ready for gathering. We render them down for the wax that coats the seeds and add a bit of it to each batch of our bayberry soap.
My husband planted a few of the bushes about 4 years ago and they are finally starting to produce, but meanwhile, we have a spot where we gather them every year. We have found that we need to get there early because if we don't there are birds who love bayberries and one quick visit by a flock will strip the plants completely.
We do a pretty good job ourselves as we pick our way into the bushes, defying spiders, avoiding grasping branches - all the while trying not to drop any of the precious little balls of wax. The berries cling in clumps along the main branches and we have to hold the basket right below as we coax them from their perch.
We're not sure why (heat, drought, birds?) but this year, it seemed that someone may have beaten us to "our" berries although we still got enough to probably last us. Each year we seem to sell more and more of the soap that we once thought would be seasonal. Now find our customers want it all year around. Bayberry has a certain historic quality to it and the museums we supply are finding it popular as well.
On the way home from yesterday's exploits, we were contemplating the lush growth of bayberries along the Delaware shores and thinking of taking a quick trip to collect a goodly amount.
Dreams of bushels of bayberries with enough wax left over to make a candle or two is enough to probably push us over the edge!