Welcome to grubbygirl.com!

Makers of hand-crafted soaps,  oils, and scrubs using all-natural botanicals grown locally on Meeting House Farm.

The first of the 2016 Honey is starting to come in! And the bees are busy in the hot and sunny weather. We have been busy redesigning our logo, labels and some of our soaps and other bath products! The website will be under construction for a while, but please, stay tuned! The first month of Charlottesville City Market has been bustling and the veg are starting to come in. The strawberries have been sweet, the greens fresh and delicious and the chickens have been laying their beautiful eggs, We have been having spinach & egg–a-palooza here at the farm. We are looking forward to catching up with everyone and getting feedback on our new direction. If you’re in the Charlottesville area, come on down and stock up on your favorite soap, some yummy granola, pick up some honey or our farm fresh eggs from our happy hens!

 

For more than you ever wanted to know about growing up Grubby, check out our family memoir: The Kids are All Right.

For more information about Grubby Girl products or to order, please email me, or call: 540-270-5229. I look forward to seeing you soon!

–Amanda Welch

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Who Do You Love?

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I think about who (and what) I love.

I love my friends and family.

I love my dogs & ponies.

I love cozy days by the fire.

I love to cook for people I love.

I love watching the chickens.

I love working in the woods and the garden.

I love watching the bees working the flowers.

I love using the honey the bees produce, straight from the jar, in granola or in a scrub!

I love pruning.

I love crisp apples.

And of course, I love my Grubby Hubby.

I’d also love to see YOU at City Market Arts on Feb 13, I have some special Valentines Gift sets. At Carver Rec Center in Charlottesville. Hours: 10-4

There is much more I could add to the list, and I will try to remember to show that love all through the year and not just on Valentine’s Day.

What do you love?

 

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Who doesn’t love a pony?

Sometimes your dreams do come true.

Me&Berryeventing

Goldberry (and me) approx, 1980

 

 

How I became a Horse-a-holic. When I was growing up we had horses. I got a pony for my fourth birthday and was hooked. When I outgrew Pony (yes, that was his name), we went shopping for a “next level” pony. My mother & I tried a few large ponies, but most intimidated me. Then we came across a Connemara pony named Landgate Goldberry.  Yes, from The Hobbit (book, not movies). We called her Berry. She was young and green, but so kind and sensible. Standard Connemara traits. They are a tough breed of pony from the western edge of Ireland, Galway Bay. They are sturdy and hardy and not fancy. We hit it off right away. I was twelve, she was four. She and I learned how to really ride together. We did Pony Club, horse shows, hunter paces, trail riding, we even went to polo camp and to the National Games Rally after our team won our region. Twice.

She was born on a farm near us that I used to ride past frequently and her Grandmother, Inver Grey, was a coveted mount for pony club kids without a pony of their own. I knew the breeder, Anne Frey, a noted Connemara breeder and importer and she told me the story of how Berry came to be. She wasn’t a planned foal, her father jumped out of his stall and into a field with his mother. Eleven months later, there was Berry. Surprise!

As I approached sixteen, I wanted more of a challenging horse, I wanted to compete at higher levels and felt Berry wasn’t fancy enough for me. (I know, what a brat.) And at that time my mother’s Thoroughbred that she had donated to the 3-Day Olympic Team was coming home: Presh. He was big, very talented and athletic horse but he just couldn’t stay sound for the highest level competitions. He almost went to the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, but had an injury that kept him out of the competition.  I had started doing some dressage and low level 3 Day events (Dressage, Cross-Country jumping and Stadium Jumping) on Berry but she couldn’t get the high scores in dressage. SO …. I rode him.

At least until it was time to go to college. Presh was ready to retire, I was going to NYU and had no time for horses. We gave him to a great home.

When I started riding Presh, we bred Berry to a lovely Thoroughbred stallion and she had a really nice foal that I named Bartholomew. I had trained him and he was ready to go. He looked a lot like Berry, just a little bigger and finer. I sold him to a very nice family who kept him his whole life.

That left Berry. I couldn’t bear the thought of selling her, so I found a young girl to lease her while I was in school. It worked out perfectly for me. Once I moved down to Virginia and had my own farm, I went and got Berry. I had so many grand plans, breed Berry, sell ponies have a successful horse farm. And I would have a Berry replacement for me!

Alas, there were no more foals for Berry, she was past her prime for breeding but I loved having her at the farm. Too old to really ride but she was the leader of the herd: funny and tricksy and sweet. She lived to be 29 on our Virginia farm and is buried in the back field.

By this point, I had worked on a Hanoverian breeding farm and thought that might be the horse business I could get into and figured out quickly why everyone wasn’t doing it. I bred a couple of mares and sold one of the foals but it just wasn’t a very good business model. And those giant, super athletic horses were intimidating to ride (I mean, they could be scary!) so I lost my nerve.

A couple of years ago, I started looking for a pony to ride, I wanted to get back into riding and have a pony for my niece and nephews to have fun on as they got older. I saw the Sherlock Holmes movie where Robert Downey, Jr rides a Shetland pony and thought: That’s about my speed now! When I was a kid, you could find Shetland ponies everywhere, for just about nothing. My sister’s first pony was a shetland that was $20! or was it $10? But the popularity of miniature horses seems to have ruined the shetland pony market. So, I started trolling the Connemara listings on the web. Nothing struck me until I saw a posting on Facebook for a free lease of a Connemara that looked A LOT like Berry. And he was in Virginia, not too far away. We clicked instantly. Yadda, yadda, yadda, I bought him and brought him home last month.

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My new pony, Snickers, 2015

Then I met with his breeder and got his full story:

Snickers (GlenMeadow Chocolate Chip) was born in 2003, (Berry died in 2002) in Louisa County (where we lived then & now). The breeder bought his mother not knowing she was pregnant at the time and her farm used to belong to my very dear friend. There are so many coincidences. I am hoping to develop a similar relation ship to Snickers that I had with Berry. And I know now that my niece and nephews will get a great introduction to riding. I am looking forward to a 2016 full of new adventures with my old soul pony. He has a great attitude and is super friendly, loves people and attention. We are going to have a lot of fun learning together, again.

 

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The road taken

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Last week, I attended a Celebration of Life for the woman that lead me to Virginia, Laura Dollard. I worked on her horse farm, Star Lea Farm, in Brewster, NY when I was in high school and summers in college during the time between my parents’ deaths. I spent many a long night at that farm, helping with special grooming projects and talking, mostly to avoid what was going on at home: Mom’s illness, the emptiness left by my father’s death and the uncertainty we all felt.

I’ll never forget the call that sparked my move to Virginia. Mom had died (the 30th anniversary of which was just a couple of days ago) I was living in Brooklyn, working two jobs in Manhattan. I had dropped out of NYU. And I had been held up at gunpoint at one of my jobs: A video rental store.

 

Yes, that is how long ago I moved to Virginia.

And my apartment had been broken into.

And my car had been vandalized.

I was ready for a change.

Laura asked us to help her transport her vehicles and come help out on the two farms she had rented to accommodate her herd of sport horse breeding stock, I jumped at the chance for a different path. The farms were in Keswick & Farmington. I was to stay at the Keswick Farm (Glenmore before it became a gated community). When it came to the time I would move down permanently, in January, I drove with a friend & my dog & all my STUFF in a rented truck. We lost our other friends driving my SAAB (which I had purchased from Laura’s daughter) somewhere west of DC on Rt 66 in a snow storm. I hadn’t checked the tires recently and they were BALD.  A really crazy blizzard snow storm, not the usual fare for a Virginia winter. You couldn’t even see where the road was once we got off the highway.  My friends ended up in a motel in Culpeper and flying back the next morning. I retrieved the SAAB when the roads cleared.
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Laura & I  spent hours together driving the back roads of Central Virginia looking for a farm that met her specifications. She was obsessed with soil maps, the soil was the most important thing for a farm, in her mind AND she had a point. She moved to different rental farms around Albemarle while looking and I got to move to the Farmington Farm after a while. The beauty of the land in the Charlottesville area and the dirt roads reminded me of growing up in Mt. Kisco. There was much broader expanses of farmland and views in Charlottesville, but there was something that reminded me of the area where I grew up.

I had started looking in Brooklyn for a place to buy. I had a little bit of money from my parents after they died and wanted to start putting down some roots. But when I got to Virginia and started driving around, I knew this was where my roots would take hold.

I learned a lot from Laura: to stand on your principals and to follow your passions. In addition to soils and farming, I  also learned about breeding horses and bloodlines and making hay and the importance of good fence. The first summer I worked like crazy and I wasn’t used to the Virginia heat. Mucking stalls and stacking hay for fifty horses will definitely get you in shape!

It didn’t take too long before I longed to do other things. I wanted to start my own adventure, so I stopped working for Laura, found our first farm and started a life in Virginia, complete with a home that all my siblings could come to, a place we could gather.

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It took me a few years to circle back around to farming. I worked in retail, went back to school, started a gardening business, tried breeding sport horses. I still have a connection to Laura through Baby (Guru). He was part of my sport horse (failed) breeding business, out of one of her mares. He’s 20 now and a perfectly fine lawn ornament.

I reconnected with Laura at the Farmer’s Market. She was already there selling her eggs and produce when I started testing the waters with Grubby Girl in 2003. She would stop by my booth ask about my horses and talk about the Master Gardeners, Market Central or fighting to keep her road gravel. She worked tirelessly on whatever the current project was. She got involved and always busy. Very busy and usually tired. I will miss seeing Laura at the Farmers Market, she sold her eggs up until the end and was talking about her vegetable garden, about getting it going in the spring, if she could just get some good help.

Always, to the end, doing it her way.

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Y’all Ready for This?

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This is the time of year when everything starts to ache. All the planting, hauling, weeding, moving bee boxes. It can take a toll. And I have been used to just being able to DO. I have always been strong and capable and, much like a toddler,  didn’t need any help. But I have to admit it, I am getting older and losing some of my strength and stamina. It creeps up on you slowly and all of a sudden one day your back seizes after a couple of hours of edging or mulching and it takes you totally by surprise!

In the next month, I am going to need to pace myself because there are a bunch of fun (and exhausting) events on the calendar for September! Labor Day means Meet Yer Eats Farm Tour!

We will have the farm open again for this super fun event. Our neighbors Forrest Green Farm and Cygnet Hollow Farm will also be on the tour which makes a nice Louisa loop to visit. We will be having an Intro to Beekeeping talk and a Soap Making workshop here. Also, J&P BBQ will be serving their market favorite breakfast and lunch items. So bring your friends and family and spend the day out on the farm. The chickens & horses always enjoy visitors!

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And if you’d like to spend part of the day as a volunteer, we’d love to have you!

 

Then, on the very next weekend is the Heritage Harvest Festival. This will be our first year participating and we are very excited. (Did you here that The Beekman Boys will be there?! And there will be about 100 varieties of heirloom tomatoes to taste?!) We’ll be having another soap-making workshop on the Friday and then be up on the mountaintop at Monticello on Saturday.

 

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After that, I may be in traction, but I am trying to keep up with PT exercises and keep hearing that song they play at ball games in my head~ Y’All Ready for This!

 

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Got my mind on my honey & my honey on my mind~Snoop Bee

Honey in the hive

Honey in the hive

Honey is a bit late this year. I have been able to take some in the past couple of weeks, so I will have it at market or you can order it here. The bees have been very swarmy this spring and the weather has been cool and wet. When they swarm, there are less bees in the hive to collect honey.

Each hive has about 50,000 bees. Each hive has one queen, and 100 female worker bees for every male drone bee. The queen’s only job is to lay eggs and a drone’s job is to mate with the queen. The worker bees are responsible for everything else: gathering nectar, guarding the hive and honey, caring for the queen and larvae, keeping the hive clean, protecting the hive, building comb, collecting nectar and pollen and producing honey. Swarming is the way bees create new colonies. when they start getting the urge to expand, or feel there is a threat to their current hive; the workers select one (or more) eggs that are between 1-2 days old, build a queen cell and feed the larva royal jelly to create a new queen. A queen cell is very different looking than the rest of the brood cells, it sticks away from the comb, is much larger and resembles a peanut in its shell. As the new queen gets ready to emerge, the old queen and some of the hive population leave in a cloud of bees and alight in a nearby spot while scouts go look for a new home.

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If you can get to this resting ball of bees, it is easy to place them in a new hive and increase your apiary. Too many times this year, the swarms were up high in trees, or left before I could capture them. Out of the 13 swarms that I saw, I caught 4 of them. That makes the current apiary total 19 hives. The oak that this swarm in the picture is resting in is a very popular place for swarms from my apiary to alight. I call it the swarm tree.

The bees left in the hive become loyal to the new queen. If there is more than one queen cell, the first queen to emerge goes around the hive and kills her rivals. If you find a hive with multiple queen cells, you can use these cells to requeen a hive that has lost a queen or create new hives with some brood frames and a queen cell. That is, if you can get to it before the new queen kills her!

I have not been as diligent about requeening my hives as perhaps I should have been, or in my record-keeping, so I am sure that many of these hives needed new queens. The hives that remain after the swarms of this spring are all doing well and appear to have vigorous new queens. There may not be as much honey this year, but the apiary is better for it.

Have a great day & Just BEE!

 

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swarm!

swarm

Swarm of bees looking for a new home.

 

This spring has been quite a swarmy one. I have counted 13 swarms from the 15 hives and that’s only the ones that I have seen. Swarming is the bees’ natural way to propagate. As the hive gets too full, or some other reason, there are many, the bees start raising up new queens. When one of the new queens emerges, she kills any other queens still in their cells and the old queen leaves taking about half of the members of the hive and they go find a new home.

So  as the weather warms and the hive starts to get crowded, the bee’s thoughts turn to swarming. Even though I have made my best effort to reduce the possibility, it happens.  I have caught 4 of the swarms and they are all doing well. The remaining hives look good too! If you can catch the swarms, it is a great way to expand the apiary.

 

If you see a swarm in a tree, shrub or anywhere it is easy to reach and you live nearby, let me know. I’d be happy to give them a great home! If you’re not nearby, contact a local beekeeper to get them to a hive.

Enjoy this video of me hiving a swarm from a few years ago.

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Has Spring Sprung?

Winter woods

Winter woods

As the last vestiges of the snow melts here on the farm, I wonder: Is it over, is it spring? I saw signs of the red maples getting ready to bloom just the other day. And City Market starts on April 4th!

How did another winter get away from me?

Last week

Last week

 

Will the garden dry out soon enough so we can get in it to plant? Are the asparagus too wet? How will I get all those apple trees grafted? Why haven’t I started the luffas yet? Will all the soaps be ready for the first market? We probably should have built the raised beds in the garden during that brief dry spell at the end of January.  Well, let’s not dwell on the shoulda woulda coulda, let’s just get busy!

Bees were fed over the weekend, 15 hives made it through the coldest nights I remember ever having here on the farm. Let’s hope they ramp up quickly and we can make some splits soon. And I have been toiling away in the Grubby shop, making soaps and organizing the shelves.

 

Freshly made soaps on the drying racks.

Freshly made soaps on the drying racks.

 

Luffas will have to get started this week and the grafting will begin as soon as I get a hold of the rootstock (hopefully this week). I’ve already cut some of the scion wood from our Hewes Crab and Albemarle Pippin. I hope to get a hold of some Black Twig or Arkansas Black scion wood as well. Let me know if you know of a tree in need of a little light pruning!

If you see me running down the street with my hair on fire, please give me a cup of water. I hope to see you soon!

Namaste, y’all.

 

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What’s Cookin’?

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I love cookbooks, I love trying out recipes and have developed the knack of being able to tell whether something will be good just by reading the recipe. I have an eclectic collection of cookbooks, many are my mother’s: McCall’s from 1963, the Silver Palate series from the 80’s, several from my brief stint as a member of a cookbook of the month club in the 90’s, sheets torn from magazines, and my more recent acquisitions from Deborah Madison and Madhur Jaffe. My most recent favorite is Plenty. This is a cookbook that has recipes from Jerusalem and it was the first one that I couldn’t really tell what things would taste like by reading, but once I tried a few of those recipes, I was hooked. It is good to know you can trust the author of a cookbook.  Julia Child, Deborah Madison, Madhur Jaffe and Craig Clairborne are always dependable. Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson, not so much, in my experience.

Meal planning has never been my forte, I like to be a bit more spontaneous. I check what we have in the garden, frig and pantry and then look at a few cookbooks to see what they have in mind for those ingredients. We try to keep a pretty well-stocked pantry, (you have to when you are 20 miles to the nearest grocery!) And it’s nice to try new things in different combinations. Sometimes, it can be a bit of a scramble to find substitutes, just last night I wanted to make a tomato soup and found a nice recipe in Madhur Jaffey’s World Vegetarian for Madras Curry Tomato Soup. Perfect, except that I didn’t have the potatoes, cream or curry spice called for in the recipe (and I am avoiding dairy this month). No worries, I had some cabbage to replace the potatoes, all the spices that normally go in a curry blend and coconut milk in the cabinet to replace the cream. Let me tell you, it was pretty tasty and I think healthier than the original recipe, no offense Madhur!

I have started keep a log of the recipes I am using over the year in hopes of making a collection of favorite seasonal recipes to share with friends and family. Let’s see how long I can keep it up!

What are your favorite cookbooks?

In winter, I really enjoy cooking soups and stews and I always make extra so we can have them for several meals, just in case I DON’T feel like cooking one night. Winter is also the time to keep an eye on the bees. When the weather warms on some of these winter days so that the bees can get out of the hives and stretch their wings, I take the opportunity to fill their feeders and get a look see into the hive, just to make sure everyone is making it through the winter. I had an opportunity on Sunday to do just that and have good news to report. All but two of the hives look strong and appear to be weathering the winter quite well. Let me tell you, the cold spell we had earlier in December had me worried, but the girls stuck it out and used their snuggle power to keep going. PHEW!

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Good thing they are thriving, I am going to be counting on their honey to sweeten our granola, jams and possibly a few other items I am playing with this winter. My granola is a riff on Deborah Madison’s recipe, I honed it until it was just what I was looking for in a granola, nutty, not too sweet and wheat-free. The stores of honey we kept for ourselves are dwindling, but I still have enough to keep up with granola orders!  I am looking forward to the new crop of Spring honey.

Keep warm everybuggy!

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For the Resolutionists

Winter woods

For me January as purification month has become a tradition. I have been doing it for several years now (sometimes doing it in July too). I eat super clean, stay away from processed food, alcohol, coffee, sugar, dairy and wheat. After the excesses of the holidays it feels good to reset my body in this way. And I find it easy in winter to enjoy grains and greens and soups. I am thinking I will add this tonic to my regimen:

Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey

Over the years I have heard that people who have religiously consumed an apple cider vinegar and honey tonic, sometimes even several times a day! I have decided to add this simple ritual into my daily routine for the month of January.

Honey and cider vinegar are reputed to help with the following conditions:

High blood pressure
High cholesterol
Arthritis
Heart burn
Halitosis
Brittle or damaged nails
Premature aging
Obesity
Heat exhaustion
Food poisoning
Insomnia
Chronic cough
Sore throat
Acid reflux
Common cold
Leg cramps
Eczema
Lightening of age spots
Kidney conditions
Osteoporosis
Headaches
Lowering of blood sugar
Bladder conditions
Joint pain
Aching muscles
Low energy

I will let you know if I notice any benefit from the tonic. I am so glad to have honey from our own hives with which to try this experiment.

 

Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey Tonic

What You Will Need

1 tablespoon raw local honey
2 teaspoons of organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
8-10 oz. warm water (not over body temp so as to not damage the raw honey effects)

What You Do

Mix together the honey and the vinegar. Pour warm water over the mixture. Stir or shake the mixture. Drink on an empty stomach (between meals).

Tips

Use water warm enough to melt the honey into your solution.
Do not use boiling water.
Stir well!
Do not worry about the “floaties” in the vinegar, they are good for you!
I plan on drinking this tonic once a day for 31 days.
Happy and Healthy 2015 to ALL!

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