Welcome to grubbygirl.com!

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

How are you spending the bleak mid-winter? Taking good care of yourself, I hope. The cold winds and the changes in weather can cause havoc to your skin. Take some time to treat yourself to a hot bath with some Grubby Girl Bath Salts, polish the rough patches with our scrubs and nourish your skin with our body oils. If one of your goals for the New Year is to learn something new, and you are local to Charlottesville, sign up for my beekeeping class at Charlottesville Parks & Rec. Classes start March 24.

I have been working away to get soaps, scrubs, oils and balms all ready for the you. As always,  my products are enriched with botanicals from the gardens and honey and wax from the bees. Treat yourself (and your friends, family and neighbors) well!

Oh yeah, honey is sold out for the season but I saved enough to continue making granola!

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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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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Sensitive Flower

A couple of weeks ago, a customer asked if my products were hypo-allergenic. I fumbled through an explanation of the ingredients and pointed her to the most gentle soaps (Sleepyhead & Cool Dude). She passed on the Grubby, but  just a few days later I was reminded of one of the reasons I started making my own soaps and bath products. I found that we had run out of Grubby Soap in the shower and I grabbed a bar from a hotel that was in the drawer. Big Mistake! I was itchy all day and my skin felt so dry. I had forgotten that I have super sensitive skin! Using Grubby soaps for so many years had lulled me into the false sense of normal skin.

As a child, I got rashes from everything, dirt, sweat, horses, chlorine from the pool, you name it. My ankles, wrists and crooks of my elbows were always itchy and red. Over the years I have learned how to avoid “heat rash”. Even though I spend most of my time outside and in the dirt, I try to keep it away from me. This how I developed my standard uniform of leggings and t-shirt in the summer/turtleneck in the fall (just add a polar fleece on the really cold days). I can’t wear shorts, the grass and dirt get on my ankles and the inevitable itchy rashes follow!

So the truth is ALL of my products are safe for most sensitive skin. I never test any of my products on animals, just me, my family and friends. Most commercial soaps are actually detergents and can be very drying, they use harsh chemicals to make their soaps lather and artificial fragrances (usually way too much) to create the scents.

We use only the highest quality ingredients, and never any chemicals to increase lather or create a scent. You can feel comfortable using our products on yourself, your children and even your pets. Our soaps are double -milled for long lasting bar that lathers well, we make our soaps with lye and a combination of olive, coconut and castor oils. This is our base. Then we mill it and add ingredients to create our own unique varieties: Farmer Person is milk, honey and a natural honeysuckle fragrance. City Slicker has coffee grounds, cinnamon & cloves and orange essential oil, etc. We pour the milled and blended soap in molds and set it on the curing racks for several weeks before our soap is ready to be used.

The same care goes into our balms, oils, salts and scrubs.

We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

 

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Farm Living Is the Life for Me

I’ve had many people ask about how we came to Virginia. How we decided on farm living and about the name of our farm: ‘Meeting House Farm’.
You can come out and check it out for yourself on Labor Day on the Meet Yer Eats Farm Tour. There will be a chance to meet the bees, chickens, horses, see the gardens and find out about my soapmaking process. Click on the link for more details about the Farm Tour. Figure out which farms to visit, plan your route and have a great day!
I’ll post more specifics about who else will be at the farm on my Facebook page as we get closer and plans solidify.

In the meantime here is the story:

We moved to Virginia from New York, (New York City?!) actually I was living in Brooklyn at the time. I had grown up just an hour upstate in a relatively rural area, with horses, next to a dairy farm. The town of Bedford Hills was a couple of miles away. In elementary school, my friend & I would ride our ponies down to the candy store on occasion. (That brought some funny looks!) Some of my friends had horses or goats, or chickens, some of my friends lived in apartments, there was a rural feel to the area just outside of the towns. We could walk to the train station that would take you to Manhattan in 40 minutes. It was a pretty sweet situation.
At 16, when I was able to drive, I got a job at a horse farm in Brewster, NY. I worked there summers and some weekends during the school year. Then I went to college in New York at NYU and lived in the dorms in Greenwich Village, also a pretty sweet situation.
Family tragedies came along and switched up my plans. After my mother died and our house was sold, I tried to continue at school, but I just couldn’t make it work and I wound up living in Brooklyn and working in the city. (Details of this time available in our family’s book). After a couple of years, city life was wearing on me when the woman I worked for in Brewster called to see if I would like to help her move her horse farm to Virginia. That sounded like a super sweet situation!

So that’s how I GOT to Virginia.
My then boyfriend, now Grubby hubby, and I decided to find a farm of our own and put down roots. Central Virginia reminded me of the area around our childhood home. Dirt roads and farms and rolling countryside. Plus, property was much more affordable in Virginia than in New York. Our first farm was an old farmhouse on 20 acres, a V.A. repo, that needed A LOT OF work. It was perfect!
After a few years, the people across the street subdivided and built a bunch of houses right along the road. We wanted a more rural feel so we started looking around. I was studying Architectural History at UVA (trying to finish that college degree started in NY) and had discovered Green Springs National Historic Landmark District. Most of the farms there were protected by easements, so the land couldn’t be subdivided into small lots. That was the answer for us! We found a property on the edge of the District that was under easement and started building our farm.

We have now been at Meeting House Farm for 20 years and think we almost have it just the way we want it.
(Oh yeah, the name: as we were building, people asked us if we were building a church, so I thought Meeting House was an appropriate farm name. PLUS we love to have folks gather at our home, so come on out.)
Come out and see for yourself!

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Sunday on the Farm puts a SPRING in our step!

Eleanor & the aronia

Today is a beautiful day on the farm. This time of year is so wonderful, It’s cool enough to get a lot of work done outside. The grass is green and lush. The bees are getting going, the blooms just keep coming and there is so much promise in the air.

I was able to (FINALLY!) get all of the hives into the apiary organized in a orderly fashion. I had a couple of hives that were swarms that I caught (or caught themselves) last year that I have been painstakingly moving three feet at a time across the farm to get them back in the apiary. Queen LB is a swarm that decided to move into some old rotten equipment I had piled up in a grove behind the shed. I spent last season getting her into better accommodations and starting her move across the yard. We put her in a garden cart and started her move. Just a couple of days ago, she was moved off her cart and into place at the edge of the apiary! (You can move a beehive either 3 feet or 3 miles, if you move it 100 feet the bees will not be able to find it and keep returning in their old hive location.) Queen Phat Patty is another swarm I caught last year and her hive was just on the edge of the garden & just outside the apiary, and not in line with the other hives. Today was her last 3 foot move to be in line with Queen Diana. It is so much easier to work the hives if they are all together!

All is right in the beeyard! Queen LB is right front and Queen Phat Patty is at the far end.

Now I am going to head out to plant beans, corn & squash in the garden and enjoy the promise of veg to come.

This spring, we were able to get our tiller running and work up our garden spot this spring, so I am hopeful for a great harvest.

Garden row, ready to be hilled and planted.

Another encouraging image, our Hewes Crab Apple was in full bloom when we got a frost a couple of weeks ago and I was worried the fruit hadn’t set. But it HAD! I hope you are having as encouraging spring as we are!

Hewes Crab loaded with little baby fruit.

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You gotta Be in it to Win it!

Bee packages arrived last week! Beekeeping class had just started and several members of the class came out to the farm Friday to see how to install packages and take a look in the hives. The bees were pretty calm considering the weather was unsettled and threatening rain. No one got stung, except Eleanor :(  The dogs are usually good about keeping their distance but the prospect of being petted was too strong a pull and they got in the bee-line.

I am into week five of my CIC workshop and am excited for the future classes. As part of the class, we were all encouraged to enter the Tom Tom Festival Pitch Contest. I did not make the final cut, but several of my class-mates did! I plan to go the the pitch night and route for them! As I am on a role for putting it out there, I also applied for the Beekman Boys Mortgage Lifter Grant. My theme for both the Pitch contest and the Mortgage Lifter is: “More Bees, Please!”

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

And any suggestions for naming the three new queens are welcome!

 

 

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Eggs-cellent!

Spring is upon us, the fields are greening up. The bees are working and the hens are laying! They take a bit of a break over the winter and slow down on the egg production. The timing is good for us too. Without a market to go to, we can get a frig full of eggs pretty quick. Good thing we like eggs! And quiche, and souffle, and lemon meringue pie.

Lemon meringue PIE!

But with the start of Charlottesville City market April 5th, we should find lots of home for all the girls’ eggs!
Here is a new favorite recipe from a recent issue of Bon Appetit:

 

Company Eggs from Bon Appetit Magazine Serves 6
INGREDIENTS:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 bunches Swiss chard, thick center ribs and stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 12 cups) Or any greens you like. We’ve made it with kale & spinach and both versions were delicious.
1/2 cup heavy cream
12 large eggs
2 ounces sharp white cheddar, grated (about 1/2 cup)

PREPARATION: Preheat oven to 400°. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 8-10 minutes. Add chard to skillet by the handful, tossing to wilt between additions. Cook, tossing often, until tender, 8-10 minutes. Add cream and simmer until thickened and almost evaporated, 8-10 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Spread chard mixture evenly in a 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Using the back of a spoon, make 12 small, evenly spaced divots in the chard mixture. Crack 1 egg into each divot. Season eggs with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese over. Bake, rotating dish once, until egg whites are almost set and yolks are still runny, 15-18 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

When we were kids, our mom would make cheese souffle and biscuits with a salad and then lemon meringue pie for Sunday Brunch. SOOO good!

She used the New York Times Cookbook recipes for all three. I still have that edition (1961 Edited by Craig Claiborne)  and it is a go-to for so many of my favorites.
Here is the Cheese Souffle

Serves 4-6
1/4 Cup butter
14 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
salt
worcestershire sauce
cayenne pepper
1/2 pound of cheddar cheese (or other hard cheese)
4 farm fresh eggs- separated
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Melt butter over low heat, add the flour & stir with a wire whisk until blended. Meanwhile, bring the milk to a boil and add it all at once to the butter/flour mixture, stirring with the whisk continually, it should thicken right up. Season to taste with salt, worcestershire & cayenne.
3. Turn off heat and let mixture cool a couple of minutes. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Beat egg yolks in one at a time and cool.
4. Beat the egg whites until they stand in peaks but do not over beat. Cut and fold the egg whites into the mixture. Turn into a 2 quart casserole dish (greased or ungreased). I usually do not grease. And bake 30-45 minutes until puffed and golden brown.
ENJOY!

And let me know how it turns out.

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You Gotta Be In It to Win It!

Bee packages arrived today! So there are three new Queens to name. Any suggestions?

Beekeeping class started last night and several members of the class came out to the farm today to see how to install packages and take a look in the hives. The bees were pretty calm considering the weather was unsettled and threatening rain. No one got stung, except Eleanor :(  The dogs are usually good about keeping their distance but the prospect of being petted was too strong a pull and they got in the bee-line.

The eight students are all enthusiastic about getting bees, a couple of them had tried a hive or two before but wanted to get a little more information about how their bees could be more successful. It is so much fun to share my bee experiences! The good and the bad, hopefully some of my cautionary tales will help this new batch of beekeepers to have a thriving apiary. For the new-BEEs, it was nice to be able to get into the bee-yard and experience that the bees are not aggressive and see first-hand how to work the hives.

I am into week four of my CIC workshop and am excited for the future classes. As part of the class, we were all encouraged to enter the Tom Tom Festival Pitch Contest. We’ll find out next week who the finalists are, I will be sure to let you know if I am one of them!

As I am on a roll for putting it out there, I also applied for the Beekman Boys Mortgage Lifter Grant. My theme for both the Pitch contest and the Mortgage Lifter is: “More Bees, Please!”

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

 

 

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Grubby Meet & Greet

This coming Saturday, March 22,  10-4, our local Charlottesville Whole Foods is having a local vendors fair.

So, come down and see me! I’ll have samples of my oils and scrubs for you to try and I just like catching up with folks and seeing people after this long winter. It will officially be spring by then! Let’s hope it starts acting like it. I know the bees are restless to get out and forage. Who isn’t?

Vendors are making a pledge of support to the Whole Planet Foundation to be a part of this event. The Whole Planet Foundation provides micro-loans to people in impoverished countries to help entrepreneurs pull themselves out of poverty. They currently have 330,000 micro-loan clients in 59 countries. So whether your out and about enjoying the Festival of the Book, or just taking care of your Saturday errands. Stop by and say Hi!



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