Many parts of the country are experiencing record-breaking cold temperatures right now and here in Virginia, we’re experiencing that cold, dry air too. Winter weather used to mean that my hands, which spend a lot of time in water, washing milk buckets, water troughs, and general cleaning both indoors and out, would become raw, red, cracked and bleeding and they HURT! Well, those severely dry hands are a thing of the past since I got rid of commercial, detergent-based soaps and started using hand made goats milk soaps. The vitamins, minerals, fats, and oils in hand-made, cold-processed soaps don’t suck moisture out of my skin, and in fact, actually add moisture back in every time I wash my hands. And when I add a nice goats milk lotion or salve over freshly washed hands, VIOLA! Comfort at last!
Do you ever notice how after a good rainstorm everything seems fresh and clean? Well, around here things seem mostly muddy and dirty and everything smells like a wet dog, but this morning, we are decidedly under the spell of fresh-and-clean. It’s probably because of all the other rainstorms we’ve had lately that have made the Virginian greenery grow out of control. It’s hard to make mud out of grass and tomatoes. So here are a few pictures of lightening-induced-nitrogen-fertilized garden plants and greenery from our farm this morning.
Pictures left to right. #1 Tomatoes, #2 Peppers and Cucumbers, #3 Cucumbers being trained up a pretty wimpy treslis, #4 LAVENDER PLANTS FROM SEED! First time I’ve ever gotten lavender seeds to sprout, let alone grow into actual plants, (although yes I do know that lavender from seed form whacky plants that in no way resemble their biological parents), #5 Bird House Gourds (the tall plants) and sweet potatoes (the shorter plants in the foreground), #6 Bird House Gourds trying to take over the entire garden. (right now I’m winning the battle, but each night I have to go out and uncurl their tendrils from around other helpless garden plants who are being smothered).
I just got a new charger for my camera, so now I can take pictures again and the first thing I thought I’d do is introduce you to Pearl, our guinea hen that had been sitting on her clutch of unfertilized eggs for over 2 months, until one day she got off her nest and I decided to replace her dud eggs with a dozen fresh chicken eggs that had not yet found their way into refridgeration.
So far it’s been 11 days, and although she moved the nest about 10 inches from it’s original spot, she’s continued to set on the new eggs as if they were her own. She’s got them in an old pickup canopy completely protected from the weather. It’s under a stand of cedar trees so it’s nice and cool too.
Only 10 more days and we’ll know if the new clutch of eggs was a success or bust. She really deserves these chicks, no matter that they’re chickens, I think she’ll love them just the same!
I get all happy when we go a few days without rain and the horse paddocks start drying up, but then we have thunderstorms, 1000 inches of rain and a dozen or so tornadoes, and then the mud problem starts all over again.
We graveled in a new driveway that goes about 50 feet closer to the goat shed, but having a horse in the wooded lot between the goat shed and the driveway means a lot of mud and I still can’t get the truck down there to unload feed. Yukko.
Since fencing is a priority right now, the footing will have to wait, but once the fencing goes up the horse will be out on the new pasture so hopefully putting up fencing will solve our mud problem.
I’ve noticed that some farms in some areas have sand as their basic dirt, rather than the red clay/mud soil we have here. It’s interesting how the topography changes in just a few miles of travel. I’m thinking I would rather have the sandier soil. At least it dries out faster.
The good news about the mud is that if we ever need to build a mud hut, we’ll have plenty on hand, and plenty of 1000 pound mud-makers too. The goats aren’t very good at making mud. They are better at making milk, which tastes better than mud any day.
Dream news: I will admit to being attacked by my dreams early this morning. I dreamt of watching twisted tornadoes coming straight out of the mountains and running up and down the road tearing up stuff. I’ve always heard tornadoes don’t get going good in the mountains, but according to my dream, they actually originate there!
Oh, and did ever I mention that I finally bought a new coffee pot a couple weeks ago? Since we no longer have the wood fire going, which is where I fixed my coffee in one of those old tin pots, and we have not yet replaced the kitchen stove…I’ve had to fix my coffee in the microwave. That has been a mess to say the least. I use regular coffee, not instant. The microwave just was not designed for that. But, my milk filters work great for getting coffee grounds out of my cup.
Stove news: We’ve been looking. We found a $900 dollar stove at Lowes marked down to $600 because it had been taken out of the box, and almost bought it, but CG wanted to wait and see if we could get a better deal. We had not planned to spend that much, so it was still a little over budget, but they will mark it down every week until sold.
We’ve tentatively decided on a gas stove. I like the fact that the burners are infinitely adjustable with gas and that I can still cook and pasteurize milk, make soap, etc. if the power goes off. Yes, the wood stove also works for those things, but is much less predictable as far as the heat goes.
We’ll have to see. On top of the stove being more expensive, we also have to pay to have it hooked up and then buy propane for it. We’ve planned to put a propane heater back in that area anyway because the heat from the wood stove just doesn’t get back that far, so we need the hookup anyway.
And right now the goats need milking.
Today’s soaps were two varieties of baby soaps in the round molds.
The first is “Citrus Baby” baby soap. The essential oils used were sweet orange, 5X orange, litsea, geranium and spearmint, no colors of course, and all liquid used is goats milk.
The second soap is “Patched Tree Baby”. This is a patchouli and tea tree blend. Again, no colors were used and all liquid is our own fresh goats milk.
These soaps won’t be ready for a few weeks, but we do have one baby bar ready, it’s our “Naked Baby” soap. No scent, no colors.
Our baby bars are made with a much higher percentage of shea butter than our regular recipe, plus organic, cold-pressed olive oil for extra gentle, non-drying, special baby care.
Next up is another Dead Sea Salt Bar, this time done with an experimental method I just invented. I hope it works!
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For those of you who I shorted on Honey Bee, I got it soaped today! I thought I had a big ole box of it on the shelf. And I did have a big ole box, but the box was empty! Whoops!
I also got a big batch of Bay Rum done…can never have too much of that.
I got yesterday’s Lemon Grass unmolded and cut today. This time I added some meadow sweet to it, and it made it really nice. Meadow Sweet is a healing herb. It’s pretty in the soap too.
Also getting unmolded today was my other new facial bar, Oatmeal and Tea Tree.
Unfortunately, none will be ready for the market this Saturday, but we’ve got the fans going and I’m confident they will be ready for the market on Sept. 4th.
I get to use the first one tonight! Can’t make up my mind which one it will be, the “Pretty Faces” Naked, or the “Pretty Faces” Tea Tree and Oatmeal. The bars turned out a lot bigger than the 4 ounces I had planned on. After curing they will be around 5.2 ounces. They are a nice size to fit in your hand comfortably and CG is absolutely INSISTING I round the corners on these luxury bars. So, I guess I will.
Other Farm News
We got rain, rain and more rain this morning. Now that the sun’s come out, you can almost see the grass growing. I think I can hear it too!
The little beagle that came to stay is still here and letting me pet her some. I caught her the other day and gave her another bath plus some ivermectin for the mange…hopefully she’s not loaded with heart worms, in which case, I’ve probably killed her.
If anyone has any jewel weed growing on their property, will you please let me know so I can come and pick some? I want to use it for a soap but can’t find it anywhere around here.
Or, if you have some dried stuff and can send it, I’d be happy to pay for it.
Thanks a trillion!
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The Christmas season is bearing down on us pretty fast now, with each dwindling summer day a minute or two shorter than the previous one. Before I moved to the country and got horses and goats and chickens, I didn’t pay nearly so much attention to the seasons. It hardly mattered if it rained, snowed, was 120 degrees, etc. Sure, our trips between the house and the car could be a little uncomfortable, but once inside, the weather just went away.
I didn’t have to trudge through snow and ice with feed and water, and spend hours outside each day making sure the animals were clean, dry, and well-bedded down, especially in snow storms.
Well, now I am acutely aware of changes in temperatures, seasons, etc. and can sense them changing like a real live old-timer!
With the changing seasons, come the Holiday’s of course. When living in the city, I could almost ignore the holiday’s, even shopping, with all the lights and glitter didn’t put me in the mood. But something about being outdoors so much, being in tune with nature gives a lot more meaning to the seasons for me.
My crafter friends at the market can feel it to, and we are all planning now for holiday sales. The Danville Farmers market will be all decked out for Christmas and you can bet the vendors will have extra-special hand crafted items available for the thousands of customers expected to visit the market, looking for unique Christmas gifts.
I’ve been planning new soaps, lotions, gift bags, etc. and have already begun soaping for the season in earnest. My soap drying room with fans is about ready and I’ve got a whole list of new soaps I’ll be making.
Two new soaps that I’m really excited about, because I’ve gotten so many requests for them are a new facial bar called “Pretty Faces”, which for now comes in two varieties, Naked, with no scent, and Oatmeal and Tea Tree. These soaps contain more than 1 oz each of shea butter per 4 oz bar. That’s a lot of shea! Shea butter is very expensive, so the bars will be a little smaller than our normal bar, but the pricing will be the same, ($5 per bar). The bars also contain local raw honey, castor bean oil, and organic olive oil, plus our goats milk of course!
The other new soap is a Dead Sea Salt bar. This will be available in several varieties, which have not been decided on yet. They will be scented with only essential oils, and of course, one bar will contain no scent.
My normal salt bars contain sea salt and I’ve sold quite a few of those and love them myself, but those will be replaced with the Dead Sea bars because the salts are superior in mineral content and quality. Dead Sea Salts are quite expensive, so once again, these bars will be a tad smaller, but priced the same.
Other than the addition of these two new types of soaps, we will also carry all the same soaps we have now, which are about 34 different varieties/scents, but will be adding 6-10 new scents, in addition to the facial and dead sea bars for the holiday season. (We expect to have around 40 different soaps for you to choose from!)
Have a favorite? Have a suggestion?
Here are the scents/varieties currently available.
Fragrance oil soaps:
1)black raspberry vanilla
3)frankincense and myrrh
6)sex on the beach
7)coconut lime verbena
12)summer candy apple
13)apple jack and peel
14)lay me down by the river
Essential Oil Soaps:
18)lavender/orange/with ground chamomile flowers
29)oatmeal, milk and honey
32)miss miley’s citrus (1 bar left)
Kitchen Sink Bar:
dragon’s blood/litsea with ground coffee beans, sea salt and blueberry seeds…odor removing.
34)tea tree and oatmeal
Dead Sea Salt Bars:
5 varieties, probably lavender/rosemary, tea tree, peppermint/eucalyptus, spearmint/eucalyptus, and unscented.
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I got my back-ordered lemongrass oil yesterday, and so decided to test-soap all three essential oils today. Left to right is Tea Tree, Patchouli, and Lemongrass. The little star sitting on top is a new ice cube tray mold I’m testing. I got 8 of them at Walmart for about a dollar each. I’m hoping the little soap will pop right out. I’m sure I’ll have to put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes first. I’d like to use these stars as embeds for Christmas and Holiday soaps, and also to decorate the tops of some of the specialty bars I do during the Christmas season.
I decided to go with some herbs scattered on top of these soaps, just for decoration. I’m not sure what color they’ll turn out. I’m betting the patchouli will be a deeper brown, but the tea tree and lemongrass will probably be a light tan color.
In the winter time I make up to four trays of soaps at a time and stack them on top of one another and then wrap the whole thing with blankets to insulate the soaps and force a gel. In this summer heat, I might actually have to put the tray into the freezer to keep it from getting too hot and bubbling, creating cracks in the surface of the soap.
The soap will change quite a bit by the time it cools and is ready to cut, which is normally in about 24 hours. I used the maximum amount of goats milk so I could separate the batch and put different essential oils into each one. Using less goats milk helps it cure faster, but it also sets up much quicker and you don’t have as much time to do a lot of fancy stuff or make separate logs of different varieties.
This mold is really neat because the middle dividers come out. Normally I pour the whole thing with one type of soap and then level it and then put the dividers in, separating into 3 logs. Each log makes 8 bars of cut soap about 6 to 7 oz each. The botton also comes off, which makes it a lot easier to get the soap out of the mold.
This mold comes from Kelsies Molds and is a custom design they call the “Vickie” mold. They have several different mold designs and sizes. Some even have dividers that divide each bar of soap into the exact same shape and size. You don’t even have to cut them at all. They are rather pricey, but are made very sturdy and will probably last as long as I want to make soap.
I still need to make a lot more soap, but I had to order more coconut oil. I go through that stuff pretty fast and buying it at Walmart is way to expensive! As soon as the coconut oil comes in I’m going to be doing a lavender/orange soap. I’ve mixed the essential oils up and use them in a spray bottle with water to wash with when I’m out trimming horses and it smells lovely.
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Yesterday was a GREAT market day! People were lined up at the door way before the market opened, due in part at least because there was also a 5k run later on in the morning. Soap sales were brisk and I even sold several of the shea butters! Whoo hoo. After all that work it took to create them!
I ran out of a few soaps, which I have more stock of here at home, except for the pepermint/eucalyptus. I have no more bars of that and have to get that one soaped ASAP!
I was truely tickled when I heard some of the comments market visitors were making about the soap and lotions scents…”divine” and “wonderful” were two that I remember.
CG and I watched the new film by Dr. Dyer called “The Shift” last night, and afterwards went out to dinner. It was a rainy, stormy evening. I remember thinking about some of the things Dr. Dyer said in his film about creating a life with meaning, instead of purely financial success, and I realized that even though I am creating a product to sell, what better way to affect a persons life than by giving them a GREAT shower experience? A good experience that will hopefully make them feel better all day.
I know it’s not much, but I feel so much better creating bars of soap for people than I did making potato chips for them!
Anyway, I just thought I’d share that. It was kind of an interesting revelation to me.
I also got a new book by Ellie Winslow intitled “Marketing Your Farm Products And How to Thrive Beyond the Sidewalks.” It comes highly recommended by other small farm entrepenuers like me, and I’ve been wanting to buy it for a long time. Even though I just started reading it I can see that it’s an excellent investment. Ellie also has a great site that can be seen at http://beyondthesidewalk.com.
Ellie has written many useful books, even one about making money with your goats. She is very knowledgeable about goats and I know that first hand because she is a regular contributor over at the Dairy Goat Info Site.
Other than that, CG and I have a new soap product we are working on. It’s still in the planning and design stages right now, but we should have one available soon. Right now it’s still top secret, but as soon as we know we can reproduce it sucessfully we’ll let you in on the surprise.
I wish you all a happy, peaceful Sunday.
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