Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Beauty in the Beast

His name: Sunset
His game: Attract Banana (female turkey)
His competive edge? Massive Caruncles. How could banana resist?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Saponification Sunday...Do you Smell That?

Stayed up until 3 am one day this week making soap. Going into my third year I'm thinking this is something I might just stick with!

Wavy top scented with tea tree and orange EO's

One of the hardest things for me as a new soap maker  though, was scents. I have an annoyingly sensitive nose. Just ask my long suffering husband. I am forever asking the question "Do you smell That?' or "WHAT is that smell??"

Being a dairy owner, smells just come with the territory. They are not all bad, (fresh hay, newborn calf) but most are intense. When I started making soap the smell situation improved at least IN the house it improved. Nothing like coming into a home smelling of Sweet Tangerine and Rosemary after you've been cleaning stalls.

Antique Watch Makers tool box for soap display
Christmas gift from son Colton

But I was totally intimidated by the mixing of these scents, and therefore stayed with one essential oil per soap batch. And like so many other newbies, I had tons of Lavender soap. Really creative huh? I did try some fragrance oils in the early months of my sudsy self taught internship but just never really loved them the way I do EO's so I'll just be talking about the essential oils in this post.

The soap under the waves...two layers of indigo colored soap.
Should've been blue, oh well.

The best trick I learned involved toothpicks. Starting with just two EO's you like on their own, dip the end of a toothpick into the oil and set them aside, touching each other. After a minute or so, while keeping the two toothpicks together , smell them, Now you have a better idea of how they will smell when combined.

Although not thrilled with this color combo I am happy to see that
all natural colorants (Spirulina for green, Alkanet for purple, Maddor root for red
and Yellow clay for uh...yellow) can make such bright design.

From there you can add another EO dipped toothpick or two or three or more. After that it is helpful to understand how EO's are grouped by their "notes". A Frenchman called Piesse (First name Cro?) classified the odors of essential oils in the 19th century according to musical scales, and this is where the top, middle and base notes originated.

As a rule of thumb, the combination between top, middle and base notes should be in harmony and the following formula is normally used. Select oils from all three categories but use less of the top and middle notes than that of the base note.

Colored with what grass powder and scented lightly with fruity EO's I really like
this one. It's so delicate, so peaceful, so angelic in appearance. Just like its maker.

There are some "rules" that people like to mention, and these being that a well-rounded fragrance will normally be composed as follows:  Top notes 15 - 25% of the blend. Middle notes 30 - 40% of the blend. Base notes 45 - 55% of the blend.  Can't say I follow these rules but makes for a good staring place.

So where do the EO's fall in this category? Here is a short list.

Top notes:  Basil, Bergamot, Clary Sage, Eucalyptus,Grapefruit, Lemongrass, Lime, Orange, Peppermint, Petitgrain, Tea Tree, Verbena
Middle Notes :Black Pepper, Chamomile, Cypress, Fennel Geranium, Lavender, Litsea Cubeba, Marjoram,Nutmeg, Pine, Rosemary
Base Notes:Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Clove. Frankincense, Jasmine,Patchouli, Rose, Sandalwood, Vanilla,Vetiver, Ylang Ylang

Some EO's float between the three categories. Lemongrass can be used for example as a top or middle note. Some of my own favorite combinations are listed at the end of this post.

I tend to be more heavy handed with my EO's. Even though they are expensive, some crazy so like Sandalwood ( over $300 for 1 oz) or Chamomile ($72/oz) , I want folks who buy my soap to really ENJOY my soap. Rule of thumb for many soapers is .75 to 1 oz of essential oil to every pound of soap. I run closer to 1.5 or even 2 oz to every pound of soap if the EO's are ones known to fade like Sweet Orange. Some EO's can be very irritaing to skin so those must be used in SMALL amounts. EO's like Basil, Black Pepper, Cinnoma, Clove and Wintergreen to name just a few.

Anothe shot of the tool box I'm using for soap display. At least I think its and old
artisan tool box. Any other comments appreciated

The most imporatnt thing to remember is to have fun. Even though you may not like the end result, one of your family members or customers will end up loving it. And some of my worst EO combinations have made the best laundry soaps and foot scrubs.

When it comes to the note game, I'll start there with the above recommendations but then, depending on what music is playing, I will just create my own concoctions as I go.  The last time I made soap I had a John Cougar CD in the boom box. You can imagine how my soap smelled after listening to him sing "Dance Naked"

It smelled clean...really clean, you animals.

Super Sweet: 1 part Geranium Rose, 1 part Lavender, 1 part Litsea Cubeba
or 1.5 part 5X ornage, 1 part 5x Lemon, 1 part Bergamot

Slightly Sweet: 1 part Patchouli, 1 Part Bergamot
or 1 part Rosemary, 1 part Pink Grapefruit

Earthy/Slighty Sweet:  1 part Patchouli, 1 part Amyris, 1 part Cedarwood, 1 part sweet Orange 1 part Lemongrass

Earthy/Manly: 2 parts cedarwood, 1 part Eucalyptus, 2 parts Lemongrass

Friday, February 22, 2013

Let the Games Begin

Even though since 1999 there has not been a single outbreak in which it was verified that the illness was caused by an Illinois raw milk producer, the  Illinois Department of Public Health has decided the rules for Raw Milk Sales in Illinois must be revised. A Raw Milk Sales Subcommittee of the Department of Food, Drugs and Dairy has been formed.

Fortunately, I was asked  by the department director to serve on this subcommittee. Unfortunately the invitation came AFTER they had already met twice, and AFTER the revised rules were in their second draft form.

This, my raw milk friends, is going to get interesting.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's All About the Bedding

I could not agree more. My folks were humor rich and material poor. Not a single bed in our home had a top sheet. Some had bottom sheets and a blanket. Some had a top sheet used as a bottom sheet and a sleeping bag from some kid who spent the night, as a blanket. Pillows were shared and sometimes old jackets were rolled up and disguised as pillows.

I was SHOCKED the first time I spent the night at a friends house when I was 12 and she had...now get this..a bed to herself AND a top sheet AND a bottom sheet AND a blanket AND a comforter AND shams (What the heck was a "sham"?) on her pillows. To make it even more confusing, it all matched. I felt like the person facing too much silverware in a 5 star restaurant.

Bedding overload

As a farmer though, we're all about the bedding today. We have a storm coming, anywhere from 3-7 inches depending on which fear mongering radio station you listen too. Suppossed to start in a couple hours. So we're gearing up for it. It's not the snow that is so worrisome, it's the drifts.

We live up on a small hill and are surrounded my fields. The wind comes from the south east and slams into us such that 1 inch of snow can make some pretty impressive drifts. This is a hassle for us and can be dangerous for our livestock if they don't have enough bedding.

So while Keith frantically worked to get as much manure hauled and spread out on the fields while the ground was still frozen and he could still see the ground, I worked to bed a few of our critters. First checking on our two mommy pigs. Miss Debbie had her self and her 5 day old L'Enfants deeply buried in the straw Keith gave her yesterday so I chose to leave her be.

She weighs more than I do.

Debbie, wrapped around her babies. Deep bedding
and the natural heat of a good healthy mama

Other new mommy Dot , a crossbred mated to a Red Wattle, with her large litter of 11 just 10 days old, needed a better "bottom sheet"  She was fun to bed because straw can be dropped into her area from the hayloft above. Easy Peasy. So much fun watching her pull over the new straw, fluff it, rearrange it to beef up her current sleeping arrangements while her little ones watched.

Almost dropped my camera on this shot!

After that, checked on chickens, giving them enough feed for a couple days and water and closing them into their coop. They'll be fine with our big Turkey boy Sunset generating heat in there.

Over to horses who were well bedded by Aaron the other day (in the smaller more secure stall to the right of this picture) and just needed a top coat and enough hay to get them though tomorrow afternoon in case too difficult to get to their barn tomorrow.

From there over to Sophie back in her own hutch as she grows the piglets inside of her that will be raised by the University of Pennsylvania staff in their research study. I'll admit it. She's getting special treatment right now being almost famous and all. 

6 weeks from her due date, Miss Sophie settles in for a nap

More straw and hay to Boar Wally and his girl Mrs Dalloway. Also an easy one to do as he is right below the hay loft. My aim isn't so great but they could've cared less.

Finished with some hay to Mad Max and his two girls. Not too worried about them. With Max weighing in at almost 1000 pounds and a normal pig body temp of 103 he should have no problem keeping his small harem very warm the next couple of days.

Max to the left. Clarissa to the right. Impending snow storm above.

Solid dry shelter, abundant food and water. Adequate bedding, who cares if it matches or not.
Bring it snow storm. We're ready for you.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Another Day on The Ranch

Farm Limo Loaded
 Busy day , which you are not supposed to have in winter because everyone knows farmers just pretty much sleep from November to April.  Speaking of sleep, I didn't get much last night as I set my alarm. Whenever I set my alarm it means I have to get up early for something important and then I worry all night I'll oversleep so I wake up every few minutes to, you know...check the alarm.

Set for 0600 this am which means I got up at 0530. The puppy, Ashland, 3/4 Shepard, 1/4 Husky, 100% hell on wheels, was actually the one with the very important appointment, to see a man, with a knife.

At 4 months it was time to kiss his dreams of parent hood goodbye. At 0645 he and I and a steamy mug of hot coffee compliments of the hubby, headed down the driveway over to Piper City, and I handed the pooch over. Managed to throw some hay to horses on way back up the lane and then hit the computer while Keith and Aaron, our helper on Tuesdays,  did outside chores .

Sent out meat invoices, completed some very important work on a project I will tell you all about on Friday, (I'll give you a hint. It involves Lawyers, Guns and Money) and then jumped back in the truck with Keith and sow Sophie.

 Well, she was in the trailer behind us. Not that we are above hauling livestock inside the actual vehicle with us (calves to nursing homes, goats to 4-H meetings , chickens to schools etc...) But Miss Sophie is BIG. She is the gal going to Pennsylvania soon to enroll in the University's new research program on heritage hogs.

Doc drawing blood on first stick. He is a most excellent vet.

 She needed more blood tests, a repeat of those done last month to make sure she is still free of Brucellosi, Pseudorabies and PRRS and her final health exam which would allow her to be transported across state lines. Dr Whitman and Sophie are becoming well acquainted these last few months, with him inspecting parts of her our own Mad Max has never seen. Which reminds me of the time I fell asleep with my obstetricians hand buried in my...well you know. I was very pregnant, very tired and had just gotten off a 12 hour night shift. Lying on a soft cushy bed or a hard exam table when you are exhausted, same result. Instant snoring. Until he introduced that cold metal utensil. Woke up fasts I did. Poor guy almost lost his arm, not too mention his expensive diagnostic tool.

Where was I?

Sure. Pigs. So done with Sophie, we locked up the trailer and went back inside for the pup. Unhappy he was. And so whiny, the big baby, you would think he had just had surgery. Keith, the nicer one of this couple, carried him to the truck.

Ashland, at 4 months, quite the handful

 Funny. I've had a few surgeries over the years and I can't remember anyone carrying me to our vehicle. I do however, vaguely recall a rope and a pulley.

Back home again, we needed to see if Sophie would fit in our calf box. If yes, then we could transport her to PA in it (placed in the back of our pick up)  instead of taking the whole livestock trailer which would cost us quite a bit more gas and time. Backing up the truck...

 a little more.....


Miss Sophie jumped right in, as if she heard the whole discussion, turned around once to demonstrate adequate room and hopped back in the livestock trailer.

Mind your head Sophie

Enough room to turn around, lay down, stand up. Minimal wind sheer
well lit, soft bedding. Yup, she'll take it.
 After that some more emails to the program coordinators  at U of Penn, a brief farm meeting between the two of us, while Aaron loaded hay and straw into the horse barns. Lots more phone time on the Project To Be Announced  Friday. Keith took Aaron home and look at that, it's 3 o'clock. Nap ? or lunch?

I ate some leftover honey cake on my way up the stairs.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Saponification Sunday...Pass the Salt

Salt bars emote feelings of great depth. Soap makers either LOVE them or HATE them. Rarely is there any Switzerland when it comes to salt soap bars.

I have always loved them. First as a consumer for the simple reason that nothing smooths out my rough edges better than a good thick bar of salt soap, unless it was a wee shot of Jamison.  They are great for using after you've been gardening or to remove all the dead skin from the bottom of your feet.

I made my first bar almost two years ago, a disaster, then tried some more over time and I am finally at the point, that I still don't know what I'm doing with salt bars. I do have fun though.

This last week I attacked the salt monster again. Starting with a basic 100% coconut recipe (32 oz) plus lye dissolved in water and 16 oz of coarse sea salt, I mixed and poured. As always it got very hard and hot very fast. I unmolded at 3 hours and the end bars cut like a dream. The middle bars were gooey.

I let the batch of 7 bars harden fully. I kept the end bars and then chopped the remaining 5 bars into little cubes. I made another batch of salt soap, planning to mix in the cubes and cut just an hour later. I colored the new batch  with some indigo powder (1/2 tsp) for a pretty grey and poured the batter (same recipe as the first white salt bar) over a few of the white cubes.

I then promptly forgot about it.

Hey! Get off my back. I was tired and even though I fully intended to stay up until midnight so I could unmold and cut at the perfect time I chose to take a short nap.

12 hours later in NOT the perfect time. This rebatch was brick  solid. I could've easily built a root cellar with blocks like these. The light blue color was nice though. Just what every root cellar needs, light blue foundation bricks. To unmold I had to slam them on the kitchen floor.

What to do? What to do? Hey I know! I'll just rebatch the rebatch. Taking a potato grater I started the exercise program of my life attempting to shred those salty soap blocks. It took a LONG, strenuous time (never in my past have I broken a sweat using a simple grater) but eventually I ended up with tall fluffy piles of grated salt soap. And a very sore arm.

Now what? Well, it seemed obvious. I made yet another batch of soap, this time without any salt and using my basic 13 recipe. 13 oz of Olive oil, 13 oz of coconut oil, 3 of Castor and 3 of Sweet almond. I colored it with two tsp if indigo for an even deeper blue and added more peppermint essential oil.

When it came to trace, I threw in more white chunks of salt soap from the first batch, and poured the fresh liquid soap over it, about 1/2 way up the trusty diaper wipe mold, my old standby. And then I took four big handfuls of the very light blue shredded remains of the second bar of salt soap, and mixed it with the remaining darker blue newer soap.

All of THAT got poured into the mold. Then I walked away for just a little while. Really, only a little while this time. 30 minutes later checked on it and the whole thing was rock hard on the outside but so HOT on the inside it was bubbling up through soap cracks like THE THING came up through the ice skating rink. Remember that treasure?

So I did what any sane soaper would do, I threw the whole science experiment in the freezer and went to bed. I figured it was a goner.

Well, the soap fairy came during the night and saved my concoction. After letting the really hard really frozen soap thaw out, I cut it. Or tried to. With the wires of my soap cutter stuck half way through the soap I could neither push them father in (so afraid the wires would break) or pull them out. SO I walked away again deciding I would never make another bar of soap as long as I live. I would just cut the wires of my soap cutter and give them to brother Tom the guitar player in our family.

Fortunately, before taking a hack saw to my soap, and soap cutter, I tried pushing the wires through one more time, very carefully...it worked!  Salt bars came out in one piece, looking freaky weird and I LOVE them. Considering the amount of work I went through to birth them, and the fact that they are indeed One-of-a-kind I will be selling them for slightly more than my usual soap bars.

The first $59.95 will get you your own  very special "Ice Capades" Salt Bar. Of course postage and shipping is extra. You don't expect me to give away these bars do you?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Last of the MoHOGans

Here is is, the Last of The Mohogans. Specifically, this is the last little feeder pig born off our farm and raised by us for sale as a meat pig. The end of an era.

The other non red wattles behind him have all been sold. So after this fellow is gone, in a couple weeks (this pic is old he's much bigger now) we will finally be able to say that all the hogs sold off our farm were also born and raised on our farm. Each one begat from a mama and a papa who also reside here.

It took us 15 years to get to this point. We started by buying 100% of our feeder hogs in the days of pre-organic certification. We'd get them when they were very tiny, maybe 2 weeks old from a neighbor who raised confinement hogs. Often they were the runts of the litter and ones not expected to live, and we did lose about 30% in those early days since confinement piglets just aren't genetically disposed to being raised out of the controlled environments they came from.

But if we got them past that 2 month age they did fine. The raw milk we fed helped their natural immune systems kick in and when that happened they were booted outdoors where they THRIVED. We raised 5 then 10 then 15 hogs each summer selling them to friends and neighbors when they were ready for butchering. Last year 79 hogs left this farm for one of three reasons. As breeder, as a feeder or as bacon for a customers breakfast.

In 2009 we bought our first Red Wattle hogs. We kept a couple of our best crossbred sows and bred them to our RW boars calling them our "Spotted Wattles". None of these were ever used for registration stock, always for meat stock and we kept our RW sow line pure. But we always had more customers than we had pigs so even though our own sows were producing piglets regularly demand was greatly than supply.

So we still had to buy some feeder hogs from other farmers. Thus, at first, none of our herd was eligible for organic certification, (since they were born on non-certified farms) then about 25% were, then 50%, then 75%. When our hogs were processed we had two labels on our meat packages. One that had "Certified Organic by Mosa" and one that did not. It was a constant source of confusion for our customers.

How is it that hogs all fed the same food and raised the same way couldn't end up wearing the same package label? Ricky and I always had lots of "splainin' to do. When this last fellow goes to the locker he will leave behind him an entire large herd of hogs, all of them born and raised right here, all of them certified organic, all of them coming back from the same locker with the same organic label.

It took time, but the wait was worth it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hanky Panky

Sign seen in Pharmacy, Gort, County Galway, Ireland
January 2013

My father was one of the original handkerchief men. Never without one, he perfected its multiple uses. Runny nose? He'd attack it with his hanky in his suit coat pocket, swiping snot from your nose to your chin.  Dirty face? He'd correct the problem with the other side of the same cloth (if you were lucky) well moistened with a healthy amount of daddy spit.

Skinned knee? He'd wrap his now slightly gunky rag around the knee tying it TIGHT to prevent any possible hemorrhage. Impromptu "Pin the Tail on The Donkey " game ? He was at the ready wrapping his bandanna around your eyes...our EYES for crying out loud. No wonder 5 of out 6 of us ended up wearing glasses.

Cold? The handkerchief became a scarf or worse yet, a babushka.  Grocery shopping? The hanky became an instant fruit basket, perfect for grapes both green and purple. Or maybe they were purple going in the cloth square and became green after residence in the bacteria ridden hostel.

Yup, my dad was the king of handkerchief etiquette. He never left home without it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Saponification Sunday...You picked a Fine Time to Leave Me Castile.

Lace: from Mrs Quinns Charity Shop. Gort, County Galway, Ireland.
Pottery dish: From Mrs. Nobody's garage sale, Chatsworth. Soap:
Made with mold from son Kyle and wife Amanda

Wish I could tell you it was because of some well thought our plan but truth is...I was running low on other oils. So having lots of Olive Oil and not much else I went for it, the creation of some pure castile soap.

The technical definition is this;castile soap is that made with 100% olive oil soap, no other oils.This soap is said to be named for the Kingdom of Castile, a region in what is now known as Spain. Evidence seems to suggest that castile soap actually originated in Northern Italy, and spread outwards from there, although this soap is so ancient that it is a bit difficult to pin down the precise details of its history. In Castile, the soap was made with olive oil only, and some people differentiate between capitalized Castile soap, made with olive oil, and lower case castile soap, made with other vegetable oils.

Love the beautiful dishcloth? A blog follower of mine makes them!
Get your own masterpiece  HERE  (Thanks again Martha)

Still others use only olive OIL but add some butters like Shea or Mango and still call it castile soap. But for purposes of this blog, Castile Soap is that made with Olive Oil, water and Lye. How simple is that?

Pretty simple. With that much soft oil I worried that the batter would not trace easily (it did in about 7 minutes), that is would be too soft to cut (it was hard enough to cut on day three) and that once cut it would never harden. (Two weeks old and it is very hard)

I also had heard the lather could be "slimy" Well, the lather is not abundant by any means but it is adequately creamy and left my hands and hair, very soft. I chose not to color or scent it and the result was a sweet little ivory colored bar.

I've given out bars to my testing crew, my sisters, and will pass on a couple more to the other woman in my life whose opinions I value, my daughter and two daughter-in-laws.  The best subject though will be the farm husband who has his hands out in the cold winter weather every day.  Then I'll scientifically collate the data and complete my thesis.

Or not.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

When a Man Loves a Woman

Normally the plan goes like this; after a sows litter is weaned, around the 12 week mark, the mama is returned to her herd. This herd is made up of one of our boars and 3 of our sows. The boar will then re breed the sow at their leisure.

But Clarissa, the sow this story revolves around, was a little thin after doing n excellent job of nursing her babies. Since it was winter more energy is used you see. Thus the decision was made to keep her in her private pasture and domicile a couple weeks to allow her some non-competitive feeding time.

Just a few hours before we had planned to return her to her fellow, Mad Max, the big guy, tired of waiting decided to take things in to his own...uh...hands. We did not actually see him leap the electric wire between the yards but we sure saw the result of his conjugal visit.

Yup, he literally blew out an entire side of one of our farrowing houses. One built with Keith's hardworking hands. The one he even took the time to decorate with a Holstein theme. Did Max ram his way in to get to his date? Or just knock too hard? Maybe he was just gently snuggled up alongside of Clarissa and decided to roll over?

We'll never know. What we do know, is to expect another wonderful litter of Red Wattle piglets around June 1

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Meat Pusher


Another day pushing meat.

Keith gets up at the crack of insane and takes two beef over to the Eureka locker for processing. Because we had planned on just one but ended up that we had two that were big enough , I made phone calls and sent emails seeing if folks on the March list wanted to come up to the Feb list.

Some did, some did not. So more phone calls to the locker to give names and phone numbers and amounts.

After dropping off the critters Keith picked up all the processed beef we had at the locker from the last drop off. One and 3/4 beef came to about 700 pounds and 500 packages. Each had to be labeled with their lot number and then space found in the freezer in the store...and the shop...and the basement.

While putting in the new meat, we remove any packages that look compromised. Maybe they've gotten dirty or the vacuum packing has loosened or their is obvious freezer burn. Those packages come into our kitchen and generally are perfectly good for our own meals.

Unless I leave them on the back porch in a plastic bag and it gets discovered by an inquisitive husband three days ago.

It happens.

If so, the dogs are thrilled with their good fortune. After putting away all the new meat, we retrieve the order from Naturally Yours Grocery Store and pack it up in coolers, complete the invoice while Keith loads up the two wheeled trolley and coolers in the truck and OFF I GO. At the grocery, 60 miles from our place, I help the gal who runs the frozen meat dept. transfer  all the meat from our coolers into the store.

Very happy to see all the boxes there for our product were totally empty. On the way home I run into
the grocery closer to us and buy of all things...salmon..because one can only eat so much beef.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Eating crow...disguished as a pork chop

Received a complaint about our pork this am. Not about the taste or the way it was raised or even the price we charge ($3.25 per pound hanging weight) No, the complaint was about the size, the hog carcass was too small.

The customer, who does indeed drive a long way to get her meat at the locker we use in Eureka Illinois, was very disappointed that her hams were small and there was not enough meat left over for the sausage she ordered.

I felt bad and quickly took responsibility for our not communicating with her that the hogs were going to be smaller this time. They do grow slower in the winter. It would have made a difference to her, she might have put off her order until she could have had a larger hog with more meat to take home to her family.

I followed up with a 20% refund check to offset at least her gas expense for traveling so far for such small results. Hopefully I have kept a customer.

But, in the 4-5 minutes it took me to listen to this woman, accept responsibility for our mistake and then make it right with her via a refund, I wondered...why can't I be so accepting of responsibility with those I love so much, those closet to me, my own family?

How is it, I can accept blame, ask for forgiveness and offer an act of kindness as proof of my concern so easily for someone I have never met before but cannot easily admit when I am wrong with my own children, siblings or husband ?

Well, sometimes I admit it but certainly not very often  and even more certainly not without a great big long discussion where I drag out charts and graphs and statistical reports that will prove indubitably that my family member has to be at least HALF as responsible for the miscommunication as I am.

What is that defensiveness all about? It went so well with this customer. She was very disappointed when she called, she was absolutely right in the matter, I said I was sorry and would make it better and it was OVER. But with those we love, those who stand by us when we are at our ugliest, our sickest, our  most needy times, disagreements and bad feelings, burdens of proof can go on for weeks, months or years and perhaps without ever being resolved.

So when we think a situation is about the size of a ham steak, it really is much more about who is being the bigger pig.

Oink Oink says she.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Saponification Sunday...Seeing Red

Awhile back I ordered the wrong Palm Oil from Soapers Choice (love their FAST delivery!) It was Red. Yes, red palm oil. So I let it sit and soaped with the oils I was familiar with. This week, low on oils, I saw the big red oily bottle staring at me and started to play.

I made two recipes. The first was 13 oz of Olive Oil, 3 Oz of Castor, 3 of sweet almond and then 13 oz of the red palm oil. Kinda gruesome as I mixed and poured. I added no other colors but did scent with some Geranium Rose EO. It came to trace very quickly.

Really too bright for me

But hard, oh man is this bar hard. I cut it the next morning but could have cut it 4 hours after pouring.

So onto batch two where I used much less of the Red Palm only 5 oz and then 8 oz of coconut oil along with the same amounts of the Castor and sweet almond oil. The batter looked just as red as the one above where the Red Palm oil amount was double. It also traced quickly. Again, I did not add any other colors but scented this one with pure Lemongrass EO one of my all time favorite scents.

Strangely the two bigger molds of the different batches resulted in bars of almost identical color saturation but the two smaller flower molds, one with the first batter and one made with the second showed very different color intensities.

Which made me wonder about the gelling process. My flower molds are very shallow and I'm guessing the raw soaps from both recipes never fully gelled. Still I unmolded both of them the next day and the bars are rock hard just four days later.

Of course, I can never wait till I think  a bar is fully cured (4-6 weeks) before I play with it and sure enough on day 4  I was lathering up these bars. The results: fair to good lather that was yellow tinged but did not stain my skin. And after rubbing and washing for a couple minutes, the lather rinsed clean and left my hands feeling very soft.

Just to prove, once again...looks aren't everything.

Do you make soap with red palm oil? What are your experiences? Suggestions? Care to share a recipe you love ?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Farm for Sale ...Still

A year and a half ago when we decided we were going to step off this rapidly escalating ride of direct farm to consumer success, we were ignorant enough to think "How hard can it be?"

We signed up with a realtor who was apathetic in the beginning and totally unmotivated after one months time. "It's the economy" he told us or "Marketing is expensive you know." as if he had signed on probono.

After 6 months without  a single showing (it took him over a month to get a for sale side out front)  we told him so long and went the For Sale By Owner route. It went better. The web site I put together for our farm sale is updated HERE. We showed the farm to 12 individuals over 12 months time. Many folks had the desire to run their own organic meat business and farm, even more had the dream of being sustainable and their own boss, but none of them had the finances to go with the dream.

We understood.

But we know there is a buyer for this farm out there somewhere. Last week we shifted gears again, yes the gear box is just about stripped, we've changed directions so many times. We signed on with another realtor and thing are happening. In a few days time Cindy Eckols has our farm listed on many sites. She and her team have supplied us with signage and brochures and packets of information to have at ready when showings begin. She has touched base with me no less than 4 times in ten days, She returns my emails.

We are listening to her advice as well. We dropped our price by $12,000. We dejunking more by the day. Like the folks on HGTV always have said, buyers have to be able to see themselves in your house which they cannot do if all YOUR stuff is cluttering up the stairwell and the walls and the floors. You get the gist.

I'm giving away furniture no longer needed that makes our farm house look too small. I have four kitchen tables. Why would any sane person need four kitchen tables?. Tomorrow I'll be up on a ladder scraping the paint off a back hallway and getting it ready for a new brighter covering.

Boxes of junk are  being burned. Our dumpster is getting a workout. I'm dragging each of my kids through the house giving them items I don't think they really want but hey...it's free! I've
 even listed items on a Face Book Page yet folks don't seem to understand me when I write "FREE, CAll me to set time for pickup." Instead they text me and tell ME where to deliver it.


Bottom line. We are motivated sellers. Give us a call at 815-635-3414 or contact our realtor at 309-532-1616 if you are the motivated buyer who is ready for this really great farm. We...are ready for our next really great tiny farm!

And if you need a beautiful, free dresser... (needs minor handle repair) CALL ME. I don't do texts and we don't deliver.

Postscript: moments after posting this blog, my youngest sister said SHE wants the dresser. So there it goes folks. You snooze you loose. (If she hadn't called  I was going to ship it to Cro across the pond. Seems folks there appreciate  the 50's)