Failure is a learning event. A reminder to pay more attention. A lesson. One of yesterday’s batches of soap was started in the morning, then left abruptly to go to the bank, run errands, get lunch. That shouldn’t have been a big deal as the lye water had not been added to the melted butters and oils and nothing had been stirred. Cool oils and lye water work just fine. But . . . in my haste and inattention, I left one of the oils (about 28% of the oil) out. When I poured the lye water, mixed for the correct recipe into the oils and butters, it became thick very, very quickly. So quickly that stirring the essential oils in was challenging. I couldn’t figure out why, but poured it into the mold and cocooned it in a towel to saponify. This morning the two molds made yesterday and the two from the day before were un-molded to cut into bars for curing and that batch when cut was hard , crumbly , and it burned my hands a bit while cutting it. While tossing this around with a soap making friend this morning, I realized that I had left out the oil and thus my caustic batch of soap that can’t be used for personal use, but it can still be used.
I make my own laundry soap, a mixture of Washing Soda, Baking Soda, and my own grated soap, so a solution was handy, except that I just made a gallon of laundry soap, about 125 loads worth for two people washing only a couple loads a week. Since I am about to set up shop at Heritage Day, I bought some pretty blue canning jars, grated up the soap, mixed up the batch and put it in the jars.
Six 3+ lb jars of HE safe laundry soap that will do about 32 loads of clothes each. Maybe it will sell. I need to figure out what the market will handle as a price though.
The shop soap supply was getting low, so 4 batches of soap have been recently made. Two of them are the same scent, as eldest son and family will get a full batch of one of those scents.
A decision was made recently to change the name of the shop to Cabin Crafted Soap and Yarn Shop and to be more creative on my balms and salves, identifying them by use, not by name. The new logo requires a huge THANK YOU to my artist daughter-in-law who drew it for me. I really didn’t want to keep using clip art of unknown origin. Last fall just before the Holiday Markets, I tried new packaging for the soaps, using cello bags sealed with ingredient labels with the soap type on a front label and putting one of each scent in mesh bags so they can be smelled. It bothered me to have all of the bars bare and handled by many people as they tried to decide on a scent. This choice seemed more professional and still attractive.
New business cards are being designed using this new logo as well.
There are still some of the old lotion bars, Citrus, unscented, and Cedar/Rosemary/ Thyme that will be offered on sale reduced to clear the stock. Also there are some pure salves, comfrey, arnica, and calendula that will be reduced as well. They are in the 2+ inch size tins and can be purchased on the shop site. The shipping cost is per order, not per item and is priority shipping in the USA. International shipping unfortunately is higher.
All week, I have been monitoring the weather for today. This week has been so very cold, and today was to dawn with a very high chance of freezing rain or mixed wintry precipitation mix and a high mid afternoon only in the upper 30’s or low 40’s. Yesterday, the forecast improved, though there was still a chance of freezing rain overnight. Today was the second Holiday Market at the Blacksburg Farmers Market and I was prepared to set up my booth, clothed for a very cold, wet day and worrying that the foot traffic would be sparce.
When I awoke this morning, it was overcast, but the temperature was already 42ºf up here on the mountain. I had packed the tables, weights, canopy tent, and my chair last night. This morning, I loaded the huge plastic box of soaps, lotions, and salves, the smaller plastic totes of yarn and knitwear, bags, wraps, and all of the other items needed to set up my stall. When I arrived at the market, it was a bit cooler and raining lightly, but like other markets, everyone chipped in and helped set up tents and tables. I have been fortunate at all 4 Holiday Markets to have Beth and Chuck of Dashing Dogs Pottery as my neighbor and they are so helpful with my tent that I lack the strength to erect alone.
We had periods of light rain offset by sunshine during the 5 hour market, the temperature warming into the 50’s and great foot traffic. Many folks were out looking for their weekly purchases from the market and much shopping for holiday gifts. It was a very successful day for the vendors and we were all grateful for the much improved weather situation.
It is interesting to see how the items sold vary from different markets. Today was knitwear, some yarn, and lots of beard oil and moustache wax. Handcrafted bar soap was also popular today.
This was my last show for the season. I will wait and see what develops for spring and summer.
Daughter and grandkids dropped by after having breakfast and I was able to send them home with some pasta, sausage, and salad to help with this week’s meals.
Now it is time to finish preparation for Christmas at our household. There are still some gifts to wrap and a few very small items to purchase, Christmas dinner to plan and a grocery run.
After the most recent craft show, I determined that I had too many choices of my products which resulted in people either walking by the “clutter” or coming in, sniffing each soap and lotion bar choice and leaving without a purchase. It wasn’t that this particular market was over saturated, as I was the only vendor of such products, especially natural, organic, no chemicals added soaps, lotion bars and salves.
As a result of this, I have decided to have a major clearance sale of all but 4 soap scents. There are many choices available right now in my shop for $3 per bar or 4 for $10 with a flat domestic $3 shipping rate on up to 4 bars. The jumbo lotion bars are also going away and the remaining ones are discounted to $7 per tin. There will be no more than 4 scents of the 1+ ounce size. The salves will stay but the lip balm, sleep balm, Biker Bum balm, and Brigand’s Oil and salve will not be made again once they are gone. If you have wanted to try some of my products, or wanted to replenish your supply, now is the time. If you private message me on the Cabin Crafted Facebook page, email me at email@example.com, or through the shop messenger, I will put together the package of your choice and will calculate the most economical shipping or arrange to meet you if you are local.
I did add the best selling Citrus Soother Lotion Bar into the shop today as well as two of the Beard Oils that I make.
The display at shows will be much simplified as well.
If you read the blog post yesterday, the broody hen refused to return to the nest, even when I put another hen in with her. I removed the eggs at dark and hoped that she would start over today, but neither hen in the brooder laid an egg today or sat on the nests. I opened the door and the run gate and both hens rushed back into the flock. Broody hen went promptly into the coop and sat on the nest she had been on onto the eggs that had been laid today. I guess that I will just leave her there and if she hatches any chicks in 3 weeks, I will move her with her new family to the brooder coop to isolate them from the rooster and other hens until they are old enough to be introduced.
Six batches of soap made for the December Holiday Market.
Four cut and curing. Two are cocooned until tomorrow. After much discussion with others and self arguing, I decided to have my 4 signature unscented soaps; Coffee Scrub, Jasmine Green Tea, Lavender Bud Oatmeal, and Rosemary Oat. With 5 scented soaps settled on are Lavender, Winter Mint, Bergamot Ylang Ylang, Mountain Man, and Tree Hugger.
To simplify the lotion bars and to try to make pairings easier, there will be Lavender, Rosemary, unscented, Mountain Man, Bergamot Ylang Ylang, and Tree Hugger.
As the beard oils are also Mountain Man and Tree Hugger, gift sets can be assembled for the Market. K and I took a trip to Michael’s and found some small boxes to facilitate making sample gift sets.
I recently went out for breakfast with a friend and she introduced me to an antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal essential oil blend in a carrier oil that she had been given by her SIL. Later when I was talking to my daughter, she knew the oil by the name I gave her and another name from a Therapeutic essential oil company. Figuring out the component oils was fairly easy and coming up with my own blend was not too difficult. This oil blend carries with it a tale called the Legend of the Four Thieves. After reading many versions of this tale, I decided to come up with my own summary variation and have printed little scrolls of the legend with the uses of the topical oil to attach to each little 1 ounce bottle that I have prepared. Thinking that a one ounce bottle with a dropper wasn’t a very good way to carry it with you, some of the oil mixture was blended with a carrier oil and a bit of beeswax to create salve in one of the little screw lid tins as well.
I await my shipment of more tins to be able to make a supply to add to the wares going to the market next weekend. Our Farmers’ Market is mostly vendors of Organic produce or pasture raised meat, so I am hoping that adding these two products to the Comfrey Salve and Biker Bum Balm will be items that are successful with the crunchy crowd that frequents it.
My little natural first aid kit that I carry in my shoulder bag now has one more item in it.
Two nights ago, K and I moved two beat up hens and two young roosters to the cull pen with the meat birds that are destined for freezer camp next weekend. Last night, Mountaingdad and I went out on a date night and K locked the birds up after dark when their family came in from getting pizza. At least she thought everyone was locked up. This morning, I found the remains of both hens and one young rooster outside the cull coop but inside the run. There is a 4 foot fence around the run, a secured gate at the end and no evidence that anything dug in, so I’m not sure what got them, but it had to be able to go over the fence and get back out after eating. Tomorrow after today’s rain ends, I will attempt to make the electric fence hot again, strung along the top of the runs and around the back of the cull coop near the ground. Whatever it was did not get into the coop, so the birds must have been hunkered down somewhere in the run.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been knitting a shawl for a cousin. It was finished last weekend. Earlier this week, I got the ends woven in, washed and blocked. It took forever to dry as it is a cotton yarn that she picked. The package was mailed off and she received it today. She is delighted with it.
Late last evening, I received an email letting me know that I have been accepted for the Holiday Market in November and again in December. This weekend, K will help me set up my display for a dry run. I have been working a bit at a time to improve the curb appeal with the purchase of a few small crates and some small chalkboard signs.
I felt that my hand printed paper signs and lack of labeling contributed to my low sales at the previous festival. The little clip on blackboards, were easy to make with wooden clothespins, hot glue, a paint pen and the small blackboards. It has allowed me to identify the scents available, and each bar has a paper band with the shop logo and soap scent. I purchased two of the small square trays and glued dividers in them for the lotion bars and salves. The little soap crates will each have one or two varieties of soap and each of the two beard oils have their own little box. Testers will be out for the Beard Oil and Lotion Bars.
This left me with a challenge on how to display the handspun yarn. I have tossed various ideas around for a few days while I waited for decision. To facilitate carrying the small boxes, crates and trays, supply box, sign, bags and table covers, I use wood fruit box type crates. T suggested how to reinforce the bottom of those boxes so that I don’t have the bottom fall out when fully loaded. Those boxes are stapled together, so attractive, but not too sturdy. My idea was to use these boxes to my advantage in my display and today, I bought 16 Shaker style pegs, dug through my scrap wood supply for a 1 x 4 cedar board and set to work making a yarn display.
Out came the circular saw and the power drill, some wood glue and furniture clamps and the peg boards were fastened to the bottoms of two crates when stacked on two more crates it make a great display and the pegged crates can still be used to carry the yarn, table covers and other light weight, non breakable items.
After we set up the tables within a 10 X 10 foot space to see how it will work, we will determine the most appealing appearance to display the soap, lotion bars, beard oils and yarn on the tables. I am hopeful that the investment in the display items will attract buyers and the market will be a success for my fledgling hobby business.
The coastal storm that has cancelled many events in Virginia is providing us with some much needed rain and with it unseasonably cool temperatures. The rain is welcome, but as we still have been unable to get a roofer here to put a new boot on the bent vent stack and to refasten and realign the gutters damaged by last winter’s snow, I am a bit worried about the rain leaking in. I actually have finally gotten someone to at least come to give us an estimate to make the repairs and to install snow strips to try to prevent this damage from happening again.
I’m still not totally over the fall crud that I caught a week and a half ago. About the time I started feeling better, it settled in my sinuses as often happens. I think it may actually be finally going away.
The chicken pen installation has some flaws. I keep finding a hen in the meaties pen and meaties in the hens’ pen, so they have found a way to get back and forth. Last night one of the teenagers was totally out of both pens. Perhaps they have learned to fly over the gate.
I finished the project I was knitting for my author friend and again, as it isn’t my project to show, I won’t show a photo of what it is, but the colors ended up very jewel like, so I had to take a shot of them.
The project has been delivered to my friend and I have resumed reading, something that I set aside to finish the knit. The current book is Once We Were Brothers, a historical fiction of World War II atrocities in Poland.
I did begin a new knitting project, to finally make the socks that granddaughter requested when I was making the Rainbow pair that I sent to my sister for her birthday. The Wildfoote Sock Yarn is also jewel like and really similar colors to the project that I just finished.
This is just a basic vanilla sock pattern for a nearly 4 year old girl. I suppose that I should finish knitting the sleeves of my sweater that has been on hold all summer now that the weather is cooling enough to want to wear a sweater and to finish spinning the Coopsworth from last spring’s Fiber Retreat so that I can make myself another sweater from it.
A portion of this afternoon was spent updating my etsy shop, adding some new soap and handspun yarn.
I haven’t visited the garden in a few days. Once the weather improves, I need to harvest more tomatoes and peppers and get some more canning and freezing done.
The Folk Festival was a bust. I may have broken even, I hope, though I haven’t calculated it out yet. There was lots of handling and sniffing, a few comments like; “you know you can buy soap at Walmart for $.50,” or “we collect all the little samples at hotels when we travel and that is what we use.” I want to retort sharply, but I smile and let it pass. Thrice we were threatened by thunder storms, as I wondered how I was to protect trays of soap in driving rain and wondering if the borrowed canopy was really waterproof, and no it wasn’t anchored as we were set up in a parking lot and I didn’t bring weights, just cord and stakes. Fortunately it didn’t rain.
As Mountaingdad and Grandson #1 were on their way to see the festival, buy me lunch and give me a bathroom break, they got a flat tire. The Nissan has one locking lug on each wheel and the tool, which we used last winter when we had a flat, was missing. Did AAA take it by accident, or the Nissan dealer when they repaired the tire? This proved a challenge for AAA, but they finally got the guys back on the road to get their own lunch and just go home. The tool was on the service desk at the Nissan dealer with hubby’s name on it and had been since last winter. The car has been serviced twice since then. Why wasn’t it returned then, or why weren’t we called as they knew to whom it belonged.
This morning, the awaited morning call from the USPS came as I was doing chores and heating water for my morning coffee. Chores were delayed, coffee water turned off, car keys and wallet located and off I went to our little rural post office.
I could hear them as soon as I opened the post office door.
Twenty fuzzy little yellow chicks, two days old at most, ready for release, water, food and warmth.
They have peeped loudly since I picked them up, but have found the warming table and settled. This is the first time that I have ordered chicks and there hasn’t been an extra one in the box and one dead one too, giving me the right number in the end. Fortunately, there are 20 healthy pullets, I hope as that was what was ordered.
Meet Chipmunk,, one oddly marked little pullet that is not all yellow. We won’t get attached to these littles, as their short 11 week life will be spent partially in the garage and then moved to the cull coop to be sent to freezer camp on November 14 for some winter meat. These are the littles that we had to purchase when the production by our hens met with failure and predators. There are only 5 of them, one who will be next year’s rooster, a couple that I think are pullets and will replace a couple of the older hens and any other cockerels will also go to freezer camp. We will hopefully have 25 birds in the freezer and will try again next year on letting the hens raise our meat birds and replacement hens.
Application was made and accepted. An opportunity to be a vendor at the Meadow’s of Dan Folk Festival tomorrow. My soap, lotion bar, and beard oil making for my Etsy Shop has generated crates full with llittle activity on the online shop, so I decided to try this sort of venue to see if it is worth my time and effort. If not, perhaps, I will return to just making products for us and the extended family that likes and uses the products. In the mean time, I am also looking for a way to reduce the shipping costs for the Etsy Shop to make it more appealing.
The soap making has been ongoing for several months as I make all of my soap the old fashioned cold process method and that soap must cure for at least 4 weeks to be hard enough to not dissolve into mush when you get it wet. What good is soap if you can’t get it wet? Lotion bars are a quicker product as is beard oil.
The car is partially loaded with the non perishable items such as the canopy, table, my chair and the crate with table covers, bags, business cards, banner, and bright colored pinwheels to attract attention.
The three crates of trays containing the soap, beard oil and lotion bars, along with the bins of extras await loading until the afternoon cools. They will be loaded this evening so that all I have to do at 6:30 tomorrow morning is hop in the car and drive the 90 minutes to check in and set up.
The canopy is borrowed from a friend who got it from a mutual friend and it had never before been erected. Daughter and I broke it out and set it up in the yard one day to make sure it was all there.
It is all there, but had a small seam that was miss sewed that was repaired with a bit of duct tape as I didn’t want to try to get the canopy upstairs and sewed on my little home sewing machine.
The 8′ folding table is borrowed from daughter and SIL, a new folding chair purchased at Lowe’s end of season clearance sale; a couple of old Indian print cotton twin bed spreads that served as temporary doors in our house when we first moved in, will serve as table cover and hang from the back of the shelter as a backdrop for the banner and to give the stall some direction.
I don’t know if this will be a successful venture or not, but I’m game to give it a go. If you are a local reader, this is a Folk Festival with vendors of food, yarn, jewelry, 31 products, my products and more; as well as inflatable fun, wine tasting, music, a play and a square dance. Come on out and visit, the day is supposed to be gorgeous, a great day for a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hope to see some of you there.
Last night when I went out to lock up the chooks, I found two Buffy hens sitting on the day’s eggs in two nesting boxes. I decided to leave them alone and see if they would still be there this morning. Buffy Momma #2 is the one who tried to go broody last November and she is feisty and protective of her nest. She left long enough this morning to grab a bite of food and came right back, puffing up if I approach and pecking at my hand if I try to check under her. Buffy Momma #3 is less dedicated and can easily be chased off her nest. Late this afternoon, I ran them both off the nests to see how many eggs were there and put 10 under Momma 2, labelled with today’s date to begin the chick watch. Momma 3 only has one under her at the present, but will get any laid today and enough of tomorrow’s to put 10 under her as well and they will be labelled with tomorrow’s date. If these two Buffy Momma’s can each produce 6-8 chicks, and with the fall cull scheduled to reduce the hen flock to 8 plus Romeo, we should be able to put about 25 birds in freezer camp without having to purchase any chicks this year and without having to set up the brooder, heat lamp and related mess. We will refresh the flock with a couple of new pullets, keep a couple of the better Mommas and cull out all cockrells and older hens. This year is an experimental year to try letting our heritage girls raise all of our eggs and our meat. These birds will take at least 16 weeks to reach a size to be usable and 22 weeks to lay eggs and we will have to improve our second coop situation to make it doable, but it is another step toward producing and growing our own food.
Momma 1 brings her littles out of the chicken tractor each morning and the littles wander back and forth through the fence into the big girl’s run, out into the yard and anywhere they want, but quickly return to Momma when she calls them back. They are about a week and a half old now and very active and still curious.
In the midst of chicken and garden chores this week, two more batches of soap were made for the August festival to give them time to cure. A batch of Plantain and Comfrey infused oil was made and 8 tins of Comfrey salve prepared for our use against scrapes and insect bites and a few to sell at the festival. During the week, I also used the “Each one, Teach one” method to teach a friend soap making and lotion bar making and she went home with a mold of soap and a lotion bar of the summer recipe, one that I hope will not melt in the summer heat. Ten more tins of lotion bars are added to the festival supply as well.
Dinner tonight, even though we didn’t make it to our usual Saturday Farmers’ Market run, included fresh kale from the garden.
Farm life, knitting and spinning, cooking and family