Tag Archive | soap

Soap Conference 2014

I’ve made it. I’ve arrived in Tucson for the 2014 Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild Conference.  It’s very exciting to have a community of likeminded artisans to mingle and network with.  I’m looking forward to some fantastic professional training and also to be able to take the HSCG certification tests. Tomorrow evening I’ll be able to take my basic certification test and (assuming I pass) on Wednesday I’ll be able to take the advanced certification test.

We spent yesterday afternoon in the lavender, weeding.  Because, you know, weeds never stop.  I also noticed that several varieties have buds already, which means our first harvest just isn’t that far off.

Last week Fixer and our nurseryman disced up the next section of field for our next phase of planting.  There’s still trenching to be done so the next section of irrigation can go in.  I haven’t made a thorough assessment of winter kill yet. It looks pretty good in some areas of the field, but some varieties look like they’ve experienced some damage. Growers all over the country are reporting significant plant loss and I’m very grateful that we weren’t similarly touched.

Fancy Farm Girl Display

Fancy Farm Girl Display

I also recently participated in my first market event, The Fancy Farmgirl Vintage Fair.  It was a very cool event and I’m really looking forward to doing it again. I learned some great things about merchandising and had a fantastic time talking to people.  I also met some lovely vendors, including another soaper.  I’m making it a project to meet as many of my online acquaintances face to face as possible.

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While I was at the market, I bought this very neat repurposed chicken feeder that was planted with strawberries.  We plumbed it into the drip lines on the front porch and when I checked it last night, the berries are starting to ripen. Can you believe it? It’s not even June yet and berries!

 

Jewelweed Infusion

Jewelweed Infusion

Last month I made a lovely infusion of jewelweed and olive oil, courtesy of my lovely friend Beth. Jewelweed doesn’t grow in my part of the country, so Beth was kind enough to mail me some of her stash. Jewelweed is thought to ease itching from poison ivy and similar irritants. I’ve been having a little bit of a rash, so I made an infusion and then used the infusion in my soap recipe. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet because the soap is still curing, but it will be an interesting experiment to see how it works.

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Lemon Verbena Candles

Well, that’s it. Another magical day in paradise is in the can. (Like a film can, not a toilet) Spring is definitely here.  The Little Girls and I spent the day in Wenatchee. Bean wanted a kite and since she’s been fashioning kites from notebook paper in preschool all week, I figured it was time to get her the real deal. So we stopped into Go Bent Bikes and Kites and picked one up.  It’s kind of a bummer that we have all that space in the lavender field just crying out to fly kites, but power lines are on two sides. So the next best thing is to go fly it on the irrigation ditch road thru the field across the road where we can get safely away from the lines.

 

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Another thing that’s been going on recently is that I’ve started playing tag again. I know what you’re thinking. And you’re right. It looks just like it sounds.  But Bean likes it, so I play. An immediate consequence is that we spend a fair bit of time flopped on the grass giggling which gives me cause to stare up at the beautiful blue sky with the blossoms from the ornamental plums up against it. Which leads me to my camera and some springy photos.  And the dirt booger on the sensor of my digital camera.  So I’ll have to spend some time cruising the internet looking for a how to on cleaning the sensor.  I miss the days when you could just clean your lens and be done with it.

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I also got to spend a small part of the afternoon on Saturday pouring soy candles.  Lemon Verbena soy candles. Heaven. Just Heaven. I love that smell. Maybe that’s what I’ll call them.  Just Heaven Verbena candles. Yeah.  That sounds like a winner.  I ended up with some travel size, tumbler size and an apothecary size.  The apothecary candle is mine. I don’t think I’ll be sharing that one.  Or selling it for that matter.

The product testing for the tarts and massage candles continues.  While the fragrance amount in the tarts was just right for candles, it just wasn’t smelly enough for the tarts. That’s an easy fix, I think. As for the first try at the massage candle, it smelled fantastic (cocoa butter) and would make a terrific lotion bar, but just didn’t have quite enough slip for a good massage oil, according to an aesthetician I asked to test it out. That’s going to be an interesting challenge. How do I get enough slip to make a nice massage oil, but enough hard oils to keep the candle from being liquid all the time?

I also heard another good use for beautiful soap this week. The salon owner in town said she was using one of my oatmeal, milk and honey bars to fragrance her RV.

Sunday afternoon was soap day. Four batches made, so I proclaim success! Lemon verbena to match the candles, yellow with poppy seeds and a pretty textured top.  Lavender Orange, scented with essential oils and poppy seeds added for texture. It’s also my first batch with my cylinder molds.  Also a pale pink and green apricot freesia batch and finally peppermint, pink grapefruit and sweet orange essential oils.  Those batches should make their debut at the Fancy Farmgirl Vintage Market in May.

Rainbow over Rock Island

Rainbow over Rock Island

Weed control in the raised beds

Weed control in the raised beds

We’ve decided to ease our weeding chores this year, both in the lavender and in the vegetable garden. We have weed barrier remaining from last summer, so Fixer laid it down in the raised beds for the Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

If it seems like there isn’t much talk about lavender these days, you’re right. We’re stalled right now waiting to burn a giant brush pile that’s right in the middle of the next stage of lavender planting. Burning didn’t happen this weekend, so we’re hoping for midweek burn so we can disc up the rest of the sod and get going.

So the weekend is now at an end. So I’m going to have a beer and a steak for dinner and brace myself for the week. I hope yours is fantastic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soap, Dirt and Rain

Wow, I just can’t seem to get back into my blogging groove. I’m trying to achieve some kind of balance in getting Bucklepenny off the ground and to have some kind of controlled roll out, but this is just taking on a life of it’s own.  I thought we were just about done plant this year’s babies, but we ended up buying another 400 plants, so I’ll be shuffling around on my knees in the dirt for a little longer.  Many of the initial 400 plants are doing really well and in fact we have a few spikes in bloom already. One of the varieties we selected has already shown itself to be a little weaker than the others. Hooray for test plots.

I’ve also been soaping as much as I can.  Last Thursday was a terrific day. I got a new job and came home to a pile of soaping supplies waiting on the porch when I got home. A big bucket of sustainably sources palm oil (because palm-free soaping was an epic fail), lots of new fragrance oils and two new 10″ silicon molds form Brambleberry.  You can get them here. That order and a trip thru Kenna’s masterbatching e-book resulted in 3 batches of soap that were practically perfect in every way.

yuzu

Here is a beautiful batch of Trinity Soap with Yuzu fragrance. I’m very pleased with the textured top, the color and oh, boy does it smell good. Yuzu is an Asian citrus that smells very similar, I think, to grapefruit.

milk and honey with Hera

The one on the right is called Trinity Land of Milk and Honey, a nice little soap scented with Oatmeal, Milk and Honey and colored with a titch of titanium dioxide and Brazilian purple clay.  The one on the left is Hera’s Garden Trinity.  It’s colored with micas and scented with orange and lavender essential oils.  These soaps will be available on my Etsy shop in about 4 weeks.

We had some rain, but not too much. And the iris’ are blooming.  I love those great big bearded iris’. Bean’s middle name is Iris, so they make me think of her and that just makes me smile.

iris 2013

Work continues on our logo design. Business opportunities are presenting themselves. Friends are popping out of the woodwork to offer leads and business advice. I particularly  want to single out my friends over at Balsamroot Ranch, where they make lovely, rustic handmade jewelry.  You can check our Sherry’s treasure’s on her web page here.  Her daughter also makes very cool steampunk inspired jewelry. You can also visit them at the Wenatchee Farmer’s Market.

We plowed in another section of lavender field, so I guess we have a lavender field now instead of a lavender patch.  Watch us grow.

Lavender going in

lavender planting 0402613TA-DA! Here they are. The first 200 or so plants in the ground. And then I ran out of rows with the irrigation installed.  And Fixer was out of town, so there was some more waiting. But now that spring is here, it’s been really nice to spend a couple of hours each evening in the field planting after work and before dinner. The Liliputian sits in her stroller with the breeze in her face while Little Bean digs in the dirt and gets mud between her toes and we argue over who gets the little spade, since I’m forever leaving my garden tools in places that make perfect sense at the time but don’t spring to mind later.  Sigh.

Bean and I also managed to get a couple of window boxes planted for the front porch and two rows of potatoes. I’ve never grown those before, so I don’t know what the hell I’m doing (a common theme these days) but a girl can’t just sit around. The potato plants are coming up now, so hopefully we’ll have a decent crop of Yukon Golds and Adirondack Blue spuds.  Grant county is big time potato country, so conditions should be good.

I’m looking forward to planting tomatoes, too. I canned tons last year, but just not quite enough. I’ve got stewed, salsa, ketchup and spaghetti sauce planned.

New apricot freesia soap was made this evening, too.  I used Romance Pink mica from The Conservatorie, which I thought was going to be a nice rosy pink. Currently it is a lovely creamy yellow with a nice mica swirl on top. I’m pleased with the color if it stays creamy or if it goes rosy.  Either one will suit the fragrance.

IMG_5678The blue berry bushes look like they are going to put on a nice looking berry set this year. Next year the bushes should be even more established and bearing even better.

IMG_5676Our wisteria has really taken off this spring, too.  Last year the poor thing really struggled, so we changed the watering schedule and trimmed the trees back to good effect.

IMG_5681Last year, I took a gander at some YouTube videos on pruning clematis.  The vines at the house when we bought it were so neglected and tangled that after attempting careful pruning, I gave up and hit it with the hedge clippers.  So this year, I skipped the careful pruning and had Fixer whack it back.  And just look at it! It looks like a wave sweeping up the shore. It’s still early in the season and still getting really cold at night, so growth will really take off as things warm up.IMG_5680And Bleeding Hearts, ever my favorite.  Cut soap next!

Now we’re cooking

No pictures today, but we’re moving now, by golly.  Twelve rows of babies are in the ground, Nine went in yesterday before the wind kicked up and put me out of business. The rest went in today between work and dinner.  I think  I’m going to run out of irrigated rows before I run out of plants and Fixer is out of town.  Erg.  I’m also a little worried about drainage. I’m really surprised how the soil varies across the field within a space of about 15 feet.  Lavender needs plenty of drainage, but large swaths of the rows I planted today had pretty thick soil. I wanted to take a picture, but I’m single momming it so I just couldn’t manage baby, toddler, dirt and camera all at once.  Sorry.  Hopefully I’ll get some pics up tomorrow. I’ve also been soaping a little bit and made a nice little chicken wire picture frame deal so I can post pictures of the soaps that are on the curing rack.  More photos to come.  

Friday Night Soaping Madness

Freedom!! Fixer took Bean to a Daddy Daughter Dance Friday night, which left me and the Lilliputian home to work on projects for the shop.  I knocked out a batch of fir soap and a test run of beeswax tablets for scenting drawers and closets. This summer I think I’d like to test them out for a car freshener. I’m a little worried about it right now because I wouldn’t want to have a big melty mess in my car. I bet that lavender fragrance would sure smell good in a warm car.  So the ‘Putian and I turned on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (cause that makes me mother of the year, but she’s 7 months old so she won’t remember) and got to work.

Wax Tablet

Here’s the beeswax tablet. I think I need to clean the lavender a little bit better next time. The top looks pretty good, but the shiny side is looking a little scrappy.  I’m not really sure how you’d clean lavender bud better on any sort of scale, but I bet I can figure it out. I think we’re going to try out some wax additives to make the lavender tablets to make them feel a little smoother, harder and a bit less sticky. I’m also going to try making them in a silicon mold so that they won’t have the funny ridge on the edge.

I got that project going while I was waiting for my oils to cool.  I often get all excited and start messing and mixing before things are cooled off and that just leads to disaster.  That last batch of fir soap didn’t move very fast at all. I added more fragrance oil to the soap and thought that might accelerate things, but instead the whole project just slowed to nearly a stop. I thought I might burn up the motor on my stick blender and still nothing. Eventually, things started to move along. I managed to get two layers of titanium dioxide and one colored with spirulina.  I’ve not tried it before, but I thought it would make a good combination with the fir fragrance.  Here’s what it looked like getting the second layer.

Poured green fir soap

I wasn’t able to get the texture I wanted on the top of this loaf at first, so I stuck it in the fridge to ward off gel and went back later to texture the top. It’s not as beautiful as some I’ve seen, but they’re getting better.

Poured fir soap

FIr loaf with textured top

Here is a picture of the cut soap. I think that the hanger swirl turned out well and since I soaped colder, the fragrance appears to be holding better. The fragrance is going to hold better than the first batch. I expect it to be listed on Etsy in the middle of April.

Bath salts and Fir Soap

I can’t wait to get soaping this weekend! A month or so ago I made Fixer some fir needle soap with green clay and poppy seeds. He’s been using it for a couple of days and proclaims the scent is faint, he doesn’t like the poppy seeds but the soap feels nice. It was my first experiment with using clay and I was trying to for an ombre effect, so that didn’t quite go like I wanted it to either.  So this morning I tried out the soap and it does indeed lather pleasantly.  I personally like the poppy seeds as an exfoliant, but I feel like it needs to be a thicker layer on the bottom of the bar, rather than a sprinkle on the top for color.   I’m going to give the fragrance oil one more shot at a higher level and maybe not CPOP the batch because I think I may have cooked out the oil a little bit. Nothing like helping yourself out, right?

But the really cool part of the whole experiment is the base recipe itself.  I’ve been using a starter recipe that I was given that works pretty well, has a nice hard bar, lathers nicely, etc. The problem is that it contains hydrogenated oil (shortening), which keeps the cost of the recipe down, but I think you’ll agree just isn’t very…upscale.  So for Fixer’s soap, I cooked up a recipe that has olive, palm, coconut, castor and jojoba oils in it. It worked great. Even soaping a little warm (because I get all excited and impatient), it wasn’t a super fast mover, so I had some time to make some texture on the top.  I think it might be a good one to try that hanger swirl on that I’ve been dreaming about.

I’ve also recently had a delivery of hemp oil and liquid silk, so if I can manage a nice swirl, I might put a little of both of those in the pot just to see what I get.

The other thing that I’ve been up to is bath salts. I just scored a pile of fragrance oils and some new colorants, so I experimented with bath salts last night. Epsom salt, sea salt, kaolin clay, glycerine, a little bit of mica, a little toot of color and then we hopped in the tub to test it out. I’ve gotta say, I think the glycerine was a winner. My skin is feeling pretty moist this morning even after my hot, hot shower and no lotion. I’m a little worried about it making the salts clumpy, so I need to figure out how to test that.

This weekend we’re off to Trinidad Lavender to see Scott about our starts and maybe, if we’re really organized get a run at our irrigation project. Next week we start with the paperwork and software purchases.  Pheew! A life of it’s own…