A little about soap, a little about goats, and a lot about the mundane life of a dairy goat farmer!
|Posted by Stazha on June 15, 2010 at 1:13 PM||comments (0)|
There is a lot going on with palm oil. I don't claim to know half of the information out there, and what I do know comes from what I can find online. From huge palm plantations being spread across vast lands only after cutting rain forests to the food vs. fuel debate, there's hours upon hours of reading that can be found, not to mention numerous videos. I'll start with the basics...
Palm oil and palm kernal oil are edible plant oils that come from the oil palm (Elaeis guineesis). They are extracted from either the pulp or the seed(kernal) of the palm fruit, which is about the size of a small plum. Palm can be cultivated only in tropical areas of Africa, Asia, and South America.
Palm oil is used in many products, soap being one of them. When I first started making soap, I purchased 2 pounds of palm oil to use after reading what a wonderful soap it makes. After making a couple batches of soap, I came across some information on another soap site. The site warned against using it so I did some digging and decided not to purchase any more palm oil. And I continue to make wonderful soap without it.
Some of the most compelling information came from some videos I watched. From the destruction of orangutan habitat to the outright devastation of the rain forest, I couldn't believe how much of this pillaging of the land was allowed to take place. The land is clear-cut, the seed bed removed, and then maybe planted with palm, by the millions. The families living there are being forced out and then having no choice but to find employment by those that forced them out. Can we call this modern day slavery? And as if it isn't bad enough that the oil was more valuable than the people, forests, and animals, companies and governments are now making money using palm oil as a biofuel. This course will only further depreciate the value of all things non-palm.
Here's a 3 minute video that shows the rainforests in a way that you've never seen them before...gone!
And here is another, a 10 minute part of a 47 minute documentary. Have you ever looked back in history, shocked by that way Africans were stolen from their lands? How Native Americans were forced out of their homes and pushed from reservation to reservation, to the deserts of North America? Have you ever wondered how anyone could have ever done that to another human? I believe it happens still...
I encourage you to look into this on your own. Become aware of what's in your food and other products. Look those ingredients up. Labeling can be tricky. Some companies don't use the words 'palm oil' in their ingredients. They become very clever with words. How many items in your pantry contain 'vegetable oil'? And it isn't 'only palm oil'. It's so much more...
|Posted by Stazha on June 11, 2010 at 1:47 PM||comments (1)|
So, I've been putting off selling at booths, not that I don't want to but because I really want to look like I have it all together. Thanks to some really nice display pieces I've found at various stores (LOVE Hobby Lobby!) and my own consistancy in labels and soap shapes, I think I'm off to a good start.
I'll be at VIP Salon on Saturday, June 12th, from noon to 3pm, along with other great vendors (PartyLite, Pampered Chef, Jewel Kade, and Dove Chocolate Discoveries) to raise funds for Cass City's Freedom Festival. The Freedom Festival is their yearly 4th of July celebration.
It's a Girl "Thang"!
Fundraiser held at VIP Salon in Cass City sponsored by VIP Salon and Envisions Photography Studio! All proceeds go to benefit the CASS CITY FREEDOM FESTIVAL!
Come on out for an afternoon of pampering! Admission is $30/person or $55/mother & daughter.
Free hair and make up done by VIP Salon
Free parafin hand wax done by VIP Salon
Free professional portrait taken by Envisions Photography Studio posted on Facebook
Sounds like fun!
|Posted by Stazha on May 26, 2010 at 7:53 AM||comments (7)|
Want a free bar of soap?
Deadline will be next Wednesday, June 2nd, at 12 noon EST. Judges will be my kids,(Adrien, Erin, Mason and Lauren) because they use the soap for free already! Winner will be announced the next day. Keep it clean and have fun!
(Totally free, no shipping)
|Posted by Stazha on May 24, 2010 at 11:01 AM||comments (0)|
This just in...Flying Goat Escapes from Doghouse!
|Posted by Stazha on May 20, 2010 at 9:29 AM||comments (1)|
I've been a shutter bug the past little while, trying to get just the right shot of the goats. The soap is easy, it stays put. The goats, not so much. If I go into the goat pen to take pictures, they all coming running to see me; shot spoiled. If I let them out to graze, their heads are buried in the grass and they're moving quickly so as to not get caught; shot difficult.
There's a proper way to photograph goats, displaying the breed features and dairyness in just the best way.
Example (and not a very good one either)
It's a technique I have yet to master and it involves a second person to either pose the goat or snap the picture. Perhaps I'm trying too hard but it's no easy task to get a goat to stand, legs set apart, head up, back straight, and say 'goat cheese!"
I guess I can say how greatful I am for the invention of digital photography and SD cards! I can't imagine trying to get these pictures, not knowing if you got just what you wanted, rushing them off to be developed, and waiting for the results, paying good money for pictures that may be unsatisfying. I'm just old enough to know how unpredictable and expensive it was to take pictures on actual film.
I did get some wonderful shots the other day. None of them make me want to send them in for herd quality perfection, even though many members of our herd exhibit such traits. I prefer candid shots, but when it comes to selling goats and showing goats, the photos aren't meant to capture personality.
|Posted by Stazha on May 17, 2010 at 2:22 PM||comments (1)|
Oh darling caprine,
Her schedule keeps me,
A lady's nature so serene,
Amilking I go at morning's light.
Her gift so full,
Her hooves trip-trap across the barn floor.
Oh doe-eyed dream,
Her bleating calls me,
As eyes sparkle and gleam,
To the barn I go again at night.
Her coat so shiny,
Her hooves trip-trap across the barn floor.
|Posted by Stazha on May 17, 2010 at 2:13 PM||comments (0)|
I'm really enjoying the variety of colors (and scents) I've been getting with soap-making!
A few of these have no added color, some have natural colors from rosemary, tomato, or tumeric powders. The pinks and purples come from oxide pigments. The vanilla has darkened as it has been curing. It's the second from the right on the bottom. It started out as light as the one just above it, to the left. I don't know how much darker it will get but I like it!
|Posted by Stazha on May 7, 2010 at 7:48 AM||comments (0)|
I saw all four cats on the back porch the other day, rare because they don't all get along. But this picture speaks for itself, you see who the boss is...
Dash is the Cat King. He's been here the longest too. His mother died during kittybirth (childbirth didn't sound right but I don't think kittybirth is an actual word) and I bottle fed him myself. Not an easy task when kittens are all claws and every scratch itches like crazy. It's possible that this upbringing has made him the most unpredictable cat I've ever known. He can be exceptionally loving but he won't hesitate to growl when he wants to be left alone.
The other cats have all found us, one way or another. Sophie (orange) was found under the hood of my minivan one summer day. Her little toes burned from the car battery where she had hitched her ride from town. I was told the next day, where I worked, that an orange kitten was stuck in the air conditioning fence and when she was freed, she ran under a minivan. No one else wanted her. No one claimed her. Believe me, I asked around.
Jack (black) showed up in our barn a couple of Octobers ago. He was an older kitten. The neighbors found one at their house too. My kids found him first so he was claimed on the spot.
And Mouse was found in the barn early this year. She was limping badly and she only has half a tail. I don't know how old she is. New cats always take some time adjusting to the rules around here. Ours and her fellow felines. She was picked on for a few weeks by the other cats. She is something else though. Super cuddly-to the point of feeling smothered. At first the kids loved it, then they were trying to keep away from her!
Four cats eat a lot. I can't take in any more. I'd like very much to take Mouse to the animal shelter. Such a guilty feeling though. I suppose that is the way many people feel when they have an animal that they can no longer care for. That's how people like me end up with the burden. Folks see a barn out in the country and suppose that might be a perfect place to dump their grief. I'm sure it's embarressing, no matter which way you deal with it. But when you drop a pet off in the middle of the night, out in the boonies, it's quite anonymous.
All of our cats, except Mouse (at the moment), are fixed. No kittens have been born here since Dash in 2005 and that was a first. I highly recommend spay and neuter of pets. Especially the males. It only takes one male cat to be father to all the litters in your neighborhood.
Two local organizations have been there to help me with the cost of spay and neuter. They are Cass River Pet Friendz and the Human Society of Tuscola County. I urge you to look into who is available in your area and keep that number handy. There are plenty of animal lovers around you who are there to help if you have more than you can handle or if you've been the victim of a stop and drop. Whether you need help with the cost of pet care or if you are unable to keep a pet, they can help you. And do the right thing and find that animal a home that is looking for a pet. Not one that just appears to have the space for one. These volunteers can be very understanding. And be sure to donate to these types of organizations. Especially the local ones! You never know when you might need them.
|Posted by Stazha on May 4, 2010 at 8:23 AM||comments (1)|
Goats are very versatile eaters. They love the tough stuff, shrubs, small trees, hardy weeds. It's been my experience that they love the grass outside the fence more than the grass on their side of the fence, but it could be said the same is true for humans.
In times when the term 'green living' becomes popular (it is the 'in' thing right now, but certainly, this is not the first time) people try to make better ecological decisions within their lifestyles. Some of the things our family has cut down on has even affected our pocketbook in a postive way. We rarely buy bottled water, paper plates, even paper napkins. We've been using cloth napkins (actually faceclothes) for over a year now. It's amazing how many napkins 6 people can use in one day. And the kids each use a thermos instead of the throw-away juice boxes.
But, back to goats (and bringing this blog full circle). They make excellent trimmers around the yard. An article I read this morning made me smile. These goats work the yard in a way I bet you've never concidered! I'm glad someone thought of it! I hope it catches on too. There's so many places small animals can be introduced as natural workers! Cudos to Connecticut!
|Posted by Stazha on May 1, 2010 at 9:05 AM||comments (0)|
I've been making about 3 pounds of soap every day. With 4 weeks of drying time, it seems I may be running out of room! Nothing that can't be fixed with a second shelving system. Here's a picture of what's on the rack as of today. I also have a shelf that's half full of ready and wrapped soap.
And here's a shot of Lavender Swirl. A color experiment gone wonderfully right! I will definately be trying this color technique again...
|Posted by Stazha on April 30, 2010 at 7:30 AM||comments (0)|
Milking a goat is a tricky thing. It's not something I was raised doing. Sure, my uncle down the road had cows, but they were milked by machine. The initial awkwardness is good and gone for me but milking by hand still presents challenges, sometimes daily.
All last summer, milking Lilly was a chore. Even though it was just one goat, she made it very rewarding to get a bucket of milk without it being kicked or tipped that day. She already had a kid when we got her and she was only nursing Holly when she was in a milk stand. I'm surprised I was brave enough to accept that challange, but I was so excited to get a productive doe, it really didn't phase me at the time. I made sure and got Lilly in her milk stand often enough to feed Holly, then I made sure and milked her myself, which she didn't like. We worked much better together by the end of summer, I think Cole enjoyed milking her too, on the days I had to work. And she even began nursing Holly on her own. The old standard of making sure there was plenty of grain in front of a doe as you milked her was the accepted precedure. But you better milk fast! Once that cup of grain is gone, she's tap dancing her way on outta there! This year, I took a different approach...accidentally.
When Lilly freshened in March, I gave her and her kids a week to themselves. Then, I got her in the milk stand, which she hadn't been in since October. Immediately, I was hit with the difficulty of getting her up there. She's the most unlimber goat I know. But, she finally hopped up, athough very clumsily. And I began the old habit of cleaning and milking and cleaning some more. Then I realized, I didn't give her anything to eat the whole time I was doing this. She didn't wiggle. She didn't bleat. She didn't even kick!
So I just kept at it that way. I've lowered the milk stand to make it easier for her. I give her an animal cracker as I lead her away from the herd, and another when I let her out of the stand. (My goats LOVE animal crackers!) She gives about a quart and a half of milk. My way of milking is this: I seperate the kids at night once they get about 12 pounds, and I only milk in the morning. Their kids take care of what she produces during the day, I get what she makes at night. This worked well last year, especially when we went away for a camping trip. When we go away, we have someone feed them and let them all stay together. No handmilking required! It worked beautifully! We may not be getting a ton of milk, but we're raising great goats on their own milk, and taking only what we need. It feels right to me.
Now on to Penny. She's a first time freshener this year. She's always been a bit flighty, can never get too close to her, unless you have one of those beloved animal crackers in your hand! She was difficult to get started at milking. Dance, bleat, kick, buck, dance. Wow. She wore me right out. But I kept at it. I'll admit there were days where I could have (but did not) just kicked her in the head...moments I feel guilty for now. (I have a temper that makes me imagine punishments reminicsent of medievil torture chambers) Of course, I always kept my composure and smiled at her and gave her a cracker no matter how many times she was aiming for my own skull.
Half of Penny's problem is that she's uber concerned with the where-abouts of her kid. As thats worn off, she's gotten better.
Yesturday, I milked Lilly, smooth sailing as usual. Then I put her back in the pen and caught Penny. I lost my grip on Penny's collar as I led her through the gate. Would you believe that she ran to the milk stand and jumped right up there and waited for me? She did.
I'll interject here and tell you something about me. I swear like a sailor when I talk to myself. So I said something along the lines of holy this or holy that. She just stood there, waiting for her cracker, eyes twinkling. It crossed my mind that she was setting up a trap. But, she followed through. She still dances a bit while I milk her but I always feel it coming and change my position accordingly. I find if I never let go of a teat, she behaves. But the moment both of my hands are free, she thinks she's done.
And so continues my morning routine with the milk dragons. All I can say is this: First year fresheners are capricious little ladies. And thank goodness for animal crackers!
|Posted by Stazha on April 21, 2010 at 3:56 PM||comments (2)|
So I got some new fragrance oils and made two new soaps today: Amber and Vanilla. The vanilla has a soft, warm scent, reminds me of a candle. The amber makes me think of a perfume I used to have although I cannot recall which. I like them both.
The fragrance oils are from a company that makes cosmetic grade fragrances. They are safe for your skin. The tricky part is finding the ones that can withstand the cold process soap technique. Not all make it through very well. This is true of essential oils as well.
The company did call to let me know that the vanilla has a reputation to darken the soap. From dark brown to even black! Woah, right? But I think my soaps could use some natural color varitions so I decided to keep it on my order. Maybe the dark color happens in the gel stage as I haven't seen any color difference yet today.
Two other fragrance oils I have used (honey almond and cucumber melon(not yet available here)) came from a craft store, found in the soap and candle making department. They failed in the cold process soap method. The bottles said they were good for soap but I think the company markets them for melt and pour soaps. The batches got very gloopy immediately when I mixed the scent in. This left me with soap that had a lot of bubbles and spaces in it. I made the best of this by milling the soap and remolding it. It's look is different than the other soaps but it smells just as wonderful and is just as safe to use. In fact, I've read that rebatching it in this way makes it safe to use earlier.
I guess there's some trial and error to be had when experimenting with different scents and altering my recipe. Now I know to look for fragrance oils that are certified cold process safe! But I've also found that I can make the best of a confused batch.:wink:
Be sure to watch the Cure Dates to see what I've been working on. It takes 4 weeks to cure a batch and I list it's release date on that page.
Update! 4-23-10 The vanilla did not darken the soap. I kinda wanted it to.
|Posted by Stazha on April 7, 2010 at 8:55 AM||comments (1)|
After much thought and more than anticipated trials, we seem to have pinned-down a handmade soap mold that we like AND works! It will produce six 4oz bath bars. The bars will have a nice rounded top side, which is what took some experimenting to acheive. Hopefully, this will work consistantly-I think it will!
We are also using a mold that makes 12 smaller, round hand soaps. These are measuring at about 1.75 oz. each but we are working on cutting them at 2 oz consistantly.
With much thanks to friends and family, we have a winner for our soap label! I will get some soap wrapped and new pictures up soon. I found some nice paper (that I could afford) called Bagasse Sugar Paper." Bagasse Sugar Paper is made from 80% sugar cane waste, (otherwise known as “bagasse”;), and 20% Certified Plantation Fibre instead of trees making it 100% biodegradable and recyclable. Even the manufacturing process is sustainable and eco-friendly." No new trees were cut to make it! You too can get this and other awesome treeless paper options at http://www.ecopaper.com/
|Posted by Stazha on March 29, 2010 at 3:48 PM||comments (0)|