Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Monday, October 20, 2014
Meet the newest member of the Farm Family... Sage!
Everyone rides around with a goat in their car, right?
Sage and Abbie... the battle of the ears (or lack of)
Going for an afternoon walk with the herd.
Breakfast & grooming time. She apparently really likes to be brushed!
Sage is a 4 year old LaMancha doe (same breed as Molly and Greta). We are hoping she gets bred this month for March 2015 babies. So far she is settling in well. She's so sweet and mild mannered.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Monday, September 22, 2014
I'm quite excited these days about a few equipment upgrades that we've made and thought I would share a behind the scenes peak of it being put to use.
This is a block mold that holds 50 lbs of soap. I typically make 50 lb batches a few times a week, but they have been poured into eight individual loaf molds.
Remember these? I had these custom made of indestructible HDPE and I love them. They have been used and abused and still look brand spankin' new. These eight molds combine to make 50 lbs of soap, but sometimes pouring that much by hand into eight cavities can be tricky, especially with some of my recipes that set up really fast. The plus side of these molds is that they allow me to do intricate swirls and designs if I like, so I will continue to use them for that purpose.
Big Bertha, as I have lovingly named her, is also made of HDPE plastic. As a block mold, this will allow me to pour all 50 lbs of soap into one cavity. Some of my faster-setting up recipes will benefit from this. While I can still do some swirl designs in this mold, most of what will be made in it will be the solid colored soaps such as Oatmeal, Meadow, Lavender, Plain Jane, etc.
So let's see Big Bertha in action, shall we?
First, the mold has to be lined. With the eight loaf molds I use freezer paper. With this mold, I use freezer paper on the bottom (which is folded to extend up the sides a few inches), and then custom cut sheets of Mylar secured to the sides. The liner allows the soap, once hardened, to slip out of the mold without sticking to the sides and bottom.
Then it is time to make soap. Ingredients gathered, warmed and cooled to the perfect temperature, combined carefully, and then mixed to the appropriate consistency. Since I am making 50 lbs, I prefer to work in large buckets, splitting the batch between the two and mixing them simultaneously. It's easier for me to lift and pour that way.
The resulting "soap batter" is then carefully poured into the big mold. This is where the magic happens... over the next 24 hours, this mixture will go through a natural chemical reaction called saponification (don't you love that word?), it will naturally heat up to about 130 degrees, cool back down, and then start to solidify.
Once it is back to room temperature and solid, the sides are removed to expose the block of soap. The mylar liners are carefully peeled away from the sides.
The block then has to be cut. This grid cutter uses a series of wires to slice the block into 15 loaves. It is custom made to exactly fit this block of soap. It is set on top, centered, and carefully pushed down to the bottom until it is cut all the way through.
This shows the grid cutter pushed all the way down.
The loaves are then carefully removed.
I allow the loaves to air dry and continue to harden for about 48 more hours (more or less, depending on the recipe and weather).
The loaves are then transferred to another wire cutter, that cuts them into perfectly sized uniform bars of soap. One batch yields 140-150 bars of soap, depending on the recipe.
The bars then go to the curing racks, where they cure for eight weeks. After that, they are trimmed up, beveled by hand, boxed and labeled.
And there's your soap!
In a regular week, I typically make three of these batches (150 lbs), or up to five batches. The addition of this block mold upgrade will allow me to nearly double that... but one thing doesn't change at all: it is all still made from scratch, in our farm kitchen, by hand. Just the way we like it.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
A common sight around our farm right now: piles of feathers. We have several birds in our flock growing new feathers and shedding their old ones, which makes for a mess everywhere, and looks like the remnants of something getting attacked every ten feet or so -- especially when you have a free ranging flock of 35+ birds. But no, it's just the beginning of molting season.
The three Silkies hang out in the barn a lot.... they are the divas of the farm, poodles of the chicken world. Since their feathers are more fuzz and less sturdy, when they begin to molt (especially the white one, Daisy), it looks like we've been slaughtering teddy bears in the aisle way.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Monday, September 1, 2014
The past year on The Farm has been a busy one, so we have a lot of catching up to do here on this blog. A few changes, a lot of projects, some losses and some gains. Shall we?
As many of you know, we unexpectedly lost our faithful sidekick Emma shortly before Christmas. She was with us for nearly 12 years and was the first friendly face who greeted everyone at The Farm. She was a trustworthy farm dog, a protective friend and a loving soul. It was the toughest event we have endured here by far, and we miss her every day.
Winter was relentless with regular snowfall that fell weekly from January through February. While we are well aware that you guys up North endure far more... We rarely get snow around these parts. It was cold, but even worse, it was windy and wet, which pushed through our uninsulated house easily. Even through our rationing, we still ran out of firewood twice and had to scramble to remedy the issue.
After tragically losing Emma, we were given an unexpected opportunity by a family who had heard our story. In January, a German Shepherd puppy was donated to our farm. We didn't know if we were ready for another dog, but we both decided that sometimes things just happen that way. We named him Seife, which is German for soap, and he has become the center of our world.
We avoided the incubator this year and decided to let our Silkie hens hatch a couple rounds of chicks for us in late winter. Of course they loved their job of being mamas, and we enjoyed not having to clean the brooders several times a day.
After ten years of being here, we finally hired someone to help us on a regular basis with things around The Farm. So a shout out to Willis! And thank you for everything you do!
We had another successful kidding season with our goats, except for the fact that they had all boys this year. Oh well! At least they were healthy. We sold them all as soon as they were weaned. We are keeping our fingers crossed for girls next year.
Kidding season brought on milking season which means.... cheese! Ahhh, cheese. Lovely, lovely cheese.
We got another major project underway... badly needed electrical upgrade for the house, which was horribly outdated, and all new service run out to the barn and other out buildings for the first time. Not having to feed up at night in the dark with flashlights = GLORIOUS.
Since we had to bring in the Ditch Witch to dig trenches a bazillion feet deep from the house to the barns for the new power lines, we also used the opportunity to put in water lines to the barn at the same time. No more dragging water hoses from the house to the stalls anymore.
We hit a huge milestone... in June we celebrated our ten year anniversary as well as ten years on The Farm. If you remember, we got married and moved to this old farm in the same week. Happy anniversary to us!!
Seife has continued to grow....
...And so has the soap business. 2014 has brought on new packaging that reflects the 1800s era of our farm, equipment upgrades, production increases and a few new products. But there is one thing we haven't changed: It is all still made by hand, from scratch, right in our kitchen.
There's been more, so we will fill in the gaps in the coming weeks as we elaborate on finished, current and future restoration projects as well as the daily farm shenanigans. We thank you for following our journey so far!