Star Harvest Farm

~Hand made soaps for the soul~


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Sometimes Husbands Have Good Ideas

Sarah

I’m going to make Hunter’s Soap. I haven’t made it yet, but I’m going to be making it very soon.

The soap was not my idea, it was my husband’s. This should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows him

He loves the outdoors. He loves hunting. He loves…Duck Dynasty. (Insert rolling-eyes smiley here.)

In fact, it was Duck Dynasty that provided the spark of inspiration that is behind my soon-to-be, wildly-successful Hunter’s Soap. (I’ll probably call it something else though…maybe something like…”My Husband is a Closet Redneck”). One evening, after thoroughly enjoying an episode of Duck Dynasty (which he had DVR’d), my husband said, “You need to make a camo-soap. A soap that will mask human scent, or even eliminate it. You can make it look like camouflage soap, right?”

I looked dubious…and not a little disdainful. “You want a camouflage soap?” I asked. “Does that mean you want your soap to blend into the underbrush so it can’t be seen?”

My husband looked impatient. “No, I just thought it would be more appealing to the whole hunting demographic (redneck-wannabees occasionally know words like, “Demographic.”).

“I can do that,” I said.  “Do you really think there is a market for it?”

“Yes,” said my husband. We live in Virginia. It’s like the state sporting event…or at least it should be.”

Soooooo, I did some research, and discovered that it is quite possible, not to mention acceptable, to create a hunter’s soap in camouflage colors. Apparently, there are a few essential oils, like anise star and cedarwood,  that will mask human scent, and/or remove it (temporarily, of course). There are also several natural color choices for olive green, and brown. My curiosity had been piqued. I made a few orders, did a little more research,  and calculated some formulations.

Hunter’s Soap is going to become a reality! And truthfully, I am actually looking forward to making this Hunter’s Soap, or as I like to call it, “My Husband is a Closet Redneck Soap.”

And who knows, my husband has been right on a few occasions. He married me, didn’t he? Maybe this soap will become a national hit. Maybe I’ll even go global. The President will give me the key to the city. They’ll throw camouflaged-themed parades in my honor, and maybe…just maybe, a slick TV producer will make a reality show about me and my soap business. I already have the title: “Soap Dynasty.” ;)

 

Sarah

PS: Yes, I’ll post pictures when I’m finished. Don’t I always?

camo

 

 

 

 


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Is it Summer Yet?

Sarah

 

Sorry I haven’t blogged lately. I had the Christmas rush, and then I spent much of January and February making soap…or being sick. *sigh*

That being said, it was a very successful holiday season for Star Harvest Farm, and I’m grateful for all my friends, relatives and new friends who have taken the time to promote the business, and specifically my beloved soap.

Beloved soap. Yes, that is what it is. Soap making is a passion, an addiction, and if you ask my husband…it’s an obsession.  And in truth, he has a point. There have been more than a few instances, when he’s caught me pretending to listen to him, when I am actually constructing soap or lotion recipes in my head.

“Sarah!!” He’ll shout.

“Huh?” I will say…rather sheepishly.

“I just asked you if you remembered to race down the road in your pajamas, while clucking like a chicken and you said, ‘Yes.’”

“Oh. I’m sorry,” I’ll say. “I was just thinking about…”

“You were thinking about soap,” he’ll finish for me.

“Yes.”

And I was.  It happens that way a lot. I’ll suddenly be struck by a theme, or a fragrance, and my brain will be off and running.  In fact at this writing, I have eight to ten partially finished recipes in my mental soap repertoire.

But some of my best-selling soaps are the result of my saponified (chemical reaction) ruminations. I made Starry Night Soap, while thinking about Vincent Van Gogh. Gwynnie’s Soap was the result of my concern over a loved-one’s skin condition…and my newest, and prettiest soap to date, was created in an attempt to shake off the icy fingers of winter, and the gray clouds that cling to the tops of the trees in my back yard.

I was longing for warm sunshine, and hot sand…which started me thinking about the smells and tastes of summer. And it wasn’t long before I formulated a cucumber and melon soap recipe.

I managed to find a watermelon at the grocer, extracted some juice, and put it in my soap along with the juice of a cucumber. I selected my coloring method and other ingredients carefully (well, I always do, actually), and I created my Cucumber & Melon Soap. I will probably call it Summer Soap…because that’s what it reminds of.

Now I have dozens of beautiful green and pink swirled soaps curing on the shelf. The smell of watermelon and crisp cucumber originating from the soaps, has permeated my house, and the effect it has had on my psyche has been nothing short of miraculous.

I was so pleased with the soap, that I took pictures of it, and posted the pictures on Facebook, which you can find under Star Harvest Farm, LLC (for my millions of fans out there).

But, for those who don’t Facebook (and honestly, I see your point sometimes), here is my Summer Soap. The pictures are set against the gray winter sky, but you will see that the soap is already providing a sharp contrast to the waning days of winter, and points to green, and sunshine…and summer!

Sarah

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Soap, the Hurricane and My Mother-in-law

Hurricanes are not fun…well, maybe a teensy bit of fun, if it’s a Cat I hurricane you’re dealing with, and it causes nothing more sinister than a small craft advisory. But in the present case scenario, Hurricane Sandy is/was not fun. The sustained high-velocity winds and the uncharacteristic cold and ice, made it a miserable storm.

As the wind howled, and the disenfranchised leaves smacked the side of my house, I thought to myself: “Wouldn’t this be the perfect time to make soap? I could call it Hurricane Soap, or Soap Storm…something weather-related for sure!”

Ideas began to take shape in my head, and I quickly gathered ingredients, all the while looking anxiously out the window. Time was an issue, since I knew that we would lose electric power at any time. I really only needed enough time to heat my oils. Everything else required mere brain power, timing, and finesse.

I worked swiftly, now committed to the soap I had created in my mind. My Mother-in-law, (who was staying with us for the duration of the storm), watched me working, and shook her head at least once. “The power is going to go out, and you’re going to be stuck with a pot of oil,” she said. I shushed her (politely, of course), and continued to work. I hovered over the oils as they warmed, and pre-measured everything else. It was now a race against Mother Nature. Would the storm cut my power prematurely? Would I be stuck with a pot of oil? Would there be soap? Would my Mother-in-law finally realize that her son had not married a goose-brained girl? Only time would tell…

…and there was soap. The oils warmed, and melted. The mixing progressed without mishap, and I successfully poured my soap…just as the electricity finally cut out.  The timing was poetic. I managed to look smug, as I sat down with my Mother-in-law that evening. We sipped Cabernet, and watched the storm raging outside in the intensifying twilight. “What are you going to call your soap?” She asked. “I haven’t decided.” I said. “I want to name it something weather-related.”  “Oh,” she said. “How about Rain Soap?”   I looked at her balefully. “No. That’s not going to adequately describe my soap,” I said. “Naming Soap is an art. I take it quite seriously. You’ll have to just wait and see what the soap’s name will be.” Now it was my Mother-in-law’s turn to look at me balefully. “It’s just soap, Sarah.” [Oh, the humanity!] “Thank you for pointing that out,” I said. “I’ll keep that fact in mind.”

Now sometimes, when I make soap, I try to begin with an inspiration or a theme. In this case, the hurricane was my impetus. In fact, as I mentioned above, I considered calling it hurricane soap. But, as I put the finishing decorative touches on the top of the soap, I realized that I was also thinking about winter, and Christmas. So, after choosing and discarding several names I chose a rather simple name, but I believe it eloquently describes my soap…

And so, drum roll (rimshot) please…I give you Snow & Ice Soap.

Snow & Ice Soap

For the record, my Mother-in-law loved the soap, and I promised her some, once it had cured. She kept picking it up so that she could inhale the fragrances I had added to the soap, and said, “This reminds me of snow and ice and Christmas!”

“Exactly.”

I accepted my accolades with equanimity, and waved good-bye cheerfully, as my Mother-in-law left for her home on the water’s edge.

Thank goodness for soap, and Mothers-in-law and stormy nights. And thank goodness for snow and ice, the dawning of clearer days, and waving good-bye…

;)

Sarah


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No Lye. No Soap.

Handcrafted soap

We were selling our soaps, lotions, etc., at a fall festival recently, and a well-meaning lady (at least, I *think* she was well-meaning; let’s give her the benefit of the doubt, shall we?), announced to me that she made all her own soaps, and she was only interested in 100% organic soaps! She picked up one of my soaps, and began reading the ingredients on the label.

She read the list for a few seconds, and said, “I have a problem with the sodium hydroxide you’ve listed in your ingredients.” I politely told her that in soapmaking, there is sodium hydroxide (lye) at the beginning of the process, but there is no lye in the finished product. She shoved the bar in my face, and pointed to the words, “Sodium Hydroxide.”  “It’s on your label, see?” I smiled and tried to explain the process of saponification to her (the chemical reaction that occurs between lye and oils, resulting in soap).  She shook her head, and said, (again) “I only use 100% organic soaps; no lye; and I make all my own organic soaps, too.”  I smiled again, and said, “Oh, are you speaking about soap bases?”  She shook her head, and said, “Are you telling me you make your own soap bases?”

At this point, I realized we were speaking on different planes, and I simply took a step back, and told her that she was free to peruse my products, and I wished her well. She eventually left in a huff (I’m still not exactly sure why she was irritated with me). I sighed. It is always difficult when people have just a little information.

So, for the dear lady who insisted that she makes 100% organic soaps, without lye…and for everyone else who says to me, “Oh, my grandmother used to make LYE soap!”

Allow me to gently enlighten you…

You cannot make soap without lye. Let me say this again: You cannot make soap without lye. The soap your grandmother made, and the handcrafted soaps we make today, are basically the same chemical process.  [I believe at this point my grandmother would say, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Amen Grandma.]

Soap is the result of a chemical process (reaction) between an alkali (lye, chemical name: sodium hydroxide), and fats or oils (ex: olive oil, coconut oil, etc.). The resulting chemical substance is a salt. Yes, soap is a salt. It is no longer a fat or an oil, and there is no sodium hydroxide in the soap either. It is soap. It is not lye. It is not fat or oils. It is soap. Got it?  When the lye is introduced into the oils, a chemical reaction occurs, and the oils  are stripped of their fatty acids. The fatty acids combine with the lye (sodium hydroxide, or alkali), and form a salt, which is soap. Glycerol (glycerin) is liberated from the oils, and becomes part of the final soap product. (Commercial soap companies usually remove the glycerin and sell it separately. That is part of the reason hand made soaps are so much better for your skin.)

We should also address the huffy lady’s claim, that she makes all her own soap, and,  “It’s 100% organic!” Well…not so fast.

Handmade soap that Grandma would be proud of.

The hard truth is, most soaps, and certainly the soap bases that you simply melt and pour into molds, began as…fats/oils and lye. And lye, dear readers, is an inorganic chemical. This fact renders all soaps, [whether you make them from scratch (cold/hot process), or purchase a soap base, and reform them] as less than 100% organic. In fact, even if you use oils and ingredients that are certified as 100% organic, the hard truth is that as long as you are using sodium hydroxide (lye, alkali…c’mon, you should know this by now) somewhere in the process, the soap IS NOT organic. You can say that you used 100% organic oils in the production of your soap, but it is not, by its very nature… 100% organic.

So, the next time you are purchasing handmade or handcrafted soap, remember that it IS the same chemical process that Grandma used, and that’s not a bad thing…nor is it 100% organic, either.

And if you ever encounter a manufacturer, that claims their soap is 100% organic…the chances are excellent that the manufacturer is…misinformed. (Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, shall we? ;)  )

Sarah


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For the Love of Mint

I know it’s been a while since I wrote my last blog. We’ve been busy with Fall Festivals, and increasing our inventory for the holidays. But, things have settled down for the time being, and I have carved out a precious niche of time this bright Sunday morning, to write, drink my cinnamon-flavored coffee and absorb the ambiance of topaz-colored trees in the midst of their autumn swan songs.

Peppermint, drying.

I harvested the last of this year’s herbs yesterday…peppermint, spearmint and bayberry. I’ve already selected them, washed them, and placed them in the drying racks. Mints, are my favorite herbs.  Bayberry is a close second, but the mint family offers a wide variety of medicinal and culinary benefits, that allow me to tailor the attributes I’m looking for when I create a soap or lotion recipe.  Not to mention the unbelievably wonderful smell that wafts from the plant, even when dried.

As I plucked the leafy herbs from their stems, I was reminded once again of the fragility of peppermint.  Its delicate leaves are always a bit of a surprise to me. It’s quite diminutive next to its very sturdy cousin spearmint. Peppermint essential oil is so pungent. It just doesn’t seem to match its fragile origin.

As I worked my way to the end of the herb row, I reveled in the simplicity and timelessness of the activity…harvesting herbs. This is one of the most satisfying aspects of making my own personal care products. I love the idea and the reality of using my farm-grown, nutrient-rich herbs in my soaps and lotions. I love having control over the quality and amount that goes into my recipes, and I love the results.

And, as one might surmise, I have a significant line of mint soaps and lotions that I’ve developed. All of them pay homage, in one way or another, to one of the mints we’ve grown and harvested. In fact our signature soap, Starry Night, bears the scent of peppermint, and it’s our best seller. Apparently, I’m not the only one who loves mint.

Sarah

Starry Night Soap :)


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Fig Rhapsody

There’s something special about figs. I know. I know. You were probably thinking the same thing. ;)

But truly, what is it about figs? Jesus was obviously fond of them, well…at least some of the time, unless he was emphasizing the ill-fated fig tree that refused to bear fruit…but that has no bearing here. (No pun intended). I’m talking about well-behaved fig trees. Fig trees that bear fruit. I’m talking about MY fig trees.

Ah yes, my fig trees. I have fig trees, and hence figs. To anyone in the deep south, this is not a great feat, but here in the mid-Atlantic region, it’s certainly not common to find fig trees, and even less common to find figs. Nevertheless, I have found myself utterly fascinated with the propagation, care, feeding and harvesting of figs. Perhaps the fascination comes from a distant memory of eating canned figs as a little girl. Perhaps it comes from an on-again, off-again relationship with Fig Newtons (come on, you know you’ve had a similar experience). Perhaps it’s the quiet non-conformist in me. I don’t want my fruit trees to be like everyone else’s fruit trees. Or, perhaps it’s that peculiar need to root for the underdog…I’m not really sure where the fascination came from, but I possess it all the same.  And it steered me to the nursery several years ago to begin my pilgrimage as a fig farmer. (I’m not sure I like the sound of the title, “Fig Farmer,” it sounds too close to, “Pig Farmer.” But, I digress, yet again.)

When I arrived on the farm with my fig trees, my husband looked dubious.  Okay…he looked at me like I had completely lost touch with reality, but I simply laughed at his incredulity and told him I would make figs happen. So, I carefully chose sheltered, sunny spots, with a western exposure (not ideal, but my husband wouldn’t let me plant them where everyone could see them on the south side of the farm), and I coddled them, and fed them. I researched fig tree care in the winter, and feeding schedules in the spring.  And, after much fretting, tending and yes, praying, I was rewarded a few weeks ago, with figs. Beautiful, sweet, purple figs. I was ridiculously elated, when I drove up to the fig, “Orchard,” and discovered ripened, purple fruit hanging from the branches. I plucked them from their resting place, and proudly showed them to my husband, who, (to his credit) patted me on the head, and said, “Okay, what do you do with figs?” Uhhhhh…  (*Insert snarky figgy pudding comments here.)

What DO you do with figs? I have a friend who suggested that I try to make homemade Fig Newtons, which I decided against, because I’m still in the off-again mode with Fig Newtons. I have another friend who suggested that I just eat them fresh, which I did do, and I highly recommend. Everyone should develop a taste for fresh figs.

But the truth is…I had plans all along for my beautiful figlets. (my word ;)  )I wanted to use them in my soaps. Figs were used by the ancients as a remedy for sun-damaged skin, inflammation, eczema and psoriasis.  They also possess phytochemicals which may reduce the risk of some cancers. Hence, I’ve already dried, freezed and pulverized some of my figs into fig powder, and I will be using that powder in a soap I plan to make for the fall…which I will famously name (rimshot…), “Cranberry Fig Soap.”

Of course, that’s not the only way I intend to use my figs…

…ever heard of fig wine…? ;)

 

Sarah


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Sugar and Swamp…

Much of the nuts and bolts of building a business will be behind me soon, and frankly, I can’t wait. I may have been born to be a chemist, a writer, a teacher…maybe even a medicine woman if I had been born in a different time and a different place…but I was not born to be a business woman. In fact, I salute all of the men and women out there, who have an affinity for business, and a mind for banking, accounting and marketing. God bless you. Long life to you. How much do you charge an hour? ;)

That being said, I am grateful for this experience. It makes me look forward all the more to getting back to making soap, and lotion and all manner of good, sweet-smelling, beneficial products. In fact, I missed it so much that I took a break from my work to make some sugar scrubs. My husband has become fond of the sugar scrubs I make, but he wanted something that looked and smelled masculine. So, after carefully listening to the list of characteristics he wanted in his sugar scrub, I dispatched myself to the kitchen, and made him a lovely scrub. It’s green and moisturizing without being too oily, and of course, it’s been scented with the natural scent of cedarwood and patchouli essential oils. He came downstairs this morning, and pronounced the scrub a success. So, I told him he could name it. And what do you suppose he named my beautiful creation?  “Swamp Scrub.” Anyone who knows him shouldn’t be surprised, but I may rename it when I put it up for sale.

Nevertheless, here it is. Swamp Scrub: It’s green; it’s outdoorsy; it’s nourishing for your skin, and it doesn’t embarrass my husband when he uses it. I should also mention, that aside from resembling the color of brackish water, it has nothing in common with the swamp!

The only thing swampy about it is the color!

Sarah

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