Monday, November 27, 2006

Things are hopping...

at Frog Hollow. Sorry, I just couldn't resist!

Starting the day after Thanksgiving, our Christmas tree farm starts to get busy and this year was no exception.

Contrary to the forecast a few days before, the weather was spectacular and folks took advantage of it to take a number of trees out of here.

Others were content to tag theirs in order to return later and cut them in possibly more inclement weather.

It is so nice to see old customers returning year after year. (Those who stuck by us in the lean years which had resulted from some nasty droughts.) Seeing the kids returning each year and how they've grown is always amazing, but the one's who are now grown with their own families is even more astounding! Our own son was less than a year old when we started and now he's in college, so I guess it's pretty amazing to them too!

It's also nice to meet all the new folks who are just discovering us. We have a lot of development going on relatively nearby and those new "neighbors" are finding us.

We were so far out in the "boonies" 20 years ago when we moved here and although we're still well off the beaten trail, civilization is coming to us!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

What happened to the gourds?

If you've been following the saga of the gourd trellis, you may have asked yourself, "What are they going to do with all those gourds?"

Well, this is my first attempt at making a container/bowl from one of them.

I scalloped the top and painted fish all around the surface.

Originally, I was going to make a kind of aquarium out of it, and that may come later on another on, but after the fish were done, it just looked nice that way and I softened the design with some metallics.

Then, I went on to one we were watching all summer. It was caught between two of the cross beams and wound up flattened on both sides, sort of like a canteen. The design is a rub on that we got at A. C. Moore. As soon as I saw it, I knew where it was going to go.

I think it turned out great with a lodge look to it. There is a bear on one side and a moose on the other.

I had drilled holes around the top and had a couple ideas how to finish it. Then I remembered the pine trees outside. Duh, we live on a Christmas tree farm!

The needles will discolor with time, and that won't be a bad thing, but meanwhile they are bright green and throw off a lovely fragrance.

The natural coloring of the gourd just seems to be the right backround and a little stain brought it all out.

Yep, we took a break from the soap yesterday and worked all day and into the dark out in the shop on these babies. I took a break from time to time to work a bit on the magazine. Back to work (soap) today although we may have time to play with another gourd in between! I know Bob is impatient to see one or two made into bird houses so we really need to reward all his hard work with a few of them.

If you want to see the ones Tina made, check her blog. She may not have them up just yet, but they'll be there soon, I can guarantee it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Change is good, change is good...

So, you may ask, "Where has she been?" Well, we've been doing a couple of things at once.

The big thing is that we have been trying out the big soapmaking equipment. From time to time, I decide that it doesn't really make that big of a difference because, after all, we can make 8 or more regular batches in a day. With Tina helping, we are like a "well oiled machine" and just pump them out very easily. We've been making soap together since day one and there is this strange little ballet that we do - each anticipating the next move of the other.

This new equipment is throwing us for a loop because it calls for a completely different dance. Weighing such large quantities of soap - mixing large quantities of lye, daunting. Risking much larger quantities on each pour. You get the idea. It also seems to be pretty picky about at what stage of trace we pour the soap. The much larger mass in the molds causes worries over heat building up and causing other problems.

To the left, I'm mixing a batch in a 5 gallon bucket with a mixer on the end of a drill. (See my Crocs?) The trace takes much longer and that comes as a surprise.

The finished product, though, is very nice - uniform and a LOT of one soap. It will be so nice to have large quantities of some of the varieties - and all in one shot.

The cutter (to the right), although sometimes hard to push through all that soap, just does such a nice job. It's pretty impressive looking, don;t you think?

I've used the same setup for 6 years or so. A great mold and cutter arrangement that my husband, Bob, made for me. We'll still use that for some of the soaps that aren't the best sellers and it's very comfortable.

Yesterday, we made 4 regular batches of various types of soap along with one giant batch of lavender.

The big batches are still pretty touch and go. The lavender is a marbled soap and I can't wait til it comes out of the mold to see how that turned out.

Along with all the soap action, Tina changed the deadline for The Essential Herbal and we're also working on the preliminaries of putting the next edition together. It will be nice to have enough time to proofread it properly etc.

It will be easier as time goes on. I just keep telling myself, "Change is good, change is good!"

Monday, November 06, 2006

Lookie Lookie!

This is pretty exciting.

After we found out about the Farm Show, we decided we are going to have to make a LOT of soap.

With all the other things going on this time of year, we needed to find either a fabulous amount organization or a better system for making a lot of soap.

It just so happened that our brother decided a few years ago that soap making might be a good back up for him since layoffs seemed to be in his horizon. He decided to get into it in a big way and went ahead and bought this bulk soap making equipment.

He made one batch and decided maybe it wasn't for him... so this has been languishing in his basement for some time. He and his wife brought it up last evening and now we have to find a place to lay it all out.

I'm sure it will work out perfectly, but if all else fails, we'll be setting it up in Tina's basement.

Getting the hang of this will be something like learning to make soap all over again, although screwing up a batch of this will be a lot more expensive.

I just love it when a plan comes together!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Exciting News

OMG, OMG, OMG!!!! This is pretty exciting news. Lancaster County Soapworks, Etc., my soap company, just received an acceptance from the Family Living Dept. of the Pennsylvania Farm show to display and demonstrate soap making. 8 days in January - 400,000 people. Better get crackin'. So scary, so cool!

As we so often say, you just never know what will result from the events you participate in. When we did the farm days at Amish Farm & House, we met a quilter who suggested we contact the woman who takes care of that Dept and gave us her name and address because they were looking for a soaper.

We'll be making soap everyday and doing two stage presentations. Oh, and selling! We'll probably be able to take all Tina's publications along as well. This should be great!

Well, there's lots of planning to do and lots of soap to be made - YAY!!!!

Friday, November 03, 2006


Wow, I am just falling behind terribly. Did you ever feel that you had so much going on that you just didn't accomplish anything? I am, of course, but it just seems that I'm not.

While I'm "falling" behind, I did manage to get out and take some pictures of our fall skies and leaves. These are some Sassafras leaves still hanging onto their branch.

I swear the sky isn't this color of blue at any other time of the year. I just love it and always remember one particular bright yellow Gingko tree at the top of a hill at the Renn Faire. Something about that glorious yellow against the bright blue sky always made me so happy!

I have a lot of things I've been saving to finally post and I'll try to fit as many in here today as possible!

At the moment, I'm trying to list a necklace for a charity auction and I'm new at this. I know there's a way to show more than one picture at a time, but I just can't seem to figure it out.

I managed to get some soap listed, but I only needed one picture to pretty much cover the description. The necklace is another matter.

My little fantasy figures seem to be pretty popular. You may notice I've never shown them on my website except in the gallery. That's because they seem to sell as soon as someone sees them and they really do take some time to make.

And then there's the gourd harvest.

I took pictures of each wheelbarrow load as Bob took them in. This is one of three, so you can see we got a pretty nice number off that crazy arbor.

Now we'll see how they dry. Some of the tiny ones and even a few of the medium sized ones are ready to start playing with already. I can't wait!

This is the Bayberry that Bob got for us this spring. The babies seem to have survived pretty well. They were tiny twigs that seemed to have dried up when he put them in their "nursery" this spring. He added some sand to the bedding mix so they would feel more at home.

Spring a year ago, Tina and I planted one lonely little plant down in the woods, thinking that would be the perfect evironment. We forgot how fragrant and, apparently tasty they were to the deer. It was chewed to the nubs almost immediately and we were afraid we wouldn't be able to grow them at all.

Bob proved us wrong - YAY!

And, not to be forgotten, the chicken update.

I brought this egg in the other day and thought it seemed a lot larger than usual. Then I put it in with the others and saw I was definitely right! I suspect we'll have a double or possibly triple yolk.

Can you see the one I mean? What's that Sesame Street song? "One of these things is not like the others....."