Business Planning · Home Remedies · Lazer Creek Apiary

Soaps, Lotions, and Salves

We’ve had the book Beeswax Alchemy for quite a while, but we had to build the workshop before I could start refining wax and trying different recipes. My large workbench is ideal for refining wax and making candles, and I thought I’d make everything there but realized it was less than ideal for some projects. I made the first batch of lye soap outside because of the fumes, but that wasn’t such a good idea as the breeze made getting all of the lye into the water a challenge. That first batch turned out okay, but then we had to move the soap to a dust-free environment where it also wasn’t in the way. I’ve since moved lotions, salves and soaps to the RV where I have lots of previously unused cabinet space and air-conditioning! We may as well put the RV to use for more than 4 weeks out of the year!

I first experimented with the massage lotion bars from Beeswax Alchemy. It’s an easy recipe that uses beeswax, cocoa butter, and sesame oil. It’s a lot softer than a lotion bar that a friend bought me last year and therefore very good for foot and shoulder rubs. It’s also been great for moisturizing sunburned skin. It stops my dry-skin itchiness without leaving a greasy feel on my skin or my clothes. At night, I wipe what’s left on my hands onto my face and it seems to be working as well as my store-bought night creams. I don’t add any scents because I love the chocolatey smell of the cocoa butter, but I have started to infuse the sesame oil with calendula blossoms.

Next up was Beeswax Alchemy’s Itch Soother salve. This is still a recipe for beginners, but the first step is the most difficult for someone like me as it requires patience! I had to wait a few days for my herbs to arrive and then an additional two weeks for the herbs to infuse the olive oil. I was like a kid waiting for Christmas looking at, rotating, and sniffing the mason jar far more often than was necessary! After that, it’s pretty much just a matter of mixing the oils with melted beeswax and the salve is done. At first I was disappointed because it doesn’t do much for winter-dry skin, but I’ve since used it on bee stings and fire ant bites and it works wonders. I’ve twice had a stinger left stuck in my skin (bee in the pants and bee in the jacket) and had the normal two inch diameter red spot. I applied the salve twice in that day and the next morning could not even see where I was stung. (Recovering from a bee sting is normally at least a 3 day process for me.) Friends have used it for tick and mosquito bites and been equally pleasantly surprised.

My first attempt to make soap used a recipe I found on Pinterest from My Frugal Home. It uses melt-and-pour soap base and honey — that’s it! I love the simplicity of the recipe and the soap. This is a recipe I would make with kids as the only thing to worry about is warming the soap base, but I want to use our apiary products, so I had to step up to making soap with lye.

I used another Pinterest recipe for lye soap attempt one. The Nerdy Farm Wife has a recipe for Chamomile Almost Castile Soap that I made without infusing the oil with chamomile simply because I don’t have any yet! I did however use chamomile tea, so I was halfway there. The biggest issues were overcoming my nerves and the need to rapidly change containers when my “sturdy” plastic bowl started to distort due to the heat! I’ve been using a small bar of soap from that batch even though it really needs another two weeks to cure, and I love the way it makes my skin feel and lathers up.

I wanted to try a soap that used beeswax and honey next, so I turned to Honey Crafting by Leeann Coleman and Jayne Barnes — a birthday gift from a wonderful friend. The Honey Castile Soap was easy to make and the directions were very well written. Of course, I was missing an ingredient for that one, but we just finished our first bar that does not contain nutmeg and it’s Hubby’s favorite so far. I made another batch today with cinnamon and nutmeg in addition to the honey and beeswax; it turned out even better than the first attempt. I’m getting better at setting up my workspace and learned a couple of lessons with the last soap I made, and the experience showed in better blended soap that I poured before it set up too much!

So that last batch of soap — back to Beeswax Alchemy, but this time to an advanced recipe. Part of what makes it advanced is that it uses four oils in addition to beeswax and honey. It’s also a larger batch, and that led to uneven mixing, which led to a bar not setting up.

Today I took care to mix in what was up around the edge of the bowl and, even with the easier recipe, was surprised by how much oily mix there was. That’s two-fold problem as the lye and oils need to be in correct proportions for the saponification process to occur correctly. If the balance is incorrect, the soap can have too much oil (messy) or unprocessed lye (dangerous). I ended up one small bar of soap from that batch that was oily because I filled the mold with what I scrapped from around the bowl, but the rest were fine, although we haven’t tried that one yet because it needs another four weeks of curing time. I’m eyeing a few more recipes, but first our friends and I need to test-drive what I’ve made already and I have to calculate the costs for each type of bar. While this is fun, and I can see many benefits of making soap for our own consumption, it would make no sense to make soap to sell if I can’t make a profit.

Meanwhile, the bees are storing nectar and capping honey; the chickens are starting to cluck and change into their adult feathers; the blueberries keep looking like they are almost ready to harvest; and, of course, life is always good on the farm!

Business Planning

Hubby learns the true value Of Patience

Hubby here:
Patience? We all use the word directed at others when we want them to slow or wait for something. We also like to describe ourselves as being patient. Me personally, I have now added the word “patience” to my project design and time analysis over the last year. I’ve also directly related patience to time. Over the last year as we have grown in our skills and knowledge on the farm I personally, and very humbly, have come to realize if you analyze your project or task and determine for example that putting up barbed wire fencing will only take about 1 1/2 to 2 days… triple that or even quadruple that time!! Then figure out if it will be 100 plus degrees during the day or will the infamous biting ladybugs drive you to distraction. And worst, when you feel your age, exhaustion and that durn picket post-pounder has mysteriously gained 40 pounds by the end of the day that maybe you really do need to add a few more days to the project. “Patience”… my new word for the day.

Business Planning · Farmers · Government Agencies

AgAware/Agsouth

Bee on lavender, June 2016

The school year is over, JROTC camp is over, hubby is on vacation, and we are very much looking forward to waking up on our own land.   We still have water and septic lines to finish up and bees to move, but when a friend told us about a couple of workshops this week, we felt attending them was well worth delaying other projects, and we were right.

Yesterday we attended the Team Agriculture Georgia (TAG) Workshop for Small, Beginning, and Limited Resource Farmers.   We learned a lot about the resources (financial and other) available to us.  Even though hubby’s degrees are in business, farming is a different kind of business than the ones he studied in school.  AgSouth offers many courses at no cost to farmers, some of which help you qualify for FSA loans.  I have four typed pages of notes just about creating a business plan.   One of the things that stood out to me from the AgSouth presentation is that we need to move our mindset away from bee-keeping as a hobby and toward bee-keeping as a business.   While I’ve thought of it as a business, the presentation made me realize that I was actually still mentally in hobby mode.   Our conversations since yesterday have been productive.   Something as simple as setting a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, rewarding, and timed  (a SMART goal) instead of having a general goal of wanting “more” bees and honey has made me think deeply.

The afternoon session we attended informed us about USDA programs available.   The Natural Resources Conservation Service is there to help private landowners make good conservation decision, and they will come to your farm to make suggestions about all kinds of things.  One of the things mentioned was “herbaceous weed control” and we’re wondering if they’d have suggestions as to how to get rid of the blackberries and those spiny vines!

The first session we attended was about honey bees and other pollinators.  While we already knew much of what was discussed, we did pick up some good additional information and it stroked our egos to realize how much we do know!   We also got some ideas about services we can possibly offer to farmers and beginning bee-keepers in our area.

Today we attended an AgAware Marketing Seminar that was replete with information and resulted in another 4 pages of typed notes in addition to hubby’s notes.   When he finally makes it home through the wind, and the rain, and the downed trees, and downed power lines (it’s been a long, interesting trip home for him), we’ll combine notes and discuss which of the many things we want to research from both days to prioritize.

If anyone is interested, I’d be glad to share my notes, but I strongly recommend attending workshops like these, especially if you are just getting started, or even just thinking about, building an agriculture business of any size.   We learned so much and we are so excited to refine our business plan.

Other news that I still need to blog about:  we harvested our first honey, we waterproofed the RV roof, we dug trenches for water lines, and we drank from our well.  It’s been an exciting few weeks!  My brain has been rebelling against putting anything into complete sentences or proof-reading, but I’m ready to start writing again now.