Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall Harvest

My sister is Tina Sams and she publishes herbal books along with her magazine, The Essential Herbal. We have been attending a number of herbal classes and an herbal conference in North Carolina just the other week. All this herbal learning and remembering (from when we had our herb shop) seems to be inspiring me to get back to working more with herbs again.

Fall is here and the days are getting cooler, threatening frost in the not too distant future, so this afternoon, I decided I had better harvest a couple of things before my chance was over.

This past Saturday, my sister and I attended a class at The Rosemary House in Mechanicsburg, PA. The class was taught by Gail Faith Edwards of Blessed Maine Herb Farm. One of the herbs that Gail spoke of was Witch Hazel or Hamamelis virginiana.  She explained that while the witch hazel that we know in the US is a distillation, in Europe, it is tinctured and the resulting alcohol is used as a muscle rub.
I had some green isopropyl alcohol, which means it has oil of wintergreen added to it. We had learned about green alcohol from Phyllis Light at a class earlier this year and just out of curiosity, I had found some and bought a bottle of it.  By itself, it is supposed to be superior to regular old rubbing alcohol for sore muscles. I figured adding witch hazel would only make it better.

I took the witch hazel up to Tina's and we pulled all the blossoms off the twigs, along with a few leaves and then chopped the smaller twigs into a canning jar.  Finally we poured the alcohol over it and though we hadn't put it on before I took the picture, labeled it with the contents and the date.  This is just for personal use.

I had already harvested one batch of comfrey just before we had our summer deluges and it dried so beautifully that I thought it would be nice to get another batch dried for use in our bath herbs.

Here it is laid out on a sheet in my sister's unused second floor bedroom. Comfrey has such a mucilaginous nature that it never seems to get completely dry.
In a week or so, this should be dry enough to process.  I'll remove the big central ribs and whirl the leaves in a blender to make a lively green dried herb to add to some of our products.  This will only yield a few ounces, but home dried herbs seem to be far superior to even those from some of the best commercial sources.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Holiday Soaps

We've been busy and are happy to present our new line of Holiday Soaps. Some are older soaps, specially dressed up for the holidays and others are brand new.

Our ever popular Bayberry and Doublemint soaps are just extra gorgeous in their new packaging.

Our new additions, Citrus Spruce and Holiday Wine were heartily approved at the wholesale show where we introduced them on Monday and Tuesday.

Check them out on our website shop under seasonal soaps.

We hope to be having special soaps each season of the year from now on.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Making my own Custom Soap Stamp

This morning, I decided to carry through on something I wanted to do for some time. We make a very simple lard and lye soap for some of the historic places that like to carry it. We call it "Granny's Lye Soap."It is wrapped in a cellophane bag with a sticker label and the bag is tied with a piece of twine. I decided it would be nice to put a stamp onto the bar. I had a stamp made years ago of our quilt patch logo and it was working beautifully as you can see above. Then the handle broke off....
Okay, I can still hammer the stamp itself into the soap. Then the stamp broke apart!

I decided it was time to bite the bullet and get a new, real soap stamp. I googled "custom soap stamp" and lo and behold, I found instructions to make your own soap stamp.

The instructions involved using two-part casting epoxy and I have been using some to make jewelry for a while. This seemed to be a little more solid, so I went to our local crafts store to get the type she mentioned.

I reassembled the stamp for one last imprint and made a "mold." Followed the instructions in the box and poured the stamp:
Here's a close up of the stamp still in the mold:
This will be ready to unmold in 24 hours and ready to try out in 72 hours... I'm pretty excited!

I'm sure I'll be posting the results soon.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Life is just a bowl of ...


Yesterday, we decided it was time to brave the copious thorns of the rose rugosa and gather the abundant rosehips that glow like rubies in the lush greenery of the plant.
We started out with about twice this many hips, since we decided to take pictures halfway through!
We basically peeled the hips to get all the juicy outside while avoiding the seeds and tiny hairs inside.
Finally, we laid the juicy skins on a window screen to let them dry. They may eventually wind up in the dehydrator if they don't dry quickly enough.
I can't wait to see how they dry. I suspect they will be much more vibrant than the rosehips we purchase already dried. That seems to be true of so many herbs.

Along with other wonderful, natural ingredients such as rose water, biodynamic cream, real essential oils and rose clay, we use rosehips in our new Rose Milk soap .

Whenever we can, we like to use herbs that we grow right here on the farm.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

For the Outdoors

In the summer, when we are outside and enjoying nature, there are a few little things that can really "bug" us! Over the years, we have worked to perfect a great recipe to discourage those things and have finally come up with what we think is the best all-natural formula we have ever used.
Our Git Stick and Git Spritz are effective and safe to discourage all sorts of buzzing beasties in the outdoors. Both contain catnip essential oil, which has been found in studies by Iowa State University to be 10 times as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes. They also contain rose geranium essential oil which is said to repel ticks along with a variety of other all natural oils chosen because of their traditional repellent qualities.

The nice part is that the combination of oils is a rather pleasant scent for the human nose!

The little Git Stick is small enough (.35 oz.) to carry in a pocket or purse and slip out to run around wrists, ankles and neck to discourage "things" trying to slip inside clothes! The base of the lotion bar is a combination of great, moisturizing tropical oils with a bit of beeswax to hold it all together.

The Git Spritz is a nice 4 ounce spray bottle and has a bit of cedarwood oil added to the basic blend. The cedarwood seems to help with those pesky gnats! We like to spray it all over and especially, lightly on our hair. The base of the Spritz is distilled water with a bit of denatured alcohol to act as a preservative and dispersant. A bit of Polysorbate 20 is added to keep the whole thing well mixed.

Just in case, though, something should get through this defense, or you should stumble into a patch of poison ivy (remember: leaves of three, let them be!) we have a wonderful all natural soap to help.
We call it Happy Wanderer and to our basic soap, we add a slurry of fresh Jewelweed and Plantain.

We learned about Jewelweed and mosquitoes many years ago when we camped with the Girl Scouts in a swamp! Jewelweed really helps with the itch and we suggest the suds should be left on the skin to dry out and then washed off, hoping to dry out mosquito bites and to remove all traces of the oils from poison ivy.

Plantain is so soothing, we have watched a baby who had closed its little fist around a bee (ouch!) go from screams of pain to surprise and calm after plopping a fistful of mashed plantain in its little hand.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Welcome to our new blog!

For the past 6 years, Lancaster County Soapworks, Etc. has been sharing a blog with Torchsong Studio and it is high time for us to have our very own blog!

Here we will be able to to tell you about the ingredients used in our soaps, the science behind the soap making process, and keep you informed as to our specials and new items.

We will be posting pictures of our latest creations and be able to offer special deals to our followers.

Becoming a customer of Lancaster County Soapworks, Etc. is very easy. You can order directly from our website as long as you meet our $100 minimum and have a tax number.
We are not only soaps - even though we have a wide and varied selection - we also carry some wonderful body care products such as spritzes, lotion bars, tub teas and lip balms.
Check us out - subscribe to our feed and you will be glad you did!