Sunday, November 13, 2011

Another "DUH" Moment

I just had another “duh” moment and it’s one that has created a change in how I’m going to be doing things in the future. More specifically, it’s going to change how I make soap. So for all of my soap customers I will start by saying “I’m very sorry!” But at the same time, I have to say to you, “You’re very welcome!”

Here’s a little of the back story of how I reached this moment (and what exactly this moment is). In July I met Miss Effie and we talked about having my soap in her Summer Kitchen. In conversation number two with Miss Effie she gave me a challenge…she wanted to know if I would be interested in creating a signature scent for her. To say that I was excited would be an unbelievable understatement.

I got to work immediately. I tinkered, I changed, I threw out, I started over, I bought new essential oils, I named it, I renamed it, etc, etc. And then we found two scents that were definite possibilities. We decided it was time to take these scent formulations and make soap with them. After both cured, she put them to a scent test and the winner was chosen unanimously! The process took 2 ½ months; “Miss Effie’s Signature Bees Knees Goat Milk Soap” was created and available for sale exclusively in the Summer Kitchen.

And this is where my slump started. Slump? Who said anything about a slump? I did, and I was in one. I suddenly didn’t like making soap anymore. What?!?! After all of that, I don’t like making soap anymore? Nope! It was a chore. It wasn’t fun. I even considered not making soap at all.

Buy why? What happened? And here was the “DUH” moment in the shower this morning, (I do my best thinking in the shower – using my soap) it’s not that I don’t like making soap. What I don’t like is the rut that I have fallen into jumped into head first. As a business owner, I have this self-proposed stigma that I can never be out of anything. If a customer wants a bar of Lavender soap, I better have a bar of Lavender soap. And because of this, I have fallen into production mode. By pushing myself into this way of thinking I have killed my creative ability. I have no time to create something new because I’m constantly working to make sure I have my shelves stocked with scents that I’ve already created.

Not anymore folks! Yes, I’ll still have staple scents like lavender and peppermint. Sometimes the Lavender soap will be simply Lavender, but sometimes it might have Patchouli in it or maybe even some oatmeal. So back to my apology…if you have a favorite scent, you should stock up because there is now a chance that at times I won’t have it. (Disclaimer: As long as Miss Effie wants her signature scent in the Summer Kitchen, she will have it.)

I can say for the first time in a couple of months that I am excited about making soap! I have herbs and loufa sponges that we grew for the sole purpose of my soaping adventures and I can’t wait to use each and every one of them…just not together, or maybe I will!

Monday, October 10, 2011

February Itch – Planning A Project

According to the “Mr.” dictionary...

Itch noun
\ˈfe-b(y)ə-ˌwer-ē, \ˈich\

the time in which one is beyond stir crazy, is ready to crawl out of his or her skin with boredom, therefore pacifying oneself with reading and planning spring and summer projects. One must be forewarned that graph paper will be used in excess and more money than planned will be spent.

The February Itch can be blamed for many all of the projects around here. No matter the project, it has the same rhythm and mimics my favorite children’s book… If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. The projects go something like this…

“If you give Mr. a new book, he’s going to order another one. When the post office delivers the second book, he’ll probably ask for some graph paper. When he’s finished, he’ll make a list of everything he needs. Then he’ll want to look through all of the most recent building supply sales flyers. When he looks through the sales flyers, he’ll get another idea that could make his project better. So he’ll probably ask for more graph paper. When he’s finished with the second round of graph paper, he’ll want to take a trip the building supply store. He’ll start shopping. He might get carried away and find a new really expensive tool that will make the project that much easier. He may even end up buying a cordless 4-tool combo kit.

When he brings the new tool kit home, he’ll have to put it together and “play” with it immediately. You’ll have to bear with him as he decides to tinker with an already completed project. He’ll get rejuvenated with the original project and might even make it more complicated because after all, he has these new tools that will make these complicated additions possible. He’ll probably place his order for supplies. So you’ll receive the phone call that the massively huge truck is going to deliver several tons of supplies by driving up your narrow driveway tomorrow, (without driving through your yard, your flower beds or getting stuck to the axels in your front yard…right) and he’ll take the day off to wait for the delivery.

When he looks at the piles of new supplies, he’ll get so excited he’ll want to check everything off his list to see what remains. He’ll see he’s still missing a few things and ask if we have received any new sales flyers. He’ll make a new list. When the list is finished, he’ll decide to make another trip to the building supply store. Then he’ll get another idea. Which means he’ll need more graph paper. He’ll stare at his graph paper, his lists and his piles of supplies. Looking at his plan on paper will remind him that there was one technique that he wasn’t quite sure of and needs more research.

So…he’ll ask to see one of his books again. And chances are if he looks at that book, he’s going to want to order another one specific to that technique.”

There you have it…the February Itch. And you’re probably thinking, “It’s October, why does this matter now?” Mr. ordered his first book last week…and then he ordered another one. And you’re right, it’s only October. Be afraid…I know I am.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Beekeeping 101 and 102

During a conversation with Miss Effie this summer, I mentioned something about our bees and doing a hive check. This reminded her that Zan Asha of Bronx Bees would be coming at the end of September to do bee classes. I asked her to keep me posted on the details so that Mr. and I could take the classes. She explained that she didn’t know anything more than the date, as she didn’t have a location in mind…so I volunteered our home and hives (in an effort of full disclosure Linkand in true student teacher’s pet fashion, this should actually read…I threw my arm in the air, jumped up and down and said, “Pick me, pick me!”) And she graciously accepted my invitation.

Fast forward to this past Saturday…our home was transformed into the site for Beekeeping 101 and Beekeeping 102 classes.

The Queen Bee leading her students to the hive.

Unfortunately, the temperature hovered barely above 55 degrees and the clouds stayed nearby for most of the day, so opening the hives was kept to a minimum. When they were able to open one of the hives, the bees responded with their disapproval and quickly accomplished what they set out to do…the beekeepers retreated.

Weather aside, the day was extremely fun and educational. When asked about the class, I heard one attendee say, “Zan is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about bees. I think she could have taught for three days and still had something to say about them.”

It was so amazing to hear so much about bees and to meet other area (near and far) beekeepers.

Thanks Miss Effie and Zan!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

1st Day of School – Stay in Town or Go Home?

Today is Bug’s 1st day of pre-school – sniff, sniff. We both did better than I thought we would. Tears welled up in the back of my eyes, but she was solid. Doodle, on the other hand, was a little upset. Upset may be the wrong word – lonely. Her friend, big sister and playmate was not by her side and she was very worried we would forget to pick her up.

Pre-school is three mornings a week from 9:00 – 11:30…in town and we live in the country. I’ve been planning stressing about what I was going to do. I couldn’t justify driving home and there are only so many errands a person can run, especially since we’ve lived in the country for seven years and we’re used to only coming to town a couple times a week. So what to do in the meantime?

Today, I ran my one errand and it was 9:24. Hmmm? We drove to a local restaurant armed with crayons and a coloring book for Doodle and my infamous to do list. But I can’t just park at a booth without buying something, so the to the very nice and understanding waitress, “I’ll have coffee, she’ll have apple juice and we’d like to have a cinnamon roll to share.” Cinnamon roll is good. The bill came…$6.92 and with a tip, let’s just figure $10.

Time is at a standstill. This is not working. So I ponder…

Gas is currently $3.75/gallon. From our front door to pre-school is roughly 30 miles round trip. Car gets approximately 20 MPG. That comes to $5.63 roundtrip.

If I leave school at 9:05, I can be home between 9:20 and 9:25. I would need to leave home to go pick her up by 11:10. This would give me a little over an hour and a half at home to get things done. I can’t believe it but it would be $4.37 cheaper for me to drive home instead of sitting at a restaurant thinking about my lengthy to do list.

As silly and impractical that I once thought it was to come home, it’s all in the math. Now, it’s 10:35 and she doesn’t get finished until 11:30. The cinnamon roll is gone, this post is finished and we wait…

Scoot over Doodle, let’s color…tomorrow we’re going home.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Quotes and Observations

"Everyday is like Easter when you have chickens."


(And sometimes you really do have to look under, over, behind to find them.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where Have I Been?!?! …Confessions

I know you’re well aware that I haven’t written in over a year. Why? The answer is simple…I haven’t had time. It’s also quite complex…I haven’t had the nerve or better yet, the insight to write this. Recently, a new outlook hit me, so here goes…

In October of 2009 I lost my job – very unexpectedly and without the payment that was due to me for the previous month of work. I had bills to pay and in my mind Christmas was creeping up on me at an alarming rate. After I stopped crying, I picked myself up and I did what I know…I started making things. The list of new things that I wanted to make actually started to come to life. I was happy.

During a relapse of self pity Mr. looked at me and said, “If you could sell things from here, I would be okay with that.” I was baffled. “Sell what?” I asked. “Sell the things you’re making. If you can make enough money to help pay the bills, I’m okay with that. You’re happy doing this,” he said.

I had just been given the green light to do what I love – make things. I went for it and I went for it big. I got gutsy and I signed up for a craft show. Just one; just enough to test the waters. I loaded my table and sat and waited… and I fought back tears. Did I just spend money (that I didn’t have) on supplies to make things and I’m not going to sell a thing? And then it happened. I sold something and then something else.

I had confidence and I was going to make this work. By mid December I had enough confidence that I opened my big mouth at a local store and asked for a meeting to discuss selling my wares. She said yes. By mid January 2010 she had placed her initial order. I couldn’t have been happier.

Fast forward to now… I make and sell hair bows and accessories for little girls and women and I have another product line of goat milk soap and lotion. I sell at the Farmers’ Market, craft shows and I have six retail stores that carry my products. I have a website for my hair bows and accessories that is fully functional and a website for the soaps and lotions that is in the development stage.

I did it! So what’s the big deal and why so secretive? The entire time I’ve been doing this, I’ve been thinking, what does making girly hair bows and accessories have to do with being self reliant?

And then one day recently it hit me like a ton of bricks…DUH!!! It has everything to do with being self reliant – I am reliant on myself to make and sell my products to be able to pay the bills.

So there you have it… No super duper, top-secret plan; just me finally getting out of the way of myself and looking at things from a different angle.

All the while I’ve been busy with all of this, our farm life has story after story that you need to get caught up on. It will just have to be after the fact.