Saturday, December 10, 2005

Year's Ending

Hardly enough time to update here, readying for the holidays and two remaining seasonal shows. Two of our newest products this year have nearly sold out.. Cashmere Scarf.. our whipped shea butter/Monoi combo and the complete Monoi de Tahiti facial, body and soap line have been remarkably successful! And Mr.Witty's Bath bar.. our biggest seller of the season so far!

And for the teenagers stocking stuffers.. Zit's Be Gone bars :+)

We hope you all have a joyous Christmas and healthy New Year. Happy holidays!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Put to bed..

All of the herb gardens have been put to bed.. the potting shed is chock full of drying basils,comfrey, burdock root, sweet annie, rosemary, mints & thymes. We'll be working on the winter balms & healing salves this week.. readying for the last of the years 5 holiday shows.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Autumn thoughts..

Summertime is gone my friends. It slowly comes...but quickly ends. It's been replaced by time called Autumn. Nature changes hues from top to bottom. Green gives way to red & gold. A lovely vision to behold.. whirling leaves go blowing by, carrying smells of pumpkin pies! The air turns crisp...the sky fades grey. Indian corn and bales of hay...overcoats, apple cider.. No more evenings on the glider! The harvest moon so orange & round, Holidays will soon abound. Soon the chrysanthemum petals start to unfold & Pumpkin festivals abound.

There is still the warmth of summer in an early October day; and the cool of autumn in the evenings. October is a month to be carefree.. The herb gardens are harvested.. all hanging to dry, the loft is full of summers hay, rows of canning jars fill the cupboards. Fall.. in New England I will remember with fondness. Freed from garden & other cares, we can explore "leaf peepin". We can watch the chipmunks with bulging cheeks scurry into the stone walls & admire the hummingbirds, still busy among the geraniums & bee balm. We have time for apple pickin' and baking.
Our trees are old and gnarled and widely scattered. Sometimes I think they had been planted by Johnny Appleseed's wide flung hands.

We can go to the fairs, spend a day or two antiquing.
We can pick beach plums & visit cranberry bogs. We can go to the beach for a lobster, pick up driftwood along the quiet beaches, & gather shells & wild beach rosehips. New Hampshire abounds in exhibits of handwork done in earlier times as well as present. Ours is a proud heritage of skill & good taste now being appreciated even more. Many with deft fingers are now following the example of our forebears.. taking pride in their handiwork.. As a rughooker, I'll take inventory of wools. In my basket there will be rugs unfinished since last winter.. but, soon to be tackled again & completed, hopefully before the Deerfield Fair! Oh, but I have more soaps to make too! Only so many hours in the day.. * sigh :+)

The smell of Autumn is in the earth, in the ripe apples & the clean sea & clean pure air. The mornings glisten as the sun falls across the fields with frost. A full golden flood illuninates the garden from the warm October sun which washes over maple, birch & oak leaves. We swish through dry leaves on the lawn and we rake & rake & rake! What harvest.. for the compost pile; what dividends in fine leaf mold in spring, bright healthy flowers in summer!

Walking the fields each afternoon in Fall is a favorite pasttime of Jackson Molly & Duffy! Leaves drop in whispers. Behind us there snaps a twig which is not timed to our own footsteps..and acorns fall with a bounce to the ground & wind stirring through the leaves.... freezing them in their tracks. Are the woods haunted????

The woods are haunted in October by the same 'little people' who inhabit them every other month of the year. Thoughts of witches & goblins & elves and fairies in October have filled the world with fright longer than anyone can record with certainty and the season wouldn't be complete without them.

" There are fairies at the bottom of gardens, and we have often found their traces there.. If you do not believe in fairies in the garden you are not a true gardener. They touch a box with a wand & make a palace for a homeless bird. In mischievous play, they pull up flowers & plant them in more surprising places. They weave silken webs from flower to flower & paint the wings of butterflies. In October they blow on the bittersweet & make berries pop open into gay necklaces of red & gold."

At the bottom of an old-fashioned garden the fairies arrange their mushroom conference stools in a fairy ring, and name all the flowers! Who else could have thought up such delightful names: Sweet William, foxglove, cowslip, Sweet Annie, snow-in-the-summer, larkspur, bee balm.... morning glory, johnny-jump-ups & bleeding heart. These fairies name them all!! But of course..there are fairies in the bottom of the garden.What is more cheerful, now, in the fall of the year,than an open wood-fire? Do you hear those little chirps and twitters coming out of that piece of applewood? Those are the ghosts of the robins and bluebirds that sang upon the bough when it was in blossom last Spring. Happy Autumn!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Calendula infusion Posted by Picasa

Herbal Infusions

So many folks ask me about infusing herbs that I thought I'd just include it here. This is the process which I am most comfortable & successful using.. so if you want to add some nice properties, texture & natural hues to your soaps you might want to give thsi a try too! :+)

Making Herbal Oil Infusions... Jady @

I'll be talking about two methods of infusing herbs.. Hot Methd & Cold Method

Materials to have on hand: Good quality olive, sunflower or almond oil ( or oil of your choice) , a double boiler pan, measuring cups, thermometer, wooden spoon, 2 quart size canning jars/with lids, coffee filters, jelly bag or micro fine coffee filter, clean empty glass bottles or jars, a small saucer, blank address labels, cider vinegar, dried herbs of choice ( at least 1 cup of each) & Vit. E oil.

Though many of my own herbal infusions are made with fresh herbs & in gallon sized portions, for this class we will be using dried herbs.
Infusing oils is a pretty simple process. Make sure to have all your jars cleaned well.. run through dishwasher & completely dry.
I make my herbal infusions up much the same way I cook.. a pinch of this & a pinch of that.. so measurements will be really putting me to the test :-)
Herbal Oil Infusions & Herbal Teas contribute various qualities to the scent, texture, color & creaminess of the dense lather in soaps.

Calendula, Comfrey, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Sweet Annie, Mints, Lavenders, Sage, Rosemary, Rosehips, Dandelions, Marshmallow root, Nettles, Parsley, Rose petals, Thyme, Yarrow,
Mullein flowers, Scented Geraniums, burdock root, St John’s Wort flower, Chickweed

COLD Method:
Measure out about a cup of the herbs or more you would like to infuse and place into your canning jar... the more you can get into your jar the better! I like to have my jars filled at least 2/3rds. I then add 2 oz. Vit E oil and just a smidgeon of cider vinegar ( approx 1/2 tsp ) to my quart of olive oil to help minimize any unwanted molds from growing. Now gently pour this oil mixture over your packed dry herbs into jar, making sure that there is about a good inch of oil above the botanicals. Once filled, take two coffee filters and invert it over the top of the jar. This seems to help keeping down air exposure to the herbs. Then put your lidded ringed cover on tightly directly over the coffee filter and apply your label to jar. You should always label your infusions with: materials used, herbs( fresh or dried) , oils, date. I then store my my jars in a cool dark cupboard or closet, sitting on a small saucer or plate for 4-6 weeks..Give your jar a shake once or twice a week. When you are satisfied that your infusion is strong enough to use I pour my infusions thru a micro screen for coffee filtering.. as it works great catching all the tiniest pieces of botanical. The remaining botanicals I then squeeze through a jelly bag or if you don't have one of these.. doubling more coffee filters and tightly squeezing out all the goodness into your cleaned infused oils.
Then the process begins again.. whatever I have left behind in my original infusion jar.. I add yet more herbs packed in & topped off with oil, covered & stored til needed.

HOT Method:
Depending on the size of your double boiler ( I use a one & two quart ) fill your top pan 2/3rds full with herbs of choice & cover with olive, almond, sunflower ( or oil of choice). Gently simmer oils for 3-4 hours on lowest heat. I try to maintain my oil temps at around 120-140 degrees If I am planning to use these infused oils in a soap recipe I would leave them to set overnite...on stove, rewarming the next day & strain all botanicals as we did above using the COLD Method .. then measuring out my oil portion for use in my soap recipe. To store unused portions.. I prefer not to strain out my botanicals and only do so just prior to usage.

** Some are successful 'sun infusing' herbs for two weeks, but I have found this to have a higher chance of bacterium growing within 72 hours & oils going rancid. Personally, I'd never recommend this type of infusion. ** About the closest I would get to sun infusing is during our northern winter months is lining my bay window with jars of infusing herbs..... letting the sun
( when we see it LOL ) catch them with it's light. Calendula petals are glorious while decanting.. the showy orange/yellow petals look so warm & inviting in the middle of winter. In the early Spring.. if you can get your hands on a nice violet patch.. collect these flowers & olive infuse them .. the color is radiant in jars... (but won't remain when soaped) that also makes a wonderfully healing skin cream/lotion formula.
I’m also not fond of crockpot infusions either.. but this is my own personal preference again.. my feeling is… there is always a chance of ‘frying’ the goodness right out of what you are trying to accomplish with so much variable temperatures. If speed is what you are looking for, try this method by all means.. but keep a close watch on it. :+)

When I want certain qualities in the smooth lather the soap produces the best way to get that is using special oils or waxes I'd sub the olive or part of my olive for
( avacado, jojoba, sunflower, rice bran, shea etc ) & infuse certain herbs that would apply to my formula.
Many herbal balms can made effectively using hot infused oils, especially spicy herbs such as ginger, cayenne & arnica prepared as a balm to help relieve arthritic pain, improve local blood flow circulation & relax muscles. Other leafy herbs such as comfrey, rosemary speedwell, & chickweed healing ointment may also be produced.
Comfrey infusions are my favorites. I think every garden should have a comfrey patch!
Some of my favorite infusions are:
Comfrey leaf & root, ginger root ( just a smidgeon), plantain leaf & calendula
Rosemary, Lavender, chamomile
Lavender, chamomile, comfrey leaf only, rosemary, calendula, horsetail, yarrow,
oakmoss, plantain, rosehips, spring violets & their leaves.
Lovely blend in soaps & shampoo bars.. fabulous! & balms too!
Ground Nettle , comfrey & rosemary leaves
Or try some green tea, sea kelp, calendula petals, rosehips & mints! The possibilities are endless :-)

I really enjoy adding oil infusions to my soaps, balms & ointments for their skin care qualities & color that they impart to the soaps. I seldom make herbal tea infusions for my soaps, as I feel the benefits of the herbs are lost when substituting tea water for water/lye mix.. and, you'll get no color when adding tea water except when using calendula or madder root... or murky greens/browns at best with most others. . But.. I DO love using infused herbal teas in my lotions & creams and the color that they can impart in them naturally.
Have fun infusing your herbal oils.
I've posted up some pictures of some of my herbal infusions for you to see if you'd like also :-) Herbal joys.......... Jady

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Lazy Days of Summer

Well.. not so lazy, but alotta fun!! To celebrate Shawna's birthday, we chartered a fishing boat to go out & catch some scrumptious fresh fish! The weather was gloriously accommodating.. sea's calm & but the poor skipper & first mate had no idea what they were taking on with the fishing Maineiacs arrived on board! LOL :+)
And.. we caught a boatload of fish to boot!

Fishing Maineiacs

Definitely have their sea legs :+)

Doing the happy caught a boatload of fish dance!

Catch of the day! Maggie's first fish!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Fernwood Cottage Gardens

Even busy soapmakers need a little R & R, so during the summer months we head north to Maine to our summer place for some fun, sun & relaxation.

One sunny morning I took my daughters to Fernwood Cottage Gardens, where they raise perennials & seasonal cutting flowers.. the gardens are always fun to visit and seldom will a week go by without me having fresh flowers in the house. It was a grand morning!

After checking out all the gardens & deciding which additions to add to their own perennial gardens, the girls were hard pressed deciding which flowers to buy! :+)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

We acquired yet another baby doeling.. 'Spatter' we named her for her many spots! :+) Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

One of my 4 herb gardens Posted by Hello

In the greenhouse

Part of the overflow nursery

Kids at Play - Rosie & Bella Posted by Hello

Sea Glass & Beach Rose Goat Milk Soaps Posted by Hello

Monoi de Tahiti GM Soap Posted by Hello

Goat Milk Lotion Posted by Hello

New Goat Milk Soap Labels Posted by Hello

Herbal Goat milk soaps

With the 'kids' arrival & bottle feeding, of course comes much fresh goats' milk & I've been soaping up a storm! Compound this with much rain and rapid spring growing season.. many herbs are almost in flower here.. the comfreys have already been picked & infused along with patchiouli, burdock root, costmary, evening primrose, of course we mustn't forget dandelions and this week the calendula's have blossomed too!
If I haven't infused them in oils.. I dry the rest and into my soaps they will go. Powered up fine or included in my lye pot.. the variant hues are pretty remarkable and it's really a nice feeling knowing that I've grown most of what goes into my herbal bars. I honestly can't say just how much of the actual properties of the herbs remain through saponification, but in my mind it surely can't hurt adding them if for only colorant hues and textures. I just love using them up!
I've been on a 'round' kick these last weeks making an assortment of goat milk soaps for the upcoming summer shows and designed the cutest goat milk labels for all. Part fo the fun of being a soap maker is in the packaging.. a headache? Most definitely.. but once I decide just where I want to go with it, I thoroughly enjoy this part of the process.
Some new shots of my herbal soaps, goat milk soaps & lotion.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

And this little guy is Luigi.. our newest billy whether. Posted by Hello

Our new miniature Nigerian dwarf doeling kids.. Bella & Rosie Posted by Hello

Goat Milk Soaps

One of the things I like about soapmaking is the types of cold process soaps you can make. Goat milk is one that I really love.. it's so wonderful for your skin & makes a fine bar of soap. I tend to keep my GM soaps pretty simple.. only adding herbs, veggie powders or spices for colors & use only essential oils in them. I generally use fresh goats milk, but some other options are already prepared.. canned & pwdered to be reconstituted gm. To me.. the natural fats in fresh milk is extraordinary in a bar of soap & yet so gentle on your skin.
All soapmakers have their own tricks to making a nice gm soap.. I've tried many.. but for me, the easiest process is to add my fresh goats milk to my already warmed & cooled oils before adding the lye/water. I split my water portion 50 % add it to my lye.. set aside the balance of 50 % what would be water in most cases... for my gm portion. Once the lye water & warmed oils & butters has cooled down to around 90 degrees .. I then warm up my room temp goats milk to about 85-90 degrees.. add it to my oil pot & any essence I will be using and blend in well. Once blended, I then add my lye water mixture while stick blending all the while to get a nice creamy emulsion type mixture. I'd then add my additives if any .. hand stir well until I come to an early trace.. which at these lower temps should be quite soon. I have my molds all readied.. so pouring is efficient & rapid.. I only cover my mold with saran wrap.. no other insulation.. and set it out in garage on cool cement floor.. or place into refrigerator.. as I don't want my goat milk soaps to come to a gel. If they gel.. they will become much darker from overheating. Sometimes.. this IS the effect I want.. so I lightly insulate.. it all just comes down too what I am trying to achive.
Presently I buy my fresh goat milk from a nearby farm.. but we just started our own little flock here.. and soon I will have more than enough of my own fresh milk! :+)

Monday, April 25, 2005

Naturally colored soaps Posted by Hello

Natural additives

I make primarily herbal soaps.. I love the addition of powdered herbs, grains & spices both for their color appeal and hopefully skin care qualities.. though, I am still not 100% certain how much remains thru saponification.
Some of the herbs I've added are: Calendula, comfrey, peppermint, all mints for that matter, lavender, thymes, chamomile, alkanet, dandelion flower, sunflower petals, lemongrass, parlsey, dill, rosehips, rose petals, patchiouli, horsetail, delphinium petals, oakmoss, mallow, eucalyptus, sage, rosemary & algaes or kelps.
A few grain additions would be: oatmeal, wheatgerm, flaxseed, orange & lemon peel, carrot powder, poppyseed, raspberry seed & spices... paprika, cocoa, cinnamon to name a few.
Using any of the above will produce a plethora of colorful hues and tones as well as mild to moderate exfoliatives.
I thoroughly enjoy making heat expressed herbal infusions of oils to add to my formulas.

Veggie Oils vs Animal oils

I suppose the choice is a very personal one.. though in researching, each has it's own merit. I prefer veggie oils in my soaps. After experimenting with both.. I find lard soaps didn't hold a fragrance for very long periods of time & the tallow soaps left unscented. had a distinct odor to them. But for a very white bar using no TD lard/tallow would be the way to go.. just not for me.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Boxed Soaps Posted by Hello

Friday, March 18, 2005

A Soapmakers Journal

I suppose I should begin my first blog by explaining its title: 'Marsigila'
Marsiglia in Italian means castile soap.

I'm hoping to keep a journal on soapmaking, with little snippets of my daily soaping routines, practices & philosophy... things I've picked up over the past 10 years of soapmaking and still learning daily. While this venture began as soley a hobby for me, has now grown to include over 7,000 bars made per year :+) That's alotta soap!! LOL

My primary interest in soapmaking is CP (cold process) & Marsigila.. olive oil castile herbal soaps. Though I've tried other soapmaking methods.. I always come back to CP. Having sensitive skin prompted me to learn this craft and I've never looked back, nor has anything improved my skin so much until I began making my own. Having the ability to choose what I want in a fine bar of soap has become quite a challenge & learning process and one that appeals to me greatly. I've learned through much trial and error, what 'I' prefer in a nice bar of soap. To me a good bar of soap is gentle, creamy, long lasting, fragranced beautifully and has opulent lathering ability. Meeting the needs of my customers now has become yet another challenge.

I've met so many online soapmakers that have taken the time to teach, trade and share their own soapmaking techniques... I just wanted to begin this journal for perhaps future use.