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Team Work

It has been such a weird world this year, stranger than most for sure but thankfully most of us have someone who helps share the burden of whatever load it is we have to carry. We are the lucky ones. I don’t think this gift is exclusive to humans, and we have proof of that here at Hank E. Panky Farm.

Last year we had one Muscovy Duck hen who figured out that if she kept her babies close to the house where the dogs hang out, her ducklings would be safe from predators like hawks and fox who roam around just looking for an easy meal. (Yes, we are that typical farm house with dogs living under the deck most days)….. Every single one of her babies survived and that is a rarity indeed.

This year, 2020 being what it is, we had a particularly large number of hawks in the area, so for the new mama hens, raising their babies was particularly challenging.  But wait a second, those babies that grew up near the house last year, well they figured out a system…. They teamed up and raised some chicks together.  I’m not sure how common this is, but two of those babies from last year (sisters ) decided that co-parenting was the way to go. 

These two hens stayed together constantly. They took turns sitting on the nest of eggs, one always sitting on the eggs while the other would sit just outside the nest keeping watch. Once all the eggs hatched,  they both covered and protected the babies while they were very small.  It was really the sweetest thing ever.   

Now, as they are growing, they travel together, always mindful of predators and teaching the babies how to forage in the grasses and swim in the pond.   And YES! They are all hanging out with the dogs under our deck during the day, safe away from anything that can harm them.  I’m sure this behavior will span the generations.  But what a wonderful thing to see today.

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Old Fashioned Natural Soap vs. Commercial “detergent” Soaps

First………. A Brief History of Soap and Soap making.

  • Legend has it that during the Roman empire women washing cloths in the rivers realized the animal fat washing down from the sacrificial alter and into the rivers would make the clothing cleaner than usual. Archaeologists were known to have found “soap like” substances in clay pots during excavations.
  • England began making soaps during the 12th Century, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that bathing came into fashion.  The French Chemist Nicolas Leblanc discovered a process for transforming common salt into alkali called soda ash.
  • During the 17th century, soap making made its appearance in Spain where the soap was made from Goat Fat and Beech Tree Ashes.  During this period, the French began using a Olive Oil base soap also known as “Castile Soap”
  • In the 19th century, Louis Pasteur asserted that good personal hygiene would reduce the spread of diseases, which created a demand for soap.
  • In the beginning of the 19th century in the United States, soap making was one of the fastest growing industries.  They used a process during Colonial times that consisted of using ashes from their fire pits and rendered fat from animals. 
  • During World War 1, commercial soap, as we know it today, came into existence.  German scientists created a new form of “soap” made with various synthetic compounds and as a result, detergents were born.

We could continue on with this timeline to present day, but essentially, the bottom line here is, all commercial soap is detergent made from synthetic materials.  I can only speculate the huge demand for “soaps” across the US and the world would make large production of all-natural soaps prohibitive for many reason.  And I get it. It’s the way of the world and to accommodate the “masses” these types of products are created.

In the meantime, I have my own commentary on the above.

  • Firstly, why am I not surprised that the Roman WOMEN put 2 + 2 together and figured out what was happening.  Secondly…………ewwwwe
  • Good job England, but why did it take 6 centuries to make it fashionable?  Feeling like being clean would have come of age much sooner.
  • Go Spain (yes, I’m Spanish, so bias here, but whatever).  Goats Milk…… Doing it Right!!
  • We all know this from History Class, I think.  Good reminder though.
  • Being that our country was built on the concept of “FREE ENTERPRISE”.  In the early 19th century, it makes sense that this would be a fast growing industry.  I would imagine with immigration during this century the combined methods of soap making made for some beautiful soaps too.
  • Well, it was inevitable, I guess.  As I commented above, I would imagine with the production needs of soap having to be met for an ever-growing population, production of natural soaps would have gone the way of the Dodo bird.  

Thankfully, there are soap makers like us who can still make small batch natural soaps.

Pictured here are two lye soaps that are over 60 years old.  This photo was taken at an old farmhouse where we have our pecans shelled.  The farmer, in his seventies, told us his mother made THIS VERY SOAP when he was around 10 years old.  Originally in a huge block, he still has several pieces he uses daily in his barn.

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Lets Talk About Sea Salt in Soap

At HEPF we don’t have a lot of rules for our soap, but one rule is “If its not beneficial, why add it”.  Other than some fragrance oils to keep it smelling especially nice, we try to keep it very simple, and we’ve discovered adding salt seems to be a simple solution to some skin issues.

Now, I’m not  feeling like getting especially “sciency” here so I’ll keep it brief, but it appears there could actually be some benefits to adding the salt, so let me throw some information at you.

Mined primarily in Pakistan, ancient oceans deposited these salts .  Because the salt beds were covered by Lava, ice and snow for millions of years Himalyan salt is free of many modern-day pullutants.

The color content in these salts are determined by the amount of trace mineral they contain.  These include potassium which can lower blood pressure and protect from strokes, and Magnesiumwhich can inhibit the production of sebum, (oily secretions), that lead to acne and other skin disorders.  

I was thinking about how, for so long, humans have used saltsand other mineral baths for all kinds of muscle ailement and illnesses.  It appears the high levels of magnesium in salt  help muscles contract and relax. Magnesium is also necessary for nervous system regulation as.  There are studies that have shown that this and other minerals can enter the “lymphatic system” through the skin.   Thats GREAT!.  This explains why epsom salt baths work so well when your muscles are overworked. I have soaked myself, our horses hooves and even a dog once.

Adamantly, Epson Salt has much higher levels of magnesium and no sodium which makes it most popular when we’re talking about soaking after an injury or even that extra long run, (like I know what that is), but then I thought, when was the last time I had time to soak in a bath?  I mean, I injure myself constantly but can’t remember the last time I had time for a bath.  Also, I’ve got one of those old 1970’s narrow tubs that make the bathing experience more of an adventure in how to submerge as many body parts at one time without overflowing the tub……..anyway, I thought maybe, if I’m adding a little magnesium each time shower, I could realize some of these benefits in lower, more constant doses……..hmmmm, sounds logical to me.

Either way, the bottom line is salt is good and I really don’t see any downside to adding to some of the soaps.  Now if I could just figure out a way that the soap wouldn’t look like fudge………

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No Walls Between Us

Well here I go. 

Figured I have a blog spot so why not blog.  So,  I sit here thinking, “what amazing, extraordinary things would people like to read about us?”…….nothing!  I mean, I have no wisdom to impart that will be life changing, and I’m pretty sure people aren’t really interested in too much of the day to day things I do or Kenny does on the farm……….or do they?

Im not going to bore you by telling you about where we came from or why we are here in NC.  Not even going to tell you why we make soap and I obsess with making cheeses.  I think those stories are better left with me (Lisa) rambling on incessantly until you just walk away.

I think what I’ll do is tell you funny stories.  I mean we literally have the most hilarious shit happen on almost a daily basis.  Always so good and guarantee to make you laugh.

Case in point:  

A couple of weeks ago I was standing at the kitchen sink making cheese (surprise there right)….anyway, I keep hearing a “chirp, chirp, chirp”.  Knowing that a starling nests up in our eves right above my head. (I refuse to let Kenny fix the hole, because then they can’t nest there ).  Anyway, I just figured  what I was  hearing was one of the babies in the nest.  As the chirping continues and Kenny comes in from outside I mention it.  This begins the BEST part.  We soon realize that the sound isn’t coming from over our heads, its actually somewhere else in the kitchen.  Kenny is opening cabinets and drawers to see if there is a way to get to this wayward chick.  It was actually mind boggling.  I know you’ve been there before, trying to zero in on a sound, you think you have it then nope, not there, not the sound is coming from over there…nope… and so on.  

We finally lean over the kitchen counter and feel like it’s coming from the wall and a baby must have slipped in there with no way for us to get it out.    After sadly resigning ourselves to the fate of this little bird in the wall, we just moved on and decided we can’t tear out the wall, we decide we will have to find a way to cope with the sad situation, hope it doesn’t suffer too long and maybe we’ll just mount a little road side memorial on the counter for the little guy and that’s that.  (Its farm life everyone, this stuff happens).

Next morning is a Saturday.  Yay, going to make a “sit down” breakfast for Kenny and myself since we rarely have a chance to do it.  I prepare some delicious local sausage, remove the pan, put the egg pan out and put a pad of buttern in the pan.  Once it’s nice and melted I pick up a duck egg I’d collected the day before and crack it on the side of the pan………..YUP……….you guessed it, that chirping was coming from that egg!  I was immediately horrified.  I mean, it was a baby, not just a little embrio.  There were feathers and a foot!  Dear GOD what have I done?!!!

So, let me first qualify what I next describe by saying I am not a bird person.  You would not know that because I have more than 100 Muscovy duck roaming the property, but I feaked out……..I looked at Kenny who is far more empathetic to the plight of little animals and he looked completely blank faced.  He just witnessed his wife slam a baby chick on the side of a hot frying pan.  

There was nothing left to do.  I mean do I peal it away and help it hatch……….for Gods sake no!!!  So I did the only thing my mind could get around and I walked that egg back out to the nest where mama was sitting on baby chicks instead of eggs at this point.  I lifted her tail and shoved it under her and walked away.

In complete denial, I just went in the house, told Kenny “we can’t talk about this ever”, and went on with the morning.  

The next morning I begged Kenny to look at the nest for me since I really couldn’t bare to see the carnage, if any, that was left of that poor little concussed chick. 

Well, happy ending for the baby chick.  Mama hatched it and now we are  on the look out for any odd little ducklings running around because surely getting pounded on the edge of a pan makes for a rough start.