Welcome one and all to my humble home on the web. This challenge has brought me to heights I have not yet attained...a blog post with pictures. :) Actually, this is my first soap challenge ever, and as I have worked hard and long on this soap, I am excited to share it with all of you fellow soapers.
First, a little about me and Farmstead Bath & Body. My name is Lisa Nakonechny, and I am married to my sexy farmer (MSF) Julian for the past 24 years. We farm together up here in Boyle, Alberta, Canada. We have about 1100 acres in crops, hay, and pasture, a few dozen cows, and some other pet-critters that are interesting and take up time and energy, but we thoroughly enjoy: horses, dogs, cats, chickens, turkeys, emus, donkey and a hinny. We have three wonderful kidlets aged 20, 15, & 14. We still homeschool the last two. We both love to farm, garden, and generally grow things.
Five years ago I made some soap for Christmas gifts, and I've been addicted ever since. Farmstead Bath & Body was born three years later. My motto is Pure. Lovely. True. I constantly ask myself how I can serve others with my soap products. I design my soaps to use as many products from our farm as possible. We grow oats, wheat, canola, peas, hay, sometimes barley, and some garlic. Wherever possible, these products are incorporated into the formulas. Many of my soaps are inspired by our farm; for example, Dirty Denim was inspired by MSF's perpetually dirty, greasy blue jeans.
Before this challenge came along, I had an idea hatching on the back burners of my mind (lots of ideas simmering back there, but I'm usually too swamped to do much about them...sigh...) for a soap using neem oil and nettle to hopefully help persons with skin issues. When I entered the challenge I pulled this idea off the shelf and worked with it more seriously. What liquid to use? I wanted something skin-nutritious from our farm....hey, how about oats? Oats have lots of nourishing vitamins and minerals in the young growing plant, and I happened to have lots growing in my garden. MSF had the brilliant idea to sow his oats (don't worry, they weren't his wild oats!) between the rows in our garden.
Anywhooo, it turned out that my juicer would not juice oat grass, so back to the drawing board. Next I considered juicing ginger. Ginger doesn't grow here in Alberta, but it has the benefit of increasing circulation. Increased circulation helps the healing process, so that was a track I wanted to stay on. $7.63 of ginger and three stops to clean out ginger strings from my juicer later, I had 12 precious ounces, enough to fill my tall skinny mold.
I wanted lots of healing ingredients in this soap. I know we don't make any claims for our soap, but this is what goes through my mind when I design one: what might help?
Why these ingredients?
Nettles (commonly known as stinging nettles) - have been shown to help with allergies. It is biologically active to reduce inflammation. In Germany, it is used for hives and rheumatic conditions. In the USA it is used for arthritis, and skin complaints, especially eczema. I used an infusion of dried nettles in olive oil. I also blended some of the herb finely and sprinkled it in the batter - mostly for visual interest.
Neem - has a long and successful history in reducing skin irritations, scalp conditions such as psoriasis, dry itchy skin or dermatitis. I used 15% neem oil in this soap portion, plus I infused neem powder in olive oil.
Ginger - is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, and also is well know to boost circulation. I juiced the entire ginger root and used the resulting juice as my liquid to mix with the lye.
Aloe - is a well-known herb used to treat skin conditions. I used a commercial aloe vera juice gel product at full strength to mix with the lye.
Oat Oil - lots of anti-oxidants, including Vitamin E. It is emollient and lends its smoothing, softening, and hydrating properties to skin care.
Oat Extract - skin conditioning, and emollient.
Colloidal oats - cleanser, moisturizer, buffer, as well as a soothing and protective anti-inflammatory agent.
Lavender essential oil - helps treat skin disorders such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis.
Australian Tea Tree essential oil - has been long valued for its anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.
Bergamont essential oil - boasts of powerful antibacterial, analgesic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, and soothing effects.
The next major consideration was design. Part of me loves plain-Jane utilitarian one colour soaps. Another part loves wild creativeness. The third part of me loves classy, low-key design. This was all warring inside. (In the end I'm not sure if part two or part three of me won.). Because this soap is designed to be helpful physically, i thought it should be plain or low key in design. Swirls just didn't do it for me here. The letter 'N' kept rolling through my consciousness, so in a flash of inspiration this morning, I finally settled on a 'v' shape that when you also use the outer edge of the soap, can form an 'N', and a backwards 'N' if you continue across.
Next I played around with colours on the word processor:
For the lye solutions, I used ginger juice for the green nettle and neem section, ginger juice again for the plain ginger section, and shook it up a bit with aloe vera gel juice for the liquid with the alkanet-purple section. I did this for two reasons; first, I like the healing potential of Aloe Vera gel, plus it has great label appeal. Secondly, I wanted the purple colour to turn out as pure as possible.
I used a tall skinny mold with two dividers, placing the dividers initially flat together in the centre. I "poured" the purple section first because it was quickly becoming solid soap. Once that panic was done, I asked my daughter to photo the next section.
Once the outside sections were dpoured, I spread the two dividers apart, leaving them touching at the bottom and spread wide at the top. this formed a 'V' shape into which I poured the last remaining batter, which was much more fluid. Then the dividers were carefully removed, and the mold was filled the rest of the way to the top. I had to resist all urges to plop some remaining batter from the other colours and make a nice swirl on top. I had decided this would be more utilitarian than fancy in nature, so only spatula-chops on the top would finish the soap, along with a sprinkling of neem leaves.
I'm not so good with pictures...here is the first candid shot...taken immediately following its "birth".
My trusty daughter Emily took these for me today. I think they're much better!
So that's it soaping lovelies! Thus concludes my entry in the the October Great Cakes Soap Challenge. I hope you've enjoyed it. I know I will enjoy reading all your posts as well!