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Happy Earth Day!

Spring Has Arrived…and the Dogwoods are showing off!

It’s as if Mother Nature is completely oblivious to the current worldwide human tragedy unfolding before our eyes!! Yet there she is splashing greens, whites, pinks, yellows and purples across the landscape as if it’s her own private canvas. Like an answered prayer, spring arrives with its promise of hope and renewal.

As heartbreaking and difficult as these times are, it has forced us to pause…to look beyond ourselves and possibly inside ourselves. The world has become quieter, the sky bluer. The birds can hear themselves sing and the red tail hawk that flies above can surely see farther than ever before. In fact, Mother Nature would be perfectly happy if we all had to stay home forever!!

At some point, the crisis will be over. The hum of an over stimulated world will begin again. For now, let us embrace this gift of time. The time to be with our loved ones. The time to create, dance, sing, read, write, cry, laugh, eat when we are hungry and sleep when we are tired. The time to consider the plight of our fellow humans. To act upon our compassionate hearts, To help one another!! What part of today do we want to carry forward and what part of “before” do we want to keep.

Happy Earth Day!

Jan

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Soap vs Hand Sanitizer

Of all the things I thought I needed to plan for this year, a pandemic was not one of them.  Nor did I think I would need to ponder the qualities of soap vs hand sanitizer. This coronavirus has shattered all of our plans.  It’s scary!  We are worried about our friends and families, our jobs and businesses, and our future.  For me, information and facts regarding action we can take during scary times helps ease some of the stress and anxiety.  One of the most important actions we can take right now is to keep our hands clean.  In this post I will discuss the pros and cons of both soap and hand sanitizer.  And I will throw in a little comic relief with Alton Brown.

Hand Sanitizer

Two of the benefits of hand sanitizer vs soap are its portability and ease of use.  I carry a bottle in my vehicle readily available in order to clean my hands before I touch anything.  You really can’t beat the convenience of it.  And in many situations it is the only practical solution.  However…

It is important to read the manufacturer’s directions for use to be sure we are using the proper amount.  Also, hand sanitizer must be at least 60% ethyl alcohol in order to be effective.  And the product must remain on your hands until it naturally dries.  Don’t wipe it off!!  Most commercial products contain specific ingredients that help spread the gel and insure it stays wet for the required amount of time. 

As convenient as hand sanitizer is, all that alcohol is super drying for your skin.  Our skin is our first defense against pathogens and we don’t want them getting into cracked fingers!!  Secondly, hand sanitizer is effective against some cooties but not all.  It doesn’t work on norovirus or rhinovirus for example.

bulk soap samples
Our Bulk Soap Samples

Soap

Although hand sanitizer is easy to use, my hands never really feel clean until I wash them the old fashioned way…with soap and water.  Coronavirus pathogens are enveloped within a fat layer.  Soap breaks up that fatty layer and the mechanical action of rubbing our hands together while washing helps to dislodge pathogens which are then rinsed off. 

Luckily I happen to know a fabulous soap maker!!  I keep a travel size bar at each sink, like the ones above, in the studio and my home.  That way I can have a good scrub whenever I come in from the outdoors.  If you choose a handcrafted soap with a high percentage of olive oil and pure essential oils, your hands won’t experience the dryness associated with alcohol based sanitizers.  Soap is effective against all pathogens, microbes, grease, and just plain old dirt!!

Here again there is a method of hand washing that increases its effectiveness.  Rather than bore you with step by step directions, check out Alton Brown’s YouTube video below.  CDC recommends a 20 second scrub.  Alton goes a step further!!

Conclusion

It is a very stressful time in our lives.  Human beings are social animals.  We were meant to be together in numbers.  It’s a strategy that has insured the survival of our species for hundreds of thousands of years when we had to defend ourselves against and hunt large game.  So isolating ourselves from those we love goes against our deep seated instinct to gather in groups in threatening times.  It can cause severe dissonance in us. 

But we are not defenseless.  We can all do our part to help each other even if it has to be done from a distance.  We can use technology to check on each other and offer a word of encouragement and support.  We can take this time to look within and discover the things that are truly important to us.  And we can use this down time to nurture our creativity, another human instinct.  Read, draw, paint, sing, dance, write, and celebrate our humanity.  Together, we will get through this too.  Stay well my friends, stay well!!  And remember, wash those hands!!     

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First They Came For… A Poem

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out…

Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out…

Because I was not a trade unionist (Martin Niemöller 1946).

Then they came for the the reds, the blacks, the browns, and I did not speak out…

Because I was not red, black, or brown.

They came for the artists, the writers, the dancers, the craftspeople, and I did not speak out…

Because I was not an artist, writer, dancer, craftsperson.

They came for the farmers, river keepers, mothers, the caregivers, and I did not speak out…

Because I was not a farmer, river keeper, mother, or caregiver.

Then they came for the rest, and I did not speak out…

Because the game was complete and they had won (Janet Lewis 2019).

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January

Welcome to the section of my blog that I am calling, “A day in the life…”  When I was first contemplating this business I looked high and low for others who were doing the same thing to garner some sage advice or to simply understand what I was getting myself into!  There wasn’t a whole lot of information out there.  So I thought it would be helpful for those of you considering this path to get a feel for the things I do to keep my dream moving forward.

 

I live and work in an area (Great Smoky Mountains) where much of life is determined by seasons.  Yes the normal seasons we all know like winter, spring, summer and fall.  But around this neck of the woods tourist season is king.  It will make or break you.   This season generally runs from Mid-May to the end of October.  The remainder of the year is peppered with special events and holidays.  I sell my soaps at farmers markets, galleries, craft shops, and festivals and during the height of the season I regularly put in sixteen hour days.  It sounds crazy but you get used to it.  So used to it in fact that when January hits and all the festivities have past, all the shows are in the bucket, all the orders have been shipped, and the gardens are sleeping for the winter, I sit and wonder, “What the heck do I do now?”  A lot. The nitty gritty.  The stuff you haven’t had time to do all year.

 

Last year, 2016, was the first year I went all in on my business.  Previously I had worked full-time, or more commonly around here, two part-time jobs while also selling at markets and craft shows.  But for whatever reason on January 1, 2016 I promised myself I would do nothing but make and sell soap.  Let me tell you.  It was tough.  I was ready mentally and emotionally but not financially.  However the lessons I learned last year are invaluable.  The biggest lesson was that there is a natural rhythm to this craziness and it all begins in January.

 

What a mess!!

January is the perfect time to sort through all your essential oils, herbs, additives, bottles, jars, bags…everything that got pushed to the back of the cabinets and bins during the frenzy of production and marketing,  It’s amazing what you find!  Like the bottle of Orange Mandarin essential oil I just knew I bought but couldn’t find so I bought another.  Or the containers I knew I had but suddenly went missing when it was production time!  This is the time to gather everything together and take inventory.  Not only will it help you decide which supplies need to be replenished but you’re also going to need that information for taxes.

 

January is also the perfect time for planning.  Just like you tend to think about what you want to accomplish this year in your personal life, this is the time to plan your business for the year.  Are you going to focus more on direct sales or wholesale?  What worked well last year and what didn’t?  Which varieties are winners and which aren’t?  Are there additional products I should think about?  What are my goals this year and how can I achieve them?  Make those goals concrete and measurable so next year you will know if you attained them.

January is also the time to focus on self-care.  Yes the weather is frightful…not my favorite season.  I am very susceptible to the lack of light so on sunny days I take extra walks with Baxter.  I try to eat real food since I have extra time and it’s always nice to fill the house with the aroma of fresh baked bread or a pot of soup on those cold nasty days.  Do some extra journaling.  Get all the stuff running around in your head out on the page.  Clear your mind.  Stretch your body.  It’s time to rebuild your stamina because February is coming and that marks the beginning of “garden time”.  Until then…stay warm!!