Category Archives: soap making

Holy Cow

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Holy cow, it has been a very eventful summer.  My apologies to you for a prolonged absence.

We have had twin grandaughters and a grandson born.

We have also learned of another grandchild on the way, and were saddened by the loss of a grandbaby-in-womb.

Our garden has been prolific lately, but as a result of much tending and watering due to the extreme high temps this summer and drought.

Our bed & breakfast, Amanda’s Bequest Bed & Breakfast, in here in Montague, Michigan  www.amandasbequest.com  has been busy.  Certainly for its opening year!  We operate as a farmstay and guests are immersed in a real working farm-stle home.  They collect eggs and can help churn butter or gather food from the gardens for breakfast if they wish.  We have enjoyed many wonderful and diverse guests from all over the world now!!  (How cool is that?!)  One guest, who was a world traveler, rated us as top two B&B’s in all his travels.  Turns out I’m I’m an ok cook.  He couldn’t decide who was better, a B&B in Scotland, or us.  I have to tell you, I was so dumb-struck at the remark.  After all…we are just..us.

Also busy for us has been our Bygone Basics culinary experiences.  www.bygonebasics.com  People are really wanting to know how to go back to the healthy nutritious foods that were on our predescessor’s tables.  I teach them how to use what tools they already have to get that heritage “kitchen is the heart and soul of the home” healthy foods back into their lives and in their “today” lifestyle.

We have had kitchen guests from 7 countries and 44 USA States now.

To top it all off, I’m now a licensed kitchen and am baking and selling heritage recipe and artisan foods.  All made to order and by hand from natural foods and basic ingredients (nothing you can’t spell or say!).

We have grown our little flock of hens from 6 to 12…plus a duck…but don’t tell Daisy, she thinks she’s a chicken.

My loving husband has been amazing as our journey has brought us to this kind of activity.  He just smiles and builds what I need.  🙂  I wish this kind of a husband on all of our daughters.

Anyway….

My niece Jade is now “apprenticing.”  Leaving me with a few hours at the end of the week to blog and do other things that I’ve been too swamped to do.  I taught her how to hoe the other day.  I told her she was going to be a great hoe-er someday.  She laughed.  I realized what I said.  Too funny.  She’s been learning to bake, make pies, artisan breads, hoe, can, make soap…she’s been a treasure of help to me too!

I will “talk” with you soon.  Just needed to catch you up on my busy-bee “holy cow, what changes!” summer.

Yours,

Valerie Hanson

The manners of violets….

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A loaf of Bread, a jug of wine, and thou. Try our Artisan breads....no guarantees on a perfect date, but it sure helps!

I saw a quote the other day that really gave me a moment of deep thought. “When the time is ripe for certain things, these things appear in different places in the manner of violets coming to light in the early spring. –Farkas Bolyai”

Initially, I dismissed it as a ‘pretty’ thought but then remembered how ill mannered and unpredictable spring violets are.

It is as if Mother Earth gave these pretty little heathens a free will that dominates all others.

Once planted, they proceed to grow in other places and fill other’s spaces if the conditions are unpredictably (to us) right to them . They are determined to outlive all attempts to corral (yes, even kill) them. That seems to be how Bygone Basics is growing. It seems to have found spaces and places that I didn’t see coming when I dreamed this big dream of starting this business.

We have now enhanced the Bygone Basics Experience to include the opportunity for people to enjoy our hand dipped taper candles and wonderful artisan soaps. Just this week we added a line of farmers breads (both loaf varieties and stone baked), delectible scones, and old-fashioned cookies. Soon, jams and jellies will be added to the line of products.

You can order using our online system using PayPal or just call or email with what you would like and I’ll send an invoice. I have more items available that what I’ve had time to put on the website. I ship in well packaged boxes to prevent breakage. Of course, you can pick up your order too, by preset appointment.  I need to make sure my guests who are enjoying a Bygone Experience are not interrupted.

I love it. It is a lot of variety and is so energizing! People have all along asked me if I sell the things I make, but I always said no. The time was ripe. Now I do.

Speaking of violets…I’m getting laying hens!  The time is ripe.  🙂  (sense a theme yet?)  I have always talked about getting hens agian.  When a girl, it was my job to collect the eggs on our family farm.  I practically live on eggs and bake with them too.  I happened across someone who was practically giving away a system that contains them, while allowing them to be free range grazers and in the same week, found someone else who had a few chicks to part with.  Normally, one must buy large orders of 15 or 25 of each type of chicken.  With all the space Amanda has here for us (Remember we named the place “Amanda’s Bequest”) it just worked out.

We will also be at the Montague Farmers market with our food goods.   AND at the new Artisan Marketplace in Montague with our artisan candles and soaps.  WOW.  A lot going on this year.  My husband tells me I might want to control those violets, lest they consume me.  He is right.  I’ll have to hire help this year.  Our daughters are growing into adults with jobs and homes further away. (very sad about that)

I just posted the latest issue (April/May 2011) of the I CAN at Bygone Basics Newsletter.

In it is an article about what to do in April and May.  I’ve been busily planning a large garden.  After container gardening the last couple of years in our previous location in suburbia, I am really looking forward it.  We dug up the front lawn and put manure on it, then tilled it in.  Hey…in my defense it was the best sunlight area.  Now…if only it would WARM UP and act like spring!!

“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. –– Doug Larson

Tallow Anyone?!

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Tallow Anyone?!

I told you it wouldn’t be long before I got another blog post out.

It feels like spring may finally arrive after what seems like the longest winter in my memory.  I have been making soap to replenish my supplies and to create an inventory to sell.

Bygone Basics has two lines of soaps.  One is a Heritage line. These soaps are heritage pure and made up of standard home goods available  between the 1870’s and the 1940’s.  Standard ingredients include rain water, goat or cow milks, castor oil, and several other ingredient options (and of course lye).  Some of the soaps contain animal oils such as lard and tallow as well.  These make a very good bar of soap by the way.  If these soaps have scents, they are created by adding ground coffee (which is a fantastic way to get odors off your hands, such as garlic), cinnamon, and ground herbs.  I am put off by soaps that smell of so much perfume they become offensive, plus I wonder at potential chemicals in the scent and colorant additions in some homemade soaps I see being sold.  It is ok for many, I just don’t want to walk about smelling like a perfume shop, nor have my husband’s co-workers wonder why he smells…pretty.  🙂  Just personal taste.

The second line is so much FUN.  It is a play on the words “alphabet soup.”  The line is Alphabet Soap. Each soap variation in this line has ingredients that begin with a certain letter of the alphabet (some have to stray on an ingredient once in a while).  For example, one of the “C” soaps is a kitchen (citchen?) has these ingredients:

  • coconut oil
  • cocoa butter
  • castor oil
  • coffee
  • coffee grounds
  • cloves

These soaps and home dipped bygone era candles, as well as

Unrendered Tallow.

baked goods, jams/jellies..etc (things of bygone eras) will be for sale at the Bygone Basics Pantry, located at Amanda’s Bequest, the home of Bygone Basics, 5200 Anderson Rd., Montague, MI 49437 beginning May 1, 2011.

Tallow as it melts. This batch is about half done.

I started to tell you, and then sidetracked myself….Tallow.  It is hard to find.  It reminded me of the frustrating time last summer when my daughter, Jessica, and I were trying very hard to find a source of local goat’s milk for soap.  We were told repeatedly where we might find a source but kept striking out.  She quipped in frustration, “Everyone knows someone who sells goat’s milk, but no one actually does!” I’ve gone to a couple of butchers and they weren’t sure what it even was!?  FYI, it is a very hard fat deposit on lean grazing animals like deer, sheep and goats and sometimes around the kidneys of cattle.  In the past, my source was deer, taken on the property…but we now live in a no-hunting zone, where there are 20 deer standing in my lawn at any given time….just teasing me.

You may remember that the Bygone Basic’s kitchen is under renovation, but fortunately, we have a second kitchen here.  Nothing fancy, but it does the job.

This is our second kitchen. It works just fine for us. Note the Guiness cake cooling in its springform pan.

Today, I am making a cake for my mother.  Guiness cake.

Yes, it has almost a full bottle of Guiness Extra Stout in it and becomes a very moist, chocolatey cake.

The Guiness has a way of not adding it’s own flavor, but of adding a wonderful depth and dimension to the chocolate (the alcohol cooks off).

The cake is in the oven and the tallow on the stovetop. A wonderful "back home" aroma.

……..AND, I am rendering tallow.  The house smells like bygone homes where the kitchen eminated aromas of wonderful baking and the chores of economy (rendering tallow for example).  Tallow was inexpensive (or free if you hunted or farmed your own animals) and used in many ways in bygone era homes….but you had to render it.  Rendering is just cooking the hard tallow into a melted liquid and then straining it to remove impurities.  Those strained impurities will go into the composter.  We really do try not to waste anything.

Speaking of letting nothing go to waste, later today, I am making a series of “B” soaps.  What starts with “B”?  Beer.  The rest of that Guiness (and then some) is going into a complexion bar I’ve developed.  🙂  Never a dull moment here.

If you are interested in having any of these unique experiences and gaining their associated heritage skill, call or email today to get the date of your choice in the Bygone Basics kitchen.

Until next time…thinking SPRING!