New Online Store

Farm-to-Bath-Logo-FINAL_1200pxHi Everyone!

Thompson Street Farm LLC has spun off its soap / bath and gift products to a new website and store.  We now have a new look, and store.

I will be doing business as Farm to Bath and the new website is www.farmtobath.com.  There will be new products added going forward, so make sure you comeback and check out the site.  With this new site I can now offer reasonable shipping fees, special promotions and best of all SALES! I am very excited.

Please check out my new store and let me know what you think!

Sincerely

Brenda

Thompson Street Farm

dba Farm to Bath

www.farmtobath.com

Anatomy of TSF Soap

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 I’m always humbled and grateful when asked to speak about what I do here on Thompson Street Farm.  This week I was the speaker at a local garden club here in town and I have to say what a wonderful group of ladies! I understand there are 5 garden clubs in town, and this particular club has been together for over 30 years.  Can you imagine how much knowledge and experience there was sitting in that room! How cool!

After my presentation on growing micro-greens, a sweet woman asked about how I made my soaps. She identifies handmade soap to her childhood elderly neighbor, Mrs. Jones, peddling her soap door to door.  Apparently her soap was extremely harsh that one lost a few layers of skin when using it. I’m guessing from the age of my new friend, “Mrs. Jones” learned how to make soap between World War I and the Depression. In those days, there weren’t a lot of choices for oils other than animal fats and other moisturizing ingredients – which explains the harshness of her soap.

Commercial Soap

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Today there is a world of difference between commercial soaps and handmade. Technically commercial soap is not real soap but a detergent that is created from petroleum based products .  Yes, the base ingredient in commercial soap is petroleum oil!

My Decision to make Handmade Soap

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(Lavender Soap made with lavender grown on our property)

When I began researching how to make soap it was out of necessity.  I had been purchasing a goat’s milk soap from an independently owned health food store for my daughter.  My daughter had a stroke before she was born and as a result she is missing 80% of her right brain, so we had many health issues to deal with.  She is also a beautiful redhead with extremely sensitive skin.  It didn’t matter which commercial soap I used, her skin was as red as her hair and irritated – similar to the reaction to Mrs. Jones soap!

Perfumes were also a huge problem for my daughter.  It is not uncommon for children that have severe brain damage to have an over-reactive sensory system. I can only explain it as standing in front of a speaker at rock concert 24 /7.  The brain’s sensory system is on overload it can’t filter out and dial down what’s going on around them. If you stop and think about it, our world is pretty noisy. For Katie as a baby, sound, smell and textures was magnified a billion times over.

Its an understatement that the early days for Katie were painful – everything bothered her. For example, my husband loved Irish Spring Soap, but when he came near her she would become overwhelmed and started to scream and cry.  We went through a period of time when I dumped every commercially made product including the toothpaste and toilet paper and we went O-Natural!  Thankfully, Katie is much better thanks to years of therapy.

The Decision to Make My Own Soap:

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(Pine Soap – pine needles are harvested from our own pine trees and now that I’m becoming a herbalist, I’m adding my own pine infused olive oil to this soap!)

When Wholefoods moved to town our small independent health food store went out of business and that ended my source for handcrafted goat’s milk soap. The good news is soap making had become popular and with YouTube at my fingertips, I decided it was time to take control of our soap supply and learn how to make soap.

When I started my research I had a basic list of requirements:

  • The soap had to be moisturizing, have a great lather but be a firm enough that didn’t melt into a pile of goo in the shower.
  • Ingredients had to be mild enough for daughter’s sensitive skin.
  • Oils for the soap had to be found in the grocery store and had to come from the plant world.
  • Scents need to be from the plant world (correction/clarification from original posting: I do use fragrance oils if essential oils are not available, too expensive, or I happen to like the scent!).

I knew I wanted my soap to have at lease 2 oils that were great for skin, olive oil and coconut oil. After weeks of research, my first generation master soap recipe was born and it was a Mediterranean inspired blend using 4 oils and raw goats’ milk.

  •  Olive oil – has been used for centuries as a great skin conditioner and moisturizer.
  • Coconut oil – has been used for centuries as a great skin conditioner and moisturizer.
  • Canola Oil – creates a stable lather and a great skin conditioner.
  • Safflower Oil – creates a wonderful lather and is a great skin conditioner.
  • Herbs, flowers, vegetables and goats milk had to be either grown by me or acquired by a local farmer that shared my socially responsible beliefs.

During my research, I learned there is a minefield related to certain common ingredients in soap making. The biggest one is palm oil, and the atrocities associated to the destruction of rainforests to meet the worlds demand for palm oil.

I admit, my soaps are not for everyone, but I can honestly say I try to be socially conscious and intentional on where my ingredients are sourced. It is important to my daughter’s wellbeing and to me. I want to create a product that is safe; with no chemicals or preservatives.

New Sea Salt and Mineral Clay Inspired Soap with Avocado Oil

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I have to say I have the best customers! They are intelligent, well-traveled and socially conscious and they are challenging me to take my social responsibility even further! Over the summer I heard a few concerns expressed about how canola oil is grown and processed. Canola oil comes from a plant called rapeseed and most of the crop grown in the world is from GMO seed. Since I refuse to use GMO vegetable seeds on my farm it was an easy decision to do the right thing and switch out that oil and substitute it for sunflower oil.

In addition, I did some more research on the benefits of sea salt and mineral clays in soap.  Out of that research I created a new 4 oil sea salt soap using avocado oil. Avocado oil is rich in vitamins A, B, D, and E.  Sea salt is known for its relaxing properties and is a natural detoxifier as well as some of the mineral clays that I use – Dead Sea Clay, French Green Clay, Bentonite Clay and Moroccan Clay.

So  I say to my new” Garden Club Friend” – try my soaps, I think you will be pleasantly surprised just how good you will feel! Please check out my entire line of soap on website online store.

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(Honey, Cinnamon and Carrot Soap – I purchase my honey from a local farmer. Although I might get brave and purchase a hive in the coming year.)

 

Flower & Garden Show 2015

If you have cabin fever from all this snow and extremely cold weather come on down to the CT Flower Show and warm up by thinking about spring! Starting today through Sunday I will be at the CT Flower & Garden Show. I will have a sampling of my best selling soaps plus, lavender sugar scrubs, lavender body sprays and herbal salves.

Flower Show

PLUS! Show offer only!  Interested in turning your backyard or small plot of land into cash? Off is only good during the show get $50.00 off my next full day SPIN Farming workshop March 14th from 9 – 4 in South Glastonbury. Show price $150.00 normally $200.00.

SPIN Workshop Flyer

 

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Pine Trees and their Medicinal Uses

 

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As a child growing up in California, I loved to hear the breeze through the Ponderosa pines. Because these trees are so tall (over 230 feet high), there is a distinct sound that I’ve not heard in any other forest that I’ve walked through.  That airy sound of the breeze through the trees is what I miss most about my home state.  Then there is the smell of pine, which makes me feel refreshed, calm and at peace.

Until recently I didn’t know that pine (all species) have medicinal properties which have been used for centuries by Native American tribes.

Native American’s have been using Pine Medicinally for Centuries

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Native American tribes in this region used all parts of the tree for medicinal purposes. A bark decoction for coughs and colds was used by the Abanaki, Iroquois, Micmac, Mohegan and Shinnecock tribes. Bark was also used as a poultice for colds by the Algonquin and for cuts and wounds by the Chippewa. A pitch pine drawing salve was made by the Delaware and Ontario people just to name a few of its many medicinal uses. (HANE: Herbarium, pinus strobus L.)

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Here in Connecticut we have White Pine which is a shorter scruffier tree than its cousin the Ponderosa. And, today, pine needles and bark are harvested and dried for use in teas, tinctures and infused oils. Pine resin is the golden jewel of the tree as it has incredible healing properties. White Pine has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, expectorant, diuretic, antibacterial, stimulant, antispasmodic and astringent properties.

Eating my first Pine Needles

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Have you ever tasted a pine needle? After our last big snow fall, the sun came out and it was a beautiful day to go out for a walk through our woods to harvest pine needles for my pine soap and salve.  I decided to try a needle.  Honestly, it was nothing to write home about.  It tasted like a pine needle.  I had read pine needles are high in Vitamin C and boosts the immune system.  I read that not every pine tree species tastes the same.  The author encouraged readers to try different trees and go with the one you liked best.  However, since I only have one species of trees on our property, what I tasted was what I tasted – pine and I’ll have to take her word that not all pine trees taste the same…

Making my First Batch of Infused Pine Oil

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This was the fun part – after harvesting enough pine needles, I loaded up my crock pot and added my oil. As I turned on my crock pot, I was struck by a thought! How would a pine marinade work for chicken.  I decided to adapt a recipe for pine needle salad dressing into a marinade.  My husband is such a good sport about this stuff – I knew it wouldn’t faze him in the least.  I was right – after 20 years of eating my “experiments” what’s a few pine needles with dinner.

The final results were OK – I think I would prefer the chicken barbequed to add a little natural smoky flavor with the pine marinade rather than baked.  So I will try this recipe again when the weather gets warmer.   However, my husband thought the chicken tasted great.

White Pine makes wonderful Soaps and Salves

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I love working with pine.  I’ve perfected my drying technique so the pine needles keep their beautiful green color in my soap.  The needles also add a great natural exfoliatant, which is another plus.  All the benefits of pine, plus a four oil soap recipe make a well balanced soap.

The pine infused oil is another bonus as it can be used in many applications such as salves which is moisturizing for extremely dry skin.  The pine salve will also promote healing of small scratches, cuts, burns and other minor skin irritations. During these bitter cold winter months I need something like this as my hands take a beating. They get so dry and cracked (sometimes bleed) that the salve had been a perfect remedy.

I just love pine trees!

My Romance with Chocolate

Romance of chocolate

Yes, I admit it. I’ve been having a love affair with chocolate for a very long time.  My earliest memories are when I was a young girl sitting around the campfire somewhere in northern California burning my marshmallows into a charcoal stage and smashing it between a piece of Hershey’s chocolate bar and graham cracker squares.  Life didn’t get better than that!

At that time, I was naïve about all the things you can do with chocolate.  In our house, we had chocolate candy bars and other pure chocolate candies (kisses etc.).  On occasion when fondue became a big rage in the 1970’s, I stepped out of the ordinary and had my first chocolate dipped fruit and bread.  It was a learning experience for me and opened a few new doors of possibilities.

Then, one day, I got a real education on the coolest use of chocolate when a new girl in my neighborhood who had just moved here from Sweden invited me home for lunch.  Her mother served me a chocolate sandwich!  Did I hit the jackpot on that lunch!  These Swedish kids certainly knew how to live!  What is a nine year old supposed to do but eat what’s served to her and compliment the cook by asking for seconds?  I thought it best not to tell my Mother what I ate for lunch that day and I never did.

Today, nothing surprises me anymore as everything is covered in chocolate.  I still consider myself a chocolate purest and haven’t yet jumped off that cliff to taste all the wacky things dipped, mixed or fried with chocolate.  Eating chocolate sandwiches is one thing but I draw the line at chocolate covered bugs!  No thank you.  I’m good with what I know and love…honestly.

Everyone has their “go to” chocolate, whether it is the high-end stuff or shall I say the “economically” priced stuff.  Personally, I have no complaints with high-end chocolate.  However, if I really need a hit of chocolate, a plain Hershey’s Kiss or a Hershey’s milk chocolate bar does the trick.  No fancy added stuff other than slipping in an almond.

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On the other hand, if you ask my Mother what her all-time “go to” favorite brand of chocolate is, she will tell you its Sanders.  She grew up in Detroit and Sanders was a local chocolate and ice cream shop that was known for its unbelievably delicious chocolates.   If you mention any other brand, she will argue with you until the cows come home that Sanders IS THE ONLY CHOCOLATE WORTH EATING.  There is no other company in the world that meets her chocolate standards other than Sanders!

Sanders was founded by German-born Frederick Sanders Schmidt on June 17, 1875, when he opened a candy store on Woodward Avenue at Gratiot in downtown Detroit.  (For more information about the Sanders chocolate company click on this link.)

I agree that, for the most part, Sanders does make a wonderful milk chocolate fudge sauce.  It’s light years better than that canned liquid syrupy stuff that Hershey’s makes, which I refuse to touch.  However, while we waited for a few coveted jars of Sanders chocolate to arrive from our Detroit relatives, my Mother would often make a homemade chocolate sauce that was a lot better than any store bought version we could buy in our dusty high desert town.  In fact, I prefer this sauce over Sanders (shh, don’t let my Mother hear this).

Yes, I realize I’m talking heresy and could be disinherited.  Sander’s chocolate is close to a religion in my family.  But seriously, Grandma’s homemade recipe is pretty darn good.  It’s easy to make, the ingredients are simple.  I’ve even tried swapping out the evaporated milk for high quality heavy cream, and it’s not the same.  You can’t mess with perfection!  The evaporated milk just works for some reason.

So my gift to you is share with you my Grandmother’s Homemade Chocolate Sauce Recipe.  I think you will enjoy the simple taste of chocolate as much as I do.

Grandma’s Homemade Chocolate Sauce

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

3 tablespoons butter

2/3 cup or 1 small can of evaporated milk

Mix all ingredients together and cook over medium to low heat for about 2 – 3 minutes.  Just to low boil and stir constantly.  It will burn if you let it boil too long.

Serve hot immediately or let it cool and it will set up to a nice thick spreadable fudge.

 A New Spin on Grandma’s Recipe – Vegan Style

I have also created a vegan version of this recipe out of necessity.  I’m now allergic to dairy products and I’m sad to say I have to limit my consumption of grandma’s chocolate sauce.  I created the next best thing.  A coconut, chocolate, almond version which I think it tastes pretty good.

Brenda’s Vegan Chocolate Sauce     

½ cup sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

3 tablespoons liquid coconut oil (see note below)

½ cup Almond milk unsweetened

Mix all ingredients together and cook over medium to low heat for about 2 – 3 minutes.  Just to low boil and stir constantly.  It will burn if you let it boil too long.

This sauce is not as thick as the other sauce but it still is pretty nice.

February 13, 2014 008  Note:  I purchase this oil from Amazon.com

Expanding Chocolate into an Out of Body Experience …

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Do you love to bathe in chocolate?  I do!  Well… not like the woman in the picture above.  To bathe in a tub of chocolate is more of a fantasy of mine.  However, the next best thing to being in a bath of chocolate is to wash with a nice decadent bar of chocolate soap!

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I worked hard on creating this chocolate soap recipe.  It had to have that wonderful chocolate smell and feel, plus have the health benefits of leaving your skin moisturized.  I use a high quality organic fair trade cocoa powder (70% + cacao) along with fresh local goat’s milk and 3 different oils, which I call my Mediterranean recipe.  Nothing is more decadent than bathing with a bar of solid chocolate – you won’t be disappointed!  Oh my! Oh my! The smell, the feel! Mmmm – pure heaven.

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In addition to washing with a bar of chocolate, try giving yourself a chocolate moisturizing mask. According to Discovery Health and Fitness website they state chocolate is very healthy for your skin.

It may seem counterintuitive, but using a chocolate face mask can help keep skin clear and hydrated, according to Jessica Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face. The key is using the right ingredients. “Since prepackaged face masks may contain salt or sugar particles with jagged edges that can scratch your skin, I recommend making your own chocolate face mask at home,” says Wu. “They’re cheap to make and all natural so if you accidentally lick your lips, you know its safe enough to eat.”

So here is their recipe for a chocolate face mask. However, I would recommend that you use locally produced honey and organic yogurt from a local farmer instead of using commercial brands.  Most large commercial brands contain additional ingredients to prolong shelf life, which may affect your desired results.  Check your local co-ops they always have these ingredients in stock.

Chocolate Face Mask

2 – 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder (70% cacao or more)

2 – 3 tablespoons of local organic yogurt (add more or less to get the right consistency of a brownie batter)

1 teaspoon of local honey (to keep skin hydrated)

1 teaspoon of olive oil (for really dry skin)

Apply with fingertips to clean, dry skin and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes; rinse with lukewarm water.

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