Apr 28, 2009

Of Supplies and Demand

What the average person doesn't know about soap, amongst other obscure facts, is that it requires four weeks of curing time. That means that after it comes out of the mold, it needs to sit and air-dry and harden so it won't melt like buttah when you use it. Additionally, this means that each winter I have to begin laying out money for supplies a month before I can hope to start bringing any money in. This typically creates an early-spring lurch wherein I don't have a lot of product for the first few shows. Sell a little soap, buy a little bit of supplies, sell a bit more soap buy a bit more supplies, etc.

This year, however, things aren't progressing as they should. It's the cusp of May and my soap bins are nearly empty. It's been 'sell a little soap, buy the tiniest amount of supplies, sell slightly less soap, buy slightly less supplies.' Being financially restricted to purchasing my oils, labels, and what-have-you in the smallest available increment means paying a higher per unit price, thus further harming net profits in a period of reduced sales. What that translates to it a vicious cycles of skipping craft shows and farmers markets for want of products, then not making any money to buy supplies to make more product.

So if you see my table looking a little bare, please be patient and come check out what I do have. If you don't see me in my usual venues at all, at least you'll know why.

Be sure to stop by my booth at this weekend's Arts in the Park and (most) Thursdays at 17th St Farmers Market.

Apr 21, 2009

The week: Baby Goats at 17th St Farmers Market

This post goes out to all the people who've ever asked me "Why don't you bring a goat with you?" at a farmers market or craft show. On Thursday April 23 (9-2) and Saturday April 25 (10-4), I will be taking two six week old baby goats with me to the 17th St Farmers Market.

Here's a pic of the female, Prieka, when she was just a few days old:

Who could resist that little face? :D

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that Thursday isn't a lock. My husband is having spinal surgery on Tuesday and the doctor wants him to stay in hospital for two days. Further updates as they become available.

Apr 20, 2009

No good deed goes unpunished

Things are about to get very busy down on the farm and not just because farmers market season starts this week. With heartfelt thanks to the ElderHomes organization, we're about to have a great deal of renovation done to our house and property to get it up to code. One of the tasks before them is demolishing the old workshop because of its dilapidated condition and proximity to the house. This workshop was chock full of stuff when we bought our farm - vintage car radios, nuts and bolts, milk glass, light fixtures, you name it. Me, I hate waste and I didn't want to see potentially useful objects razed by a bulldozer and scooped into a dumpster. To that end, I posted a "freesale" on Freecycle and Craiglists. For those who may not be familiar, Freecycle is an internet community to give thing away or find things for free and a freesale is like a yard sale but everything is free (stop me if I'm going too fast). We had done this once previously with the old barn down by the street, which has been crammed floor-to-ceiling by the hoarders we bought the property from, and that had been a rousing, and easily managed, success.

The freesale was set to start at noon on Sunday and run until six o'clock. People began arriving at ten and were promptly turned away while my husband, who is having his fourth spinal surgery the day after the demolition and construction work begin, worked hurriedly to get our belongings out of the workshop. A number of items were too large or heavy for us to move, so I labelled them with signs that read "Sorry, this stays. We just didn't get it moved in time," including but not limited to my husband's air compressor, rolling toolbox, and the deconstructed engine of a 1963 Ford Galaxy 500.

At 11:40 or so, my father-in-law popped by for a visit and warned me that a crowd had developed at the bottom of our 200 foot long driveway and was growing in size to the point that one man had appointed himself to direct traffic. A few minutes later, my sister arrived with her children, all of whom have been staying with us while she does vital repairs to the house she just bought. She told me she had to shout "I live here!" at the people to get by. The thought of that crowd growing anxious and seeing two cars go past them and not immediately return began to make me nervous. It put me in mind of the 1979 Who concert in Cincinnati where 11 people were trampled to death when people at the back of the crowd mistook roadies tuning the sound system for the concert starting and surged towards the two unlocked doors.

Ten minutes before the opening time, the crowd began to advance up my driveway, twenty abreast, like an army, a mighty phalanx of freecyclers and craigslisters. Here is a picture of half the crowd.
It doubled as soon as I carried one more armful of tools to the storage box. When the clock hit noon or near enough, I approached the crowd to make a basic announcement and they began to move forward, encroaching on me like "Dawn of the Dead" (the original, not the zombies-can-run-now remake). I barely held them back long enough to tell them where they would be scavenging. No sooner did I yell "Merry Christmas, y'all" but they nearly broke out in a run. Remember a few years back when Henrico sold their surplus iBooks and a stampede ensued? I sure did (though I can't find a clip on YouTube for some reason). "Calm down!" I yelled. "I don't want to be on the internet for this. That's not the kind of fame I'm looking for."

Despite having pointed to the workshop and described the workshop, some joker ran immediately over to the patio of my house and started snatching decorative items from around my door. Thankfully, my sister-in-law Dani, a no-nonsense Latina, had just arrived, too late to schlep and carry but just in time to be a most effective bouncer and guard our home.

It was pandemonium. People were rushing everywhere, grabbing things and hot-footing it back to their cars. If there was a couple, one had to stand guard over the pile of stuff because anything unguarded would be snatched by someone else. A number of people had toddlers and babes-in-arms with them, which I directed over to look at the goats and chickens to keep them out of harm's way. Bear in mind that the workshop has no electricity, not everyone brought flashlights as instructed, there's broken things and about-to-be-broken things on every inch of floor and now there's twenty to thirty people elbowing their way through to find broken lamps and old junk with no conceivable use to anyone.

A woman coming out of the workshop very early on in the proceedings warned me that people were moving my signs, so I rushed inside. Sure enough, there's a man digging through my husband's tools. Do we look rich enough to cast perfectly good socket wrenches before swine? I stuck two more signs on that corner and posted my husband in the workshop for crowd control. Poor Kevin was already well in pain but at least it was dim in there and he likes that - he'd live in a cave if I'd let him.

We would learn later that one woman got knocked down and another woman was standing on her leg, refusing to move until she's gotten what she wanted. There was also reportedly a fist-fight down at the street while people were waiting. It's any wonder my neighbors didn't call the constabulary. At one point we heard someone screaming blue murder down by the old barn, which people were also offered to dig through. I rushed down to find out what was going on, only to have it be that someone took a picture frame off an old woman's pile. "It was obviously my pile!" she insisted, which is patently ludicrous. How could anyone tell a pile of junk made fifty years ago by the previous owners from a pile of junk made today, let along that that pile "belonged" to someone? I had to stand by her pile went she went to get her truck just to make her quiet.

The peak of activity ebbed and I went inside to check the time, expecting the freesale to be half over. It had only been an hour and a half! We were already exhausted. Everything not nailed down, and a number of things that had to be pried up, had been taken. The savages even stole our newspaper!

One bright spot in all of this was a family group who came out hoping to find scrap metal to help support themselves - one of the brothers had recently been laid off and he had a wife and two kids, with another on the way. Not only did they find a lot in the workshop and old barn, but we took them around the property to caches of old appliances and engine parts, which have been the bane of my existence every winter for nine years when the leaves die off and they reappear. These folks made three trips yesterday with their pick-up truck and trailer piled to the limits of reason and they plan to come out again today. They're even taking the walls and ceiling of the workshop itself and the old VW Beetle out in the woods (that we could never figure out how they got it there because its completely surrounded by trees). The sub-contractor hired to bulldoze the workshop Tuesday should be pleased to find a lot of the work done for him already.

If you've got vast cubic yards of stuff to get rid of, a freesale can be a good idea. But next time, I'm hiring armed security.

Apr 18, 2009

Odds from the farm, 2

You're never too young to learn a trade and apparently 5 years old is the idea age to begin teaching welding. Here my darling husband Kevin gives our nephew Rieley his first lesson.

Don't worry, Kevin never took his hands off Rieley's and they only cut one hole in a scrap piece of pipe.

Apr 14, 2009

This weekend: Celebration of the Vine (Chesterfield)

My booth is near the main entrance, though I can't say specifically because I haven't gotten my map yet. The weather looks just perfect, mid seventies and mostly sunny.

from the official website:

About the Festival

The Celebration of the Vine will be held at Chesterfield County Government Complex
9800 Government Center Parkway
Chesterfield, VA 23832

11:00am - 6:00pm

Be sure to bring a blanket or chairs and to enjoy your food, wine and the band!

Please no pets and no coolers
There are no refunds for ticket purchases
This is a rain or shine event

Casper, a popular Richmond-based band whose musical repertoire covers great dance music from many decades and genres, including Motown, rock, funk, swing, and country will be taking the stage during the festival. Their energetic and enthusiastic sets will provide the perfect ambience while you enjoy tasting samples from participating wineries.

Attending Wineries
Amrhein Wine Cellars
Blue Ridge Winery
Chateau Morrisette
Cooper Vineyards
Davis Valley Winery
First Colony Winery
Grayhaven Winery
Horton Cellars
James River Cellars, Inc.
Lake Anna Winery
New Kent Winery
Peaks of Otter Winery
Virginia Mountain Winery
Woodland Vineyard Farm Winery

Purchase Tickets Online Now »

You can also buy your tickets at the following locations:
Flagstop Carwash & Quick Lube - 11031 Iron Bridge Rd.
Village Bank - 4221 W. Hundred Rd.
Village News - 4607 W. Hundred Rd.
The WeekEnd Brewer - 4205 W. Hundred Rd.
Chesterfield Chamber - 9330 Iron Bridge Rd., Ste. B
Chesterfield Co. Parks & Rec. - 6801 Mimms Loop
Village Bank - 6551 Centralia Rd.
Vineyard's Corner - 6523 Centralia Rd.
Colonial Heights
Boulevard Flowers - 2100 Ruffin Mill Rd.
Flagstop Carwash & Quick Lube - 610 Boulevard
Medallion Pools & Spas - 840-A West Roslyn Rd.
Fort Lee
MWR Information, Tickets & Travel Office - 9024 Battle Dr.
Appomattox River Peanut Co. - 424 S. 15th Ave.
Bella Vino - 12010 Southshore Pointe Dr.
Village Bank – 13521 Waterford Pl.
Village Bank – 6736 Southshore Dr.
Village Bank – 13531 Midlothian Tnpk.
Village Bank – 1120 Huguenot Rd.
Village Bank – 11450 Robious Rd.
Village Bank - 15521 Midlothian Tnpk., Ste. 200
Wine Cellar - 2017 Wal-Mart Way
Java Mio - 322 N. Sycamore St.
Belle & Kitchen Kuisine - 3044 Stony Point Rd.
Once Upon a Vine - 4009 Macarthur Ave.
Once Upon a Vine - 2817 Hathaway Rd.
Strawberry Street Market – 415 N. Strawberry St.
Strawberry Street Café - 421 N. Strawberry St.

Odds from the farm

What a great way to start a Monday. Yesterday morning, I hosted two visitors to the farm during morning chores for a milking lesson - a nun and her sister. Her actual sister, not another nun. I met Sister Eva, the nursing director of the local house of Little Sisters of the Poor, (who are having a French food festival this weekend, by the way) at the Church Hill Irish Festival. She had her younger sister Anna, an aspiring vet tech visiting from Pennsylvania, in tow at Easter on Parade. They seemed thrilled to hear that we let folk come out the farm and scheduled their visit for the next morning, the only time that would work before Anna had to go home. We all had a great time. Eva in particular had lots of great questions. Here's a pic of us, with me in my fuzzy first thing in the morning' best. Don't think I need to tell you which sister is which. :)

P.S.: To the sister and her sister, sorry if I goofed your names up, hope I was close.

Apr 10, 2009

This weekend: two events

Williamsburg Farmers Market, 8:30 - 12:00: keep a weather eye open for my booth. The manager has decided to put a small number of vendors across the street in front of the bookstore, me among them. I've asked for first dibs on any openings in the main market, so fingers crossed.

Easter on Parade, 1 - 5: dress up the dog and bring the whole family!

I apologize in advance, but we are still running very low on product. If you see something you like, don't stand on ceremony.