Wrap-Up: Christmas in the Valley – Day 1

Julia and I were both very excited about today.  Not only were we going to our first Christmas show we were also releasing our three holiday scents.  While we really liked the new scents you never really know how they are going to do until you get feedback from total strangers.  The result…Success!!!  We sold quite a few holiday bars and got good feedback from the folks who didn’t buy. Continue reading

Christmas in the Valley – Day 1

Julia and I were both very excited about today.  Not only were we going to our first Christmas show we were also releasing our three holiday scents.  While we really liked the new scents you never really know how they are going to do until you get feedback from total strangers.  The result…Success!!!  We sold quite a few holiday bars and got good feedback from the folks who didn’t buy.

This was also the first time we had done an indoor “show” and it was nice not having to fight the elements.  Of course there was the constant battle of remembering everything we needed to set up the booth.  I forgot to get the tablecloths out of the dryer (in my defense, Julia only reminded me once this morning =) ).  Julia saved the day and we now have more black tablecloths than we will ever need.  Once we got the tablecloths we got set up and all went well.

As always, we had great neighbors who were friendly and helped keep us company through the afternoon lull.   The customers were great and very complimentary of our products and our booth.  Below are some pics.  Enjoy!

Booth at Christmas In the Valley show

Another shot of the booth

Closeup of our gift sets and gift boxes. These were a big hit!!!

Tomorrow’s post will be dedicated to our neighbors at the show and the puppy parade put on by the Humane Society of Catawba County.  I can’t wait!

In for a penny, in for a pound

You never really know what is going to happen at the farmer’s market.  I have had good days when it was dreary and overcast and I have had terrible days when it was sunny and beautiful.  This being the case, it is easy to always go into a market day with your hopes high, even when there were tornadoes in the area the night before and more in the forecast.  As I loaded the car the morning was overcast but no rain, a good sign to say the least.  As I headed to Hickory for the market the day continued to be dry if a bit dreary.  But as I pulled into the farmer’s market to unload a car full of soap that desperately wanted to go home with some native Hickorians (or is Hickorites?) the rain started to fall.  I quickly unloaded and parked the car.  The biggest problem for us is that soap is best stored in cardboard boxes which are wonderful in almost any situation that doesn’t involve water.  As the rain continued to fall I quickly realized this was not going to be one of those situations! All things considered it went well.  We lost a couple of boxes to water damage but only one or two bars of soap.

Below are some pictures of the market and the brave souls who came out to support their local farmers and artisans.  The other vendors managed to keep the spirits high throughout the afternoon.  Joanne, our totally awesome market manager, closed the market at 4pm due to another band of angry storms that were headed our way.

Deluge at the Market

Joanne, the Market Manager, on Tent Patrol

Market Vendors Staying Dry

The good news…the Saturday forecast is perfect!!!

Exhale…

I finally made it out to our land.  It has been way too long.  The soap business has taken more time than either of us anticipated,  though we don’t mind.  Starting Belle Terre has been tons of fun!  But as I walked beneath the maples with yellow, red and brown leaves rustling under foot, the bigger picture was once again brought into focus.  A simple life, close to the earth, with Julia and our clan of canine companions.  This is Belle Terre!

The picture below is  of the garden rows I had been working on in late August and early September.  While the changing colors reminded me that nature was exhaling from a long busy summer, this image reminded me that life continued and there would be no season of rest for those who chose to live close to the earth.

What’s In Your Dove Soap?

In a recent contest we held on facebook I asked our fans why they used all natural organic soaps, like the ones we make at Belle Terre. One of our fans, Renee, listed a couple crazy sounding ingredients from a store bought soap that she has used for some time. She said she preferred the all natural soaps because she was concerned about the chemicals that she and her family were rubbing all over themselves while “cleaning”. It got me thinking about how we have a responsibility to help the public learn what is in the products they may be using. We will be doing occasional posts which will list the ingredients for popular store bought soap brands and then compare it to the ingredients in a bar of Belle Terre soap. The ingredients for the commercial soap will come from their MSDS (material safety data sheet) which they are required to have on file with the US Department of Health & Human Services. The first post in this series is for the Dove Bar Soap.

Dove Bar Soap (with 1/4 moisturizing lotion) Ingredients: Stearic acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, 2,6-Di-t-butyl-p-cresol (BHT), Sodium stearate, Trisodium etidronate, Sodium chloride, Water, Sodium tallowate, Titanium dioxide, Sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate, Coconut fatty acids, Sodium cocoate, Sodium cocoyl isethionate, Cocoamidopropylbetaine, Sodium palm kernelate, Sodium alkylbenzenesulfonate

Belle Terre Soap (Lavender) Ingredients: Organic olive oil, water, organic coconut oil, organic palm oil (sustainably harvested), lye, organic lavender essential oil

If you would like to do more research on the ingredients in Dove click the following link. Dove MSDS

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this. If you think this is important share it with your family and friends. If you would like to learn more about Belle Terre’s products and commitment to the environment click here: Belle Terre – Clean & Green.

The Common Sense Environmentalist

For those who know us or have seen our products you know that we are very concerned about the environment, our ecological footprint, sustainability, etc., etc.  What you may not know is the basis of these concerns.  After all, each side of the “climate change” argument will produce scientists, studies and reports which definitively debunk everything said by their dissenter’s scientists, studies and reports.  So what is one to do?

It is always good to review Occam’s razor, before thinking about such weighty matters.  Occam’s razor is best explained by the phrase, “the simplest explanation is usually the correct one”.   Keeping this in mind, I have taken a common sense approach to this question.  Here are a few basic scenarios that have helped me come to realize why it is important that we live in a more sustainable manner.

  1. If you stand close to the tail pipe of an SUV and take a deep breath, you will notice that the air does not smell clean.  You may even cough a time or two before realizing there are better places to stand if you would like to keep breathing.  On the other hand, if you are standing in the middle of the woods in a rural area with no cars or manufacturing facilities around and take a deep breath, you will notice that it is quite easy to do.  Further, you realize you don’t cough and you don’t have to leave if you wish to continue breathing.  Ergo, fewer cars or car emissions and more trees will mean that we will all be able to breathe better!
  2. There are a lot of people on the earth.  They all would like to be able to eat, every day.  It takes approximately 16 pounds of grain to make 1 pound of beef, but it only takes 1 pound of grain to make 1 pound of grain =).  Ergo: It is a lot easier for us to feed everybody if we eat more plants and less meat.
  3. I don’t like to pay the trash man to take away my garbage.  So, if I go to the grocery store and by some canned green beans which they kindly put in a plastic bag, when I am done eating my green beans, I have a can and a plastic bag.  The next day, I can put the can and the plastic bag into my garden to compost.  If I wait a little while, about 500 years, the plastic bag and the aluminum can will have decomposed and I am ready to plant my garden.  However, if I go to my local farmer’s market I can get my green beans along with my other vegetables in a cardboard box.  The next week, when I go back to the farmers market I can take that same box and give it back to my local farmer, who will give it back to me the following week with a bunch of vegetables.  Ergo: Buy local food that comes in reusable cardboard boxes and you won’t have a bunch of cans and plastic bags in your garden.

These simple scenarios help me to remember why it is so important that we don’t get caught up in the semantics or technicalities of the great climate change argument.  Just look at your world and how it works and find the simplest solution to the problem.  If you can think of any scenarios please share them as a comment under this entry.

Eczema & Natural Soaps

Lately we have been getting a lot of questions about whether or not our soaps are good for individuals with eczema.  It got us thinking and so we did some research to find out if natural soaps themselves could benefit individuals suffering with eczema.  Before we go any further it is important to remember that we are not doctors or medical experts of any kind.  The information we will be sharing has been taken from online resources that we trust and will cite at the bottom of the post so you can do some research for yourself, which we strongly recommend.

Okay, now that we have that behind us, lets get back to the subject at hand.

What Is Eczema and Why Does It Happen?

Let’s start with a definition of eczema.  Eczema is a term for a group of medical conditions that cause the skin to become inflamed or irritated.  The most common type is atopic dermatitis.  Frequently, eczema is associated with other allergy related conditions such as asthma.  Symptoms of eczema include:

  • Red to brownish-gray colored patches
  • Itching, which may be severe, especially at night
  • Small, raised bumps, which may leak fluid and crust over when scratched
  • Thickened, cracked or scaly skin
  • Raw, sensitive skin from scratching

The exact cause of atopic dermatitis (eczema) is unknown, but is likely due to a combination of dry, irritated skin together with a malfunction in the body’s immune system. Stress and other emotional disorders can worsen atopic dermatitis, but they don’t cause it.  Flare ups can be caused or exacerbated by irritants such as rough and itchy fabrics, harsh soaps and detergents, heat & sweat, dry skin due to dehydration or excessively hot or long baths or showers.  Basically, anything that is going to damage and dry out your skin can cause or worsen an eczema flare up.

How Do I Prevent or Treat Eczema?

There is a myriad of ways to treat eczema.  Before starting any treatment you should consult your doctor.  You can use otc or prescription strength creams to relieve the itching and reduce inflammation.  You may need antibiotics if you have an infection due to itching.  Oral antihistamines may help if itching becomes severe.  For more severe cases, oral steroids such as prednisone may be prescribed by your doctor.  If none of these treatments work then your doctor may prescribe Protopic or Elidel.  Make sure you discuss the possible side effects about these drugs as they have been given the FDA’s strongest “black box” warning.  These drugs have been associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in animals.  Further, these drugs are not permitted to be used in children under the age of 2 as severe adverse events have been reported.

As with traditional medical treatment, home treatments can vary widely.  If it is determined that eczema is a result of an allergy, the best treatment is to remove the irritant.  Beyond this, basic skin health is critical for preventing and / or moderating flare ups.  This includes avoiding itchy clothing, not taking extended hot baths or showers, avoiding harsh soaps or detergents, remaining hydrated and using creams or lotions to keep your skin hydrated.

How Can All Natural Soaps Help?

If you are currently using a regular bar of soap from the grocery store there is a good chance that it is doing more harm than good.  Most of these soaps, especially the heavily scented ones, contain harsh chemicals and detergents that smell good and last a long time in the shower.  While these are admirable traits, they don’t do anything to help your skin and can do a good bit of damage.  All natural soaps are typically made using olive oil, palm oil and coconut oil.  Some soap makers use other oils but these are the most common.  These natural oils, especially olive oil, are great for helping your skin retain its natural moisture.  Further, some of these soaps contain additional ingredients such as shea butter or tea tree oil which can benefit individuals with conditions such as eczema.  Shea butter is well known to help moisturize skin and tea tree oil helps to kill bacteria and fungi which can infect cracked and irritated skin.   Many natural soapmakers, including Belle Terre, handcraft soaps that include each of these items.  We offer a Lemongrass Shea butter soap that has a wonderfully clean scent.  We also make a soap called Evening Glow which contains tea trea oil along with rosewood, sweet orange and clary sage essential oils for a relaxed citrus scent.  Finally, we are also working on a Eucalyptus Tea Tree oil soap that will be ready in a couple of months.

In short, switching to all natural soaps will not cure eczema.  However, using all natural soaps, like the ones made at Belle Terre, can be part of a healthy skin lifestyle which can moderate or reduce eczema flare ups.  We hope this post has been helpful and informative.

The medical information found in this web post was found at:

http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/default.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/eczema/DS00986