And we have a winner…

A set of our new naked soap goes to Serafinamia – just one of the fantastic comments we got on our Earth Day blog post.  Wayne will not stop repeating the slogan.   Serafinamia, please email belleterrenc[at]gmail[dot]com with your address and we’ll send your soap along.

Thanks to everyone who participated – you guys are amazing!  Check back in May for our next giveaway.

_____________________

Serafinamia

Hi – we compost every veggie bit, buy organic to reduce pesticide use and eat vegetarian to reduce the environmental cost of producing meat (among a host of other reasons). We recycle everything – sometimes even the neighbors’ cardboard or cast-off TVs. We also don’t poison our own yard, because ‘native grasses’ (aka, weeds!) are neat when mowed to uniform size!

The old WWII slogan, ‘Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without,’ just might be useful again.

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Festival Wrap-up: The Handmade Market

This weekend I had the opportunity to venture to Raleigh to participate in the Handmade Market for the first time.   The event has been taking place since 2006 (!) and the Handmaidens have held it twice a year since.

There was a fantastic mix of vendors at the show and the Handmaidens and the volunteers were lovely.  It was my first event sans Wayne, so I was a bit nervous about getting there and setting up alone, but other than one broken box and a missing in action display piece, it went quite smoothly and everyone was more than willing to help.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that although we lived in Durham for over a year, this was my very first time to visit downtown Raleigh.   Cobblestone Hall itself and the area around it was gorgeous.  I’d like to go back when we have time to visit the shops & restaurants.

Normally I ditch Wayne part of the way through the event to run around and take some pictures to share on the blog.  As I was flying solo, I set up and then took some shots while others were finishing up their booths.  I do wish I had more pictures from during the event so you can see all the activity.

Here are a few shots I took of the some of the vendors as well as links to their sites:

Phil Barbato had cute plush toys

One of the handmaidens had these amazing paper flowers.  You have to click for a larger version to appreciate the detail involved….so pretty!

Samantha at Reborn Designs had some gorgeous earrings

I loved the little books that Linen Laid & Felt had….so beautiful!

And the scarves from Flytrap are gorgeous!

Everytime I looked over at Jellykoe I giggled a bit.  Their stuff was so fun.

From the moment I walked in, I wanted to visit Rosy Revolver.  I heard two different people mention getting very cool jewelry from her.  By the time I made it over to the booth she had been cleaned out!  I took a picture all the same and promptly feel in love with a pair of earrings.

Maybe it was better that I was tied to the booth?  This could have been a very expensive show for me!  I did manage to get a mother’s day gift from Twist (shhhh…don’t tell Bonnie) and treated myself to Thai AND veggie sushi over the course of the trip!

I was able to talk with several of the vendors and even met a fellow teamie from Etsy (how fun is that?!?).  Michelle S. and Twist Style were on either side of me and I did the most visiting with them, but I also met two of the other soap vendors who wandered over and introduced themselves.  Everyone was so kind.

The short version of this long post?  If you are in the Raleigh area, you should definitely check out this show in November.  It was lots of fun and we’re looking forward to participating again.

Like us on Facebook to find out what other events we’ll be attending this year.  Our calender is filling up quickly!

The Return of Grass

As we make our way through Spring, life abounds at Belle Terre Farm.  The trees are filling out forming a green canopy that is ever in motion,  the white blooms of the dogwood peak through the woods, and the grass does what it does best; it grows!  With blueberry bushes in the ground, plans for hundreds of black bean plants in the works and preparations afoot for the arrival of at least two new hives; keeping the grass in check is a priority.  For those who are haven’t read our previous posts on http://willowhermitage.wordpress.com you may not be familiar with my old school lawn mower.  Well here it is (eat your heart out John Deere)…

For those who don’t know what this is or why I refer to it as a lawn mower, this is a scythe.  Traditionally used for cutting grasses, harvesting grains, etc. the scythe is a highly effective tool for anyone wanting to keep their grass nice and tidy without destroying their micro climate with a gas powered lawn mower.

Here is a picture of the garden rows before mowing…

and here is a picture of the garden rows after mowing

A noticeable difference after only about 30 – 45 minutes with the scythe.  I went ahead and turned under the cover crop and grass clippings in the three rows on the right.  I will start my first planting of black beans next week with these three rows.  The soil is looking better but will still need some work before it is ready for a regular rotation.  Next I will turn under the cover crop and grass on the rows in the center and to the left.  The cover crops were planted much later in these rows and I want to give them a little more time to build up organic matter before turning them in.

Here is a pic of the blueberry bushes before mowing…

and after…

Again, 15 to 20 minutes with the scythe.  Blueberries don’t like competition so I decided to put down some weed prevention cloth and mulch to keep the grass down.  I grossly underestimate the amount of mulch required so I only got one of the three rows done.  The bushes seem to be ok though I have limited experience with blueberries.

The next project was to clear the areas for the bees’ future home.  I didn’t make much progress as it had been raining for a while and I was starting to get tired and knew that I had much to accomplish back at Belle Terre headquarters.  As has become my habit this spring I did take a few minutes to walk our little corner of the world for a nice nature shot.  Here is what I found this trip…

My apologies for the quality of the picture.  I forgot my camera and was taking shots with my phone.  Not sure what kind of flower this is but the white and pink flowers were gorgeous against the green and brown backdrop of the creek bed.

It was a great day and I had much fun.  Every trip is another step forward toward our dream, step after glorious step.

Be Well,

Wayne

Earth Day Giveaway

Earth Day  is (appropriately) quite close to Belle Terre’s one year anniversary, so this is an exciting time for us. We frequently take an inventory of what we’ve done to ensure we are environmentally conscious and this is a great time to focus on that a bit more.

Personally we are trying to transition to a life that allows us to live closer to the earth, in a much smaller home, and to grow our own food.  We are expanding our apiary, working on plans for our home, and we’re developing our land to provide fruit and veggies for us.

From a business perspective, we started Belle Terre with the promise to ourselves that we would create a product that would be as eco-friendly as possible and we’ve held to that.  Our packaging is minimal and typically recycled, we use recycled shipping envelopes whenever possible, and we research our suppliers in order to choose only sustainable ingredients.

We recently asked ourselves how our packaging could be more sustainable and the answer was basically not to have any.  Sounds crazy?  It might be slightly nuts, but others are doing it and we think it works.  So, meet our new line of Naked Soap:

The bars are round (woohoo!) and are currently offered in three options:

  • Simply Shea – our basic soap recipe with added shea butter
  • Charcoal Shea – our basic soap with charcoal and shea butter
  • Tea Tree – our basic soap recipe with tea tree oil

The Simply Shea & Charcoal Shea soaps have no added essential oils so they are perfect for sensitive skin.  Tea Tree oil is known for its antibacterial properties.  All three are just soap.  Pure and Simple.   These new options are available now on our Etsy site.

The giveaway: What are you doing personally or professionally to increase your commitment to the environment?  One commenter will receive a free three pack of our new Naked Soap!  The winner will be chosen Wednesday April 27th.

On the home front…

For what seems like ages now we’ve been discussing about how to proceed with our little 6 acre paradise outside of Morganton, NC.  We would like to move there as soon as possible, but there are tons of variables (not the least of which is financial) that have been impeding that transition.  We’ve been researching options including (eek) living in a camper for a year or so while we build.  I’m quite happy to say that we’ve finally come to a decision and Belle Terre is playing a large role in it.

Rather than purchasing a camper or another temporary living structure, we’re going to try to build a {very small} traditional house on the land next spring.  The thought is that we can move in next summer and formally begin our little adventure.  It will allow us to put our current house on the market sans dogs (it’s slightly challenging to show a house when you have four of them!).   At the same time, we’ll be able to save  money to build our {slightly larger} straw bale home.  After we move into the main house, our tiny house on the hill will become Belle Terre’s permanent home.  It will serve as our production space/storage room/studio.

With that in mind, we met with a builder today (making this all feel very official) to discuss our options.   To prepare for our meeting, I drew up this 500 sqft sample plan:


The front of the house (at the bottom of the plan) has double french doors leading onto the deck and windows on either side of the door.  It faces down the hill and looks over our property.  It should create quite a pretty view.  If you have to spend significant time on the computer (as we do), its an awfully nice place to sit and do it.  

As a side note, floorplanner.com is very cool.  It lets you draw out a simple plan quite easily, add all kinds of items to it, and even to see it in 3D.

I also gave the builder this photo so he know what I had in mind for the exterior:

It’s a very simple, rustic cabin feeling.  I pulled this picture from a site ages ago and unfortunately don’t know the source, but many thanks to the owner for their contribution to our dream.  I’ve posted the rest of my collection of home inspiration photos at Pinterest.

So, that’s our plan.  In the meantime, we can continue to both work and use our free time to focus on building our little soap company.

We have a winner (actually two!)

You guys came up with fantastic answers to our recent Things We Love giveaway.  We enjoyed reading them so much!  Two of those answers stuck out for us – Naomi and Lisa.  Their responses are below.   Naomi & Lisa, please send your address and choice of soap and lip balm to belleterrenc {at} gmail {dot} com.

Stay turned for our next giveaway later this month….

Thanks for participating!

~ Julia & Wayne

Naomi Mac Millan

I love the way my legs tingle after I’ve gone hiking.
I love having my apartment filled with the people I love.
I love putting food in people’s bellies.
I love when my boyfriend sings ” If you want my body” to cheer me up.
I love missing the characters of a really good book.
I love planting in the garden with my students.

Lisa@pobox607

that is a wonderful question, that I would love to answer. I love {in no particular order}…
*pancakes on the weekend
*coffee with cream
*running on the california coastal trail
*a live bluegrass show
*sharing a bottle of wine with my boyfriend
*socks and chocolate in the mail from mom
*eating veggie tacos at our local taqueria {Tres Amigos} with lots of avocado and a bottle of coke.
*gnocchi from scratch
*receiving a letter or postcard in the mail from a far away friend.
*the early morning
*visiting new places {and returning to those places I will always call home}
*splashing in mud puddles
*new and old music on my record player
*learning something new
xo