Our workshop move to Abbotsbury

In January and February of this year we signed leases for two workshops, one courtyard garden and one allotment garden in the centre of Abbotsbury, a historic Ilchester Estate village on the Jurassic Coast in West Dorset, England.

Abbotsbury is a beautiful village, famous for Chesil Beach, the 14th Century St. Catherine’s Chapel, 15th Century Benedictine tithe barn, 16th Century thatched cottages that line the high street, a swannery and subtropical gardens, all within minutes of our workshops.

We refurbished the old artisan buildings to make them light, white, bright and clean, installed all the equipment and facilities we needed for skincare manufacture, and began making all the stock we need for the forthcoming season. We look forward to reopening the online retail shop and restarting our wholesale dispatches at the end of this month, April 2021.

The workshops are just a few minutes away from the Jurassic Coast - a wonderful haven of seaside beauty and heritage, where we can forage for seaweeds and beautiful maritime plants like gorse, sea kale, thrift and sea lavender.

The UK’s first natural World Heritage Site designated by UNESCO, Chesil Beach, just south of Abbotsbury, is 185 million years old, 29 km long and contains an estimated 100 million tonnes of pebbles.

The beach is thought to have formed during the Ice Age, when landslides cut into sea cliffs and delivered huge quantities of pebbles onto the shore to form a tombolo, or a spit, connecting the Isle of Portland to the mainland of the Dorset coast. Lagoons have formed behind the beach and are home to a rich and varied habitat for flora and fauna.

Chesil Beach is part of the 95 km Jurassic Coast and if you visit in the spring you will see a mass of beautiful wild herbs and flowers, including scurvy grass, bird’s foot trefoil, wild carrot, viper’s bugloss and common mallow.

At our allotment site and in our courtyard entrance we are able to grow a number of different botanicals - calendula, borage, chamomile, yarrow, lavender, thyme, mint and many more plants, which will be macerated into oils, or turned into skincare teas and other products. We are also growing plants for bee foraging, including phacelia, clover, roses and native British wildflowers. By following organic, no dig gardening, permaculture principles, we are attracting the pollinators and looking after invertebrates, ensuring we have our own pest predator army.

You can see our daily work and progress on our Instagram feed and stories - we like to keep our followers updated with all our sowing, growing, making, curing and new product development plans. Thank-you for following our journey and for all your help and support since we started our business one year ago.

 

 

Harvest in the skincare garden

The growing season for our skincare garden is nearly over. We have been at work on the farm since March and in the last five months the garden plot has seen rapid growth which is now bearing flowers and seed heads.

So far we have sown, grown and harvested blue and white borage, calendula, fennel, clover, chamomile, yarrow and some thyme. There are also abundant orchard fruits, especially apples to make apple cider vinegar tonics and toners. The long, hot days have been interspersed with torrential showers and colder nights. Spring and early summer were very warm - sadly some seedlings did not make it, but on the whole germination rates and growth were good.

These botanicals have been dried either in wooden trays lined with paper, or tied in bunches with string and left outside to hang from wooden racks. What is really important when drying herbs and flowers is to ensure lots of warm air circulation - they start fermenting if damp and the mould creeps in.

We harvest early in the morning or later in the afternoon on a warm day, never after rain as you don't want moisture on the plant matter.

The flowers and leaves will be used to create oil macerations for skin and body oils and for soap making. We are using base oils such as hemp, rapeseed, borage and flax grown in the South West of Britain to create skincare products that have a sense of place and quality. If you buy imported skincare preparations you don't know how long the product has been in the processor's factory, on the distributor's shelf, in the hold of an aircraft, in the cargo of a ship, in the back of a lorry etc. It's like strawberries imported from Peru. They are nowhere near as the fresh, ripe strawberries from the Hay Penny Market Garden stall at Bridport Saturday Market.

There is also a growing movement, as part of the #zerowaste and #zeroplastic campaigns: dried plants as gift box packaging. It's not as daft as it sounds. Opening a gift box of soaps to find the filler contents are not made of paper, corn starch or air filled plastic pouches, but dried flowers is good for the planet and the soul.

Once the flowers and leaves have been harvested, some plants may be left in situ as “cut and come again” varietals or left to go to seed, to provide free volunteer seedlings for next year. The garden is run on permaculture, no-dig lines, so a light raking in is all the top of the soil gets before it's put to bed.

The borage, clover and phacelia in our patch are still flowering profusely and the bees and other pollinators are feeding avidly. The apple and plum orchard trees are bearing fruits and there is renewed interest in malic acid and plum kernel oil as effective ingredients to make skin toners and moisturisers.

The clover and phacelia are excellent green manures, and after flowering can be lightly dug in, or left in situ and covered in mulch. They help fix nitrogen into the soil and increase its fertility without the need for adding artificial fertilisers.

Like in many gardens in rural or semi-rural land where compost heaps are open to fields, there were weed seeds in the original compost that was spread on the patch last year. We have tried to remove as many weeds manually by the root or at least deadhead them to prevent further seeds reaching the ground and germinating. There are still quite a few weeks of warm weather left and negligence at this point can wreak double havoc next year.

Certain weeds, like cleavers, plantain and dandelions, are not that invasive and easier to manage, but others, like thistles, ground elder and bindweed, need to be pulled out carefully and systematically (or smothered) and placed on a totally separate heap which is then covered with bark and left for invertebrates. If mixed with compost for planting the cycle of weed despair begins again and you’re trapped in a loop.

There will be a general cutback, and a strimming in between rows, but invertebrates need somewhere to hide and the many inhabitants of the garden need a home over winter. There has to be a balance between tidiness and sustainability - we share this patch with countless ladybirds, beetles, butterflies, hoverflies, frogs and toads.

Soon, the bamboo canes will be removed and left in a corner for the ladybirds to nest in over winter. Cardboard, straw, leaf and bark mulch will be layered in between rows to cover the soil and restore tidiness. The plot will be reused to sow winter vegetables.

The evenings are drawing in very slowly and we are quickly heading towards the latter part of summer. Closure is just as important in the garden as the first plantings of spring - if you close the season well then the gardener returns to a plot filled with biodiversity and readiness for the next season.

It’s time to create more products and to get ready for Christmas production in the workshop.

 

Marbled gift wrapping paper by Florence Saumarez of Inq Studio

We commissioned the very talented marbled paper artist/maker/artisan Florence Saumarez of Inq Studio in Bath to create a bespoke gift wrapping paper for us, in our navy blue Pantone colour.

Over the course of a few weeks, Florence created a number of marbled paper designs and we chose our favourite.

For that special birthday, anniversary or thank-you present, choose whatever products you would like from the online shop, and we can wrap them for you in our bespoke navy blue marbled gift wrap paper by Florence Saumarez of Inq Studio of Bath. We hand tie the box with white grosgrain ribbon and handwrite a tag for your special message - let us know in the notes after you buy.

The paper is 100 gsm, printed on Munken Pure Rough paper.

 

Skincare herbal teas - for drinking, toning and facial steams

For millennia, fresh and dried herbs have been used to make teas and tisanes with health benefits. Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda practices use teas as part of holistic skincare healing and nourishment.

Herbal teas can significantly reduce cholesterol, lower the risk of heart problems and provide anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial protection for the skin.

I have been growing a number of herbs in an organic walled garden, to make soap and skincare preparations as well as herbal teas.

Herbal teas can be used in three ways:

  1. To create a tea infusion, or tisane, to drink.
  2. To create a tea infusion for toning the skin
  3. To create a herbal facial steam

Herbal tea infusion to drink

In order to help cleanse and detoxify our skin we need to drink at least six to eight big glasses of water every day, or the equivalent level of hydration in herbal teas, which provide flavour, fragrance and active medicinal properties to our daily diet.

Herbal teas contain vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants and catechins that work holistically to slow down the ageing process, stimulate collagen production (the scaffolding of skin), help reduce body fat by assisting metabolism, and maintain healthy skin cells. Tea also combats dehydration, a major culprit of dull and ageing skin.

For every 250 ml of hot water (1 mug) spoon a heaped teaspoon of herbs into a teapot and steep in hot water for 4 minutes. Strain the herbal tea into the mug and leave to cool slightly. You can add honey to sweeten or a slice of lemon or lime to add zest.

You can also cool your infusion and serve it with ice, lemon, or mint.

Herbal tea infusion as a skin tonic

Make the herbal tea infusion as described above and leave to cool. Use as a skin tonic after washing the face with farm Soap Co. soap. Apply with a muslin or linen face cloth and dab the skin gently, cleaning away the last residues of dirt or make up.

Herbal tea facial steam

Herbal tea facial steams are very effective for opening pores, encouraging sweat and circulation of the blood, cleansing the epidermis and creating a rosy glow. Place 3 tablespoons of herbal tea in a heat resistant bowl and pour 1 litre of kettle hot water over it. Mix well. Cover the head and bowl with a towel to create a steam "tent" and hold your face at a comfortable distance from the steam for 5 - 10 minutes. After your facial steam you can strain the tea infusion and add it to your bath or foot bath water.

HERBS

Calendula

Calendula officinalis

The petals of the English pot marigold are scientifically tested to provide a lasting, continuous supply of skin soothing compounds. Each individual calendula petal contains five compounds — oleanic acid, lupeol, quercetin, α amyrin and β amyrin which are known to provide antioxidant protection, soothe skin and reduce discomfort.

Chamomile

Chamaemelum nobile

Since Neanderthal times, chamomile flowers have been used for their soothing and calming properties.

They have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and calming properties for sensitive skins and chronic skin problems. The flowers contain quercetin, which protects the skin from sun damage.

Mint

Mentha

Soothing and cooling, mint encourages cell regeneration in the skin. Its anti-androgenic effect helps the female endocrine system. It is a powerful antioxidant, useful in the treatment of itchy skin and eczema. The menthol content in the leaves helps to reduce oiliness in the skin, thereby reducing the risk of skin breakouts or acne.

Rose

Rosa

Rose petals are filled with Vitamin A (a natural form of retinol – which increases the production of collagen). Rose tea is rich in polyphenols, such as gallic acid, anthocyanins, kaempferol, and quercetin. These antioxidants help neutralize free radicals and contribute to good health.

Sage

Salvia

The antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of sage tea is a good cure for oily skin, regenerating deal skin cells and curing acne.

High in beta carotene and vitamin K, sage tea repairs under eye tissues, reduces under eye swelling and dark circles.

Yarrow

Achillea millefolium

Yarrow is one of the most ancient healing, nourishing and restorative herbs and tonics, strengthening the circulatory system and opening up capillaries, thereby helping to lower blood pressure.

Yarrow tea is very famous as the go-to remedy to fight flu symptoms but it is also a skincare treatment – azulene, the blue volatile oil extracted from the plant is anti-inflammatory and is used to help with eczma, rosacea and scarring.

Lemon balm

Melissa officinalis

Lemon balm, or Melissa (meaning honeybee in Greek, for its ability to attract insects) is a perennial plant belonging to the mint family. It contains two compounds, caffeic acid and ferulic acid, that penetrate through the top layers into the deeper cutaneous layers of the skin and provide protection against Ultra Violet light  radiation-induced skin damage. Lemon balm is also high in flavonoids, which have an antioxidant effect. Other skin benefits can be attributed to the herb’s tannins, which are astringent and contribute to the lemon balm’s antiviral effects.

Geranium

Pelargonium graveolens

Geranium leaves and flowers, and the essential oils derived therefrom, help to reduce inflammation, heal skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, and stop pores from getting clogged which reduces acne outbreaks.

The antibacterial and antiseptic properties of the plant prevent acne breakouts caused by bacteria that naturally live on the skin but get trapped in pores, causing pimples, blackheads and whiteheads when mixed with sebum.

Geranium herbal tea can help to prevent breakouts by regulating sebum production and may help regulate imbalanced hormones - another common acne trigger. In particular, the hormones oestrogen, progesterone and insulin are linked to acne flare-ups.

Thyme

Thymus vulgaris

The name of the herb thyme comes from the ancient Greek "thymos" which means perfume.

The ancient Egyptians used the herb in the mummification process, owing to its antibacterial and antiseptic compounds, caryophyllene and camphene. Thyme helps to stimulate circulation, eases stress and anxiety, and is very anti-inflammatory, hence effective in treating skin break outs.

 

 

 

 

 

Farm Soap Co. Pop Up Shop

Look out for Farm Soap Co. popping up at different venues this summer and autumn - dates and places will be announced on Instagram.

There will be all the soaps, bath salts and soap flakes,  Libby Ballard soap dishes and Katherine Turner linen and cotton tote bags we feature in our online shop and lots more new products too. We look forward to seeing our customers and followers. 

Our first Newsletter

Hurray, it’s our first Newsletter!

Every month we will place all the new names that have signed up to receive it in a hat and pick a winner at random to send out a lovely gift box as a way of saying thank-you. Our next one will be mid July, and you have to be in it to win it!

We promise not to... 
Bombard you, spam you, bore you or annoy you.
Instead...

We would like to...
Tell you about things we have learned and loved since launching our business (on the day Boris Johnson announced the lockdown!) sharing a little insight from behind-the-bubble-scenes at Farm Soap Co. HQ – the good, the bad and the soap dramas.

The Good
We have lots of new stockists, the online shop is going well and we are developing new products all the time. Some are bespoke soaps for retailers and hospitality businesses due to open later this year and others are for our own wholesale and retail customers.

The Bad
Soap is actually really hard to make, some days can be quite frustrating technically and at the end of the process there is a tonne of washing up – the most important piece of kit is a pair of Marigold gloves!
Good workshop spaces are really hard to find – we’re still looking.
Whenever a delivery comes to the house we can’t say the H or T words (“Hello” or “Thank-you”) because our aged Fox Terrier Gumdrop goes berserk and starts barking manically…..

YES
  • We really are making soap in the middle of West Dorset, in a workshop, on a farm, not too far from the sea, growing our own botanicals in the walled organic gardens at Deans Court.
  • Yes, Dorset place names are quirky (Puddletown, Piddletrenthide, Briantspuddle, Tolpuddle, Toller Pocorum, Toller Fraturnum, Ryme Intrinseca, Puncknowle, Shitterton, Scratchy Bottom…. ).
NO
  • Our life does not look like our Instagram feed – we edit out the messy bits.
  • No, Silvana still doesn’t understand really thick Dorset accents.
  • No, John-Paul cannot work in the workshop without music on Radio 3.
John-Paul’s soap-making soundtrack:
Eric Coates - London Suite
John Adams - The Chairman Dances
Sean Shibe - Scottish Lute Manuscript
Sibelius - Karelia Suite
Brahms - Piano Concerto No 1
Soap is actually a SALT!

It’s the sodium salt of a fatty acid (think oils or butters meeting an alkali - lye). In our Journal we tell readers all about how our soaps are made.

When you use soap for cleaning, it dissolves and disperses dirt and grime, washing it away in the rinse water. Soap disorganizes the lipid membrane of viruses and bacteria, denaturing their proteins. Soap is magic!

'A good invention has many fathers'
The many histories of how soap was created

From the Babylonians to the Phoenicians, Mesopotamians, ancient Egyptians and Hebrews, so many civilizations record in their history books that they invented soap, way back as far as 3000 years before the birth of Christ.Well, the person who gets to write the Newsletter gets to pick the narrative, and seeing as Silvana is Italian, we can tell you with consummate historical accuracy that in fact, it was the Ancient Romans who discovered soap in 200 AD.

Legend tells how a group of women were washing clothes along the Tiber River at the bottom of Sapo Hill and the clothes ended up much cleaner at that specific location.

The ashes (lye) and fats (tallow) from the fires used to kill sacrificial animals at the top of the hill mixed with the rainwater as they were carried down to the river to create a soap like substance, named sapo (sapone in Italian means soap).

The happy Pantone

Our new soap fragrance is launching – Lemon & Lime – just in time for the summer. If you can’t get to Sicily, let Sicily come to you.

These two citrus fragrances together are really refreshing, light and zesty, making you feel clean and fresh the old fashioned way.

We could spend hours and hours looking for the right Pantone colour for our soap labels. Our graphic designers, Robert and Lucy Carter in Bruton, have helped us since day one to create a really simple, clean look and have steered us towards some great colours. Standards must be maintained – we can’t let the side down.

The shades of the labels need to fulfil so many requirements – they need to blend harmoniously together (think stacks on retail shop shelves), be suitable for chic hotels and B&B bathrooms and also provide the customer, at one glance, with a visual reference to the flower, herb or fruit in the fragrance.

The printing on the box is in dark navy so we have to make sure that we don’t choose too dark a colour or you wouldn’t be able to read it. In the end we went for such a happy colour, Shadow Lime, evocative of many wonderful memories of holidays in Italy, scrunching icy limoncello granita, drinking wine while sitting in flower filled piazzas under the hot sun.

Seeing as none of us are going anywhere in 2020, the scent of this soap will have to do instead of this year’s holiday.

BUY NOW
We have had the hottest, driest May we can remember and we have been struggling to keep all our new herb and flower plants in the walled garden at Deans Court watered.

Every week we hoe, weed, water and tend our plot as diligently as we can – but because it’s completely organic Mother Nature does overflow with abundance (it’s what she does). It seems a crime to hoe too much, as wild flowers and native species self-seed everywhere and become home to so many invertebrates. The more we interfere the more we disturb.

The plot is home to many different varieties of bees, butterflies, ladybirds, beetles and hover flies in their thousands as well as a cheeky, fearless robin that follows us everywhere, in case we turn over earth and there’s a worm. No such luck for him – we are practicing no dig gardening.

We plot our herb plan in our Journal and each week we show it in our Instagram stories. Our IG stories are drowned out by the birdsong – it’s a little piece of paradise on earth.

The walled garden plots are divided out into sections – one section is planted for the vegetables and fruit that are eaten by the Hanham family that lives there, another section is planted with fresh produce for the café and for sale. The polytunnel heaves with new salads, tomatoes, chillies and aubergines and the herbaceous flower beds have overflowed with peonies, roses, delphiniums, irises and campanulas – all at the same time.

You can’t keep a good business and a talented entrepreneur down – during the lockdown so many businesses all over the country have faced an uncertain future. If they didn’t reinvent themselves speedily and reach out to customers, now unable to visit them, in new and innovative ways, the future looked bleak.

Dorset businesses stepped up to the challenge with vigour and we saw a number of them engaging via social media to let everyone know they were still in business, still trading, cooking, making, producing – their survival instincts and reinvention skills highly commendable. Here are just a few.

Brassica Restaurant Handmade Meals
Cass and Louise, the team behind Brassica Restaurant and Mercantile Shop in Beaminster, have created a tempting online shop and are delivering delicious ready meals, wines, seafood and larder goods within a small radius of their shop - or you can collect from them directly in their restaurant in Market Square. They also sell the beautiful Rambling Rose Flowers bouquets by Kate Reeves @ramblingroseflowers Get in quick – everybody has their favourite meals, tipples and bunches and they sell at the speed of summer lightening.
@brassicarestaurant_mercantile
Farms To Feed Us
A brilliant collaboration organised by Cathy St Germans to create a UK-wide database of farms, farmers, growers and producers that are making, growing and delivering food during the pandemic. Do follow them on Instagram and look at the IG stories too – this group has galvanised and rallied the collective force of land workers and lovers alike.
@farmstofeedus
Haypenny Market Garden
Lally and Tomas, the brilliant organic growers at Fivepenny Farm, are still growing, very busy in their polytunnels, their small field and also in their own home, where they grow beautiful indoor tomatoes. They deliver to Fruits of the Earth Veg and natural foods shop in Bridport and also to Felicity’s Farm Shop. You have never tasted anything better in your life, I guarantee it: produce is so crisp, fresh, tasty and enticing. This is what great food used to taste like.
@haypennymarketgarden
The Botanical Candle Co.
Amalia, James and their team at The Botanical Candle Co. in Shaftesbury have such a huge, loyal and enthusiastic customer base that they wait, religiously, for the days when the online shop is open to dive in and raid the website for scented candles, vintage cloths, designer matches and beautiful home accessories. Their Quietude candles have reached legendary cult status – the team cannot pour them fast enough. Now they are open, just slightly, for collections only, as well as online. I foresee a stampede.
@thebotanicalcandleco
Deans Court
The recipe and gardening videos and photos keep coming. Throughout the lockdown we have all been watching the Deans Court family and team making pasta, cakes, cordials and cocktails in their beautiful old kitchen or planting and sowing in the organic walled garden – what an informative and inspiring way to spend lockdown.
@deans_court
Bridport Times
A great way for us to stay tuned in to what’s happening in the region is to follow the local magazines, the Sherborne and Bridport Times and their showcase of creativity and ingenuity. They are the best quality local magazines we have ever seen – beautifully photographed and edited, this is what good local journalism is all about.
@bridporttimes
We're itching to get out and about and explore Dorset this summer. And once lockdown is lifted we have a list of the 6 Dorset places we are definitely planning to visit. Click below to find out where we want to go...
6 Dorset Places To Visit After Lockdown
We are following the work of really talented soapmakers all over the world. These are a few of our favourites...

From Oregon:

From New Zealand:
From Canada:
We came across the work of Olivia Thorpe on IG @vanderohe – such an impressive natural skincare company that has won awards and accolades globally and is also very passionate about the environment and marine conservation.
Take a look at the beautiful new collection of stationery and accessories by Laura Stoddart @laurastoddartillustrator.
The IG account and book of Making Dorset @making_dorset is really interesting because it highlights the work of so many makers and crafters in the area – this county is really filled with skill and talent. Below is the work of ceramicist Ali Herbert who we have commissioned to make some soap dishes for us.
There’s a new way of buying natural, plant based and eco-friendly laundry and cleaning products and toiletries and skincare brands in London and it’s called Charrli @charrli_refill. The team travels through Islington and Hackney (mainly) by e-bike, delivering and refilling products they have individually chosen (Farm Soap Co. is one of them!). You can subscribe to their deliveries depending on how much product you need – find our more here!
RANT OF THE MONTH

This month’s rant is all about the chemicals used in sunscreen and their effects on, not just your skin and general health, but also marine life.

The sunscreen market is worth a staggering $20 billion globally, but it is also responsible for 14 000 tonnes of skin creams being washed into the oceans every year from tourists, threatening coral reefs and all the species that live in them.

Here are the facts: sunscreen does not stay on your skin – if you go into the sea with it, it washes away and does all manner of harm to sea life. When you shower it enters the waterways. Most sunscreens contain oxybenzone, benzophenone-1, benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, 3-benzylidene camphor, nano-titanium dioxide and nano-zinc oxide.

Here is a list of how these sunscreen chemicals can affect marine life:

  • Green Algae: can impair growth and photosynthesis.
  • Coral: accumulates in tissues. Can induce bleaching, damage DNA, deform young, and even kill.
  • Mussels: can induce defects in young.
  • Sea Urchins: can damage immune and reproductive systems, and deform young.
  • Fish: can decrease fertility and reproduction, and cause female characteristics in male fish.
  • Dolphins: can accumulate in tissue and be transferred to young.
The best way to protect your skin against the sun’s rays is not to go in the sun – or wear a straw hat, sit under an umbrella, wear a linen shirt, seek shade in the middle of the day and choose safer brands that have natural, botanical ingredients – like Ren, People Tree, Jason and Aesop.
Until next month,
Silvana, John-Paul and the team at Farm Soap Co.

Six Dorset places to visit after lockdown

If you are visiting Dorset after the lockdown is lifted there are so many beautiful places to visit - we will be doing lots of posts on the Journal like this, recommending our favourites. Here are just a few - we don't want to give it all away at once!

Eggardon Hill

Iron Age hill fort and downland with views across the Marshwood Vale to the coast. So peaceful and deserted, it’s such a vast and green landscape filled with wonder. You are on top of the world – heady and light, the wind in your face and the soft grass beneath your feet.

Ringstead Beach

A beautiful, sheltered pebbly beach on the Jurassic Coast, run by the National Trust, with tiny rock pools and little coves for sitting in, overlooking Weymouth. You can go seaweed and fossil hunting around Osmington, further along the coast. It’s a gentle walk to the best bits – take comfortable, sturdy shoes, a picnic blanket, hot drinks and biscuits.

Cerne Abbas

Our favourite village – it’s got a great village shop, wonderful walks and attractive pubs. Our favourite place to walk the dog because there are so many dog walkers here – so friendly and chatty.

Milton Abbas

So quaint and implausible, built by the Earl of Dorchester, owner of Milton Abbey, in 1780, 36 identical thatched houses all in a neat row.  Some house-names give clues to the original inhabitants of the village: bakerblacksmithbrewery, etc. Today the houses are white-washed, and the main street also features a public house (the Hambro Arms), a Post Office-shop, the Tea Clipper Tea Rooms, a now redundant school building, and a Wesleyan chapel.  It’s like the perfect setting for an Agatha Christie film.

Bridport Market

By far the best of the Saturday markets in the South West. Bridport is such a fun, inclusive town, filled with wonderful cafes, restaurants and shops – and the market has so many good stalls do make sure that you arrive early to get the best of what’s on offer and get a parking space (behind Waitrose is the biggest).

There are vintage furniture and pottery bargains to be had as well as local produce, plants, flowers, crafts and fabrics.

We head first to the Soulshine Café for breakfast and people watching, followed by a walk along all the different stalls. We love to drop into Malabar Trading, Yellow Gorse and Ink & Page shops as well as the second hand bookstore and the health food store. Coffee and pastries at Gelateria Beppino are followed by lunch at Eat Dorshi.

The St Michael’s Trading Estate is filled with antique shops – do have a look at Old Albion – a mix of reclamation, vintage kitchenalia and gardenalia and theatrical lighting. The owner Sharon always has fabulous furniture and accessories you won’t find anywhere else. The Bull Hotel on the High Street is now a Fuller's Pub and is good for drinks and mussels and chips for dinner - always busy so do book.

 The Seaside Boarding House 

A wonderful Burton Bradstock hotel and restaurant, with great views, delicious cocktails and food and a stunning location. The menu is really quite short (always a good sign), super fresh and seasonal and the dishes are stunningly simple and perfectly cooked. Sit on the terrace, gazing out at the crystal blue sea, sipping something cold and fragrant, and you really won’t want to go anywhere else for your holidays. Top marks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gift boxes in the online shop

Let us do all the work for you - in the online shop we have uploaded a small selection of gift box ideas: small soaps, large soaps, soap dishes, linen bags, we have mixed it all up so that there is something for everyone.

We can gift wrap, tie and tag all gifts from you to whoever you want, anywhere in the world. Let us know your message - Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, Best Wishes on Father's Day....

We're here to help you sort out your present buying with the click of a button.

Soap is hope - keep washing!

Our online retail shop is now live

We are now selling online via our retail shop - we can send our handmade, botanical soaps all over the UK and Europe, and if you live anywhere else please contact us at hello@farmsoapco.com so we can let you know about postage costs.

All our products are handmade, vegan and made in small batches on the farm - no chemicals, no palm oils, no animal testing and no synthetic fragrances - just gentle, cleansing and moisturising soaps made by hand. We will be adding lots more products as the season progresses and our herb and flower garden plants are harvested, distilled and macerated. You can follow all our progress on our website journal and our Instagram stories. Thank you for following our small business start up - and keep washing!

We are featured in The Lifestyle Editor

This week we are delighted to be featured in the beautiful blog The Lifestyle Editor  

Founded by Stephanie Bateman Sweet, on Instagram @thelifestyleeditor, it features many of my heroes in the world of homewares, design, photography, cooking and publishing. Stephanie is a UK contributor to the wonderful website and Instagram feed @the_shopkeepers, celebrating the diverse and magical world of independent shops all over the globe.

In the article she asks about my business, inspirations and ambitions - it's always hard to talk about yourself but you never know who might find it inspiring and informative in turn. So many people are starting new ventures AC (After Coronavirus) and I find that reading about other people's creativity and drive helps me in my work - we are all part of the same tribe after all.

I share the names and social media accounts of businesses that I love following and learning from, so many creatives and entrepreneurs have inspired my journey through life. I hope you find it interesting to read.

How our soaps are made

Our soaps are created by the cold process method, which means that very little external heat is applied – only enough gentle heat to melt the coconut oil and shea butter which are both solid at room temperature in a cold climate. The advantages of this method are that the curing process is slow and gradual, creating a more natural, mild and creamy soap, filled with moisturising glycerin that is better for your skin. The natural saponification process results in about 75% soap and 25% glycerin, an emollient that softens, protects and heals the skin.

With a pH of around 8 or 9, our soaps are gently alkaline and cleansing on the skin, which can have a varying pH between 4.5 and 6.2. Skin’s relatively acidic pH plays a role in keeping its delicate microbiome (or the skin flora, which refers to the microorganisms which reside on the skin) balanced. An acidic microbiome makes it more difficult for harmful pathogens to invade, and one of the main roles of the epidermis is protection from the latter.

Hand made soap is the neutral end product of combining an alkali and several acids.

The alkali (with a pH of around 14) is sodium hydroxide which is mixed with water to create lye - a necessary ingredient in the creation of soap. Sodium hydroxide is a compound containing three elements - sodium, hydrogen and oxygen - and it is transformed during the soap making process because the mixture is saponified.

The acids are oils or fats (olive, coconut, almond and essential oils and shea butter). They are listed as sodium olivate, sodium cocoate, sodium almondate and shea butterate in the ingredients list on the label because they are transformed into the sodium salts of the fatty acids during soap making. Some of our fragranced oils are created by macerating fresh organic herbs or flowers with oils in a sterile jar, stored in the dark for six weeks.

Soap making is carried out in a sanitised workshop with protective clothing and up-to-date batch documentation in order to comply with good manufacturing practice.

There are seven main stages in the making of Farm Soap Co. soaps.

Weighing ingredients and melting solid fats

In our workshop we firstly weigh all the ingredients - all the different oils, sodium hydroxide and water - and we gently melt the solid fats till they are liquid. This takes just a few minutes, then the pot is removed from the heat and left to cool to around 40 to 48 degrees Celsius. We use bain marie style water cooling methods.

Making the lye and cooling it

The lye is created by dissolving the sodium hydroxide into cold water (an exothermic reaction that gives off heat) and leaving it to cool until it also reaches 40 - 48 degrees Celsius.

Mixing and emulsifying 

When the right temperature is achieved, the lye is gently mixed into the oils and we keep stirring until it reaches the moment of trace. This is the transformative moment in the soap making process and it requires focus and steady hands. With no fat molecules left at the sides, the uniform coloured mix leaves a viscous and definite trace on the surface when it is thoroughly emulsified. At this stage it looks like a thin, pale custard. The essential oils or sea salts (for the Dorset Sea Salt soap) are mixed in carefully at the beginning of trace as they may cause the trace stage to accelerate and the mixture begins to turn to gel uncontrollably.

Moulding and unmoulding

The soap mix is first poured into jugs and then poured into silicone moulds, the tops levelled and the moulds are then covered to retain the heat. The gel phase of soap making is the heating stage of saponification. Once you pour your soap into its mould it will start to heat up. Gel phase starts with the soap turning translucent in the middle and then spreads out to the edges. The soaps are left to solidify for 24 – 48 hours then unmoulded onto trays and carried to curing racks, where they are left to dry and cure for 30 - 40 days. The racks are labelled with soap names, batch numbers and dates.

Curing

During the curing stage the soaps are fully saponified and they dry out, oxidising in the air and lightening in colour. During this phase we monitor them closely, and if they contain seaweeds we turn them. This ensures that even amounts of air circulate. We cure our soaps on stainless steel and wooden racks with clean sheets of paper and linen to cover them so that they are covered from dust.

Checking and packaging

Once the soaps are cured, and prior to packing, each batch is checked for neutrality, polished with a clean cloth, each box is batch numbered and the soaps are then packaged, ready for dispatch.

Cleaning and washing up

There is one stage that we mention at the very end because it’s the messy one! Cleaning – there is so much to wash and sanitise before, during and after the soap making process. The soap mix is very oily, considering what a high proportion of the mix is made up of oils. You would imagine that making soap is a very clean activity but in fact soap is only the eventual product that is magically transformed into what you would recognise as clean and fragrant after the curing process. In the meantime, thank heavens for hot water, scrubbing brushes and washing up liquid. We use natural products to clean and sanitise our workshop areas and we write about it here.

 

 

Vegan skincare - the rise of farm to face beauty products

The Economist magazine declared 2019 to be the year of the vegan in the kitchen, restaurant and supermarket. But it seems that veganism is also on the rise in the bathroom - the vegan skincare market is growing rapidly to keep up with demand for plant only based products.

Vegan skincare products contain only plant based ingredients and no animal derived ingredients (honey, beeswax, keratin, egg whites, lanolin, collagen, silk worm powder or carmine dye). What used to be a very small, fringe group of consumers is now swelling in numbers so significant that even multinational brands are starting to take note. The vegan cosmetics industry is expected to reach $20 billion globally by 2025.

Mintel Global Consumer Trend reports further recognise changes in attitudes whereby consumers are driving beauty brands to recycle, reuse and reduce all plastic waste. The farm-to-fork and plot-to-plate movements that have shone a light on how food is grown, transported, packaged and sold are increasingly turning to the beauty industry.

In recent years consumers have become much more educated and selective at choosing what products to buy - be it in the acquisition of food, fashion, flowers or face creams, more and more demand traceability, provenance and ethical standards of welfare in production.

Botanical actives in vegan skincare are natural ingredients that have been scientifically proven to change the structure of skin at a cellular level. Botanical properties work to repair, rejuvenate, hydrate, protect or nourish the cells. Since ancient times the power of plants was used to make skincare products.

The ancient Egyptians used castor oil and moringa oil to minimise the appearance of wrinkles, aloe vera was used to cleanse the skin and kohl was used as eyeliner. Ancient Greeks used crushed mulberries as lip and cheek stains, and a blend of charcoal and oils to create eyeshadow. They also used olive oils to moisturise the skin. Women in ancient Roman times used honey, frankincense, vinegar and almond oil as cleansers. Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old Indian form of holistic medicine, teaches that only edible products, like sesame oil, sandalwood, and turmeric, should be put on the skin.

It's interesting to track the progress of modern day small, independent, family owned skincare brands that are growing botanicals, distilling plants, harvesting seaweeds and creating their own recipes for natural skincare products with no toxins, chemicals, plastics or cruelty.