Thursday, June 22, 2017

How to Be Successful At Craft Fairs

Whether you are brand new to the world of selling goods at fairs and craft shows, or if you are a seasoned expert, today’s economy dictates that just a bit more legwork is required in order for crafting to be profitable.  Here in our neck of the woods we have our share of craft fairs, which seem to be growing in popularity.

This last weekend the kids and I jumped both feet in the water with a relatively new craft fair and vintage flea market called Humboldt Junkies.  One Blessed Acre joined forces with Bluebird Mom - Chalk Couture.  So, in addition to all of our great goat milk bath and body products, we had custom chalked signs on rustic wood boards and vintage windows.

In order to properly prepare for our booth, a couple weeks ahead of time we got together and ran through a trial set up of the booth.  This is a must if you want to be prepared on set-up day at the actual fair.  While it still took us three hours to completely set up the booth, it would have taken us several more hours if we hadn't done this pre-preparation.  When we got to the fair, we found out we had the front booth, the very first booth everyone would see as they were walking in.  As soon as we saw this we realized we needed to adjust our layout to allow for the side entrance for customers to walk right into our booth.  Being flexible was essential to our success.

Tables are a must for craft displays.  Think outside of the box for display tables; not only functional ones but unique pieces.  Risers and displays need to be creative, varying heights and textures. This allows a customer's eyes to wander and observe your entire booth. We also combined products to show our customers possible gift giving ideas or ways to display their bath products at home.

Did you know you have 3 minutes or less to impress upon someone to walk into your booth and actually engage with your product?  This is not a big window of time, so make sure your displays are sharp and easy to view.   The "Rule of Seven" applies here;  The Rule of Seven is an old marketing adage. It says that a prospect needs to see or hear your marketing message at least seven times before they take action and buy from you.  So, above all have great signage.  We had not only two large banners, but individual signs telling price, sizes, scents and product names.  It's important to have your business name and website displayed so customers will see it.   

The day of the fair everyone was in a good mood.  Make sure you are thoroughly rested and have a smile on your face.  You only get one chance at a first impression and you want it to be a good one.  How could you resist this adorable face asking you to try our goat milk lotion?  Trust me, NO ONE did!  Be sure to wear comfortable clothing and comfortable shoes!  Standing on your feet all day can be quite painful.

Creating a theme for your booth is another way to be successful at craft fairs.  This was the first year we attended this craft fair so we wanted to make a lasting impression upon our customers.  A coherent stall with strong branding is helpful in getting our customers to remember our booth.  If you can, carry your branding into your packaging so that when a customer buys something they will be taking it home in one of your paper bags with a business card included.  Think about who your target market is and tailor your booth to this clientele.

At the end of the day, a successful craft fair means that you had a great time at the craft fair.  It also means that contacts were made with people that you'd never met before.  These can lead to potential sales at future craft fairs.  The learning experiences that our children were exposed to over the weekend are innumerable and invaluable.  Just a quick few to mention; making change, writing receipts, product merchandising, customer service, product knowledge and sales.  Never underestimate these skills and how important they can be to learn.  When I evaluated our results for this craft fair, we came right in at successful!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Home For the Ducks

Almost a month ago we gained two Blue Swedish ducks to add to our farm.  They are growing up so quickly.  One of the first orders of business after having them stay in our chicken tractor for several weeks was to construct them a permanent home.  It was decided that they would stay in the side yard to help control the slugs and snails that  inhabit destroy the perennial plants I have growing there.

I spent time online trying to find a coop suitable for two ducks.  It had to be quick and easy to assemble, something this construction challenged momma could handle.  It had to fit the size restrictions for our small space.  It had to be predator proof.  It needed to be somewhat pretty too as it's next to the house.  And finally, it had to be somewhat inexpensive; I wasn't buying the Taj Mahal of duck houses.   Amazon had this Advantek coop to house 2 - 3 chickens.  Voila!  Perfect.  

I completely forgot to take some pictures while we were putting it together.  The  instructions were not awful, but they were not entirely helpful either.  At least the coop layout was straight forward enough to be able to figure out.  It took my friend, Heather and I about two hours to put it together.

The closing latch came cracked, which Amazon graciously credited $30 towards the purchase cost since I had already put it together and was NOT taking it apart to return.  I needed to attach another safety predator latch on the door anyway because anyone who has animals knows that little wooden latch would not keep out a raccoon or skunk looking for dinner.  We also had to line the bottom with hardwire cloth because the floor was simply wooden slats, which I felt either the ducks would fall through or a predator would push up into.

So, Do I love our new duck house?  Absolutely!  For the money and ease of putting together it's a sturdy coop.  Could I have built one for less?  Absolutely!  But, how long would it have taken me?  Maybe several months.  Do I think it will last the test of time, probably not.  But, it will allow us a few years to figure out whether we want to house them in the side yard, in the garden or in the big chicken coop.  That's the nice thing about smaller animals - they are very flexible and forgiving; allowing for their owners to make several mistakes along the way.  What do you think of our new duck house?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Planting Has Begun 06.05.17

From the left to the right around the back of the garden; we planted peas, jalapeƱos, lettuce, parsley, celery, spinach, radishes, chard, kale, more lettuce, carrots, chamomile, volunteer calendula.  Through the center rows I have planted broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, cabbage, more carrots, lettuce and spinach, dill, chamomile.  Off to the far right is bush beans, cucumbers, zucchini, and pumpkins.

The beds are slightly larger this year to allow for the larger crops to be in the center and the faster growing crops to the outside.  Is anyone else as garden fickle as I am??  Each year I always try some new layout and then journal the results in my garden log to refer to later.  Some things work really well and others are an epic fail.  

This year the General Manager is trying something new in the garden.  I think he secretly enjoys getting his fingers dirty in the dirt, even if he won't admit it to anyone else. . .  According to Modern Farmer straw bale gardening is great for those gardeners who are faced with the start up expense of raised beds or want an ideal growing container for vegetables.  We have this stubborn spot behind our pea trellis that just isn't big enough to plant anything - last year it grew potatoes, but it was extremely hard to keep weeded a weed magnet and the soil is very poor in this area.  Needless to say our potato harvest was low.

So, when you are dealt tricky problems in your garden, you have to be creative.  To get started he wet the bales down - more like soaked them!  Then he covered the tops with composted manure, bone meal and fertilizer.  Two weeks waiting time is necessary to start the breakdown phase of the hay and then he's going to plant the potatoes into the bales.
Bone Meal

When the harvest season ends, the bales will be soft, saggy and gray — but that’s exactly what we want. Because piling the straw together and leaving it to compost over winter, will give us a mound of beautiful compost to fill all of our pots and planters next spring.

Has anyone else tried straw bale gardening?  If so, leave me a comment and let me know if the bales were successful at growing whatever you planted in them.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Growing Comfrey For Strawberry Beds

Comfrey is a powerful perennial herb - that means it usually dies off in the winter, only to bloom back to life in the spring.  It is amazing in the garden–attracting pollinators and beneficial insects, providing medicinal value, and enriching soil with nutrients.  About 3 years ago, a friend dug up part of her comfrey plant and sent it home with me.  We transplanted it in our side garden bed and there it has grown abundantly.  Here is how I use comfrey to improve my soil and enhance my strawberry beds.

Strawberries have vast nutrient needs, which include nitrogen, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and a few other trace elements. Most of these essential nutrients can be found in comfrey.  The roots of the herb comfrey reach deep down and absorb essential nutrients, which then accumulate in its leaves. Comfrey leaves make a great fertilizing mulch when chopped, transferring the nutrients to the soil. 

Comfrey plants are easy to obtain at most local nurseries or garden stores and now they can even be found online.  

To create this mulch, simply chop the leaves and use them as mulch throughout the strawberry bed.  I collected a bucket full and then distributed it through the strawberry beds around our different garden areas.  We grow strawberries in a couple places around the home; main garden, front edible area, and individual containers.

Strawberry beds have to be beautiful!    One of our beds is just starting to sprout flowers.  We remodeled our bathroom, taking out the claw foot tub, and upcycling it into the garden.  Doesn't it make an adorable strawberry bed?

Strawberries are a favorite in our gardens.  We could have a whole field of them and still probably not have enough.  I hope this simple suggestion of adding comfrey mulch to your strawberry beds helps you to grow your best strawberries.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Slow Garden Progress

 (this was our garden two years ago)

Our homestead garden is coming along so slowly this year.  We have two areas where we plant in our yard; the gated area right off our front porch and then our larger plot to the side of the house.

In our front yard I have a majority of our perennials, herbs, our pear tree and blueberry bushes.  It's become a hodge podge of plants, but it works nicely as an herb garden when cooking and usually the kids pick the blueberries or the pears when they need a snack.  One day I hope to remove the grass and put in some more raised beds for flowers, more herbs and perhaps a kitchen garden.  Honey, when you read this, please don't roll your eyes, I know you love your precious lawn. .  it's just one smallish area.

Sunday, after church was spent planting 25 new strawberry plants, some of which went into the front garden.  When these strawberries are ripe, they don't stand a chance to five strawberry lovin' children's fingers .  The remainder went into a new bed in the main garden in hopes of having some left over for strawberry jam later this summer.

In our larger plot we have our actual garden vegetables; onions, carrots, lettuce, chard, kale, jalapeno peppers, broccoli, peas, beans, cabbage, garlic, cucumbers and of course pumpkins.  I have realized with this last winter being so wet, that I must put on patience.  Memorial Weekend has usually signified our "official" gardening season for our family, but the last weeks have been sunny and warm and my fingers are dying to get outside and plant. 

When we first got into gardening about 9 years ago, I bought this book.  This book was designed to help gardeners with small spaces make the most of planting and growing.  You've probably heard of it, Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  We took our two 4 by 4 foot boxes and grew a couple of tomato plants, some lettuce, carrots and spinach and thought we were on top of the world.  While that meager beginning may not seem like much, it spurred a desire inside of the General Manager and I to grow more of our food.  By spacing out each of our crops systematically, it allowed us to actually grow more vegetables that first year in our new home in California.

Tomatoes are a work in progress in our coastal climate.  We had a greenhouse for the last several years, but a couple of windstorms and one 14 year old teenager not looking where the back of the lawn mower bagger was destroyed what was left of the rickety plastic house this winter.  We were going to try to erect a hoop house out of cattle panels this year.  BUT, do you ever have time and supplies become obstacles.  So, thank heavens for grow pots.  I found this amazing deal on Amazon the other day.  My only problem with this solution is the cost of the dirt to fill all of the pots.  I may as well have just bought organic tomatoes from Costco at this rate.  I keep reminding myself, "grow your own. . . it's healthier. . .it's teaching the kids to be more self- sufficient. . there's nothing like the taste of a fresh grown tomato."  Have I convinced you yet because I'm still trying to convince myself!

How is your garden growing this year?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ducks For Our Farm

I'm not sure who came first. . . the crazy momma who adds more animals to her farm without thinking, without having housing or even a little bit of knowledge on how to take care of them, or the animal loving, protecting child who pleaded to get ducks when her father wouldn't acquiesce to a new cat.  She's also the same child who once placed a note up on the refrigerator that said "This is a NO KILLING Chicken Zone," and made her parents sign thus said note.

Either way, we are now the proud owner of two Blue Swedish ducks and they are approximately 5 weeks old.  Meet Carl and Ellie, but alas, I don't even know at this point whether we have a drake (aka boy) or a hen (aka girl).  It will only make a difference if we end up with two boys because that means NO eggs.

Our children didn't come with a manual  (other than the Bible) to help the General Manager and I raise them, so, what was I expecting when these ducks arrived one morning.  What's a girl to do; how do I quickly leap over the vast learning curve of raising baby ducks.  Turn to my favorite author, Lisa Steele.  Her first book Fresh Eggs Daily helped me to learn about raising chickens and thank heavens she's published a similar book on raising ducks.

The book came in the mail and I absorbed it like a sponge in 3 days.  First things first, ducks need lots of protein when they are ducklings.  Be sure to get the highest protein chicken feed if you cannot find duck feed at your local feed store.  We went with
NATURES BEST ORGANIC FEED Chick Starter & Grower Crumbles.  Since I couldn't find higher than 18%, several websites recommended adding brewer's yeast top dress to the duck feed.  Water is the next essential element for successful duck raising.  Simple mason jar waterers don't work.  Ducklings need to get their entire beak into the water to help swallow their food and prevent choking.  They also need to keep their nostrils moist and clear of debris.

Ducklings are messy creatures.  There was only two of them, but they managed to drench their brooder box every day with spilled water.  This continued even though we went with a larger chicken waterer.  Lesson learned - next time use a ceramic bowl that they can't tip over.  They took great delight in emptying their feeders all over the bottom of the box and I could have sworn I heard them laughing at us.  Because, basically, if they can play in something, they will.

They quickly outgrew their brooder box, so outside they went into our chicken tractor.  As long as it wasn't raining too hard, they were very happy.  We bought a medium sized rubber feeder bowl that could be used as a swimming pool, but they have not stepped foot in it - perhaps they don't like the cold, wet Northern California weather like this momma.

These ducks are funny, smart and inquisitive, quirky, fascinating creatures.  I really am enjoying watching them.  I have witnessed the "head bobbing" which is a sign of dominance and also flirting.  My favorite though is "head tilting."  A duck can see two to three times farther than a human.  Because their eyes are on the side of their head and fitted into the socket, they have to tilt their heads to see in a different direction.  The cuteness factor was displayed when they were babies and the girls brought them inside one afternoon to play in the tub.  Hannah and Abby threw lettuce leaves into the tub and the gobbling began.

Stay tuned for our next adventure - building a duck coop!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Mother's Day Market

I just can't contain myself any longer.  I just have to share the fun we had at our first craft fair this year.  It was called the Mother's Day Market and it was held in Fortuna at the Rohner Grange.

But first I feel I need to back up because I'm not sure I've shared this new hobby/business with all of our readers.  Moving back closer to family seven years ago has enabled our children to be raised in the country with fresh air, animals and has provided them a slower paced lifestyle.  “One Blessed Acre” comes from our abundant family blessings by God throughout the years.   As well as, we are currently living on exactly one acre of land.  We took the plunge a couple of years ago and added goats to our farm with the intent of drinking the milk, wanting to be more self-sufficient with our homesteading lifestyle.  Out of that milking came lots of excess milk for soaps and lotions.  Once I began looking at the labels on beauty products I quickly realized the need to have more natural products for my family to use.   Through trial and error, gleaning information from those who had experience in soap making and reading countless websites, I found a passion for making soap and natural beauty products from ingredients that I could actually pronounce.   The goal of our business is to serve and give back to our community as a family, providing wholesome goat milk products that will bless local families and businesses that partner with us to promote and sell our products. 

One of the best questions I always receive is "Why Goat Milk."  So here's the answer to Goat Milk;  why you should drink it, make kefir, yogurt, and cheese and add it to handmade soap. .   Why?  Because goat milk is very good and never ba-ha-ha-ha-had.   Goat's milk has a pH level that's well balanced for healthy human hair and skin, while commercial soap can dry out the skin to the point at which it feels taut and itchy.   The alpha hydroxy acid of goat’s milk attack the “glue” that binds dead skin cells together.  With these bonds broken those dry, lifeless cells slough off to reveal that young, healthy skin that is hidden beneath. Goat milk is loaded with vitamins and minerals which rejuvenate and nourish your skin

Now that you've been taught why you should use goat milk, let me convince you why you should support One Blessed Acre Farm and buy our handcrafted soap.  You will absolutely love your skin and will thank us for replacing your dry, itchy, irritable skin with soft, smooth and supple skin that doesn't feel dry or cracking.

Our most popular line is our goat milk lotion.  We have such a variety of scents that I couldn't name them all.  I use fragrance oils and also have created an essential oil scent in geranium.  We also carry a unscented soap and lotion for those who are severely bothered by fragrance.

This year the kids and I have been busy creating new products which include a form of goat milk, whether it be fresh or dried.  First, is my new liquid soap line.  It is so soft and gentle on your skin and it cleans excellently while leaving your skin feeling supple.  I've even tested it on greasy pans in the kitchen and it works there too!  I'm also hearing great reviews about our luxury exfoliating line of soap.  Four different scents with four different exfoliates:  Coconut Island with loofah, Coffee House with ground coffee, Oatmeal Cookie with colloidal oatmeal and Herb Garden with ground walnut shells, pumice and poppy seeds.

Hannah has created the richest, most decadent goat milk fudge.  People were raving about her samples.  For the time being this will be a local craft fair item.

The day began beautifully, with the sun peaking through the clouds and the wind was just beginning to blow, while we were in line at Starbucks getting everyone a Frappuccino.   Set up went smoothly for us.  Our table was sandwiched right in the middle of the room.  This worked out perfectly for us to be able to sample our lotions on passers-by.   The kids are always a little shy when we first get started, but by the end of the show they are pros at squirting lotion and talking about the products.  Even George made sure to let everyone know about his Tub Teas.  Lindsay spent many months perfecting her bath bombs.  They smell heavenly.  She made Lavender Lush, Electric Lemonade and Cinnamon Stick.  So delicious!

One of my favorite places to shop is Amazon and we, One Blessed Acre is now available through Amazon.  Isn't that great?? All you have to do is click the link and order.   You can also find us on Etsy at One Blessed Acre.

I love that we are local too.  All of our soaps and lotions can be found in the Golden Gait Mercantile in  downtown Ferndale, California. 

The day went by too quickly and soon it was time for us to pack up and head home.  We are really looking forward to our next fair in June called
Humboldt Junkies Vintage Market and Trailer Rally.