Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Kentish Soap Company

The last couple of months have gone by in a flash. As I mentioned in my last post I have decided to go for it and get my soap certified for sale. There was so much more to it than I realised, but I kept going and by the beginning of November I was ready with my safety assessment for cold processed soap and bath bombs. I had to buy insurance, special scales and some extra equipment. I've made hundreds of bars of soap and bath bombs, which all had to be wrapped and labelled and I've had to write a product information file.

I took it all along to a local Christmas fair last weekend and it went really well (much to my relief!), I'm also doing party plan so my lovely, and very supportive, sister hosted a party for me last night which was a big success. I'm really happy with how everything is going so far, I have more parties and fairs booked and I've had loads of positive feedback.
All this means that I probably won't be posting on here for a while. I don't want to turn this into a business blog so I will stick to post about the garden, chickens, cooking etc. although I can't promise not to mention soap.

If you are interested in the soap business I have a website and a Facebook page, just search for The Kentish Soap Company and click like at the top of the page.

Jayne x

Friday, 30 September 2011

New business venture

Nearly another month has passed without me blogging, but I have been extremely busy as I have decided to go ahead with my soap making business. I've applied for my safety assessment (which should be completed in about 2 weeks), had to buy special scales, organise insurance and have had to get my head around pages of rules and regulations.

But the fun bit is that I've got to make lots of soap while experimenting with new fragrances etc.

I've got them all lined up curing on the shelf in my craft room, they look so nice I keep going in there just to look at them (sad I know). I have been totally involved in soap for the past few weeks, my poor family have to listen to me wittering on about it constantly. Dispite all the boring legal stuff I'm loving every minute.

I'm hoping to be up and running at the beginning of November, just in time for Christmas, I am already booked at one Christmas fayre and am hoping to find another to do. I also would like to do some party plan and I'm working on a website, with the help of my very clever daughter who is also designing my labels.

So wish me luck!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Purple Soap

Haven't posted for ages, so I thought I'd show you my latest soap creation, it's purple (although the photo makes it look blue) and is scented with lavender essential oil. I managed to pick up some silicon bakeware cheap in TK max so I had to try them out. They worked really well, they withstand the heat and don't need lining.

I have been giving some serious thought to getting my soaps certified so that I can sell them. I've been researching what I have to do and it seems that there is quite a lot to it with safety testing and insurance etc. My head is spinning! In the mean time I am taking a soap course to refine my skills a bit. My box of goodies arrived yesterday, smelling gorgeous, so I can't wait to get started. I'll post about it as I go.

Jayne x

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

First Duck Egg!

We got our first duck egg today.

Emma thinks it was Alice (the White one) she has noticed a change in her recently.
It is quite different from the chickens eggs, it's large, more rounded at the ends and its white but with an almost greenish tint to it.

I think it may be a case of one fried egg cut into 4 later this evening!

Jayne x

Saturday, 23 July 2011


The garden has been a little neglected recently, partly due to this.

Oil seed rape growing in the field at the end of the garden, very pretty but it gives me dreadful hay fever so I've been limiting my outdoor time.

There are a few things doing well though.

We've had loads of raspberries, there is a bit of a pause in production at the moment but new ones are forming on the autumn fruiting ones.

I am a little disappointed in the new lasagne beds, the layer of cardboard doesn't seem to have done a very good job at keeping the weeds at bay (maybe I didn't overlap it enough) and the bale of straw i used must have had lots of wheat seed in it which germinated. Some of my usual crops didn't do well, although the runner beans are flowering so we should have some beans to eat soon.

And the corn is doing really well.

I am really pleased with the forest boarder though.

It's looked really good and we have had quite a bit of food from it. Best of all it has pretty much looked after itself.

I planted lettuces amongst the other plants and they have done really well and seemed to have gone unnoticed by all the usual pests.

There are lots of herbs all doing well planted among the fruit trees and bushes.

This plant i particularly love, it's tree spinach, it started life as a very small plant bought at a local garden centre in the spring and has grown to 4 or 5 foot tall. It's really attractive, the small pink leaves are great in salads and the larger leaves can be used as a substitute for spinach.

I'm hoping to get out into the garden this weekend, now the rape seed flowers have finally gone over, to try to get the weeds back under control so I can plan for some winter crops.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

New additions

A couple of weeks ago my sister phoned and asked if I would go with her to pick up a couple of new hens to add to her flock. She had found a place on the Internet that is about half an hour away from me. I agreed but said that I wouldn't be buying any as the smallholders show at Ardingly was coming up and I wanted to buy some there.

So one morning she picked me up, she also brought along her lovely friend Sally, who also keeps chickens and off we went.

When we got there we followed the signs down the side of the house into the garden, which initially didn't look that large, and down the garden path which went on and on until to our surprise the garden opened out into a large orchard with loads of chickens! Heaven! There we met a very friendly chap who showed us some hybrids in loads of different colours, all beautiful. Well you guessed it I couldn't resist.

Meet Primrose and Cathy, sorry the photo isn't great they are still a bit shy, but are settling in well. If you live in Kent and are after some chickens I can thoroughly recommend Hen House Poultry in Teston, he has a website with all his available birds, if you google it you should find it.

Well yesterday was the smallholders show, we had a lovely day, the weather was perfect. We saw lots of lovely animals

And went to a talk on bee keeping, which is something we have been considering, it was very interesting. We are hoping to attend a meeting of the local beekeeping association soon so we can handle them to see how we get on. I'll blog more about this later.

Anyway we were at the show, but we weren't going to buy any livestock as I just got two new girls.

I'm so weak, meet Buffy, Willow and Xander. My buff Peking trio, I have a cockerel! We are hoping to raise some chicks in the future, probably next spring, watch this space!

Jayne x

Monday, 20 June 2011

Gardeners World Live

We travelled to the Nec in Birmingham this weekend for gardeners world live.

There were some really sweet show gardens and lots of shopping to be done.

When we first started going to gardening shows you rarely saw a vegetable, but now they feature in nearly all the gardens.

I bought a fig tree (I love figs) and some herbs for my forest border.

And I saw Monty!

Jayne x

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Raspberries and strawberries

My first harvest of berries from the garden. (Not counting the ones that have found their way into my mouth while I've been working in the garden!)

Jayne x

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Heathfield show

Spent yesterday at the heathfield agricultural show.

There were lots of lovely animals that I would have loved to have brought home with me.

Especially these piglets! But they were all going to grow too big, not enough room in my garden for sheep or pigs or goats.


Someone did come home with us!

Introducing Pippa our new speckled hen. She's moved in with Hettie and the ducks. So far they all seem to be getting along really well.

Jayne x

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Duck update

Emma's ducks have settled well into their new home. They are now fully feathered but are still too young to lay any eggs yet.

They love their paddling pool and become quite excited when we fill it up. These pictures were take a few minutes after I had filled it. They had swam round and round, jumping in and out (totally drenching me in the process) and flapping their wings like crazy.

They also like to sit under the hose and snap at the water as it comes out. They are really funny to watch and all have their own personalities.

As you can see Hettie has now moved in with them permanently. She seems much more comfortable living with ducks than chickens.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Rose Petal Jelly

I love roses, especially ones that have a really good scent. My favorite roses are the David Austin ones that we have bought over the years at RHS shows. I love going to these shows, my favorite is always Hampton court. It's chelsea week this week but I will only be watching it on the TV, we have been before but it is expensive and always very crowded, but I always feel sad that I'm not there when I watch it.

Anyway back to the roses, as I said I love heavily scented roses and I thought it would be lovely if I could make some rose petal jelly. I had read that the more fragrant the rose the better, so my David Austin roses were perfect for the job.

I picked some flowers that were fully open, stripped all the petals off and gave them a good wash, I don't use any sprays which makes them safe to eat but may mean there is the occasional bug.

There was quite alot of petals so I put them in two jars and filled them with boiling water.

The effect was quite amazing, all the colour from the petals immediately drained out into the water, turning it bright pink. I left this to steep for about an hour and the I sieved it to get rid of the, now off white, petals.

This left me with quite alot of rose water, I measured out a litre, added the juice of one lemon, a kilo of sugar and a packet of pectin. I heated this mixture, stiring till the sugar had dissolved and then brought it to a rapid boil until it reached setting point.

I then put it into sterilised jars. You can't really see from the photos but it is the most amazing jewel like pink colour and is absolutely yummy. As you can see from the picture I had quite a bit of the flavoured water left so I made another batch and also tried it it a batch of soap, I had hoped it would retain some of the colour and maybe a litte of the scent. The colour turned to a beige as soon as I added the lye and I'm not sure about the scent I think I can detect a hint of rose, but will have to see what it's like once it's cured.

I now have a new favorite thing to have on my toast for breakfast. I have been looking for other things that I may be able to do with flowers from the garden. I've read that jelly made with dandelion flowers taste like honey, I'm always battling with dandelions in the garden, so I may try this next. Then I can say I'm growing them for culinary use, any excuse for doing less weeding!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011


 OK so I haven't posted any pictures for a while so I'm going to make up for it now. It has been all go in the garden for a couple of months now, we've had some unseasonably warm weather of late and living in England you never know how long it's going to last, so I've been working outside as much as is possible.

Most of the lawn has been replaced with raised beds on one side and my mini forest garden on the other. I hate mowing the lawn! Although we do have a decent sized area of grass left at the end of the garden.

The raised beds have been filled up with a mixture of straw, home made compost and top soil. I think that I may have to add some bought compost as the level has dropped quite a lot since I made them. The only problem is some wheat that is growing in them, this has come from the straw, but it's quite easy to pull out.

So far I have planted one bed with potatoes, which have just started to come up and another with some onion sets. I have lots of things growing in modules in the green house to go out later.

I'm quite pleased with how the forest border looks it still needs more plants but so far I have put in a pear, nectarine. crab apple, a couple of hazel nuts, gooseberries, blackcurrants, loads of different herbs and some strawberry runners. Some of the plants are new others have been moved from elsewhere in the garden. There are also some apple trees and a plum that were already there, oh and I have also put in a couple of silver birch trees, just because I like them, either side of a bench which will give a nice shady place to sit. Lastly I have sewn some flower seeds some of which are edible and some of which are good companion plants.

The rocks around the edge were already in the garden and the path is edged with the trucks of some leylandi which we took down recently. I have had to buy some bark for the path and some compost when the home made stuff ran out.

I particularly love my new crab apple tree, which was my mothers day present from my lovely children. It is quite large, I have no idea how they managed to get it into Toms little renault clio, but they managed to get it home without knocking all of the flower buds off and it is looking really beautiful with all the blossom out.

About a month ago Emma and I went collect these 3 little beauties, we got them from the same place that we got my lovely Hettie, I had spoken to the lady about ducklings when we were there to collect Hettie and she phoned me to say that she had some available.

They have grown a lot in a month and are now in the chicken run, although they are seperate from the chickens. Alice is the biggest she was yellow when we got her but she is slowly turning white, Dolly is the khaki campbell and nugget is black and yellow, but the yellow is also turning to white. Hettie seems to prefer to be with the ducks than the other chickens, if you look at the photo you can see her sitting next to the duck pen.

Constuction is underway on the new duck run, we are building on the side of the existing chicken run and you will have to go through one to get to the other, this will mean that if we want to let them live together all we have to do is to leave the inner gate open. We have a shed in there that will be the ducks house and we need to get paddling pool for them to swim in.

Anyway I have probably waffled on for long enough! I will try not to leave it as long before I blog next time.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Bad blogger!

I am a bad blogger. I get busy in the garden and I completely forget to blog. The reason I started this blog was as a record of what I was doing and when, mainly for me to look at back at.

I have now set up all my new raised beds, although some of them might need some more topping up as they have dropped down a little, I have also finished the forest garden border.

We collected some new Ducklings a couple of weeks ago and they are growing rapidly and are now outside in the chicken run although we are keeping them separate for now. John has started construction on a duck run next to the chicken run and we have bought a new shed for them to live in.

With all this activity in the garden I haven't had much time for crafting and have just made a couple of cards to order.

I keep forgetting to take photos to post, I will try to take some today to post later and to be a better blogger!

Monday, 14 March 2011

New veg beds

We've been very busy in the garden. I made a start on my mini forest border and it is looking quite nice, I'll try and take some pictures to post later.

John took a couple of days off either side of the weekend, so we managed to get quite a lot done. My raspberries now have some support so they aren't flopping every where any more, I have a new washing line (boring but essential as I don't have a tumble dryer) and all my new veg beds have nice wooden edges.

The ground here is absolutely full of stones which makes digging a very hard and sometimes pain full experience. I started digging the new veg beds last year and managed to make two new beds. I completed another one last week but it was such hard work and my arms and hands were sore from the jarring when the fork was hitting the stones.

Raised beds seemed to be the answer but they can cost a fortune to fill up. I have read on various websites about lasagne beds (they go by various different names but I like lasagne beds), basically you layer different materials in your raised bed which will break down to make soil. I started with a layer of cardboard to cover the grass, followed by some straw and some of my garden compost, I emptied some of last years used grow bags onto them and some top soil, that had previously been some turfs that I had removed and stacked the year before last when I made a flower bed. I will probably add some lawn clippings as well next time I mow that lawn.

So now I have three traditional double dug beds and four lasagne beds, it will be interesting to see how they compare, watch this space!

Thursday, 3 March 2011


I can't believe that it's March already! It's been nearly a month since I last posted.

My sister has just started growing vegetables and I am helping her to set up her new veg beds. We are planning on spending a day a week in each others gardens working together. It's nice to have company and I can help her to learn about growing veg. She doesn't have space for a green house so we will sew seeds in modules here whenever possible. We are also sharing packets of seeds which will hopefully save us both some money.

Today she has been here and we have started sowing a few things (tomatoes, chillies, aubergines and cucumbers). These are now sitting on the kitchen window sill. The greenhouse has a broken pane of glass so I will need get that fixed before anything goes out there. My niece found a packet of sweet peas in my seed box and declared that she wanted to grow some pretty flowers, we helped her sew some in loo roll tubes. She a nice new pink watering can so she can help mummy and aunty Jayne.

I have been reading a lot about permaculture and forest gardening recently and have decided to try to create a mini forest garden border on the other side of the garden to the new veg patch. I have bought a couple of fruit trees and some gooseberries, which were very cheap in home base. I will add to it as and when I can afford to, hopefully it will be a productive but low maintenance area. I will probably blog about this in more detail later.


Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Sunny days!

No photos today, just a quick update. We have had a couple of really beautiful sunny and warm (for the time of year) days this week. This has allowed me to get outside, yay!

Yesterday Tom and I spent the afternoon at the allotment, clearing the last of the crops that I didn't manage to harvest before the snow hit. We came home with 2 big plastic trug buckets full of veg. There were leeks, parsnips and some huge potatoes, which amazingly survived the snow and rain pretty well.

Tonight we had a vegetable bake for dinner which was yummy, the parsnips are really sweet after all that frosty weather, I will make some spicy parsnip soup tomorrow, which is one of my favourites and I will save some to roast with some belly pork at the weekend.

We brought all the tools home as well, I think I mentioned before that we are not going to continue with it next year, I am going to concentrate my efforts on making new areas to grow veg in the garden, I hate mowing the lawn so am happy to dig some of it up for veg.

I have been reading the seed catalogues, that I always get through the post at this time of year, and am writing a list of what I would like to grow this year. I will probably have to half the number of varieties before I order, I always get a bit carried away at first. I have loads of plans for the garden this year, giving up the allotment will give me the time to

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Tuesday, 1 February 2011

New soap 'flavours'

At Christmas I decided to give some of my homemade soaps. I had fun playing around with different 'flavours'. I ended up giving chocolate mint swirl and honey oatmeal scrub soap.

They seemed to go down rather well. My sisters children loved them, although my 3 year old niece had to be reminded that it wasn't to eat. I have now had some requests for some more, so today I have been in the kitchen playing with 'flavours' again.

I collected and dried some calendula petals from the garden in the summer so I decided to add these with some orange essential oil.

It has given the soap lovely orange speckly appearance.

It is now sitting on my worktop, wrapped in an old sleeping bag, setting. Tomorrow I will chop it up into bars and them it will need 6 weeks to cure. Luckily I have some of the Christmas bars to hand out until then.

Unfortunately I can't sell my soap, there are too many rules and regulations, but I enjoy making it and am happy to make it for my family. My mum had given me a bag full of lavender from her garden so I may use some of that in my next batch.

Friday, 28 January 2011


Introducing Hettie, the latest addition to our flock. She is a volwerk which is a fairly rare breed I think.

I actually went with my sister to buy some new hens for her, but when she asked if I wanted Hettie how could I resist, she is beautiful. I nearly came away with a silkie as well, they have fantastic punky hairdos, perhaps next time.

She is still quite young but I think she is going to be quite feisty, she is totally unfazed by the move to her new home.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Experiments with Cheese

Having mastered the art of making soft cheese, I decided it was time to try some different cheeses. So I tried some mozzarella, which was so much fun and you get two cheeses for the price of one because you can make riccotta from the whey. So we can have pizza one night and spinach and riccotta ravioli the next (the riccotta freezes quite well so you can just put it away to use later). Making mozzarella involves heating the curds (I use the microwave), and kneading and stretching them until you get that lovely stretchy shiny ball of cheese which you then put into cold water until you want to use it. There are loads of recipes on the web for mozzarella I used this one I can't remember where I got the recipe for the ricotta but again there are loads of them on the web.

With mozzarella under my belt I decided to try some hard cheese. My lovely kids bought me a cheese press for mothers day last year and I have made a few attempts at making a cheddar type cheese since. The first couple were very nice but had more of a drier crumbly texture than cheddar. They were polished off quickly so I suppose that they were a success but they were not what I had intended to make.

In november I bought myself a cheese making book by Paul Peacock, I have found this to be really helpful, it is written with the home cheesemaker in mind, whereas most of the recipes in the other books that I have seen use gallons and gallons of milk and turn out huge cheeses, most of the recipes in this book use 4.5 litres.

So in the run up to christmas I was trying to make one cheese a week and experimenting with recipes from the book and using different starters such as creme fraiche. We have only just started sampling these cheeses as they have been maturing, I have set up my old fridge as a cheese cave in the garage for storing them. So far we have had a few promising results. I m making notes and hopefully will come up with a good every day cheese soon.