On Your Marks, Get Set, PUPATE!

So I have been pretty obsessed with my mealworm farm since I started it. I just love hanging out with the worms for what seems like hours. It is relaxing to watch them do their little mealworm thing.

So far I have $68 invested in them, and hours of time, including the plethora of YouTube videos out there on the subject, so I am paying a lot of attention to them to see if they are progressing at all, and so far in the last few days, there have been several morphs into pupae.

Hurry up and be beetles already.
Hurry up and be beetles already.

This is very exciting for me, but not as exciting as what happened tonight.

I got to watch one of the larvae morph, right in front of my eyes. One minute I was holding a mealworm on the broken piece of drink tray, and a few minutes later I was staring at a creepy, white pupa.

I had seen it several times in time lapsed video, but this was the first time I got a chance to witness it. It was so special to me, that I am going to name him/her Katniss. I can’t wait to watch them grow up and lay/fertilize 350-500 eggs and then die a husk of the beetle they once were.

Then, as a memorial gesture, I will sell their babies to someone with a lizard or bird to complete the circle of life.

I should be able to make $20- $30 back off of them, and I’ll keep a few for the impeccable bloodline to keep on going. I sure wouldn’t want to be the reason for the lineage to be stopped.

That’s my great post for this week. Sorry it’s so boring, but I have been busy with the Dirty Bird Soap Empire Facebook page and website. Not to mention making a lot of soap, getting it ready for market, and slamming the van door on my finger. Thanks codeine!

It looks a lot better than it did a few days ago.
It looks a lot better than it did a few days ago.

That was one of those things that you regret immediately and also days later. If you are ever thinking about slamming a door on your finger, I would advise against it.

Chris

It’s Really Happening

(This is a split post. I’m going first, because I’m the man. When she lets me.)

We are really doing it.

The soap, I mean. It’s only been a couple of months, but our fun and hard work is starting to pay off.

Maybe.

We are putting in a tableold desk at the local farmer’s market here in Hudson’s Hope on Tuesdays starting this week. It looks like this now.

Pretty nice after a good waxing.
Pretty nice after a good waxing.

We were just on our way home when I mentioned that we needed to get a table for the market. You can rent them for $10, but we don’t even know if we are going to sell the three bars necessary to afford that.

I looked at Gerri and asked, “Do you want to go home, or the Share Shed?”

“Oh, Share Shed for sure!” She said, smiling.

We got there and found the dark, 70s desk with the huge round knobs on the drawers, a couple of old toolboxes, and an end table.

The drawers are inside getting filled up for Tuesday.
The drawers are inside getting filled up for Tuesday.

Huge score. I love the Share Shed for always giving us what we need, when we need it. This is better than a cheap, fold-up table any day. We created a homemade beeswax wood polish out of ingredients we had for the soap (Maybe another new product line?), and my beautiful wife stripped, sanded and polished those castoffs into satiny smooth new pieces of furniture.

She also found a handful of these gems that were leftover from the kitchen.
She also found a handful of these gems that were leftover from the kitchen.

The toolbox is going to be for the uncured soap, so people can see what’s coming up, and the end table will hold a small display as well. We were going to have a friend’s kids sell the soap for us, as we are working every Tuesday, but our eldest has volunteered to man the booth for us, so that will really help out. She also labelled over a hundred bars for us as we were trying to pull this circus together over the last three days.

We got our PH test strips this week, so we were able to test out our levels before we put anything up for sale. We’ve been giving bars away to friends, but only ones that we have used ourselves. This way we can be sure that there is no lye left in them, and everything is safe to use.

Created on Shaun "Savvy" Savoy's birthday. Hence the name.
Created on Shaun “Savvy” Savoy’s birthday with spruce from our yard. Hence the name.

We are starting off a bit on the less expensive side, you know, so we can get people addicted, and we will play it by ear for a while. We are still playing around with recipes and trying new things, so until everything is perfect, we will be happy to recoup our costs for materials, etc…

This was our own recipe, and it turned out great, but I think we will try it again with a coffee fragrance oil as well.
This was our own recipe, and it turned out great, but I think we will try it again with a coffee fragrance oil as well. It kind of smells like brownies.

We have been pretty lucky in the fact that we haven’t had many batches go so far that they couldn’t be salvaged. For the ones that just weren’t quite right, we are selling those of in the bargain drawer. They are still great soap, but maybe just have a bit too bright a colour, or possibly a little light on scent. You can still get clean, and save a couple of bucks in the meantime.

We dreamed these suckers up during the fire scare of '16. They are Gerri's favourite, so far.
We dreamed these suckers up during the fire scare of ’16. They are Gerri’s favourite, so far.

So that about does it. If you are in the area, stop by the Hudson’s Hope Farmer’s Market.

In July they have it on Saturdays too.
In July they have it on Saturdays too. I’m all over that.

Chris

Hello.  It’s me.  

It's not really her. It's me. Gerri.
It’s not really her. It’s me. Gerri.

I’m in Hudson’s Hope dreaming of soaps yet to be…

Oh the soapmaking…so much love.  The process of each batch of soap is different and means something different to me.  I love that we have found something to do together that is really fun and keeps us giggling.  It’s also totally exciting to work with chemicals and avoid toxic mishaps.  Safety first, Kids!

Several of our batches have originated from trying new things.  We keep venturing further into the art of soap making, and discover that we are making beautiful, lathery soap that smells amazing and has no carcinogens in it.   We are creating a high-quality alternative that has none of the additives typically found in consumer cosmetics.  This alternative is luxurious, affordable, good for me, and I like using it.  There isn’t a downside here.

It may surprise people to find out that a small percentage of our soaps are made with animal fats as well as vegetable fat. { If you are a vegetarian or vegan, we have lots of vegetable-based soaps, and a large selection of scents.  You will want to be specific when you inquire about soap. } For us, it’s a question of wanting to use a resource that would have been tossed into the trash.  If an animal has died, it does not make sense to waste parts that could be turned into useful products.  It’s a pain in the a** to render lard, let me be clear.  This isn’t the easiest way to get an ingredient for your soap making projects, but it’s very satisfying to save useful product from going into the garbage, and it makes beautiful soap.

Anyway, it’s getting late, and I’ve had a full weekend of soaping, so I’m going to bed.

Gerri

Good Relations

I remember when we got here, we bought eggs from the grocery store. I knew that there were folks around that had eggs for sale, but wasn’t sure who they were.

One day, a PSA came out from a lady who had some wool to give away, and farm fresh eggs for sale. Gerri went out to see what the wool looked like and bought three dozen eggs while she was there. When we were getting low again, we both went out, and I got to meet Jane as well. She was pretty cool, and we all chatted about how great their little farm was, and we bought some more eggs. (She was the one who told us about rendering down fat for soap making.)

This went on into the winter, and this spring, I was out there getting some eggs, when she asked if I wanted some potatoes. There was a bunch of shriveled up purple and red potatoes in a pail on the floor, so I said that we didn’t really eat potatoes, but thanked her anyway. I assumed that she meant for eating, and I didn’t think the leathery little guys would be that tasty. I mentioned that I was going to be looking for seed potatoes as I wanted to try my hand at gardening, when she explained that they were for planting.

I felt a bit foolish, but got over it quickly and went home to plant the little spuds. They are now about two inches high.

This isn't one of them. I found this growing in the composter and replanted it in this bag.
This isn’t one of them. I found this growing in the composter and replanted it in this bag.

Since then, we have brought extra veggie scraps for her chickens, and gave her an in on our fat supply. We can’t use everything, but we don’t like seeing things go to waste, so we thought she would appreciate a little  bit of free stuff.

We were right.

Rhubarb, multiplier onions and horseradish that she had extra of.
Rhubarb, multiplier onions and horseradish that she had extra of.

She asked us if we wanted anything from her garden that was spreading around, so we said we would take anything she wanted to get rid of.

This was in there as well.

A few different types of strawberries. We'll let them get spreading this year.
A few different types of strawberries. We’ll let them get spreading this year.

This next one was a great addition to our perennial herb garden.

The chives from the side yard are in the bottom left and the white onions are from seeds. They are just filler.
The chives from the side yard are in the bottom left and the white onions are from seeds. They are just filler.

We got more rhubarb, so I planted it around to see where it did the best.

I guess we will see how it turns out. I'll be eating stewed rhubarb to keep regular over the winter.
I guess we will see how it turns out. I’ll be eating stewed rhubarb to keep regular over the winter.

I guess the point of this post is that sharing freely of resources for no other purpose than to help someone out, can really pay you back great dividends in the long run.

Not only did we feel great by helping out someone that we have come to know as a friend, but we got some free plants, and the lend of a great book. We’re going to start making things now. Really cool things.

Plus, we got great, fresh eggs, a tour of the farm, and got to watch Duffy and Lily fight over the tennis ball a bit. (It gets put away when we visit now.)

So if you get a chance to go to someone’s place and buy something that they have produced themselves, talk to them. Ask questions, and tell them about your dreams and plans. You just never know where you might find a new friend, or at the very least, a trading partner.

Chris

I’m Getting Out Of Control

Yeah, in the worm department.

A couple of years ago, during a visit home, my cousin Ryan was telling me all about mealworms. He was telling me how they are the protein of the future, easy to raise, and very tasty and nutritious.

I immediately discounted this. I have eaten a few seasoned and roasted mealworms before, and I sure don’t want to make a meal out of them.

He explained that they were extremely easy to raise and breed, and that they take a phenomenal percentage less water per ounce of protein than beef or pork.

I told him that as long as there was enough water to get steak, I wouldn’t worry too much about low water protein and then we had a hearty laugh, as we are wont to do while having a social ale or two.

Then, the other day I was reading about mealworms as chicken food on a homesteading forum. I thought about how easy my cousin said they were to raise and then promptly forgot about it. I already have a bunch of worms, what do I need more for?

Until two days later, when I saw on a local buy and sell page that a woman was looking for mealworms to feed her gecko. I said to myself:

“You should get some mealworms and breed them too. There might be some people around that would buy them from you, and you will be able to feed them to your chickens when you get them.”

I then replied, “I will look into it, and I’ll let you know.”

Before I looked into it, another local lady said that a few people would be happy to have a local supplier, so that pushed me towards purchasing my breeding stock today. Some of them seemed a little bit dead, but apparently they get like that after a while in the fridge.

(Update – Nope, they’re dead. I don’t think that they would still be laying in the same, motionless position after a day.)

I took them home, ground up some Red River Cereal and some rolled oats, and dumped them in a bin with some cabbage, a broken grape, and some cardboard shreds. I separated everything to see what they like best. I’m going to get some laying mash as well, because I’m told that stuff is like gold for them, as long as it isn’t medicated.

I'd breed in there. If I was a worm, I mean. And didn't have asthma.
I’d breed in there. If I was a worm, I mean. And didn’t have asthma.

Apparently that’s all you have to do. I hope.

I will keep checking on them, but I guess it will be a while before they turn into pupa and then beetles, so I think I have a bit of time to perfect the setup. Most of the “real” farmers use one of these four drawer plastic container systems that you could steal from a friends garage or get on Amazon if you wanted to help a guy out. (wink wink)

I kid, but not really. I actually was looking at some of these ten drawer ones and was dreaming of when I would have them full of worms and styrofoam.

Yeah, you heard right. Apparently mealworms can safely survive on a diet of pure styrofoam and convert it into usable soil. It has something to do with the enzymes in their gut, so scientists are trying to figure out how to use them to combat the 33000000 tons of styrofoam in US landfills each year. I don’t know how much us Canadians go through, but it sure looks like a lot as well.

You know, because you wouldn’t want to quit making styrofoam and just throwing it away. That’s just crazy.

Where we live, styrofoam is not recyclable, so I’m hoping to eventually be able to process it with mealworms. I will keep those ones separate from the feed and sale ones, but any excess could be tossed in a bin full of styrofoam and we could at least see for ourselves whether it’s a load of bull or not.

I hope it’s not, because we can’t keep going the way we are right now. Our planet and our bodies can’t take all of this pollution, so anything we can do to help will matter in the future.

Chris