Thursday, October 27, 2016

Why We Use Clark's Cutting Board Oil and Wax on our Products - An Honest Review

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When we started our Etsy Shop, it looked more like a mad dash to get up and running than the execution of a calculated business plan. We were very scattered in our approach and were more than surprised by our immediate success.  We sold some hand painted items, one of a kind pieces, and hand built do-dads and what-nots.  But, what really took off was our Picture Ledges!  We could hardly keep up with orders...partly because we had so many, and partly because of the lack of order and reason in our strategy (building ledges in the workshop, hauling them through the yard, up the dangerous staircase, around the mid-renovation projects, and in to the partially finished "office" for painting, packing and labeling. Then hauling the boxes back down the dangerous staircase, around the mid-renovation projects, and out to the truck for get the idea).

We will always be grateful for the quick success of the ledges, as they really catapulted our shop in to existence right from the get-go and gave our business direction. And they are still a big chunk of our sales. Besides, they're kind of awesome! We have them in every room in our house (well, we will once we FINISH every room in the house)!

 But, as it goes with Etsy - it wasn't long before 100 other shops popped up selling VERY similar picture ledges and we saw our sales dwindle.  It was in that lull that Charlie found an opportunity to work with wood in a more creative manner. He met a local man who runs a sawmill in west Tn. He mills native trees in to beautiful slabs or workable lumber. Charlie was mesmerized by the beauty in the unique grain patterns and live edge pieces he brought home.  He didn't have the heart to cut in to them and wondered how we could best showcase their natural appeal.  As we discussed our kitchen completion projects, the idea of a table runner came up - an elevated surface to display seasonal d├ęcor or a charcuterie board for my favorite food spread (I'm Italian!).  Charlie didn't hesitate. He disappeared in his workshop for a few hours and came back with a beautiful Cherry wood serving board. 

and another...
And a handful more I didn't get pictures of - but, trust me. They were stunning!
We knew our Etsy customers would love them as much as we did. Rustic, elegant, unique, and functional. They would be showstoppers at weddings, buffets, brunches, showers, and holidays. But, they were naked. Just bare, porous wood. They needed a durable, beautiful finish to protect them and make them shine.

Since I am responsible for finishing and packaging all of our products, I was in charge of finding a finish that I would be comfortable using.  That wasn't an easy process. I'm a little finicky about committing to something that will represent us and the quality of our business.  Not to mention, I didn't want to work with anything complicated.  I've got kids to homeschool, diapers to change, boxes to pack, and a farm to run.  I have no time for complicated finishes!  So, here's what I was looking for:

1. Natural.  I can't stand working with chemicals. I aim for zero VOCs, non-toxic, and unscented EVERYTHING. From laundry detergent to paint. So, lacquers and varnishes were off the table from the start. But, even oils like Tung or Linseed (technically natural) could produce unwanted fumes....or spontaneously combust if not disposed of properly - too complicated!

2. Non-toxic. Something I could work with year round - in the house! I knew I would have to find whatever horizontal surface available to finish the boards - whether it be the dining table, top of the washing machine, or a stack of boxes in the garage.  I couldn't work with anything that needed ventilation or a prolonged drying time.

3. Food-safe. We intended to market our beautiful boards for food display, charcuterie spreads, and cupcake presentations.  We certainly didn't want to cut any corners that would compromise the safety of our products.

So, I set to hunting.  Several hours later I pinned down a company. A new company. A small company... with very few reviews (although the few they had, were consistently good).  The company was called Clark's.  They offered a butcher block oil and wax combo in two scents: Rosemary/Lavender and Orange-Lemon that promised to hydrate, condition, and seal my wood products and give them a healthy shine. YES!  After reading up on their product claims ( "all our products are formulated with FDA approved ingredients for direct and indirect contact with food.", "CLARK'S Cutting Board Oil is a food-safe, all-natural oil"...etc), I could clearly see that their oil/wax seemed to meet all my criteria.  So, I ordered the Clark's Finishing Kit to test it out.

The shipping was INCREDIBLY FAST.  I received an email the same day I ordered letting me know it had shipped, and received it two days later! Great for a business like ours. We need to be able count on our suppliers. I opened the box and found all the elements to the set, just as the picture promised.  I set up a test board and pulled up this video on YouTube to be sure I understood the application instructions clearly:

Seemed simple enough, so I went for it!
I grabbed a Cedar Wood Serving Board that Charlie had just sanded smooth and poured the oil across it.

The Oil was lightweight. The scent was bold (I chose the Orange-Lemon), but not overpowering or unpleasant. It brought out the color in the wood immediately.  Here is a photo of the bare wood (on the right) and the oiled wood (on the left):
I allowed the board to dry for 24 hours. It seemed fully hydrated to me, so I wiped it down and moved on to the wax application.  Just as simple. I used a paper towel, as the video suggested and applied a layer of wax. 
1 hour later, it was a picture of beauty. I poured water over it and watched it bead up. The wood grain glowed with natural warmth. It was sealed, food-safe, and gorgeous.  It was finally a board we could PROUDLY offer in our Etsy Shop
There was really no turning back at that point. I went through the bottle of oil in a day and half and we posted our new listings as soon as the wax was dry. Rustic Table Runners, Charcuterie boards, Serving Boards, and Display Boards... The sky is the limit now. Here are a few of my favorites:
We have been using Clark's Cutting Board Oil & Wax for months now and it is still a thrill to see the wood come alive with color during the application process.  I still haven't tired of the fresh citrus scent and I feel confident using it in my home, knowing it isn't harmful to my family.  I feel equally confident presenting the beautiful finished product to our customers, knowing the protection it offers. That confidence is why we use Clark's Cutting Board Oil & Wax to finish all of our wood products here at Rehoboth Farm.
A few notes:
A 16oz bottle of oil will finish about 4 to 6  boards (front and back) depending on the size. I had to start buying it by the gallon
The 10oz jar of wax has lasted considerably longer than the oil and I can usually seal about twice that many boards with one jar.
I am not receiving anything from the Clark's company for this review. I HONESTLY just love the stuff and want you to know it!
Rehoboth Farm is part of the Amazon Affiliate program. Our family business will receive a small commission if you choose to purchase this product through one of the links on this page. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

DIY Compost Bin for the Chicken Run

This simple compost bin began its life as a make-shift brooder for our little chickies.  To make the sides taller, we added old wire shelving. To keep our growing flock contained, we added bird netting across the top. 
It wasn't long (9 short weeks) before they were ready for their new coop.  This is what was left of the brooder after the Great Chicken Extraction...
We get a lot of our sustainable gardening ideas from concepts in the film Back To Eden.  One aspect we wanted to create was a compost area in the chicken run.

So we scooped up all the litter from the brooder and hauled it out to the run area.

Then we dismantled the brooder and reconstructed it. 
We've been dumping compost in it ever since.  We can't wait until the chickens are out there scratching through it.  We're hoping to have the worm population up by the time we get our fencing up and the chickens have run of the pasture.  Mmmm...protein.


Happy Chickens In Their New Home - Out of the Brooder and in to the Coop

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It was the big day! The chickens were moving out of their brooder and in to their new home!! All the preparations were made.  We built a Repurposed Chicken Palace for them from recycled materials we gathered from around the farmstead.
We put a deep layer of wood shavings down in the new coop and put up their handy recycled gallon jug feeders on a bungie cord (redneck, I know).

We placed two 1 gallon waterers in opposite corners - up on a grate so they wouldn't kick so much debris in them.

Then we fetched the chickens.  We didn't document this part of the adventure in pictures, but we have some stories to tell.  The brooder pretty much fell apart during the chicken extraction process and we had to catch a few in mid-air before they made their great escape. 
Somehow we managed to take two trips out to the coop with a Tupperware container full of (slightly traumatized) chickens.

Happy chickens in their new home.....


Hoop Coop Complete - The Repurposed Chicken Palace

In a mad rush to get the "stinky chickens" out of our garage and in to their proper home, we committed three full days to the completion of the coop.
We secured the front of the coop with hardware cloth ( a lot of it).
We wanted the back of the coop to be sheltered from the elements.  We found 5' x 10' Fiber Reinforced Panels (FRP) at a salvage shop for $10/each. 
We secured the fiberglass panels with wooden blocks on the inside.

We brought home 4 panels. We ran two horizontally along the sides, and then folded the other two over the top and overlapped the bottom panels.  In hindsight, we should have purchased a 5th as a rain cover for the front section by the door, but we can always go back.

We covered the 6" overhang over the back wall with the white panels.  We will eventually add the nesting boxes here and we wanted a little rain coverage.

We added a door latch...and a padlock (recommended for raccoon protection).



And ready for chickens!

For more details of the construction process you can read my "Framing the Hoop Coop" post.

Framing the Hoop Coop

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The "chicken dust" was becoming unbearable in our little garage and several of our roos had begun to practice their crowing. It was time to finish the coop and move them out!

We started with a simple base, added recycled flooring material (vinyl tiles) from another demo project, and built a frame for the cattle panels.

Three cattle panels (4' x 16') were bent over and secured to create a 12 foot long hoop.
Cattle fencing also comes in rolls (a little more convenient for transport and handling). I would recommend purchasing it from your local feed/hardware store.

We originally designed an extravagant plan for nesting boxes to fit in the horizontal this:

but.....the chicks were only 9 weeks old and we needed them out of the garage in a hurry, so we filled in the gap and decided to worry about the nesting boxes later.

The piece of board on top came from our kitchen ceiling. That hole originally held the hood vent pipe for the stove.  It ended up a little off-center, but it serves it's purpose (ironically) as coop ventilation.

The rest of the wood was reclaimed from the floor demo. We figured the chickens wouldn't mind a little wear, tear, and termite damage.

We put a wind wall across the center to separate the front of the coop (open run) from the back (roosts and nests).  We wanted there to be a lot of airflow without straight runs for drafts.

We pulled two branches from the burn pile and stripped the bark off of them for smooth roosting poles.

A little geometry, heavy duty hinges, and some scrap wood... and voila - a door!
The most tedious part of the project was working with the hardware cloth ( a necessary evil to keep predators out).

Cutting each little square was quite a chore. We took turns cutting rows with a good pair of Tin Snips.

We put a strip of hardware cloth around the perimeter of the back wall and secured it around the wood with washers and screws.
The hardware cloth overlapped the cattle panel (eventually covered by roofing material) and wrapped around the back.  We decided it had too many gaps and ended up with this fancy "trim job"....

So far, so good!