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The Journey of a Million Elephant Bites


I have often heard the journey of a million miles starts with a single step. I have heard there is only one way to eat an elephant, one bite at a time. I have no desire to venture on a million-mile journey, much less walk for a million miles on a journey. Not once in my existence have I gazed upon a giant pachyderm and wished for an elephant sandwich, much less to eat the entire creature. It has been a simple fact for the last few months that we have outgrown our storage space for soap. We have been using a closet in our workshop to store the soap once it is cut, stamped, cured and boxed. For the last six months at least, it has looked like we were trying to get nine gallons in a five-gallon bucket. Both of us were just waiting for the day that the shelving would have had enough and snap, sending all of our finished product to an unusable mess on the floor. But then we lucked into some industrial shelving. The same kind of shelving that is used to store car parts! All that needed to be done is to build some wooden covers for over the shelves. A quick trip to the lumber store for some wood, and paint and we would be in business.

We decided that we would give each shelf a lip so the soap couldn’t slide off as well as prime and paint. There is no sense in just one coat of paint so two coats it was. The quick trip to the lumber yard and easy project was headed the way of a big job. But with the certain catastrophe to unfold at any time, and the short down time after Christmas coming on, there was no better time to act. After the shelf covers were built and painted, we moved the industrial shelves into the soap shop and put everything together. It went together easy enough and really looked professional. We added a curtain to keep everything covered and out of the light as well. Then it dawned on us, that sometimes it takes paint a few days to cure. Even after paint cures for whatever reason it will stick to whatever is set on top of it. So, we decided to give the paint a full three days to dry, then we would put plastic on top of it as a shelf liner. With the project on hold we started making more soap. We made everything that we were low on before resuming our project.

Once again, we were back at our “little” project removing soap from the closet, counting the bars to double check our inventory and putting them on the new shelves. Now we had space to take what was cured on the drying rack off of the rack, box and stack it as well. We had the space to box soap when it was cured not when we had the space. So, with the mindset that there is no time like the present we were boxing soap as well as moving soap that was boxed. Our new shelves were filling up. But they were filling up anything but quickly. To box our soap, we have to put the front sticker on as well as the back sticker that has the name, ingredients, and weight of the soap. Then we unfold each box and stuff the soap in. When we do one or two varieties at a time it never seemed like such a big job. But having the room to do a lot of soap it was certainly turning into a bigger endeavor than we had anticipated.

To top it off Christmas morning, Sugar, the Large Black sow started making milk. Sugar has been a bit of an enigma for years now. I had tried twice to breed her artificially with no success before we gathered up Boris our Large Black boar. Last spring Sugar had a litter of five with no signs of being pregnant until she made milk the night before she delivered. Unfortunately, she lost all five. So, she has been checked everyday at lunch time as well as mornings and evenings when we do the barn chores. Everyday we take a break at noon and check on her and the goats since they are getting close to kidding season as well. Most of the time everyone here has babies with out any help or trouble, but it gives us a little peace of mind to stay on top of their situation in case there is an issue or problem. It seems like when we are there to make sure the little ones get dried off and pointed in the direction of the milk they are off to a better start.

So, with the mid-day break every day, the boxing of cured soap, in addition to just moving the closet soap this project was snowballing into a major operation. With the munching of the pachyderm reference in the back of my mind, all I could think was, “at least I am not having to eat an elephant.” My journey may not have been a million miles but going up and down the ladder certainly made it feel like it was a solid half million at the very least.

But soon enough it was done. It was a full week longer than we had anticipated but it was done, DUN, DONE! We had moved everything onto the shelves. The closet shelves could be used to house our mica, and oils, as well as the lotions. We could open the door every morning without holding our breath and hoping that nothing had gone bump in the night.

Unfortunately, with the time it took to rearrange and organize we had missed our window to make Valentine’s Day soaps. It is always nice to have a new variety and experiment with different colors and swirls. All of our soap takes at least four weeks to cure and we have just finished the shelf project mid-January. As much as we hate to pass on making seasonal bars there was simply no way to do it. It should be a very long time before we outgrow this set up. It will be a very long time after we outgrow it before we are going to be up-sizing and moving everything again. One of the best lessons to be learned from farming is, use what you have, and don’t worry about what you think you need if what you have works.

Regardless of what life can through your way. Little steps add up to giant improvements. Being a long way from any great quotes from Confucius or Buddha but certainly something we can comprehend here at the farm, “The barn didn’t fill up overnight, it will get clean one scoop at a time.” So whatever type of pile life can stack up for you, remember, one scoop at a time will get the job done.

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