After a super-busy holiday season, Darlene and I decided that we were going to take a much needed break. Our break has included working, cooking a lot of one-pot meals, making a boatload of gluten-free apple crisp, going over our budget for the new year, and getting Darlene's new veggie car up and running.

“Veggie car, you say?”

Why, yes, a veggie car. It's an old diesel Mercedes that has a two tank system. When you start the vehicle, you start it on diesel fuel until the vegetable oil heats up. When that happens you switch over to the vegetable oil tank. You then switch back over to diesel fuel to flush out the system when you're near the end of your drive (side note- diesel engines were originally designed to run on peanut oil). Pretty cool, huh?

 Darlene filtering some waste vegetable oil.

Darlene filtering some waste vegetable oil.

So...I guess we didn't really take a break, but that's okay because things are looking pretty awesome these days! Our Pine Tar soap is now available through Amazon fulfillment services, our website orders have picked up significantly from a year ago, we've got some new products in the works, and, well, we're just happy about life in general right now.

We want you all to know that we have nothing but the utmost gratitude for every one of you who has supported us. Every order we get elicits excitement and joy, and every time we get an order from a new location, we're amazed that our products have gone such distances and reached so many people. We are truly humbled.

In the next few weeks we'll be able to give you more updates on our Spring and Summer (!!!) schedule. As of now we'll be joining the Danbury Winter Market on March 5th, April 2nd, and May 7th. Also, on April 16th we'll be at the Massabesic Audubon Center's Earth Day Festival. We'll be posting more events over on our facebook page as we add them. Be sure to head over and give it a “like” if you haven't done so already!


*dusts off blog*

Wow. So, um, it's been awhile.

Sorry about that. I don't call, I don't write...I know, I know.

Honestly, we've been so busy and then it just got super easy to NOT write any blog posts and...well...here we are.

So, what have we been up to these last few months?

Well, first, I got to go to Disney World with my brother and his family. That was a pretty darn awesome good time! I hadn't been there in 15 years, so a lot had changed (thankfully MOST of my old favorites were still there...except Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and Horizons...which...C'MON!! REALLY!?). Before I left, I was really nervous about traveling with my dietary restrictions, so I took a bunch of notes about going to Disney World while having food allergies which I'll share with you in the near future.

After I returned, with the exception of a few events and winter markets here and there, we pretty much spent most of our time preparing for the Made in NH Expo. Now THAT was a great event! Going into it, we didn't know what to expect other than the fact that it was huge and unlike anything we've ever attended before. I'll admit, I was pretty nervous, but we're so happy that we got the chance to reach so many new people with our products and we'll definitely be attending again next year.


And now?

As of now, we're in the process of finalizing our summer schedule and just trying to plan out our next steps. Keep checking back at our Retail & Farmers Markets page and our facebook page for updates on where you can find us!

...and, yes, I will definitely be blogging here more often.


- Jennifer


What is Soap?

So what, exactly, is soap?

It's something we use multiple times a day, every day, and don't really think about. It's just there, has always been there, and is just part of our lives.

Unfortunately, some of us have been using “soap” that's not...well...soap.

Do not be fooled by these impostors! They lurk in the soap aisle, but go by names such as “body bar”, “shower gel”, “body wash”, and “beauty bar”. None of these are soaps- they are detergents!

Soap, in its simplest description, is the product of a chemical reaction between fat (animal or plant) and an alkali (otherwise referred to here as “lye”). Lye can be either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, but, in the case of bar soap, it would most likely be sodium hydroxide. This reaction is called saponification.

 Just some pumice soap...

Just some pumice soap...

When you wash with soap, the molecules in the soap bind with both the water you're using and the oils on your skin (either your own or in whatever grossness you need to wash off) and allows the oils to mix with water. The combination of this binding, plus the actual physical act of washing, allows for the removal of dirt from your skin, washing it down the drain.

Detergents, on the other hand, are made with synthetic ingredients. Some of them are chemicals that create foaming or lather, some are antibacterial, and some are simply fragrance and dyes (your “pomegranate” hand wash is the farthest thing from an actual pomegranate). Not only are these ingredients harmful to your body, but they're harmful to the environment as well. What's not being absorbed by your skin is washing down the drain and ending up in your drinking water. I don't know about you, but personally I'm not a huge fan of drinking phthalates and triclosan.

How do you know if you're using actual soap? Take a look at what it's called. If it's called “soap”, then you're fine. If it's called something that's a bit evasive (“body wash”, for example) then what you have is definitely not soap. Also, always be sure to look at the ingredients! Even if it's soap, you should know what it is you are putting on your body and why!

On the Topic of Bread and Milk...

I always feel a bit on edge before a big storm. I know that it's coming, but I never know what, exactly, to expect. I always end up acting a bit cagey and I don't really get much done except read every related news report I can find.

I know that it probably won't be terrible and that most likely the worst that will happen is that the power goes out for a few hours, but I've seen bad storms and I've had some close calls, so the nervousness always wins out a little more than it should.

One thing that makes me feel somewhat better about any weather related event is the fact that I make sure I'm prepared ahead of time.

Government websites will tell you to have enough food and water to last for 3 days. I think that's a really low number. In my opinion, it's best to have enough food and water for at least 14 days (the Red Cross recommends this, as well). That's two weeks and I don't think that it's unreasonable. It isn't unheard of for a storm (or other disaster event) to shut down an area for that length of time.

Let's go back to October of 2012 for a moment...

I was in Galloway, New Jersey finishing up some last minute packing and cleaning at my parents' house. My brother and I had finally found a buyer for it and he wanted to have closing fairly quickly. We had A LOT to do. Then, wouldn't you know, in the middle of all of that craziness this giant hurricane started heading our way.

At that point, we didn't have any cable or internet access at the house, so Darlene was keeping me updated on the storm via text messages. My brother and I REALLY didn't want to have to leave and return to our homes (eight hours away in opposite directions) and then drive back again to finish everything. Plus, we had very little time left before closing.

The day before the storm, I went to U-Haul to pick up some extra packing supplies. The line was nearly out the door. Everyone there was getting something storm-related. Some people were even trying to rent trucks to pack and evacuate. All I wanted was some bubble wrap and it took me somewhere close to an hour to pay for it. That's when I went to the library to check the weather report.

Yep. It was time to leave. I just had to make one quick stop at the grocery store (which was madness, sheer madness!) and then I'd be packing my car with as much as possible to head back to New Hampshire.

Over the next few days, I obsessively checked various news sites and facebook for updates on Sandy and, specifically, the Atlantic City area. I really couldn't believe the reports that I was reading and some of the photographs were absolutely devastating. Thankfully, Galloway was pretty much fine and the house was unscathed.

But gas shortages and rationing? Wow...I had never seen anything like that. When I did eventually head back, I had to plan out my trip so I knew exactly where in Connecticut I had to fill up so I could make it all the way down to Galloway without stopping.

The closing on the house went fine and, by the time I headed back to New Hampshire, the gas rationing had ended. Still, I was left feeling quite unsettled by some of the things I'd witnessed in person, in the news, and online.

One thing I noticed is that it seemed like no one in New Jersey and New York was the least bit prepared for a disaster event. No, really...like, at all. People were freaking out. That time I went to the grocery store the day before the storm? If I made a cartoon of that moment, it would involve people running around, pushing shopping carts, screaming, with their hair on fire.

Food, water, batteries, generators...stores were selling out of these items like crazy. People were posting online with offers to buy and sell. Then, when it was all over, it seems like people went back back into complacency. I recall seeing one person post that they had bought a generator, hadn't needed it, and wanted to sell it. Seriously? You might not want to keep that super-important item handy just in case you need it in the future?

Even after everything that happened, people still maintained that “it can't happen here” attitude.

So, getting back to the present, what would I recommend to have on hand just in case?


 Anya is prepared and ready.

Anya is prepared and ready.

Food and water are the big ones. You need to be sure to have enough non-perishable food and water for your entire family, plus pets, for at least two weeks. You also need to take into account any extra water you might use, such as water for cooking.

You should also make sure to keep cash on hand. If an event knocks out power, you might not be able to use your debit or credit cards. Cash, though, will still be able to be accepted.

Speaking of the power going out, batteries, flashlights, and a hand-crank radio are all good things to have. I've even used that type of radio to charge my cell phone a bit.

Definitely take hygiene into account- be sure to have extra toilet paper and feminine products on hand. Also, ever since losing power for nearly a week after Hurricane Irene, I have some baby wipes stockpiled. If you don't have access to running water, those make a big difference.

If you think you're in a situation where you might be forced to evacuate, get all your important papers together and ready to go. You should also make yourself familiar with your local evacuation routes and any alternatives there might be.

The things I've listed are very basic and I've definitely gotten nowhere near covering everything you should have put away. There are very good sources out there that have checklists from the most basic to the most hardcore (like, “we're hunkering down for ten years”). It's up to you what you can and are willing to do, and also what makes sense for you in your current situation. You don't have to go out, today, and buy everything you need all at once, but you can add an extra item here and there when you do go shopping. That way you won't have to be a member of the frenzied masses who waited until the last minute or, even worse, got stuck without and left dependent on outside assistance.


Buying Purposefully

There are quite a few reasons why Darlene and I started The Healthy Porcupine. Some of those have been addressed in earlier blog posts, but one that we haven't talked much about is the political aspect of why we do what we do.

Now, when I say “political” many people's minds will go directly to the left/right paradigm that is so ingrained in our society today. That is not what I'm talking about at all. I'm talking about something that goes well beyond that- I'm talking about making everything you do a political act. How, where, and why you spend your money is one big example of this.

When you spend money, you're lending your endorsement to a product. You've obtained this money by working which is an exchange of your life-force (precious time and energy) to produce something. So, when you purchase something, that dollar you hold in your hand is more than just a piece of paper- it's the product of your time and energy spent. Also, when you use your dollar to purchase an item, you're telling whoever produced said item, “Hey, here's my money. Keep doing what you're doing.” Like it or not, money is a powerful thing and how you spend it is just as powerful.

When I spend my money at a local farm, I get to meet the farmers. I get to know what kind of people they are and I get to see how they raise their plants and animals; I get to ask them questions and, sometimes, even tour the farm. When you buy a piece of meat at a grocery store, you really don't know what you're getting, how it's been treated, or where it came from. All you truly know is that it's called “meat”. Now, given what I just said what money is, which would you rather spend your dollar on?

 Happy, grass-fed cows.

Happy, grass-fed cows.

It is so very important to make sure to “vote with your dollar” and buy ethical, buy sustainable, and, when possible, buy local.

“Buying local” goes well beyond food politics. When you buy local, your money is going directly back into growing your community. Spending your money at your local merchant who carries local products has so many more benefits than buying something at a big box store that has been shipped in from China. When local merchants make more money, their businesses grow, and when their businesses grow, more jobs are created. Supporting local businesses helps to make your community more prosperous and self-sufficient and decreases its dependence on outside sources.

Taking an active interest in the way we buy may seem daunting at first. It's not always convenient and it means doing your research and sometimes going out of your way. Just remember, by going this route, it's another part of taking back control of the food you eat and the types of products you use. You'll no longer be chained to corporate interests- it's liberating.


A Confession...

I have a secret to tell you.

I used to smoke. A lot.

I loved my cigarettes and, before the indoor smoking ban took effect (back when I lived in New Jersey), I used to spend hours upon hours hanging out at a diner, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.

 Oh the glamour!

Oh the glamour!

Yes, my habits back then were...ehhh...not so good, and neither was my health. Between the constant smoking and my absolutely abysmal diet (more on that another time), I never felt well. It wasn't until I changed these habits that I realized how horribly sick they'd been making me.

If you're a smoker, I'm not about to lecture you on why you shouldn't be smoking. You know it's bad and nothing I say to you will make you want to quit. The only thing that will make you want to quit is you. YOU have to be ready.

So...what made me decide to quit? That's quite personal, but I will tell you that it has to do with meeting someone whom I didn't want to subject to what would have been my eventual, terrible decline. I was never pushed and the decision was all my own. One day I decided that, at the end of the pack, I wasn't going to smoke anymore. I had that last cigarette and, well, that was pretty much it*.

When I quit, I was fortunate enough to not get too miserable with people. I started snacking a bit more, but overall I was okay. I only had one big relapse and that was years later when my mother died. I very was lucky to be able to stop again with such ease.

If you're thinking about quitting, there's a few things I think you should know. First, there will always be a reason to smoke. It sounds funny, but really...your brain will attempt to justify smoking somehow (in fact, just writing about smoking is making me want to smoke). Don't listen to it, the urge to smoke will pass.

Second, don't get cigarettes off of other people. Just because you're not buying them, it doesn't make it any better. You'll not only be “that guy”, but you'll also get to the point where it's happening so much that you'll just go out and buy your own pack.

Finally, don't beat yourself up if you do have a relapse. You might think you failed and that there's no point to trying again, but you couldn't be more wrong. Remember, cigarettes are designed to be highly addictive and not everyone is going to be able to quit as easily as I did. Keep trying- you'll be glad you did.

* There were a few minor hiccups early on in social situations where adult beverages were being consumed. So, yeah, that's something you might want to stay away from for awhile when you quit.

** Just a note to the non-smokers out there- if you have someone in your life who is a smoker, and you want them to quit smoking, please be supportive and stay positive. Remember, the person quitting is going to be having withdrawal symptoms and that is really not a good time.

Protecting Your Skin in Cold Weather

The weather this week...well...it's sucked. Big time. There's definitely no question now that winter is here and the -30 wind chills that we experienced on Thursday weren't only brutal, they were dangerous.

Weather like we've had this week takes a huge toll on the body, especially the skin. If you don't protect it, you can suffer from cracking, bleeding, and, in the worst cases, frost bite.

In order to keep your skin protected, the first thing you should always do is keep it covered and keep it dry. Scarves, gloves, and hats make a huge difference. I know that sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised how many people choose not to bundle up, even in bitterly cold temperatures.

You should also avoid taking long, hot showers. I know, I know...in this type of weather, you WANT to take long, hot showers. Possibly multiple times a day! But, unfortunately, taking long, hot showers is counterproductive and will actually help dry out your skin.

Another way to keep your skin protected is by using moisturizers or balm. Balm would be good for putting on as sort of a preemptive strike due to it's thicker nature, whereas moisturizers can help in cases where the skin has already dried out.

Finally, once you're all taken care of, don't forget that your pets are just as susceptible to the cold as you are! Just because they're covered with fur, that doesn't mean they can't get cold and suffer from frostbite and hypothermia.

Stay warm, friends! Remember, the first day of Spring is on March 20th!


 Boo really does not like Winter.

Boo really does not like Winter.

Happy New Year!

If you had told us at the beginning of the year that we'd be at the point we're at now, we wouldn't believe you.

I don't know if you realize this, but in the last year we went from carrying our tallow balm and only a few varieties of soap, to having balm, laundry powder, and seventeen (!!) different soaps! We've expanded our reach by participating in various New Hampshire farmers' markets and we've even managed to get our products into both physical and electronic retail locations.

That's not to say that this past year hasn't been without it's...glitches...but, really, what year doesn't have them? Everything we've been through, good and bad, has gotten us to this point and we're extremely grateful for it.

As for 2015, we have a lot of ideas brewing and we're very excited about them. Along with developing some new products, we'll also be expanding the amount of events and markets we attend and the amount of retail locations where our products will be available.

We want to thank all of you for your support throughout this past year- even with all our hard work and all of our perseverance, none of this would be possible without you. We wish you love, happiness, and good health for the new year.

- Jennifer & Darlene

About That Detergent Aisle...

One of my least favorite things in the whole world is walking down the laundry detergent aisle at any store. If I don't think to hold my breath, my lungs, eyes and sinuses are overwhelmed by the fumes, leaving me dizzy and kicking myself for thinking it was a good idea to use THAT aisle as a shortcut.

If you look into the chemicals that are found in most of those products, it's no wonder I have such a reaction to them! They're full of known carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and irritants- some of the chemicals used are even derived from petroleum!

These harmful chemicals aren't just found in detergent, but they're also found in dryer sheets. I would recommend using a clothes line or drying racks to dry your laundry, but if you must use a dryer, dryer balls are the way to go.

The best thing that you can do when deciding what products to use is to be certain to read labels. Now, of course, we hope that you will use our laundry powder, but there are also plenty of other non-toxic alternatives out there such as soap nuts. The most important thing is the giving yourself the ability to make an informed decision.



No petrochemicals here!

Bone Broth!

The weather is absolutely abysmal today here in New Hampshire, so what better time is there to treat yourself to a nice hot cup of bone broth?

A lot of bone broth recipes call for adding a few veggies or spices, but Darlene and I just take grass-fed beef bones and some water and stick them in the slow-cooker for a minimum of 24 hours. Then, when we're ready to enjoy the broth, we mix in spices of our choice.

Today's broth includes:

* fresh ginger

* salt

* turmeric

* cumin

* cayenne

* allspice


 Spicy bone broth!

Spicy bone broth!