Monday, August 26, 2013

Cutting Corners with USPS Shipping

A good day of sales for Forsythia Hill Vintage. 
One thing I have learned about shipping with the USPS - there are always changes. From postage stamp increases to Priority Insurance there is a LOT to keep up with.

In 2012 I paid nearly $700.00 in shipping fees operating my two online Vintage Shops. There was a big jump in international shipping rates early in 2013 which put a serious dent in my international sales. I can only hope the exchange rate is in the favor of non-US countries to help ease the burden of higher shipping fees. The biggest increase was to Canadian customers - the rates nearly doubled.

It hasn't been all doom and gloom. First Class within the US is the cheapest route if your package weighs up to 13 ounces. For heavier packages, Parcel Select is often the best shipping option for me but I've figured out that sometimes you can ship Priority for less. It's all automated through Paypal and Etsy. If you don't ship commercially, you can still print labels at home for your personal packages and I've found that online rates are always less expensive than the Post Office and tracking is included. The quick link to creating your package label is There are several steps before printing so you can view how much each option costs before you buy. After you finalize your shipping method, print a label on paper and completely cover it with clear shipping tape, adhering it to your package and you are done. No need to buy expensive stick labels.

Bigger mailbox finally installed - still not big enough!
The USPS just included insurance up to $50.00 with Priority Mail and tracking also is included. But beware, the maximum shipping time of 3 days is not guaranteed - it can take longer. I often pick the lower shipping rate and only buy insurance if it's something breakable. In three years of shipping hundreds of items, within the US and internationally, I've never had a package lost.  In the end, that's what is most important to me.

If you are a commercial seller, you can get super inexpensive shipping insurance through shipsaver. I've had one breakage and they covered it so it actually works!

I recently discovered Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelopes that can save you half of shipping Priority in a box. Padded costs a little more so go for the unpadded and wrap your item in bubble wrap. You can order the envelops online and they will be delivered to your house, free of charge. The postage amount is set and you pay when you ship so you always know how much it's going to cost. I would ship in an envelop if the item is heavy and non-breakable.

4 Bushel Baskets - my heaviest and largest item!
I just shipped my largest and heaviest item from my front doorstep. It was nearly 17 lbs and I had to combine two boxes to make it tall enough. I found detailed instructions on how to do this correctly and I also added inexpensive insurance through shipsaver, just in case.

Get to know your mail carrier, often they will just pick up a package straight from your mail box or front step. I leave a note in the box if my items won't all fit - that my packages need to be picked up from my front porch. I love my mail carrier! I've saved hundreds of dollars on gas from not having to drive to the post office, not to mention TIME.

My 1st lesson to pack WELL - Cast Iron actually damaged!
The last tip is how to package against damage without making the package heavy. I am a big believer in 1) saving money 2) treading lightly. I have never purchased any packing materials for the exception of small mailing envelopes and tape. Free boxes and packing materials can all be had on freecycle or through local businesses. It's good for the environment and your wallet!

When wrapping breakables I bubble wrap first then stuff with plain white packing paper leaving 2" between the item and the box for movement. I often start with a 1" layer of recycled packing peanuts in the bottom of the box. Light clothing gets pretty tissue paper and is inserted into a mailing envelop.

Just a few tricks of the trade. Happy shipping!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

For Love of Lamb and Life

The July-August edition of Martha Stewart Living Magazine has published a wonderful feature article about a Charlottesville area Yarn CSA.  Each year you buy your very own share of hand sheared fleeces straight from the farm. Most often the term CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) refers to the purchase of produce throughout the growing season. Buying into a CSA before the crop is harvested helps farmers plan and pay for the coming year. In 2007, Susan Gibbs, owner of Juniper Moon Farm, began the first Yarn and Fiber CSA in the United States where individuals can pay a set annual fee and receive in turn lovely yarns. For economic reasons, Susan relocated her 8 year old business from Martha's Vineyard to Virginia giving her the opportunity to expand.

Sally, one of my hens on Forsythia Hill.
To raise livestock or crops as a business, one must have a deep commitment and love for farming. It always sounds so romantic, to uproot yourself from the big city to live among nature in a rural farming community, but it's also a lot of hard work. Animals have needs and get sick or worse get killed by predators and crops fail due to unpredictable weather and pests. Farmers have to juggle family and health while keeping one eye on the animals living off the land. It's never easy but once farming gets in your blood, it's there to stay!

Photo by Gabriela Herman. Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living. Copyright ©2013.
Originally, Susan worked as an executive in New York City and farming piqued her interest so she bravely tossed in the towel and began raising sheep!  She has a deep love for the animals that she raises applying personal principles and values as part of her decision making.

I appreciate the fact that all Lambs and Goats live out their full life in a pasture and are not eaten or disposed of once no longer useful to the business. Also, processing of the wool is provided by a small family owned mill.

It sounds like Susan has certainly found her niche and has continued to expand her business in positive and meaningful ways. Her website is interesting hosting a LambCam, beautiful knitting patterns, and a peek into life on the farm.  Nearly 80% of past years shareholders resubscribe... something or someone is definitely working at Juniper Moon.

Many thanks to Martha Stewart Living for providing several photos for this blog post.  All photos are copyrighted.  Pick up a copy of this months Martha, it's only available in newsstands until August 16th.


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