Monthly Archives: December 2017

Rescue Rooster

We’ve been raising chickens on our farm since 2013. Having a free range flock of egg layers was one of our priorities when we bought the farm and everyone that knows us knows how much we love our chickens. You can read some of my previous posts about chickens here .

Ever since we put our first flock of chickens in the coop our lives have revolved around chickens. Every morning without fail, we (nowadays my husband) open up the coop as the sun is coming up, and provide fresh food and water for the flock. On days that he or we are not working at the farm it is necessary to make at least one, but usually two, midday runs to the farm to check on the chickens. Our presence helps to deter predators. Every evening, after doing a beak count,  the chickens are closed in the coop for the night. If any chickens come up missing a search ensues, sometimes resulting in finding that a hen has gotten into one of the fenced in gardens and can’t find her way out, or one has decided to roost in a tree for the night. Other times we have found that, sadly, a hen has fallen prey to a hawk or a fox, and some times they just disappear with out a trace.

Our vigilance has been rewarded with being able to maintain a flock of happy, free range, egg layers, who provide us and others with delicious, healthy, farm fresh eggs. The insect control and entertainment they provide are supplementary benefits.

One thing that we have learned over the years is that while it may be a good idea to keep a rooster to protect and service the flock, having more than one rooster causes disharmony and stresses the hens. Thus we have agreed to only keep one rooster.

Meet Cocky

Earlier this year I was talking to my dad on the phone and he told me that he had picked up a statue of a rooster that someone was getting rid of. Destined for a dumpster, it was tattered and warn, but since it was not broken dad figured he could clean it up, give it a new coat of paint and bring it back to life-like. He thought this rooster would be a nice addition to our farm. I didn’t tell my husband about the gift dad was planning to give us, because I think surprise gifts are always better.

One day in August when dad stopped by to pick up some eggs and honey I carried the bag to his car and as he put the bag in the back, he took out the life-size rooster statue and handed it to me.  He had done a nice job at repainting it and not only was it as big as a real rooster, it was at least as heavy as a full grown bird.

Our Rescue Rooster “Jim”


I held the statue tucked into one arm and supported by my other hand, much like I would hold one of our chickens, as dad and I stood by his car talking. I noticed my husband driving up and was happy that dad would be able to present the gift to him as well. As my husband drove closer I could see that he was shaking his head adamantly “No”. I was trying to figure out what he was upset about as he got out of the van and from across the street announced, in no uncertain terms, “it’s not staying!” I couldn’t understand his reaction and as he walked toward us I quickly explained, “dad found this rooster statue and restored it for us.” I thought that he was being rude and going to hurt my dad’s feelings.  About the same time I got the word “statue” out of my mouth my husband had walked close enough that he could get a good look at it. “Oh, it’s not real!” he exclaimed laughing in relief. Dad and I joined in the laughter as my husband explained that from a distance he thought it was a real rooster especially because of the way I was holding it.

Our rescue rooster now resides high atop the oak entertainment center in our living room. (We have kept our agreement of only one rooster at the farm.) A few nights ago my husband and I were laughing about the rooster’s arrival and my husband decided that since we hadn’t given the rooster a name yet and it will always be reminder of the unintended prank my father played on him, the roosters name would be “Jim” (my dad’s name).


The Soap is Curing

I am sure anyone who makes cold processed soap will agree that the hardest part about it is waiting for the soap to cure.

Maybe I should backup a step for anyone not familiar with soap making. There are basically three methods that can be used for making handcrafted soaps. There is the melt and pour method which involves buying a premade base soap and melting it to add ingredients such as fragrances and colorants then remolding it perhaps into pretty or cute shapes. The other two methods are hot process and cold process. Both of these methods involve mixing lye with liquid and oils. With hot process, once the ingredients are combined the soap is heated in order to speed up the chemical reaction, known as soaponification, which must occur in order for the soap to be safe to use. This soap can be ready to use in a matter of hours. Cold process soap, on the other hand, is poured into the mold after the lye/liquid is mixed with the oils. While it can usually be taken out of the mold in 24 to 48 hours it needs to cure for several weeks while the soaponification takes place. Many factors can effect the speed which soaponification takes place including the soap recipe, the size of the soap bars and the temperatures in which the soap is curing. I allow my soaps to cure for a least six weeks and have almost always found this period to be sufficient.

I have several batches of soap in various stages of curing right now including the soap I made a few days ago by request I honestly found it difficult to make that batch of soap because it was such a simple recipe. It lacks the creativity and experimentation aspects that I find so challenging and fun. While it was very tempting to add extra ingredients I restrained myself because this, three-ingredient, soap was what the person who requested needs.

Some of the other soaps that I have curing have allowed me to be more creative so I will tell you about those. Both the Sweet Dandelion and Coffee soap that I made a while back are cured and ready to use. I have made both of these recipes in the past and they are both favorites.

This time when I made the coffee soap I decided to experiment with it. I have been having some success at getting light fragrances and or colors in my soaps by infusing herbs into the oils. I wondered if this would work for coffee as well. In the past when I have made coffee soap I used brewed coffee for the liquid, I also added coffee grounds. This time in addition to using brewed coffee I added the coffee grounds to my oils. I knew that in order to release the oils from the coffee grounds the coffee would need to be heated much higher than I normally heat my soap oils. I put the coffee grounds into my oils and heated them about 190 degrees Fahrenheit. I then let the coffee infused oils cool.  As usual I mixed my oils with my lye/liquid (brewed coffee) when both were cooled to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Coffee Soap

The coffee infused oils gave the soap a dark, rich coffee color but the fragrance that I had hoped for is still largely absent. I have since read that the optimal temperature for brewing coffee is between 195 and 205 Fahrenheit so next time I will heat it just a little bit more.

I have had positive feedback from a few people who have used this soap. Comments were things like “it’s a really nice soap” and “I really like it” and my sister who called me yesterday said “I love the coffee soap” and she found it to be “refreshing”.

Among the other soaps that are curing is a completely new recipe. I decided to try this back in the summer when we were harvesting our beautiful cucumber crop. I know that cucumber is often used in skin care products so I wanted to give it a try. I don’t usually make a lot of soap during the summer so I pureed a couple of cucumbers and put them in the freezer until I was ready to make the soap.

About 5 weeks ago I was ready to use the cucumber puree in my soap but I wondered what ingredients would pair well with the cucumber. The most common way we eat cucumbers is as pickles but for more than one reason that doesn’t work for soap. It took me a while to figure it out but I eventually decided to try yogurt. Since milk based soaps are known to be gentle and creamy I though yogurt could add this as well. I also wanted to add an herb to this soap so I decided to infuse my oils with rosemary that I had harvested from our garden. I didn’t want to leave the rosemary leaves in the soap so I put them in a teabag then placed the teabag in the oils as I heated them. I again brought the temperature up higher than I would normally heat them for making soap in order to draw out some of the rosemary properties. When adding the cucumber puree and yogurt I knew that they should be counted as liquid. Since I didn’t know how they would react to being mixed directly with lye I decided to add them later in the process. In order to do this I discounted the amount of water I was mixing with the lye. I decided that the combination of cucumber puree and yogurt should equal 1/3 of my total liquid, I divided the amount of water my recipe called for by 3. I then measured my cucumber puree and added enough yogurt to bring this mixture to 1/3 of my total liquid. I set that mixture aside then measured the other 2/3 water and added my lye to it.

Once the lye/liquid and the oils cooled to around 100 Fahrenheit I removed the rosemary from the oil then I mixed the lye/water with the oils. I blended this mixture until it came to a light trace (started to thicken) then I mixed in the cucumber/yogurt mixture. I continued to mix until the mixture had come to a full trace ( the consistency of a thick gravy) then I poured the mixture into the molds. I am excited that this soap will be ready for testing this week.

I don’t have a formal testing process. It basically goes like this – I use the soap first. I pay attention to it’s properties – hardness, creaminess, lather, does it rinse off well, does it leave my skin feeling soft or dry, is there any scent. I then give my husband a bar to use and get his opinion. With new recipes I generally like feedback from a couple more people, so a friend or family member who stops by when I have a new soap ready will likely be given a bar to try with the condition that they provide me with honest feedback about the soap. I’ll be sure to let you know how this soap turns out.

I do have one major concern about this new recipe with cucumber, yogurt and rosemary.Maybe you can help. The  problem is what the heck do I call it? You can leave your suggestions and any other questions or comments about this post in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading.

🙂 until next time.