Category Archives: Making Soap

October 2018 Highlights

It seems that October just flew by. There are several things that I intended to write about but just didn’t get the posts finished, so I decided condense them into this not-so-short but sweet post.

Little by little my blog is acquiring new readers, so I want to start by welcoming newcomers to my blog. Feel free to look around and explore previous posts. Please leave me a comment if you find something you like or just to let me know you were here. I always enjoy hearing from readers.

October 2018 Highlights

The Garlic Is Planted!

October is the month for planting garlic in Michigan. The objective is to plant the garlic 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes in order to give the garlic time to establish roots. If you would like to more about our garlic planting process you can check out these two posts from our 2016-2017 growing season.

https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/10/13/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-ii/

https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/10/18/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-iii/

This year our wet weather and mostly below normal temperatures in October made for less than ideal planting conditions.  We watched the weather forecasts for our best opportunity and the week beginning October 21st, with several dry days predicted, seemed to be it.

Early that week my husband began preparing the garlic for planting (separating the bulbs into cloves). We, but mostly he, worked on this on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday while we gave the ground time to dry out. By Thursday we could wait no longer – the garlic had to be planted because there was rain in the forecast beginning late Friday.

Despite the ground not being as dry as we hoped, Thursday morning my husband got an early start and planted garlic until nearly dark. For several reason we decided to use a divide and conquer approach so while I attended to other projects my husband worked diligently in the garlic field. Friday morning he again got an early start. When I took the boys (dogs) to the farm for their midday walk he asked if I had checked the radar. Not having done so I couldn’t offer him any idea how long it would be before the rains came. It was late afternoon when he called me. “I just got the last clove planted he said – then the first raindrop fell.” “God is good!” we agreed.

Coincidently, or perhaps by God’s design, we ended up planting during the full moon. We have talked about experimenting with planting by the phases of the moon in past years, but weather and soil conditions have always been more of a priority.

We did scale back on our garlic planting this year. We still planted enough to meet the demands of the markets we currently supply and have seed for the following year. We hope in scaling back on garlic we can put more time and effort into areas where we have not been able to meet demands, namely honey and strawberries.

An Apple A Day

This year we had our best apple crop thus far. While not all of our eight trees produced well, two trees produced more than their fair share. The branches on these young trees were so heavily laden with apples that my husband built posts to brace the branches so they did not break due to their heavy load.

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We harvested 4 milk crates nearly full (we didn’t weigh them). Here’s what I’ve done with them –

Apple Sauce – I’ve canned 22 pints of apple sauce.

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Apple Peeler

When I told my sister I was making apple sauce she asked if I had an apple peeler/corer/ slicer. I laughed and said “Yep, it’s called a paring knife.” LOL. Then as I started peeling all those apples I remembered this antique that I had tucked away on a shelf and had never used. I decided why not give it a try.

One of the problems I have with this and some similar kitchen tools that I have is that they are designed to clamp onto a counter. My kitchen counters were not designed for such uses as they have about a two inch lip that the clamp will not fit over. To accommodate these tools I use a stand alone shelf, but since I don’t often use these tools that shelf is also used to store things. I first had to clear off the shelf and move it to an accessible area. I rinsed the dust off the old apple peeler then clamped it to the shelf. I placed an apple on the prongs of the peeler and began turning the crank. As I turned the crank the blade removed a thin layer of peel from the nice round apple. When it got to the end the apple was pushed off the prongs and popped into the pan I had placed on the shelf to catch the peels. The second apple I tried was not perfectly round and the blade did not touch the flatter areas, so it left strips of peel behind. Considering this, and that I still had to use the paring knife to core and slice the apples, I cleaned up this antique and put it back and the shelf. Lesson learned: My paring knife seemed the better way to go.

Apple Chips – Last year, when we had our first decent apple crop, was the first time I made apple chips (dehydrated apples). We discovered that apple chips make a wonderful snack.

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This year I have filled up my 9 tray dehydrator twice. Each tray holds 3-4 apples and it takes about 20 hours to dehydrate them. When they are finished I store them in small sealable bags usually putting one tray (about three or four servings) per bag. When eating apple chips it is important to consider portion size because they are so good it would be easy to eat too many. It is also important to drink lots of water because they still contain lots of fiber.

Apple Vinegar – This is something I have been reading about and wanting to try for a while. I have seen recipes posted on several blogs and had bookmarked Home and Harrow to return to when I was ready.  My vinegar is still fermenting so I’ll let you know how it turns out in a future post.

Apple Pie – Yesterday I made our third apple pie from this crop. There is just nothing better than homemade apple pie, except maybe homemade pumpkin pie, or homemade blueberry pie or homemade  cherry… well you get the point. It is just so good. I also froze enough pie filling to make six more pies.

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Coffee Cake –  Even with all of that I was still looking for ways to use apples so when I made this coffee cake, which is a recipe that we really enjoy, I decided to add apples. I peeled, cored, and diced three apples and added a layer of apples on top of the streusel in the cake. It turned out fabulous.

I think we are now down to our last 7 or 8 pounds of apples and our plan for those in the next few days is to start a batch of apple wine. Cheers!

Making Soap – You may remember from this post that I consider this time of year soap making season. I haven’t yet come up with any new recipes but I did upgrade a couple of recipes that I have previously made. Perhaps I should add “version 2.0” to their names. :)Let me tell you what I did.

Cocoa Soap – My cocoa soap is made with olive oil and coconut oil as the base oils and coco powder, powdered milk and sugar as additives (just like a cup of hot cocoa might be made). When I first decided to make cocoa soap it was really just for fun. I mean how many of you would love to just bathe yourselves in chocolate? or maybe have dreamt about swimming in the chocolate river on Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Fun eh? According to this article cocoa may actually have some benefits for the skin, but when it is made into soap I am skeptical as to whether any of those benefits remain. It does however make the soap a deep brown color. The milk adds a creaminess and sugar makes for an extra bubbly lather. What more could you want right?

Actually there was one other ingredient that I use in another soap recipe that just needed to go into this soap, because what goes better in a cup of hot cocoa than ——————————marshmallow. In case you are thinking that I have totally lost my mind – no, I don’t use those sweet little sugary puffs that we all know as marshmallows. What I use is marshmallow root from the marshmallow plants that we grow.

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If you would like to learn more about the heath benefits of marshmallow you can check out this link. https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-marshmallow.html .

I have been using this herb in my hair care soap for several years now. The marshmallow root is said to add conditioning properties. For the past four years I have exclusively used my homemade soaps (usually hair care or coffee) when washing my hair and in all honesty my hair is healthier than it has ever been.  Don’t Eat It! Cocoa Soap (2.0 🙂 ) should be finished curing around November 23rd, so we will have to wait to find out how it turns out.

Coconut Soap – Like my Cocoa Soap the base oils used in this soap are olive oil and coconut oil.  The additive in this case, however, is shredded coconut. The coconut, while gentle on the skin, adds a little extra scrubbing power. It really is a nice soap, but I decided to make it even nicer this time around by adding yogurt. In the past year I have discovered that adding yogurt to soap gives it a super rich creamy lather and who doesn’t love that?

Incidentally, I once had a lady ask me “Doesn’t the coconut clog up the drain?” and you might be wondering the same thing. The answer is No – nor do the coffee grounds in the coffee soap or the oatmeal in the breakfast bar soap. What does clogs up the drain is hair.  Being the mother of 4 daughters, and all of us having long hair at various times in our lives, I can attest to the fact that hair is what clogs drains.

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Coconut Soap and Cocoa Soap

I also decided to stamp all the bars of these two batches. What do you think?

Thanks for reading. 🙂

 

 

 

Soap Of The day

I made a new soap yesterday.

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When it was all mixed and ready to pour into the mold it very much resembled tomato soup. It is not something to leave unattended in the kitchen for fear that the first person who walks in would grab a bowl, ladle some in, add some crackers and be very disappointed with their lunch. Don’t Eat It!

This soap recipe has six ingredients and all but one of them are included in my diet on a regular basis, they are olive oil, coconut oil, water, yogurt and turmeric. The sixth ingredient is sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, and that is what turns oils and liquids into soap.

This soap will be ready in about six weeks, and I will be sure to let you know how it turns out. I am certain that the yogurt will give it the same bubbly, creamy lather that we have experienced with both Salad Bar and Aloe but I am very curious the see what properties turmeric brings to the table shower.

Until next time be well.

January Soaps – Making A Good Thing Better

I am going to tell you about the two soap recipes I made in January but first I was wondering if you would be willing to tell me about your personal soap usage. As a soap maker  there are things I try to achieve when making and marketing my soap but I am curious if the things I view as important are important to others as well. My goal as a soap maker is not to get rich or to sell millions of bars of soap. At that point they would no longer be hand crafted. I do think that my products are for a specialized market(natural, fragrance free, no artificial colors).  Your input could perhaps help me gage that market. I compiled a list of questions below. Feel free to answer as many as you like or skip them all and read about January’s soap making farther down on this page. Thank you in advance.

Soap questions

Do you use bar soap or some other form of body wash?

On average how long does it take you to use up a bar of soap?

How do you apply soap to your skin (rub bar of soap directly on you body or apply to a wash cloth then use the wash cloth to wash your body)?

Do you use bar soap for hand washing?

Do different members of your household use different soaps for bathing?

Do you read the ingredients on the soap package?

Which factor(s) are most important in determining what soap product you purchase? Price? Advertising? Packaging? Ingredients? Other?

What qualities do you like in a soap?

Please feel free to include additional comments.

January Soaps – Making A Good Thing Better

I made two soap recipes in January. I have made both of these soaps in the past but after the holiday rush my stock had dwindled. After discovering the wonderful creaminess that yogurt added to my latest creation I decided to add yogurt to these two recipes as well.

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The first was aloe soap. I have been making aloe soap for a couple years now. My aloe soap recipe uses olive oil and coconut oil combined with lye and water. After this combination comes to a trace (when the fats and liquids are blended and begin to thicken) I add aloe juice/gel that I have scraped out of several aloe leaves and blended in a small blender. While I can’t say whether or not the aloe retains any of the healing properties that it is known for, I can say that it adds a slipperiness to the lather and my soap testers (maybe I should call them my critics) have determined that it makes a great shaving soap.

This was already a great soap, but sometimes I can’t help but experiment, so I decided to see if I could make a great thing even better. To add yogurt to the recipe, I used the same procedure as I did in the previous recipe. Yogurt would count as a liquid in the recipe, but since I didn’t want to add lye directly to the yogurt and scorch it I would only use yogurt for part (1/3) of the liquid. I mixed my lye with only 2/3 of the water the recipe called for. I measured out the yogurt in the amount of 1/3 of the water and blended it with my aloe leaves and set it aside. Once the lye/water and oils had been mixed and come to a light trace I then added the yogurt and aloe mixture. I continued to mix this until the soap had come to a thick trace (the consistency of cake batter) before pouring it in the molds.

The yogurt soap seems to take longer to set up, so two days later I took it out of the mold and cut it into bars. It is now curing in my soap room and will be ready for testing in two weeks… if I can wait that long 🙂

The other soap that I made in January also seemed like it would benefit from having yogurt added. This is another soap I have been making for quite awhile. It has coconut oil and olive oil as the base oils and has oatmeal, honey and cinnamon added. I call it Breakfast Bar.

I used the same process – reducing the amount of water that was mixed with the lye by 1/3. Then measuring that amount of yogurt to add once the soap had come to a trace. I found it interesting that after adding the yogurt, honey, oatmeal, and cinnamon the soap seemed to take a long time to come back to a trace. When it did finally trace, I poured it into the mold, wrapped it in a towel, and left it overnight. Again I discovered that this soap, with yogurt added, was taking longer to set up, so I left it another day. The following day the soap was still soft and looked as though it had a thin later of oil on the surface. It didn’t look right so I went online searching for answers and thankfully I found this explanation. Adding sugar to soap causes the soap to heat up more than normal during the soaponification process, and apparently too much sugar can cause some of the oil to separate. It went on to say that in four or five days the oil usually is reabsorbed into the soap. This explanation made perfect sense. The sugar in the yogurt combined with the honey caused this reaction. Fortunately at the four day mark the oil had indeed absorbed back into the soap, and though it was still soft I was able to take it out of the mold and cut it into bars. I am so thankful for experienced soap makers who freely share their knowledge online. 🙂

This batch of soap is also curing in my soap room for about the next three weeks.

Once we (my critics and I) test these soaps I’ll let you know what we think.

Thanks for reading and an extra huge THANK YOU if you decided to answer any of the above questions.

 

 

 

 

 

Crunch Time

With only a few short days before Christmas I still have several projects in the works. Even though I don’t do Christmas shopping, I guess this year I am as bad as a last minute shopper. Call me a “last minute crafter”. Thus the next few days will be spent finishing those projects (that I will tell you about after the holidays), grocery shopping for our Christmas meal, and baking some Christmas treats.

I did want to take a minute to tell you how my latest soap turned out. I wrote about it in this post https://donteatitsoap.com/2017/12/03/the-soap-is-curing/ It is the one with cucumber, yogurt and Rosemary. I will start by saying my first impression was positive, but I always keep my thoughts to myself until I get some feedback from others. My husband was the next to try it. He showered with it in the morning then headed to the farm to get some work done. A while later he called me, “what was that soap I used this morning?” he asked. I told him and he went on to tell me his experience. “I always start my shower by lathering up my hair” he said.  (Yes we both use my homemade soaps to wash our hair as well as our bodies.) “I started rubbing that soap in my hair and the next thing I knew I had a big pile of lather on top of my head. It felt really good and rinsed off nice too. I like it.”

My niece stopped by a couple days later so I gave her one for her and one for my sister to try.  When I asked my sister about it she said something like this, “I usually don’t spend much time in the shower, I get in, wash up and get out. When I was using this soap I didn’t want to get out. It left my skin feeling so good, and I don’t know if I have ever felt so clean.” My niece also liked this soap, and I only wish I had written down her comments because I can’t remember them right now.

Besides the rich creamy lather and my skin feeling really soft after the shower, I noticed some things that no one else mentioned. First the bar had a bit of a gritty feeling like small grains of sand in the soap. I am not sure where this came from unless it was ground up cucumber seeds. It wasn’t offensive, in fact it gave the bar a little extra scrubbing power much like to coffee grounds in my coffee soap. The other thing I noticed was that I could smell the scent of Rosemary when I sniffed the bar. I am not surprised that no one else noticed this because I had to actually put the bar right up to my nose and sniff it in order to detect the fragrance. This soap recipe is definitely a keeper.

In my previous post I shared that my biggest dilemma was coming up with a name for this soap. A couple of readers offered cute suggestions, and while I very much appreciate their ideas I decided to stick with my “Don’t Eat It!” theme. This new soap is now called———————————————————————————————–

 

 

 

 

 

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Yep! It’s Salad Bar Soap. Cucumbers are definitely salad food and yogurt and Rosemary could be ingredients in a salad dressing, so quirky as it may sound “Salad Bar” it is.

Now before I get back to all of the busyness of the next few days, Dom and I want to wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas. God Bless.

Fall Activities

To start off this post I want to send a great big Thank You to anyone reading this. My readership is growing and in the past few months the number of people who are following my blog has doubled. It’s still not a big number but it is very encouraging. Having followers is kind of like making new friends. Followers can visit our farm through many of the pictures I post and can keep up with what we are up to just by reading along. It’s always exciting when somebody hits the “like” button or I get hits off Facebook indicating that somebody liked my writing well enough to share it with their friends. Best of all is when someone takes the time to leave a comment.  It’s almost as good as having friends stop by for coffee and a chat. So again thank you to all those who are reading.

This is a quick update on some of our fall activities before we begin planting garlic this week. If you are interested in what we will be doing with garlic planting you can check out this page https://donteatitsoap.com/a-year-in-growing-garlic/ .

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My husband has been working on expanding our strawberry patch. He first weeded  them then cut and transplanted runners before mulching with straw. Since this picture was taken he has finished the center so there is now 7 full rows of strawberry plants. We are praying for a bountiful crop in 2018.

After finishing the strawberry patch he moved on to the asparagus bed. We added to the asparagus this spring so we now have around 100 plants. Over the past few days he has cut down the ferns that were dead leaving a few that were still green. With hands and knees in the dirt he weeded the areas directly around each plant. He then tilled in between the rows. Since I didn’t get a picture you’ll have to trust me when I say it looks beautiful. Straw will also be used to mulch the asparagus before winter sets in.

He has cleared out most of the garden since nearly everything is done producing. He cut corn stalks and gave some to friends and neighbors to use for fall decorations.

While he has been busy with all of the fall farming activities my time has been split more between the farm and the house. My activities at the farm were mostly preparing the prayer garden for winter.

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I gave it a good weeding, then I trimmed dead foliage and blossoms from most of the plants. I left any blossoms that were still open, as they were being used by bees and butterflies in search of food. I also dug out some Irises because they were spreading beyond where I wanted to go. I gave the dug up Iris bulbs to a neighbor who was happy to receive them.

At home I cooked up and froze pumpkins from our one volunteer pumpkin plant that produced this year. It was not a pie pumpkin but it made a fabulous pumpkin pie.  You can find my pumpkin pie recipe here https://donteatitsoap.com/2015/09/22/pumpkin/   I froze several packages of eggplant and I turned some of the strawberries, that I had froze in June, into jam. I also filtered the beeswax that had been tucked in the freezer after the our honey harvest.  Check out this post to see how I filter beeswax. https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/06/06/filtering-bees-wax/

After several months of not making soap, I made two batches last week. The first one I made was Sweet Dandelion. Since it was such a big hit when I made it in the spring, I knew that I would want to make another batch so even though they were nearly done blossoming, in late June I walked the farm in search of dandelions. I was able to find enough to make a pot of dandelion tea and infused the rest in some sunflower oil. I froze the dandelion tea and I had both of my key ingredients ( tea and oil) last week when I was ready to make this soap.

The other soap I made was coffee soap. I am really looking forward to trying this soap because I used a new and (hopefully) improved method. I will post about it in the future, probably in six weeks or so when the soap is ready.

For now I must refocus on the task at hand – garlic planting, so until next time I wish you well.