Back in November I wrote about the new soap recipe that I made, and I mentioned in that post that I would let you know how it turned out. I used an oil combination of 40% coconut oil, 40% tallow and 20% olive oil. I also added aloe to it. The types and amounts of oils used in a soap will determine things like how hard the soap is, how cleansing, or conditioning it is and if the lather is creamy or bubbly.
My husband and I have been using this soap for several weeks now so I will share his thoughts as well as mine.
First my husband’s comments, “I love it!” (Short and to the point.)
Now my critique: I find it to be a nice balanced soap. It is a hard bar of soap but not so much that I couldn’t cut it. (In the past I have made some soaps that crack when I attempt to cut them.) It can be worked into a nice creamy lather and it it does not dry out my skin. (Normally this time of year the skin on my calves gets really dry but that hasn’t happened yet.) My favorite part about this soap is the addition of aloe. Aloe gives kind of a silkiness to the lather that makes it a great soap for shaving.
When I posted about making this recipe one of my readers asked me for a soapmaking tutorial. I have decided to break the tutorial up into 3 posts that will be done over the next two or three weeks. If you are interested in learning to make you own soap, you can follow my blog by email or for those with a WordPress account you can follow along in your WordPress reader.
Once again I’ve fallen behind in blogging. In this post I am sharing some of my activities from the week of November 1st – 7th. I plan to get another post, highlighting November 8th – 14th, up early next week. If all goes as planned I will be caught up. 🙂
Monday Nov 1 – I rendered beef suet into tallow. Suet is raw hard fat found around the loins and kidneys of the cow. For the last few years we have been buying our beef from a local farmer. we purchase a quarter of a cow at a time. Once the cow goes to the butcher or processor I have to call them and give them instructions for cutting and wrapping the meat. At this time I ask to have the suet included in our order. Most people who buy their meat this way to not want the suet so I always have to ask.
Rendering is the process of cleaning the suet. To do this I cut the suet into small pieces. It’s easiest to cut when cold or partially frozen. I then put it in my crock pot on high until it is completely melted.
Tuesday, Nov 2 – The suet was still in the melting process Monday when I was ready to go to bed so I just unplugged the crock pot and would finish it on Tuesday. After reheating it I strained the hot fat through 2 or 3 layers of paper towel. When the hot fat (tallow) cools it solidifies and becomes white. (picture above)
Tallow can be used for cooking. (The original McDonald’s french fries were cooked in tallow), candle making and is commonly used for soap making. If you read the ingredients on your store bought bar of soap you won’t see tallow as an ingredient but it is there. It is listed as sodium tallowate which is the result of combining sodium hydroxide (lye) with tallow.
Any solid that are left after rendering the suet are called cracklings. While some people eat these I never have. I decided to feed them to the chickens but my husband said next time don’t bother. When I asked if the chickens did not like them he told me that the chickens would have loved them but instead they were forced to stand by, dining only on bread crusts, as Ranger gobbled up the cracklings.
Wednesday, Nov 3 – I made soap. I wanted to use some of the tallow that I just rendered. The recipe I made was an oil combination of 40% coconut oil, 40% tallow and 20% olive oil. This is the first time I used this particular combination so I’ll try to remember to report how it turns out. It will be about 6 weeks before it is ready. I also added aloe to this batch.
Thursday Nov 4 – I did my dad’s grocery shopping. He orders his groceries online then I picked them up from the store. I then went to the dollar store and picked up a few things that he prefers to get from there. I delivered the groceries to dad and helped him with a few chores.
Friday Nov 5 – I took the boys out for their morning walk at the farm.
It was a beautiful fall morning. When we went out, around 10:00 A.M., the sun had melted the heavy frost that had blanket the area in the early morning hours. Our feet/shoes got wet as we tromped though the grass.
The breeze, if any, was gentle.
I observed moments when a single, random, tree would suddenly drop a shower of leaves.
It was and interesting phenomenon as the trees seemed to be taking turns.
Many leaves were still holding on. Fall is not over yet. 🙂
Saturday November 6 – My sister visited.
I still have one sister who lives near-by and we have been trying to block off some time, at least once a month, to spend together.
Last month when I visited her house I returned two bags of books that she had given me earlier this year. They had been passed onto her by our other sister and most she had not read yet. As I packed the books to return to her I stuck slips of paper into some, labeling them “must read” or “good read” so she will know where to start when she digs into this stack of books.
We also looked at different sewing patterns and she showed me some fabrics that she had purchased but wasn’t sure what she would make with them. “Take what you want” she said. There was one flowered print that caught my eye. We agreed that it was beautiful and needed to be made into something but neither of us could decide what. Even though I didn’t have a plan for it I decided to take that piece of fabric.
That fabric nagged at me for a couple of weeks. Because it was a large print I kept thinking that it needed to be turned into a large item of clothing. I searched for patterns for full length skirts and found a few simple ones but I don’t wear skirts very often and I don’t really know anyone who does.
Seemingly out of the blue I remembered the bathrobe pattern that I had. This fabric would make a lovely bathrobe. I bought a contrasting fabric for the trim and decided to make a bathrobe for my sister.
As I was making the robe I would try it on for size and in doing so discovered that as beautiful as this print is it looks horrible on me. Thankfully when my sister put it on it looked gorgeous – elegant, like I had imagined. ” I don’t know if I love it so much that I won’t want to wear it” she said, “or if I love it so much that I will wear it all the time”.
“Wear it all the time!” I told her. That would be the ultimate compliment.
In addition to giving her the robe, I showed her the projects I have planned to make as Christmas gifts. And we solved a few of the world’s problems over lunch. LOL!
Sunday Nov 7 – It was a perfect fall day for being outdoors and I started out by raking leaves.
The maple tree just off our deck had shed most of it’s leaves.
It took about an hour and eight trips with the wheelbarrow to remove the leaves from the front yard.
The maple that stands in front of our house was still holding many of her leaves.
As were many of the trees in the woods behind our home. The work is not finished yet.
After lunch I headed to the farm with my husband and the boys (dogs) to plant garlic. Normally we plant garlic around the middle of October. This year the ground has been too wet and muddy to plant, so we have been waiting for things to dry out a bit. We had decided earlier this year that growing garlic to sell is not in our future, so we were only going to grow enough for us and to be able to share some with family. We were able to get about 250 cloves planted, mulched and fenced (so the chickens couldn’t go digging them up). This is the smallest amount we have planted since we began growing garlic in 2013 and it was a breeze compared to years past. Now we can only pray that the weather stays warm enough for the garlic to get a start before the ground freezes. It will be spring before we know if this crop will survive.
When my husband told me that our son-in-law would be stopping by the farm to winterize his bee hive I decided to take along the gifts I made for Jackson and Addy. I had a hoped that the kids would be with him, but even if they weren’t he could take the gifts home for them – just in time for Addy’s (4th) birthday on Monday.
I hadn’t taken pictures of the super hero capes I made for the kids so my husband hung them from a plant hook and held them so I could get some photos.
Addy loves unicorns so one side of her cape was made from this unicorn fabric.
The capes are reversible so the other side of Addy’s was made with this brilliant yellow, orange and white tie-dye fabric.
I wasn’t sure what Jackson’s favorite thing is currently so I selected this superhero(ish) fabric for one side of his cape.
and this outer space type fabric for the other.
I wasn’t able to give the kids their gifts in person but I received a message from my son-in-law that the kids love the capes and that Addy was pretty insistent on wearing hers to bed. 🙂
If I made you a super hero cape what would you want on it?
It’s hard to believe that autumn is here. I just wanted to hold on to summer – perhaps indefinitely. Since it is humanly impossible to stop time, the best I can do is hold onto and treasure the memories that Summer 2019 gifted me. I have decided to place some of these precious memories in this post where, like keepsakes in a trinket box, they will be safely stored and I can return to them whenever I like. I will also share them with you.
At The Farm
In early August I used my hours at the farm for picking blueberries, watering plants, and mostly weeding the prayer garden (this is the time of year that weeds really start to take over if they are not kept in check).
I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts that the prayer garden was in full bloom. My husband said he wanted to correct that statement but didn’t. He is right of course – by design the prayer garden is in continuous bloom, from early spring, when the daffodils appear, until late fall, or at least until we get the first frost of the season there is always something blossoming.
By mid August my chore list had changed. We had some decent rain so we didn’t have to do much watering. We began picking tomatoes and peppers and I began cleaning our 2019 garlic crop.
For the past four weeks or so the focus has been on harvesting our garden and either cooking and eating or preserving the harvest. While most of the tomatoes have been frozen so far, I did manage to get 15 quarts of tomato sauce canned. We have been enjoying fresh red skin potatoes (boiled or made into potato salad), Swiss chard (sautéed with garlic, cooked into an omelet or added to a cream cheese stuffed chicken breast), baked butter nut squash, tomatoes (fresh on the side, on a sandwich, or cooked into homemade pasta sauce) and stuffed green peppers. I also cut up three small cabbages and started the process of turning them into sauerkraut. This is the time of year that all of the work pays off.
Busy, busy, busy.
We have eight healthy hives right now and our son-in-laws hive is thriving as well.
We have harvested honey three times this summer from three different hives. Each harvest yielded approximately 30 lbs. of honey. After we harvest the honey and wax from the frames my husband sets the frames back out for the bees to finish cleaning them up. The picture above shows the bees completing this task.
A few weeks ago one of the hives swarmed. My husband captured the swarm and put it in an empty hive. He then placed a feeder with honey in it on top. The next day the bees had left that hive. We are not sure why they weren’t happy there but they did fill up on the honey before leaving.
The eight Jersey Giants that were cute little chicks this spring are now full grown hens. They began laying in eggs in August and will hopefully keep us in fresh eggs through the winter months.
Normally I don’t make a lot of soap during the summer months but I found I was out of a few varieties. I decided to have some fun with it.
My sister had given me some silicone mini molds so I made a few small bars using them. I can see making holiday themed sample soaps or using teddy bears or duckies as favors for a baby shower. They would however need to be clearly labeled “Don’t Eat It!” as I would want someone thinking they were white chocolate.
I have also been practicing using my soap stamp and getting better at it. It’s really a matter of stamping the soap when it is still just a little soft.
Family and Fun
In early August we planned a family picnic at the farm. Not all of the girls could make it but Tina and Ken brought our grandkids and Kara also came out. After we ate, our three year old grandson, Jackson, went fishing with his dad and grandpa and caught his first fish. I didn’t get any pictures of this because Tina and Kara and I had taken (granddaughter) Addy to pick blueberries.
Not only did Addy enjoy picking the berries she enjoyed eating them as well. The cutest part was that each time Addy, who is learning to talk, picked a berry she would say appo (apple). The first time she said it we thought it was so cute we laughed before telling her “berry”. So after that each time she picked a berry she would say “appo” and laugh then when we told her berry she would say “ber-ry”. Her laugh was so contagious that we were all laughing each time she said “appo”.
In August my husband and I went plant shopping. Normally I don’t like shopping. The exceptions are going to a greenhouse or nursey and shopping for yarn or other craft supplies. Each spring we usually go to a local green house and pick up a least a few plants for the year but it’s quite easy for me to get carried away and buy way more plants than I need.
You may remember from this post that my husband was working at a greenhouse this spring and was able to bring home many plants that would have otherwise ended up in the dumpster. With all the free flowers we had there was no need to go plant shopping…until August. While working the landscaping job that he started in July my husband had to make a trip to a nursery where they purchased anise hyssop plants that would be planted at one of the jobsites. “They had pretty purple flowers and the bees were all over them,” he said as he told me about the plants. I knew this herb had some medicinal properties and if the bees like it then we should definitely plants some.
I did a little homework and found that anise hyssop is generally a plant the deer avoid because of it’s strong fragrance. This sounded like the perfect addition to our prayer garden.
We purchased two large plants that were in full bloom and two smaller (less expensive) plants that should continue to grow each year until they are about a foot wide. I understand that these plants also drop seeds each year that will readily sprout into new plants. These plants are still blooming more than a month after we planted them and I saw bees foraging in them yesterday. 🙂
As we were walking through the green house I noticed a table full of flowers that I was not familiar with. They had bright orange and yellow flowers. They were marked $5 each. After asking an employee if the deer would eat them and being assured that it was not likely, I picked out two yellow and one orange. (There I go getting carried away.) The plant is called lantana. It wasn’t until we got them home that we realized that they are an annual so will not be coming back next year. 😦
We took a Sunday off in August to visit the Armada Fair and watch the tractor pulls.
My husband and I wore our matching tractor pull t-shirts so my daughter snapped a photo of us. We were joined by daughters Kara and Lindell and Lindell’s boyfriend Brysen. We arrived early enough to walk through the animal barns and view the exhibits before the tractor pulls began. I’m not sure which is cuter baby goats or baby cows. I love seeing them both.
We also filled up on lots of expensive fair food. I wonder which was higher the calorie count or the price.
For those of you who, like Brysen, have never seen a tractor pull, let me sum it up. Basically tractor pulling is a competition to see who’s tractor can pull a weighted sled the farthest. If you would like a little more information see this article.
This tractor, named Cruel Intentions, is owned by the Capozzo family. They also own and operate the excavating company that dug our pond. This is the tractor we were rooting for that day and they did take first place in their class.
After the tractors were finished they brought in a couple of semi’s that did an exhibition pull.
In the photo below I was trying to get a shot of the score board that electronically records each tractor’s speed and the distance they pull but my aim was a little high.
After viewing this photo I did spot something I hadn’t noticed before. The street signs to the right of the score board mark the intersection that leads to the adult beverage tent. If you can’t make out the signs they say “Good RD” and ” Beers LN”. That made me chuckle.
The beverage tent was the other place we visited at the fair and while I mostly stuck with non alcoholic beverages that day I did end up drinking a glass of hard cider when Lindell ended up with an extra one.
Even though autumn has arrived, and the temperatures have been slowly cooling, we are forecast to have at least one more of summer-like day today and I will happily take all that we can get.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Harrowto 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.
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.
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.
I also decided to stamp all the bars of these two batches. What do you think?
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.