Category Archives: Reflections

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 https://donteatitsoap.com/category/chickens/ .

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.

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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.

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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 https://donteatitsoap.com/category/lard-soap/ 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.

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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.

 

 

Getting Ready For Winter

Fall is a transitional period and much of our time recently has been spent getting ready for winter. Today I’m going to share just quick overview of some of the things we have been up to.

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The driveway needed more gravel so my husband had 30 tons of 21 AA, also known as road gravel, delivered. 30 tons or 60,000 pounds doesn’t really look like a lot. It certainly didn’t cover our whole driveway but we were able to fix the bad spots.

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This job meant I got some tractor time as we worked together to get the stone spread.

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I LOVE Tractor Time!

Another thing that my husband put a lot of time into is getting all of the equipment winterized and stored. Over the last few years we have acquired quite a collection of motorized equipment. The tractor, lawn mowers, rototillers, chainsaw, power washer and more, all requiring maintenance in various forms.

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My husband had mentioned several times that he needed to put together a Preventative Maintenance Schedule, he also referred to it as a PMS, and I laughed. When I saw him winterizing the equipment I decided to make him a preventative maintenance schedule. Even though my computer skills are not that good I was able to make him a chart that can be used as both a reference document and working document for all of the equipment. As a reference document we can record the name and #’s of each piece of equipment, as well as fuel requirements, spark plug numbers, and numbers of other parts that need to get replaced on a regular basis. With all of this information in one place he doesn’t have to pull out the manual for each piece of equipment to find this information. As a working document he can record the dates that any maintenance is preformed on the equipment.

Here is a link for the PMS document that I made pms feel free to save it, print it, or change it, if you think it would be useful.

 

Stocking firewood for the winter is another task that we, but mostly my husband, have been putting a lot of time and effort into. For us this involves cutting down trees, mostly dead ash, then removing the limbs from the tree, cutting it into approximately 18 inch logs that will fit into our fireplace, then splitting and stacking the logs. Since the trees that we are cutting are dead we have found that they don’t need to be seasoned. They are already dry enough to split and burn.

One of the things that has always concerned me is watching my husband cut up logs with a chainsaw. First of all the bending is not good for his back, but mostly my concern is the way the logs tend to slip while they are in contact with the chainsaw. It just seems so dangerous. A while back I was reading an article in Countryside Magazine that talked about a sawbuck for holding the logs while they were being sawed. I had never heard of this before, so I did an internet search to see what I was missing. I came across this site http://www.firewood-for-life.com/sawbuck-plans.html that had complete plans, including a list of materials and detailed instructions, for making a sawbuck. It looked easy enough and quite affordable so I decided we were going to make one. I showed the plans to my husband and he agreed it was a good idea. He had a better idea. A few days later he showed up with a sawbuck. It was a different design from the one above, and it has definitely been used, but it meets his needs. Apparently when visiting a neighbor earlier this year he had noticed this piece of equipment. At my mention of his needing one he decided to inquire about the one he had spotted. When he asked the neighbor if he could rent or buy the sawbuck from him, the neighbor told him he could have it. 🙂 Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

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When I talk about firewood I always like to mention our log splitter. https://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200640136_200640136 I bought this log splitter several years ago when I wanted to be less dependent on my husband for splitting firewood. My husband had always used a maul to split the wood and had pretty much mastered the art. I, on the other hand, found using a maul a struggle. It took a lot of searching to find a log splitter that was not electric or gas powered and this is the only one that I came across. That’s why I like to tell people about it. Although it’s capabilities are limited to logs with a 6 1/2 inch diameter, it works for most of the logs we are trying to split.

Cutting fire wood is something we will continue to do throughout the fall and probably into the winter. If you burn wood for heat, you can never have too much firewood.

While tomorrow we will take the day off to celebrate our Thanksgiving Holiday with family, I wish all of my readers a Happy Thanksgiving, and if you are reading this but not celebrating the Thanksgiving Holiday I hope that you, too, have blessings to celebrate. 🙂

Little Miracles

You may remember back in September I put up this post about our precious grandson Jackson.

https://donteatitsoap.com/2017/09/09/baby-pictures/#comments

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Today I am thrilled to introduce you to Jackson’s baby sister, Adeline Grace.

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Adeline was born November 8. Not quite a full term pregnancy, at 36 weeks, she weighed 5 lbs., 15.6 oz.  She and mom are now home and doing well.

Thus far she is a good eater and a good sleeper

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and some of her expressions are adorable.

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We thank God for both of our little miracles.