Tag Archives: Homesteading

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. 🙂

Rendering Beef Tallow

Tallow is an ingredient that is commonly used in soap making and if you are buying commercially made soap, tallow is likely an ingredient. You won’t see tallow listed as such on the package. As an ingredient it will be listed as sodium tallowate, which is the name for soap that has been made by combining tallow with sodium hydroxide (lye).  This Wikipedia article explains other uses for tallow.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tallow#Food

Unlike coconut oil, olive oil, lard and some of the other oils used in soap making, tallow is not readily available in most grocery stores. When I first began making soap I used oils that were readily available and while I could have ordered tallow online or perhaps sought it out at a butcher shop, I never did. It wasn’t until we started buying our beef from a local farmer that I began using tallow as an ingredient in some of my soap.

We had ordered a quarter of a cow. When I called the processing facility to tell them how I wanted our beef cut up, I asked if I could get some tallow as well. At that point I had not done all of my homework, I didn’t know that the fat that I wanted was called suet before it was rendered, so the lady did correct me. I did know that I would have to render the fat before it would be suitable for soap making.

When we picked up our meat order I found that the suet was a large chunk of fat wrapped in a large plastic bag. I put it in the freezer until I was ready to use it.

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Suet

 

I had read several tutorials and I realized that in rendering the suet into tallow the objective was to melt the fat in order to separate out any parts that were not pure fat.

I’ll share with you the method that I used and have continued to use ever since.

I started by taking the suet out of the freezer and letting it thaw for a while. It seems that it is easiest to cut while it is still cold but not frozen. I cut it into fairly small pieces. The smaller they are the faster they will melt or the less cooking time it will take. I put the suet pieces in my large stock pot and added enough water to cover it. I put it on the stove and brought it to a boil. Since I did not want the water to cook off I put a cover on it but I tilted the cover so that some of the steam could escape.

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Rendering Tallow

It took a few hours of boiling before most of the fat chunks were completely melted. At this point I dipped in with a sieve and took out some pieces of meat that would obviously not melt.

I then let it cool. Since outside temperatures were in the 40’s (Fahrenheit) and lower, I decided to let it cool outside overnight. The next day the tallow had hardened and floated to the top. The water and some remaining meat particles were in the bottom of the pan. I had to break through the layer of tallow to drain the water off. I did this outside because I didn’t want any tallow particles clogging up my drain.

When I removed the tallow from the pan the bottom was covered in a layer of mushy grey stuff. I scraped off this layer and discarded it. My tallow was not yet as clean as I wanted it so I put it back in the pan, covered it with water and repeated the process.

The tallow did not take nearly as long to melt as the suet did so my cooking time was greatly reduced. After letting the second rendering cool and harden, I again scraped the mushy stuff off the bottom and decided to repeat the process once again.

After the third rendering the tallow looked clean and pure. I placed it on a tray lined with paper towel to dry and patted the top and sides dry with paper towel as well.

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Tallow

I then cut it into chunks, but because it is very hard it cracks rather than cuts, and placed the chunks in a freezer bag. I then store the tallow in the freezer until I am ready to use it.

Tallow is not an essential oil for soap making, and I realize there are individuals who prefer not to use animal fats in their soaps, but tallow does make a hard bar of soap and adds a creaminess to the lather. For me the greatest advantage of tallow is that it can be locally sourced, unlike coconut oil, olive oil and many others that must travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to arrive at my home and be turned into soap.

🙂 Until next time…

Our Homemade Halloween Costumes

In the 17 years we have been together my husband and I have never been to a Halloween costume party before.  A few weeks ago we received a flyer in telling us that our community was having a Halloween party with food, games, and prizes for the best costume. I set the flyer aside and didn’t think much about it until a few days later when my husband, who had been weeding the strawberry patch all day, told me that he knew what he was going to dress up as for the party.

When he shared his idea with me I thought that it was very clever and would be a lot of fun. I wasn’t surprised that he came up with this cute idea because when you spend all day on your hands and knees pulling weeds you really do have a lot of time to think. Pulling weeds is a very mindless task. I am glad he didn’t want me to guess what he was planning because even though I was certain it would be farming related and that it wasn’t going to cost much, if anything, I would never have thought of this (unless maybe I had spend all day on my hands and knees pulling weeds).

He told me he was going to be a Boo Keeper – think Bee Keeper + Ghost Buster. “I’ll wear my bee suit and carry a net and have little ghosts flying around me and some in the net,” he said. My wheels started turning and in my mind I already had the little Kleenex ghosts made.

About a week later my husband asked what I was going to dress up like for the party. I was just thinking of putting together a scare crow costume out of some of the clothes I have on hand. “You could be a Boo Keeper too he offered, or how about the Queen Boo.” Okay, I liked the idea of Queen Boo. We created both of our costumes mostly with things we had on hand. So here is what we did.

I started with making little ghosts (boo’s). IMG_3355

We decided to make them bee-like so I first used markers to put some black and yellow stripes on them. When I went to my craft supplies I discovered that I had some Styrofoam balls that were the perfect size for the head. If I did not have the Styrofoam balls I would have just balled up a piece of newspaper. I centered the Styrofoam ball on the Kleenex then gather the Kleenex around the ball and tied it with thread. I think I learned to make these little ghosts when I was in grade school. I left the thread long enough that I could thread it through a needled and attach it to the costume.

I then cut some wings out of tissue paper and glued them on.

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Our little ghost bees became known as boo BEES. Warning: Please be careful how you pronounce that lest you get the wrong idea.

Next I made my Queen Boo wings. My husband had a spool of wire, so I used the wire to form a frame for the wings. After forming the first wing I twisted the wire around itself then made the second wing and again twisted the wire together in the center. I covered the twisted ends of the wire with duck tape so I would not get poked or scratched with the ends of the wire.

I glued one wing to a full size piece of tissue paper. When the glue was dry I glued a second piece of tissue paper to the other side of that wing. When the second side was dry I cut the tissue paper in the shape of the wing leaving about 1/2 inch overhang. I repeated the process with the second wing.

 

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My crown was made of poster board. I wanted it to have a honey comb pattern. To make the honeycomb pattern I decided I could use a wax foundation that we use in the beehives. The bees use these foundation as a base for building their comb. Since the poster board was too thick I decided to use printer paper the make the honey comb design. I placed the printer paper on the wax foundation then colored over it with a brown crayon.

I then  removed the paper from the foundation and colored over the brown honeycomb with a yellowish crayon to give it a honey-like color. I glued the printer paper onto the poster board strip then waited for the glue to dry before cutting out the crown points. I fitted the crown to my head and used tape to hold it’s circular shape.

My husband suggested using glitter on the crown to give it some glitz, but I don’t do glitter. In my personal opinion glitter is an invasive species. Once glitter is introduced into an environment it will spread like wildfire and it seems you will spend the rest of your life trying to get rid of it.

I wore a black turtle neck and black leggings with an oversized white t-shirt that I picked up at Joann Fabrics for $3.00. My husband wore a pair of Tyvek coveralls that he had on hand, then put his bee suit over top. I attached some of the boo BEES to his suit and net and attached some of them to my t-shirt as well. (It’s the worker boo’s job to protect the queen.)

I put on some white face paint to look more ghost-like and my husband picked up some Bit-O-Honey candies for me to pass out.

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Here we are at the party on Friday evening.

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Our neighbor, Maggie, won first place for her wonderful witch costume. My husband won second place a $25 gift certificate and, to my surprise, I one third place a $25 gift certificate as well.

I love that we were able to put a Halloween spin on something that we do in our daily life and were able to create the costumes at little expense. The only money we actually spent on these costumes was the $3 for my t-shirt and a few $ for the Bit-O-Honey candies.

We enjoyed a fun time with some of our neighbors but had to excuse ourselves as darkness fell and duty called. Once out of public eye the Boo Keeper mysteriously morphed into Chicken Farmer and rushed off to close the chickens in the coop where they would be protected from any dangers that were lurking in the darkness.

Note: This is  not an advertisement but years ago I discovered that I can often find t-shirts on sale for $3.00 or less at Joann Fabric. At that price it was worth stocking up so when the kids were in school I would keep a supply of these shirts in various colors. When the kids would come home from school needing a special color shirt for a school activity or project I usually had what they needed. These shirts are designed to be used for craft projects such as tie dye, painting, iron-on, cross stitch and more but are also suitable for wearing just as a regular t-shirt. I in fact have a few in my wardrobe.

I would love to hear your creative ideas for Halloween costumes. Have you ever added a ghostly or funny twist to something you do everyday? Have you made a clever costume out of things you have on hand? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

Celebrating

Woo Hoo! I exclaimed at 1:46 P.M. as the last bulb of garlic was planted. My husband chimed in with a Yee Haw! We began preparing bulbs last Monday and have been working towards todays finale all week long. We were blessed with a week of beautiful weather. We finished up today with 7700 cloves planted, and none too soon as tomorrow’s forecast is for cooler temperatures and lots of rain 🙂

It was 1:56 P.M. while I was cleaning up some of the area when I spotted the Blue Bird. Yes! Our Blue Bird of Happiness paying us a visit to share in our celebration. This evening we wrapped up a few things like running wire and twine around the area to hopefully deter deer and chickens. We would like to invite you to share in our celebration. You can do so by pouring a glass of your favorite beverage and raising it as a toast and/or saying a simple prayer of thanks to God and asking that He bless us with a bountiful crop in 2018. You could also hit the like button at the bottom of this page or leave your comments to let us know you care.

If you would like more information about what was involved in our garlic planting activities this week please check out this page https://donteatitsoap.com/a-year-in-growing-garlic/  that details our 2017 garlic growing season.

Thanks for reading and God Bless.