If you watch the short (heartbreaking) video in this link (and you should) you probably get the gist, but let me give you a little more detail. When I started making soap, 10+ years ago, I found that most soap recipes called for palm oil. Interestingly, I found some of the sources of these recipes recommended using “sustainable” palm oil. I honestly had no idea what was meant by “sustainable” palm oil, so I did what any person with internet access would do – searched “sustainable palm oil”.
What I learned is that palm oil is widely used in products that we consume (about 50% of the products in our grocery stores contain palm oil) and since production is not able to keep up with demand rain forests are being destroyed in order to plant more oil palm trees. This website gives lots more details and says it way better than I ever could. https://www.palmoilinvestigations.org/about-palm-oil.html
I found it very disturbing that entire habitats and the were being destroyed and wildlife was being killed or displaced in order to satisfy human greed. It seemed unethical and immoral, so at that point I decided rather than adding to the problem by creating more demand, I would just not use palm oil. In soap making there are many, many oils and many oil combinations that can be used to make nice soaps. Palm oil is simply not necessary.
After reading the post from The Cobweb Emporium I realized that I had been negligent by not passing this information along. I am certain that awareness of the issue is the first step in making a difference. Beyond that it is for each individual to decide on actions they might take. These could include:
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?
I have decided to edit this post in light of recent comments made by a reader. Their comment was:
“Hello, we grow giant seed garlic and noticed your blog. There is a serious possibility of introducing botulism with this- “I would use a cold infusion method – mince the fresh garlic, add it to the oil and let it sit on a sunny window sill for several days.” Reference page: https://donteatitsoap.com/2018/06/20/garlic-soap/
Setting the garlic in a sunny window would raise the temperature up to levels where botulism would multiply. And windowsill temperatures (especially if a sealed jar were used) will go beyond the breakdown point of the most common garlic chemicals such as allicin and other organosulfur compound products of the alliinase reaction.”
Yesterday my blog stats showed that someone came across my site, twice, through a search engine – The search terms were “where can I buy garlic soap?” and “how to make garlic soap”. I am certain that my blog came up because both soap and garlic are topics I blog about. While I do use many types of plants and foods in my handcrafted soaps Garlic is not one of them. I would be lying if I said that the thought never crossed my mind, but whenever it has I have immediately dismissed it, thinking it was not a good idea.
Regretfully the person searching for information on garlic soap did not find what they were looking for on my blog, so today I want to fix that.
There are actually two things that come to my mind when I hear the term “garlic soap”. One is a soap that would remove the smell of garlic. For this purpose a coffee soap is commonly recommended. Truthfully you wouldn’t even need a coffee soap, just rub some wet coffee grounds onto your hands and the garlic smell should be eliminated.
I do, however, make a coffee soap and many of my customers love it. This soap is made with a triple coffee infusion. I use brewed coffee as the liquid in the soap. I infuse the oils with coffee by adding coffee grounds to the oil and heating it to about 190 degrees Fahrenheit, and I then leave the coffee grounds in the soap to add some extra scrubbing power. I do sell my soaps locally and am willing to ship within the U.S. but I feel that shipping out of the country would be cost prohibitive. You can view my selection of soaps and skincare products here and if you are interested in ordering please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to put “soap” in the subject line..
The second thing that comes to mind when I hear the term garlic soap is a soap that is infused with garlic. This is the one that I thought was a bad idea. I can see some potential benefits to applying garlic to the skin. Garlic is said to be antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. It sometimes used as a pesticide and is said to ward off evil. All that being said, it is questionable whether any of the beneficial properties of the garlic would survive the chemical process required in soap making.
Considering the above comment and knowing that there is a the risk of botulism growing when garlic is in an anaerobic environment that had a acidic value above 4.6 I retract any statements or recommendations previously made about using garlic to make soap. Although botulism is generally contracted through ingesting foods that have been improperly processed or stored there is the possibility that botulism could enter the blood stream through open wounds as well. Thus garlic added to soap may pose a treat to the user.
A while back I wrote about making Aloe Soap with Yogurt and since my husband and I have recently tested this soap I wanted to share our thoughts on it.
Before I do I find it necessary offer this prelude. When our daughters were growing up we had some pretty strict rules that they had to follow. These rules served several purposes: help maintain order, live within a budget, teach the girls responsibility and self discipline… One of the rules was that their showers were limited to eight minutes. We generally find that eight minutes is an adequate amount of time for us to get in, wash, rinse and get out. We bought a kitchen timer to keep in their bathroom. They were required to set the timer for 8 minutes and when the timer went off they had to get out of the shower. It was done on an honor system, but if my husband or I were around when they got in the shower we would occasionally set the timer in the kitchen for 8 minutes to see if they were cheating.
It’s been about two weeks now since I first showered with the new Aloe Soap . I was thrilled with the outcome. The lather was rich, bubbly and creamy, it rinsed off well and left my skin feeling soft and clean.
After I had used this soap for a few days I gave my husband a bar. I didn’t tell him what I thought of it. I just asked him to let me know what he thought. After his shower he told me that he loved the soap. Several (at least four probably more like six) times throughout the day he repeated to me how much he loved the soap. “That lather is amazing.”
The following morning after breakfast my husband said, “I’m afraid to get in the shower.” His statement caught me off guard and I asked him why. “That soap feels so good I don’t think I will want to get out. I might stay in there for a couple hours until I use up the whole bar.”
“Oh, no!” I laughed. “Eight minutes.”
He said he had already considered finding the timer and setting it. (I’m sure none of the girls took it when they moved out.) He also had wondered, if he did set the timer, if he could/ would cheat.
I found this pretty funny and I thought it was a wonderful testimony for my soap, but knowing that the girls read my blog could I really I confess his temptation to them and the whole world?
He didn’t really get out the timer, and I don’t know whether he stuck to eight minute showers, but I did not notice his showers taking longer than normal. A few days ago he announced to me that the bar lasted him for six showers which is about average for him.
As you now know I did decide to “come clean” because even if the girls try to hold this over his/our head the worst they can do is razz him about it since they are now paying for their own hot water. Hmm, I wonder if they will use this soap.
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.
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.
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.