Friday, August 31, 2012

Hot Process Soap Making- Oven Method

When I first made soap, I was terrified. Lye was some magical and deadly substance that I feared more than being dirty. But I gathered my courage and my supplies, researched all I could find on the subject, and jumped in. After my first batch, I wondered what all the fuss was about. I hadn't died. I hadn't been disemboweled. My family wasn't a bunch of mutants blinded by the lye. And I can still pick my nose with all ten fingers, though the thumbs still give me fits. 

All kidding aside, lye should be respected as a chemical that can cause severe burns,etc. But when first making soap, relax and enjoy the experience. Follow whatever instructions you've found to use with care, but not fear.  You can do this. It's not difficult.

For those of you who have never made soap, there are two main types of soap making- cold process and hot process. The difference is this. In cold process, the lye mixture and fats/oils must be of similar temperature when combined. Then they are poured into the mold and left to cure for several weeks. If you use the "soap" during this time it will burn your skin as the lye has not turned the fats/oils into soap (saponification) and so is still very caustic. This process makes very creamy bars but takes weeks until it can be used. I like instant gratification.


I use the hot process method. This method cooks the lye/oils/fats together until the fats saponify. Once this is accomplished the soap is done and ready to use. I have tried several methods for this- crock pot and oven.  The oven, for me, is the easiest and quickest with the most consistent results.

Gather your equipment and ingredients. At the end of this tutorial, I will give you a basic recipe using basic ingredients, so you can give this a try without going into debt. Of course, feel free to go into debt buying all the cool fats and oils, scents and colorants. But it's not necessary to make a nice soap.

Things you'll need:
1. ingredients
3. a mold of some sort
4. glass measuring cups
5. wooden spoons
6. goggles and gloves
7. a stick blender
8.dishes to measure your ingredients into

Now let's begin. 

Measure out your fats (oils, butters).

Mix your measured lye into your water. Don't add the water to your lye or you will see your very own molten volcano. Stir until the lye is dissolved. Watch out for the fumes. I just reach my arm over to stir that way my face is not above the liquid.

Add the lye solution to the melted fats.

Use your stick blender to mix until it reaches trace.

Trace is when you lift your spoon or mixer up and the drops drip down and remain on the surface. It's hard to see in this photo, but the drips are staying on top.

Make sure your pot is only half full or transfer to a larger pot. This is because the stuff will expand and overflow if you don't have enough room.

Stick in a pre-heated oven at the lowest temp. Mine is 170 degrees. Set your timer for 30 minutes. Stir at 30 minutes. Set for another 15 minutes. Stir and check. Keep doing this until your mixture looks like applesauce.

Remove from the oven and stir to cool a bit. It should now look like mashed potatoes.

Now is the time to add your scents, colorants, and any other items--exfoliants, herbs, etc.

After everything is thoroughly mixed in, pour it into your mold. Smooth the top and roughly tap your mold onto the counter to settle everything in. Now leave it to cool overnight or until solid.

When it's dry, unmold your soap loaf.

Now it's time to cut your bars.

If you're doing this for personal use, make your bars any size you like. I sell mine, so I cut them to be around 4oz.

And here they are. I made the larger two on the right for our use. I'm lazy and hate running downstairs to get another bar, so I like mine big.

I also cut a bar or two into four smaller bars so I can give them away as samples. They are also a nice size for taking on vacation. Once you use such a luxurious soap, you may never go back to using the shore-bought stuff. Especially in the winter!

Soap making is a fun project. It may not be cheaper than store-bought unless you figure in the amount of money spent on lotions and moisturizers in addition to your soap.

In the above tutorial I was actually making our shampoo bars. Below is the simple recipe I promised for soap.

15.2oz/431grms      water
5.6oz/159grms           lye  
16oz/455grms          crisco 
10oz/283grms         olive oil 
14oz/397grms    palm kernel oil 

There are loads of recipes on the internet. Pick a simple one and give it a try.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Enough To Make A Grown Man Cry

No, Mr Farmer didn't stay at home with the kids all day by himself. He refused since we recently ran out of duct tape. He has to have duct tape in order to stay alone with the kids. Which is a hassle for me, since I have to get all the tape residue off their mouths!

Anyway, on to the reason for the tears. Onions. And lots of them! I put up two boxes of onions from the gardens.

First, I took all the dried tops and outer papers off of them.

Then, I cut the ends off and peeled the outer layer off. This process took me most of the day. I had to rest a few times to give my arthritic hands a break.

This is what I ended up with.

Next, I put the onions through the Bosch grater. It made quick work of them and saved my poor eyes. The gasses were so strong that they burnt my nose! The gasses released mix with the water in your eyes and turn to sulfuric acid. That is why it burns your eyes. Science lesson over.

I came up with four gallons of chopped onions.

Sissy helped me bag them and suffered the consequences.

Also, today I made some pizza sauce.

 Pizza dough.

I also pulverized my stash of egg shells. I learned this from Granny. I wash out the egg shells and keep them until I have a good number of them. Then I crush them by hand and put them into a baby food mill to turn them to powder. I use this powder to add around my tomato plants when they get blossom end rot. A lack of calcium is what causes it and egg shells have calcium.

Here is a parting shot of Baby as she was trying to show how her eyes were watering, too.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Take A Seat

We eat most of our meals at the counters in the kitchen. 

The kids eat at one counter.

And we eat at the other. 

Under these counters are our saddle seat bar stools. We have had these old ones for about 7 years. The kids have taken their toll on them. The other day, the first one gave up the ghost.

On a related note, a local chain, Pamida, is closing our local store. Everything is being sold off. I have had my eye on a certain set of bar stools since the announcement of the store closing. The sales have been slow, inching up over several months.

Finally, I saw the sign say "everything up to 80% off." Would my stools still be there? Would they be at the 80% or just 25%? I called in. They were marked at 60% off. Super! Now they were only $23.99 .

Next, do they still have five of them?

NOPE! They only have four, including the shelf model. I ask them to save them for me. I'd be in the next day to get them.

Now I had to call another local Pamida store (one not closing) and see if they carried the same model. They did! And they were marked at 50% off, so I only had to pay $29.99!

I had a big day of running. First, Baby and I needed to go to the doctor. We both have sinus infections. Sniff sniff.

Second, home to get school done. Study quick.

Third, off to town one to get my hair cut. Snip snip.

Next, pick up prescriptions. A spoonful of sugar and we're off.

Then, pick up the first four stools. Loaded and on our way.

Next up, pick up the fifth stool in another town. Driven and done.

Now, off to yet another town for my diabetic eye check up. I need glasses. I am slightly far-sighted. It was bound to happen eventually. All of my siblings and parents have glasses and have had them for quite a few years. I really lucked out to not have them for this long. 

And get this! The very tactful doctor said, " You are getting to the age when your arms need to be longer in order to read without the help of glasses." Or something like that. The age!?! The AGE!?!

Actually, he's right. My arms are getting shorter every time I have to read something. And I have to keep telling Mr Farmer to back up after kissing me if he wants to talk to me. I can't focus when he's so close. And not in the good way! (wink wink)

And finally, after a quick shopping adventure to give my pupils time to return to normal before driving, we drove home. Zoom zoom.

A long day. Over.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kittens And The Sweet Potato Vine

The other day Baby called for me to get the camera and come outside. I did as ordered and this is what I found.

Apparently sweet potato vines are a nice cool spot to take a cat nap. All three kittens were in there.

Of course, since I had the camera Baby insisted on posing for a few shots.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Barely Moving

It was an exciting, fun trip. It was also an extremely tiring trip.

Since we have had no rain this summer, the 4-wheeling was very dusty. When we went out riding, Mr Farmer would  go out first, then the kids on their atvs, and then me. I ate a lot of dust. I had to break out the goggles in order to be able to see at all. 

By the end of the weekend, 4 of the 5 in my family had serious sniffles and sore throats due to the dust. Some in the other groups were having nose bleeds and had never had them before.

 We stayed up late, got up early, and rode hard.  It was completely exhausting!
I will post pictures when I get them. My friend had her fancy camera and took pictures, so I left mine in the camper.

Mr Farmer said it was the most fun he has had in years. I think he had forgotten how to have fun. He just goes to work and then comes home and works around the farm. It was so good to see him enjoy himself!

Now I must tell you the downside to going to a place where there are other people and their toys. You come away wanting one of everything you saw. And you start to plan how to acquire each of them. And you begin to justify why you need them and how you would really be using them for working around the farm. Here is a link to what we are contemplating purchasing next.  Now, please help me figure out how it can be used here at the farm.

We rode in one at the park. We just walked up to the family that had it, no idea who they were, and asked if they would give us a ride. And boy did they ever! Those stinkers are amazing!! You don't feel anything you go over at all. They climb vertical walls, or as the owner of that one said, they go right up trees. He was climbing a hill and there was a turn in the trail part way up. There was no way to make the turn, so he went right up the tree in his way. Also, once when we were out trail riding with the whole group we stopped on the bridge to see if anyone was coming up the creek. As we looked down, there was a guy in his Razor climbing the bank. He was looking for a shortcut out of the creek. He drove up the cliff/bank about 40 feet over trees and brush. Right at the top he was stopped by something. We rushed over to help pull vines aside and move logs over a hole so he could squeeze through. He made it! I was just amazed!

We don't have any vertical climbing needing to be done here on the farm, but Mr Farmer is already planning to make some. I'm sure we could carry a bale or two of hay with it. Maybe throw a sack of chicken feed in the back. We could use it to check on the south garden. It would cut down on the drive time out back. See? I think owning one of these is essential to farm work. Thanks for helping talk me into it. Mr Farmer will be so pleased with you all.

On another note, Buddy kept the farm safe while we were gone. We came home to a dead raccoon in the front yard. Mr Farmer's aunt said he was so lonely while we were gone. Poor baby! He sure was happy to see us and Mr Farmer took him out for a run before putting his 4-wheeler away. It is so nice to have a dog that stays home and protects our homestead in our absence. And we are so blessed to have family that takes care of the animals while we are gone! Thank you "Auntie", we love you!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Girls

We raise laying hens. Right now we have 49 hens and one rooster. We keep him for his wonderful crowing. It's a sound that screams "farm" to me. If you've never had chickens, you are really missing out. They are relaxing to listen to and to watch. Kinda like watching a fire. They're mesmerizing and relaxing all at once.

We are considering having the rooster for dinner as he is getting quite mean. He attacks Sissy daily when she goes out to collect the eggs. He has attacked all of us at one point. For now, we carry a basket in with us to put over him while we work in there. Lately he's been running outside when he sees the basket and we just set the basket in front of their little door to keep him out until we're done.

He is just so pretty and sounds so good that we are having a hard time eating him.

Here is a picture of their coop.

It started out as a slab of concrete left from a garage that was torn down before we moved in. As we were tearing down the old barn, we took the loft floor and reused it to build the coop. Then we added underlayment and furring strips to the outside and painted. Mr Farmer designed and built the coop, with physical help from me. He is so talented. He made the roof trusses from scratch, never having made any before. He didn't even sit down and do do any "figurin'" to get the angles right. He just amazes me sometimes.

The coop has a loft in it for the kids to play in. They can go in and out from the inside. Or  from the outside by way of a ladder and bridge. 

On the outside, we made a small chicken door leading outside to a hoop enclosure. Out here the girls can get their daily dust baths and enjoy a shaded view of the gardens.
The windows of the coop are made to be removed in the summer and replaced with screens. Also, one of the doors stays open in nice weather and has a screen to keep the girls in. We let them free range when there aren't gardens for them to destroy. And they DO destroy them!

Currently we get between 30 and 38 eggs per day. We sell most of what we collect. It took me a while to get used to the idea of eating fresh eggs. I eventually got there, though.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

After The Break

We are headed out for our adventure. 

If you are reading this and thinking about coming over and robbing us while we're gone, let me warn you. We are having someone watch the farm and feed the animals. So, you might not want to rob us. Plus, we don't have anything of value. We took all the good stuff with us.

Please feel free to comment on other posts (or this fantastic one). The comments will be approved when I get back.

I will leave you with a few pictures.

 Here's a photo of me way back when. I'm the one in the middle. The other two are my sisters. This was taken the last time I was thin and young.

I don't know where I got this next photo, but it cracks me up.

And finally, a photo Granny sent me. I love this one!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Peter Piper Picked A Peck...

Of pretty peppers.

I planted a variety of rainbow peppers this year. They got taken over by this.

No, not her, the cherry tomatoes and volunteer squash.
I managed to crawl my way through the jungle to find a few of the pretty jewels.


I do NOT want anyone reading my blog to ever think I am any kind of great-- not a great mom, teacher, wife, housekeeper, or gardener. I yell at the kids, lose my patience teaching math to my "students", take lazy nights and cook freezer meals for some suppers, and sometimes stick to a surface in or near the kitchen.


I sometimes leave my vegetables until they look like this

before I get them chopped and frozen. Yes, those are actually wrinkled!


once chopped they look all pretty again and when thawed, we will never be able to tell that they weren't crispy when I cut them up.

I admit my failure as a gardener. I have no problem with this, however. I still have produce saved for the future and it will taste yummy in my spaghetti sauce.

What do you "fail" at?