Category Archives: Recycle

My Little Worm Project: Update #1

So on April 11, 2017 I started My Little Worm Project. So far, it has been a rousing success.

This was on May 3.

Apparently this is called parasola plicatilis. There is some debate as to its edibility and possible psychoactivity.

I didn’t test for either.

After two months, I was completely surprised to open it up and see this.

DO YOU SEE THAT?

That is a pile of worms. And a bit of fungi.

Some of the first babies are now adolescents that are over an inch long, but all of that spaghetti looking stuff is dozens of baby worms. In another couple of months, they should be close to full size.

I put a chunk of watermelon rind in there when I saw the first food start to disappear, and it didn’t take them long to get it down to just the skin. I think I grossly underestimated the breeding power of these red wigglers. I’m pretty sure that this Cool Whip container won’t last the year without having to split it.

I guess we will see.

Seeing as they have almost finished the watermelon, I threw in some cilantro that was starting to get mushy. I have some broccoli ends in the freezer, so I will probably try that as well.

I just put the cardboard in to dry it up a bit.

Okey dokey, let’s tap the brakes a bit

The four month mark has just passed, and I had to move the worms into a bigger tub. While I was sorting, I did a count and found 153 worms, that were big enough to count. I’m sure there were a bunch of babies, and I know there were at least 50 cocoons that went into the big bin with whatever scraps of cardboard and watermelon rind was left.

Here is a clump that obviously made a great nursery.

All of the yellowish ovals are cocoons, and you can see a few deflated ones as well. One was releasing a new baby as we were taking this photo, but we didn’t even think of filming it. It was just cool to watch, and give a squeeze to help out.

I’m really glad that I chose to do this now, because I think that the bottom was getting a bit too wet, and possibly turning anaerobic. For that reason, I threw a bunch of dry material in the new, larger bin, and in the CoolWhip container where the castings, cocoons, and any babies that slipped by will go.

That is the new bin, and this next one is the old one.

I’m starting to add in some of the siftings from other batches. I figure they will break down eventually. It’s mostly old spruce needles and twigs, but there is some dried clumps of castings that could be rejuvenated. I guess I will have to lay off the watermelon, and any other really wet food, plus an occasional turn wouldn’t hurt either. I put some more holes in the bottom as well, so we’ll check back in in a couple of months and see how it is going.

My thoughts on this type of project

I was really floored by the activity in the small container, but have learned through forums and YouTube, that the breeding will slow down when the space becomes cramped. I think that this would be an excellent school project for young kids, that might get them into a life with one less strain on the system. If they were allowed to get a bigger bin for home, it wouldn’t take long to have a good setup with the capacity to detour a couple pounds of waste from the landfill, while producing some high quality amendments for their gardens, house plants, or even just to throw on the lawn.

Kind of a win/win situation, there.

Chris

Hugelkultur Boxes?

Alright, so before we begin, this is all new to me. Actually, pretty much all gardening is new to me, but I’ve always been a bit adventurous and experimental, so here I am.

When I was a kid, my mom and my nana were gardeners. They had big gardens in the ground that got rototilled up at the start and end of every gardening season. I thought that was all there was to it.

Then my stepdad built some 4’x8′ raised beds instead of the traditional bed. They grew lots of food in them, and it seemed easier to look after. That seemed a lot better than packing down the soil in between the rows.

And now, since I have been looking into permaculture, I find out about hugelkultur. If you haven’t heard about it, click on the link. It’s pretty neato.

So, yesterday, we were at the dump tearing our trailer apart, when we found some pretty big crates. Once the deck was clear, we loaded them up and took them home. Gerri seemed a bit hesitant, but she is pretty good at letting me have my head.

When we got the boxes home, I set to figuring out what to do. I knew I was going to plant in them, but they were two feet deep, and I didn’t want to use that much soil or fill them up with rocks. Then it hit me.

Hugelkultur in a box!

I had just felled a couple of dirty poplar the day before, so I measured out the inside of the box and started sawing logs for the bottom. I also had a couple of dead birch limbs that went into the mix.

I didn’t say they were fancy.

I filled in the cracks with a mix of wet fruitwood chips and half finished compost. I figured it would help with the decomposition of the green wood.

Then I put in a layer of twigs and leaves.

I’m guessing that this is a decent nitrogen layer.

I don’t know if it was a good idea, but it seemed good in my mind, so why not? Experiments are for experimenting, right?

After that, some more soaked chips.

Should I keep going? Okay, I will.

I then put a few more inches of the composting mix, because why not? That’s what I’m making all of this beautiful, rich stuff for.

Mmmmmm, soily.

Now a friend, who shall remain nameless, grows in pots every year and then throws the soil mix out, because they think that they have used all of the nutrients in it.

Believe me, they haven’t. Last year I watched as they mixed their soil and there was peat moss, Pro-Mix® HP, some other organic fertilizer, perlite, bloodmeal, bonemeal and bales of compost.

It was absolutely beautiful. Then, in the fall, I was asked to help with a dump run and there were fourteen heavy black garbage bags in the pile. I asked what they were and was told they were full of the used soil.

So here they are now.

I’ve been mixing it into everything!

Other than it was full of roots and stems from the flowers, there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. A few hours of picking through and composting the browns gave me a lot of excellent soil for this year. I only hope that they grow the same amount again. I have already called dibs on it, and helped for free to sweeten the pot.

I soaked it all pretty good today, and I was going to mix up tomatoes and green peppers in here tomorrow. It gets about 7-9 hours of sunlight in a few different increments of 2-3 hours each where it is and from what I read, that is probably enough.

What do you folks think? Will this setup work? Should I be planting something else in it? I also have a few cabbage seedlings. I’m open to any feedback I can get.

We Were Going to Rent a Chipper

Something like this one, but probably not from Amazon.

Between pruning and heavy snow damage, we lost a pile of our fruit, spruce, and lilac branches. Over the winter we tried to burn some of them in the fire pit, but that was  futile as it took more good wood to keep the fire going just to burn up a bit of lilac.

Sadly, this photo was taken today, April 20th.
This was April 19th. Way better.

We lamented about how nice it would be to have a chipper so we could mulch all of the piles up and at least get some benefit from the destruction.

 

We tried advertising locally to see if someone had one that they would like to rent out, but nobody responded, so we started looking at nearby rental businesses.

The problem is that the closest rental place to carry wood chippers is two hours away in Dawson Creek. There’s four hours of driving and at least $50 in gas on top of the $150 a day rental fee.

That’s for a chipper that will handle up to 3″ limbs or trees.

We couldn’t justify spending $1000+ on a new machine to mulch up a few piles of branches each year, so we started to look at local classified ads to see if there were any used ones for sale.

There wasn’t, but I did notice that there were electric chippers for as little as $200 when I Googled it, so I started to look into that option.

We really liked the design of the Earthwise GS70015, but it was more than double the price of similar units without the catch bin.

Then we found the same one with a different paint job at Canadian Tire for $199 and started to do a little research and comparisons. Overall, it seemed like a much better option, because we could easily trim our branches small enough to fit through the 1 1/4″ opening with the Cyndi Loppersand we loved the no cleanup aspect with the built in bin.

I had read a bunch of complaints about the product and the screws rusting into the blades and making it nearly impossible to get them out without stripping them, so I took the advice of one reviewer and put anti-seize on all of the screws before use.

Then we went out and fired that sucker up. It made great sized chips for mulch, and once the branches were cut down to size, it gobbled them up quite fast. It didn’t take too many crabapple branches to make this little box of gold.

I kind of want to roll around in them.

I’m going to do up enough to get 8″ of this stuff in the chicken’s run and let them work it around and build up some good compost. I wanted to try it in the coop for bedding, but I’m told that it isn’t a good idea for a few different reasons. All of the reasons include the girls’ health, so I don’t want to chance it. I was just hoping to save a bit of dough, because the bales of shavings are $10 a piece at the local feed store (which doesn’t seem bad after looking at Amazon), and that all adds up.

We also plan on making some good mulch for around the trees and in the gardens, so I will play around with the green/carbon ratios when I’m doing the chipping. I’m sure that I can find the right amount somewhere on YouTube.

Another thing we want to try is hugelkultur, so this is another way we will be able to use the chips and the bigger wood together.  I am going to  look further into it, but I do want to get at least one bed going this year.

I also got thinking that we might get a smoker and see if we can dry the fruit wood chips enough to use them for that. We have a bunch of crabapple, plum and apricot branches to do, so it would be free fuel. I mean why bury them when you can smoke meat to go along with your fresh veggies? 😉

Anyhow, if you are in the market for a little chipper, and you don’t mind a little extra work, you can save yourself quite a bit of money and hassle by shopping around for a small electric one. I can’t vouch for any of them right now, but this one seems like a good deal, and works really good so far. I will definitely update this if things go awry though.

Chris

P.S. If you get the Canadian Tire one, look at my review there. It will tell you about getting new blades from the company. What it won’t tell you is that they will send you free ones if you call before you have had it for two years and they wear out. That is all done over the phone, so you don’t have to take them into CT.

That’s if they weren’t lying to me, and if things don’t change in the next two years.

Third Generation Of Mealworms And A Little Update

Yep, the little farm is going quite well, in my opinion. Other than when the screen busted out of my top drawer, that is.

I guess I should get some more hot glue sticks

I think I had weighed it down too much, because I kept adding to it, and not thinking about the strain on the screen and glue. When large worms, pupae, and beetles started showing up in the drawer below, I reached in and saw the problem. Now everything is in the large bottom drawer, at least until I fix this up.

Nobody’s getting out of there until I let them

Good thing I bought the sieve set.

This isn’t the exact same as the one we bought, but they don’t seem to have it any more. It was about $10 cheaper than this one, and free shipping, so you should shop around to see what you can find. The nice thing is that we use it to sift the worm castings for the red worms as well. It works fantastic for that.

Anyhow, I also wanted to mention our project worms.

You may or may not have heard that mealworms can safely digest styrofoam, and turn it into soil-safe frass(poop). The only problem is that nobody has tested the actual worms to see if they are toxic. Well, they might have, but because they didn’t like their findings, maybe they didn’t publish them.

I’m just kidding. I shouldn’t accuse science of wrong doing, just because I suspect it. I just don’t understand why you would test the frass to make sure that it’s not toxic, but wouldn’t test a handful of the worms while you are at it.

I mean, you have the equipment right there. Literally. You just tested the worm poop with it.

Anyhow, that just means that I will have to keep this farm segregated from the other.

We don’t want the chickens to be eating potentially toxic food, and we sure don’t want to sell toxic worms to our customers.

Yeah, you heard me. We have three customers that occasionally buy some worms for their pets. We’re not going to get rich off of it, but I am socking each $3 away until I can buy this with it.

Eventually I want to go to this one, but at close to $700, it will be a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we can’t go to full on homesteading right away, we are trying to acquire the skills and tools we will need for when we do get there. To finance the purchases, we aren’t using our wages from our regular jobs, but I took a very part-time maintenance job that bought us the distiller and we have the eggs bartered away until this summer, but after that we will be able to put the money from a couple dozen a week into the fund. We will also probably break even soon from the soap business, but I think that anything we make from that will go back into upgrading our equipment to some more efficient systems.

Soon we will be getting a pressure canner, but we are still researching which way to go with that. Apparently the Presto 23 quart is not as high quality as the All American 21 1/2 quart, but there is much less maintenance, and it’s less than half the price. Many people have had their Presto for over twenty years, so we figured that the savings are worth the risk. I don’t see them at thrift stores very often, but I don’t know if it would be worth chancing a used one that you don’t it’s history.

We are also looking at food dehydrators as well, so if anyone has a recommendation for anything, we are always happy for any information we can get. Amazon reviews are okay, but actually hearing, firsthand, of other people’s experience is the best way to gauge quality and usefulness.

Getting Ready For Winter

Well, I know it’s only the first part of October, but we have already had a couple of good snowfalls so far and it’s getting pretty frosty overnight, so I figured I had better get moving on this.

The Chickens

I have decided, after extensive reading and chatting with other hen fanciers, not to heat the coop for the winter. I will instead, winterize the waterer with a handy little water heater that I built from a design on The Chicken Chick’s website and throw an electric heater in for when it gets below -20C.

I bought a lamp kit from Amazonand a cookie tin from the thrift store, but then I found a working lamp with no switch for $1, so I grabbed it. I grabbed a second tin and might build another one for our friend Carol.

You just need to drill a hole in the side and insert the lamp cord through to the inside. Don’t forget to keep one of the screw on washers on the outside though. It is a pain to have to undo everything and fix it after.

Probably.

Not that I did that or anything.

heater2
I’m sure that somebody’s nana thoroughly enjoyed these imported cookies.

The lamp came with a 100W bulb in it,but after a couple of minutes of being plugged in, the paint started to smell a bit burny. I switched to a 60W and might even go to the 40W that she recommended. I just figured that being thousands of kilometres north of where she lives, we might need to ampwatt things up a bit. I guess that isn’t the case.

With the reflective inside, it also makes a powerful spotlight with the 100W bulb in it.
With the reflective inside, it also makes a powerful spotlight with the 100W bulb in it.

I also ordered the TC-3 Thermocube to help out with the system, because it will come on at 1.7C(35F) and shut off at 7.2C(45F). This will prevent overheating the plastic waterer, save on bulb life, and save on hydro by not running the light when it isn’t necessary.

I will probably get one of the TC-1 Thermocubes for the block heaters on the vehicles as well, because they probably suck back a lot of power running twelve hours or so every day. I guess the heat tracing on the pipes could use it as well.

So many handy things nowadays for making our lives easier.

The Worms/Plants

Because I decided against heating the coop, the worms had to be brought back into the house and put into what is now our soap/grow room.

I set up the Plant Tower and went to buy a 24″ sunblaster, but realised that I would need one for every shelf, so I bought the 48″ Sunblaster and put it on the ceiling to give the whole room some really nice, white light. What’s cool is that I can link up to eight of these on the one power source.

I bought these and the setup for sprouting grain from Dunvegan Gardens in Fort St. John, but if you aren’t near there, the prices are the same on amazon.ca.

Oh yeah, the grain sprouting is for the chickens to have lots of fresh grass to eat all winter. I bought an Aquascape 91026 320 GPHpump and a bunch of 1/2″ line to run up the Plant Tower with some 1/4″ line feeding down to the trays. It was probably overkill for the amount we will need, but we plan on doing more in the future, so we got all of the connectors and tools now, so we could learn more as we go.

For connecting the 1/4″ into the 1/2″ I had to buy a punch and some connectors

I have a bin of water on the bottom shelf  and I pump the water up every four hours into the top tray and it filters down through holes I drilled into the tray into the bottom tray and then through it back into the bin.

I am trying half a tray of oats followed a day later by half a tray of wheat.
I am trying half a tray of oats followed a day later by half a tray of wheat.

Well, it used to go every four hours, when I had the awesome timer hooked up, but I stole it for the lights and have to get a new one now. I just plug it in when I am thinking of it a few times a day, and it seems okay for now.

This video by The Straw Hat Farmer is what got me interested in this in the first place, and then got me interested in aquaponics. Check out his YouTube channel for lots of informative videos.

We also have a mango tree growing in the grow room, with garlic planted there as well. The mango was growing in the worm bin, so I transplanted it and it seems to be doing well.

I don't know what causes the crook in the bottom, but we'll see how it turns out.
I don’t know what causes the crook in the bottom, but we’ll see how it turns out.

It started sprouting new growth since we moved it into fifteen hours of light.

Hopefully in eight years we will be munching on our own mangoes.

Chris

DIY Natural Laundry Soap

Now, if there’s one thing that soap making has gotten us into, it’s researching better ways to do things. That leads us to several different forums and websites about soap and soaping.

A while back, we (I) ruined a batch of lard soap with too much lye or something. It became brittle almost overnight, and was breaking into pieces when I tried to cut it in 24 hours. We put it in a box and stuffed it away until our litmus strips came in, several months later.

It turned out that the pH was well within the safe range, so we went on some soap making forums looking for how to rebatch the soap into something useful.

While looking through other threads on the same topic, we noticed a lot of people giving their recipes for laundry soap, and recommending that the doomed loaves get turned into that.

Huh. We remembered that our friend Jane had said that she turned her lard soap into laundry bars and grated it into the wash with a cheese grater.

We hit the thrift store and bought a cheese grater, but it turned out to be way more bloody and labour intensive than either of us was comfortable with. I mean, knuckles aren’t vital to staying alive, but we have grown attached to ours, so we decided that maybe homemade, natural laundry soap wasn’t for us.

But, wait. We had already purchased the washing soda and Borax from Amazon, so we had to find a way to do this. We try to not be wasteful, and we really don’t have a use for two kilograms of both washing soda and Borax.

Earlier this year our blender calved and we found this baby at the thrift store, so we got it out to give it a try.

bullet

I threw a few of the brittle chunks in and it completely powdered it, so I threw a bunch more in with some soda and Borax.

Not so good with more than two cups in it. I’m glad we didn’t buy it at full price, because it just can’t handle the job. It does work amazingly well at small batches though, so we keep it for finishing off the powder and mixing.

Enter the Ninja

ninja

This baby has a ton of soap busting power, plus Gerri loves it for actual cooking related work. We picked it up off of our local buy and sell group on Facebook, and we totally agree that it is worth the full price that we would have had to pay RIGHT HERE. If you look, there is/was a refurbished model that is less than we paid for a used one.

Anyhow, this machine is amazing for a lot of things, but busting soap into powder isn’t one of them. I think it’s because of the round blade/square hole situation, but it just doesn’t do the job very well. It does this though, which, if you have ever thrown a bunch of soap bars and chunks into a blender, should impress you.

ninjachunks

It’s now time to start throwing it into the Bullet with the washing soda and the Borax, to create this fine example of our latest batch of natural laundry soap.

bulletpowder

We found that a great mix is to use 1/3 soap, 1/3 washing soda, and 1/3 Borax blended together as evenly as you can. It cleans just as well, or better than any commercial detergent we have tried.

From what I have read, you can pretty much use any kind of bar soap for this, so we used a whole bunch of different soaps in this one. There were trimmings from probably every batch we’ve made, plus some whole bars of the plain lard soap and messed up batches. Next time we will probably use the bowl full of endsies that is in the washroom, and whatever other scraps we have by then.

All in all, we had five cups of bar soap which made 15 cups of laundry soap. We use between two and three tablespoons per load, so this batch should last us for 90 or so loads.

Not bad for a couple of hours work and maybe $5 in material.

For us, because it was all soap that would have been written off as bad batches.

If you have to buy the soap, then you need to factor in that cost as well, but even if you bought some bars of lard soap out of our cheap bin for $3, (or better yet, make your own) it would probably still work out cheaper than Tide and at least you know what you’re using.

Anyways, we have really enjoyed switching over, and thought we would share something that has really changed our lives for the better. I hadn’t really thought of writing this, but then our eldest was throwing her things in the wash the other day and asked if this was our own laundry soap.

Gerri replied “Yes it is.” then added “That’s all we will be using from now on.”

I was expecting to hear a groan, but she just said “Cool!”.

That’s when I knew we were on the right track, and that the track needed to be shared.

Chris

A Whole New Life

This was the living quarters for four hens, two days ago.
This was the living quarters for four hens, two days ago.

First off, let me say that I fried my PC laptop with a glass of mead about a week ago, so I am now using Gerri’s iMac to write posts.

It’s definitely a learning curve, but I will persevere. I’m just warning you because I can’t figure out how to resize photos, so things might get a little wonky.

So this is a photo of one shed with a lean-to built onto it from last year, before we moved in.

coop5

We scoop a lot of free wood from the dump, so when we decided to use the shed as a chicken coop, there was some cleaning to do. After pulling all of the stuff out of there, this is what we were left with. The only money we had to spend was on the wire, and it came to less than $25, so we were pretty happy about that.

That trailer is a whole other project that is finally happening.
That trailer is a whole other project that is finally happening.

I bought a couple of 8′ lengths of hardware cloth and cut them to size. There wasn’t many squareangles in this project when I started, and the hardware cloth is more square than Erkel, so I used a bunch of the dunnage wood that I collected last summer for the worm boxes, to make things look straight.

It also really helped to strengthen and stabilize the wall and wire.
It also really helped to strengthen and stabilize the wall and wire.

The ceiling was already there, because there was a lot of stuff already being stored up there on some sheets of plywood that had already been pulled out of that camper trailer.

I might try a small rainwater containment with those eavestrough ends and downspout. I assume chickens will drink rainwater.
I might try a small rainwater containment with those eavestrough ends and downspout. I assume chickens will drink rainwater.

After all was said and done, it looked like this.

That hole was already in the wall, so I decided to leave it alone and build a ramp up to it. They seem okay with that.
That hole was already in the wall, so I decided to leave it alone and build a ramp up to it. They seem okay with that.

I plan on doing more perches out here, because they seem to like them a lot. It seems that the higher, the better. I guess that it has to do with predators. For some reason, I think I have heard that somewhere.

From there I went inside the shed and did this.

Because it will be heated all winter, We will be keeping the worms out here under the bench.
Because it will be heated all winter, We will be keeping the worms out here under the bench.

The bench was initially built out of the worm box wood, to set the worm boxes on, but I think that holding the nesting boxes is a better alternative. I am going to have to move the feed sacks and put their water, oyster shell, and food under the top shelf, because they seem to congregate up top and that makes for a messy dining room.

This can be observed in the photo of their dust bath.

I thought it would be nice to give them a dusty bit of dirt and shale to enjoy throughout the winter months.
I thought it would be nice to give them a dusty bit of dirt and shale to enjoy throughout the winter months.

My friend is going to give me a bale of hay to use instead of shavings, because she tells me that they love to peck at the seeds and bugs that get into it. I’m sure it is also better nest building material for them, but don’t quote me on that.

Speaking of nests, we have started getting some of these.

These are the ones that seemed good. There were a few more that had either very weak shells, or no shells at all.
These are the ones that seemed good. There were a few more that had either very weak shells, or no shells at all.

They are small, but I’m told they will get bigger, and stronger. I hope so, because Red had a broken one with just a membrane under her this morning. She was acting pretty weird last night, and I was a little worried about her, but after giving her a few hugs this morning, she got right back into her routine.

I’ve been letting them run loose when I’m home, which is all the time while I’m laid off, and we really enjoying having them trotting around the yard, posturing for bossiest hen position. The dogs don’t even bother them anymore, and seem to really enjoy following the girls around.

It could be because of all the nutrient rich poop that seems to appear out of nowhere. For some reason, they will not stop eating it. Not only does it bother me because of the whole poopy breath factor, but we got the chickens to fertilize the lawn.

Ah well, one thing at a time.

Chris

P.S. We’re always open to new ideas in our endeavour for a simpler life. If you have anything you’d like to share, please feel free to comment on here, or in our Backyard Homesteading community on G+.

What A Year

Yeah, it’s been a year since we packed up the Cool Bus and moved to Hudson’s Hope, BC.

A year ago, our yard looked like this.

Minus the swing set
Minus the swing set

Note the lack of garden, chickens, and big composter. We were really starting off our homestead with bare bones. There were two black compost units there when we bought the place, but one was missing a lid and both were dried out ant condos. We started composting everything, and with some heat, weeds, and a garden hose, we got them to producing some nice, dark compost by the fall.

This is what the backyard looks like today.

yard2016

Yeah, there’s some brown patches from where I left the trailer for too long, but I’m hoping that the chickens will help to  get things green again.

Speaking of the chickens, here they are.

Upgrades for the tractor are coming.
Yeah, I ended up getting two more. They seemed lonely as a pair.

I’m going to add a couple of nesting boxes on one side and keep the main box as a roosting/dining area. I added wheels from an old lawn mower at The Share Shed and a handle, because I think dragging it was going to start wrecking things.

We also built some raised bed garden boxes, and there’s stuff in them now.

It's not well planned, but we threw in whatever was free or cheap that we came across.
It’s not well planned, but we threw in whatever was free or cheap that we came across.

We have been hitting Walker Greenhouses for their half price vegetables, and we also got some plants from The Rustic and the Social Responsibility club at the school. Everything is growing well, except for the jalapenos, but I think I planted them in too much shade.

This is part of the front garden. We dug up and sifted out a whole bunch of lilies from it, and next year the rest are going.

Most of these were free from Jane, our egg lady.
A lot of these were free from Jane, our egg lady.

We moved one of the composters from the back to the front, because it’s nice and sunny in the afternoons there. In the spot we moved it from, we put in our soap drying rack that we don’t need anymore and wrapped some chicken wire around the open spots.

Waste not, want not.
Waste not, want not.

I was getting tired of throwing the spruce needles and dog poop over the fence, and saw that the David Suzuki Foundation says we should compost it, so this will be used for yard rakings; dog, chicken, and hamster poop; and any dead animals or birds that we come across. We just can’t use the compost for any edibles, but that’s okay, we can spread it around the yard to replenish the soil and work it’s way back into nature.

We have also started a soap making company; started breeding Red Wigglers, European Night Crawlers, and mealworms; and adopted a second dog named Dover.

Before and after losing a much needed twenty pounds.
Before and after losing a much needed twenty pounds. A lot of that was grey matter.

When we got Dover, we knew he was a sweet dog, but we didn’t know that it was his only redeeming quality. He is quite possibly the least intelligent dog that I have ever met, and we have to rub antiseptic on his gums once a week to prevent his teeth from falling out. I think he was pretty badly neglected, health-wise, and I’d say from his head shyness, he’s been booted around a bit.

I mean, when it takes a month to learn how to sit, there may have been a few hits to the brain. Nevertheless, we still love the poor wretch, and we will keep putting up with his incontinence until it ruins the floors.

Also, we both found gainful employment and there have been some academic accolades for the kids, so all in all, I think we have had a pretty productive year of semi granola-ism.

Next year we will maybe start scoping out some property.

Chris

It’s Really Happening

(This is a split post. I’m going first, because I’m the man. When she lets me.)

We are really doing it.

The soap, I mean. It’s only been a couple of months, but our fun and hard work is starting to pay off.

Maybe.

We are putting in a tableold desk at the local farmer’s market here in Hudson’s Hope on Tuesdays starting this week. It looks like this now.

Pretty nice after a good waxing.
Pretty nice after a good waxing.

We were just on our way home when I mentioned that we needed to get a table for the market. You can rent them for $10, but we don’t even know if we are going to sell the three bars necessary to afford that.

I looked at Gerri and asked, “Do you want to go home, or the Share Shed?”

“Oh, Share Shed for sure!” She said, smiling.

We got there and found the dark, 70s desk with the huge round knobs on the drawers, a couple of old toolboxes, and an end table.

The drawers are inside getting filled up for Tuesday.
The drawers are inside getting filled up for Tuesday.

Huge score. I love the Share Shed for always giving us what we need, when we need it. This is better than a cheap, fold-up table any day. We created a homemade beeswax wood polish out of ingredients we had for the soap (Maybe another new product line?), and my beautiful wife stripped, sanded and polished those castoffs into satiny smooth new pieces of furniture.

She also found a handful of these gems that were leftover from the kitchen.
She also found a handful of these gems that were leftover from the kitchen.

The toolbox is going to be for the uncured soap, so people can see what’s coming up, and the end table will hold a small display as well. We were going to have a friend’s kids sell the soap for us, as we are working every Tuesday, but our eldest has volunteered to man the booth for us, so that will really help out. She also labelled over a hundred bars for us as we were trying to pull this circus together over the last three days.

We got our PH test strips this week, so we were able to test out our levels before we put anything up for sale. We’ve been giving bars away to friends, but only ones that we have used ourselves. This way we can be sure that there is no lye left in them, and everything is safe to use.

Created on Shaun "Savvy" Savoy's birthday. Hence the name.
Created on Shaun “Savvy” Savoy’s birthday with spruce from our yard. Hence the name.

We are starting off a bit on the less expensive side, you know, so we can get people addicted, and we will play it by ear for a while. We are still playing around with recipes and trying new things, so until everything is perfect, we will be happy to recoup our costs for materials, etc…

This was our own recipe, and it turned out great, but I think we will try it again with a coffee fragrance oil as well.
This was our own recipe, and it turned out great, but I think we will try it again with a coffee fragrance oil as well. It kind of smells like brownies.

We have been pretty lucky in the fact that we haven’t had many batches go so far that they couldn’t be salvaged. For the ones that just weren’t quite right, we are selling those of in the bargain drawer. They are still great soap, but maybe just have a bit too bright a colour, or possibly a little light on scent. You can still get clean, and save a couple of bucks in the meantime.

We dreamed these suckers up during the fire scare of '16. They are Gerri's favourite, so far.
We dreamed these suckers up during the fire scare of ’16. They are Gerri’s favourite, so far.

So that about does it. If you are in the area, stop by the Hudson’s Hope Farmer’s Market.

In July they have it on Saturdays too.
In July they have it on Saturdays too. I’m all over that.

Chris

Hello.  It’s me.  

It's not really her. It's me. Gerri.
It’s not really her. It’s me. Gerri.

I’m in Hudson’s Hope dreaming of soaps yet to be…

Oh the soapmaking…so much love.  The process of each batch of soap is different and means something different to me.  I love that we have found something to do together that is really fun and keeps us giggling.  It’s also totally exciting to work with chemicals and avoid toxic mishaps.  Safety first, Kids!

Several of our batches have originated from trying new things.  We keep venturing further into the art of soap making, and discover that we are making beautiful, lathery soap that smells amazing and has no carcinogens in it.   We are creating a high-quality alternative that has none of the additives typically found in consumer cosmetics.  This alternative is luxurious, affordable, good for me, and I like using it.  There isn’t a downside here.

It may surprise people to find out that a small percentage of our soaps are made with animal fats as well as vegetable fat. { If you are a vegetarian or vegan, we have lots of vegetable-based soaps, and a large selection of scents.  You will want to be specific when you inquire about soap. } For us, it’s a question of wanting to use a resource that would have been tossed into the trash.  If an animal has died, it does not make sense to waste parts that could be turned into useful products.  It’s a pain in the a** to render lard, let me be clear.  This isn’t the easiest way to get an ingredient for your soap making projects, but it’s very satisfying to save useful product from going into the garbage, and it makes beautiful soap.

Anyway, it’s getting late, and I’ve had a full weekend of soaping, so I’m going to bed.

Gerri

Good Relations

I remember when we got here, we bought eggs from the grocery store. I knew that there were folks around that had eggs for sale, but wasn’t sure who they were.

One day, a PSA came out from a lady who had some wool to give away, and farm fresh eggs for sale. Gerri went out to see what the wool looked like and bought three dozen eggs while she was there. When we were getting low again, we both went out, and I got to meet Jane as well. She was pretty cool, and we all chatted about how great their little farm was, and we bought some more eggs. (She was the one who told us about rendering down fat for soap making.)

This went on into the winter, and this spring, I was out there getting some eggs, when she asked if I wanted some potatoes. There was a bunch of shriveled up purple and red potatoes in a pail on the floor, so I said that we didn’t really eat potatoes, but thanked her anyway. I assumed that she meant for eating, and I didn’t think the leathery little guys would be that tasty. I mentioned that I was going to be looking for seed potatoes as I wanted to try my hand at gardening, when she explained that they were for planting.

I felt a bit foolish, but got over it quickly and went home to plant the little spuds. They are now about two inches high.

This isn't one of them. I found this growing in the composter and replanted it in this bag.
This isn’t one of them. I found this growing in the composter and replanted it in this bag.

Since then, we have brought extra veggie scraps for her chickens, and gave her an in on our fat supply. We can’t use everything, but we don’t like seeing things go to waste, so we thought she would appreciate a little  bit of free stuff.

We were right.

Rhubarb, multiplier onions and horseradish that she had extra of.
Rhubarb, multiplier onions and horseradish that she had extra of.

She asked us if we wanted anything from her garden that was spreading around, so we said we would take anything she wanted to get rid of.

This was in there as well.

A few different types of strawberries. We'll let them get spreading this year.
A few different types of strawberries. We’ll let them get spreading this year.

This next one was a great addition to our perennial herb garden.

The chives from the side yard are in the bottom left and the white onions are from seeds. They are just filler.
The chives from the side yard are in the bottom left and the white onions are from seeds. They are just filler.

We got more rhubarb, so I planted it around to see where it did the best.

I guess we will see how it turns out. I'll be eating stewed rhubarb to keep regular over the winter.
I guess we will see how it turns out. I’ll be eating stewed rhubarb to keep regular over the winter.

I guess the point of this post is that sharing freely of resources for no other purpose than to help someone out, can really pay you back great dividends in the long run.

Not only did we feel great by helping out someone that we have come to know as a friend, but we got some free plants, and the lend of a great book. We’re going to start making things now. Really cool things.

Plus, we got great, fresh eggs, a tour of the farm, and got to watch Duffy and Lily fight over the tennis ball a bit. (It gets put away when we visit now.)

So if you get a chance to go to someone’s place and buy something that they have produced themselves, talk to them. Ask questions, and tell them about your dreams and plans. You just never know where you might find a new friend, or at the very least, a trading partner.

Chris