Category Archives: Soap

We Bought A Joykit Water Distiller

For any of you that make soap, you know that the recipes seem to always call for distilled water. We weren’t sure how important it was, but we figured that it was best to go with what all of the experts said about it.

So we bought jugs of distilled water at the store. They were $4.49 each, and they didn’t always have them in stock, especially in the summer. We also didn’t like the waste of all of that plastic, so an alternative option was always on the horizon.

Then we went over to our friend’s newly built home in the country, and as they were showing us around, I noticed a 20L water bottle with a siphon hose coming out of it. Of course I inquired, so they explained that they distilled their own water, because of the contaminants in it.

They showed us their Megahome distiller, and said that we were welcome to borrow it anytime we wanted to. We accepted and went home to fill our jugs up with free (other than the electricity and a bit of vinegar for cleaning) distilled water.

We were very impressed with the results. We were soon Googling these distillers to see about purchasing one for ourselves, because after putting a few jugs through, we were shocked by the scale and sludge left behind. Even from our delicious, treated town water.

This was after less than ten gallons through it.

We started using it for drinking, as well as soap, and while I don’t notice any health benefits from it, I do prefer the taste, or lack thereof. We also like not having any of whatever is in the water coming from the tap.

I know that there are a lot of beneficial minerals, etc… in our water, but I can tell by the stainless steel bowl, that there are other things in there as well, and they might not be as good for you.

After doing a bit of research, we found that adding some pure salt, that is rich in trace minerals, to your distilled water will give it a bit more of the “water flavour” that people find lacking in it. It will also help give back some of the good stuff that was removed during the distillation process. That salt just happens to be what we had on hand, but you could save a ton if you bought this one and ground it up yourself.  (Just to make it easier to dissolve. I believe it’s the exact same salt, just in a coarse grind.)

So anyhow, I was going through my Amazon app to show Gerri the distillers that were cheaper than the Megahome one, when I accidentally clicked on the Joykit 4L Distiller. I didn’t realize that the 1-click ordering was enabled on the app, so within a few seconds I had purchased this sucker.

It was less than half of the other one, so we weren’t too worried, but we found a couple more that are probably the same, and are even less expensive. One is the Sodial and the other is the TMSL, although I don’t like that it has a glass jug that you have to put together. Glass has bad luck at our house, which is too bad, because I trust it more than plastic, ecology-wise.

We can’t vouch for any of these, except the Megahome and the Joykit, but from a glance they look all the same. If anyone tries one of the others, please leave a comment on here and let us know how it works for you. We have figured out that ours has almost paid for itself now, if we go by the jugs that we were purchasing. I know that in bigger centres you can get distilled water much cheaper, but we don’t live there.

This is where she sits and pumps out a jug every night for us.

Another thing that we are going to try, is liquid trace minerals to add to the water we are going to drink. I think we will try this one first, based on price alone, but if anyone has any other tips or ideas, we are certainly open to hear them.

If we get any updates on this, we will let you know, and thanks for checking it out.

Chris

A Little Autumn Update

The Soap

We got a big box of fragrance oils in, and amongst them were some holiday scents that we hope to get out before next spring. There’s some pretty nice ones, so we have been smelling bottle caps for a week or so. Nobody has passed out from the fumes yet, so that’s good.

We also had the fall fair last weekend, where we entered Wildfire, the shampoo bar, and Gerri put in some red pepper jelly.

The soap and shampoo got first place and the jelly got third, so we were pretty proud and happy while we manned the Dirty Bird booth there.

Next year we hope that someone else will put in some soap and shampoo to go up against us.

Oh yeah, our friend Sarah made us a shelf and a bunch of soap holders. These are them.

The holders are teak and the shelf is reclaimed pallet wood.
The holders are teak and the shelf is reclaimed pallet wood.

The Chickens

So the last update told you that Red was laying, but now Henny P is laying too!

She also uses the nesting box, which pleases me to no end, but the really cool news is that I noticed a trend that I hope keeps happening.

Red started eating earthworms and ants, and a few days later she was pumping out eggs. Same thing for Henny P, so when I was digging out the slabs of stone in the walkway, I was pleased as punch to see one of the Barred Rocks steal a worm from Red’s beak and gobble it down. Then she started actually standing her ground with the Rhode Islands and digging up her own worms. Yahoooo!

I am guessing that it has to do with them knowing that their bodies need protein to keep up with the egg laying, just like the oyster shell that I see them peck at now and then. I will probably look that up, but not right now, as I want to see if I’m right about the trend on my own.

This is either Oreo or Pepper. They're identical twins to me.
This is either Oreo or Pepper. They’re identical twins to me.

We are starting to get the amount of eggs that we use, so it shouldn’t be long before we are getting abundant in them. I hope that leads to more cakes and other treats being baked, but I would settle for just knowing we have enough food for us and maybe a friend.

It’s a pretty good feeling when things work out.

The Harvest

I told you about the apricot and plum trees, but I had no idea at the time about how amazing the plums were going to be. We didn’t think they would amount to much at all.

This is what we shook off today.

The egg was harvested at the same time. Good old Henny P.
The egg was harvested at the same time. Good old Henny P.

Altogether we have taken about three gallons of plums from what we thought was a waste of a tree. I don’t know what kind of plum they are, but they are very sweet and juicy. I am going to try rooting a few cuttings from it, and planting a few seeds, because if it is hardy for this area, then I want to keep it going.

It is also pretty diseased now, so in case this is a last hurrah, I want to have some sort of stock for the future. I would hate to think that it will last for years, only to lose it in the winter.

The Boy

Since Blue got away in the spring, and decided to run rampant through the mountains, he has slowed down considerably. He did go for a little toot through the neighbourhood last weekend, but other than that he sticks pretty close to his folks.

Sometimes he gets tired after a few chases of a toy.
Sometimes he gets tired after a few chases of a toy.

We aren’t quite sure what he tangled with, but his slight limp hasn’t gone away, and he doesn’t like running for much more than a kilometre or two any more. We are okay with that.

One thing that I was worried about when we got the chickens, is that he would always try to chase them, but after a bit of gentle correcting, he is actually more timid with them than they are with him. Unless he’s running towards them, then they get out of the way.

I actually think that he would make a pretty good farm dog, and we hope that he makes it long enough to see that. He’s slowing down a lot, but I like to think that he’s just pacing himself for when he has acres to roam leisurely about.

Here’s hoping, Boy.

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 Couple Of Updates

It’s been pretty busy here this summer with the chickens, worms, mealworms, soap, and both of us working full time, so it’s been hard to get in here to post anything.

I guess I can start with the surprise apricot trees.

It's possible that these trees are frauds
It’s possible that these trees are frauds

We were told that the three fruit trees in the yard were supposed to be ornamental pear trees or something like that, but last summer one produced some measly plums, and this year the other two produced two different breeds of apricot.

Needless to say we were surprised and excited. We have been picking up grounders for jams, sauces, and liquor, because the trees are quite shaded and the only fruit ripening was twenty feet in the air and out of reach for our little stepladder. This fall they will be getting a pretty severe hack job to get them to a manageable level, but until then we will try to make the best use of their bounty.

We have also registered Dirty Bird Soap with the province, and will be applying for a business license with the district this week.

This means that we are really loving it, and plan to keep at it as long as we can be creative and viable. It’s not something that we are planning on getting rich with, but when we are retired and self sustaining, it will definitely help us out with not having to work as a Walmart greeter to make ends meet.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it would mean that we would have to be close to a Walmart, and who wants that in their life?

These will be getting cut shortly and getting themselves prepared for your armpits
These will be getting cut shortly and getting themselves prepared for your armpits

After a great couple of Saturdays at the Hudson’s Hope Farmer’s Market, we had to spend this weekend making seven batches to play catch up with. We have run out of a couple and almost ran out of a few more.

This isn’t a complaint, it’s excitement that you feel coming through these words. We get pretty stoked up about how our creations are received, so we were pretty much vibrating as we churned out the loaves this weekend.

The top shelf is Wildfire. So far it's our best seller, so we made two.
The top shelf is Wildfire. So far it’s our best seller, so we made two.

Notice how light our canning shelves are looking? That’s getting remedied right shortly, because we hit up the Okanagan fruit lady for twenty pounds each of peaches, roma tomatoes, and black plums.

Here’s what most of the peaches look like now.

There was a bit of shrinkage
There was a bit of shrinkage

We’ll finish the tomato sauce tomorrow, and the plums should be ready in a few days, so that will give us a couple of nights for soaping, gardening, and maybe even eating a couple of meals this week.

That’s pretty decent, if you ask me.

All in all it was an exhausting weekend of soap, rendering beeswax, canning and trying to manage the rest of life, but as I sit here in this filthy kitchen, typing out this post and staring at what will garnish a lot of bowls of ice cream this winter, I can’t help but to smile and dream of when I can be this kind of rushed every day.

When you have the right partner in crime, every day is an adventure.

Happy Canada Day! I know it's a bit late, but this is where we were.
Happy Canada Day! I know it’s a bit late, but this is where we were.

Have a great rest of your summer,

Chris

P.S. Look how big the baby mealworms are getting.

For reference, the outline is a slice of potato.
For reference, the outline is a slice of potato.

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

Ladies And Gentlemen…The Beetles!

I'm easily excited.
I’m easily excited.

Now, you may notice a big difference between these two Darkling beetles. Colour is probably  the main one.

They are white when they turn from pupa to beetle, and will darken over time.

You may also notice that the darker one has dust all over it’s back. That,s because it’s crippled and I am constantly having to flip it back onto it’s feet so it can drag it’s club foot and busted up wing around the enclosure.

That was the first beetle, and it came from a pupa that was in a container from the pet store. It was very small, but it was my first one, so I didn’t know any better. I just kept it, and figured that it would breed with the other small ones that came from the store.

They all dried up to husks.

Not Nemo though.

I named him/her that, because of the lucky wing/fin. I know it is on the wrong side, but it’s still pretty lucky. I have kept the little waif alive by turning it over and making sure it’s near the easy to digest food and the moisture source. I also introduced it to the fine looking specimen beside it.

I hope they get along. I would hate to think of Nemo struggling through life, all gimbled up, and then dying with no real friends. Who wants to be teased and picked on by all of the strong, healthy beetles, after already dealing with several physical deformities? Nobody, that’s who. Well, I’m not going to let that happen in my mealworm farm. Not ever.

I’m only kidding. They are going to breed and then die, or in Nemo’s case, just die. I can’t imagine he’ll make it another day, and if he does, who wants to mate with a small, weakened, husk of a beetle? I’m pretty sure that only the strong survive in the insect kingdom.

I probably should have let him stay on his back and not interfered with nature, but I’m pretty sure I put nature in a tailspin when I started this “farm”. I am breeding another living thing for profit, and when/if I get the chickens, as a source of protein for my eventual breakfast orbs.

I don’t think that I could have let the wee beggar die on it’s back. I don’t think I could let anything die like that. I doubt that these beetles have the capacity for anything, except for eating, breeding, and dying, but I could be very wrong. If I am, I hope he sees that I tried to help and doesn’t bite me in my sleep.

I hope I’m not though, because I would feel pretty bad to know that all they wanted to do is find a loaf of French bread and contemplate the meaning of life with some other snooty intellectuals and maybe ruminate on what it means to be a beetle in today’s bleak world of insect farms and protein smoothies.

Either way, I hope I can get $3.50 for a fifty pack of the dumb ones. I might throw in some French bread and sell the ones that are eating it for $4. You know, because they are better than the others. Hey, give me $8 and I’ll throw in a bar of soap. 😉

Oh yeah, check out dirtybirdsoaps.ca if you get a chance. If you have tried any of our bars, and you see them on the site, please leave a review for us. It would mean a lot. Probably.

Okay, I admit that I don’t know much about the commerce part of the site. We would still appreciate the review though.

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

If We Had This Soap When I Was A Kid…

…I would have done a lot more swearing in front of my mom.

Except the one on the left. That's just laundry soap.
Except the one on the left. That’s just laundry soap.

Well, until I tasted them. No matter how good they look and smell, they are still soap.

We had a great weekend of soap making and wax rendering. It really was amazing, partially because it was wet and we really needed some rain, but also because we banged out seven batches of soap and rendered down a bunch of honeycombs that a wonderful local apiarist had dropped off for us.

After rendering all the dead bees,honey, and beetles out of it, we got this handsome specimen.

That was the first render. We got another decent disc from the second as well.
That was the first render. We got another decent disc from the second as well.

We then turned all of our beeswax into these.

And they pop out of the cups without ripping them. It's recycle time.
And they pop out of the cups, so we can reuse them.

Many of our recipes call for beeswax to harden up the bar, so we portioned them out for each recipe. It was a huge pain, but will totally be worth it in the end. It sucks to be hacking and grating the wax from the block to come up with a certain weight. This way you just plop it in with your oils as they heat up and wait for it to melt.

You could chop it into pieces if you are too impatient to let it melt slowly, or somehow make your wax into pastilles when it’s melted. They look like a great way to melt wax fast.

Anyhow, we have enough beeswax to last us for a while, which is good, because we have a Farmer’s Market meeting this week, and hopefully we will be selling a lot of soap soon. I really hope so, because we are going broke on ingredients for this stuff. It’s like an addiction to heroin, except better for you, and I could make a batch before work in the morning, and still drive all day with no problems.

We are noticing that our comfort level is growing, because we are straying from the recipes and trying to create our own signature soaps. I really like trying new things, especially when they work out like they did this weekend.

Well, we think they worked out. We won’t really know until they are cured and we can make sure that they are all in good working order, but man, oh man do they seem great now. The prettiest, and tastiest looking one is Gerri’s creation. It’s called Berry Vanilla Cheesecake. I bet you can tell which one it is from the photo above. It also smells as good as it looks.

The best one, for a man, is probably the hot process Savvy Woodsman bar. It smells like a forest got it’s butt kicked by a dream. We named it after our friend “Savvy” back home, because we designed it on his birthday after he asked us to send him some soap. First bar is free, Savvy. You know the drill after that. 😉

Another beauty was the Orange Chili Pepper bar. It was the second attempt at hot process soap making (which happens to be Gerri’s new favourite thing), and one where we went outside the box and added ground up chili pepper flakes to the bar after it gelled. It looks and smells fantastic, but we will definitely be testing that one out before selling it. Especially around the eyes and tender bits.

(Free sample bar to whoever wants to guinea pig that experiment. 😉 hehe)

Last but not least is the French Vanilla Cappucino bar. It really excites me, but it still feels pretty soft. I should have maybe put beeswax in instead of avocado or sweet almond oil, but we won’t know for sure until it cures. It is totally coloured and scented by real coffee and some vanilla fragrance. We used a very strong coffee(that we will try freezing next time) with the lye instead of water, and then used the grounds and vanilla in the batter at medium trace. You can’t really smell the vanilla, but the bar still smells so good. It will be like you’re showering in a fancy coffee shop, but you won’t have to deal with the hipsters and the line ups.

That’s a win-win.

We also made a nice sandalwood cold process, my mom’s birthday bar, and a plain lard soap with no fragrance or colour. It will be grated up for an all natural laundry soap that I want to try. I did one before with a really nice fragrance oil, but the bar dried brown, so that might not be cool in someone’s dainties. I will have to check it to see if it discolours fabric when it’s cured.

I am really happy at how well we work together, especially with two people who are creative and are really struggling to figure something out. It is the highlight of my day to see Gerri’s face light up when she goes to “visit the soap”.

It really is.

I absolutely love our new passion, and who knows, it might even make enough money to pay for itself. As good as that would be, it won’t compare to hanging out with your best friend on the weekend, and maybe discovering the next big thing.

Chris

We Rendered Lard!

Yep, that’s right. We bought half a pig from a local farmer, and I asked him to save the fat from it, so we could render it down for soap. I would never have thought of it, but the lady we get our eggs from had mentioned it to us one day this fall, and we decided, after reading several accounts of how nice the soap is, to try a batch or two and check it out for ourselves.

So this morning I started the process. She had told me the basics of putting some water in a pot, then put in the fat. Seemed simple enough, so I took my large hunks of frozen fat and threw them in the pot. Then I started to watch a YouTube video on rendering lard the proper way.

I was quickly running to the pot, pulling the chunks of fat out, and cutting them up into small pieces.

That was a handy tip to know. As it was, the rendering took about ten hours, but apparently it would have taken much longer if I had left them in huge chunks. Everyone on the internet says that it is way better to get it ground up by the butcher, but those people maybe didn’t get one of these when their Nan died.

That old grinder has had a lot of use.
That old grinder has had a lot of use.

She used to grind up everything with that thing. I haven’t used it since it was in her kitchen, but if we end up with a bunch more fat, I am going to pull it down and put it to work. Even if it’s just for nostalgia’s sake.

So after a day of hanging out on the stove we ended up with this.

Apparently, that is good lard. I really don't know lard though.
Apparently, that is good lard. I really don’t know lard though.

and this

We weren't sure about the cracklins, but after a bunch of salt, pepper, and onion powder, we came around.
We weren’t sure about the cracklins, but after a bunch of salt, pepper, and onion powder, we came around.

So this weekend, we will be trying out the lard in soap. There are tons of recipes out there, so we will try a few of them and see. If any of you have tried it before, maybe you could let us know what worked, or didn’t work, for you. We would really appreciate and hints or tricks that you have.

We would also love to hear any scents that really get you going. For me, it’s always been patchouli, but I really love other woodsy scents as well. That’s what perks me up during a morning shower. It makes me feel like I’m in an old Irish Spring commercial.

Except it’s in India.

But with more green, and cleaner water.

I’m maybe not as simple as I think.

Chris

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Our First Sale – Worms

I’m pretty excited about Thursday. That’s when I deliver our first pound of worms to a customer. The money will go towards yesterday’s excitement.

This was very exciting. We haven't even smelled anything yet.
This was very exciting, and we haven’t even smelled anything yet.

Yes, our next foray into soaping begins this weekend, because we just got our huge box of natural dyes and un-natural scents.

That one smells like cotton candy.
That one smells like cotton candy.

When we decided to start making our own soap, I had these romantic visions of making essential oils and using as many natural, hand made, local products as possible. I was going to be walking through the woods, picking wild rose petals, rose hips, spruce branches, and other assorted wildflowers. I would then take my bounty home, where I would distill everything down and add it to our soap made of all natural, organic local oils and butters and lye made from the ash of local trees.

Then came the reality check.

First off, the only oils I will get to buy locally will be sheep and beef tallow, and lard. That suits me fine, but apparently there are a lot of folks that are not into animal by-products.

That leaves us with having to buy the different vegetable based oils that are needed to produce a non-animal fat based bar of soap. Have you priced out organic olive oil lately?

Needless to say, until we get a better footing on the processes and whatnot, we will be working our way toward my dream of all natural at a slower pace than I had expected. I guess you have to crush a lot of cotton candy puffs to get enough essential oil for a batch, and anyone that knows the ladies in our house knows that they would never allow a sacrifice like that.

So fragrance oils it is. They are phthalate free, so apparently that’s a plus.

Why would anyone even create that word? Phthalate? Seriously? That makes no sense.

Anyhow, I went over our moulds and rewrapped anything that was getting worn out, washed anything that was still solid, and bolted them all back up for Saturday and Sunday’s marathon.

They're beauties, they are.
They’re beauties, they are.

So anyways, back to the worms. I got an order for a pound of red wigglers for tomorrow, or today, because I wrote this last night, if you’re reading this today? Anyhow, I may have got a little exuberant, because I weighed out the pound about 5 days early, and then threw in another big handful for good measure. Then, because I didn’t want the worms to be uncomfortable, I gave them a good feed of red pepper, strawberry tops and some shredded flyers, with a little bit of ground egg shell for a topping. By the time I was done, this is what I was left with.

It weighs about 4 lbs. Better safe than sorry, right?
It weighs about 4 lbs. Better safe than sorry, right?

I figure that it’s better to make sure that people are really happy with their purchase. My worms are pretty good breeders, so they won’t be too long getting back to their original army, and after I get the next order ready, I should have about the same amount that I started with last year, and will have made back all of the money I have spent in buying them.

My time, well that’s a different story, but it is something I truly enjoy, and it was a great learning experience.

If you ask me, that’s priceless.

Chris