Category Archives: Soap

A Visual Update

I have had a blog post brewing for awhile now, but it’s one of those hard ones that doesn’t want to come out on its own.   I am never sure how to start things off when I haven’t said much in awhile.

When I was going through my Google photos, I was smiling so much and thinking of all the images and stories that come to my head when I am reminded of the things I think important enough to take a photo of.  These are moments that strike me as particularly interesting, serendipitous, or just plain funny.  I see the way I use photos to communicate with everyone in my life.  Rather than spending a lot of time waxing poetic, I would like to invite you to a pictorial update of life here in BC, via my phone photos.

 

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This is Alwin Holland.  It’s one of my favorite places to go.  In the middle photos you can see one of the tea cups, or tea kettles, whatever they call them.   We come down here with our fur sons, and sometimes our real children too.  It’s spectacularly beautiful and it’s not too far of a walk from our house.

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Sometimes the mist sits on the river and it’s so insanely beautiful you just want to take a million photos but it’s never as good as it looks in real life.  About this time,  we were playing HayDay and nerding it up pretty good as farmers.  We were doing some volunteer hours at the ski hill and we literally ran across this possible mine site (not really) with a free shovel and axe just hanging around there.  If you play hayday, and you had a nerd sister in Ontario that would find it funny, you would send it to her.  Then the three of you would laugh like idiots and feel that warm burny feeling when people you care about are very far away.

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This was the epic visit to the Liard Hot Springs. I mean, look at the photos.  It’s bloody magical, isn’t it?

I don’t need to tell you much about it, but you might try it in -27 degree weather.  Don’t feel bad if you chicken out the first night because it’s really dark and cold, and you are afraid you will freeze to death on the walk back to the waiting van.  The good news is that you do survive to tell the tale, and there is nudity involved.  hftos_22

I would say this series accurately sums up a few weeks we had in January.  It was very cold indeed, and there was a lot of beautiful sights.  We felt victorious that we made it outside each day.   I am told we had a ‘Kelowna Winter’ this year, and I believe that’s probably so.  I’m not complaining.  I have 3 seasons until WINTER IS COMING again.

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The last set and the ones below are on another path I take to the river.  I like to hang out there because it’s beautiful, and peaceful and it’s a great hike.  I love the rushing brooks, the waterfall, and the views of the mighty Peace River.  One the way back up the hill, there are all kinds of rusted out old cars laying in various states of decomposition.  I always look at those cars and think about how they got there, and if there are any good shady stories.

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Sometimes I fill my backpack with light wood, firestarters, a beer, and I hike to the river.  You can hunker down at the river and have yourself a wee fire to do some sort of ceremonial cleansing, or just to roast weenies…whatever you like.  The river bed is full of all kinds of beautiful rocks, and if you know me, you know I love me some rocks.

 

The soapmaking…  hftos_28 hftos_29

We’ve been making the soap.  Maybe he’s mentioned it?  Anyhow, we have been blowing through the supplies we inherited in our soapmaking score.  We have created some cool combinations and we are pretty excited for it to hurry up and cure.  I guess we have another 3 weeks to wait, but someone already pulled some of the cut ‘endsies’ and put it in the bathroom.  This would be the soapmaking equivalent of opening your first present in November.

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Çhris is holding the lye cup in his hand, and sporting a kleenex nose plug. Don’t ask, but I assure you, I am holding us to much stricter safety controls than he does.

I like to send my sister back in Ontario a semi-daily snapshot of how things are going.  Some days I like my hair and I send her a nice photo, but most days she gets the real me.  I’m including them because they are funny, and they remind me that it’s a lot easier to stay in touch with people than it used to be.   Also, today is my sisters birthday, so it’s nice to think of her celebrating today.

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Ha ha.

 

In other news, the ski hill stuff has been really fun.  We’ve enjoyed our volunteer time so much we are committed to stepping up even more next year.       It’s starting to look like we are going to productive members of society after all.   hftos_38

 

I wanted to make a note about the weather.  The next two series were taken on the same weekend, a day apart.  One day I was looking at a frozen tundra wasteland of ice and snow, and gray for miles.hftos_39

The next day I was sitting in the lotus position overlooking a valley view of a mountain-fed, emerald green river.  There is natural steam vents here which make the earth warm and relaxing to lay on.  The hike in was pretty hairy, and the descent to the view was a bit perilous, but totally worth it in the end.     I have enjoyed every day of spectacular views here.   The feeling of being closer to the land is the feeling of coming home.

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I walk a lot here.  I have put few hundred kilometers on the blue suede shoes I picked up at the thrift store before Christmas.   They are awesome to hike in because they are extremely rugged and comfortable.  When I bought them, the lady at the thrift thought they were so hideous she slashed the price to less than half.  Those blue suede shoes don’t owe me a dime.

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That’s all I’ve got for now.  So long from the other side.

DIY Soap Cutter For Under $20

So I was crying to my buddy, Johnny, about trying to cut the soap straight with a knife, on the chopping block that I bought at the thrift store for $2. I had measured out the inches down either side of it, but it was still coming out all wonky.

I told him that the top is an inch apart, but the bottom could be a quarter inch out either way. I know that it wouldn’t make a huge difference, weight wise, but I lost a bar on each loaf from over compensating. I’d like to make sure that all of the bars are uniform, because if you lost a bar on every loaf, it would be really cutting down on profits.

That’s going on the assumption that we will sell any of the bars. If we don’t, then there will be a lot of misshapen solstice gifts being handed out this winter.

I showed him the picture of my dream cutter. (Only because it looks awesome, not because I have a clue that it even works)

When he saw that it was $259, plus exchange, plus shipping, he said that I could make one for about $75 or $100, after he quit choking on his ramen noodles and cursing with that Cape Breton flair.

Apparently he forgot that you also need some skill in woodworking, and that’s not something I’m known for.

I told him that I would pay him to build one for me, and he said that he would. I was excited about that, but he wasn’t sure when he could get it done by. I explained to him that I needed it right away, because I couldn’t keep cutting the bars the way I was.

That was when he had a brilliant idea.

Plus
Equals
I didn't see the grey one until later. It looks like a better box for the soap, but this one will work.
I didn’t see the grey one until later. It looks like a better box for the soap, but this one will work.

I think the grey one is pretty much the same box, except it might be a tiny bit deeper than the one I got. This one doesn’t leave more than a couple of millimetres above the bar to fit the blade into the guide, so even a little bit would help. The $2 chopping block came in handy, because there is a lip on one side of the mitre box for stabilizing it against the front of the bench.

The chopper isn’t as wide as the Norpro, but it will do until the good one comes in. Either way, for under $20 I can accurately measure and cut my soap bars. That’s all there is to that.

You are probably thinking to yourself, that it’s going to be more than $20 with the shipping, but it isn’t if you get yourself a bunch of beeswax to get the price up over $25 to take advantage of Amazon’s free shipping.

Just a suggestion, you know you’re going to need it. 😉

Chris

P.S. We did cut up a loaf with it, and I have to tell you that it worked so much better than freehand with a knife that I couldn’t stop smiling while I slid and sliced. I’m such a newbie nerd.

We Made Soap!

The back is Blueberry Hill, and the front is Gingerbread.
The back is Blueberry Hill, and the front is Gingerbread.

Yep, we finally did it. Now we will wait five weeks to see how it turned out. We got a really great deal on the soap making tools and ingredients, so we are going to use up the fragrances and dyes that came with it while we are learning.

Oh, and it was really fun. Except for the freehand knife cutting. I really need one of these when I win the lottery:

I ended up having to work, so Gerri got the lesson and made the first batch, but when I got home she was still so excited that she wanted to make another one. I was glad, because I thought I was going to have to wait five weeks until it was cured. That’s when I found out that we were the proud new owners of four moulds, and that you can take them out of the moulds and cut the bars after about a day.

That means that we can make four loaves a day, every day. Do the math.

4 loaves x 15 bars x  = BILLIONAIRES

This should last about three days.
We aren’t sure which one is best, and they were all on sale, so…

I think that if I sell a kidney, we can afford to make soap for about a month, and then a week later we will be able to start selling the first day’s soap. That should give us enough working capital to make another three batches and the circle will begin again.

Dreaming is good.

Not about the kidney. That was a joke. Unless you know a buyer.

I’m talking about a life that’s dedicated to more simple days. Like getting up in the morning, making a bunch of soap, having lunch, sorting some worms and going out to feed and water the animals. I could really get used to that.

It sure beats getting up at 2 am so that you can get your job done before the road bans come on at 10, but still end up chaining up and slopping through the mud for the last hour, because the sun came out too fast on you.

Not that I wouldn’t jump at the chance to do that right now, I’m just dreaming about the future. You know, when I don’t have to jump at those chances anymore.

Anyhow, I should get off of here. I need to go in and watch the soap cure for a while before bed… and maybe bathe, but I really want to make this last bar of the good stuff last until ours is ready. I figure if I wash every fourth night, I should squeek slide by.

Chris

Hand Made Soap Coming Soon

By the way, “soon” is a relative term.

When I first moved to Hudson’s Hope, I used to go to the Farmer’s Market every Tuesday. My first time there, I bought some soap that was made by a local woman named Cindy.

I couldn’t believe how good they all smelled, and how expensive they were. I think they were $4 a bar or something like that, but I was newly single and pulling in pretty good bucks driving a tanker, so I splurged and bought a couple of bars.

I have never resorted to buying commercial bars since that day.  Sure, they were a bit more per bar, but each bar lasted longer and I liked that I was putting all natural ingredients on my skin, while supporting a local entrepreneur. Can it get any better?

I bought a bag of bars before I moved back to Ontario, and was just about through them when I met Nancy at the Harwood Waterfront Festival. She was selling bars of homemade soap at her booth there, so I was able to get my fix of cleanliness there as well.

She has a really nice little business called Northumberland Soapworks at her farm near Colborne, Ontario, where she sells in a roadside shop, and hits up a lot of local markets.

My favourite was Orange Patchouli, or as I liked to call it, Dirty Hippie Soap. Yes, I know that it is an oxymoron. The hippies would be squeaky clean after washing up with that sweet cake.

 

After we moved back to Hudson’s Hope this summer, I ran into Cindy, and mentioned that I would be needing some more soap after our stock ran out, when she broke the news to me.

She wasn’t making soap anymore.

We bought eight bars and talked about the soap making process, and I may have mentioned that we might start making our own if we couldn’t find any. We also contemplated getting Nancy to ship us out some when Cindy said that she would sell us the lye that she had left over, and that she had moulds and stuff left as well.

Wahoo!

What better way to work towards sustaining ourselves than being able to make our own soap and possibly supplement the cost by selling a few bars to the locals or through the blog?

I know you won’t get rich at it, but we’ve never really aspired to be rich in the first place. We have aspired to be clean though, and soon we’ll be able to afford to bathe every day if we want to.

I know I won’t want to, but I think that Gerri enjoys not having flies buzzing all around her, so even if we could keep her clean, I can sell my bars and get enough money to buy the laying hens I want to get this summer.

Anyhow, I will be excited for us to learn the art from someone who made some of the finest soap I’ve ever used, and maybe a month or so later, having a shower with that handmade goodness.

I love trying to be a granola.