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

I’m Getting Out Of Control

Yeah, in the worm department.

A couple of years ago, during a visit home, my cousin Ryan was telling me all about mealworms. He was telling me how they are the protein of the future, easy to raise, and very tasty and nutritious.

I immediately discounted this. I have eaten a few seasoned and roasted mealworms before, and I sure don’t want to make a meal out of them.

He explained that they were extremely easy to raise and breed, and that they take a phenomenal percentage less water per ounce of protein than beef or pork.

I told him that as long as there was enough water to get steak, I wouldn’t worry too much about low water protein and then we had a hearty laugh, as we are wont to do while having a social ale or two.

Then, the other day I was reading about mealworms as chicken food on a homesteading forum. I thought about how easy my cousin said they were to raise and then promptly forgot about it. I already have a bunch of worms, what do I need more for?

Until two days later, when I saw on a local buy and sell page that a woman was looking for mealworms to feed her gecko. I said to myself:

“You should get some mealworms and breed them too. There might be some people around that would buy them from you, and you will be able to feed them to your chickens when you get them.”

I then replied, “I will look into it, and I’ll let you know.”

Before I looked into it, another local lady said that a few people would be happy to have a local supplier, so that pushed me towards purchasing my breeding stock today. Some of them seemed a little bit dead, but apparently they get like that after a while in the fridge.

(Update – Nope, they’re dead. I don’t think that they would still be laying in the same, motionless position after a day.)

I took them home, ground up some Red River Cereal and some rolled oats, and dumped them in a bin with some cabbage, a broken grape, and some cardboard shreds. I separated everything to see what they like best. I’m going to get some laying mash as well, because I’m told that stuff is like gold for them, as long as it isn’t medicated.

I'd breed in there. If I was a worm, I mean. And didn't have asthma.
I’d breed in there. If I was a worm, I mean. And didn’t have asthma.

Apparently that’s all you have to do. I hope.

I will keep checking on them, but I guess it will be a while before they turn into pupa and then beetles, so I think I have a bit of time to perfect the setup. Most of the “real” farmers use one of these four drawer plastic container systems that you could steal from a friends garage or get on Amazon if you wanted to help a guy out. (wink wink)

I kid, but not really. I actually was looking at some of these ten drawer ones and was dreaming of when I would have them full of worms and styrofoam.

Yeah, you heard right. Apparently mealworms can safely survive on a diet of pure styrofoam and convert it into usable soil. It has something to do with the enzymes in their gut, so scientists are trying to figure out how to use them to combat the 33000000 tons of styrofoam in US landfills each year. I don’t know how much us Canadians go through, but it sure looks like a lot as well.

You know, because you wouldn’t want to quit making styrofoam and just throwing it away. That’s just crazy.

Where we live, styrofoam is not recyclable, so I’m hoping to eventually be able to process it with mealworms. I will keep those ones separate from the feed and sale ones, but any excess could be tossed in a bin full of styrofoam and we could at least see for ourselves whether it’s a load of bull or not.

I hope it’s not, because we can’t keep going the way we are right now. Our planet and our bodies can’t take all of this pollution, so anything we can do to help will matter in the future.

Chris

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

Our Dump, Is A Very Very Very Fine Dump

With two vans in the yard. Behind them a couple cars. My shopping is so easy ’cause of you.

Apologies to CSNY for ruining their lyrics, but that was what came to my mind.

I love the district dump. It reminds me of my youth.

When things were free a little more free than they are today.

Our dump back east never really allowed you to scavenge. Luckily it was probably some drunk kid that got caught with a stolen bag of sheep manure or breaking a $12 window that was doing their community service hours at the landfill (*cough* Brad Campbell *cough*), so there really wasn’t any worry of getting busted for taking home more than you brought in.

I remember my stepdad and I taking our trash there and finding a bunch of old cast iron cook stove lids and parts, and throwing them in the backseat of the Bronco, because we needed them for the cabin. When we went to weigh out and pay, I had to walk around the back side of the scale shack. Not because we were trying to rip off the dump, but because we weighed more leaving than when we came in. Apparently the dump doesn’t like to pay you money to drop off your garbage.

The last time I was there, there were security guards running the scales and they made sure that nobody was getting any of their garbage. It was a shame to look down into the bins and see so many useful things that were going to be crushed into a cube. Never to be enjoyed again by anyone.

Not at our dump though. We have the Share Shed.

Sometimes it's quite full.
Sometimes it’s quite full. Usually in the summer when folks are cleaning out garages.

If you have something that still has some life left in it, or maybe has some parts that someone else can use, you can drop it at the share shed before going to the garbage bin.

You would be surprised at how much the share shed has helped us, and many others, to get through tough, and not so tough times. I hope that Gerri will write a post about when she first moved here and was at the shed almost every day. I have many great stories, and the day she staged the Share Shed is probably my favourite of all. She always seemed more relaxed when she came from there, unless she found a treasure, then she would be pretty giddy.

There is also a wood pile at the dump.

Need some logs for firewood, or a couple of 2x4s with a few nails in them? Help yourself.
Need some logs for firewood, or a couple of 2x4s with a few nails in them? Help yourself.

I haven’t had to pay for lumber yet, except for two sheets of OSB for the shed wall, but speed was of the essence there. If I had thought of it before, I could have pieced together something for free.

When I took this picture, I got five 2x4x8, a 6x6x8, and a pretty good sawhorse out of the wood pile. That’s a pretty good start to the chicken tractor I want to build. I wish we burned wood for heat, because you would never have to buy it again. This stuff will just get pushed up into a pile and burned, I think. They might push the tree parts into the compost pile. I haven’t been there while it was getting done.

The scrap metal pile belongs to another guy, and you aren’t allowed to scavenge, but you used to be able to donate to the fellow if you found something that you could use. I think I have donated $4-$5 and have a decent arbor, some angle iron, and a bunch of pieces of pipe that I wanted for some worm bins. He’s not going to make much off of scrap, so it probably worked out better for him if he can get a few bucks and not have to haul it an hour away to get very little money for it.

Sometimes you just need a bit of scrap metal.
Sometimes you just need a bit of scrap metal.

If I was handier, I think that the metal pile would be a lot more useful. I am thinking of taking a welding course or something along that line, because when we do get our property, it will be nice to be able to fix things myself, rather than have to rely on someone else’s schedule and rate. I have always envied handy folks that could do that.

Anyhow, I think that everyone should push their local councils to start working towards a truer “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” way of life, instead of a “Crush Everything and Buy New” society that we are in now. Tell them that you want a Share Shed at your local dump. There’s no reason not to have one. If they’re worried about insurance, sign a waiver before going to it. I can’t see it being any more dangerous than the rest of the dump, but you know how bureaucrats can get.

Throwing them in the trash isn’t that chance.

Chris

Almost Free Raised Bed Garden

So last fall I was working in the bush and went by this huge burn pile about ten times a day. Normally I wouldn’t pay much attention to a fifteen foot tall pile of trees on a pipeline right of way, but this pile had a lot of short 2″x8″ planks all over the base of it.

I was thinking that it was a huge waste, so when the job was done, Gerri and I went out there and packed up the minivan with over seventy of these little beauties.

That's what they call rustic. People pay big money for rustic.
That’s what they call rustic. People pay big money for rustic.

We weren’t sure what they could be used for, but we figured that we could find something better than global warming, so we stacked them on a pallet and covered them in a mattress bag that we had saved for just such an occasion.

Then, the other day I was repurposing part of our flower garden. It was completely choked out with lily of the valley, and I wanted to put something a little more useful in it, so I cut out a corner that gets pretty decent sun, sifted out the roots and shoots, and mixed in vermiculite and some of the worm castings that I’ve harvested over the winter.

I love picking handfuls out of the bin and sitting on the kitchen floor with a couple of tubs beside me. Sorting the worms and organics from the rich compost soothes my weary nerves and also helps to fight ISIS. Don’t ask me how, but nobody has been killed by ISIS while I was sorting worms. Probably.

This is the screen I made for sifting dirt out of two refrigerator shelves crossed and zip-tied together. They were free from the Share Shed. It’s also the repurposed flower garden.

Hey, it's not fancy, but free is free.
Hey, it’s not fancy, but free is free.

I then dug up some of the wild chives that were growing at the side of the house and transplanted them to the new herb garden at the front.

There were a lot more than I needed, so I turned the chunk of old manhole by the street into a new home for the rest.

I don’t know how I got so far off track, but let’s get back to the story.

I was wondering what else I was going to use my castings for, when I thought of building some raised bed gardens out of logs. That would be a problem, seeing as we don’t have a truck to haul the logs in, or any machinery to get them to the back yard. We also don’t have the money to hire it out, so my gaze fell on the pile.

20160421_092201
Mattress bags are a very handy thing to have around.

I cut one in half, and then ripped them in half to make corner supports, and then I just made walls two boards high.

Yeah, I know it's basic. That's why I was confident I could do it.
Yeah, I know it’s basic. That’s why I was confident I could do it.

Now one of the huge problems with gardening in this area is the deer. They are everywhere. If you don’t put up an eight foot high fence, or cover your garden with deer netting,  then you are just courting disaster.

Another Share Shed treasure we got was an 8 person dome tent that had some pretty large holes in the roof. We kept the base, because it was a good tarp with eye holes already sewn in, and we kept all of the poles. I drilled a 1/2″ hole in the top of each support, and Voila!

We don't know if it will work yet, but in theory it looks good.
We don’t know if it will work yet, but in theory it looks good.

I’ll cover that in the Ross Deer Netting that I bought, and then maybe some poly so I can start planting a bit earlier. I am going to build two more of these, so I should be able to fit quite a bit of the food we are hoping to grow in them. It’ll be about 30 sq ft of garden space, and I think that’s good for our first time.

So all in all, we spent:

  • $15 for gas to get the wood and Share Shed goodies
  • $4 for the screws
  • $30 for 100′ deer netting(I could’ve got used chicken wire for $2)

Under $50 to build and deer-proof your garden seems pretty good to me, if it works. I shouldn’t count the gas, because we just love driving around together, and it was our day off, but I figured it would still be a bargain and I’ll still have 50′ of deer netting for next year.

Let me know what you think. Should I change anything?

Chris

Wildfires And Evacuations

Wildfires are no laughing matter, and as we speak, there are three burning in our area. One of them was/is just a few miles from our house right now, but the 80 km/hr winds are taking it past us, and not into town.

This is from our driveway.
This is from our driveway.

For the moment. You know how wind can be.

When we first were told to go look up the hill this evening, there was talk of packing some bags and getting ready to leave. Gerri  started looking for things to pack up, and went into the bedroom to make sure that wallets and ID were ready to go, and to pack some clothes. You know, just to be ready. She’s really good like that. She likes to be ready for things.

I’m a different sort of bird. I like to think that I’m born ready, and any emergency will test my ability to adapt. Where she might take four lighters, I rely on the few times I made a bow drill as a kid and got a fire going that way.

In perfect conditions.

What I’m getting at is that when possible evacuation was mentioned, she started planning our escape in her head, but I was just sitting there thinking I would like to write a post and if the emergency workers came around to tell us to book out of here, I would grab the family, dogs and Cheeto included, and as much of the soap and soap making equipment as I could, and head for higher ground. I would probably take my other pair of fat pants and a couple of shirts as well, because I may need to change in the next week, but basically I’m ready to go. I have the Swiss Army knife in my pocket, and a $50 bill. I know there is enough gas in the van to get us at least 300 kilometres away, so I had no worries there.

Good to go.

We then went up the hill from the apartment building in the first photo, to our friend’s place to see how close it was getting.

This gives a better idea of distance.
This gives a better idea of distance.

As we were going home, Gerri looked at me and said “Thinking of having to pack up go like that, really makes me realise how much we need to purge.”

10-4 on that Little Mama. I read you, loud and clear.

Chris

When Someone Makes Your Dreams Come True

I remember being about 25 years old at our hunting camp north of Apsley, Ontario, and thinking that I could live there. No phone, no power, except for a small generator and pails of water from a crystal clear spring. I figured that was all I needed in my life.

I was freshly out of another very short relationship, and had given up on ever finding the girl I had dreamed of since I was a kid. You know, the yin to my yang and all of that nonsense. I knew she existed, but didn’t know where, and figured she probably wouldn’t like me anyhow, even if I were to stumble upon her at the Legion karaoke night.

So I started truck driving, and then moved to Chilliwack to live in the mountains and start planning my move to the forest. I had my brothers there, Chaddy, and Alex, but it was very lonely. Then I moved up north, and I worked.

A lot.

Most of the time we were working at least 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, so we didn’t have time to be lonely. We were just a whole bunch of guys, stuck in a camp in the middle of nowhere. Most of us were in the same boat, so we just found the people we liked there the most, and became friends.

Then the work slowed down and I got very lonely again. A lot of years had passed, and one failed long-term relationship, so I had again given up on finding true love. I loaded up everything into my pickup and 1980 camper and started heading east. It was April 2010, and I had found a bunch of cheap property in New Brunswick that I was going to homestead. I figured I’d stop in Ontario for a month or so, just to let things warm up, and catch up with my family.

Then I met Gerri for the second time.

She was fun, sort of sweet, insecure, but also confident. I immediately liked her.

We've had some pretty great times, her and I.
We’ve had some pretty great times, her and I.

She had also given up on true love. I didn’t think that there would be a future with us, but I did foresee a long friendship, mostly with me telling her that her choices were bad, and then helping her work through the repercussions. I completely forgot about New Brunswick, and rented an apartment three doors down from her little love nest.

I had also given up on homesteading. When I saw this on her coffee mug, I just figured it wasn’t going to happen.

not camping
You can find other Anne Taintor stuff here.

She told me on several occasions to not get attached to her, and in a way, I didn’t. Sure, I was falling in love with her, but after many heartbreaks since my teen years, I was quite used to rejection and loss. I’d become fairly well adapted to getting over things.

Then, all of a sudden it was the next winter and I was back out west trying to get rid of my debt. When I came home, she realised that she was in love with me too, and then it began. By the summer of 2012 we were married, and now we are in northern British Columbia, trying to eke our way.

It’s really odd how friendships happen. She has turned into my best friend and a constant source of support and encouragement that I never thought I would have in my life. I know that I would be completely happy if it were just her and I getting old together on a farm somewhere in the bush, and that’s how I know she’s the one.

Ever since our first date, I didn’t dream up a new life with anybody else that I met. I have never even thought about what my life would be like without her. I don’t ever want to know.

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We have a deal that I am not allowed to die before her, because she wouldn’t want to live without me. We both know that I am stronger, so I have to stay alive for two days after she’s gone, to make our arrangements, before I die from a broken heart.

Luckily we aren’t planning on fulfilling that prophecy until we are much, much older.

I don’t know how many of you have found your Gerri, or maybe Jerry, if you are into dudes, but I urge you to keep looking for them. You’ll know it when you find them, because they will make you not want to always be out with your friends, and they will make you always feel appreciated. Always.

I was really happy when I thought I would get to spend my life with my best friend, even when I thought I was giving up my dream of a simpler existence. Now, we both share that dream. A dream of living to live, instead of living to buy more stuff that we don’t need.

It’s been a slow process, but we can see beyond the horizon, and we know that not everything we have learned before is the truth, so we are already half way there.

According to G.I. Joe, anyhow.

I love you, my sweetest of darlings.

Happy Birthday!

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