humble homesteading: soapmaking

IMG_1296 IMG_1298I’m no expert when it comes to soapmaking.  I made four batches a year and a half ago.  Only two turned out well.  That gave us 30 bars of soap.  I noticed a couple of weeks ago that we only had 5 bars left.  So, this week brought on my annual soapmaking frenzy.

If you want to learn all I know about soapmaking, check out Soap Queen TV and Bramble Berry for supplies.

Four things I’ve learned are non-negotiable with making cold-process soap.

One- You must have a scale.  Must.  Measuring volume is way off.  This is why I had 50% success last time.

Two- Patience.  Lots of it.  It took me an hour to stir each batch.  Best done while listening to Pandora.

Three- Thermometers and Lye Calculators are your friend.  Exact temp are imperative. So are Lye amounts. This can make or break it.

Four- Keep the kids away.  Naptime, bedtime are great times to make soap.  It can be dangerous.  If you’re hollering at kids the whole time, the fun is lost for you.

I am so pleased with the success of these 3 batches I made this week.  One didn’t turn out.  That compelled me to finally get a scale.  This is the third scale I’ve bought in four years.  I’m hiding it from children’s reach this time.

All was not lost though.  I grated it up.  I’ll be using it for laundry soap.

Have you ever made soap?  What are your favorite resources and recipes?  I used the “Lots of Lather” recipe from Bramble Berry.

Finding beauty

It is easy when one blogs, to portray a perfect life that consists of only happiness and fun. It has never been my intention to do that here. We are a real family, though many of you don’t know us personally, I assure you that we are. I believe that my children are wonderful, but I can’t pretend they are perfect.

They fight, steal, lie, disrespect,and even as I type this I am correcting them for ugly things they are saying to each other. This is life. Real life. Our lives have changed greatly over this last year on the farm. We all have more physical work. This sometimes, or perhaps often, leads to crankiness in us all.

Through the added responsibilities we are also learning many lessons on on the importance of grace and forgiveness. Towards each other and from God towards us, we are experiencing grace and forgiveness. In the middle of all the work and family and ministry we do each week, I just try to keep my eyes open for moments of beauty and happiness.

These are the things that make it here. Sweet memories of children, little projects completed, reflections of what God has illuminated to me (most times these are obvious to everyone but me…slow learner), and tips we’ve learned along the way.

Where do you find beauty? Maybe while weeding your garden (figuratively or literally) as I did today. Weeding is necessary in both cases. Might as well enjoy the flowers.


how i cloth diaper

A surprising amount of people have started using cloth diapers for various reasons; allergies the paper diapers, financial saving, environmental conviction ect.  I have been doing cloth diapers for about six years off and on.  With my last two babes I have used cloth exclusively (unless out-of-town).  A few of you have contacted me and asked me exactly what I do.  I decided the best way is to put it all down in writing so I have a place to refer all you mamas.

First of all, there are so many ways to cloth diaper it would be exhausting to explain them all myself.  Click here for some explanations.  Once you’ve read through that I’ll explain what I do.

I use pre-fold diapers and covers with snappis.  I love snappis!  I order all my supplies from Green Mountain Diapers (link in side bar) and have for years.  They are fast, knowledgeable and they have great prices.

I use pre-fold diapers.  I have had all-in-ones, and pocket diapers in the past.  All-in-ones get to stinky and take too long to dry for me -plus- it’s expensive to buy that many diapers.  Pocket diapers (I used Fuzibunz) have a fleece lining which holds smells as well.  I also thought they were super leaky since they are not snug against baby.  They are also expensive since you can only use them for one changing.  I has to buy 30 or so of them!  They did pay for them selves in saving eventually but it took 6 months!

I have seriously tried a dozen different diaper covers.  Thirsties are the best!  They aren’t as expensive as most, they never leak, they come in cute colors and patterns.  I recommend the Thirsties Duos with snaps.  Velcro breaks down when the cover itself has plenty more life in it.  I have also knit some wool covers as well.  One hank of pure wool costs me $7.  It makes 2 newborn or 1.5 of the other sizes.  If I didn’t make them I wouldn’t own then because a wool cover will cost you $30-$40.  Yikes!  I started doing cloth to save money.  That doesn’t make sense to me.

I use regular baby wash cloths for wipes, and I buy fleece liners to wick moisture away from baby’s bottom.  I make my own skin healing balm for rashes out of the book Organic Body Care.  This also doubles for a substitute for Neosporin.  I also buy the Thirsties bottom spray for the dirtier diaper jobs.  I advise anyone who purchases bottom sprays to NOT buy ones with tea tree, lavender, or citrus because they cannot be used when a rash is present.  They will sting baby’s bottom!

I also purchased a diaper pail and liner years ago as well as a wet bag for when we’re out and about.  These can be substituted for a trash can with a lid, and a pillowcase.  And when you’re out you can use a grocery bag.

When I wash I use Ecos Laundry Soap, or Biocleen Laundry (the free and clear one).  I have used soap nuts in the past, but when the baby get older you need a stronger detergent.  I run a regular cold cycle with nothing in the water, then a cold cycle with soap, then a hot cycle with soap and 1/4 of borax or oxyclean, then another cycle free of soap.

I dry them in the dryer because when they quilt up they’re more absorbant and soft, then if weather permits I hang them dry outside to bleach out bacteria and stains.

If I am having a huge problem with diaper rash (ammonia builds in cloth diapers if not treated regularly) I add 1/4 bleach (*gasp*) to the first cycle with soap.  Then I dry in the dryer.  Wash one more cold cycle with 1 Tbs soap and one extra rinse and dry again.  Then I hang them out.  This process is called “stripping” the diapers.

Sometimes I put 1/2 vinegar in the last rinse.  I don’t know if it makes a difference or not which is why I don’t do it regularly.

P.S. Never dry your covers in the dryer or on the line outside.  Heat breaks down the waterproofing.  Ideally you should wash them separately from the diaper, but I never have.

It may sound like a ton of info and instruction, but once you do it a couple of time it’s no big deal.

There are diaper sprayers that attach to the toilet (I used to have one), and special pails.  They are designed so you don’t have to deal with the poop thing.  I just had a pair of kitchen gloves I designated for the job.  After a while I just switched to plain ol’ hands.