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.

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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.

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organic, chem-free cleaning and more

Over the past year we’ve been making steps to become a chem-free household.  As they’ve gotten used up, I have been replacing store-bought cleaners with homemade organic and chemical-free ones.  The benefits are grand.  First, they are much less expensive.  Yay!  Second, I feel better to have them with all the little ones.  I don’t have to worry about them getting into them and going blind or dying.  Another relieving reason is mama won’t be inhaling fumes.

I take about fifteen minutes every month or so to make all the cleaners.  They smell fresh and clean.  They are so safe the kids can use them too!  No excuses there :)  I have seen many recipes online, but I prefer to have them in handy book form.  Some great sources are listed below, but let me say, I get no money from recommending these to you.  They are simply books I came across and like.

I picked up the book Organic Housekeeping from the library.  I really enjoy the ideas and tips in there.  Reusing plastic mesh produce bags for dish scrubbers,  and the chemical-free oven cleaning recipes are among my favs.  There are wonderful suggestions for organizing and time management as well.  Not to mention how to reduce your water usage while doing dishes and cleaning.

Make Your Place is a book I use for almost all my cleaning recipes.  I love it!  This book is great for many tips and changes for a more organic lifestyle.  The author teaches you how to make your own tinctures, essential oils, gardening , and body care along with the cleaning resources and an extensive herbal index.

How about you?  What changes are you making to your budget?  What steps have you taken to have a more kid-friendly system in your cleaning and household care routines?  What are some of your favorite sites for organic and chemical-free recipes?