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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I've Become a Soapmaker!

Way back in October of 2011 I wrote a post about rendering lard.  I mentioned that I had a project up my sleeve, and a year later I finally learned how to make soap from a soap maker.

Since the beginning of the year I have been enjoying making what I call "Crooked Gap Farmcrafted Soap".  On our website, it is described as:    

Our Crooked Gap Farmcrafted Soap is unique in that we strive to use as many ingredients as possible produced on our farm, gathered from local sources, or commonly found on a farm. Our soap is not only crafted on our farm, but from the farm. We are confident that you will find our farmcrafted soap to be like none other!

I've taken some pictures along the way, although not a tutorial on how to it, they do show some of the process.

This first picture is the fats melting on our wood stove.  The majority of the oil that I use is lard that I render from our hogs.  I also add in a bit of coconut oil for some extra bubbles and cleansing qualities.  I wasn't really sure what lard soap would be like, but we get quite a bit of it with all of the hogs we take in.  I've you have followed my blog, you might have noticed that I am quite frugal and like to put as much as I can to use.  It only made since to use our lard to make our soap, and I have been so impressed with the qualities of it!  (Our customers have been as well!)  This is the first winter I haven't had cracked and bleeding fingers in the winter for 10 years, even while I have been doing cloth diapering, which dries out your hands quite a bit (all of the moisture being drawn out of your hands when folding.)

One of the things that fascinated me the most with the soap making is watching the glycerine form.  This photo shows the glycerine forming in my soap, which turns back to white after the saponification process.  The glycerine is what conditions (helps your skin retain moisture) in the soap.  And lard soap produces a lot of glycerine!


I also enjoy creating new "recipes" for my soap. It's a fun little challenge to think of what farm available ingredients I can use and how to use them.  I was excited this week to use spinach from our garden in one of my soaps. (The bottom brick in the photo.)

Once the bars have hardened (mine take a good 24 hours or more), they are ready to be cut.  This is also one of my favorite parts of the process. It's almost like opening a Christmas or birthday present. I have an idea of what I've put into the soap, the methods I've used to combine the ingredients, and I can see the top, but it is still hard for me to guess just how that bar will look when I cut into it.  Maybe I'll be able to predict more as I have more soap making under my belt, but right it is usually a surprise.

After the bars have cured for a month, they are ready to sell.  We sell them off of our farm, at the Downtown Des Moines Farmer's Market, and I also ship them. This is a photo of some of the bars I have made, although the patterns are hard to see when they are displayed with the tags on.  You can head over to my webpage to see what they look like without the tags.

In my pre-farming life I enjoyed scrap booking, card making, and doing other creative things.  That has kind of disappeared since we started the farm.  One reason was that with starting the farm from a blank piece of land, having more children - who were also growing to ages where homeschooling was more demanding, and then taking care of the farm, there just isn't that much time to be creative.  The other reason is that I did not feel comfortable buying things for hobbies, and there were just too many farm/family things needed to put on gift lists too ask for supplies for projects too. So this soap making has recently filled a little creative void for me lately, without me having to feel guilty about spending time or money on being creative.

It has also been a lot of fun to learn another skill, and I am enjoying educating a little on it as well. (A little since I am still educating myself!)  If you are interested in learning a bit more, you can check out the info I have included on my webpage, listed a couple times above, and maybe someday I'll find/take the time to do a post in photos of the whole process . . .




3 comments:

KIM JACKSON said...

Great creative alternative!! I am super curious about the spinach bars!! I am about to bust out my 'winning bar' soon! can't wait, it has taken a lot of self discipline to make myself use up what I had open first *sigh* ;)

Natalie said...

I love your poppy seed sop!

Marie_Angelique said...

I wonder if destiny is trying to tell me something because this is the 4th post I have read today about soap making, and this chick loves a good soap bar. They turned out beautifully!

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