Follow The Beginning Farmer's Wife on Facebook for additional personal peeks at building a family farm.

(Be sure to click both the Facebook "like" and "follow" buttons to not miss any posts.)

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 . . .

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Landscaping Advice Wanted :)

Things around here have been a bit crazy, to say the least, the last 4/5 years.  We are now into the start of our 5th year on the farm, and I am (hopefully) able to landscape the entrance to the house, and the rest of the homestead this year.  

Apart from our mudroom entrance and lawn, the entrance to our house has been a mixture of mud and weeds.  This week I tilled up the random weeds and had the kids help me bring some stones up from our ravine.  I have a general idea of what I want to do for the walkway to the house and walkway between the porch and mudroom door, but I can't figure out what materials to use. (I can think of many things to use out of our budget, just not within.)  So I am asking for a blogging brainstorm from any followers that are still out there!

You should be able to click on the photos to enlarge.

This first picture shows the walkway to the porch from the drive.  The stones I put there temporarily are to keep feet from being muddy.  They are too soft of stone to be permanent stones (one is already broken). The triangle area with the bell will be ornamental grasses with the bell on a post.  There is also another walkway behind the bell leading to the mudroom entrance.  The flower bed against the house will be for roses. (It is on the east of the house).

This picture shows the walkway to the mudroom.

This picture shows the full area.  The flower bed separating the drive from the lawn will be for some shorter bushes and spring bulbs. 
So for my question?  What would you do on with a low budget for these walkways and the borders for them.  I would love to do large flat stones but our farm's stones are too soft, and I'm pretty sure buying them would be majorly out of the budget.  I have thought of pea gravel.  Not my favorite choice because of winter shoveling, but it would work.  I have also thought of scattered flat stones with pea gravel in between. I think that wouldn't hit the budget either.  As for the borders, I was thinking stones again, but more rounded ones.  I could probably scrounge enough of those up here and there.  I do know I want it to look natural - cement is not high on the list at all.  What do you think??

Thanks so much!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...