Saturday, July 31, 2010

Family Fun

Apparently 4 gallons of blueberries is just not enough for our family. We headed back up to the blueberry farm today to pick more. This time, I remembered my memory card!The farm has 350 blueberry bushes and 7 different varieties of blueberries.
Wyatt was pretty impressed with the size of some of them!
Here's Mason, trying to be a good sport on my back while I pick. He was pretty good at picking, too bad it was the leaves off the bushes.

Last weekend we got to spend some time at the river soaking up some sun. Wyatt was still at camp so he didn't get to join us but we still had a great time!

Gavin carved out a little pool near the shore line for the kids to play in.

Throwing rocks in the water is always good for a couple of hours of fun with our kids!

What do you do for fun with your family in the summer?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Wool Dryer Balls- 1 year review

I purchased these wool dryer balls just over a year ago and have been using them ever since. They are fantastic! This is truly a product that is worth the money. I know that it's easy, sometimes, to get sucked into purchasing something when you "think" that it will be great. Only later to find out that it's not so great. You put it up into a cabinet and never use it again. Then it ends up in a garage sale where someone buys it for $0.50.
I use mine on a daily basis and they have held up fabulously. These dryer balls do not disappoint!So here's the break down:
1 set of wool dryer balls (6 total): $29.95
Dyer sheets for our family for a year: $35.56

Savings: $6 + no chemicals + shorter drying time = Priceless!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Soap Making 101: A couple recipes

O.k. I'll admit it, I'm already thinking about canning- which has completely removed my mind from soap making. Sorry about that. I've got my water bath canner going right now and I'm literally giddy about all the things I get to share in August and all the canning I get to do!
The giddiness will probably last through the month of August (good for all of you) and die off somewhere in September when I still have 6 bushells of green beans and 50lbs of apples to can.

But for now, it is still July, right? So let's get to a couple recipes for soap so that you can make your own. (If you haven't already looked up recipes and tried them after getting tired of waiting on me!)

First, I found this recipe on the internet and while I haven't yet tried it, I SO want to. My problem is that I have about 40 bars of soap in my laundry room waiting to be used and hubby would probably frown on me making yet another batch so soon. I will be doing this recipe though at my next batch!

Oatmeal and Honey Soap
32 oz. cold water (4 cups)
12 oz. lye
2 oz. beeswax (melt with fats)
4 pounds lard (64 oz.)
12 oz. olive oil
8 oz. coconut oil
4 oz. cocoa butter

Add at trace:
2 T. - 1/4 cup honey
1 - 2 T. bitter almond fragrance oil (you might prefer to use some cinnamon oil and/or ground cinnamon, or clove oil)
1 cup rolled oats

Just a note* this recipe said that it was for a 7lb loaf. So don't go trying to fit in your 5lb loaf!
**ALSO! Since I render my own lard, I don't need to buy it but if you don't have access to a bunch of pig fat then you can buy lard. I actually have seen it at both of our grocery stores Ray's and Safeway. It's in a green and white box (or bucket) with LARD written in red.**

Here's what I generally use for soap:
Homestead Soap

10 oz water
9 oz goats milk (or you can just use another liquid or water entirely)
8.1 oz lye
2.3 oz shea butter
14.8 oz coconut 76
16.1 oz palm oil
7.8 oz canola oil
6.6 oz apricot kernel or sweet almond oil
9.8 oz olive oil

Add at trace:
2 oz fragrance oil
Any additives such as an exfloiator

If you try either of these I'd love to hear about how it all came out!

New Fabric!

I listed some new fabrics in my shop this morning!

New American Jane charm packs. To be honest, I haven't loved the last few collections she has put out but this one is awesome!! I am so glad to see a return to the cute collections of fabric that she designs.

Kate Spain's 12 Days of Christmas is new too. I usually don't lean too far towards the funky Christmas fabrics but this one has a special heir about it. I've got the jelly rolls and the quilt kit for sale.

And totally off topic, I added a new poll over to the left regarding canning. If you get a chance, go over and vote. Please let me know, too, if you're having a problem with the poll- the last ones I have put up have seemed to have some bugs.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


We went to the local blueberry farm today and I actually remembered my camera! The only problem was that as soon as I got my camera out to snap the shots I realized that my memory card was missing!!! Doh!! That was disappointing. Oh well. We got the blueberries and that's what counts. We picked 4 gallons in just over an hour. Timber ate most of the ones she picked but both Wyatt and Layton picked 1 gal each. The whole time Layton kept saying things like, "We're working!" and "This is fun!" and "I'm only picking the blue ones mommy!" I was amazed at how well he did (as good as my 12 year old!) I was so proud of his dedication and hard work.

My friend Ida asked me, "What are you going to do with all of those blueberries?"

Hum, good question. That thought hadn't crossed my mind. I guess I could make a cobbler, or I could can a bunch of them, or freeze them. What do you do with blueberries? Any super good recipes you'd like to share? What about blueberry syrup? Now that sounds yummy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Pea Pickin' Homestead Update

The peas are ready to pick! Yay! Actually, I really dislike peas. Cooked peas anyway. Raw peas are a different story; I love 'em! So we mostly plant peas simply to pick off the vine and eat. They are fantastic in the garden because the kids can just head in whenever they need a snack and pick a handful.
As I tried to get a shot of the peas that we picked for dinner,

I kept having this problem...

Here are a couple updated garden shots.

We had the hardest time with the garden this year thanks to the rain and cold that stayed until June! My onions had May. I replanted my pole beans about 5 times. Really. I had a terrible battle with slugs this year and they won time after time. The slugs are finally gone and my poor pole beans are just starting to climb. I'll be lucky if I see beans before the cooler weather sets in. Maybe our growing season will get slightly extended since it started so late.

Mason has been enjoying the swing.

And Timber is such a good little helper with anything that needs done outside (and in!)

Wyatt's back from Vertical Life camp and he's been busy building a go-cart!

Gavin is busy with work and the pig pen (our pigs will be here in 2 weeks,) Layton has been keeping himself busy with his trains and the garden hose, and we've been hitting the river as much as possible!

Well, that's about it here. I love summer! How's yours going?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Soap Making 101: Molds

There are a lot of molds out there that you can use for making your soap. I personally use a 5lb wooden mold but they can be expensive. If you're planning on making soap for your family for the rest of your life (that sounds like a long time!) or working into soap making as an income, then I'd recommend buying one. If you're just going to "try" making it and maybe aren't as interested in having soap making as one of your homestead chores, then I'd pass.

Plastic molds work too. They are less expensive than wooden ones. I've even seen folks use a plastic storage container or square plastic bucket for molding their soap. Make sure that your plastic is bendable though. When your soap starts to harden you're going to want to be able to pop it out of the mold. (Think getting ice cubes out of the ice cube tray.)

Here are a couple links for some molds:
Link 1

Link 2

You can google more if you'd like.

If you'd like to be frugal then go through your attic or your storage and find something that will work. You can also build your very own wooden soap mold. A friend of mine has her husband build hers and they are great!

Here are a couple links for making your own:
Link 1

Link 2

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Soap Making 101: Exfoliators

A good bar of home made soap is only made better when exfoliators are added. In my opinion anyway!
Here is a fun list of some of the additives you can use to create an exfoliating bar of soap.
Cranberry Seeds
Apricot Seed Powder
Poppy Seeds
Dill Seeds
Crushed Grape Seeds
Raspberry, Blueberry or Strawberry Seeds
Any Dried Herb (mint, rosemary, etc.)
Dried Lavender

Are there any others you can think up? Really, you can add almost anything to your bar!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Soap Making 101: A Tutorial

Cold Process soap is easy and fun to make. I’d like to share my tutorial with you so that you’ll be able to make your very own.
Step 1: Gather all of your supplies. You’re going to need:
*A digital scale
*A mold and some parchment paper or oil to line it with
*Your safety equipment
*Your ingredients
*A stick blender
*Wooden or metal spoons and a spatula
*2 pots, one for mixing lye and one for mixing oils. I use a saucepan for the lye and a larger stock pot for the oils. It’s always recommended that whatever pots you use, you use exclusively for soap making. Checking your local thrift store can turn up some inexpensive pots to use in soap making.
*Vinegar, on hand in case you get any lye on yourself or the counter (vinegar will neutralize the lye.)
Step 2: Carefully measure out your liquid. For the soap in these pictures I used a mix of water and fresh goat’s milk. It’s best to measure your ingredients on an accurate digital scale. This will ensure that you are using just the right amounts of ingredients and that your soap turns out well. Once you measure your liquids then pour them into a large saucepan. Next, measure out your lye. Here is where your safety gear is going to come in. Make sure you have on your gloves when you measure.
You’re going to want to take your measured lye and your liquids outside at this point. Add your lye slowly to the liquid and stir with a spoon. I wear glasses so I don’t have goggles but you may want to put on your goggles and mask before starting to combine the lye and liquid (it’s up to you.) As you stir the lye into the water it’s going to start smoking or fuming. Don’t worry, that’s normal. The reaction is creating heat and that’s where the smoke is coming from. You do not want to inhale this smoke! Turn your head, reach as far as possible to stir, anything. Just don’t sit over your pot and inhale! Once your lye and liquids are mixed well, usually about 30 second to 1 minute stir time, go ahead and leave your saucepan outside to cool. Make sure you leave your pot up somewhere that kids or animals can’t get to it. Also keep in mind that your saucepan is hot so don’t place it on any surface like plastic…unless you like melted plastic.
Step 3: We’re going back indoors now to measure and melt down our oils and fats. Again, using your digital scale, measure out each of your oils. You’re going to start with your solid oils first. Coconut oil, palm oil, shea butter, lard, are some examples of solid oils. They are solid at room temperature. Place your measured solid oils into a stock pot and slowly heat on your stove top. You want to do this at a low heat setting. After your solids have melted down into liquids you can measure the liquid oils and add them into the pot. Stir well. Continue to heat, on low, until your oil combination is clear. Once your oils are melted, remove the pot from the stove and allow to cool on the counter.
Step 4: While your oils are cooling, you can take the time to line your mold. I use a wooden mold so I line mine with parchment paper. Wax paper works as well. If you’re using a plastic mold then you can just grease your mold with something like coconut oil. Just make sure you grease it well. When lining your mold you want to make sure that you cover all of the surfaces. This is not an easy task. As you make more and more soap though, it will become easier. You’ll get a method down and it won’t take too long.
Step 5: Once your lye has cooled down enough (a good rule of thumb is you should be able to comfortably hold your hand on the side of the saucepan) you can bring it back inside. Carefully pour your lye mixture into your stock pot of oils (which should have also cooled down by now.) Take your stick blender and start mixing the lye and oils together. Please make sure that you have your stick blender in the mixture before turning it on or off. Otherwise, you are going to get lye flying everywhere. As you mix your lye and oils the mixture will being to thicken. Most times it takes about 3-4 minutes of mixing to get the combination to trace. Tracing is where the mix becomes thick enough that you can see a trail or a wake in the pot. Once your mix starts to trace, you want to stop mixing. If you continue, the mixture can become so thick that you won’t be able to pour it into your mold. As soon as your mix starts to trace you have the option of adding in any fragrance or other additives. For the soap pictured here I added oats and essential oil when it began to trace. Then mix the additives in just enough to combine them into the soap mix.

Step 6: Now you’re ready to pour. Pour your soap carefully into your mold, scraping all the soap out of the pot with a spatula, and set your mold somewhere that it won’t be disturbed for 12-24 hours.
Step 7: After 24-36 hours of your soap setting up you can remove the mold and cut up your bars. A large kitchen knife works well but if you want to get decorative you can buy a special cutter that leaves a crinkle like look on your soap. Set your bars somewhere out of the way and space your bars out so that air can circulate around them.
Step 8: Wait. 4-6 weeks. The longer you wait the harder your bar will become. The harder your bar, the longer it will last in the shower or bath. I would recommend waiting at least the 4 weeks though to ensure that the sponification has done it’s job and all of the lye is safely removed from your soap.

Step 9: Get into the shower and enjoy!
I hope this tutorial is inspiring as well as helpful. Feel free to leave any questions in the comment section, I will reply to them there. If you want to discuss it more in depth, feel free to email me
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