Saturday, 30 October 2010

Making soap - Adding honey

I've made another batch of soap today and I've made 2 alterations. The first is to the recipe itself. I've added honey to it. I added it at a light trace and it's turned the mix bright orange. This should cure out to a beige colour I believe. The second was to the method. We have been mixing the soap with a handheld electric whisk (not bad) and a big kitchenette type (not great) and it has taken hours for the stuff to reach trace. So we finally splashed out and bought a stick blender. My god it hit trace like a rocket!!!

I'll be back with pics of the bright honey soap soon.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Lady Grey: my nemesis?

Yeah so I'm being melodramatic. But my evening of peaceful and fulfilling sewing has not gone well. First the thread I'm using threw my tension off which meant I had to learn how to adjust my needle tension. So bad that it went but now I've learnt something new. Bonus.

Then I got halfway through my first actual buttonhole on this coat and suddenly had the paralysing though that it actually didn't want one where I'd put it. S'ok, it's double breasted so does need one there and I can even add an internal button if it needs one. So definitely a panic but I learnt what a double breasted jacket is.

I wanted to be at least half way through sewing the shell. Instead I've got half a buttonhole. Ah well. It's not the end of the world. However you wouldn't have believed I could utter that sentence if you'd seen the full on tantrum I had earlier. Phew, toddlers would have cringed!

So I leave you with a pic of my practice buttonhole. Not bad really.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Were there kittens?

Unfortunately there were no kittens. This is some yarn I found in a big bag of stuff Spadger's Nana gave me. There are several lumps of what were once skeins of yarn. Some in this pink and some peach. Now I'm not a fan of either colour but it's good sock or lace yarn. So I'm unknotting. Now I should let you into a little secret here. I adore unpicking knots. Even the ones you get in necklace chains where you have to get a pin to manage it. Love them love them love them. I find it very therapeutic as you cannot be angry or wound up or upset in any way to successfully unpick a knot. You have to be calm. So the activity is calming. It centres me quite effectively. So I've been unravelling this mess onto a stick.

Then once I've gotten to the other end (I have no idea how long that will be as I don't know how many skeins there were and they're all in one lump now) I make a nice neat skein by wrapping the yarn around 2 pegs on my peg loom, tying it up and then folding it into a skein.

Pretty, no?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Making coloured soap

Today I made coloured soap. Green to be exact. Coloured with nettles.

Please note image has been altered to try and reproduce the right green. Damn the indoor photos!

For what feels like months I have had a jar of oil with nettle powder I made myself sat in a cupboard. Occasionally we shook the jar to stir it up. This was so the nettles would infuse the oil with lovely green colour. It took longer than it should have because we stupidly took the jar out the the shade and put it in the sun which faded the colour so we had to infuse it for longer! But finally we decided it looked green enough and got on with the mad science.

I love making soap but get a little flappy as I'm sorting out all my kit. It is after all a very dangerous process if you're not careful. So once I'm all suited up (don't I look great!) we start the process. You measure your oil/fat into a pan. In this recipe I have around 15.5 ounces of olive oil. Then you measure your water (6 ounces) and put that in a heatproof container.

Next is the lye./caustic soda. This is the dangerous chemical. If you've seen fight club then you know what I'm talking about.

The lye is added to the water. Never the other way round. I try and sprinkle it gently and stir it as quickly as I can as it tends to clump in the bottom and goes quite hard. It will be really cloudy and will release some nasty fumes. You want to be in a well ventilated space and not leaning directly over the bowl. Even doing that I end up with a bit of a cough and a heavy feeling in my chest for a few hours after. Heck I felt like that when we did it outside! Really not a nice chemical. Once all the lye has dissolved the water will start to clear and you can stop stirring.

You now leave it to cool to 110F. This is when you should start heating your oil. Now I always make the same mistake and forget how quickly oil heats up and so end up desperately trying to cool it back down. You need them the same temp (ish) as you will be adding the lye water to the oil. What happens when you add water to oil when the oil is much hotter than the water? Much spitting and fizzing and general stuff you don't want! Trust me I did this once and it scared the bejesus out of me.

Once you've added them together you want to blend them. A stick blender would be quickest as those babies spin at a helacious rate. We have a normal blender. This is our first time using the beast which is a big heavy blender given to us by Spadger's Gran. Before we were using a handheld electric whisk and man our arms used to ache. The beast is no quicker but at least you don't have to hold anything. You whisk it until it reaches trace. Be warned this can take an eon!

Trace is when a drizzle of mixture sits on the top for a moment before sinking in. We have successfully made soap when we have stopped at the barest trace. You don't want it too thick though. Decant your traced soap into a mold or several. We use a silicone loaf tin as I found it useless for cooking and you don't have to grease it. If you are using a rigid container grease it lightly with a little oil first or it will be really hard to remove. Wrap your soap in a nice thick towel and leave over night. Once it is no longer squishy to the touch you can remove it from the mold and slice (if needed). All that is left now is the curing process. Lay your soaps out on a wire rack. This is very important as you want good air flow all round them. Leave them to cure for 4-6 weeks. We leave it 6 usually. turn them occasionally to ensure even curing. This process removes the last of the lye from the process. Most is used up by the saponification process which is where your mixture turns into soap. You could in theory use the soap straight away but only as a household soap as it would still be caustic. (Please do not do this without seeking greater advice than mine. I am merely a hobby soap maker.) Now you may enjoy your gorgeous soap. Pure olive oil soap is great but doesn't foam up all that well. Great as a soap but not a shampoo. Who mentioned shampoo I hear you cry. Well I use my home made soap as a shampoo as well. It cleans well and is much less damaging to my hair. For my personal soap I use 50% olive oil and 50% coconut. It doesn't take as long to reach trace as pure olive and it bubbles up like you wouldn't believe!

It's much greener than the picture would have you believe.

So there you have it. A quick lesson in soap. I'll be back with more pics as I'm doing some experimental batches over the next few weeks as Christmas gifts.

For more information please visit the below links.
soap calculator
Teach Soap
Cranberrylane - pretty soaps

I made a calendar

Last (gardening) year I kept a record of the high and low temp for each day and the rainfall. I did this on an old training planner form work. I've now got to input that into excel for it to be any use which I have realised is going to be a ball ache. So this year we will be imputing it directly into a spreadsheet. However I wanted a calendar to keep track of when to plant and harvest things and also to help me organise my weeks so we get everything done! So I made one.

As you all know I love taking pictures so it makes sense that I would make my own calendar. It took me a while to find a company that was a good price and easy to use. In the end I went with Photobox and would definitely recommend them.

Here are the pics I used. This is a gardening year one still so it runs from October to September.














Saturday, 9 October 2010

Cold Antler Farm

Hey guys

I've been following this blog for a while now. I love her style of writing and it's great to see somone doing what we want to do. I'm entering this giveaway as I've just been on a spinning course myself and would love to learn some more with a it of the worlds grumpiest sheep.

Check her out!

A day in the life of - warning: we lost another chicken

Hey folks. Firstly I would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who commented on my ranty post about the chickens. You all rock. Jackie: I haven't read that article yet but I will this evening hopefully. Kristen: kung fu chicken? Love it!

So I thought I would do another day in the life of, it's been a while. Today is not really an ordinary day but it's quite a good one to illustrate my life I think.

Got up in anticipation of sorting out the last rooster. Out of the 4 original chickens we have been unlucky enough to get 3 roosters. 2 have already met their maker and been various meals. Today was the Turn of Boniface. Seems the little bugger knew what was coming though. Trying to get hold if him was impossible. Partly due to the fact that he was so much bigger than the others I just couldn't keep hold of both his wings. So Spadger had to come get him. Then he decided to take forever to die. Now I was holding him by the legs just like I did with Gregory but he took so long to give up that my arms are still shaking now. Exhausted muscles! Then it took me over an hour to pluck him. Those feathers were just not letting go. Plus he was really loose skinned on the chest and I tore it a couple of times. I felt really bad about that til Spadger said he'd seen his Grandad do that and he did it for a living.

Finally done I came down for breakfast. 3 slices of cheese on toast later (I was hungry!) and 1 cup of coffee I felt much better. My arms are still shaking though. Now we are just waiting for my Momma and Spagersdottier to get here and then we will go to the farm. We decided that while we are ok for her to see the dead chicken she really didn't need to be here while it was all happening. Baby steps.

The day at the farm was spent in the big poly tunnel harvesting the last of the tomatoes and cleaning up. We spent from about 11:30 to 4 in there and managed to clear out all the green matter, old plants and weeds, and clean and roll up on of the weed mats. It was good satisfying work and we managed to fill 3 of the large crates with toms. Most were green but that just says chutney to me. Since there were so many J~ gave us some extra on top of the share. Definitely chutney making this week! Once we got home a cuppa was in order and then on with the evening's tasks. Bread making for me as we are out and I also promised my brother some for tomorrow.

Spadger has just finished gutting and cleaning the chicken and it will be shower time for us soon. I get the feeling it will be straight to bed after that. It's been a long day and tomorrow isn't going to be any better. So I'll sign off for now friends. See you soon!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

New Chickens

In a terrible turn of bad luck it seems out of the four chickens we originally bought we got 3 roosters. Yeah that's right, two of the remaining 3 were roos.

You caught the past tense huh? This mornning was an early one for us here. Gregory met his maker. It feels odd to be so blase about it but it's just part of life I guess. I took a bit more of an active role in it this time and held Gregory while Spadger did the deed. I'm not squeamish but I expected to get a little upset by it all and was quite surprised that I didn't. I'm not sure if it was that I never really took to Gregory or just that I feel quite pragmatic about where my food comes from. Again I was in charge of plucking and it went much easier this time. Instead of hanging him I just laid him on my lap on a couple of towels. Being able to change the angles I was plucking at made it so much easier. I managed to get away with only one tiny bit of bruising on a wing.

Boniface is still with us for the moment. We're not up to processing two birds in one day so he will be dealt wih next weekend. That leaves only Pius from the original batch. How unlucky are we?

So what's with the title I hear you all cry. Well we decided to go and get replacement chickens today. The lady we buy them off had some that were not ready to lay yet but which were much older than the age we bought the first lot at. In fact they are the age we first started having our suspicions about Cornelius. They are fairly certain to be hens this time. Fingers crossed. I have no problem with the slaughter and preparation of my own chickens but I'd rather not have to do it too often. I will introduce them properly later on in the week with pics.

It's been a touchy subect of late for me. When I told all my colleagues that we had a rooster and were going to have to get rid of him this news was met with outrage. There was much "I don't know how you can", "I couldn't" and my personal favourite "you're cruel". For their information the dictionary definition of cruel is:
adjective, -er, -est.
willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others.
enjoying the pain or distress of others: the cruel spectators of the gladiatorial contests.
causing or marked by great pain or distress: a cruel remark; a cruel affliction.
rigid; stern; strict; unrelentingly severe.

Now I'll admit that the roosters may have been distressed. They may even have been in pain. But I get the feeling it is the second meaning that people are trying to apply to me. At no point during the processing of either bird have I enjoyed any possible pain or distress. We have tried to make it as quick and painless as possible. Being called cruel by people who eat meat really offends me. Were the statement made by a vegetarian it would be a totally different matter as their beliefs are different. Heck, I've been vegetarian so I get it. My beliefs just changed. But for someone who eats meat to say it really does anger me. They wouldn't call a farmer, butcher or supermarket cashier cruel but they are all closer to the death of their meal than they are. It seems to be the fact that I am so close up the chain that bothers people, the fact that I have know my food while it was alive. That I have seen it scratching around, fed it from my hand and seen it's personality for myself.

Suffice to say it came to a bit of a head this week and almost decended into a full blown argument. I'd just had enough. Ah well.

Friday, 1 October 2010

End of a long month

Thank all that is holy that it is October. September was not my favourite month of this year. I don't really know what it was about the month that made it so hard. There was a lot on at work. There was a lot to do at the homestead. There was a lot going on in my family.

There was a lot. Yeah that will do to sum it up. At times it felt very overwhelming. Almost tot he point that I stopped enjoying a lot of the things I do. I'll be honest, everything felt like an effort, a task. Nothing really felt fun. This is a bit of a travesty really as I do love my life.

I've learnt a lot though. I really do need to be more organised. I need to know roughly what is going to need doing over a week, any times I know I'm going to be going away and plan around these things. Hopefully by doing this I'll be able to fit in the things I like doing without feeling guilty because I want to spend time for myself. Now I'm one of those people who likes lists anyway so this shouldn't be hard to do. I'm making myself a calendar at the mo (I'll share the pics when I've sorted them) and I'm going to use this religiously to plan my life. A bit anal I know but I think it's going to be necessary. I don't need another month where I spend most of it wanting to cry!