Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Skinny on Making Soap and Churning Butter

I've had several people contact me about how to make soap and about the butter churner I bought off of EBay. I've been answering each individually, but this morning there were two seperate emails with the same question, so I thought it might be a good idea to give some info here on those questions.

First - the butter churner. When I started looking for a butter churner, I had three things in mind: 1) I wanted a hand crank churner 2) I wanted a glass churner and 3) I wanted a Dazey Churner. I really had no particular reasons for this, other than I wanted glass so I could see what is happening when I churn,I wanted a Dazey because that's really the only old, glass churner I've really ever heard about, and I wanted a hand crank because you know, being all into getting self sufficient and everything, I didn't want it to depend on electricity. I paid $50 for it. Here's a picture:

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She's a beauty and cranks out some really awesome butter. I highly recommend her. Only she's not for sale. But I highly recommend one of her siblings.

As for soap making, I never bought a book on the subject. I never even thought about making soap until I started reading about other people having fun making soap. I can't stand when people have fun without me, so I decided I needed to get in on it. I started looking all over the internet and finding out about making soap. Two excellent resources are the Soap Making forum on HomesteadingToday and Mullers Lane Farm. And, of course, I have a page up on the Back to Basic Living website with step by step instructions and a basic soap recipe for beginners.

I found the most difficult part of soap making was finding the lye needed. After ordering from several places, I found Ace Hardware had the best deal - I order it by the case.

If you have other questions about butter churning or soap making, please don't hesitate to ask. I'm no expert, but I can either answer your question, or point you to someone who can.

Speaking of soap, here are a couple of pictures of my Sinfully Decadant Chocolate soap with swirls:

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Ah - just gorgeous! This next picture is the same batch, but I ran out of the chocoate swirl. I think it came out really pretty, but I wanted more chocolate swirl:

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OK - time to go cook up a couple of nice steaks for supper. Bernie bought Live Free or Die Hard and we're going to watch it tonight while we eat. It's not Movie Saturday or anything, but we like to be spontaneous and adventurous on occasion. This is about as spontaneous and adventurous as it gets around here. Woo hoo!

Live Free,

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Ramblings

Hope you each had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We sure did. Tex and Charlotte spent the day with us and we ate a huge meal. Afterwards the guys went out and shot their guns a while and Charlotte joined them to test out her new 9MM. I stayed in the house with my buddy Bobo, as he is terrified of loud noises. Bobo ate a fair amount too, and we spent a little time trying to figure out whose belly was bigger, his or mine. In the end, he won - but I assured him it looks good on him. He looked a little hurt, but I gave him another piece of turkey and he seemed to get over it pretty quick. I would LOVE to have a dog like Bobo. He's really smart, well mannered, and fun to be around - and most of all he seems to really like me.

I took a couple of days off work for Thanksgiving, so I have a gloriously long weekend. It's been wonderful. Bernie has been on a perpetual long weekend since he quit his job, but he works so hard around here I'm afraid he doesn't feel like he's on vacation. He does take a break from most of his outside work and spend time with me when I take vacation though. He's been working on getting all his guns cleaned while I putter around the house. Today I made a really nice batch of Sinfully Decadent Chocolate soap. Wow, it smells wonderful - almost as good as the home made chocolate cake I made for Thanksgiving. I may have to put a warning sign on it that it's not edible. I tried my hand at swirling it again, so we'll see how it turns out.

It's Friday night and we all know that means it's Pizza-Beer-and-a-Movie-Night here on the homestead. Yee Haw! Even the cats are excited - and they hate pizza, beer, and our taste in movies.

Bee Free,

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mmmmmmmmmm.... Butter........

We finally had some time to sit down and do some good ol' butter churning. We churned and churned, and then stopped and peaked. It looked the same. So we churned and churned some more, and then stopped and peaked. No visible changes. Hmmmm. We were starting to think we were churn challenged, when all of a sudden, the churner seized up. We had butter! Beautiful, yellow, deliciously delicious butter! Feast your eyes on this photo. Try not to drool all over your keyboard.

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The next time we make it, I'll be sure to get pictures of the whole process and put them up on the website. Churning butter by hand is really not difficult. The whole process took us about 30 minutes. The butter that we ended up with was well worth it. The flavor is so much more vibrant than what we buy in the stores.

Many people have questioned why we are choosing to do things the old timey hard way on our homestead. I can not argue that it is more convenient and many times less expensive to buy most items at a store in town. But what I will tell you is that when you make it yourself you know what you are getting - whether it's food, soap, or anything else. And what you gain in convenience, you lose in quality in most cases. Not to mention the feeling of being self reliant.

Here's another one of my latest creations. It was born out of a flub up. I made a batch of cinnamon soap that I was not happy with. So I grated it up, and threw it in a nice batch of cinnabun fragranced CP soap I made. Look - it's a confetti soap!

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And it smells wonderful!

Little by little, we are getting back to the basics of living. And it feels great. Life is so less complicated when you just focus on living day to day and enjoying each minute you have. We are probably busier now than we've ever been. And we are loving every second of it.

Life is tough. But living doesn't have to be.

Bee Free,

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Homesteading is Fun - but not Always

Well, we went to check on our bee hives yesterday and were really devastated to learn we have now lost all of them. We're very sad, but determined to learn from it all and start again next year. You can read about it on The Bee Buzz.

As depressing as it was to learn we lost all our hives, one thing is certain on a homestead - life must go on. We have so much to do we really do not have time to focus on failures. We have to move ahead and continue to establish ourselves here.

Bernie started working on the fence for the cleared area where the house is. I am SO happy. As I mentioned in my previous post, a fence means we can have a garden and get goats and chickens - along with a couple of dogs to discourage wild life from getting too close to any of it. He amazed me with what all he's accomplished in the past couple of days. The posts for the upper part of the yard are all in place. He still needs to put in corner posts, but I am quite pleased that it's coming right along! Our ground is mostly rock, so I expected it would take him much longer. But Bernie is nothing if not tenacious about things like this. We'll have a fence before you know it!

Even after working on the fence all day, Bernie was more than willing to help me put together a little composter. When we lived in town, he built me a really nice composter out of boards and chicken wire. That thing was great! When we moved to the homestead he and Tex promised to make me a turnable composter out of a 55 gallon drum, and I know that one day they will. But with so many things to do around here, I figured my turnable composter is pretty low on the list, so I wanted to start a simple one to make due until they have time to build me another. I put a page up on the Back to Basic Living website, with step by step instructions on how we built it. Check it out!

I also started a batch of sour dough starter. There's nothing like home made sour dough. Making a starter is easy and requires little more than a water or milk and some flour. I've done this before, but it's been a while. I was inspired by TxCloverAngel on Homesteading Today. If you're interested, check out her post. She started hers with milk, and I started mine with water. I'll be interesting to see how it all turns out.

And if you've been wondering about that last batch of grape Prison Wine I started, well, it's going along GREAT! It's been bubbling and fermenting for over two weeks. I should be able to bottle it in another couple of weeks. Prison Wine really rocks! But you probably won't remember that after a glass or two......

Bee Free,

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Things are Churning on the Homestead

I bought an old antique butter churner on EBay today. The chic I bought it from swears she's been using it and it's in good condition. She just wrote me and thanked me for my prompt payment and will be shipping it tomorrow. Soon I'll be a butter churning fool. We'll be eating fat laded, artery clogging, calorie packing, eye-rolling, pure unadulterated butter. Yum. I can't wait.

We went to the polls tonight and cast our votes. I was quite pleased to learn that our county offers either electronic or paper ballots. I'm all about paper ballots. I'm a computer programmer by profession, and no one knows better than I that a program is only as good as the programmer - and a lot of that depends on the kind of day the programmer is having. I don't always have a good programming day. Not to mention the vulnerability to computer hacking. Don't get me wrong - I love what computers offer us. But give me good ol ' pen and paper to cast my vote. Of course I had to feed my paper into a machine and a stinking computer read the vote, but at least I wrote my vote on paper,darnit. I stand proud. When we voted at 2:30 this afternoon over 500 people had written their votes on paper ballots. That's pretty darn impressive considering I don't think there are many more than 500 of us that are registered to vote at that fire hall.

We're getting ready to fence in our yard, get a couple of yard dogs, and start building the raised beds for our garden next spring. Pretty exciting stuff for me. A fence means more than just a garden - it also means I'll get my chickens and goats soon. And that means more food for us. It will bring us just a little closer to self sufficiency - and if you've read the news lately you can certainly appreciate our desire to be self sufficient. With US currency in true jeopardy, gas prices reaching astronomical prices, all manner of food being constantly recalled for contamination, well..... you get the idea.

So plant your garden and buy your butter churner today! Even if the world as we know it doesn't end tomorrow, you don't want to miss the fun and rewards of taking care of yourself.

Bee Free,