Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Soap Recipes

My Favorite Soap Recipes from - http://millersoap.com/soapallveg.html
"Pound" Soap (Kathy Miller)
16 oz. canola oil
16 oz. coconut oil
16 oz. palm oil
16 oz. palm kernel oil
20 oz. soybean or olive oil
24-28 oz. cold water (lower for essential oils, higher for troublesome fragrance oils)
12 oz. lye crystals

Temperature around 110 degrees.
Sudsy All-Vegetable Soap with Palm Kernel (Kathy Miller)
20 oz. coconut oil
16 oz. palm oil
16 oz. canola oil
8 oz. palm kernel oil
24 oz. olive oil
24-28 oz. cold water (lower for essential oils, higher for troublesome fragrance oils)
12 oz. lye crystals

Temperature around 110 degrees.

"Almond Joy" / Chocolate Almond Swirl (Kathy Miller)
16 oz. palm oil
14 oz. coconut oil
52 oz. olive oil
6 ounces cocoa butter
32 oz. cold water (4 cups)
12 oz. lye crystals

Add at trace:
1 ounce Bitter Almond fragrance oil
2-3 T. cocoa powder blended into about 1/4 of the soap at trace (after pouring 3/4 of it into mold)
Temperature: 95-100 degrees

The Almond Joy is really yummy smelling soap. I tried to sell this soap but it wasn’t too popular so I used it all at home and it is fantastic! I just don't understand why it wasn't popular. If you look on Kathy’s site, listed at the top, you will see how great this looks swirled. And if you try it, you won't be disappointed!
I always superfat my soap 5% - 10% so I always check with a Lye Calculator to gauge how much lye I will need. I like to mix my lye solution and set it to cool in a safe place (away from the snooping noses of our cats). Then I heat the oils. Just as Kathy suggests I measure and melt the oils -minus the olive oil, then I add the olive oil and pull the pan off the stove. This helps to cool it down to 110 degrees quicker. If you melt them all together, it takes much longer for the oil mix to cool to 110 degrees. I’ve been adding approximately 3 ounces of fragrance oil or 4 ounces of essential oils to the first two recipes as well as a natural colorant such as paprika, when I reach trace. That seems to work for me. Both of these recipes make about 7 pounds of soap. With my block molds, I get 22,  approximately four  ounce bars.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Becoming More Self Sufficient

                Much like a squirrel getting ready for winter, we are doing necessary things to prepare for a possible reduced income this winter. You know, It really sucks to think that we may very soon have only one income and, it really sucks to discover that the job market really is ‘’that bad’’.  I suppose when life throws curve balls, you can either knocked down or catch the ball and play the game. Well, game on! So now, instead of just waiting for the “ax to fall” we are being proactive and trimming the fat from our monthly expenses. Whew, I could not believe just how much fat we needed to trim. To begin, we cancelled the XM radio in my car, cancelled our landline telephone, continued with using our 10 cents per minute Trac Phones and buying only nutritious foods at the grocery store. We are also keeping the thermostat turned down to about 69 degrees, burning as much wood as we can for heat and not using lights unless necessary. Ya know, that last one is the toughest thing to remember, LOL! I looked into using those nice Aladdin kerosene lamps for light, you know the ones like the Amish use, but oh my gosh, they are 2-3 hundred bucks apiece so that idea was a flop. Thankfully, we’ve been using florescent bulbs in the house for years so our wattage has already been reduced in that area.
                I got to thinking about our meals and figured we could also save by preparing weekly or biweekly dinner menus instead of keeping a well-stocked pantry to prepare meals for whatever suites us on any given day. So now, we have been working very hard to stick to a grocery list related to those recipes. At the store, this also includes staying away from brand name items and grabbing the sale fliers on the way in. That is proving valuable in helping us to eliminate a lot of wasteful spending. In addition, I plan to begin baking bread and snack items at home, which will alleviate some of our food cost as well. Changing some of the things we use every day will also assist us in keeping our expenses down. Like I mentioned earlier we have already been using fluorescent bulbs but we also had energy star rated windows installed 2 years ago, only purchase Energy Star rated appliances and I at least, am driving a gas efficient car. Who knew that always thinking “green” could benefit us down the road as it is now!
                I have not forgotten about our furred and feathered charges. We keep the cats warm in the garage at night during these Missouri winters by using an Infrared heater and we use infrared bulbs in the chicken coop and duck/goose house as well. Other things that really add up include making our own soap, my facial cleanser, facial moisturizer, toothpaste, saline nasal spray and lip balm. These things are very easy to make and cost pennies compared to buying them at the store. I believe the more self-sufficient we become the easier it will be to survive on one income if or when that need arises. I even boil water for tea on the wood stove!  
                I was recently advised “hope for the best and plan for the worst”.  This has proven to be an immense day-to-day challenge. Since this post has developed into what we’ve been doing to prepare for the worst, I’ll share some of my recipes in a post in the next couple of weeks, for the things I make myself. In case anyone else might want to become more self-sufficient as well. Of course, if You have any recommendations, PLEASE leave a comment below. I’m pretty sure I haven’t thought of everything, LOL!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Zen of Soapmaking

There are so many reasons that I enjoy making my own soap. First of which is that I can control the ingredients that go in my soap. Chemicals that are common in store bought soap include heavy perfumes, BHT (a preservative) and Pentasodium pentetate (a chelating agent). These are ingredients that I find unnecessary and are not in the soap I produce. Heavy perfumes can be very irritating to skin so I use either essential oils or high quality perfume oils and in small amounts as to NOT cause irritation to my sensitive skin. I have used vitamin E as a preservative and additional emollient however; I often forget to add it. In an unintentional experiment, having forgotten the bars were in the cabinet, I stored several bars of my soap in my garage for 3 years, exposing them to heat in the summer and cold in the winter. I was so pleased to find that none of the bars turned rancid. The scent was faded but the quality was excellent. I also do not need to add a chelating agent as I use distilled water when I mix my lye solution. Chelating agents bind with metal ions in hard water and supposedly make soap foam better.
The soap formula I use makes a hard bar that is rich, moisturizing and offers a luxurious lather. It is also superfatted, which means the formula has excess fatty acids that do not match up with the sodium hydroxide (lye) molecules after saponification occurs. The excess fat remains in the soap and becomes a soothing moisturizer for the skin. Adding natural colors such as beetroot powder, paprika or spirulina and adding exfoliants such as oatmeal, cornmeal and poppy seeds are fun and add a Spa treatment feel to a bath or shower.  I often do not use colorants as I have found that the essential oils or perfume oils tint soap a soft yellow or soft earthy tan and those tints look good on soap.  
When people ask me about my soap, one of the first things they seem to stumble over is the fact that I use Lye. Once they understand the process, they are no longer apprehensive. The soap making method in chemical terms is quite complex however, simply put, the Lye molecules react with fat and oil molecules in a process called saponification to produce soap and a byproduct; glycerin. We all know that glycerin is good for skin. Soap making has become very popular and with technology, it is now easier to understand and learn.   
I use either a Hot Process or a Cold Process for my soap making, but I tend to prefer the Cold Process because I feel more in control of the “process”. Hot Process progresses fast whereas Cold Process allows me to get into the Zen of the process and enjoy it. For me the Zen part is the stirring. I use a stick blender with a whisk attachment to slow the process and allow for a more complete mixing of the fats oils and the lye. While stirring I infuse Reiki healing symbols into the mix and this is where the Zen occurs. For me, making soap is quite a relaxing experience. 
 Notice the soft buttery yellow of this soap tinted with only the perfume oil added for a light scent.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Should I Buy Mini Donkeys From A Sale Barn?

I went to the sale barn in Montgomery City Missouri yesterday with a friend that was selling some of her surplus chickens and ducks. I went with the hopes of finding some peafowl but none were brought in. I am also looking into mini donkeys but have been repelled by the $400 price tag I have found during my searches on the internet. Before the sale we went into the barn and viewed the livestock in the pens. We saw lots of cattle, a few gorgeous horses and several mini donkeys. Yay! this gave me an opportunity to get a good look as it's been a while since I've seen a mini donkey. I talked to one of the workers and he told me I could probably get one or more real cheap. So I looked as best as I could from my disadvantaged place outside the pen. The trio I liked were a pair and their colt. They looked real nice but I am very worried about buying from a sale barn. I didn't check their teeth or see them move since I was not going to be buying anything on that day. But this really got me to thinking.

We went back outside since the birds were being sold in the parking lot due to it being such a nice day. So, before we left we went back into the barn. Well, the trio I was looking at was now just the adult pair and they no longer wanted to interact with me or anyone else for that matter. Can't blame them, their colt was taken from them and they were no doubt, pissed! We asked the guy we talked to earlier how much these donkeys had gone for the night before and he told us between 15 and 50 dollars each. WOW! I need to do more research before the next sale because I intend to be there. I am absolutely in favor of rescuing a pair or a few mini donkeys from a sale barn, but I'm feeling a bit concerned about buying a pig at a poke, so to speak. So here's my question. If the owner isn't available, what exactly do I need to check for when buying pet mini donkeys at a sale barn? I sure hope someone will leave a comment and help me with this question as mini donkeys and sale barns are not my area of expertise.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Honey, Lemon, Ginger Tea

Years ago when I first became a student of Herb Mentor, the owner John Gallager gave a recipe for his Special Tea. Of course this tea can be used anytime, but it is an extra special treat when drank at times when your body needs the nourishing components of honey, lemon and ginger, such as when cold or the flu rears its ugly head. Now, it’s pretty common knowledge that lemons have loads of vitamin C, but did you know that the flavonoids in lemons also have anti oxidant and antibiotic properties? They can also stop the cell division in some types of cancer cells. Good stuff! Lemons are also a blood cleanser and they help the body expel toxins. Lemons are also a rich source of vitamins B and C, they have antifungal, antacid and antiseptic properties, and they assist in the process of digestion.
Not to be outdone, honey also has antibiotic and anti fungal properties if it is in its raw and unpasteurized form. And having trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, honey is also nutritious.
Ginger is used widely for its therapeutic properties when dealing with colds and flu symptoms. Ginger has antiseptic properties, eases nausea and coughing and promotes sweating.  Ginger is very warming and good for chills and poor circulation.
So, enough talk about how good it is; here is the recipe for this delicious tea.
Add 2 tablespoons of grated ginger, 3 tablespoons of honey, 4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice into a 1 quart thermos. Then add 1 quart of boiling water and let steep for about 20 minutes. Then strain the tea into your mug, sit on the couch with a good book and drink.
This recipe can be altered if the lemon or ginger is too strong for you. And, of course if it isn’t sweet enough, add more honey. I add about 1 teaspoon astragalus root slices to my tea mixture, as it is great nourishment for the immune system and it doesn’t alter the yummy flavor. You can also add boneset for fever reduction or perhaps echinacea to stimulate your immune system.  Drink, enjoy and be well !

The Raw Brownie


2 cups whole walnuts
2 ½ cups Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup raw cacao
1 cup raw unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
¼ tsp. Sea salt


1. Place walnuts in food processor and blend on high until the nuts are finely ground.
2. Add the cacao and salt. Pulse to combine.
3. Add the dates one at a time through the feed tube of the food processor while it is running. What you should end up with is a mix that appears rather like cake crumbs, but that when pressed, will easily stick together (if the mixture does not hold together well, add more dates).
4. In a large bowl (or the pan you plan on putting the brownies in), combine the walnut-cacao mix with the chopped almonds. Press into a lined cake pan or mold. Place in freezer of fridge until ready to serve (it is also easier to cut these when they are cold). Store in an airtight container.

These are incredibly delicious and o' so easy to make. And believe it, these are actually good for you! When I found this recipe on Sarah Britton's site and since they sounded so good, I made them immediately. I think they took all of 5 minutes to whip up and maybe 10 minutes to make into the balls (see picture). It would probably take less time to press this mixture into a casserole dish to make traditional looking brownies, but I wanted to give them my own twist and so I made them into balls. I took them to work and since they were in small bite size portions, they were very easy to pass out to my coworkers. Unsurprisingly, they went pretty fast!
I like knowing that when I whip these up I am going to eat a treat that is much healthier than eating store bought, highly refined, processed and possibly contaminated brownies or candies from the store. Also, since they are fresh and raw, their nutrition hasn't been lost in lengthy storage or over processing. Both walnuts and Almonds are very nutritious, both containing loads of B complex vitamins. Those are great for giving you energy, nourishing your nervous system as well as your skin, nails and hair. If you have an issue with sluggish digestion, walnuts and almonds can provide you the necessary b- complex vitamins so your body can make the required acids in your stomach needed for digestion of fats, protein and carbohydrates. In addition, both of these nuts contain omega 3 fatty acids that if eaten regularly can actually reduce your risk of developing some types of cancer. Cool huh? Omega 3 fatty acids also help to lower the bad LDL cholesterol and raise the good HDL cholesterol in your blood.
 So, what about cacao? Simply stated, cacao is unprocessed cocoa. The processed cacao becomes cocoa which is used in the production of chocolate. Unlike the heavily processed chocolate bar, raw cacao contains loads more flavonoids, a chemical found in plants that have anti viral, anti-inflammatory and anti allergic properties.  By the way, cacao tastes like a richer version of cocoa. More good news is that cacao also contains a rich supply of the minerals calcium, zinc, copper and potassium as well as vitamins A, C and E. Another interesting fact is that cacao stimulates the body’s own antidepressant chemicals, serotonin and endorphins and it contains two chemicals - phenylethylalamine and anandamide that enhance mood and help you focus. Processed chocolate may not have the same quantities of these chemicals as raw cacao, but you still get some, and that explains why you feel so good after you eat chocolate, in any form.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Guineas a Go Go

Let us in!

Were's the door?

9-22-11; We kicked the 4 oldest Guinea's out of the aviary due to their aggressive and competitive personalities. That was no easy feat as they really did not want to go. We did this because they have been just plain mean and have been harassing the smaller chickens and guineas to the point of them staying in the chicken coop all day and not coming out to feed or drink. These guys reacted to the boot out with constant chatter in the way only a guinea can do. And it was loud! But we did our best to ignore it and kept on with our chores. We provided them with food and water close to the flight run and they ate off and on all day. Not to much bug activity this late in the season. They ventured from the immediate area for very short periods visiting the ducks and geese in the duck yard and they even flew up to the roof of the barn. By the way - nails on a metal roof is almost as bad as nails on a chalkboard, LOL!

When evening fell, these silly birds didn't roost in any of the available trees in that immediate area so for their protection, we closed the other birds into the aviary and let the adult guineas into the flight run. That was easy as they really wanted back in.
Today we put them back outside and they stayed pretty close to the flight run and visited the ducks and geese again. They don't seem to aware of the need to roost at night so I guess we'll be putting them back into the flight run again tonight. I hope we can keep this up until the younger guineas get bigger. And I guess when winter comes they will need to spend it in the aviary. All I can say is that if they continue to harass the smaller chickens, those guineas could very well wind up on our dinner table as I hear guinea meat is quite delicious.

2012 Straw Bale Garden Design

Well here it is. Drum roll please :-) ................ My 2012 Patchwork Prairie Straw Bale garden design. Click on the picture for a better view.

I'm quite please with myself as I worked it out with Excel inserting shapes to get the bales, whiskey barrels, work bench plus decking for chairs and a table. What a cool program for designing gardens! The garden entrance gate is on the west side near the whiskey barrels, the beans are on the north and so on. With all my excitement in designing this garden I totally forgot to consider companion planting, shesh, LOL! My garden book that features this subject is tucked away in a box somewhere so I Binged "companion planting for gardens" and found a good site that explains it in a no nonsense way. Wohoo! After consulting this information I see that I don't need to change a thing! All I need to do is add are some pest deterring flowers and herbs which I can do when I begin planting. By the way, I chose to use straw bales due to the poor quality clay soil here and the unbelievably high cost of having top soil hauled in. Straw bales are also cheaper than lumber for raised beds and the straw will compost and improve the soil for future gardens.

What you can't see in the picture is the watering system I will have. One or two long soaker hoses connected to a timer so I can water while I'm at work and then off the timer so I can water when I get home from work. We still have some drip irrigation hose left from a previous garden and we may use them, but for now I'm going with the soaker hoses as we already have those too. Additionally, we fenced in my garden spot and will complete it with electric wire on top and rabbit fence on the bottom to keep 'said' critters out. My first and last garden here was a disaster as the deer and rabbits ate everything down to nubs on the ground! I believe I'll have the advantage this time. And who knows, I may have enough excess produce to can! That would be just too Cool!!! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Meet Rocky

This is our Ameraucana rooster. He's such a beautiful bird and quite a happy feller with 8 hens to keep him crowing. Several of his hens are also Ameraucana's and I can't wait to see those blue and green eggs!

We Have Beans!

This spring I planted some pole beans next to the deck in hopes that the plants would wind their way up the deck sides providing for an easy way to harvest the beans. The plants would also serve as a privacy barrier on the deck. I chose a variety called Kentucky Wonder, which is stringless and has brown seeds. I normally opt for bush beans but I wanted to see how my idea for pole beans would turn out. As the season progressed, extremely high temperatures and a draught assaulted Missouri. I watered my beans faithfully for about a month but the high temperatures made it hard for me to continue in my faithful efforts. 
Now that those high temperatures have passed and we have had a few rain showers so I have been planning my fall preparations for my herb beds. I figured I would just be tearing out the beans in an “oh well, better luck next year” frame of mind. Much to my surprise today, I found loads of nice looking green beans on my plants. The foliage is dying back which makes it so much easier to see the bounty these plants have produced to spite the harsh temperatures and lack of water. They aren’t the most glamorous of beans but they are beans :-)

 I steamed a batch this evening and ate them plain. They were delicious. However, their being stringless did not happen. Tomorrow I will remove the strings and use a nice Greek recipe I found in my Traditional Greek Cooking book that was given to me by my good friend John. It sounds awesome, however I did change the recipe a bit. I’ll use;
A couple of pounds of beans
½  cup of olive oil
1 pound of tomatoes
1 TBSP tomato paste
a few shallots
2 TBSP chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste.
After rinsing and trimming the beans sauté the onions, combine strained tomatoes and tomato paste diluted in 2 cups of water. Bring this to a boil then add the beans. Simmer until all of the liquid is gone and only the oil remains as a sauce. 
It’s nice to try new things and I really like the flavor of these pole beans so next year I will give them a place in my new garden. So, the spot I used for these beans this year will once again be used for my herbs.