Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Making Soap

As promised, here's the how-to of soap making.  Please keep in mind, I'm not a professional.  Neither have I even yet used what I've made.  Just posting what I do know right now because I spent many nights reading about this stuff!

1) I wanted to start with what they would have used in the good ole days- FAT!  A call to the butcher at Winn Dixie and Publix provided me with all the beef and pork fat I could want.  Winn Dixie seems to have more to supply than Publix, but they also charged me $.50/lb for the stuff where Publix gives it for free.  Not a lot of money, but seriously, they're going to promptly throw it away.  Charging is just poor form in my book.  I digress.  We came home with large packages of fat.
Then we ran the beef fat through our new handy dandy meat grinder.  This isn't a necessity, but it definitely expedites the rendering process on the order of days.  Then I put it all in the crock pot.  I started it that evening and by morning it was done.  I ran it all through some cheese cloth then poured the golden liquid into jars and let them cool until it was white and a soft solid.  Then I put them in the freezer.  The dog thoroughly enjoyed the cracklings.  The next bit was the pork fat.  By this time I had read more and it said grinding was not necessary, but it was necessary to cover the fat in water.  Now that I've done it, I totally disagree.  That pork fat sat in the crock pot for days.  And I kept adding water.  By the time I was done (note I was the one done, not the lard), it was a pain to try to separate the lard from the water.  I ended up having water in each jar of lard and had to be careful when spooning it out for soap.  And while you can buy lard fairly cheaply in the grocery store, you can't get tallow and they both have different properties in soap.  I'll probably still render my own tallow.  We'll see about the lard.

2)Then I got figuring recipes.  I realized that using only tallow, lard, olive oil and coconut oil really would not give me a very nice, conditioning soap, I started looking into other oils.  A friend found and  They had the best deals we could find on bulk oils and essential oils (for scents).  Essential Depot also had the best price on lye.  We ordered coconut oil (virgin, but not as pure as food grade and thus a fraction of the cost), palm oil and Castor oil.  Castor oil is available in small quantities in any pharmacy, but its considerably cheaper to order through a soap supplier.  I've since learned the quest for palm oil is ravaging rain forests so once what I have is gone, I won't be using it again.

3) Once I figured what other oils were in my price range, I went back to figuring recipes.  I learned from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Making Natural Soaps about  This is a fabulous website that allows you to create your own recipe using the ingredients you want.  You determine what fats and oils you want to use, the percentage of each and hit "calculate" and not only will it spit out the recipe, but it will give you a numerical factor of various soap qualities, like hardness, conditioning, or cleansing.  And it gives you the desired range of each property too.  Then you can tinker with your recipe to make it just as you want. 

4) Then find a mold.  I happened to have 2 shallow, rectangular tubs 10x9x2 (don't ask me where I got them).  I had to figure out how much soap, by weight, I needed to fill that mold.  Follow closely, math coming.  Find the volume of the container in cubic inches, but leave room in the height.  For example, I calculated 10x9x1.5= 135 cubic inches.  Then multiply that number by .58.  That gave me 78.3oz of soap for this mold.  You need 11 ounces of oils for every 16 ounces of soap so then I took the weight of my soap times 11 divided by 16.  In my case, 78.3x11/16=53.8oz of oils.  I rounded that to 54 and that's what I plugged into  I then got my recipe based on weights of oils, water (or goat milk or tea) and lye.

5) Then its time to start weighing.  If you use goat milk, its good to freeze the milk so I weighed out my amount in the scale you see pictured.  This was a very handy and very reasonably priced purchase.  You must have something that can measure by weight to the fraction of an ounce for decent soap making.  I weighed out my goat milk then poured it in a ziplock and stuck it in the freezer.  Then I weighed out some strong chamomile tea and poured it into a jar to cool for later.  It wasn't until the next day that I started weighing out fats and oils according to my recipes.  My goat milk body soap has beef tallow, coconut oil, castor oil, olive oil and palm oil.  My chamomile shampoo bar has castor oil, coconut oil, olive oil, lard, and beef tallow.  My laundry soap bar has coconut oil and lard (with water).  Ingredients are listed in order of decreasing amounts.

6) I did each soap one at a time.  I started with the goat milk soap.  I'd read it must be kept cool to prevent darkening.  Darkening doesn't hurt the soap, just makes it not as pretty.  That's why you start with frozen milk.  Adding lye to a liquid (never liquid to the lye), causes an exothermic reaction... meaning it gets hot.  I melted the milk merely by slowly sprinkling the lye on it.  And please wear gloves and goggles and do it in a ventilated area.  I mixed it on the stove with the exhaust fan going and all the kids firmly instructed to not come near me.  Once the lye is dissolved, add in the oils.  Weigh out everything prior to mixing anything.  Also have your mold greased and ready to roll.  Once things are moving, they're moving and you really can't stop.  Its not necessary for all the oils to be in liquid form.  The heat from the lye solution will soften things.  Also, please invest in a stick blender.  Apparently you can make soap without one but you must take great pains on the temperatures that everything is at or you'll be stirring the stuff for 5 hours or more.  A stick blender will ease the troubles considerably.  So I poured in my fats and oils, taking care to not splash as the lye solution will burn.  Its suggested to have a spray bottle of white vinegar handy if spills do happen.  The acid in the vinegar will neutralize the caustic nature of the lye.  Then start blending with the stick blender.  When the mixture starts to "trace", its time to add scents, dyes and pour into the mold.  Tracing is when its thick enough that if you dribble some from the blender (when the blender is NOT on) onto the rest of the mixture, you can see where it dribbled. It doesn't quickly mix into the bulk of the solution.  And on a side note, please use a stainless steel spoon.  Or at least not wood.  A nice wooden spoon is really unpleasant looking (and toxic?) now that its been stirring lye.  Learn from my mistakes.

7) Once you got the trace thing happening, add the essential oils for scents or any dyes.  I added lavender oil to the goat milk soap, but everything else is totally bare this round.  One thing at a time for me.  Ok, well, at least in this case.  Then pour into the mold.  Lots of sources stressed the need to line the mold.  One source (a DVD available from the library) merely suggested greasing.  So I just greased my plastic mold and figured if worse came to worst, I'd pop it in the freezer to get it out.  I also used a cheep metal rectangular cake pan as a mold in addition to my plastic pans.  Not sure what kind of metal it is.  Probably aluminum.  Greased that too and I had no problems getting soap out of any of them.  What you do then is confusing.  With the goat milk soap, some said its important to keep it cold so to put it in the fridge.  I did for a couple hours... then I felt the need to get the 25lb bag of carrots that it displaced off my counter top.  With other soaps, some sources say to insulate it so it doesn't cool too quickly.  Like throw a blanket over it.  I don't see why.  Especially if with goat milk you're supposed to stick it in the fridge. 

 Well, things definitely changed color.  Everything was creamy at first, then they got dark in the middle.  The one on the bottom is the goat milk soap.  The left is the laundry soap and the right is the chamomile shampoo.  I cut them into bars after a few hours, while they were still soft, but firm enough to hold the cut.
You can see the colors changed further.  The next day I popped everything out of the molds and set them on cooling racks in the bathroom.  Pictured here is the laundry soap on the bottom and the shampoo on the top.  The laundry soap will need to cure for about 2 weeks.  The shampoo and body soap will need about 4 weeks on account of the castor oil in it.  Its not caustic after only a day, but it will not have the nice conditioning properties so soon.
 And here's the goat milk soap.  The next round I try, I'll leave it in the fridge over night and see if that keeps it any whiter.  I don't mind the color at all, just trying to learn the tricks.  If I were to color it, I think I'd want it lighter so the color would be brighter.
And in reading about shampoo bars and their benefits, I stumbled upon a homemade deodorant recipe.  And if you don't know me well, you're about to.  I'm a sweater to say the least.  As a teacher I kept a stick of antiperspirant in my desk drawer to use mid-day.  Cold, hot, doesn't matter... gallons pour forth from my pits daily.  As I like to say, I have a very efficient cooling system.  I will NEVER get heat stroke, now will I?  I'm bred for workhorse character, not for the show ring.  So the dilemma is that I know how horrible antiperspirants are for you.  They're linked to all kinds of terrible diseases.  And they plug the source that God intended to use to rid you of toxins... meaning you're still holding onto all those toxins!  Really not cool.  But the state of me without this 20th century invention is really beyond what's socially acceptable.  I tried using all natural deodorant (no antiperspirants) when I'm just going to be home all day.  My husband would hold his breath while hugging me.  But I'm hopeful of this concoction. 

Homemade deodorant:
1/4 Cup coconut oil
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup corn starch
30 drops tea tree oil

This is my own concoction, but it involves the same ingredients others posted on the web do.  And as for today, after a full afternoon (albeit a coolish afternoon and I wasn't doing much manual labor), Husbandman said he could only smell me in 1 pit.  I suspect if I'm able to keep this up without offending people, even that will decrease as toxins are actually allowed to escape from my body.  Pictured is homemade deodorant, homemade toothpaste (equal parts sea salt, baking soda and xylitol) sitting atop shampoo soap and laundry soap.

So, you think you wanna try making some soap???

*ps- those jars of dark red liquid pictured in the fat grinding picture... just beet and carrot juices we were drinking.  Absolutely nothing to do with animal fats or soap in any way.


A good while ago, Georgia Farm Woman was blogging consistently about making soap.  I totally didn't get it.  I thought she must be nuts to need to be making so much soap.

Well, now I get it.

I made soap.

And more soap


And more soap.

It started as a thought for Christmas gifts.  But once I started reading about it, I soon became enraptured in my new love affair with Clean.  I figure if you don't enjoy the process, you might as well enjoy the products, right?
If you're interested in the soap-making process, stay tuned for a future post.  For the rest of you who just want to know what crazy thing I've been up to now...

It started with collecting beef and pork fat from grocery stores and rendering it in the crock pot.  Then I bought some other oils like palm oil and Castor oil.  Then created my recipes on a nifty website.  What I've ended up with is some goat milk body soap, some chamomile shampoo bars (yes, shampoo can be done in a bar which is actually much better for your hair and the environment) and some laundry soap.

Then I added some homemade deodorant to the list.
So, yes, I'm obsessed.  I have to wait 4 weeks to try this stuff and I'm wondering if I can wait until I try it before making another batch. 

Heeeeere, Ducky Ducky Ducky

Ducks are not very obedient.  Scold all you want, they just don't listen.

After loosing all but 1 drake (male duck) to some odd leg problem (possibly caused by a show of force of the dominant drake), we were down to 4 hens and the 1 drake.  We opened them up to roam the pasture, but locked them up at night... a feat that got more difficult as their independence grew.

One day I was late letting them out.  Lo and behold there was an egg on the floor of the pen!  I then watched where they went and upon later inspection discovered the pictured nest deep into the pasture in a little hole they had created in a pile of scrub.
Of course I thought I could reform natural instincts.  I created a little nest in a dog dish, put the eggs in there and set it up inside the pen where it would be protected from raccoons or wayward goat feet.
I even added a tote to provide shade and further protection.

They didn't care.  They continued to lay in the old nest, on the floor of the pen or, best of all, right in the middle of the barn.

Nothing would get them to sit on that nest either.  And the eggs were just disappearing too.  I presume they were getting broken and something was eating up the evidence.

So, we decided to really put Angel (the guard dog) to the test.  We moved all the ducks to the bachelor pad to run free with Copper, the buck.  Angel has access to 3 sides of the bachelor pad, the 4th being a shared fence with the pasture.  We figured if the ducks were kept in there, its a small enough area that its unlikely a malevolent critter would first get by Angel, then Copper, then that ferocious drake (really, he's the scariest animal on the property), to harm a hen or her nest.  And so far so good.

Except that one duck is still managing to squeeze through an unknown hole and lays eggs in the barn.  She had a nest of 6 which then got trampled during a rainstorm when all the animals huddle in the barn.  We're down to 2 intact eggs and she just quit going there.  The other hens laid a nest of 9 as of 2 days ago.  Then Dulci (who's supposed to be pregnant) acted like she was in heat so I put her into the bachelor pad.  I guess the chasing Copper did was too much for the nest as 6 eggs were scattered and 2 were missing.  Today only 3 remain intact and they are not together in a nest.  And then a hen up and died.  Chilly night and I went out in the morning to find her dead in a sleeping position.  No idea what that's about.

All in all, we're still hopeful some semblance of instinct will kick in and these ducks will manage to reproduce.  Husbandman thinks it will take until spring until they get it figured out.  I'm thinking of building a little hut I can pop over whatever nest they build to protect it from undiscerning goat feet.