Happy Holidays to all of you, and, of course, wishing everyone a healthy and happy new year.
What a year it’s been! Just the fact that I haven’t blogged since September says a lot, but we consider ourselves very lucky to have been employed and able to pay our bills during this time of COVID 19. We’ve stayed healthy but the steady stream of COVID news intermingled with negative political adds have given me writer’s block. I have, however, become somewhat addicted to making soap!
We have not bought a bar of soap since our schools switched to virtual classes in March. I used melt-and-pour base for my first attempt, and overcame my nervousness about using lye soon after. Like many other things, one can never be careless around lye, but I have my work flow in place and know how to stay safe. Part of being safe is being cognizant of my ability to focus, and I don’t make soap on days when I’m tired, distracted, or irritated. Irritated and sweating into my glasses is a bad mix, and wearing a mask and googles isn’t even comfortable in cool weather. To reduce the time I’m suited up, I now measure all my oils and any additives before I put my protective gear on. Hubby also bought me a face shield, which eliminates much of the foggy glasses problem. It’s hard to read the scale to weigh lye when I can’t see!
I have been using pretty silicone molds since March, and people like the designs. However, I used my new soap loaf mold yesterday and am sold on the simplicity and lack of mess! One batch of soap from my current favorite book fills the mold, and the mold has a silicone lining. That’s something I’ve come to see as essential.
I had a wooden mold that needed to be lined with parchment paper, and I used it once to form a block of soap that I’d reconstituted. The original soap just didn’t smell good, so I dissolved it in distilled water, cooked it as a hot process soap in the crockpot, added some scent that came with soap making set, and poured it into individual molds and the wooden mold. The soap had a high water content, but I figured it would dry out eventually. I wasn’t confident in my parchment cutting ability, so I lined the mold with plastic wrap and parchment paper. Pretty soon, I noticed a small amount of soap leaking from the bottom, so I put the mold into the sink for safe keeping. Never, ever do that! The next day I had semi-solidified soap in the drain and both sides of the sink were completely blocked. Hot water, baking soda, elbow grease, and the kind of persistence that comes from not want to tell Hubby what I’d done this time solved the problem. As an added bonus, the RV’s sinks, bathtub, and toilet were all sparkling clean from all the soapy water I bailed out of the sink and into buckets before pouring it into everything that had a drain. If you ever want a great tricep workout, plunge a kitchen sink over the course of a couple of hours.
Soap making has now led to an interest in essential oils. People want scented soaps, and I don’t want to use chemical scents, so essential oils are the way to go. However, essential oils are expensive. I made one batch of soap using a strong basil-leaf tea and lemongrass oil. It smelled good, but maybe not strong enough for customers, so I’m now dehydrating herbs from the garden and putting them aside to make infused oils as I need them. As we work our way through the fund-raiser box of oranges we bought, I’m dehydrating the peels and will make orange oil once I have a jar full. Because we’re so limited on space, we purchased a small dehydrator for now. It’s working well, although I will probably buy a larger one with a timer once we the honey-house is built.
I’ll save blogging about the bees for another day, but I will say that the health of our hives is one more thing that we have been blessed with this year. Honey harvests were down in general across Georgia, but the bees packed a lot of honey in during the fall flow and and set up well for winter.
In addition to all our other blessings, I can currently see a beautiful sunset from the office window, giving me one more reason to be glad I came in here to update the blog. It’s going to be a cold night, and cold all day day tomorrow, but this sunset almost makes that worthwhile. I used up 4 more oranges on a fantastic new chicken recipe this evening (only 20++ more to go), and we get to live on our beautiful farm. Life remains good on the farm.