LiquidSoap

Coconut, Sunflower and Castor oil. A nice combination.

For those of you with no interest in making your own liquid soap, you can stop reading now. Next week we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programing of gardening, homesteading and cute animal pictures. Wink.

Edited 4/25/15 to add: This blog is MY opinion and MY experience with liquid soapmaking. I’ve had several readers point out that they have had different experiences from mine (with adding salt to thicken, and with the Soaping 101 glycerine liquid soap video, for example). Please note: YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. Feel free to experiment! Please share your differing experiences and understanding of the chemistry in the comments. That’s how we all learn from each other. This isn’t meant to be the final word on the subject. It’s just my own personal understanding and experience.

Questions about how to get started with liquid soapmaking come up a lot on some of my soap making groups, and I remember how hard it was to get a handle on it all when I started making my own, despite the fact that I’d been making cold process bar soap for years. I find myself writing out long-winded answers over and over again. So I thought I would do a bit of a brain dump on some of the fundamentals to get new liquid soapers started. Note: what this is NOT is a step by step guide to making liquid soap. If I were going to do that, I’d write an ebook. Also, apologies for lack of pictures. This is mostly an informational post. Read the rest of this entry »

DSC08718watermarkI used to just buy bags of potting soil at the big box stores. Then I graduated to starting my own seeds, and had to search high and low for “seed starting mix”, which is finer grained than “potting mix” and less common. Then I started to really get serious about seed starting (I currently have about 50 flats of seedlings in my greenhouse) and buying seed starting mix just wasn’t a financial option any more. Read the rest of this entry »

American Blackbelly Triplets

Cocoa’s Triplets. Because she is half Soay sheep, her babies tend to have more variation in coloring.

Babies. Boy do we have babies. We have 12 ewes of breeding age, and we ended up with 21 lambs, born from March 2nd through March 23rd. Five sets of twins, two sets of triplets(!), and 5 singles. We weren’t expecting the triplets. One mama, Cocoa, is doing just fine with her three, but the second mama, Maggie, has rejected one of hers. So we have one bottle baby. Of the 21 lambs, 17 of them are male. SEVENTEEN. Seriously?! We have no idea why our sex ratio is so skewed, though something very similar happened the first year we had lamb babies (10 out of 13 were male), and they too were also all born in March. Read the rest of this entry »

StackedEnchiladaCasserole2

OK, so getting it out of the pan intact is a challenge. But it all tastes good.

I can’t remember where I first saw this recipe. Probably an old subscription to Cooking Light or Eating Well. All I know is that it is super easy, super adaptable, inexpensive to make, relatively healthy and very satisfying to eat. It comes together in minutes, unlike traditional enchiladas, with all that messy rolling. If I had to pick just seven dinners to make once a week for the next year, this would probably be one of them. Read the rest of this entry »

DSC08493watermarkWe’ve been working on a lot of spring projects as we wrap up February and move into beloved March. The break is over. Let the craziness of spring begin.

When we moved into this house, built in 1995, it had a front and back deck. The inspector mentioned in his report that both of them needed to be replaced. Well, not only was that obvious (you could see the wood rotting away in places), but in an effort to bring new life into them in order to sell the house, they had been painted a color that I can only describe as mauve. They were poorly designed, not to our taste, and downright hideous. But…so were a lot of things IN the house. Like every single light fixture, and the 1970’s wood stove, complete with orange and avocado green tiles. So it has taken us some time to get to the decks. But this winter, my sweet sweet husband tore off the old front deck (some of it literally using his foot), put in new piers and framing, expanding it considerably, and when the weather and money permitted, worked on getting the new decking in. This one is even attached to the house with actual concrete anchors rather than just nailed into the siding. Read the rest of this entry »

Ready for the Smoker

Ready to go into the smoker. Note the pork belly hangers are actually old wire hangers, trimmed down by my sweet husband at my request, so I could get 4 bellies in the smoker at once vertically, rather than on racks.

Way back in July 2010 (wow, I’ve been writing this blog for a while!) I wrote a piece on curing your own bacon. And its a good post, and reliable and solid advice. However, in the last 4 years I’ve amended how I cure my bacon a bit, after buying Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie (Charcuterie is defined as all things relating to preserved meats). One of the things we noticed about the original cured bacon recipe is that it tended to burn easily in the pan. I attribute this to the large amount of sugar in the cure. I’ve also come to realize that a little bit of nitrite in your meat (like cholesterol) is not the end-of-the-world, cancer causing scourge we once were led to believe. See this fantastic rant by Ruhlman on the No Nitrite hoax in natural food markets or this more recent piece by Chris Kresser on why bacon isn’t the enemy. Read the rest of this entry »

IMG_20150130_131933watermark

Carrots. Healthy, nutritious and cheap.

I recently ran across an article in my Facebook feed, about a reporter taking the “Food Stamp” challenge. He attempted to eat only what he could purchase with the “average” food stamp allotment for an able bodied adult with no dependents, which is $29.69 a week. I had a bit of a rant about it on my personal Facebook page, pointing out that SNAP (the new name for food stamps) stands for SUPPLEMENTAL Nutrition Assistance Program. It’s not meant to be your sole source of nutrition if you are an able bodied adult. I also pointed out that the reporter had made some poor food choices, such as prewashed salad greens and nutritionally empty white bread. I proudly claimed that while it would be tight, I could certainly do much better nutritionally, and that I could ABSOLUTELY feed myself for $30 a week. Read the rest of this entry »

Welsummer Rooster

My Welsummer rooster Cray. He’s just recently finished his molt. Isn’t he gorgeous?

I’ve been raising chickens since about 2002. I grew up with chickens when I was really little, and it took me about 30 years to be able to get back to it. But with the exception of the year we moved from Colorado to Washington, I’ve kept chickens for the last 14 years. This was BEFORE the proliferation of back yard chicken raising blogs, websites and books. I bought a copy of Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, my husband built a coup (which was also a dog house/pen – they shared a dividing wall – which helped keep the chickens safe from predators but also safe from the dogs at night). I talked a bit about all of this here.

It’s really only been in the last few years that I’ve raised chickens with more of an eye to getting them to pay for themselves by selling the eggs. Here is a brain dump of factoids I’ve learned about raising chickens over the last 14 years, all in one place. Read the rest of this entry »

Red Wine (L), Pear (R)

Concord grape wine vinegar on the left, pear cider vinegar on the right. Both in recycled whiskey bottles.

Vinegar, if you believe the natural living information feeds, can be used for everything from killing weeds to cleaning your windows to pickling your cucumbers to dressing your salad (all true). They also claim it can help you lose weight, kill heartburn, and remove warts (more hit and miss), and the true believers will tell you it kills cancer cells (well, in a test tube). Regardless, it’s a fantastic substance to have on hand. I generally buy it by the gallon during canning season, and have used it as a natural cleaner for years. Read the rest of this entry »

Homemade Mustard

Coarse beer mustard on the left, Dijon on the right.

I’ve talked about how learning to bake your own bread and make your own yogurt and granola are probably the gateway recipes when striving towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle. I think making your own mustard should be added to that list. It’s super easy, it’s almost impossible to mess it up, it doesn’t cost much (I recently bought about 2/3 cup of bulk whole yellow mustard seed for $2.25 – enough for 12 oz of finished mustard), there are about a million variations, and it can be really really tasty. Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Kleffner

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