Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Good Clean Fun

Living on a ranch, there is just no excuse to ever, ever, EVER be bored. There are always plenty of things that need to be done. Convincing Moose that he is still a COW and cannot continue to drink goats milk forever is one of them. There is also feeding calves, orphan lambs and goats, or milking goats and cows, playing with the dogs, watching the chickens putter around, riding my horse and helping move cattle, brand, clean cabins, work in the garden, mow the pasture or do housework,  or on days when I am not feeling quite up to snuff, there are always other options…like maybe, reading, stained glass work, crochet, cooking, or, today’s choice, making soap.

I really should have made more earlier this year, but between the goats who were born in January, the bottle lambs in March and chicks in the house and now the bottle calves, I have been off my routine. Today I set out to correct that. It has been pouring rain and I’ve been hurting, so weed-eating and mowing have to wait and the garden is put on hold. I got the cheat-grass in the pasture mowed already, so no big deal…I mean after all, doesn’t everybody mow the Back Forty, before they do their yard??
Today is soap making day and I thought you all might like to follow along on this little procedure. Lots of folks, including me, like to cook and bake when it’s cold and gloomy outside. But I have discovered that soap brings many of the same benefits without making me FAT!

I ordered some new soap fragrances for spring and summer, so I have lots to choose from. I also got some new micas for color so of course, we have to play with those. I never got swirling down the way I want it with my deep molds, so this would be a good time to experiment with it.

We are going to make Cold Process, or CP soap…although, since I plan to put it in the oven to gel, its CPOP or Cold Process Oven Process, but lets not split hairs.

It’s important to clean the kitchen up and eliminate the clutter first. So, out with the calf bottles and nipples, gastric tubes, syringes, vaccines, chicken feed container, milk pails, cheese pots and livestock thermometer.

Next, I get all the ingredients and necessary implements and tools out. That would be my oils, lye, fragrance oils, stainless steel pots (mine are dedicated just to soaping) stick blender, measuring cups, gloves, goggles, postal scale (precise measurements are critical), molds, freezer paper for lining the molds, colorants and my formula. The recipe is one I have formulated previously and made a lot of and of course, checked my specs out on ‘soapcalc’, one of the online lye calculators which is a ‘must-do’ for safe soapmaking.

I measure out my solid oils, in this case coconut oil and Crisco, but with our milk soaps we will use lard or tallow, which is awesome in soap. These go in my big pot to melt on the stove.

With goggles and gloves on, I measure my lye into a plastic container, then in a separate stainless steel pot measure the liquid into which I will mix the lye. You always pour your lye into the liquid, never, ever, ever the other way around. I use lye beads, which can bounce around due to static electricity and can get in your eyes, so I also use a dryer sheet to wipe down the containers I pour into and out of.
My liquid of choice might be water, or goat/cow milk, tea, coffee, beer or something else depending on what kind of soap I am going for. I even have one I will be making with tea made from stinging nettles that is supposed to help with skin ailments. That is high on my list lately. Liquids may be frozen to keep the lye from overheating it, like with 100% milk, honey, or cloves and often just room temperature if I am adding at trace, depending on what I am soaping. All the ingredients, from the oils to the liquids bring different qualities to the soap.

I don my goggles and gloves, open the back door and a window, and with the pot in the sink, as a precaution, I slowly and carefully pour my lye into the water. It begins to heat up immediately and caustic vapors begin to rise and I have to keep my face turned so as not to breath in the fumes. It’s at this moment I am glad not to have a phone, or a whole lot of friends and neighbors who stop by. A few minutes later, the lye mix settles down.

Once my hard oils have melted, I combine my liquid oils with them and when my oils and lye mix cool to the temperatures I want, I pour the lye mix into the oils, careful not to splash. I use a stick blender in bursts to help bring the mixture to what is known as ‘trace’.  Today I am going to only bring it to a very thin trace as I want my ‘swirls’ to penetrate better when I pour my soap in the molds. I dip about a cup of the mix into a glass measure cup and add colorant until I reach the color I like. I color the rest of the oils in the big pot, and add my fragrance oils, stirring thoroughly.

I pour it all in my molds, which are already lined with freezer paper, add the lids and set it aside to saponify, usually overnight. I am going to help speed the cure a bit by ‘oven processing’ the soap. I check the flashpoints of the fragrance oils and set the oven to 150 for 2 hours with the soap inside. Then I turn off the oven and leave it all in there for the night.

This means dinner has to be cooked on the stove tonite. I can probably cut the soap log into bars in the morning, and set then out to cure for about 4-6 weeks.

Meanwhile, back to feeding calves, goats, sheep, pups, and clean out a freezer. It konked out a couple weeks ago. Nothing like having a freezer failure when its full up and you are 4 hours from town where you can replace it, IF you had the money. We rescued what we could and true to form, I forgot we left a few bags of tomatoes in there and a couple other items I was going to quickly pressure can…so today, I have to clean out the ‘science project’ and re-purpose the freezer.

Last winter my little house was a wreck from all the soaping supplies and the curing of hundreds of bars of soap. There just isn’t any place to put it, as our little cracker box is so small there isn’t even a broom closet! But I am thinking the big upright freezer might be an answer to part of my problem. If I can put a de-humidifier inside of it, and alter the racks, I can fit a LOT of soap in there to cure and store! It will keep out the light so colors don’t fade and with the de-humidifier, they should cure at a much faster rate. I just have to figure out where to put the freezer...

In the morning I unmold the soap, cut it and stamp it, just for fun. The green swirl didn’t come out quite like  I had hoped, but its still nice soap and it smells great!

Now, wasn’t all that better than cruising the malls?


  1. My daughter has severe eczema & someone in the future I want to try and make goat's milk soap for her.......perhaps it would be good for her skin.....

    Love the colors on your ya just need to add a pic of the cut/stamped bars :-)


  2. It likely will. Our 'honorary' grandson has eczema too and it seems to help him. I want to make some with pinetar in it, as I heard that is also good, but any homemade soap will help some, as it doesn't strip the oils out of your skin like commercial soap will. Also, the naturally occurring glycerin is still in it.

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