Saturday, October 13, 2012


I realise it has been a couple of weeks since I last posted.  I have been busy in my kitchen / workshop and reading lots of fantastic books to keep my enthusiasm high.  I know I promised last time that my next post would be about Katherine but I feel that I need to revisit the subject of soap.  I know I go on about it a lot but soap is such an integral part of lots of house hold products.  If you can master soap then you can eliminate lots of nasties.  

Previously I had stated that my soap nuts experiments was a failure.  I'd like to retract that statement.  The reason being is that I have been busy trying to make my own soap.  My fantasy and the reality of soap making were very, very different.  I was keen to make a milk based soap because that fits into my whole sheep milking future.  For those of you who have never made soap it comes about as a chemical reaction between caustic soda (lye) and a liquid.  This chemical reaction produces a lot of heat especially with milk.  Caustic soda is nasty stuff and you need to wear safety glasses and gloves while handling it.  The subsequent fumes and ammonia smell are very off putting.  Here I am trying to make a natural product that I am going to rub on my skin and I am making it with drain cleaner!  Now apparently all the lye is used up in the chemical process but I still find nothing natural about it.  My soap making wasn't particularly successful - my first batch was too hot and scorched the milk and my second curdled and separated.  After a lot of angst I realised I was trying to reinvent the wheel.  Why make soap - when it literally grows on trees.  And that brings me back to soap nuts.

My lovely friend Paula gave me some left over soap nuts and I made up some more liquid.  Once again it did a beautiful job of my washing - the clothes are unbelievably soft.  It is also fine for dishwashing unless you have a really greasy mess.  So my compromise is to have an environmentally laundry powder and dishwashing liquid on hand in case of heavy duty washing but predominately use the soap nuts.  I am also going to add some guar gum to the liquid, plus essential oils, to make a lovely gentle liquid soap for hand and body wash.  I know I wasn't so happy with the soap nuts previously but when you've seen the alternative up close it becomes a whole lot more appealing.  

In other news, I've been taking a very simple fee online herbalism course from  It is a very basic 7 days course but it is enough to dip your toes into the subject.  I have a stomach bug at the moment and have been chopping up ginger in a mug of hot water to combat the nausea.  Peppermint tea is a lovely refreshing drink and gives me a great pick me up without the caffeine.  For a nice relaxing afternoon drink (if its been a stressful day) one bag of camomile and one of peppermint is lovely.  I am also very interested in foraging for food.  My first foray into this has been harvesting the masses of dandelion flowers on our front lawn.  I have made dandelion flower fritters and jam.  The flowers are packed with vitamins and minerals, they are so beautiful to work with they make you smile, and they're free!  A friend of mine has also pointed out some elderberry trees which are on public land.  They make a great tonic - very healthful - as well as a lovely port.  I'm looking forward to harvesting the flowers when they are ready.

Katherine is doing great.  I've given up on assimilating her into the flock next door.  Sheep are incredibly picky and will apparently take weeks to accept her.  I found it really hard ignoring her when she is only metres away in the paddock and calling out for me incessantly   So onto plan B which is to get two more lambs and make a mini flock.  We need to talk to our landlord about fencing off some grass for them.  So it looks like I might be making up a few more bottles of milk before the season is out.

Leo - feeling exhausted after a sleepness night worrying about climate change.

Finally I'd just like to mention Transition Towns.  They stem from something called the Transition Initiative   They are a grass roots organisation which aims to improve resilience at a local level in order to combat the effects of Peak Oil and climate change.  A very good book is The End of Growth by Richard Heinberg.  The book explains very well how we have got into our current global economic mess and what the future might look like given our diminishing access to fossil fuels.  It is not exactly an uplifting read so I recommend going straight into a copy of The Transition Handbook by Bob Hopkins.  One book tells you the mess we're in and the other will tell you how to get out of it.  I love that rather than waiting around for governments to sort things out we can do a lot to help ourselves as long as we work together.   

My lovely neighbour recently delivered two fleeces from her Arapawa cross sheep.  As soon as I get a fine day I will be preparing the fleece for carding.  Then I need to track down a clever lady to teach me how to spin.  How exciting!

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