How to Make Hand Milled Soap

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How to make Hand Milled Soap

Not long ago, I finally took the plunge into making my own soap. I was so nervous about using caustic materials like lye: what if I spilled it and burned my skin?! Eventually I got comfortable enough with the process that it’s really not a big deal any more.

I even shared my soap making secrets with you a few weeks ago! Hot-Process soap is my go-to for ease and quick use. The recipes are simple and there is a lot of room for creativity!

One of the reasons for getting into soap making was to start selling quality herbal soaps. The other was to limit the chemicals we use on our bodies and to save some money in the process.

There is a little bit of investment on the front end, but handcrafted soap can be a huge money saver. And I’ve got another idea for you to stretch your dollar a little farther.

Have you ever heard of Hand-milling? Hand-milling is the process of melting down soap scraps and creating an entire new loaf of soap!

You know those little scrappy pieces of soap that no one really wants to use up and get stuck to the corners of the bath tub? Save them and make new soap!

The hand-milling process is very simple and very frugal. Keep reading and I will walk you through it.

The Hand-Milling Process

If you want to make a full loaf, you need about 1 lb of scraps. When your soap reaches scrap level, remove it from the shower and let it dry completely. Store it in a container with your other scraps. It doesn’t need to be air-tight, the air will just continue to dry it out a little more.

Also, if you make your own hot-process soap, save the scraps from your crock-pot. Those are perfect for making hand-milled soap! I use a dish scraper to get the bits out of my crock-pot after it’s cooled down. The scraps go into recycled jars until I have enough to make a new loaf.

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Once you have enough soap scraps, chop them up or grate them into small pieces. The smaller the better so they will melt quickly. (I did not quite get mine small enough the first time and it took quite a while.)

chopped soap scraps

Set up your double boiler (or two pots stacked together) with water in the bottom and add your soap to the top. Add about 8 ounces of water per 1 lb of soap. If you are using less soap reduce the amount of water.

Soap and water

Get the bottom boiler water at an easy roll, not raging; you don’t need the soap to get too hot. Stir occasionally as the soap melds together and the water is absorbed.

While the soap is melting, line a loaf pan or soap mold with parchment paper. You don’t want to put soap in a mold without a liner. Its crazy hard to remove! (Trust me I know!)

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Once the soap is melted, you can add in some essential oils if you would like a new scent. My old bars consisted of Peppermint and Rosemary scent so I added in some Cedarwood which paired nicely with those two.

Scoop the melted, scented soap into your mold and press down with the back of a spoon so the top is somewhat smooth. Place your mold into a cardboard box and cover with a towel. This ensures that it doesn’t cool too quickly causing cracking on the top.

hand milled soap in mold

Leave your soap in the mold for 24-48 hours. (Sometimes it needs more time if you live in a humid climate.) Once you remove the soap from the mold slice into bars. If the bars seem soft, store in the cardboard box with the bars standing up with some space in between. This gives them air flow to dry them out a little bit.

Since this soap was already cured the first time it was made, it is ready to go! You now have fresh bars of soap made completely from old bars! You didn’t waste your handcrafted soap, and you were super frugal by utilizing resources you already had on hand.

handmilled soap in dish

Even if you don’t make your own soap or shampoo bars, this method works great for any type of soap. Handcrafted soaps are often the best for you since they won’t contain any harmful chemicals, but they can be pricy. Being frugal in your use and reuse makes an impact on your budget!

I love using my handcrafted soap and am very excited to make it last even longer.

Have you ever Hand-Milled your soap?

 


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How to Cure Garlic

 

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I learned something new this week! How to cure garlic.

We got a bunch of fresh garlic in our CSA this week. I love cooking with garlic, but there was no way I was going to go through six bulbs of garlic. So I had to learn how to dry or cure them for  preservation.

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First step is to take your fresh garlic and clear off the scraggly leaves. You want to leave the green leaves and roots because the garlic will continue to derive nutrients until it is preserved. It also helps to keep fungi and garden contaminates from spreading.  No need to wash off the dirt either since that will delay the drying process.

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Next, you will need to braid the green stems together. You’ll want to layer the bulbs so that they are somewhat spaced out to encourage drying. You can skip the braiding and just lay out or hang your garlic to dry, but I think it looks pretty to have it braided.

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Once it is braided you need to hang it in a dry, airy place to cure. The recommendations of where to cure that I found were, under a tree, in a well-ventilated garage, or a covered porch. I hung mine up on our porch. Something about seeing my garlic hang up on the porch makes me feel all homesteadish.

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After a month or two depending on humidity, the garlic will be ready. I have a feeling it will be on the longer side for me, since it is typically very humid here. I kept one garlic bulb out to use now so I don’t have to wait. I’m very excited to see how this works!

Once it is done drying it can stay braided or the bulbs can be trimmed and be moved it into the kitchen or pantry. It’s best to keep it out of direct sunlight since that can over dry it and make it lose some of it’s nutrients. Storage in a cool, dry place is best. It should stay preserved for quite a few months.

Have you ever grown your own garlic?


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Chicken Update

Chickens!

Our First Egg!
Our First Egg!

We are finally getting eggs! It seems like forever since we set up our coop and got our chickens. They are now a full six months old and are laying consistently! We get three to four eggs a day. Plenty to keep us fed for breakfast, make mayo, for all sorts of egg-cellent dishes. (Sorry, I had to!)

The ladies are still very skittish. They don’t really like when we walk around the coop or run. I suppose that’s where the phrase “You’re Chicken!” comes from. Hmm. I hope they will get a little more used to us as time goes on. I’m not really wanting to pick them up and carry them around, but I wouldn’t mind if they would stay in one place so I can take pictures of them.

We’ve been letting them free-range around the yard when we are home on the weekends. They really love going out in the woods and finding bugs and grass and things to eat. I love sitting on the porch and watching them wander around the yard, scratching and finding food. Bella got out one time while they were free-ranging and tried to catch them. I looked up and there was a chicken flying across the yard! I did not know they could fly! I finally got Bella back in the house and all but one of the chickens returned to the coop. I was about to leave the house for a while when this happened and thought we had lost a chicken. Fortunately when I got back she had returned to the coop. They were all resting from their scare earlier.

All during the day we also hear our rooster crowing! It’s not just an early morning thing. He makes a lot of noise all during the day and sometimes at night. We don’t mind too much. I think there is still some novelty to it, since we are first time backyard chicken farmers. And we can’t hear him from our bedroom when we are trying to sleep. That might be a problem if we could!

Originally we thought we had six hens. Then one grew tail feathers and a large crown and beard and we had one rooster and five hens. Surprise, surprise another one grew tail feathers, crown, and beard! Two roosters and four hens. Not the best situation. The roosters started fighting. With such a small flock, there is no need to have two roosters. One is almost overkill unless we want to raise chicks. So what kind of solution did we choose?

Chicken for dinner!

Our first chicken slaughter was easier and harder than we anticipated. For one there really isn’t all that much to it. I won’t go into details (and I did NOT take any pictures!), but I will say that youtube was a great help. You can learn all kind of how-tos on there. So we had the knowledge of what to do when we started. The hardest part was of course that we had to kill an animal. I’m all about eating meat and I believe that there is nothing wrong with it when you can take care of your animals and then slaughter them humanely. Once the deed was done, we had to de-feather it, weird feeling wet feathers on your hands. Then, it was a little tricky getting the insides out. There were lots of slimy tubes everywhere, and since it was a small bird I had to do the reaching because Hubby’s hands were too big. Ick!

It seems to be a success! The chicken is soaking in brine in the fridge and will be cooked this week. I don’t know how it will turn out. This chicken is a little older than the recommended age for this breed of chicken, since it is not a meat chicken. And it’s a rooster which doesn’t appear to have as much meat as a hen. We survived our first attempt and I think it could be done again if we decide to raise meat chickens. I like the idea of knowing where my food comes from and working directly to get it on the table.

To sum up, we have one rooster and four hens and chicken for dinner tomorrow.

Chicken Time Part Two

The new chickens are here! The new chickens are here!

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Sorry this is such an awful picture! I will add more as I experience the lives of backyard chickens. I had to wait for Hubby to get home. He was later than usual. Thus the sun started setting before the Ladies were introduced to their home. They were very skittish too as they were gently placed in the coop. We almost had one escape. It was a very tricky operation. I must admit they are kinda cute!  This variety is Rhode Island Reds. From some quick research they seem to be real good egg layers and thrive on free-ranging. We plan to free-range them when we are home and can make sure the neighbor dog, Steve (I picked that name), doesn’t bother them.

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I laid out the pine shavings for the floor when I got home. I think I bought more than we needed, but since it will need to be cleaned periodically, we’ve got the extra already on hand. It was a hard debate to get straw or pine shavings. All the research I did really didn’t give me a clear answer. It all seemed that it was more personal preference for the chickens/people and how the specific run/coop was laid out. I found the pine shavings before the straw at the store, so I went with the shavings. Once Hubby got home we attached the laying boxes. They won’t be in use for a while yet, but at least they are ready.

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We also got a couple of boards placed for their roost. Apparently chickens prefer sleeping up off the floor. Who would have thought. We checked on them later after they were calmed down and two of them were snuggled up there. The feed tray will have to be changed once they grow a little. We will have to set something up so it’s off the floor, otherwise they will get too many shavings in their food.

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Bella is getting acquainted. She was going nuts. If we can keep her out of there, I think we will be safe from any predators!

I’m sure excited to have these hens. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a chicken up close before. This is something totally new and quite the learning experience. I can only hope that we will do well with them. Its kinda nice to have something to take care of though. I have more animals now than I’ve ever had in my prior life combined.  The current count on our “homestead” is one dog, one cat with six kittens, and six hens, plus the random wildlife and a few mice. (Bitsy needs to step it up a bit!! We found one in a trap in the house last night!) Quite the interesting life. Hopefully there isn’t a rooster stuck in with the hens, its hard to tell at this point since they are still young. If so, we will have some chicks at some point in the future.

Chicken Time Part One

The ladies will be here today!

This past weekend we worked extra hard getting our chicken coop set up and ready to go. We have been looking forward to having chickens for fresh eggs for quite some time and finally are making it happen! Here is a brief tour of our coop remodel:

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Hubby pulled off all the old tin. It was rusty, leaky, and ugly. Not effective for keeping rain out. We can’t have wet hens!

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A finished roof!! Hubby did all the acrobatics of placing the insulation and then screwing in the roof. I was able to do to cutting. Never in my life did I think I would cut tin and build a roof. New experiences are fun! We thought we were going to have to buy the ridge for the top, but it ended up that we were able to use an edge piece just fine. They are essentially the same. In fact we didn’t have to buy a single thing for the roof, except some screws! The roof on our house was redone last year, and there was EXACTLY enough pieces of tin to fully cover the roof. And then finding the ridge piece made it even better!

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The next step was to rake out all the leaves from inside the run. There were a bunch piled on top of the cage too. Hubby did some more acrobatics to attempt to get the leaves to fall through the wire. It wasn’t as effective as we hoped so there was plenty of pulling leaves and sticks from underneath and getting sprinkled with debris.

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Bella was glad to help inspect the dirt after raking. Last year we had already leveled the dirt and so it was already smooth and easy to rake. We are thinking we need some straw or wood chips to lay down in here. If time allows and we are able to locate some, we will add that today. If not, a small delay on that should be OK.

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Living in the woods like we do there are a few predators that would love to eat our chickens. Foxes, coyotes, racoons, the neighbors dogs (that wander over occasionally and put Bella in a tizzy!), and hawks abound! The simplest way we determined to keep them out was to add some reinforcement around the fence.  Looking around at what we had on hand, there were JUST ENOUGH large rocks and cinder blocks to fit around the fence, plus a solid railroad tie that is on the front side. Again able to use what we had without purchasing anything!

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This is what we accomplished over the weekend! I painted the front of the coop too, to make it look a little more complete. There was more raking involved too as we decided to clear out an entire section of leaves in hopes that some green will grow to help with the free-ranging possibilities. All to say we were worn out after we got done!

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There were some old laying boxes already up on the inside, but they were honestly beyond crusty. Hubby has removed them and replaced them with new ones. I did not get a pic of that yet, because it was too dark when I got home last night!

Part two will have have the new nesting boxes, a roost and feeding/watering implements added. Also the flooring will be better once the supplies can be obtained. Regardless, Hubby is picking up the chickens today! I hope they will be happy in their new home. This is one step towards our homesteading dreams. It will be interesting to learn how to best feed and care for our hens. Just another little adventure in our crazy little lives.