Experimental Christmas Soap

This year has been the busiest, craziest school year in all the years I have been teaching. I am glad I was able to squeeze in a little soap making time over Thanksgiving break. Each year I make one or two batches of soap that I use over the year and that I give away as Christmas presents. I bought a few new, cute soap molds this year so I am now able to make 6 pounds of soap at a time. I usually make them in 2 pound batches because that is how much my soap bowl will hold and because I like to make a variety of scents.

My kids are young so soap making day is strictly a no kid time. Usually Penelope is in daycare 3 days a week while the other two are in school. I have the same breaks as my school age kids so there is no point in Penelope going to daycare all day while I am home with the other two. Fortunately the daycare center I use is great and they were willing to take care of all three kids for a few hours one day that week rather than one child for 3 days. That gave me two hours of kid free time to make 6 pounds of soap. In order to make that work I had to do a little prep work first.

Prep Work For Making Soap:

  • Pour goat milk into ice cube trays and freeze it. Then transfer the cubes into freezer bags when they are solid.
  • Clear everything off my table and cover with newspaper to help make cleanup faster.
  • Take out and set up my soap making tools which are a big glass bowl, kitchen scale, variety of smaller bowls, thermometer, immersion blender and all the soap molds.
  • Get the oils set out. I use a variety of oils in my soap such as olive oil, coconut oil, lard, sunflower seed oil, and castor oils.
  • Pick out what scents and additives I want to use for my soaps.
  • Set my son Lucian to grinding up oatmeal and powdering comfrey for my experimental soap.

This year for my experimental soap I picked out oatmeal and comfrey to try. Both oatmeal and comfrey are good for your skin and I wanted to try adding a little color to my soap but I’m not big into artificial additives. I thought it would be fun to try to color my soap using herbs that I grew in the garden this year. The soap making book I have, Pure Soapmaking, has a chapter on using herbs and other natural additives. A few of the herbs listed are very common herbs in our area so I thought it would be easy to try one out. My comfrey grows very well in our sandy soil and every year I collect some to dry. I set Lucian to grinding it up using a big mortar and pestle. It took quite a while for him to grind the leaves into a few teaspoons of the powdered herb but he had fun. He likes to help and he was bummed that I wouldn’t let him stay home to actually help make the soap. Each of the kids took turns grinding up oatmeal which was much easier for the littler ones. After we had everything ground up I put it into baggies for the next day.

Soap Making Day

I use a cold process method to make my soap which is why I needed frozen goat milk. I slowly add my lye to the frozen milk cubes and stir it often. While I am adding the lye to my milk I also work on measuring out my oils into my big bowl. Usually I am able to get my oils mixed together and warmed up slightly by the time I am done mixing in the lye. The goal is to mix the lye in slowly enough and stir it often enough that I don’t scorch the milk and to keep all the ingredients under 100 degrees F. I then add the lye/goat milk mixture to the oils and I use a stick blender to mix it all together. When the soap is to trace, or starting to thicken, I add the scents and other additives.

For the fist batch I made my favorite orange/clove scented soap using essential oils. The second was scented with orange and I added the coffee grounds from my morning coffee. This soap is a good scrubbing soap which is a favorite of my sisters. My last batch was my experimental soap. I added the oatmeal first and mixed it in. I was worried that I had put in too much but it turned out alright. I don’t always measure things like I should so I’m going to guess I used about 1/2 cup of oatmeal. Then I mixed the powdered comfrey which is supposed to color the soap a light green color. The recipe called for 2 teaspoons of powdered comfrey per pound of soap. We were only able to get about 2 1/2 teaspoons of powdered comfrey from what I had dried this year. That ended up being about 1 1/2 teaspoons less than I needed but I was surprised at how fast it colored the soap. Last I added lavender essential oil as a nice scent to my herbal soap. I used my new soap molds for my experimental batch of soap and am really happy with how they turned out.

Oatmeal/Comfrey Soap, Coffee/Orange Soap, and Orange/Clove Soap

The color is different, the oatmeal adds a nice texture to it, and the lavender scent is lovely. I think I will definitely make this recipe again although I will probably adjust it. I think a little less oatmeal and a bit more comfrey to darken the color would be perfect. Maybe next time I make soap I will try making a two toned yarrow and nettle soap which is supposed to turn out light yellow and green.

Sweet Melody

It has been a long time since I posted an update on the happenings of our small farm. At the end of August I started working full time at a local school. The position is funded by a special three year grant and is designed to help close the gap in student learning caused by the pandemic. This change in job status has made it more difficult to find the time to write about what we have been up to on the farm. I would have to say that this year has been a difficult year on our little homestead.

Melody, the Halflinger pony we got two years ago, died at the end of September. I have never seen an animal get so sick so fast as Melody did. The day we lost her I went out to feed them at about 9 o’clock and noticed that she did not come up for her grain. I saw her out in the pasture laying down and called to her again. She got up and came over but didn’t eat. She circled around and laid back down biting at her belly like it hurt. I immediately went on high alert because this is a major colic sign.

A few signs of colic:

  • Frequently laying down or refusal to get up.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Biting or kicking at their belly which is a sign of belly pain.
  • Rolling
  • Sweating

I finished my other morning chores then got her up and walked her around for a few minutes. I then called the vet to see if there was anything else that I could do for her besides walk her around. I also called my sister to come over to help take turns walking Melody and watching the kids. Penelope is two and did not understand why she couldn’t help me with the horses. The vet recommended giving her a dose of Banamine or Bute if I did not have the Banamine to make her more comfortable which would help get her on her feet and moving around more.

I only had enough Banamine on hand to give her half a dose so I measured out a half dose of Bute powder, mixed it in with some water and put it into a syringe. She was laying down at this time so I had the kids keep clear while I laid her head down on the ground and gave her both the Banamine and Bute orally as the vet instructed. Next, I brought them into the barnyard pasture which is closer to the house and yard so I could watch her closer. For the next hour and a half my sister, niece, nephew, and I walked her for 10-15 minutes and gave her a break for 10-15 minutes.

At the end of the last walk she appeared to have green watery stuff dribbling out of her nose. I gave her a break and called the vet right away because green watery stuff coming out of her nose is the horse version of mild vomiting. She came out as soon as she could and sedated her a bit to make her more comfortable and gave her medicine to help relax the smooth muscles of her stomach and intestines. Within a few minutes it became apparent that she was already too far gone and was close to stomach rupture. We put her down at 1 o’clock. Fighting to save her and watching her go was one of the most horrible and saddest events on this farm so far.

Jack, our other horse, was beside himself with grief. While we were walking her he walked behind her and when she was laying down while the vet checked on her he stood at her head nickering to her. He yelled and ran off when she took her last breaths but we wanted him to be there so he could understand why she would be gone. We left her there for a few hours so he would know and so the girls could say goodbye when they woke up from their naps. We moved him back to the farther pasture when it was time to take her away and he ran along the fence line yelling for her. He has been depressed since she has been gone and we’ve been keeping a close eye on him.

The kids miss Melody quite a bit. She was a great little horse with a sweet albeit spooky temperament. We called her our little hobbit mountain pony because of her small stature but giant feet. She was loved and will be missed.