Yet another busy weekend and lots achieved. Things are starting to come together in a big way now.
Yesterday, after the episode with chicks and mother hen and all that entailed I had to peg it to get there on time. The course was through Tread Lightly Permaculture and I found out about it through the Ballarat Permaculture Guild website. It was a morning curse (9-12) on making castile soap. Castile soap is a soap made with olive oil, usually not exclusively olive though, and containing no animal fats. Angela, who teaches the course, makes all her own soaps, including clothes washing soaps in which she does use some animal fats from their home harvested animals, something I find admirable as they are making use of every part of the animal which really honours the sacrifice it has made. She makes shampoo soaps, face soaps, hand and body soaps, soaps for personal use and soaps for gifts too. She also makes her own creams and uses some ingredients from her garden too. It’s exciting stuff and one more thing that fits under the permaculture banner. 🙂
Anyway, castile soap can be solid or liquid. This course was for making solid bar soap and I’ve come home with a small face soap and a body soap to age at home. We used ingredients like coconut oil, castor oil, apricot kernel oil (in the face soap) and beeswax from their own hives too. And the olive oil of course. 🙂 The oils are melted together and whilst they melt the lye mix is made up. Cold water then the lye is carefully added and stirred to dissolve. I knew the lye mix would heat up but I never expected it to get to 90C in the space of 20 seconds! It’s a little startling and more than a little bit dangerous. You don’t want to muck around with lye and you NEVER EVER add the water to the lye as it can explode.
Anyway, when the lye had cooled sufficiently we added it to the melted oils and blended and mixed it until it reached trace. Trace is the point when it is thick and can be poured/glooped into the moulds and it’s also the point at which you add any scent you would like. We added lemon balm and something else which I missed. The course ran overtime and I had a guest arriving for lunch at 1 so I had to leave just as we filled our moulds. The group stayed and continued to make the 2nd batch of body soap and the face soap and we all took home the ingredients (except the olive oil) to make a batch at home. One of the other ladies on the course brought home my face soap and body soap for me and they’re curing on top of a high cupboard out of reach of children and cats as they are still caustic at this stage and can burn skin, clothes and the rest. I will break open the moulds (aka half milk cartons) tomorrow and rack them to dry. The other ingredients, including the lye, are also in a container on top of that cupboard.
I’m not sharing the how to’s or a recipe for 2 reasons. 1. I have never actually made soap myself and hence am not experienced enough to do more than give the basics. If you wish to make your own soap, please find instructions from someone reliable and read up carefully on what to do. Oils ain’t oils when it comes to soap making and you can’t subs in recipes like you can in cooking. Please do the reading first. 🙂 and 2. I don’t actually have a recipe to share! 🙂 Angela promised to email out her recipes and I eagerly await the email. 🙂
Anyway, after leaving the course and bolting home via the animal feed store to get chick crumbles (yeah, real well prepared wasn’t I) and the supermarket for, well, groceries, I arrived home about 30 seconds before our guest arrived. I whipped up some home-grown pumpkin soup in Hermy the Thermy which we ate with fresh garlic sourdough bread I’d baked that morning (I was up at 5:30 to knead, shape and bake so my family awoke to a divine smelling house) and then we sat and yakked for an hour or so. She is a fellow Thermy owner, another new Permy and local(ish) too so we have quite a bit in common. We only met the other evening at a Ballarat Permaculture Guild Ballan Pot-Luck dinner (phew, that’s a mouthful) but hit it off pretty much straight away. We’re both shy and retiring people for one. 😉
Martin nicked out to the hardware store then spent the afternoon installing the new chicken waterer that we’d bought last week so the chooks can have fresh water and not duck pond water if the ducks decide to spill their drinking water. We have a few adjustments to make but it is up and running and hooked up to the water tank so here’s hoping 1000L will see them through the year. Given that the rains have finally come, it should fill completely which should mean they’re completely off grid for their water at least. 🙂
Today woke drizzly and slow and around 7:30, Martin headed out into the damp forest to gather some more wood. He came home around 10:30 with a trailer load which he unloaded, chopped and got 2 weeks worth of wood chopped for the fire. He’ll do the same next week so we will finally get ahead a little on the wood scene. Ignisa eats more than we had expected and also some of our wood isn’t as dry as we’d thought. We’re learning. This load Martin brought home is all nice light wood which means it’s dry, even if it has been rained on. It’s the difference between rain-wet aged wood and freshly cut or wood that hasn’t completed drying wet wood. Either way, Ignisa has wood for now and wood for the end of winter and even some wood for next year. 🙂
Whilst he was chopping the wood and the kids ran around in the garden I headed out the front to start the pond. I’d outlined the area I planned to dig the other week with the mattock but it was slow going. Digging heavily rooted grass out of bone dry hard set soil isn’t easy so I’d kind of given up on it for a while. The recent rain had given me hope though but I also knew I just needed to get it done so mattock and me went out the front and I got stuck into it. To my surprise the rain HAD helped and I spent the next 80 minutes digging out the top few inches of soil and grass and finishing the pond shape off. Martin then got roped in to lug rocks from all over the garden which we both placed around the pond to help lift the pond edges up somewhat and minimise the need to dig down so deeply. The grass and soil were loaded upside down onto the rocks to help shape the pond edges. I then dug a shallow channel leading into the pond from the rainwater run off from the road. Our street is quite short and only the last little bit is downhill towards us so the run off should be relatively clean. Martin and I then dug out some of the soil in the middle although I ran out of time (Martin wanted to head into town), light – it was around 5 and starting to get dark) and energy to finish the job off but it won’t take long to dig out and level-ish the bottom before lining it to make it watertight. I am absolutely over the moon with how it has turned out and the quarter circle shape has morphed slightly and it looks like a leaf now. 🙂 How apt for a pond in a food forest garden system. 😀
We also propped up the hugelkultur inspired bed that the edges were falling over (the compost delivery truck rammed it a few times trying to get un-bogged 😦 ) and hammered in some star pickets to hold it up. I don’t need to worry about it all falling apart now and I’ll plant out my loquat tree(s) over the next few days now I know it’s secure. 🙂 The letterbox was in the way, well more to the point the postie was at risk of taking a swim so we moved the letterbox too. It should be a more convenient location now (he’s already commented about the wood pile which was in his way and made it difficult for him) so I hope this makes it easier for him to deliver the mail. 🙂 We will crack off the old concrete and re-set it in its new location if it suits both us and the postie. I just hope he sees it and it causes no problems tomorrow.
Anyway, that’s us up to date. I’ve got some sourdough cake to start off tonight and washing to fold as we have guests coming tomorrow but hopefully on Tuesday we can get some more done. So close, so very close 🙂 The best bit is that now I can really see how the plans in my head are going to come together and work. It’s heady stuff I tell you. 😀
Next step is to prune and move the rose bushes (not sure where quite yet) and prepare their previous home for the multi-graft cherry trees we plan to espalier along there. Our kids can sit on the front deck and pick fresh cherries. 😀