Soap and building a pond

Yet another busy weekend and lots achieved. Things are starting to come together in a big way now.

Tenacity is doing much better now although those little pins still don't seem to be up to the job of walking around quite yet. A concern.

Tenacity is doing much better now although those little pins still don’t seem to be up to the job of walking around quite yet. A concern.

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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 scentΒ 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. πŸ™‚ and 2. I don’t actually have a recipe to share! πŸ™‚ Angela promised to email out her recipes and I eagerly await the email. πŸ™‚

A normal loaf and at the back 2 garlic sticks. Next time more garlic.

A normal loaf and at the back 2 garlic sticks. Next time more garlic.

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. πŸ˜‰

Martin nicked out to the hardware store then spent the afternoon installing the new chicken watererΒ thatΒ 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. πŸ™‚

IMG_6141Today 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. πŸ™‚

IMG_6140Whilst 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. πŸ™‚ How apt for a pond in a food forest garden system. πŸ˜€

Looking down from the street along the inlet

Looking down from the street along the inlet

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ We will crack off the old concrete and re-set it in its new location if it suits both us and theΒ postie. I just hope he sees it and it causes no problems tomorrow.

Proud but exhausted. The letterbox in it's new home int he background, moved from about 1m behind where I'm standing.

Proud but exhausted. The letterbox in its new home int he background, moved from about 1metre behind where I’m standing.

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 πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ˜€

Proof that I did indeed dig this thing by hand.

Proof that I did indeed dig this thing by hand.

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. πŸ˜€

With the addition of some extra (and willing) help.

With the addition of some extra (and willing) help.


14 thoughts on “Soap and building a pond

  1. LyndaD says:

    Oh Lordy, you have been busy. You are going to have muscles everywhere by the time you finish. Must get down there with more cardboard. Sorry to have missed the soap course but i am staring at my first block of feta. Woo Hoo. Im on my way too. Hey, when shit hits the fan in the future, we should all live together is a comune with all out multi skills we are learning.

    • Woo hoo for feta! When does it mature? There’s a lot to be said for communal living.
      I’m sorry I didn’t make it down to collect cardboard too. I’m hoping some time this week? We shall be in communications I am sure. πŸ™‚

  2. narf77 says:

    I am exhausted just looking at what you guys accomplished! We aren’t even allowed to leave our wheelie bins out on the driveway because our post lady can’t drive RIGHT UP to the mailbox and might have to get her (fat) derierre out of the car and walk a metre to put the mail into the box (count yourself lucky! πŸ˜‰ ). That pond looks lovely. Are the ducks going to be allowed into it? If so…try this…
    Might work ;). Ok, off to get this RSS Feed Read finished for today and a very busy day we have ahead of us :). Them’s the benefits of being a penniless student hippy, our weekends can be whenever we damned well please and we get to take 2 days off on Saturday and Sunday when the rest of the world is racing about trying to cram in EVERYTHING (and walking the dog) for the week. Don’t hate us ;). The flip side is we are church mouse poor and time rich and even though we could do SO much with our free time, we don’t have the money to get what we need to do everything…seriously frustrating and a real life lesson πŸ˜‰

    • I remember that lesson. When I was at school I had time and no money. Then I was working and had money but no time. I’m not sure it ever balances out to have a bit of both does it?
      Looking up the link now, thanks.
      You guys don’t exactly do nothing (aside from weekends) so I’m not so sure it’s what we achieve that tires you but my boring storytelling. πŸ˜‰
      Here’s hoping the week ahead brings us both what we want and what we need. πŸ™‚

  3. You are so busy! I am going to try soap soon, I feel I may become obsessed with it once I start, I have a thing for nice soap but good natural ones are terribly expensive.

  4. Jo says:

    That is a great list of achievements! There are so many things on my mental list of ‘things to try’, but I have to take it one step at a time so I don’t go completely insane. Is one lifetime going to be long enough? I have just made my first sourdough cake, after ‘souring’ the starter for ten days. But I don’t like the cake! There is oil in the recipe, and I don’t like the taste of cakes with oil. Do you have a recipe without oil, or do you think I could just make another one and substitute melted butter?

    • You could try a different oil. Like coconut oil? Melted butter should work too. Is your cake a Herman the German cake? If not and it’s a standard sourdough cake the souring is only about 7-8 hours although obviously there’s longer time involved in starting up and feeding your sourdough mother/starter. I hope this helps. πŸ™‚

      • Jo says:

        It is indeed a Herman the German cake that turned up at our door one day a couple of weeks ago. I will try it again with butter (and maybe try to not overcook it this time..)

  5. Linne says:

    Awesone! Glad Chicky is doing ok; I was a bit concerned, too. And that pond . . . there’s a couple of books I recommend to people and in it the couple (well into middle age and past) dug out an acre pond by hand, using wheelbarrows to move the dirt. I was in awe! Yours is looking good; what’s going in it? I think it’s a bit small for trout πŸ™‚

    Is it possible to make a sourdough cake using Delicious Delilah’s output? I just had to move her (well, the larger part of her) into a quart jar, leaving a small part in the old pint jar. And already, the milk has set up . . . since last night! So I need to get on with using it all up. I did have a huge blender drink for part of my breakfast and I took out the pits and put in two very big Medjool Dates for sweetener (and a bit of apple juice). It was very yum!

    Anyway, I’m delighted to see all the progress. I can hardly wait to see the cherry trees in blossom . . . am I getting ahead of myself? or you??

    Nice to see you getting wood in for next year, too. That wood will be lovely and dry. Gotta run; my supper’s ready.

  6. cecilia says:

    Don’t you love it when a plan in your head becomes a plan in the ground! You are working so hard and it will pay off too! excellent about the off the grid chooks, make sure your wee chickens have an uneven surface to walk on, wood chips or old straw, this helps them develop their feet properly, I always throw in handfuls of grit too, they need grit straight away.. you are having such fun! the kids must just love it! c

    • Thanks for the advice Cecilia. It’s appreciated. The chicks are on sawdust atm and on standard chick crumbles. They have an area downstairs with straw and dirt (mud with all our lovely rain) but the 2nd hatched chick hasn’t been walking so well until today and so we’ve been babying them somewhat to make sure it survived.

  7. Like Fran – I am exhausted after reading all the work you did and looking at the photos. The pond is going to be great! AND what a great stack of wood!!! Thanks for stopping by over at Not Dabbling in Normal!

  8. […] year I attended a soap making workshop. It was a great morning out and I learned a lot but the structure of the course was a little loose […]

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