Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ducks, Meat birds, Teen-chicks and Hatchlings

I know.  I know.  I'm waiting for a quilting post too!  There's never a lot of downtime around here lately.  (and soaping doesn't take much time). ;)   Three weeks into summer vacation, and I've been in the quilting room twice -- maybe three times.  SOON though!  (I hope!)

For the past week -- it's been birds of one sort of variety or another.
Paul has been dutifully working on a quaint lil' movable coop.  Initially, it was being built for our teen-chicks that were hatched out about four weeks ago;  they have outgrown the brooder box!

However, after seeing how big the ducklings have gotten at seven weeks old (!!!), they got first dibs on the new digs!  Even with 'pond' installed :D

Our two older (and only remaining ducks from our seven we had earlier this spring :( have migrated over to the teen-duck area.  They stick fairly close to the teens, but no intermingling will happen for a while yet.  King, the white Pekin, picked on our ducklings and teens last year something awful, so... nope.  No intermingling.  Yet.  Prince, the mutt male, had been one of those teens last year.  He started taking over as dominant 'big meanie' when we still had our female, Angel, this spring.  However, since we lost our last female, both of the boys calmed down and have become good buds.

And Afro-Jack seems happy!!!!  Goofy duck.  If he ends up being female----(?).... I guess Afro-Jackie doesn't sound too bad.

Moving the ducks opened up one of our three ground-brooders.  The other two were housing our cross-breed meat birds.  And it was time to take care of those guys too!

Processing 18 meat birds was a family affair.  I know there are mixed feelings 'out there' regarding posting pictures of the process, but.... really?  I think this is our fourth (fifth?) year now of raising birds for meat;  I wasn't really involved much up until this year.  With a nearly empty chest-freezer (low on chicken, hardly any pork, beef mostly gone, zilcho venison!), I now truly APPRECIATE the fact of having full chest-freezers of meat and other garden goodies!  
These chickens here-- these are NOT EGG-LAYERS!  Good lordy.  I love my chickens that I/we hatch and raise for eggs.  They are more like pets to us than simply birds that provide us eggs.
But these guys.  They are like beefers, but only chicken versions.  They are bred to grow quickly.  Quickly!  At 10 weeks, these guys are a hefty size for processing.  They NEVER receive names from us, but we take care of them; feed them, water them -- raise them to grow :D

We waited until week 12 almost to the day.  This is the second (or third?) year Paul has used his DIY chicken-plucker.  Yup!  It's another one of those things that I rolled my eyes at when he purchased all the supplied to make one, but now I see the awesome purpose of this machine!  It makes such quick work of plucking those chickens.

The final outcome after a LONG day of processing?  Chicken!  We didn't weigh the final poundage we processed, but this was one of the larger chicken breasts we raised!  That's just a single breast, folks.  The average breast -- probably 1 1/4 pounds.  We sealed some half-chickens, but mostly breasts, legs/thighs and wings.
And, of COURSE, I made stock and rendered down chicken fat (schmaltz).  But that's for some other time.

Since all three of the ground brooders were now empty, the next day was spent reorganizing all the new and old pens in a new location.    The brooder box was hauled down to the new location for easy removal of the teen chicks...
The new-found freedom for some was too much to resist!  As they grow, they will eventually be free-range chickens, but we keep them safe from predators until they reach a few months old.

Watered and fed.  And it was only an afterthought--- we STILL never took the time to count how many chicks there are!!!!! **forehead slap!!**  In this picture----we're still sticking with 34 as our best guess.  One of these days when we start spreading the flock out, we'll get a good count.

These ground-brooders are roughly 8x8;  after another few weeks, these chicks will need more space, but for now, the new house for the next few weeks will be just perfect.  We attempted to remove Mama from the picture and return her to her coop/flock that evening.  It only took about 5 minutes for her to run back down to the babies.  *shrug*  It's all good.  Eventually, these babies will get mingled in with the new coop flock (Mama's flock) anyway.   

So, FINALLY!  Teen ducks and chicks are happy in new housing!
And just in time....

Seventeen new hatchlings (so far) from the incubator have now taken up room-n-board in the brooder house.  We're keeping track of how many chicks we get this time!!!

How many more do we expect??  Another two have hatched since moving these guys this morning, and there were 35 total eggs in the incubator.   There are always a few that don't survive the hatching process;  always such a sad time.  Your guess is as good as mine.  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ginger Patchouli Oatmeal & Honey soap [Rebatch soap]

Continuing on my soap-making adventure...
Some research was done about incorporating oatmeal and honey into soap (it's actually quite simple), and how to naturally color soaps without dyes, clays, or even proclaimed "natural" soap colors.

The game plan...

The result...

Yes, it's quite pretty;  overall I'm pleased with using spices and other true natural colorants to soap, but.....
This screams a bit more like "Spiced Pumpkin," instead of "Oatmeal and Honey" to me, wouldn't you say???

A rebatch was planned.
Using the microwave method...
All but one bar was grated into a microwavable-safe glass bowl.  The soap weighed about 2.5 pounds as it entered the microwave.  ONE Tbs of milk was also added.

This is FRESH CP soap;  it was made up two days ago, so the melting of this rebatch didn't take much time at all.
In minute-long spurts, the final 'melting' lasted 4 minutes.
After the last minute, 12g of Ginger Patchouli fragrance oil (a sample from Brambleberry with my last order) was added and mixed well.
OH WOW!  LOVE this fragrance!!!!

Spooning the sloppy mixture into the mold did lend a few difficulties, and I feared a few air-pockets would be prevalent.  However, this afternoon, the unmolding was seemingly unceremonious.

OH MY GOODNESS!  This Ginger-Patchouli sample fragrance from Brambleberry -- nailed it!  What an amazing smell!  By no means is my nose a fragrance connoisseur (is that word used for fragrances???), but...
there's an underlying musky fragrance (the patchouli, most likely) -- AMAZING!!!!  HUGE hit!  Can't wait to cut this and for the bars to cure!

The rebatched Ginger Patchouli is two weeks into curing.  It's softer than the original bar of Oatmeal & Honey; I suppose that's due to the lil' amount of milk added to the rebatch.
The smell----- oh yuppers, folks!  Brambleberry found a new customer for the Ginger Patchouli fragrance oil!
Ginger Patchouli Oatmeal & Honey yogurt soap -- 2 weeks after rebatching
And the original bar of the Oatmeal & Honey yogurt soap....
The tumeric color has calmed down quite a bit from the 'spiced orange' look.  I'm glad I saved one bar from heading into the rebatch -- the subtle honey fragrance is soft, and actually a bit too light (for me).  When I use the Honey fragrance oil next, I'll either increase the amount or mix it with another fragrance
Original Oatmeal & Honey yogurt soap -- 2 weeks of curing

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Caitlyn's Lemon Energy yogurt soap [CP Soap]

The craze of soap-making has spread to daughter #2.  Caitlyn had been eyeing up the stash of yogurts in the fridge, and hinted (heavily) about a soap made from lemon-chiffon yogurt.
Who was *I* to say no????

Using, I kept the recipe small and simple!  
Also, towards the end, we swapped out the Lavender essential oil for "Energy" essential oil.

Prepping the yogurt/water mixture, she learned how to tare out a scale and how to toggle between pounds/ounces to grams.  All measurements were performed in grams.  This was an EXCELLENT opportunity to have a mathematical conversation about "precision measurement" (after all, 'precision' is one of the mathematical process standards) ;)

A VERY thin pouring was placed into ice cube trays;  she shares my (lack of) patience.  The thin pours should freeze quickly!  She was mixing as dinner was being prepared;  and we had all intensions of making up the soap after dinner, however... it just didn't happen. *shrug*

Directly after summer school the next day, we got to work!  She was allowed to mix the oils and measure out the fragrance, however I handled all of the mixing involving the lye.  Even still, she protected her eyes with the stylish sunglasses (since I was wearing the safety goggles), and wore a long-sleeved shirt.

Cassie and I had spent an hour or so shopping at St. Vincent's and at the dollar store earlier in the day.  We scored on a few items!

This lil' container seemed ideal to use as a soap mold (for only $0.65!).
Now that we've unmolded though... it wasn't such a huge hit afterall.  Perhaps I'll give it one more try and wait another 12-24 hours before unmolding?  It's rigid, and after some coaxing and prying, the soap released, leaving soap in the small indentations :(

Another score Cassie and I found was this little purple silicone baking mold -- $1.00.  It's a bit flimsy, but one of those drawer space-savers worked perfectly as a reinforcement.  
Little sister, Candace wanted to be part of the action as well, grabbed a couple of toothpicks in order to add some texture to the top.

This little batch is a great size to try out future sample additives and fragrances;  super simple with only two oils.  Will be saved for sure.   

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Family and a 'home' visit

Reunion Siblings, 2015
Reunion weekend brought me to the homestead.  Saturday morning began overcast, drizzling and gloomy, but cleared up perfectly with light cloud cover by reunion time.  The size of the party was smaller than in the past, but still relaxing and fun to catch up with family members (immediate and extended).  There really is something about getting older and becoming more appreciative of family.

In fact, how much do I love my family?  (specially, my sister?)  Knowing I'd be seeing my sis, Cassie and I spent Friday morning picking strawberries from the patch in order to make up a couple batches of strawberry jam.  For my sis.  She loves it!  
just a quick taste from the bowl scrapings :D
An ongoing observation with the girls is how TALL they are all getting;  Dad is 6'6" after all.  ;)  Aunt Jenny is getting dwarfed, certainly.  

I don't always make a stop at Hancock Fabrics when visiting 'home,' but on a whim, I drove into the parking lot at 7:20 last night, and left by 7:40.  How's THAT for a quick stop???  These fabrics simply leapt off the shelves.  I can't wait to brainstorm a top.  Bonnie's Pineapple Blossom may be on my list (again!).  Love that pattern.  Or Jared Takes a Wife.  ?
AND -- the best part of this purchase.... it essentially was FREE.  After coupons, sales and gift cards, this $100.00 purchase dwindled to $0.00!  As Andee said on FB -- "Score!!!"

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Soap Trial #1 - Vanilla Yogurt and Dark Chocolate Mocha [Rebatch soap]

Jeni, oh Jeni.  During another FB messenger conversation, she and I both gave each other some credit for enabling the other.  She to me for assisting her purchase to in the way of 'thank you' gift certificates, and she to me for offering me up her older 2# mold that had been collecting dust, awaiting a timely death in a burn pile. !!!!!
What a wonderful lady!!!  Additionally, when she dropped off the mold, she also snuck a small bag of fragrance oils that had been, in her words, "on her shelf for awhile."
Turkish Mocha!!!!  Dark Rich Chocolate!!!  And others.....

So, while she was here, I had her take a look at my cut pieces.  ugh!  SOOO not pretty.  Nor very pleasant smelling >:(  But those Type-A worries aside, I asked her about the tackiness they each had.  She nodded... 'yup, yup.  These will be good bars."
Well...aside from the strange cuttings.  And smell.
That bundt-style mold ended up not being such a great idea;  I didn't care for wedge-style cuts.  Therefore, some trimming was done.... Quite honestly, it kinda looked like a crinkle-cut mess!
The lighter bars from the plastic container were better, but... again, my Type-A personality was having a hard time with all the differences.  There was really only one bar I liked;  the one cut from the center of the mold.

Therefore, after she left, I got to thinking.  I remember reading up on a method known as re-batching;  essentially when soap gets melted back down for one reason or another; to add missing ingredients, my case, to add fragrance oils!  {and try out the new mold!}

I kept ONE of the previous bars (first attempt);  the lovely lil' cut from the center of the plastic mold.  All of the rest--- INTO the rebatch!  Using the mircowave rebatching method, I added 14g of Turkish Mocha and 26g of Rich Dark Chocolate.  Rebatched soap doesn't reach its previous pudding-liquid state;  rather it takes on a mashed-potatoes feel and look. 

Twenty-four hours later, the new loaf is unmolded and cut!  
Not only did Jeni share her older mold with me, she also included her old cutting form to boot!

The cuts alternated between the crinkle-cutter and straight cutter.  Eight gorgeously smelling bars cut, along with two lil' sample-size pieces.

One concern about rebatched soap that kept coming up on most of the websites I researched is that there may be clumps of the original batch that don't melt completely, leading the final batch to be splotchy.  For my bars, it works!
Now, to rename this first batch:  Vanilla Yogurt & Dark Chocolate Mocha soap :D

My soaping ingredient stash grew after a brief shopping trip this morning.  The awesomely cool fact:  if/when the obsession over soap-making decreases or deceases completely, MOST of these ingredients will be repurposed into the kitchen :D
Three week update:
The color has richened deeeeply into a dark, DARK brown.
The smell remains ABSOLUTELY amazing, but due to the high HIGH amount of Dark Rich Chocolate fragrance added in comparison to the Turkish Mocha, it resembles chocolate more-so, with an underlying mocha.  Did you know that on rebatched soap, you don't need to add as much fragrance as in the initial CP soap?  So, yes folks... these bars pack a whopper of smells!!!!!
Two little slivers of edging had been cut off the ends, and being almost three weeks into curing, I jumped into testing the soap out yesterday!
NOTE:  Go EAAAAASY on the coffee grounds, folks!  This most definitely is going to be a soap I keep in the kitchen, which is typically where we wash up after being outside in the garden.  The coffee grounds are an EXCELLENT exfoliating and scrubbing additive!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lip Balm - It's so easy!

Oh, folks!  Hold me back!!!!!

Next to being new at soap-making and finding it a bit time-consuming (post from earlier today), brewing up your own batch of lip balm is SOOOOOOO easy!   Readily having access to beeswax, and either coconut or olive oil, mixing up a batch takes minutes!  And what's more -- you can use it right away!

At first I was concerned that our beeswax hadn't been 'cleaned' or refined.  It's still in the ice-cream pail, basically taken directly from the frame as Paul was harvesting the honey last year.  Some of it still has (barely) traceable honey residue.  And then it hit me.......
DUH!  If some recipes suggest adding honey ANYWAY.... what's the difference if it's "clean" beeswax or not!?!?!?
So, for those of you who get intrigued to make up your own batch or two and have to purchase 'clean' beeswax, you may want to consider adding a dash of honey to your recipe.  Then again, why stop at honey?  Do a quick "lip balm flavor oil" search and have at 'er!  LOL.  Here's Brambleberry's flavor oil page.  Oh dear Lord, please gift to me the power of restraint!

It was decided for the second trial NOT to include any honey to the recipe since it separated from the oils in the first batch.  Also, coconut oil was exchanged for olive oil (more about that decision a bit later). 

Trial 2 - "Peppermint Love"
2 Tbs beeswax
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp Peppermint extract (YES!  Extract!!!)
I didn't have any mint essential oils, and I was IMPATIENT, wanting to try another batch with a mint flavor/smell.  So... sure!  Why not?  I knew we had some extract in the cupboard, so.... *shrug*.  I threw it in!

I didn't have any lip-balmy containers around the house (crazy to think, right??  With three girls??)  However, we had just been gifted BOXES of these small jelly jars;  really small!  I can't even tell you how much they hold or what size they are.  We always freeze our jams.  When we made jelly two summers ago, we used half-pint jars.  These..... I don't think they even hold a cup, so.... maybe half-cup containers???    Anyway.  As I sifted through one box, this lid jumped out at me "Love."

It was meant to be.  Because I LOVE this trial!  Really!  The batch created about 1/4 cup of balm.  The peppermint extract is subtle, and provides a little bit of initial tingly-ness.  I could see upping the next trial to 1/2 tsp.
A word of warning (?) after some research on whether extracts should/could be used in lip-balms.  It would seem that extract should separate from the oils since it isn't an oil-based flavor.  *shrug*.
Hmpf!  I didn't have a problem.  And as we've all (hopefully) learned and/or heard over the years --
try new things!  
Some things will succeed and some will fail.  I successfully used peppermint extract in my lip balm.  **patting self on back**

Now.  Some minor education on olive oil vs. coconut oil (and I am NO expert after a couple days of research).  If anyone has more data to share with me regarding the two, I would love to read more on which is more moisturizing and/or conditioning than the other.

On, one of the calculators soapers have access to is a Lye Calculator.  On that page, many many fats/oils are listed, along with their soap qualities.
Check out the "CONDITION" lines... 

It would appear to me that Olive oil has more conditioning (and therefore moisturizing ?) properties than Coconut oil.  Therefore, for lip-balm, I will use olive oil until further notice.
For soaping.... both oils play nicely together, which is probably why many simple recipes call for both of them.  Easy to purchase, and where one is high or low in conditioning, the other makes up for it.  Likewise, hardness... and cleansing (an important aspect for soap, wouldn't you think?!?!!) ;)  Bubbly too -- there's something kinda saddening about soap that doesn't lather, so... bring on those bubbly numbers for soap.

Oh Jeni.   What have you done?!?!?!?!?

Soap, Birdies, and Lip Balm

Yup.  Yup.  Paul knew I'd get hooked and obsessed on a new hobby, SPECIALLY after being invited to Jeni's house for a few hours of soap-making the other night.

Yesterday, I read.  I researched.  I learned.  I shopped.
Ingredients for first batch:
(These are ONLY the ingredients and container sizes I purchased.  These are NOT the amounts for the recipe!)
With a small nudge in the right direction from Jeni, I found 100% lye at the local ACE hardware.  454 grams - $4.49

*Olive Oil*
Weight not given;  only liquid volume (101.4 fl oz / 3L) - $19.99
After the fact, I didn't focus on liquid measurement as I poured;  recipe is based on weight.  In order to get a cost analysis, I GUESS I'll just have to make another batch soon and pay attention to volume :D

*Coconut Oil*
Again, weight not given;  only liquid volume (14 fl oz / 414 mL) - $7.89

*Distilled Water*
Recipes recommend using distilled water, and since we have hard water that goes through a softener, this wasn't even a second thought!  Gallon purchased - $0.83.  Used a cup-ish or so.  MINOR COST!

And YES -- for my first batch, I tried Anne L. Watson's Yogurt Parfait Soap (complete recipe can be found in her Milk Soapmaking book) 
The yogurt I already had on-hand:  Low-Fat Vanilla.  The recipe didn't even require a whole lil' single serving -- so... $0.40 for that.  Another MINOR COST!  And who knew you could make soap with yogurt?!?!

For my first soaping experience, I wanted to play it safe and follow a published recipe.  The yogurt and water were mixed up bright and early at 6AM and placed into ice-cube trays.  They were ready for me by the time I returned from dropping the girls off at summer school.

I behaved first, though!  All the dishes and kitchen counters were cleaned before starting, all the while thinking about some videos and websites visited yesterday.  One in particular:  DIY Natural Coffee Soap.  Ummm...hello!!!!  LOVE coffee, right?!?!

SO, even though the recipe was followed as written...
the final step was altered JUST a wee bit.   There are no pictures, as the hands were a bit too busy, nor was anyone else home at the time.
The 'batter' was divided, setting about 1/3 of the mixture aside.  Roughly, 1/4 cup coffee grounds was added to the 1/3 mixture.  10 g of Vanilla oil fragrance was also added;  it's all I had on-hand.  EXTREMELY light scented soap.  *shrug*.  It's all good;  just for us, after all.

The two mixtures were swirled together, although, I don't think it'll turn out to be a 'true soaper's swirl.'  Again....all good here!  ;)
Nothing fancy used as the molds...

Have you ever had Bridgford Monkey Bread?  YUMMMMM!  Well, this lil' mold right here is the container the bread comes in.  Great lil' repurposing, me thinks!!!

The other??  Just one of those salad/donut plastic containers that deli's give out to customers.  
And yes----Cassie was arriving home just as I was finishing the pour.  She saw this container, and said...."Oooooh!  What's this??"
"Whatever you do, DO NOT EAT IT!!!!!"
She went on to say 'ah, good thing you said something.  It certainly looks like a yummy pudding."
To be sure no one else may fall into the "it looks good enough to eat" trap, she labelled it with the warning before we moved the molds into the freezer.
It's been about 6 hours; the first 4 hours in the freezer, and now the soap has moved into the fridge to continue setting.
First batch of Vanilla Yogurt and Coffee soap -- check!

Three week UPDATE:  
The next day after cutting the soap, and being concerned from an 'off' odor, like spoiled milk, I began researching a method for rebatching soap.  Plus, my soaping mentor dropped off one of her old, small 2lb molds she no longer uses!!!
Read up on the rebatch...
And come to find out... that odor was nothing to be concerned with.  One lil' bar was kept, while the rest went into the rebatch.  The odor is no longer present... and the bar received its test-run this AM.
Lathered and bubbled nicely;  no burning.  After placing it in the soap holder and picking it back up a minute or two later, there was almost a slime-like appearance to it, but after another 10 minutes of drying, it was back to a muted, solid bar of soap.
back to three weeks ago....
As I was placing the molds into the freezer, a lil chirping noise caught my attention, but I ignored it.
Hours later, when I went to move the molds into the fridge, I heard the sound again, in the same location.  It didn't sound like a mouse.  It didn't sound like a cricket, either.
Pinpointing the sound, behind one of Paul's ladders.....

Baby birdy!!!!  Oh, I must have stood there for a few minutes, wondering what to do.  If I tried to grab it, would it fly away?  Is is big enough to fly away?  How on earth did it get in here?  The garage door had been closed.  I reached for it slowly; it didn't even flinch and came rather uneventfully into my hand.
NOW what to do with it?  **shrug** I'm no bird expert.  Is it too small to survive without the mom?  **shrug**
Simple solution:  Place it on the handrail and watch it.  LOL

Well, I'll be!!!!!!  I head over the tomato section of the handrail...... do you see?!?!?!!?  CLEARLY a sibling was in my tomato pot (left birdy --  the right birdy is the only I released).  Within minutes, both of them hopped out and flew off.  Good luck lil' birdy!

Ho hum.  Researching soap recipes for much of the afternoon :D.  Browsing  Browsing  Playing with the Soap/Lye calculator at

Then, I was inspired to see what could be made with our beeswax.


MOM!  What's this?  REALLLLY?  You MADE lip-balm???  You can MAKE lip-balm????

LOL.  Yup.  Played around with a little sample size of lip balm.  More playing required.
Simple recipe tried:
1 Tbsp beeswax
1 Tbsp Coconut oil
1/2 tsp honey
2 drops essential oil (I only have Lavender on-hand.)
Eh.  The lavender wasn't bad as lip balm, but a MINT oil would be so much nicer!!! Spearmint!!! Oh yes. 
Off to shop!  And play with some more batch trials.  The honey seems to be 'escaping' the oils/butters.  I may need to decrease it.

want some?
Oh.  Yeah.  The sample-size container used??  An old Altoids tin :D