One of the main questions asked by customers is: Will your soap get all soft and goopy? This is usually followed by "I purchased some handmade soap at my local farmers market and it smelled wonderful, but it turned into a puddle of goo after a few days of sitting in my shower stall. I would really like some soap that doesn't do this!" Alas, this is a very difficult thing to achieve without including some unethical ingredients or removing some beneficial glycerin. Stearin is a vegetable derived hardening agent that some soap makers employ. Stearin can be derived from palm oil, so it doesn't happen here. Salt can sometimes help soap with firmness, and it sometimes happens here. Sodium lactate allegedly has bar hardening properties, and it sometimes happens here. The main culprit in the goop effect is glycerin. When soap is made by hand, the glycerin molecules get to remain in between the sodium salt molecules in the bar. Glycerin is aso known as glycerol, and it is the natural result of the "alkaline hydrolysis of esters" which is what saponification does. Most soap makers consider glycerin to be a very beneficial ingredient and they do not separate it from the salts formed during the process. It helps draw moisture to the skin. Glycerin and any free unsaponified fatty acids are the main culprits in the goop factor of handmade soap. They are also key components for skin benefit that commercial soaps do not usually retain in significant amounts. Another element of the goop factor is the age of the soap. A year old bar of soap is harder than a 2 month old bar of soap. The only draw back to aged soap is that any plant material in it will have most likely faded to brown, and some essential oil scents may have departed. As far as hardness goes-the older, the better! There are definitely some techniques that will help to control the goop factor while the soap is in use. It is better to have a soap dish away from the shower stall to put your soap in between uses. It is good to alternate bars of soap so that they get a chance to dry between uses. If you have a big hunk of handmade soap, you can cut it into smaller pieces and alternate between these. Around here, we are generally brutal to soap during batch testing, and the goop factor really comes on after 1 bath and 2 showers in a row every day with no dry respite. (I always forget to take my test soap out before somebody else needs the shower, and usually they use the soap that I am testing!) Here is a link to the description of what exactly happens during saponification and the molecules involved: amrita.olabs.edu.in/?sub=73&brch=3&sim=119&cnt=1
We have really been blessed with tomatoes this year, and so begins the creation and consumption of all things tomato! Tomatoes have been translated into a folk remedy for ridding pets (and sometimes humans) of the smell of skunk encounters, but alas, that tomato juice bath is not scientifically proven to work for that purpose. I have never had occasion to try it myself. Here is an article on that subject: scienceline.org/2006/07/ask-cosier-skunk/
Tomatoes are delicious and good for us in many other ways. Tomatoes are also members of the nightshade family! Here is a link to Organic Facts about tomatoes: www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/tomatoes.html
I'm really not much for canning, but I sure do get a kick out of making soap, so many lovely fresh homegrown tomatoes are being turned into skin cleansers this season. Other than soaps, tomatoes tend to get served on toasted bread with mayonaise, consumed in salads, or just plain eaten like apples around here. I have a suspicion that one of the reasons tomato soap is so good is because the acidic quality of the tomato balances the alkaline nature of soap. We are currently washing with Tomato Thyme soap as we wait for the Tomato and Black Salt soap to cure. Homegrown Tomato Castile soap is on the menu for tomorrow!
I watch several soap makers, artists and crafters on YouTube because there is always more to learn and I enjoy seeing how others go about things. I have seen many useful and inspirational videos and there is one artist that just blew me away with her incredible talent! Grace takes soap artistry to the highest level I have ever seen. Her creations are both beautiful and beneficial. She creates soap that hides a story within as well as presenting beauty on the surface. The way that she makes this happen is unique! I was so impressed by her artistry that I contacted her to tell her how much I admired her, and..she sent me a present! I am so grateful and dragonish about these soaps! Use them, you say? Use them? Oh no. No No. I must hoard them. I must touch them and sniff them and admire their beauty! (For as long as I can hold out!) The smell is divine, the feel of them in my hands is weighty and clean. The beauty is matchless. But the Shea & silk is calling to my skin. My skin is saying Oh just once, just a little lather, just wet the back a bit and have a quick little bath.. I cannot resign myself to the inevitable washing away! The soaps below are two of her incredible designs. Please, click the picture and visit her website. I guarantee that you will find delights there! When I do break down and use the Monarch, I will post pictures of the transormation. But..do not expect this to be soon. I am ordering a special display box for these beauties! Visit Grace's You Tube channel to learn more: youtu.be/wBxnf-6-IBU
What a long struggle it has been to get things made right in our home again! I can say happily that cleaning is under way. The giant air scrubber is doing it's thing in the living room and two incredible ladies worked like berserkers for the past two days to HEPA vac and wipe everything free of mortar dust. Thank you Servpro East! We are actually not afraid to be in our own bedrooms tonight. How long were we in that gross yet pet friendly motel? Nine days? Yes, it was gross but it wasn't full of silica dust and the air conditioner worked so very well. A bedbug rumor sent us madly out into a tent in our backyard, and then a hoard of disgruntled spiders sent us out of the tent last night. Luckily, things were OK inside the house, although I will not feel truly good about it until I see an air sample result that proves it. No, I did not get any good spider pictures. We were too busy being horrified and trying to shake out our blankets. I think the spiders were protesting the mortar dust that coated their webs. They were probably right in the line of fire from the blowing box fan! (Grungy fan pic below, and this is what you never want anyone to do to your yard or your neighbor's yard) The rabbits and oldest daughter stayed with my aunt and missed the sweaty tent experience. There just was not enough room for us all, and although Izzy did not seem interested in the bunnies while we were stuck in the smelly hotelly, bunnies in a tiny tent may have brought out the beast.
A huge cloud of ground mortar composed of 50 to 75% silica sand (which became microcrystalline and invisble dangerous silica particulates when ground) was released into our atmosphere without regard to the environment. Good contractors use removal tools with dust catching equipment attached so this does not happen. To grind without the proper dust control is a huge OSHA violation, but OSHA does not protect bystanders and home residents, only workers. These contractors unleashed the cloud with only a box fan in a window to mitigate dust dispersal, and that is NOT good. We had no choice but to flee until professional cleaners can come in and scrub the place and our air! The soap making tools are stuck in the no go zone! The thing that happened in our living room is quite similar to an operation called tuck pointing. Visit the CDC and OSHA to discover the dangers and the best ways of protecting yourself, should you ever need a similar operation done to your home, or if you want to do such work yourself. Some dust is way more than dirty. Some dust kills! Here is a link to get you started: www.silica-safe.org/know-the-hazard/why-is-silica-hazardous
I have some prolific lemonbalm and basil at the moment, so I am putting it to multiple uses! I like to liven up regular iced tea with both of these herbs. I believe that using fresh herbs provides the most benefit, so when I can, I certainly do! As I have mentioned before, lemonbalm is definitely best fresh. It adds a sunny slightly lemony aromatic note to iced tea. Just cut a few sprays and put it in your tea water as it is heating and let it wilt. This releases the goodness of the herb into the water. Then, add your tea (I like it with green tea) and steep as usual. I don't bother straining mine. A few stray bits of lemonbalm or tea leaves does a body good! I have the best luck with cinnamon basil here, so I use the same process with a lesser amount and black tea. I think the basil is too overpowering when mixed with green tea. Soon, I will be making Passiflora incarnata drinks. I could be using the flowers right now, but since bumble bees love them, I have left them undisturbed this season. Sadly, only two bumblebees have visited my garden this year, and maybe two honey bees. This is a very bad sign. My garden used to hum every season. I wonder how many of my neighbors are contributing to this decline, and it makes me sad that seemingly so few appreciate the value of these creatures. I seem to have a healthy wasp population, and subsequently, very few caterpillars have emerged so far. I'm sure some will survive! Speaking of the wasps...A nest has been started under the eaves of the front porch. We have had no trouble from them. I think of them as our extra guardians of the front door, guaranteed to ward off the faint of heart.
Mosquitos find me to be absolutely tasty, and we have a severe population here every summer. Before I knew of the harm that the strong commercial insect repellents could do to my sytem and the environment, I never went outside unslathered and sprayed. When I stopped using the commercial products, I suffered greatly, so I began experimenting with naturally occurring alternatives. So far Neem oil is my winner. It does have it's downsides. #1: It is an oil, so if I use it straight, I'm oily. #2: Neem has a distinctive odor. I have gotten used to it. My daughter tells me I smell like food. Well, as long as I don't smell like mosquito food, I can abide! #3: It might not be a good thing for dogs and cats. I have read accounts of dogs and cats being poisoned by neem oil, so I definitely keep my beloved Izzy from licking my legs, and I make sure to wash my hands before petting The Boss Queen and Mack the Marauder. My latest experiment involves putting the neem oil into a smooth on stick form. A blend of 1/3 neem, 1/3 Shea butter, 1/3 beeswax plus 1 tsp of coconut oil is giving me good results, although it is a bit soft. The neem smell is lessened, and the protection is still excellent.
Several years ago, I stumbled upon a loose Lonicera Japonica vine and took some of the root. Finally, it is paying off! We are about to enjoy our first homegrown honeysuckle tisane. When I was a kid, we had a huge vine that grew on our back fence and this yielded many flowery experiments. I made watery perfumes and infusions galore. That vine also made a great fort one year. About a decade later, my horse ran out of hay and ate the vine while I was out picking up his new round bale. He was just fine, although he smelled just like that vine for a day or two! There are toxic honeysuckle species, so I don't advise making tisanes out of just any plant called a honeysuckle. Allegedly, Lonicera Japonica has antiviral and antibacterial properties. Some say it is good for all manners of colds and flu. I have never tried any dried flowers, but maybe this year I will have enough to dry and save for later.