Saturday, February 18, 2012

If I Could Make Days Last Forever

For goodness sake, did time speed up? Is the world rotating at double its normal rate? I think so, or maybe I am just busier than usual. That is the excuse I will use, anyway, for neglecting certain areas of my life. Like dusting the bookshelves, defrosting the freezer, picking lint off my favorite sweater, keeping up the blog...

and why?? Because I would rather make soap when there is extra time. My name is Barbara, and I am a soapaholic. It has been six hours since my last batch. It was a new scent: Sea Salt and Lotus Blossom, with a thin layer of tan-colored, sea salt laden bottom and a two-color top of green and light yellow. It's gorgeous. I check on it every hour, smell it, think about how it will look cut.

And then I plan my next batch, worry that I am low on shea butter, and make a note to check the Nature's Garden website for supplies. And so it is established that I think soap when there are an extra few hours not spent on the usual things of the day.

But there are so many other things I love doing, too. Things that obviously took up the glorious fall and winter months.

Watching the leaves turn

Fall craft shows, Christmas craft shows
Family Thanksgiving in DFW
Christmas at the farm
Long chats with Angie on the phone
Baking bread
petting the new dairy goat does
a little time for reading

feeding the cats
helping Don and his family move to Oklahoma
photographing the sunsets
my part-time job in town
reading Pioneer Woman's blog daily
hunting eggs in the barn
getting to know the new Border Collie puppy
keeping tabs on Eric's exciting ventures
wearing my fuzzy socks

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

And So It Goes

The word that comes to mind every day this summer is HOT. It seems Biblical proportions, miserable, nasty hot. We are up to 30+ days of over 100 degrees, some days it has been waaaaaay over the century mark. The garden is dying even though we water daily, the lawn is brown, the pasture holds no green native grass for the animals. For the first time I have lived on the farm, there are no insects to speak of.

Have they left for wetter climes, or just died of the heat?? It's weird.

The weather has naturally changed how we do things. Keith is out of school for the summer, but there is no sleeping in. If we want to see a little cool air, we have to get up early--six a.m. early. I've gotten used it, this getting up earlier in the summer than we did during the school year. It is the only way to comfortably enjoy a cup of coffee out on the porch. Other things seem to have the same idea: there are always several jack rabbits a
nd three deer on the wheat-stubbled 5-acre plot beside the house, and a parade of peacocks and guineas looking for the few unfortunate and delicious flying insects that met their demise in the bug whacker.

Everything is thirsty, and the small water tanks are dry by noon.

It is still 93 degrees at midnight.

and I long for Fall....

On a lighter note, please meet Pearl. She was born into the heat of a July afternoon. She's a marvel of soft, baby donkey fuzz, big brown eyes and unprecedented trustfulness. She will sit in my lap for a long petting session. Maybe that is a practice I should limit. Pearl will be a big girl someday.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Soap Tutorial

The Memorial Day weekend was fun despite the wind. And lately the wind has been a real buzz kill around here. We had company come to visit!

Chris, Angie and Mycah decided they wanted to see the farm one last time before they make the big move to east Texas--a move that will put eight hours of driving time between me and Lufkin. I'm trying hard not to dwell on that long distance. But did you know Lufkin is only three hours from the coast, and that's a long way from here don't you think? Angie tells me there is a forest in the backyard of their new house. A forest. That seems like another country, am I right? Lufkin is humid and two hours from Louisiana for heavens sake. But I'm not thinking about all that, really.

On Saturday Chris and Keith worked our kid goats, worming everyone and banding the little bucks while the girls slept in. We did fun farm stuff: held chickens, watched baby guineas hunt bugs, watered toads, chased enormous wild hogs on four-wheelers--and the wind was amazingly quiet. It was nice. No wind. So rare of late, and we stayed out until dark enjoying the animals and the evening.

And then Sunday blew in like the proverbial lion. Normal for us, jaw-dropping for our visitors. There was no discussion about going outside, it was 100 degrees and felt like you were standing in front of a super-heated sand blasting machine. House bound for sure. So the guys set up the Wii Fit and laughed their way through the day, and I taught my girls how to make soap.

I wanted my daughter and granddaughter to get a little insight into the magic that is handmade soap. How it is that a pot of oil and a bowl of lye laced goat milk can turn solid and wonderful for the skin. It's just cool to watch.

So we measured. Mycah was a crack measurer. She learned to use the scale to weigh the coconut and olive and castor oils to the exact ounce I specified. She got greasy fingered and discovered that rubbing the excess on her knees would smooth her skin. She poured and melted and stirred the oil pot.

But she stayed well away from the lye mixing process. That stuff is a bit on the scary side it seems.

Next we poured the lye mixture into the oils and stirred a whole lot more. Some soapmakers stir by hand but I like to use a stick blender to speed things up a bit.

Mycah came back to her chair when it was time to add the special stuff. The scent--she had picked Tropical Spice--and the other two ingredients that Angie had decided on: Dead Sea salt and French Green clay. We made a nice tan bottom layer laden with the sea salt and a top layer that turned a beautiful shade of green when the clay was added. Using the soap should feel like a spa experience at home!

We can't wait, but we have to, for thirty days. It takes that long for the soap to cure, but the end result is a bar that is gentle and full of natural occurring glycerin which helps retain the moisture in your skin. It's just magic, am I right?

Did I mention Lufkin is between two National Forests and only a couple of hours from Houston? That seems a long way from my little windy, tree-scarce corner of Oklahoma. But I'll need to be figuring my route as soon as they are settled, don't you think?

Friday, May 20, 2011


There just simply has to be a post about the rain! When you haven't seen any fall onto your front porch, or your trees, or your garden, or on your tin roof since October 2010--it is a BIG deal. Now others around us got a lot more, but our measureable inch and a tiny bit more was a gift from God. We had none of the rough stuff that can accompany the liquid gold, either. It fell last night, and the thunder and lightening served only to wake me occasionally so I could give thanks.

There is no dust on the Oklahoma wind today, the trees are dancing because they haven't had a bath in months, and the burn ban has been lifted. Woohoo. (That is another big deal for a farm girl who has been hauling trash into town for months now. Think about this: I've had to keep the trash until my weekly trip to town, pile it all in the trunk of my car, drive with for several miles and then sneak it into some out-of-sight dumpster that techniqually is not for country people to use because country folks have no trash service.) But I digress. The trash thing makes me giddy. It RAINED. And yes, we need so much more at our little farm. But a start is a start, and I am hoping it "primed the pump."

The peacocks are laying again this spring. Lil' Momma has five eggs thus far, so I would guess she is about done. Last year she stopped at six. Her five surviving kids from last year are alternately hanging out watching mom sit still, or running wild around the farm without parental supervision. We are close to getting too many peacocks.

I have several new scents of soap ready: Victorian Rose, Mom's Apple Pie, Sexy Little Things, and Lilac in Bloom.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Happy Happenstance

I need to talk about soap today. For two reasons.

A new, cute little soap mold I just acquired

and an enamel stock pot decorated with tiny farm animals.

You see, there are just times I wish I could experiment a bit. But I hesitate for the most part because ending up with 25 bars of a very expensive disaster can hurt both the pocketbook and the ego. Also, from time to time I run across scents that only a few people seem to want. Like Chocolate. So wouldn't 10 bars of Chocolate Passion Fruit be better than twenty-five? Most assuredly.

To that end, I recently asked my sweet husband, in a sweet way to make me a little ten-bar mold. So I could dabble more dangerously when the spirit struck me in the dead of night to blend tangerine and rosemary or sea salt with caramel and gardenia. And in my mind it just had to be easier to foist off ten bars of Bamboo Coconut Creme Truffle to unsuspecting family and friends.

Did I mention the new mold is cute? I love its petite nature. I love how easy it is to line and to carry when full. It's my new baby. It's a very cute baby.

So today I made soap using my new baby. Since I had all the stuff out anyway, I decided to make one regular batch of 25 - a remake of the "Beach" scent that sells like crazy, and a small recipe of Chocolate Lovers. I have one really devoted customer who is in love with my chocolate soap, and she bought my last four bars a couple of weeks ago. But how to proceed? Get one done and then wash everything up and start over? That sounded like more work than I wanted to do on any given day.

What I needed was another soap pot. But once a soap pot, always a soap pot. When lye has been used in a piece of cookware or Tupperware, it can't be used again for food preparation. So I sat down on the kitchen floor and started pulling out all my pots and pans looking for something I could sacrifice to the soap. Surely I had some old, slightly bent or handleless enamel or stainless steel dinosaur in the nether regions of the cabinet.

Everyone has something like that, but me.

I seem to have long since relegated those to dog water dishes, cat food pans, peacock feeders and goat treat holders. My stash of
cookware is sparse, and I use every piece but one.

I bought the small stock pot for my mother years ago. She loved the stoneware called "Heartland" and had all the pieces she could find--plates, cups, bowls, cream and sugar, spoon rest, recipe box, everything. One Christmas I found a couple of cookware pieces and scooped them up happily. She immediately loved them, displayed them, and NEVER used them. I asked her year after year why she kept them so pampered, but she could not be swayed. She used her dishes every day, but the pots were off limits. That Heartland pattern is such a part of my childhood... the squat houses, the farmer with his rake, the cow and pigs and sheep all live amid memories of Mom's chicken fried steak, bowls of homemade ice cream, and the spice cake that she made for my birthday every year. Her dishes made me happy, both the actual plates and the food that came on them. And when she died I kept the recipe box, the spoon rest that never leaves my stove top and the four-quart covered stock pot.

That pot had resided in the farthest corner of my bottom cabinet, untouched since mom's death six years ago. Pristine and shiny, I held it in my hands and contemplated its future. I could put it back where it came from, saving it for posterity and grandchildren who could not possibly feel a connection to it. Or. I could use it.
A lot.

I love making the soap. I mean I really get a kick out of it, and I cherish the blue enamel pot that is my go to piece of equipment. Even as I looked for a new candidate, that faithful kettle was full of the oils necessary to make 25 bars of Beach scented goodness. What could be so wrong about committing the Heartland pot to a life of yielding up the same? Giving it a new chance to lay down memories of a mother and grandmother and a pot she loves?

And that darn pot makes me smile. It reminds me of my mommy. So it IS my new soap pot for smaller batches. It gets to sit on the rolling kitchen cart that holds all the soap gear - where I can see it daily. And it's going to see some wonderful scent and oil combinations. We're going to have so much fun.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Two Peacocks is going to Mangum

So one day last week, I drove up to Mangum to check out a new little shop on the square. I had met the owner of "Pat's Candies and Gifts" at the Frederick show. She liked my soap and thought it might be a nice addition to her store's inventory. She also suggested that I share her floor space during the Rattlesnake weekend since I was not planning on joining the crowd of street vendors who vie for space in the hot Oklahoma sun and wind.

I was impressed with Pat's place. It was so very, very clean and bright. She makes all her own candy and pastry, eclairs, muffins, cookies, and sometimes does breads, or whatever else that strikes her fancy. There are other items on her shelves, and I am going to leave soap there after the big weekend on a consignment basis. Mangum is an artsy little community, so time will tell whether they embrace goat milk specialty soaps. Of course, I hope they can't live without it.

I've been making lots of new scents for the Mangum todo (notice I hesitate in typing the rattlesnake moniker; it's not my favorite venue). But I am going to give it a whirl this year--who knows, it might be very successful for soap sales. I intend to set up on Friday and Saturday only, April 28 and 29 inside Pat's. So if you are in the area, look for me. I'll be the one busy NOT looking at the snakes.

Some of the scents I will be featuring at Pat's and Mainstreet Mercantile in Altus are: Mango Papaya, Lilac in Bloom, Beach, Lemongrass Verbena, Dark Amber Musk, Sexy Little Things, Gardenia Mint, Twilight Woods, Warm Patchouli, Goat Milk, Oatmeal and Honey, Gardenia Mint, and Whispering Mist.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Star Wars look alike...

Most every kidding season presents us with at least one bottle baby. For the last couple of years we have been selling them immediately on Craig's List. It was just easier that way. Mixing three bottles a day and trudging down to the goat pens to feed tends to mess up the day.

But this year I am doing just that--for a little guy I call Jar-Jar Binks. He had a rough start. His mom was a first timer, pretty small at just a year old, and Jar-Jar was and is a "hoss" of kid. He was stuck in the birth canal for who knows how long when we found the poor nanny straining and pushing with all her might. Feet and nose were all we saw, and it took all of Keith's strength to pull him into the world.

The first thing we noticed was how swollen his face was, and his tongue was so enlarged it would not fit in his mouth. Although we tried every trick in the book, Jar-Jar could
not nurse or swallow. He was amazingly strong, and his instinct pushed him to nuzzle and hunt for lunch, but the nanny soon gave up worrying about him, and he gave up trying. So I milked mom to
gather the all-important colostrum, and then we tube fed him. Tubing is a tricky process which involves running a small tube down the throat directly into the stomach, and then pouring the milk into a syringe attached to the tube. Goat raisers learn how to do this for weak or cold kids, to get them on their feet so they have the strength to nurse. But Jar-Jar was not weak, and he was handful to hold and feed.

When we first tubed the little monster, we thought it would only take a day or so for the swelling to go down enough for him to feed himself. Wrong. We tubed him for four straight days. Every time I worried we might miss the stomach and pour the milk into his lungs, which would kill him within minutes. We were lucky. Jar-Jar was lucky. And the nanny had forgotten she had baby.

On day four his face sported a more regular shape, and he finally
mastered a small amount of suction. Still he couldn't curl his tongue around the baby-bottle nipple and basically lost more milk than he ingested. Necessity is the mother of invention, and I quickly learned that if I held the bottle with one hand and kept the fingers of my other hand curled around his muzzle to prevent his tongue from slipping out the side of his mouth, the milk went in him instead of on him. I now had a special needs goat kid on my hands.

But Jar-Jar has always been energetic with a strong will to live, and is extremely comical in his rush to claim me as his mom--and he kind of grew on me. So I am mixing bottles, lots of bottles because he is growing by leaps and bounds, and I'm hoping his natural instinct for grazing will soon kick in. But he has to learn to manage that tongue--this time on his own.