Monday, September 28, 2009

The Joy of Soaping!

Some of you may not know that I am a soapmaker in my free time* (*oxymoron). I have been making goat milk soap for a couple of years now. I make a few hundred bars a year that I sell through myself and in a few local stores. Word of mouth has spread about my soap and people really seem to like it because they keep coming back for more. Here is a picture of my cute packaging for the soap.

I really enjoy making new combinations of scents and colors. I use the same plain recipe every time to make the base batch and then I add all sorts of botanicals, colors, and scents to jazz it up. Each batch is made with food grade vegetable oils, pure sodium hydroxide (lye), goat's milk, white sugar, borax, and glycerin. I get my colorants and scents from Brambleberry Soap Supplies . I like this soap supply company because they always send me free samples of stuff with every order and they have sample packages of scents and colorants that are cheap and fun to play with. Here is a picture of the latest batch of soap that I made yesterday. It is lemon-sagegrass scent with a brown oxide swirl.

Lately I have been having some issues with my soap separating. I have been using the same recipe for years but for some reason things keep happening. I know why some of the batches had issues. It was because I tried to use a different shaped mold for the soap. Instead of a flat slab mold, I tried a more concentrated loaf mold. Because of the goat milk, the soap tends to heat up as the lye reacts with it and the more concentrated shape of the loaf mold made the soap too hot and it separated. The result was really funky. The soap looked normal on top but when I popped it out of the mold I discovered a black gelatinous goo on the bottom. I scraped the goo off and threw it out. Then I cut the soap into little chunks and put it in the crockpot to remelt. After a few hours in the crockpot the soap was melted enough to pour into the mold again. The second try came out a lot better.

My most recent separation story happened when I made pumpkin spice soap. I thought everything had gone well when I made the soap but I did notice that it didn't look fully mixed when I poured it. I didn't think anything of it. Well, that turned out to be a problem. The soap was very oily and soft when I cut it out of the mold. I decided to let it dry for a few weeks to see if it would firm up. No luck on that and yesterday I finally cut it up and remelted it. I added some milk with lye mixed in to try to equalize the oils. After it melted fully I poured it back into the mold and let it dry. Here is a picture of it after I took it out of the mold this morning. It looks a lot better than it did.

Hopefully this batch will dry better and be ready to sell in time for Thanksgiving. Soap is fun!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Goat Hiking!

Some of you may have seen the post in my goat Lucy's blog ( the other day about one of my other goats going hiking with me. My Toggenburg, Martha, is currently being trained to be a pack goat. I have taken her on numerous walks in the woods and two big mountain hikes so far. She loves going hiking and really enjoys getting to spend time with people.
Two weekends ago, Martha and I went hiking up Loon Mountain with my friend Carol. We didn't have a key to the gate so we could drive to the trailhead, which meant we had to walk the extra 1.5 miles in to the trail from the road. It was a gorgeous day and we had lots of fun. With the extra mileage tacked on to the hike we didn't make it all the way up the mountain. After 2.5 hours of hiking, Martha started to hesitate and I could tell she was getting tired. We turned around and went home.

This past weekend, Martha and I tried Loon Mountain again. This time we went with a hiking group and were able to drive in to the trailhead. By cutting off the extra hiking time, we were able to make it to the top of the mountain on that gorgeous day. Here are some pictures from that hike:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Definitely NOT a Cake Wreck!

My mommy made me a cake. I asked for a "nice" cake for a party we had a few weeks ago. Well, when she arrived all the way from Buffalo, she was carrying the biggest, most extravagant cake I could imagine! Here is a picture of the cake in all its glory:

The cake is two layers of chocolate and two layers of vanilla. My mom frosted the whole thing with chocolate frosting and then made "bark" out of pieces of chocolate and attached them to the cake. She made the roots, knot-hole, and shelf fungus out of rice crispy treats that she molded and then frosted. The pine cones are pieces of cake that are frosted with chocolate frosting and then have almond slivers stuck in them. She made leaves by coating real leaves with colored chocolate and then peeling the leaf off. The top of the stump and butterfly are made from marshmallow fondant. Pretty impressive, huh?

Here is a close-up of a fondant snake that she made to hide among the leaves. Also she made mushrooms out of meringe and coconut.

No cake shaped like a tree stump would be complete without a fondant toad sitting on top!

Monday, September 14, 2009

I am addicted to Craigslist!

I admit it, I am completely addicted to Craigslist. Well, at least partially addicted. I only cruise certain sections. Not a day goes by where I don't check out the "Farm and Garden" section in both New York and Vermont. I am not in the market for anything in particular, I just like to look at the pretty pictures of the animals that people have for sale. Where else can you find a pair of trained Belgian draft horses for $900? Or free chickens? Or an apple cider press? It's wonderful. There's everything you would ever need for sale by someone, somewhere. I have sold a couple of goats and chickens on Craigslist and I have bought a couple of bunnies and goats through it.

Sometimes you find really weird things on Craigslist, which is part of the fun. Like today there was an ad for a "chicken/poultry rescue". Some people are actually getting together to rescue birds from people and giving them to foster homes. I thought of responding to the ad because I can offer a foster home for an unwanted chicken -- in my crockpot! Hah! Other times you find some really funny ads for things, like the person that was selling his black locust trees from his backyard. They were for sale for only $1000 a piece (including clean up of the branches and chipping). I printed that ad off for my husband so we could have a good laugh over this person thinking someone would actually give him $1000 for a black locust. In reality, he would be lucky to have to PAY someone only $1000 each for them to be removed.

Another weird part of Craigslist that gives me a laugh is the way people sell pets. Most farm animals are "sold" to someone who "buys" them for a "price". Most pets are "rehomed" to someone who "adopts" them for a "rehoming fee". It kills me! Hah! If you pay a price for any animal and bring it to your house to live, then you aren't "adopting" it for a "fee" to be "rehomed" -- YOU ARE BUYING THE DANG THING!! I get a total kick out of people's use of manipulative language to guilt other people into buying their unwanted dogs and cats. It's like it isn't PC to sell an animal anymore. Also the overuse of the words "rescue" and "adoption" baffles me. I think those words are used to make people believe that they are giving the animal a better home by taking it, when in reality, they are probably just getting it from someone that no longer wants it for some reason -- and those reasons can be anything from "it bit someone's child", or "it barks all the time", or "it's 6 years-old and still poops on the floor", or "it claws me every time I touch it".

This kind of stuff really makes me laugh because I truly believe that there are some animals in the world that just don't deserve to be. Some animals can't be rehabilitated, can't be fixed, can't be tamed. Some animals just aren't going to figure it out and live peacefully with each other or with their human caretakers. There's so many "rescue" places out there and so many animals that need good homes but there aren't enough good homes for all of them. Some animals will have to be euthanized humanely in order for others to live up to their full potentials. I am not saying at all that any animals deserve to be purposefully mistreated. But I do believe that for some animals the only option should be to humanely and safely put an end to their lives. This is how we need to act if we are truly going to represent the lives of the pets and animals we own. We need to stand up and take account for our husbandry decisions and be responsible for our animals. We shouldn't just pass them on to someone else to be stuck with.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

She's Gotta GO!

I have finally come to my senses and I have decided that two Nubian goats is just one too many. This year my lovely Nubian, Pepper Ann, had two gorgeous kids. They are strikingly pretty and I decided to keep the prettier of the two. The only problem is that the lovelier of the two is also the LOUDER of the two! She screams all the time! There's nothing wrong with her, she just won't shut up! So finally after being screamed at all morning for no apparent reason, I decided that she just wasn't pretty enough to continue to put up with. I have had enough. Besides, I love the four other does that I am keeping this year. I really enjoyed only having four give birth this spring. To keep a fifth, noisy goat for the sheer reason that she is pretty, is kind of ridiculous. Hopefully some new family will love her in spite of her mouth!