I’ve been on a mission for the past year now: to learn new skills and find out what I can make I on my own. It makes me feel connected to the past when I do this. Connected in a way that antique stores and period-piece movies can’t quite capture.
Besides, if Netflix’s movie suggestions for me continue to be Historical Drama featuring a Strong Female Lead, then I better act the part.
If I could be any super hero, it would be a farm woman wearing a floured apron, who kills bad people by spraying paralyzing liquid on them from a well-pump. I guess there’d have to be a well-pump every 10 feet in order for that to work. Unless I invent a portable well that I carry on my back, then flip the pump over my shoulder like a machine gun and pump… pump… pump.. (“just wait right there, bad person, I’m almost ready“) pump… pump..
But I’m not.
I do have their forearms though.
So my next task was making bath soap. I felt comfortable with bread and dry washing detergent, so why not bath soap?
Oh, I remember. LYE. The scary powder that can burn you in a millisecond as soon as water hits it.
I was scared. But I donned those blue gloves over my farm forearms anyway and let it rip. Hey, what did I have to lose? Except for maybe some skin burnt off? Big deal.
I didn’t realize how relatively easy soap making is. Time consuming, but simple. You basically heat up oils and cool the lye until they are the same temperature. Then mix! Are you surprised? I was.
The recipe I used were from these posts on Down To Earth. Ah, love that woman. Her calm writing has helped me through all my bread drama, so I knew I’d be in good hands.
You spend an hour or so mixing and waiting, as well as hoping that “a ventilated area” really means a dorm room with a barely working stove fan.
Neither of my batches came out correctly and I’ll tell you why. On the first batch, I was pretty lazy with the measurements. In cooking I sometimes just throw things in the pan (especially when it comes to adding oil). But with soap you need to be on the money.
And I wasn’t. So the oil to lye ratio was off and the soap dried extremely fast. Too fast for me to cut it, even. Instead I had to break it apart.
On the second batch, the timing of the temperature was wrong. Because I knew from the previous experience that lye cools relatively slowly, I put the oils on the backburner. Literally. To the point that when I realized the lye was getting close to the right temperature, I cranked that burner with the oils up high. They heated up too fast and too high and could never cool down to the same temp as the lye.
Before the lye got too cool, I combined them and the mixture never acheived “trace.” You’ll hear that word thrown around a lot. It’s just the point in mixing where you can see little ripples on the mixture…and they stay on top of the mixture.
Anyway, so this batch hasn’t completely hardened yet. And it has been two months. I’m just scooping it out in balls and using it in that manner.
Here are the two batches. The first is the browner-looking soap and the second is the cream-colored one. I added peppermint fragrance to the second one which is a nice shot of ‘wake up!!‘ in the morning. Can you see how smooth and hard the first batch is and how the second looks like you could mush it with your finger?
I’m sure I’ll get better each time and I can’t wait to try out different recipes.
Forearm Farm – signing off.
WOW …..nice new site!
I was into candle making for a bit about a decade ago.
Ryan is requesting soap-on-a-rope…
Thanks Unc Jim!
CW – I’m wanting to get into that too.
Kate – I see a birthday present forming!