May 29, 2007 – Soap Making Day 2

After the soap is poured, it needs to sit in the molds until you can make a small indentation with your finger with some pressure – usually within 24-36 hours. Then it’s time to cut!

Linda positions the cutter at the appropriate width and slips the soap cutter down through the slots on the mold.

Here’s a view of a freshly cut block – you may be able to see the cornmeal flecks added to make “farmer’s lava” soap!

The cut bars are stored for 6 weeks or so in a place where they can “breathe.” We usually cover them with a piece of fabric in these mesh baskets. It takes that long for the “soaponification” process to completely transfer the lye and fat to soap.

one year ago…

May 28, 2007 – Memorial Day 2007

It’s Memorial Day 2007. I take this time to pause and remember those that have gone before us, especially those that may have died in the past year.

This year we went to Maple Grove instead of Logan Cemetery. They are both old township cemeteries, about equal distances from our house.  The deaths that we noted as a family were a step-aunt, choir director from church, and two goats, Blaze and a newborn goat.

Here’s the old warming house. 

A peek into a world gone by is the back door of the warming house, left ajar to show the original bathroom.

one year ago…

May 27, 2007 – Soap-Making Day 1

Today was soap-making day with Morning Sun farm. We assembled all the basic ingredients (beef and pork fats, lye, rainwater) and went to work.

By far the most tedious part is cooling and stirring the soap back down to the temperature required to pour it in a mold. It’s a lot of stirring!

Finally the soap “traces” or leaves a small mark when dripped on intself from a spoon. Then it is poured into the molds.

Here are te soapmakers standing next to four batches of soap – one naked goat milk soap, one cornmeal, one lavender, and one orange.

one year ago…

May 26, 2007 – Half-Rainy Day

This morning some more welcome rain came. OK, so not everyone welcomed it – a writer/photographer from a monthly magazine in Ames came out to interview and photograph Linda for an upcoming issue featuring “Green Women.” It wasn’t nice for outdoor photos to dodge the raindrops.

I’m still plugging away up the in the attic – by Wednesday the last of the wiring should be in and then the remaining 20% or so of insulating can be completed.

One of those projects we just haven’t had the activation energy to resume is completing the upstairs bathroom. All that remains is tiling around the tub, making an access panel to the plumbing behind the tub and some trim work. The bathroom was fully functional, so the rest of the tiling didn’t bubble up until today. We at least made a start, finished tiling the back and side walls. We went with the classic black and white tiles to complement the smaller black and white hexagonal floor tiles.

one year ago…

May 25, 2007 – Cute Chick

Our favorite chickens are the laying hens as they harbor a bit of wildness and “chickenness” mostly bred out of the meat birds.  We usually get 25 mixed breed pullets to refresh our layer flock.

Here’s one of the layer chicks.  Some of them look like owls, others look like hawks, and some like the traditional barnyard chickens.  These guys are almost ready to head out of the indoor brooder and into the chicken tractors

one year ago…

May 23, 2007 – Gearing Up for Soap-Making

We’re getting ready for the first soap-making episode of the season this upcoming weekend. Last year I made a couple different styles of soap molds and the one with the hinges to open up the mold after the soap has hardened was a runaway favorite with the soap alchemists.  So, today, I made a couple more.

The bottom piece is a mold all ready to pour soap.  The top shows a mold extended, as you would unfold it after the soap had hardened.  The smaller pieces can slide wherever you’d like in the mold, depending on how much soap you have to pour.  The small slit on the right side is where a soap cutter can slide in to cut the soap.

one year ago…

May 22, 2007 – Spring Garden\Garden-Fed Kids Eat Healthier!

Here’s a view of one of the gardens. Linda’s probably got 85-90% of the garden in. We could use a good rain as we haven’t had one since the deluge April 26.

I’ll stop back here in July for another photo.

Today, a report came out in the April Journal of the American Diabetic Association that found that young children who regularly eat home grown fruits and vegetables eat more than twice as many fruits and vegetables as their peers who do not have a garden!  This is a huge difference.  The researchers from St. Louis University Medical Center found that the kids who grow up eating home-grown produce prefer the taste of fruits and vegetables to other foods.

one year ago…

May 21, 2007 – Walkin’ the Dogs Down a Country Road

A late spring evening, a determined breeze, two willing dogs, and miles of empty roads make for a good walk.

Linda is very good about hopping on the exercise bike or going for a walk nearly every day. She puts me to shame when it comes to regular exercise. Next winter, I’ve vowed to join her on the bike when the activity gets lower on the farm.

one year ago…

May 20, 2007 – Raccoons Make Poor Electricians

As life on the farm goes, one thig leads to another.  About 5:30 a.m. one of the goats started bawling.  Nellie had managed to escape over the barn door and separated from the herd, was freaking out.  In going out, I let the dog out and Maizie promptly chased a raccoon up a power pole.

The raccoon was perched above a transformer and I feared for the damage the raccoon could do to the transformer (our electric co-op printed a list of reasons why transformers fail, and animals were the #1 reason).  I contemplated taking the raccoon out with a .22, but thought only two bad things could happen – I could miss and hit the transfomer or other piece of the electric grid, or I could get the raccoon, and its fall could break something on the way down – so I decided to lock the dogs up again and hope the raccoon would climb down on its own.  If it wasn’t 5:30 am Sunday morning I may have called the co-op for guidance.  About an hour later, we heard a terribly loud buzzing, arcing sound, the power blinked off briefly, and when I went out to make sure all the fuse boxes were intact, I found the crispy raccoon at the base of the power pole, its fur all singed. It was kind of creepy – so I showed all the kids and impressed upon them the importance of not messing with electricity!

one year ago…

May 19, 2007 – Trees all Tucked in

A couple of weeks ago, most of the trees were mulched.  It’s those last 20 that take so long.  The supply of chips at home was exhausted, so it was necessary to load and haul chips from the Marshalltown compost facility.

Here’s the look at the north border – the row on the furthest left is the newest row.

Here’s the new row along the east edge of the pasture. Linda contnues to get more seeds planted in the garden.

one year ago…

May 18, 2007 – Garden in Full Swing

School is finally out for Linda. It was a day at home for me. Kids were in school. A recipe for day-long attention to getting more of the garden in.

Here’s a portion of the tomatoes – all tucked in under the mulch and staked with cages made from old woven wire and old fenceposts cut in half. Those flimsy so-called tomato cages you buy in the store are basically useless. So we made these for nothing but some time many years ago cutting up the woven wire and fenceposts.

We’re now eating something instead of rhubard and aspargus from the garden.

The first lettuce, radishes, and spinach are in season.

one year ago…