December 5, 2008 – 2009 High Hopes Gift Boxes

Once again, this year we are offering gift boxes for the holidays – great non-cluttering gifts ranging from $7.50 to $25.  They are great for family, teachers, and others on your gift list.  All the products are grown or made at high hopes gardens.  The jams are from fruit from our trees, the soap we make ourselves from local fats and our goat milk, the beeswax candles and honey are from our bees (with some additional wax from other central Iowa beekeepers).  We ship for actual shipping costs with no additional handling charges.

If you’d like to order, leave a comment with your contact info at the bottom of the page (we won’t publish your comment) or send an email to mark(at)highhopesgardens(dot)com (to keep the email from being scanned by spamming robots, I’ve somewhat disguised it, but figured out you can figure out what it’s really supposed to be).

This is the large sampler box with two 4 oz jam samplers, 4 oz honey sampler, goat milk soap, a beeswax pillar candle and two beeswax votive candles offered for $25.

This is the medium sampler box with 4 oz jam sampler, honey, goat milk soap, a beeswax votive candle offered for $15.

This is the three jam sampler box with three kinds of 4 oz jam samplers made with organic fruit from the farm offered for $10.

This is the two jam sampler box with two kinds of 4 oz jam samplers made with organic fruit from the farm offered for $7.50.

his is a small non-food sampler box with a large bar of soap and a beeswax candle offered for $7.50.

one year ago…”Latke Time of Year”.

October 28, 2008 – Soap Cutting

It was another round of soap-making this week-end.  I thought it would be a good time to show the final stages of soap making.

About 12 hours after pouring into the mold, this batch was ready to cut.  You can tell when it is ready when the soap barely indents to a strong touch.

The soap mold has fold-away hinges and here’s what the mold looks like after the mold is collapsed.

After the plastic film is removed, the soap goes back in the mold and is cut into bars.

The soap must “cure” for 4-6 weeks before the chemical reaction is complete.  We’ve noticed our soap is like a fine wine – the longer it sits, the better it gets – we found some year-old stuff and it was even better than the new stuff.

one year ago…”Rare Breed Chickens – Silver Campine”.

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 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 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…

October 15, 2006 – Soap

Today was another day to revive an ancient, somewhat forgotten task – making soap from scratch – in this case rendered beef and pork fat, lye, and goat milk. The folks from Morning Sun farm came over to finish what we had started a few months ago when the fat was rendered.

Everybody looks pleased to finally see the soap being poured into the mold without any lye burns. In 6 weeks we’ll be able to test out this batch.

one year ago…

August 6, 2006 – CSI: Melbourne

OK Sherlocks, here’s today’s “CSI: Melbourne” episode. Our investigators run across some deep red internal organs and what looks like the leftovers from a deep fat fryer. What happened here? Back at the lab the organs are identified as beef kidneys and the leftovers are beef fat that has been heated to a high temperature, but the kidneys have not been heated. What’s going on?

Here is stage one – Linda and someone from Morning Sun farm are cutting the fat from around beef kidneys (the best kind of fat for this activity).

Here’s the pot of chopped fat in the stock pot.

Here’s the stock pot that used to be full with fat, with just the crispies left after cooking.

Finally, here’s the vat of fat cooling to 100 degrees before an equal amount of water is added.

Of course, by now, all of you know that this is the first stage to rendering beef fat, which is a precursor to making soap.

April 1, 2006 – Soap Poured

Our first batch of elemental soap, made from scratch, is sitting in the mold, waiting to be cut. It was a long way from raw beef fat to soap!

Here Linda is cutting up raw beef fat, straight from the locker – look how thick that fat is from that cow! This fat was cut up, melted, water added and allowed to harden, water poured out and remaining fat remelted and water added again, cooled and water removed.

Here are all the ingredients lined up – lard, rendered beef fat, sodium hydroxide, and rainwater. It’s still bizarre that someone could put melted animal fat and a caustic material together to make soap. What’s more, greasy animal fat and caustic chemicals mixed together can be used to clean!

Alchemist Linda stirring the brew.

Still more stirring.

Finally, pouring the soap into the mold. It needs to cure for a day before removing from the mold, and 4-6 weeks before use.

March 17, 2006 – Delayed Thingamajig Thursday #15

Here’s this week’s “Thingamajig Thursday” entry – a day late because of St Urho. Also check out last week’s answer.

A little different “Thingamajig Thursday” this week – Here’s something that goes for about 50 bucks on Ebay that I made for Linda with scrap lumber and a couple of small hinges.
As always, put your guess in a comment below.

It is indeed a mold for pouring soap.

September 30, 2005 – Gourds

Here is this year’s gourds drying down own the vine.

We’ve found that the best way to dry the gourds is to leave them outside over the winter. We’ve tried bringing them in the barn or house, but they just seem to rot. So outside they will hang.
See the August 26th entry for the gourds in full spendor.
We’re working on making the gourds into useful items – the obvious one is bowls (maybe we’ll get beyond that this year!).

Here’s a seasonal display using the miniature corn and gourd bowl.