Monday, January 30, 2012

Goats milk soap

I have made two batches of goats mik and olive oil soap this week.  I have made this for my Mum. She, and I, have dry sensitive skin and this soap is gentle and moisturising. I hope it works for her skin.

One of the greatest advantages of making your own soap, like cooking, is knowing exactly what is in it. I read the ingredients on soap and wonder what on earth most of them are. To make soap you need two ingredients only: fat (animal or vegetable) and lye, other wise known as caustic soda (or draino).  People are often shocked to hear lye is in soap but its a fundamental ingredient. The fat and lye react and make soap. After being mixed and let cure for 4-6 weeks the combination is no longer toxic but pure soap.

 This recipe uses vegetable shortening, olive oil, sunflower oil, goats milk and lye. So simple, so pure. Ok I would never use pure olive oil for cooking, only ever extra virgin olive oil in this house but according to the recipe book some of the stuff in the poorer quality oils actually aids the soap making.
 The goats milk and lye reacts to a shocking orange colour. This mix is highly caustic so be careful!
 Add the lye solution to the melted vegetable oils (I only make vegetarian soaps) and mix to trace which is when it starts to solidify and look like custard. Sadly not good eating!

Poor into molds quickly. It can get hard to work with more quickly than you would believe. This recipe goes to trace faster than any other basic recipe I've tried. Sometimes you can stir for hours but not with this one.

I always leave my soap to cure for 6 weeks, with sensitive skin I don't take a risk on 4 weeks being enough. I can wait a little longer. Soap hardens within a day or two so really the way you know it isn't ready is that it tingles and burns when you use it. Better to wait I say and enjoy your lovely soap at its best.  I record the date I make it. I always think I'll remember, but I never do!

My favourite soap book is listed under my Books I'm reading page. I have taught soap making and its great fun.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Trials and tribulations of keeping chickens

I have committed mistake no 1. Ok, I hear you say, mistakes where bound to happen. This is the first time I've had chickens to look after. So how bad can it really be you ask?

I almost starved my hens to death!

Tragedy averted now I hope. Its been really wet here for over a week but I have diligently gone down to the bottom of the garden twice a day and fed and watered my three hens.

As instructed when I bought them, I have been giving them layer mash and scratch mix. They didn't seem to like layer mash. I gave them fresh stuff but they didn't eat much. I gave them scratch mix - I tossed it down on the straw in the bottom of their coop and they scratched away merrily.

All good so far.

Today, one week after I brought them home, I cleaned out their straw and replaced it.


We raised the coop off the ground a little so the timber wouldn't rot.  There is heavy mesh on the bottom to fox proof it.

But, the feed had fallen/been pushed through the straw, through the mesh and underneath.


So today I have changed the system. I have put a plastic box lid under the feed tray to catch any stray food. Temporary measure, I'll do something better when I find something that fits well in the coop. I have mixed warm water and milk powder into their mash and they have eaten it all up. And I have given them some spinach leaves from the garden.


What a fright that gave me. So I will be more careful now.

Poor little girls, this is supposed to be a chicken holiday club not a boot camp.

Now I vow to make it the ritz!!

Friday, January 27, 2012


Our new hens are averaging one egg per day so far. So sweet, I love having chickens.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Visit to the gallery during a wet lunch time

It has been a wet day today. At lunchtime I went to Milk Thieves, the store that stocks some of my DarlingBridget bags and journals. Then off to the craft store for some paint.
I finished off my break with a look around Wollongong Gallery. Here are a few pieces I particularly liked.



On my way to back to work I had to stop and take a picture of a crushed plane tree nut.

Isn't that amazing?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bird nests

I have a growing collection of birds nests. 
 I found this beauty lying on the ground when the power company trimmed trees growing under their lines.
 It is a very warm nest with a feather lining and half an egg shell.

 The simplest of my bird nests with some moss and paper streamers to add a touch of class.
 This was also found on the ground under some trees. I was collecting pine cones when I spottted it.
 The most luxurious nest made almost completely from feathers.  I found this on the ground in front of a building so have always wondered where it fell from.  This is the first nest I found.
 This nest is made from tiny twigs with lichen and lined with hair. It is the most tightly wound.
 And this darling little nest I found just recently when weeding my front garden. It probably came down when the tree dropped its leaves. I never knew it was hidden there.

2012 is going to be a wonderful year

It is getting late in January and I haven't completed my list of goals.
I am supressing panic. Its fine I'm just warming up.
I thought this was going to be easy when I was holidays from work but I have a new theory.
Real time, real life feels suspended sometimes when you take time out.

I mean let's face it that's what we want when we take time out.
Get off the clock. Let go of the daily grind.
So it's only now that I am returned to work and routine that I feel ready to face the new year.
Ironic isn't it?
'cos now I have less time, less thinking space.
Ah well, it will happen. In fact, it is starting.
All sorts of creative ideas are bubbling, I just need to give them space and a little time to perculate.
  • I am going to go with some image changes on my blog.
  • I am going to promote my blog more by getting word out that we have a conversation happening here and a journey to pursue.
  • I am nearing 100 posts so another give away is in order.
  • I am going to offer more tutorials.
  • I love lists but am moving 10 things to another day so I can participate in a 'live life greener' segment on a blog I love.
  • I am going to put my DarlingBridget bags and ournals into more shops, more online opportunities.
  • And I am going to launch my art to wear as a separate line - perhaps DB art to wear but you can have a say on the label.

Hmm and I'm going to conquer the work/life balance!

Wow and I am only just getting started. Hope you keep on the journey with me.

Love having you to along! Happy 2012. Please share your goals, I'd love to hear.

Eggs from my new hens

We have received the gift of three perfect, tiny lttle eggs from our new hens. Tonight we ate the eggs poached with salad, marinated mushrooms and pasties I made last week.

I'm looking forward to next weekend when I will be home long enough to let our hens out for a little stretch and to get to know them a little better.

It is very fulfilling knowing they are here at last.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My chickens come home to roost

Three new darlings have joined our family. I bought three lovely young hens to live in my beautiful coop.
One red, one white and one motley dark grey, brown.
They are a little shy so far so watch this space for more photos as we get to know each other.

 My dog Harry is fascinated. He's been very good, just sniffing around not barking or giving them too hard a time.
 They are 20 weeks old and just at point of lay and yet we have been rewarded with lovely eggs all ready. We are saving them up for a couple of days until we have enough for an omelette.
I am so very happy. I have wanted chickens for a very long time, we are going to have such a lovely time together.

Monday, January 16, 2012

10 things Mondays: collections

1.       Ink bottles
I have been collecting ink bottles for a long time although I very rarely add to the collection anymore.  Mostly because I don’t come across any I don’t already have. I have around 70 bottles made from glass and pottery. My favourites date to the 1800s. I have a few large bottles that still have ink in them. Ink would have been decanted into wells from these bottles.

2.       Luggage
I have a collection of trunks, suitcases and hat boxes. They are all over the house and are used to store such disparate things such as bedding, DVDs and old journals. Again I have mostly stopped collecting as I have run out of room.  The one exception is my (early) Christmas present. This old chest reminds me of hidden passage ways in old Enid Blyton books.
3.       Baskets
You can never have too many baskets. I have baskets on the dining room wall, use them to house ribbons and sewing projects, firewood, fruit, the uses are endless. My sister gave me this gorgeous picnic basket.

4.       Cutlery
I collect one off pieces of cutlery because they are beautiful. I put them to use mostly as serving utensils. Part of the challenge is working out what they were originally used for.

5.       Serviettes and tablecloths
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while this will come as no surprise. I have a growing collection of beautiful vintage serviettes, doilies and cloths. Some of the serviettes I find are re-tasked through various sewing projects but every now and again I find some worthy of being used as originally intended. Paper napkins never appear in my house.  If we eat whilst watching a movie I just drag out some of the more casual serviettes. The love of serviettes comes from my Nana who liked to set the table well.  Indeed my collection started with pieces I inherited.
6.       Fabric in general
I love fabric. I have a sizeable stash and love adding to it.  I have some lovely Japanese textiles, some brightly coloured dupion silks and cottons galore.  I have a pink and yellow sari my Mum brought back from Singapore. And a fabulous orange throw for the lounge. One of those collections I need to keep in check. Which reminds me of another related collection that deserves mention on its own.
7.       Mud cloths
From Mali in Africa Mudcloths are made from narrow strips of heavy woven cotton that are literally dyed with oxide rich mud.  I am really passionate about these cloths. I would buy everyone I found if I could afford to and boringly if I had more space.  You see, sadly, mud cloths can’t be washed so they can’t be used in many traditional ways. I used to have them as throws on the bed and couch but they started to get grotty. Also someone must have spilt some water because I have an orange stain on the couch where I used to have one positioned. So we have them on walls and draped around the place. They are always earthy colours and so so beautiful.

8.       50s outdoor furniture
Recently I began picking up old chairs rom the tip that we have re-painted and re-timbered and given new life.  I really like them. So now I’m on the lookout for tables to do up or mosaic and plant holders.

9.       Nature’s flotsam and jetsam
I’ve always been one to pick up rocks or shells. I know I always did it as a child. As an adult I am no different. I have baskets of leaves and interesting pieces of dried lichen. Boxes of tiny weeny shells with holes destined to be used in some art project or other (and yes I have used some of them). I have bird nests and a few feathers. I find this collection unruly but useful and inspiring. 

10.   Collections come in endless and wonderous variety – what’s your favourite? 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Building our chook house

We spent this afternoon building a chook pen! I have wanted chickens for years and years and today moved a whole lot closer to getting them.

My birthday present (last April) was a flat packed chook run. Today we put it together. With Howard working 6 days a week and me working 45+ hours a week its been a bit hard to find the hours.

Building the egg box took the longest. When we put it together there were big gaps so we added a beading to ffill them. This will make cleaning up so much easier.

 We added new heavy duty wire and new latches too. We're not worried about our ladies getting out, this is fox proofing. Foxes are a reality here. We see them running down the road in the early evening.

 The completed chook run at the bottom of the garden, looking into the vegie patch and the paddocks beyond.
My handy husband who built it for me! I was nurse to the surgeon and just handed over tools and nails.

Now I just need to buy my chooks! So exciting. Chooks will be the ultimate in homespun living.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A turn in the road

Happy New Year to one and all. 2012 is the Year of the dragon symbolising success and happiness, the year of reading and the year of the farmer.

As always in January my thoughts turn to goals and wishes for the year ahead. Whilst I am still working on defining the details my main goals are to find balance between the heavy demands of my job and my desire to create, to grow and achieve homespunbliss.

A quote referred to on a friend's Facebook page may become a mantra for me, even though I never would have thought I'd be inspired by Will Rogers. But surprises can enliven your soul and give you the spark to keep on.

‎'Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.'
Will Rogers
I took this photo this morning and it seems appropriate although at the time it just looked like a lovely shot. Synchronicity at work perhaps.
So I hope to see you along the road.


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