Hi there!

I’m slowly working towards some simplicity within the home, but hey! It’s a lot of hard work!

I love having a go at growing my own veges and always use herbs fresh from my garden. I try to plant from seed whenever I can and have learnt to save and share my own seed for the following year. I make Award Winning preserves and pickles; and my husband brews Award Winning boutique beers as well. I love to stockpile and try to limit quick trips to the shops. I dabble in bread making and enjoy making my own stocks too.

I enjoy feeding my family good hearty meals, nothing like those tiny restaurant stacks you have to look for on the plate. My husband maintains our vehicles and machinery and we both enjoy fabricating on a small scale mostly relying on metal & timber recyclers for any materials needed.

While I don’t always have time to reply to comments, I love reading them. I hope you enjoy your stay and I hope you learn something new because I love sharing what I learn, and I'm always looking for another new skill myself.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

1 Bad soap, 1 good soap, A flower-press, & Cleaning Beeswax

Hi Catoosh, Welcome to my Blog, I hope you stick around and enjoy reading what I get up to..

I've been a bit frazzled these last few days..my mind is on other things....I came close to having a real disaster in the kitchen yesterday, while I was making soap...I could have been burnt so badly....
So I write this to give warning to others of the things that may happen while making soap....

I was supposed to make the soap in the morning, but plans got put on hold, and other plans were bought forward...which I really wasn't happy about, but couldn't change......I always like to prepare the things that take the longest first...Like getting fat onto the stove to render....or cutting up onions to salt for a few hours...You know, the things that take more time than just say, doing the dishes, or hanging clothes on the line. Actually, I like to get the clothes on the line early too, so they have time to dry.....

When making my soap....................................

First; I add the caustic soda to the required amount of water...(I have a 'caustic bucket' for this)..and set this aside to cool...not too cold, but maybe a bit warmer than body temperature.

Second; I barely melt and warm the rendered fat and add other oils to warm them slightly...and set aside.....

Third; I prepare my moulds. I spray them with either Cooking Spray or Olive Oil Spray (Cheap Brands)  and have them ready....Set up my work area, because once  I start blending the two...I can't leave it until it is done.

Fourth; slowly pour the caustic mix into the oils, while gently stirring, remember to wear your protective gear the whole time..before you open the caustic soda, you should have your gloves on...Stir until you reach trace, which I have explained before....

Then pour into your prepared moulds, and set aside to set overnight, before cutting.

This recipe only had rendered beef fat...In the past I have always added other oil to the mix, and I guess this cools the oil mix down considerably....Now because I was so frazzled and the afternoon was soon slipping into meal prep time....I was in a hurry to get the soap finished....MAJOR PROBLEM THERE!!!


I can tell you; alarm bells started ringing, as soon as I started adding the oil to the caustic....Yep, the wrong way around for a start......I ALWAYS ADD THE CAUSTIC TO THE OIL....I knew I had made this mistake as soon as I poured it...The mix started to look like it was slightly curdled...not the usual creamy mix I create....That was the first alarm that rang......

When the mix starts a rolling boil right in the plastic bucket...You know you have done something wrong.....Next it started foaming...everything from here went so quickly I barely had time to react....But fortunately I had recently read about something similar happening...with a milk soap mix heating too much and scolding the milk...I recall the notes saying to immerse the whole bucket into a sink of cold water......
So while this caustic mix is literally boiling in my hands...well in the bucket, but rising quickly.....I run to the laundry with this volatile caustic monster....Is it going to stop? Will I get it under control? Am I going to get seriously burnt.....????

Luckily I had a huge tub in the laundry half filled with water, ready to do some major school clothes soaking....(pale blues and whites).....No I hadn't had time to soak the school clothes...and I have no idea what I would have done if I had..(the bath was probably the next place to run, but sure; I can think of that now!).....but I put the bucket in the tub of water..and was splashing water onto the sides of the bucket...The rising froth of errr soap slowed down to a crawl, but still overflowed into the water....

Well it finally cooled enough to say it needed to be poured...Yep it still went into the mould.....and I would wait until the following morning (today) to see what I had produced.

Amazingly, it is a big block of soap...I still have a huge tub of caustic mess to clean up....but I'll take care of that on the weekend...I have put it up, that no-one or the pets can get to it....and warned the family to stay clear.   Yuck.

Today I scraped the messy top edge of the soap....keeping the shavings for laundry soap...(but they still have to wait and be cured like the rest of the soap)........

A disaster diverted....and here is the soap...100% animal fat, 100% learning curve!!!


Other things that happened yesterday and today.....

My little op-shop find....
I have  been meaning to replace my garlic jar with something a little nicer....
and my milk bottle of dishwashing liquid....
When I pick herbs, any unused herbs always go on the 
windowsill in water to be used later..No waste!


AFTER......Much better!!...the shaker has industrial Bi-Carb in it..
I like this product as it has the same texture as salt. A good scrub and cleaner.
The two vases, the wire basket, the shaker,
and the glass (bourbon) bottle.....Not bad for $2.50.
You can also see in the vase a cutting of a scented Geranium
I got this when I visited Rose,
Thanks Rose, it's just starting to shoot,
so it will go in the ground shortly.

 A new day, a new list
Start the new garden bed in the front yard
Make more washing powder
Plant out the seedlings
Cut yesterday's soap
Thin out other seedlings in back yard
Take back Library books
Complete dishcloth #4
Tie ends in on two dishcloths
Make another batch of soap
Melt and clean beeswax
2 loads of washing
Meal prep for tea, (spaghetti)

The new No-Dig garden bed is started....need newspapers now.
I got the concrete blocks free. They are super heavy.
I only had just over 1 cup of grated Sard Wonder soap....so I made a small batch of laundry powder in the whizzer...Not going to the shops just for a bar of soap.

 After the recent heavy rain we have had...I have lost many plants to mildew, rain etc....because I use my herbs all the time....I don't mind starting again with some cheap plants..I will also sew seeds, but this will help for more immediate use. (soon)                  $1 each.
Early trip to Bunnings for Borax...found cheap plants too...
 I finished dishcloth #4...and tied the ends in on this one and the last one.....
I can't believe I am getting a knitted stockpile.
It was a well needed rest to sit down 
and do this after those concrete blocks. 
I have even started dishcloth #5 now.

I also cleaned the very dirty Beeswax.....by adding it to a pot of water to melt in.

Then strained the wax, through a piece of curtain from the op-shop.
I don't buy Muslin any more...Curtains do a pretty good job for almost all jobs.
If not curtain material, I use 100% cotton as well for straining things.

 I love the patterns the Beeswax makes when it is starting to set.

Once it is cool and set all the way through....but still warm
Cut it into manageable sized pieces. 
This makes it easier to weigh certain amounts 
when you want to make something.

I love the smell of Beeswax.

*********************************** Checking on my
home-made flower press.


Anyone can make a flower press.....I have always stuck to the idea of, If I can't use it, don't grow it......So I have never planted flowers...Mum lives with us, and believes colour should be in the garden, and lots of it. So a compromise took place...I planted from seed, some little pansies....and was quite surprised at the detail in the tiny flowers.. ...
Wanting to capture the flowers at their brightest, I decided to make a flower-press. I am thinking of making bookmarks with the flowers for xmas gifts.  

Remember; I didn't make this press today, I was checking how the flowers were going.

How to make a flower-press.
First go to Bunnings, and buy a large piece of particle board, Have them cut it in 2 exact halves...
Find the butterfly wing nuts and bolts...That way you don't need a shifter when you want to open it.
I needed 6 bolts because it is a rectangle....If you decide on a square you will most likely only need 4.

After marking and drilling the holes...I also glued the bolts to the base of the press...it is so much easier with them glued into place....I remember having a little flower press when I was a child...and when closing the press, the bolts always wanted to fall out....So I glued the little suckers down this time.

You will also need to cut out oddly shaped papers to press your flowers between.....and a cardboard buffer, so your flowers aren't pressing flowers....
So for each layer you need 1 cardboard buffer and two paper sheets....all cut to shape to go around the bolts.

Use your imagination, 
walk around your garden 
to look for things to press....
Purple Basil, and Lemon-grass leaves.

Yes, even flowers can be pressed in a flower-press...lol
Just look at the detail in that flower.

See the carrot leaves, and garlic chive flowers,
also lettuce and rocket flowers.

I even tried some parsley,
some baby beet leaves, and marjoram flowers.

 You too can enjoy your flowers long 
after they have stopped flowering...
and hey, I found a way Mum can have her colour
 in the garden, and I can use the plants.  
I think pressed-flower bookmarks 
will make nice gifts.

Once your first lot are pressed, store them at the base of your press, and make some more paper inserts and buffers.

*********************************** Another soap, 2kg Animal Fat, 1kg of Rice Bran Oil


Reaching Trace

 Ready to pour, with a good trace.

This was a lovely soap to make, 
it reminded me of making lemon butter....
so thick and creamy...I think this will be a lovely soap.


On suggestion, I have been using my stick-mixer...
to get my soap to 'trace' quicker.
It's Mum's original Bamix. It must be 30 years old..Yikes
I have noticed, that the caustic mix has oxidised the metal base....
It used to be a shiny silver like the shaft.
Now when I wipe my finger on it,  my finger has like a fine metal dust on it.
And that's after it is cleaned.

 I wonder has anyone else had this happen to their stick mixer???
I am no longer using it for food prep.

I hope you have all enjoyed reading my post today..it's certainly been a busy one...
Hope you can take my warnings about soap making and keep them in mind.
Things I try, don't always work,
but if I can use it in another way or learn from it, then that's ok.
and I don't mind admitting my mistakes;
that's just another part of learning. 

Please leave a comment. I would love to hear what you think of all the things I do...
My brain is sometimes slightly fried, and although I may forget to reply or reply late..
I welcome and appreciate any comments I receive....
Thanks for reading my blog.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Camembert, Rendering, Preserving Lemons & Dishcloths

Hi Geoff, Hi Debbie, welcome to both of you....
Feel free to look around, and I would love some feedback......

Wrapping the Camembert.

I checked out the Camembert, and yep, It was ready to wrap...I first wrapped it in a grease proof like paper, and then wrapped it in foil....Back into the cheese-cave with both, for just a few weeks...as hubby prefers it really young...He says "If you leave it too long,  it just tastes like dirt."  Well, I kind of agree with him, after tasting the last one while it was young....it was really really nice....I guess that's another plus for making your own cheese, you can stop the maturation, when the cheese is the taste you want. 

Finishing off the 
fat rendering 
from yesterday.

I also finished off the fat rendering, but I still have to pack it away in the freezer..
This morning, the fat had set in the larger pan....
I scooped out the clean fat into a smaller pan and was left with a layer of dirty fat and water....
This I strained and poured into a small pan. 
All the leftover waste goes into a bread bag, 
and into the freezer until rubbish night. 

 Once I had just clean fat, I rendered it some more, adding water again...
I let this reduce to get rid of most of the added water.

 Then poured the oil into the containers as shown.
I poured it out while each container was on the scales...
that way each lump of fat will be easier to calculate when weighing it for soap. 
Once frozen, I will remove the containers and store each blob of fat
 in a freezer bag. That way I get all my containers back too.

I found I only needed 1 jug of boiling water to clean up the yucky oily greasy pot.
If you need to clean a pot like this..
Pour 1 kettle of boiling water around the inside walls of the pot.
Place the lid on and leave to melt down the greasy mess. 
Then pour the now warm water over a sieve. 
This will catch any bits left behind from the original fat.
Once empty, I rubbed the whole pot with baking soda...and used a soapy dishcloth to wipe it down. 
rinse well, and dry with a tea-towel.  
Too easy!!!!

Preserving Lemons -
another ingredient
to add to your stockpile.
While browsing through some of my old recipes...
I found a recipe for Preserved Lemons.
 I haven't used these in cooking since I was in a unit in Wangaratta.
Wow, that was way to many years ago to mention...lol.
So I decided to preserve some lemons myself. 
When lemons are in abundance like they are now (in the shops anyway) 
it's a good idea to stock up and add them to your stockpile by preserving them. 
Especially if you have a lemon tree.
I picked these up for $2 a kilo, while just a few weeks ago, they were $8 per kilo.

Select a glass jar with a secure lid...
preferably not a steel lid, as the heavy salt may react with it. 

Wash your lemons well, I used warm soapy water. 
My soap that I make.
You can see the brush in the water, 
I rubbed the lemons on the brush to remove any blemishes or marks....

Rinse well, in a water bath with half a cup of vinegar. 
This will neutralise any soap residue left on the lemons. 

Soapy                               Rinsed                    Draining
Spices used were Bay, Cinnamon, Star Anise, Cloves & Peppercorns. 

I found it easier to decant your spices onto a plate, 
as your fingers are going to get covered in lemon juice and salt. 
This way you are not contaminating your spice jars. 

 Cut the ends off each lemon, and cut into quarters,
 but don't cut all the way through the other end. 
Fill each lemon with salt, 
I just used cooking salt, it's going to dissolve anyway. 

Pack the jar tightly, and add spices as you go. 
Fill smaller gaps with quarters. Add salt and spices as you go.

 Here is a photo of the jars of lemons, just before I filled them with lemon juice
You can see that the salt is already drawing the juice out of the lemons...

Me being the frugal one...I also made a smaller jar using all the cut ends...

When using preserved lemon in a recipe: 
Select a piece of lemon from the jar
Rinse well with fresh water
Remove the flesh from the rind
Discard the flesh, and use the rind
Cut into fine strips or refer to your recipe.

So why not preserve the ends too...that's the bit you use.

On to my fourth dishcloth

I am still using up all the smaller leftover cottons from Mum....
she crochet's around face-washers and tea-towels
and has had a few bits left over.
so far my cotton dishcloths have cost nothing. 
I am using the one on the left and the centre one.
I have decided to keep on knitting
I may even use them for Christmas gifts.

Mum says she can see my confidence has grown...
she see's me taking my eye off the needles while talking to her....
I didn't even know I was NOT watching all the time.

Hope you all had a great day...
Mine has been a productive and busy one again. 

I guess soap is next...seeing I have all this free oil...
I even have the local chip shop saving Cotton Seed Oil for me
I picked up 4 litres off him the other day to make soap.
Thanks Paul.

If you like what you see, or would like to ask a question, 
please don't hesitate. Drop me a comment, and I will get back to you.

Monday, March 28, 2011


While I have been ill, there have been a few new followers, so I welcome you to my blog
I hope you like what you see and read. 

I am sure you will be pleased with today's post.
It sure has been a busy day......I'm feeling much better, 
and looking around, there is so much to do....
things I should have been doing but didn't have the energy.....

First off I had fat to render that I had gotten from my new friend Colin the butcher......
and as it was frozen, I thought I would give my new mincer a try...
I have had my mincer for almost a month...but not used it yet as I haven't had time or been too sick.  
I picked this up at Aldi's for $99. 
So today I began rendering the fat. I was disappointed with the amount of waste left over with the last lot of fat I rendered; so I decided to give the mincer a go.....and ground the fat to a fine grade. 
These smaller pieces should prove easier to render.

Mincing the fat before rendering.

For cleaning up the mincer attachments....I came up with the idea of placing them all in boiling water..
This; I hoped would make all the fat dissolve off the attachments and rise to the top of the water....
It worked....Yayyy

Below: I then rubbed baking soda all over the attachments.....straight on the bench that I had the mincer on....which was still greasy....then rubbed the baking soda all over the bench to soak up any fat residue....
It worked tooo!!

Then I washed the parts in warm soapy water, dried them, sprayed them with olive oil (to prevent rust)..
I have seen that some parts can be susceptible to rust, not sure of this model, but not taking the risk.
And have now stored them in a plastic bag...and sealed it.

Here is the oil, simmering away.....I will probably simmer this all day and evening.........
I will write more about these steps, once I have finished rendering.


First I went and dug the hole in the compost....this is where I buried all the mushroom stems a few months back....the soil in here is so good. I am really impressed with the quality.

 Collecting the last of the Bokashi tea
which will be used on the strawberry plants, Aloe Vera & Kiwi Fruit plants. 
Such spoilt plants.

Below: you can see that unwanted mould is starting to develop here....
It is definitley long over due....to be emptied. Surprisingly it doesn't smell offensive though...I can smell a fermented aroma, but certainly not offensive.

 It was so heavy, while I was trying to upend the bokashi bucket,....it sort of just fell like this.

Spread the bokashi waste over the entire pit.

Now cover the Bokashi waste with compost or soil.

 Ahhh more Bokashi tea..... and clean up was so easy!

MY OOPS CHEESE......First of all, let me tell you that I began making a double batch of  Parmesan Cheese yesterday....I found that my rennet was not up to scratch..My milk did not set!    
Last time I used it, I had left it out of the fridge for 24 hours, accidentally packing it away in the cupboard....
I guess I killed my rennet..:(
Not sure about the cultures as they were in the same container :(
and not chilled for the same amount of time   :(

Yep It didn't work, so I saved it by doing the following...............

 OOPS CHEESE #1 - Whey and Milk Ricotta

I used some of the milk that didn't set properly from the Parmesan Cheese to make this Ricotta.
I also added the cream I had skimmed from the Parmesan Milk and some whey from another cheese. 
I think it will end up a baked Ricotta...this will be a first for us.

First add half a spoon full of baking soda to the milk.....
Then heat the milk/whey/cream to 65 degrees celcius...do not stir......

 When it gets  to 65 degrees C, add 1 tspn of salt to every litre of liquid.........still don't stir.....

Leave it on the heat, and once it reaches 85 degrees C, add 20mls of vinegar per litre.....
don't stir, 
the particles are very small at this stage and rather delicate.......
After adding the vinegar, leave on the heat for another 5 minutes....don't stir.....
 Turn the heat off, and gently remove the curds from the whey....
place all the curds into a strainer lined with a clean cloth.

After all the curds are removed.

Wrap the curds in the cloth, and place a lid on top.

Now wrap up the curds, and place a lid on top, 
Place a bowl on top of that, and fill with water....this acts as a press. 

Once pressed, unwrap and place on a plate....I am going to bake this one.
I have never baked Ricotta before.

Update on the Baked Ricotta

Here is my Chabichou Cheese, and Pressed Ricotta
I am using the infused oil from the Chabichou to fry the Ricotta.....
but you could use any infused oil or even plain oil.

I decided to fry the Ricotta instead of baking it. Much easier this way.

 Hmmm it's smelling good from here.....

Oh no!!! a little bit broke off the side,.....I guess I will just have to try it...
.OMG it is so yummy
Another COOK'S TREAT!!!! heheheheh

OOPS CHEESE #2 - nellymary's lemon cheese
Yep, tweaked again.

I first strained some more of the milk overnight in a cloth bag, 
thinking I could make some yoghurt....but duhhhh!!! 
I used a cheese culture, not a yoghurt culture....
so cheese it is....but I will tweak it...nellymary style...

So added to this lot, some Lemon Thyme, salt, Lemon rind

 and Lemon Juice, just a half will do.

I have put this into a mould to drain....not sure if it will work,
but I have salted the top, to help draw out the whey.....
once I turn it over, I will salt that side as well....
Leaving it overnight to cure.
I am not expecting a hard cheese, but semi soft will do....
But I will have to wait until tomorrow to see how it is going.

See, it just goes to show, even when you think your milk can't be salvaged because your 'cheese' is not going according to plan.....sit back, have a think about it, and just try something different.....
You never know....
Throw nothing out!!! that's my motto.

The vegetables are from last night, I prepared more than needed to help with tonight's dinner.....
I love mashed potato with a bit of pumpkin....but I didn't have fresh pumpkin on hand.......
So out of the freezer, a bag of frozen cooked pumpkin...to add to the mash...That was last night.

When I have lots of pumpkin, I cube it, and place in the steamer....
then into plastic press-seal bags goes 1 cup of mashed pumpkin....
I add these 1 cup serves to the freezer for 
recipes like my mashed spuds, 
but especially for muffins or scones, Oh they are soooo good.

I also do this with Banana's, and even though they are expensive at the moment, I can make banana bread, or banana scones....or even muffins, on the cheap, because of my stockpile in the freezer.

Leftover veges and Mashed Potato with Pumpkin.
Back to dinner, I just add all the veges into the whizzer to roughly chop them all  to combine them.
Place in a mixing bowl, add a few eggs, 
some plain flour, herbs and spices, some chopped spinach from the garden, 
and Oh! I forgot the grated onion....Oh well. 

Now shallow fry spoonfuls....
and flip when golden. 
If the oven is on, place them in the oven to keep warm until all the mix is used.

Not a bad dinner, everyone enjoyed it....Pretty cheap too......

Baked Chicken Pieces
with Veg Patties and Baked Ricotta

I also did 2 loads of washing and even had time to plant out the Lemon Thyme and Perpetual Spinach.

Some Bokashi tea for these plants and even some for the Kiwi Plants, which are happy since being transplanted a few weeks back.
  I will look after these until they are strong and bold, before I planted them into the ground.

Here is a visitor I found....look closely and you will see his web takes up the entire photo.

I will leave you there for now, my little friend, 
but you will eventually have to move on.

I sure hope you enjoyed reading about my day.....
It was a busy one, and it's good to be feeling healthy again.
If you like something I did, please leave a comment.....
I would love to hear from you.

Oh, I forgot to check the Camembert, I think it needs to be wrapped.....
Ahhhhh tomorrow's another day...

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