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.


  1. Howdy, I just found your blog. I have a question.
    I have some pure rendered bacon fat. Can I use that for soap making? I have been canning a ton of bacon and saving the rendered lard. Also, what is the recipe for animal fat soup?
    Where on earth did you get all that beeswax? Love it.
    Thanks for the information,

  2. Hi Melissa....good question..You certainly can use Pig Tallow.....
    A recipe for Pig Fat Soap is...

    3lb rendered Pig Fat (or 48oz or 1360.776 grams)
    1.14lb water ( or 18.24oz or 517.095grams)
    .402lb Caustic Soda (or 6.438oz or 182.504grams)

    And use the guide that I mentioned above on How I make soap. Any other questions, just let me know....

    I got this pig tallow recipe by running it through the soap calculator at http://www.soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp

    For beeswax, if you look in your phone directory for an Apiarist or Bee Keeping Supplies, you will find they sell beeswax by weight....I paid $9.00 per kilo.

  3. Melissa, Your one up on me with canning meats...I have never tried this before. Well done, Love your blogs...very informative too. Keep up the good work.

  4. So glad you are ok Narelle, I know that rushing feeling and that IS when accidents happen. Take care.

  5. You could have been burned badly but glad you thought quick and retified the problem, when I make soap I keep telling myself which way it has to added so the same doesn't happen to me.
    What is your soap powder recipe, I haven't tried one with sards.
    Pressed flowers, I haven't done that since primary school but like you I don't have many flowers in my garden.

  6. Debbie, I will do a new post about the washing powder that I make.

    Thanks Rose...how's the sewing coming along?

  7. Thanks! I will be looking for cheaper beeswax and caustic powder. I can a ton of meat. I live in Gulf of Mexico in Texas and those hurricanes do a ton of damage. Plus canned meat is super easy to have and use.

  8. Melissa, I would love to know how you can meat...do you have a link to any tutorials you have done?

  9. Just wondering if your bamix is stainless steel. I make soap all the time and only use a blender with stainless steel blades as anything else will oxidise. I never use it for food prep either. Hope that helps.

  10. Juie: I thought it was Stainless Steel....but I guess not...and it was the top of the Bamix range too in its day....maybe it was SS but due to its age and use...it has all worn off...but it was still shiny before making soap...so not sure what went wrong....I only use it for soap now...and found a plastic one for food...wish I could swap them though...oh well.....
    thanks for commenting on my blog.

  11. I'm a bit late joining this conversation, but I've just discovered your blog! What fun I will have reading!
    Just a question about animal fat soap - does it smell? Is it stinky? I just can't imagine that it would be sort of odourless like vegetable oil soaps are?
    BTW I also have a stainless steel stab mixer and it hasn't oxidised. If your Bamix is very old, would it maybe be aluminium instead? Just a thought.


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