Monday, January 20, 2014

All about the soaps I make.

I make a modest amount of soap for sale and I obsess over the ingredients.  I put them up on my weebly storefront, but I can't add the entire length of what I want to say there.  So, I'll put it here.

First, I start with goat milk.  Milked from our own goats (right now Zada is the one in milk).  I use first quality drinking milk for soap.  There's nothing wrong with using "dump" milk for soap, I just don't, merely personal preference.  Goat milk is high in vitamin A, contains loads fatty acids, minerals, other vitamins, and cream.  I use very fresh, full fat, raw goat milk.

Then I use lye to start the chemical reaction that is soap.  I use food grade lye.  I  handle it with caution and lock it in a cabinet when it's not used.  Again this is a personal preference, I prefer the purity of the food grade product, there's no reason to think the non food grade is a problem. (more about lye...

Then all those nourishing oils:

* Olive oil.  Approximately 80% of my soap is pure, food grade olive oil.  I actually buy it at Costco instead of a soap supplier and it's the same olive oil that I cook with.  I'm uncomfortable with pomace grade olive oil....more about that here...
There are no studies saying pomace olive oil is bad for you, again this is a personal preference.  Part of my aspiration for a pure, clean, safe that I use on myself and my own babies.  This high quantity of olive oil, makes for a soap that is nearly a castille soap.  Castille soaps are known for being very gentle, but they do cloud the water.  Very moisturizing as well.

* Coconut oil.  I use the same coconut oil you see at the store for cooking.  There doesn't appear to be the purity issues with coconut oil like there is with olive oil, thankfully. Coconut oil is very cleansing, great for sudsing.

* Cocoa butter.  I use a food grade, organic cocoa butter.  It smells like chocolate because I won't use the deodorized version, which uses some chemicals to strip the scent and color.  So it contributes to a slight yellow color and a little to the scent.  Cocoa butter gives a little hardness, a lot of moisturizing to the soap.

* Shea butter. I adore shea butter!  I buy organic unrefined shea butter.  It's yellow, smells smoky and is oh-so moisturizing.  (I sometimes use it raw on my hands, it's heavenly!)  The smokiness comes from the way they separate the butter from the nut and the scent is a contributor to the scent of the soaps.  It lends an earthy scent to them.  I make a simple whipped shea butter that I use on my daughter for diaper care, so gentle and effective.  This ingredient is mainly for moisturizing.

* Castor oil is a thick oil that I use primarily for it's ability to improve the sudsing nature of the soap.  It is an edible oil, not that I'd suggest it.

These make up the base ingredients of my soap.  I use a lot of natural colorants, most of them food grade but a few are mica based.  All of my fragrance oils are paraben and phalate free.  My essential oils are pure essential oils.  I use only ingredients that I feel comfortable with my kids handling- minus the lye- you can't make soap without lye and it's never kid safe.  No unreacted lye remains in soap.  The soap I make has an extra 5% fat beyond what is needed for the chemical reaction so you get a safe soap with a little extra moisturizing.

I DO NOT use Palm oil.  I think the impact on the animals and the people in the regions where palm oil is grown is completely horrible.  I'm not even comfortable with sustainable palm oil, because it continues the demand for palm oil products.  I feel my soap is a great soap without palm oil and I'm much happier knowing that it's not only a safe product, but a product that doesn't come with all those environmental woes.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Trade School Indy: Cheese Making 101

I signed on to be a Trade School Indy Instructor!  It's a very exciting way for me to share the love of cheese making with more people and I'm supporting the Julian Center too.

If you are here because of Trade School Indy, welcome!  Welcome to my blog!  I have a couple of posts related to cheese making I'll add links to at the bottom of this post.

To those who will be attending my class, all you'll need is milk and cheese cloth.  I'll be providing you with recipes and an outline and my business card which has my contact info on it.  I have a Facebook group just for cheese making class questions:

I post articles related to cheese making and class schedules.  I do teach a few classes beyond 101 if you decide you want more than just the basics.

About milk, you are looking for raw, gently pasteurized or standard temp pasteurization.  Ultra-pasteurized, flash pasteurized and aseptic milks will not work for mozzarella.  If that's all you can find though, bring it, we'll still use it.  It still makes ricotta and soft cheese fine.

Monday, December 9, 2013


As usual, I'm putting together a blog post when I have a rare moment of downtime.  This one brought to you by the two hour weather delay and the baking bread in the oven that I have to wait to finish up.  

I planted a lot of new things this fall- more trees, shrubs, etc.  It's all of the edible sort in an effort to gain parent plants that will eventually make up our food forest.  I had thought when I ordered them that I would simply put these plants in the designated food forest area but was glad I didn't when I saw that my neighbor's small apple trees were eaten by deer.  We have too much invested to have that happen.  I have a number of plum, cherry, nectarine seeds that I'll stratify and plant in the spring.  We already moved a bunch of wild blackberries into the area where the goats had cleared out space.  I thought those had died off but scratching the canes reveals a different story.

There's a little bit of winter pruning to do.  I started with the pre-existing trees, still need to do all of the others though.  

The baby goat, Dawn, has grown really fast.  We plan to breed her as soon as she hits 90lbs.  I think that even with her extra teat she could be a good milker, but we have to find out sooner than later since feeding extra goats cost money.  As much fun as pet goats sound, around here they need to earn their feed.  

New mama drama.

The farm has a lot of new, first time mamas.  It's been interesting.  I'm just going to split this by type for clarity.

Chickens: Most of my chickens are naturals.....not all though.  I have an old hen who usually does great, this year though she managed to get the eggs so dirty they suffocated....that was a first.  I don't know that we even had a good hen hatch this year on chicken eggs....most of them were incubator babies adopted back out the the hens to raise....and the adoptions went all.  Except one.  Of course it was the mama with the suffocated eggs.  Oh well.

Ducks: I had lots of ducks eggs this year, ALL very fertile, but only one broody duck.  The broody duck was a Rouen and I'd read when we bought the Rouens that they were decent mothers.  Yeah, right!  So this mama duck hides her nest and we didn't even find it until hatching time.  Where would be the best possible place for a nest????  Our burn pile of course! (We had an inkling she might be in there so we didn't start a fire) She had a lot of eggs in there too.  The problem with uncontrolled nesting (this applies to the goose and turkey I'll tell you about further down too) is that they lay eggs daily and by the time they get the nest they want, they have a lot of older eggs that get buried or they might have some that will hatch days before the rest.  So with mama duck, her eggs hatched over a couple of days.  We saw the first duckling strayed from the nest and was hiding in the grass, so we tried to put it with the incubator hatched ducklings.  The problem is that it was imprinted to mama duck, so it kept getting away.  It died by drowning in the duck pool.  The next duckling died by chilling, as did the one after that.  So by that time we found the nest and she'd left it because she had one duckling.  I debating a good deal to take that duckling from her but they really wanted to be together, so I let them.  It disappeared.  She lost it the very next day.  All the while since she'd abandoned her nest, she had several babies in shell that were hatchable that died in the shell.  Needless to say, we aren't letting ducks hatch their own duckling again.  The only ducklings we have are the incubator ones....which are doing great!  I just set up a broody chicken with 4 ducks eggs so we'll have more ducklings coming (not that we need more ducklings, but she was a really stubborn broody- may as well put her to work).

Turkeys: Both turkey hens were broody and apparently 8-10 eggs each.  Turkey mama #1 had a similar problem to duck mama, in that she had too many eggs of different ages.  So first baby hatched too soon, wandered off and chilled.  Second baby, didn't make it out of the shell.  Third and Fourth were healthy.  The three remaining eggs I put in the incubator since they were so far behind, they would have died in the shell.  They hatched in the incubator 1-2 weeks later- yes, the last was about 2 weeks after the first one.  Crazy!  Turkey hen #2 had a much better hatch.  10 eggs, all but 2 hatched with healthy babies.  So the tally is Turkey #1 with 2 babies, Turkey #2 with 8 babies, incubator 5 babies + 3 delayed hatchlings from mama #1.  18 babies.  Now we are down to 12.  Mama 1 still has her two.  Mama 2 has 5 babies now.  We have 5 former incubator babies, 1 from turkey 1's hatch, 4 from the original incubator batch.

Geese:  Geese.  You know how it's widely known you shouldn't mess with a goose on a nest, well thats exactly what I had to do tonight.  So similar problem- nest full of eggs, hatching on different days and babies try to explore, only this mama put her nest in the hay shed.  So 4 babies hatch and were trapped between the wall and  the hay.  I ran Lucy out of the shed, rescued babies, put them in a brooder.  Two days later Lucy reclaimed them.  Strong mama instinct there, even if she didn't have any common sense.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Strawberries and poults

Strawberries are coming in now along with all of our lettuces, chard, bok choi and radishes.  I'm struggling a little to come up with new ways to use so many fresh greens so I'm going to have to preserve some of them....which is a good thing but I've never tried to preserve bok choi.  I think eggroll wrappers might be part of the deal.

Strawberries started turning full on red on Monday, since then we've harvested about 6-7lbs.  I'm hoping they'll give me the low end of the expected yield for 80 plants...right around 40lbs or 1/2lb per plant.  Right now it's hard to say if the patch will put that much out....hope so.  I'm counting on a good harvest.

I'm challenged this pay period to utilize all of our resources and not the grocery store for this two weeks. At least this is well timed with a productive garden, hens laying well and a goat giving lots of milk.  We have a mean turkey to cull and he'll give us at least 10lbs of good meat.  I have a few musts from the store....sugar, bananas, coffee, granola bars (which I could make but I'd be lucky to find the time), butter and lard.  I still have lots of animal feed to buy- 200# chick starter, 40-50# sunflower seeds (goats) and dog food (I think).

This tight budget also means that the Farmer's market that begins later this month, I'll be attending- but not as a least not at the start.  I still need to get my LLC registered, state business registration and EIN plus my space rental.....all that cost money I don't have right now.  That's ok though, I don't really have my inventory as complete as I'd like and this gives me more time to concentrate on getting my inventory together.  I hope I'll be a late-comer at the market, but it's not the worst thing ever if I don't.  Another year to get it all together might be just what I need.

We've had a couple really good hatches lately- 7 ducklings and 6 poults (turkey)from the incubator.  Mama turkey #1 hatched 2 poults and they are doing great, on all forages no less.  She hasn't taken them to the barn at all so they aren't eating feed.  Mama turkey #2 hatched 8 poults, so far so good but they are brand new to the world.  I had her adopt the most recently hatched poult from the incubator, one that is the same age as her babies.  Again, she's not taking them into the barn so they are growing on just weeds and whatever else they find.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Things to do with goat milk, #2 Mozzarella

Probably the second most common cheese I make is mozzarella, mozz for short.  I use the 30 minute method and it usually turns out nice for me.  My only complaint is that with goat milk you have to take some consideration for where in the lactation cycle your goat is and adjust the citric acid content accordingly.  I think some pH strips would remove some of the guesswork, but I haven't tried that yet.

Goat milk mozzarella isn't quite like store bought mozzarella.  For starters, I've yet to make a mozz ball (with either cow or goat milks) that shredded worth a darn.  Usually, I don't even try and we slice it instead.  The slices actually work better for me when it comes to lasagna assembly.

The uses for it are pretty much the same as the store bought version.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Things to do with goat milk. #1 chevre

I think I'm going to do a series of what to do with goat milk.  This isn't my first go at having abundant amounts of fresh milk to play with so I'll try to keep these short and sweet.  

One of my favorites is Chevre.  Chevre can be savory or sweet, it can be converted into a cheesecake or even mock-velveeta.  The yield per gallon is about 2lbs. One of the more common things I do if I'm invited to a pitch in is make a batch, split it into two and season one with ranch dressing mix (I use Penzeys) and the other is a sweet- sometimes blueberry and vanilla, sometimes honey, lemon and vanilla.  Then I grab a couple sleeves of crackers, one buttery ritz type and the other a graham cracker type.  

Turning chevre into velveeta is pretty simple.  I use this recipe.  I don't add the cream, just the soda and butter.  It comes out pretty close to the taste of velveeta and it's faster than making a cheddar for a bechamel style cheese sauce when you want to make mac and cheese.   

Turning chevre into a cheesecake is nice, usually 24 oz of it with 4 eggs, a tsp of vanilla, a couple tablespoons of flour, a dash of milk and a little lemon peel.  Sometimes I don't even bother with a crust.  It's not as nice a cheesecake as you get out of cream cheese and it gets a little ricotta like but usually I don't care because it's pretty tasty anyhow.  

Recently I used it sweetened with sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to make an apple pizza....left over pizza crust with chevre smeared all over it, layer thin apple slices and sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar.  It made a yummy breakfast.

I also have used it for lasagna layers, ravioli filling, topping's a good versatile cheese once you get over the idea that it's supposed to be fancy.  It can be fancy but it doesn't have to be.  I've never had it turn out "goaty" like the store bought brands and I think if it did, I wouldn't have so many uses for it.