homestead how-to {laundry soap}

It happened. I finally ran out of my Allen’s laundry soap, 2 years after buying it. Seriously. And it was only the 32 oz. size! I bought it for the sole purpose of washing cloth diapers but seeing how economical it was it only made sense to use it for everything. So I did. And here we are 2 years later. Now sure, I could go and buy another bottle but seeing how I’m on this whole path towards a more self sufficient life I thought I’d try my hand at making my own. My friend Sam had done it awhile back, though she wasn’t washing her diapers with it, and then recently my friend Codi posted about it on FB, so I figured now was as good a time as any to try. Codi posted a recipe that she’d found and I did some research. I wasn’t comfortable using the Fels Naptha brand of bar soap that was recommended, though it’s been around for ever and is very well known. Fels Naptha is a very strong laundry specific bar but is a skin irritant. I looked around the net and found some alternatives. There were actually quite a few choices out there, even something as easily found as Dial. I liked the idea of using Bronner’s Castile bar, but then discovered that certain ingredients weren’t compatible with grey-water. And now that grey-water laws are changing for Colorado, I wanted to take that into consideration. Enter Kirk’s Original Cocoa Bar! So, after all that lead up, let’s do the wash!

homemade laundry soap folkways farm1.) Gather the goods. Borax, Arm and Hammer Washing Soda and Kirk’s Original Castile Bar. Everything except the Borax I found at King Soopers, which I happened to have on hand from Buckley’s Homestead Supply. You can also find them at Ace Hardware. We’re making a powdered laundry soap because it’s easier and requires less storage space. 2.) Grate your bar of soap using a common cheese grater. If you have a spare that you can designate for this type of thing, awesome. But it’s no big deal. It’s just soap. If you like, chop it down further using a sharp knife and cutting board, or pulse it a few times in the blender. 3.) Measure out 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of Washing Soda and add it to the soap shavings. Mix them together well. If you’re using your blender, great. If you’re using a regular mixing bowl just make sure to give it a good even distribution. 4.) Pour into a storage container with a lid. Find an old coffee scoop or tablespoon to keep with it.

That’s it! Yep. That easy. If you have a top loader add the soap and let the washer fill up about half way before adding your clothes. For a front loader, mix your powder in a cup of warm water to dissolve it a bit and pour as usual. Use about 1-2 tablespoons per load, depending on how soiled your wash is. If you want fragrance, try adding a few drops of pure essential oils to the powder while you’re mixing, or better yet, just keep different scents in your laundry room to use when the mood strikes. You can add 1 to 2 drops in the water and agitate it a little before adding your clothes.

This single batch washes between 32 and 64 loads, depending whether you use 1-2 tablespoons. So far I am loving the effect it’s having on my own laundry!

homemade fly repellent spray

So the battle of the flies continues. While they are not winning (I will not accept defeat), they are holding their own. With the Fly Predators at work, and fly traps everywhere and in the making, I still needed something to repel them from the goats at milking time. Going back to the internet (I am presently full of gratitude for technology), I found a few ideas for natural sprays. I do not use chemicals in my home or on my children and I will certainly not use them on my animals. After doing some research on essential oils and other bloggers’ ideas, I came across Fiasco Farms and her Shoo-Fly Spray. It’s an excellent price, but I didn’t have time to wait on the mail. I needed it yesterday. So I took her ingredients list and concocted my own. I didn’t have everything, and of course only having the names and not quantity ratios, I had to wing it. I added Apple Cider Vinegar as my base and made do with what I had. The good news is, it seems to keep the flies off the girls on the stanchions. I spray them all over their coats, the back of their head and neck (not their faces), and their legs and feet. And as a bonus, it smells fantastic! So while it is not a solution to the problem at least it gives them relief during milking time and keeps me from losing my rhythm (and my mind) from swatting flies. Fiasco Farms had great information for fly control by the way. I definitely recommend clicking on the link and visiting them if you have any issues.

Niko helped me build a version of the fly trap shown in the previous post. Some things just don’t happen unless he lends me his hands and wisdom. It hasn’t done much yet but my hopes are high. I tried a sugar water/vinegar solution in the house, but it doesn’t seem to do much, although it did help with the fruit flies. Seriously, we have been plagued. Houseflies are bastards. I’ve ordered more Fly Predators. I’m going to keep that up until First Frost, and plan on starting next year early, before the flies even make an appearance.

Here’s my recipe for the Fly Spray. And although I can’t recommend it from trying it, I think Fiasco Farms is the place to go to buy it. I might do that next time.

Essential Oils to the Rescue.

Combine in a spray bottle:

12 oz of filtered water, 3 oz of ACV, 18 drops of Citronella, 15 drops of Cedarwood, 15 drops of Eucalyptus, 10 drops of Geranium, 5 drops of Lavender, 5 drops of Lemongrass, 3 drops of Peppermint, 3 drops of Tea Tree.

Shake well prior to each use.

homestead how-to {queso blanco}

Better known as: The easiest cheese recipe EVER.

Cheese, the oh so beloved dairy-licious decadence that with the exception of the vegans and lactose intolerant among us, tops the charts as one of our favorite foodstuffs. Baked mac n cheese with farmhouse cheddar, made from scratch blueberry cheesecake, PIZZA! And then there is the sweet simplicity of a fresh chunk of mozzarella and homegrown tomato wrapped in a leaf of just plucked windowsill basil. Mouth watering, yeah? You betcha!

For most of us modern day mamas (or papas), a truly delectable cheese is as close as the nearest grocery store gourmet counter, depending of course, on the size of your bank account. But for the adventurous among us, I offer up an alternative. Grab a gallon of whole milk and a good cooking pot, and let’s make some cheese!

The first time I felt the smooth stretch of warm mozzarella between my hands, I was awestruck. Seriously? I am doing this? I made homemade pizza that day. Everything from scratch or grown from the garden. I felt like the most awesome person EVER. And I was rewarded with happy tummys and complements at my table. Take out? Take that! Eat your heart out Digiorno! There is a deep satisfaction from homemade. Try it and let me know what you think.

This week in our Homestead How-To (a new category of awesomeness I’m trying to incorporate into the blog), we’re going to make Queso Blanco, by far the easiest cheese in my opinion, as the only ingredients are whole milk and white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar if you like).

Here’s a complete list: 1 gallon WHOLE milk. 1/4 cup vinegar. *A dairy thermometer. A large stainless steel cooking pot. A strainer. A wooden spoon. **Cheesecloth. (Optional: Salt and/or fresh or dried herbs). The entire process takes about 4 hours and will yield approximately 1 pound of cheese. Alright! Let’s do it!

homemade cheese folkways farm

1.) Gather your supplies. 2.) Pour your milk into your pot and place over medium low heat. You want your milk to heat slowly and gradually to reach a desired temperature of 180 degrees. It takes about an hour when given the patience to be done right. Stir every so often with a wooden spoon to distribute heat evenly and to prevent scalding. 3.) When your milk reaches 180 degrees, turn off the heat. * If you do not have a dairy thermometer, turn off the pot when the milk starts to foam a little, just before you think it’s going to boil. You DO NOT want it to boil. 4.) Slowly add your vinegar and gently stir with your wooden spoon. You should see the curds start to separate from the whey. 5.) Let sit a few minutes. 6.) Very carefully (as it is HOT) pour your curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth. If you want to save your whey (which I recommend because it is the cat’s meow as a substitute for milk in baked goods) place another large pot under the colander. **If you do not have cheesecloth you can use a cotton t-shirt. Clean obviously. Just cut it at the seams and use the same way. Come on, you must have an old cotton shirt laying around. 7.) Pull up the edges and ring out to expel the main part of the whey. 8.) Transfer back to your cooking pot and hang from any surface that can comfortably fit the pot and bag of cheese. I use a magnet on the hood of my stove. Easy and convenient, but use your imagination. Let strain for about 3 hours. Less time will give you a wetter cheese, more will give you a firmer cheese. 9.) Yum! Unwrap from the cheese cloth and place in a resealable container to refrigerate. It will keep up to a week cold. Not that it lasts that long.

Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy this cheese:

fresh goat cheese and jam folkways farmMix it with jam. Strawberry is my favorite. Just chop up the cheese and swirl it together with your desired amount of jam for sweetness. Use it on crackers or as a dip for apples or celery.

Grill it. Yep, you heard me right. This cheese has a very high melting point, so you can actually place it directly on your skillet or grill with a little oil or butter. Makes a great snack with a bit of salt or seasoning, and an excellent Indian Paneer.

Form it into balls and roll into fresh or dried herbs. My favorites are fresh dill and garlic, or chives, parsley and dill. But I’m always open to suggestions so if you find a favorite way to enjoy this cheese, please share! If you find a combo that you love and know that’s how you want to season the whole thing, add your salt and herbs after you pour it into your cheesecloth, while the whey is still nice and liquidy. Then give it a good stir with your spoon before it strains all the way.

FYI~ I used fresh raw goat milk. I have never used store bought or cows milk to make this cheese. I would love to know how yours turns out! If you try it, please let me know in the comments.

we are farmers.

folkwaysWe are goat keepers. We may live on a smallish suburban lot and can not yet call ourselves full time farmers. We may only have 2 smallish goats. But by that, we are goat keepers. As much as you are responsible for the care and well being of your beloved pup; just as you must feed, water, clean and clean up after, just as you play with them and nurture them and tend to them when they are sick, as do we. We have pets. We know. But we have livestock, too. They live outside. They require hands on constant maintenance and mild supervision. And though they give us back joy, just as our pets do, it is more. They provide a service. We do not keep them just for pleasurable companionship. Milk, cashmere, kids; these are our rewards. Our compensation, if you will. We keep chickens for eggs, and perhaps one day, meat. We keep bees for honey, among other amazing things. We tend our gardens for the food and medicine they bring into our home. We work hard. And our work is not done when the clock strikes 5. Yes, we may only live on a smallish suburban lot, but we are farmers.

 

 

why i bake bread.

There are few scents as captivating in this world as freshly baked bread. Nor a matched excitement of the steam rising from the moist tenderness when you tear it apart with your bare hands, because it’s just too tempting to walk the four extra feet for a knife. The first bite is divine, always enjoyed in the simplicity of breads true form. The rest is lathered with sweet butter or honey and consumed hungrily.

That loaf of bread may not last the hour.

Fresh bread is a meal in itself. Free from the useless guilt of calories that we might assume had we ingested a purchased loaf from the grocery store. Why is this? Perhaps because we know the effort that went into every bite. Rising early to work the dough before children begin to buzz at your feet. Watching it rise and smelling the yeast as it permeates the whole house. Kneading for the second time, maybe the third and knowing that the muscles in your arms and the movement of your fingers are working together to produce a loaf of pure joy. And finally, when the process itself serves as its own few moments of meditation in an oftentimes overwhelming day. It is calm. It is contentment. It is love. And what more could we ask to fill the bellies of our children?

This is why I bake bread.

 

 

 

bring on the bugs!

fly predators folkways farmThe bugs came (a.k.a. Fly Predators). I took a chance on them and I’m feeling positive. We had to wait a few days before opening them because you’re supposed to see some action in the bag before dispersing. I expected bigger bugs; they were little tiny things, but I suppose they only have to eat the larvae and not the flies themselves. We’re not supposed to see a difference for at least a month.

In the meantime we are at war. We have fly swatters at arms length AT ALL TIMES. Sticky strips, though unsightly, are everywhere. We’re also going to build a few of these:

From the facebook page, "Living off the Grid"

From the facebook page, “Living off the Grid”

 

I’ll post some pictures as soon as we have some built. It won’t be exactly the same, but will have the same basic principle. We’re gonna kill us some flies.

 

 

a fall sowing.

I have been mostly non-participatory in our gardening ventures this year, so I’ve decided to try and do some late season planting and see what becomes of it. I’ve seen many an article on fall gardening to inspire me lately, and on this last day of the waxing moon I’m gonna put some seed in the ground.

There are a surprising amount of veggies that can be started this late. Certain beets, rainbow carrots, LOTS of greens; chard and spinach for example, and mustard greens and mesclun mixes. Also, none of our pumpkins took, so I’d like to go buy some late starts from Rick’s today, but I’m not sure I’ll have time.

It’s a busy day getting Daisy ready and making some last minute plans. She leaves tomorrow.

home alone.

Sometimes it takes being on my own to remember that I’m a farmer, and that it’s a chosen life that I love. When Niko’s home I allow myself to get lazy because I know that he’ll get it done, and most of the time better anyway. So I let myself be the keeper of the inner workings of the home. When he takes these short jaunts away, it forces me out of my set comfort zones and pushes me back into the work. Which I need. And enjoy. I haven’t found the necessary balance yet to accomplish tasks in a timely manner. For example: milk the goats at 6, have dinner ready by 7, so that all other evening chores can be done and be in bed by 9. (9?! you say! unheard of!) I guess that’s one reason why we have partners. Because if I didn’t have a family I probably wouldn’t care if I had dinner on at 7, or many of the other things that keep me busy around here. Teamwork is where it’s at, if there is a team to be had.

Sara and Heidi were hilariously occupied at milking time. Usually Sara is standing against the gate waiting for me or Niko to scratch her head and let her out. But not tonight. Tonight she and Heidi were having a battle of whose head was the hardest, and who could do the best kick jump spin while simultaneously headbutting the other with brute force. Sara won, of course. She usually does. I’ll try to catch the action one of these days and post it. It’s solid entertainment, folks.

Later, the fun continued when at watering time Leelu came out of the house stark naked except for her muck boots. Babies. They just know the natural order of things, I suppose. Clothes… are overrated. Unless they’re bloom daisy clothes, that is. Buy some. :)

So while the boys are away getting re-inspired, us girls are home getting reacquainted with our little homestead in the best ways we know how. And having an unexpectedly fun time doing it.