Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.

Ashley Smith

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My sister, the indoor green thumb wizard

Or is that Wizardess?

Either way, my sister is a genius when it comes to raising indoor flora.  For Christmas last year, we bought her one of those mushroom growing kits.  It comes in a brown cardboard box, with "mushroom compost that has already been prepared and inoculated with the white colored mushroom mycelium" and some pretty specific instructions.

I was hoping that it would work and she wouldn't just end up with a mushy wet cardboard box full of goo.  Well it did work and here is proof:
Mushrooms in a box!
Pretty amazing, isn't it?  While I have been unable to keep any type of houseplant alive (ever), here is my sister growing Gourmet Portabellas in a box.

She emailed me that photo yesterday.  I emailed back this message:

"Wow!  That is awesome.  I am so glad (and a little relieved) that it is working.  I was worried that it might be like those amaryllis bulbs that one can get for Christmas in a pretty pot.  Every time I have tried that what I end up with is a pretty pot with a rotten, moldy glob in it..."

So today she emailed me this photo in an email titled: Like this?

Amaryllis, not a rotten glob...
 Uh-huh.  She's a stinker all right.  It's a good thing that I love her.

P.S. If you are interested in trying to grow Mushrooms in a Box, here is the website where I ordered them: Mushroom Adventures 
and I do not know of  a place to get Amaryllis bulbs, so don't even ask.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Stirrin' the Pot...

Love Soap
One of the things I really love to do is make soap.  It isn't very difficult, it isn't particularly dangerous but it is fairly time consuming.  My friend Lisa and I made soap together two years ago and (gasp!) we hadn't done it since...even though the last bar bubbled down my drain quite a few weeks ago.

Well, we changed all that!  It took us the better part of a Sunday, but now we have about 10 lbs of beautiful, creamy, woovy-groovy homemade soap curing upstairs in my house. Yay!

Since we only make one batch and only do it every other year, we always use the same recipe out of this book:

Awesome book!
 Which you can get through my favorite on line source for soap making supplies, Majestic Mountain Sage

I made a cheat sheet there on the left for quick reference.
The basic steps are:
  1.  Get all of your supplies together (this is important, unless you like running up and down the stairs 20 times to grab the things you forgot- which, apparently, I do...)
  2. Mix the lye with water.  This heats up to 200 degrees F, so my first suggestion is to do this EARLY! Like even the night before.  It needs to cool down to 80 degrees before you mix it with the fats/oils.   ***Lye is VERY caustic, it will burn you if you get it on your skin. You must be very careful when working with this ingredient***
    Measuring the temperature of the lye water.  For safety's sake- either gloves, a smaller jar or a longer thermometer is really recommended! I tend to live life on the edge ( a little)
  3. We use coconut, palm and olive oil for the fats.  Coconut and palm oils are solid at room temperature, so you need to melt them.  They need to cool to 80 degrees also, so plan accordingly.
    It's always fun to work with someone who is good at measuring!
  4. When both solutions are 80 degrees, mix together.  For us this meant putting the lye water out in a snow bank and then bringing it back in because we were afraid one of the four wild animals (aka dogs) would knock it over. Then bringing snow in and filling the sink with snow and water. Then heating the oils up again. Making them too hot, having to wait for them to cool- You get the picture.  This is the most important step and (for us anyway) the most difficult!
  5. Then stir-briskly.  The soap is supposed to trace (leave a  small pattern on top of the solution before sinking back in when you drip some on top) after about 40 minutes.  We stirred for about 2 hours...


Still stirring...
and since it did not separate, we poured it into molds, even though it didn't ever really trace.

Yes, those are lavender blossoms in the bottom of that mold. and yes, they are from my garden.

sleeping kitties

See how I dressed up in my finest for this job?
It's ok if you spill a little, this spill made a little heart!
and then it has to cure.  Leave it in the molds for at least a week.  Our soap isn't hard enough to de-mold yet.  When it is, I will pop the molds into the freezer for about an hour or so to make it easier to get the soap out. Pure vegetable oil soaps (like these, meaning no lard) don't mold as well as lard based soap, because they are naturally softer.
All the beautiful shapes...

We mixed calendula petals into the soap, which you can kind of see here.

Some with lavender buds too

Calendula flowers fresh from the garden (obviously, this photo was taken during summer time, not in February...)
So there it is.  Soap making in the short form.  I highly recommend this activity, it is so satisfying and you can scent (or not) the soaps exactly how you like them.  We use a combination of lavender and lemon essential oils~ Yummy!

Have fun and keep your stirring arm warm!

Friday, February 10, 2012

how about some photos?

Smokey, aka Cutest Cat in the World with his mouse toy
So in looking back through here recently it seems too text dense!  Here are some photos that I never posted:

At the Hitchin' Post
These are the boys, getting ready to pick up the elk that Brian got, the day before end of season this year!  You can see they are very excited to be put to work.

Here they are- Mule loaded up and ready to roll. (figuratively, not literally)
Um... the coat makes me appear a bit larger than life, Really.
 These two were taken in our back field, just as we were approaching the final stretch.  These were taken after Episode One, in which the mule broke loose from us, bucking and running, managed to dump EVERY bit of meat out of his packs and get his pack saddle wedged under his tummy.  Luckily, he is not a dumb mule and stopped at the gate for our assistance.  We obliged by re-loading everything back on him...

Ahhh, the drafties...
These sweetie-pies helped my husband move this ENORMOUS tree that had fallen and blocked our road.  Brian cut it enough to move it and they first dragged it into the front field.

Then, since there was still not much snow on Thanksgiving weekend, Brian hooked them up to the logging arch he constructed and they hauled it out to the burn pile.

Good boys!
 And these last ones are for anyone that is feeling like the snow should go away, or anyone in a warmer clime that might be gloating about how pretty it is where they are:

Pink sunrise, from our front deck

Photos can't really capture how surreal and beautiful this was

Ice fog tree
Well, Lisa and I are making soap tomorrow- Hurray!  I'll let you know how it goes and I also have some handspun to show off!!

Happy Valentine's day!