For those of you who are trying to get away from harsh chemicals in all areas of their life, liquid hand soap might be one of those last few holdouts. It is hard to make/sell anything in liquid form without adding preservatives to keep nasties from growing in it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the soap ourselves in small batches as we need it.
All you need is a bar of your favorite natural soap, small pot or crockpot, water and a grater (alternatively a knife and submersion blender will work). Depending on how thick you want your soap to be, you can use more or less water in your recipe. For ours I used one part water and one part chopped soap chunks (I had some extra ends from a few batches of soap, waste not want not). I simply added the soap and water to a mini crockpot and let the mixture heat up. I then mixed it with a submersion blender… since I am not a very patient person. I COULD have grated the soap and avoided this, but laziness got the best of me. After things were fully incorporated, I let the mixture continue to cook for a few hours and poured it into a ball jar (it was still mildly frothy at this point).
The half soap / half water mixture produces a liquid soap with the consistency of a thin syrup. It works well in one of the handmade ball jar pumps and I’m sure would be awesome in a foaming pump as well. If you prefer a thicker soap you could do two parts soap to one part water. I might try that route the next time I have a few more soap scraps to spare. If you used an unscented bar of soap and want to scent your hand soap for the season, essential oils are a wonderful route to go – just make sure you check with your doctor first if you are pregnant, nursing or have any other health issues since some of them might effect the body in different ways.
Another quick note of caution – soap projects need their own set of tools that are not used for food… the dollar store is a great place to find cheapie bowls and graters. If you don’t want to invest in a separate stainless steel pot just for this, you could place it in a microwave safe bowl and warm it in 30 second intervals until the soap melts.
Growing ginger in your garden is really quite easy. Purchase a fresh piece of ginger from your grocery or farmers market. Look for a large piece with plenty of “nubs” and soak the root overnight in warm water before planting.
If you are in a northern climate where frost is a possibility, you will need to plant the ginger root in a pot that can be transferred indoors in the winter. Either drill a hole in the bottom of the pot, or place rocks at the base for drainage.
Fill the pot with well draining soil almost to the rim. Place the ginger root on top of the soil and cover with a thin (1/2″ to 1″) layer of dirt. Water well and place the pot in a place that gets plenty of sunlight.
Ginger plants like to be watered regularly, but they do best in well drained soil. When I did this experiment in our garden I tried to grow ginger in two pots, the one that received less water did much better than the one that received too much (that root rotted, an extremely stinky experience preparing that pot for the next planting).
After your ginger plant has matured, you can carefully harvest small portions of the root as needed without killing the plant. If you are anything like us, we always end up buying much more ginger than we could use and it either rots in the refrigerator or ends up forgotten in the freezer, so having a ginger plant we can harvest from is a much more sustainable option. If you try this let me know how the ginger does in your own garden!
A quick update about when our most recent soap batches will be cured and ready to ship:
Unscented Soap Bars
Castile Soap: 10/5/12
Coconut Soap: 10/5/12
Plain Soap: 10/2/12
Pumpkin Soap: 10/2/12
Chamomile Soap: 10/2/12
Poppy Soap: 10/2/12
Rosemary Soap: 10/4/12
Oatmeal Soap: 10/2/12
Coffee Soap: 10/4/12
Green Tea Soap: 10/4/12
Sea Salt Soap: 10/5/12
Scented Soap Bars
Love Potion: 10/4/12
Seasonal Scented Soap Bars
Harvest Soap: 10/2/12
Yule Soap: 10/4/12
Olive oil lamps are a beautiful alternative to a candle and can be quite easy to make.
While you can buy premade olive oil candle wicks, they can be somewhat expensive and it is really quite easy to make them yourself with materials you might already have on hand.
Thick glass container, such as a ball jar
Long piece of wire
Wick (can be made of string or any thin piece of cloth)
Shape the wire into a circle with the pliers, bend one end upward toward the center and form a loop to hold the wick.
Slide the wick through the loop and wrap downward around the wire. The thicker the wick, the larger the flame you will have.
Place the wire and wick assembly into the jar and fill with olive oil until just below the bottom of the loop. Soak the wick completely with the oil and allow the oil to absorb into the fabric before lighting it.
Oil candles are a great alternative in an emergency if you don’t have any wax candles available. They are also great for everyday use if you love candles, but want a more eco-friendly source of ambience. Using a high quality olive oil burns with no noticeable scent or smoke and can last for quite a long time.
Remember to always use candles with caution and never leave burning unattended.