Monday, February 13, 2017

Snow Days are Soap Days

Something about winter weather puts me in a mood to make soap. I work in small batches - limited editions, you might say - of 7 to14 bars. Sometimes I repeat a design, but, as with pottery, no two are ever quite alike.

This batch is called Green Granite and Onyx, but I debated calling ti Sharp-dressed Man, because it has a light, slightly musky but definitely masculine scent.

Will be available around March 10. Depending on the method, soap needs some time to cure, and for the lye reaction to fully finish. Will post the link here when these are ready!

Meanwhile, it's still snowing. I need to shovel, but I still feel that urge to saponify! Maybe peppermint, this time.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Ice Shacks on the Pleasant River

See more about Maine rivers, fishing, and habitat preservation at the Downeast Salmon Federations' Facebook page.

Tough Gig

Even fluffy-tailed rats have to eat! We dedicated one feeder to squirrels, not entirely deliberately, but it turned out to be too close to the house for most birds, though a few brave little chickadees use it. The squirrels now mostly prefer this feeder - no cold metal pole to shimmy up! - so the birds have rodent-free access to the other feeders.

This feeder, filled with sunflower seed, is close to the kitchen window, so provides hours of entertainment for the cats. Win-win!

*If you look close, you can just see the tip of the Banana Boat, our canoe, sticking out of a snow drift. Dreaming of a summer day - not long now! - when we again put it to use. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

During the Storm, After the Storm

During our most recent Snowpocalypse, I felt the sudden urge to make soap! Today was the big reveal:

I was a little worried due to a mishap that occurred in the making - I had gotten it all poured, with all the swirls and flourishes just how I wanted them, and then realized I'd forgotten to add the fragrance. There followed some frantic pouring and mixing (and spilling) and re-pouring, so I wasn't sure what to expect from the finished batch, but all in all I'm quite pleased. 

The scent is After the Storm, and I'm hard-pressed to describe's very fresh and clean. If I say, it smells like a patch of violets in the air after a thunderstorm, I sound ridiculously corny but that's as close as I can get. 

Snow again here today (six inches, or what we call a "dusting" here in Maine) and then Snowmaggedon Sunday and Monday. Every time we have a major storm, it lands on a class day! This winter is getting expensive. I try to make up for it by getting into the studio and making pots every snow day but while that does represent income, payment is deferred until I finish and sell those pots. 

Anyway! This soap, After the Storm, needs time to cure. It will be available March 9th (right around the time the first crocus greens will be up!) and you can be sure I'm gonna share the link to purchase here. 

Mwah. 💋

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Frugalista in Winter: Sunflower Lard Cakes

Suet cakes are not expensive items, but it's even cheaper to make your own, from lard and sunflower or millet seed.
I never thought one way or the other about lard, until I started making soap. It makes a lovely soap with a rich lather. It also means I now have lard around the house. I have a block that had gotten a bit old - not rancid, but old fats will make a soap whose scent doesn't last as long. Waste is a dirty word at my house, so I found another use for it: sunflower seed cakes.

Lard melts at a low temperature - around 85°, which makes it a bad choice to feed the birds in the summer. (It ain't likely to get to 85° today, though; it's snowing like a mad bastard.) I melt the lard in a pan on the stove, and pour it over sunflower seed in a mini loaf pan. I don't know if the plastic wrap is necessary - probably not, I mean, what could be slipperier than lard? But I didn't want to have to screw around with the mess if I was wrong.

I popped the pan in the fridge, and then waited and...
I use a bit of wire to secure the cage, because the squirrels know how to get it open!

Two fit in the suet cage. Surprisingly, the one with the least lard - just enough to come to th ebottom edge of the top layer of seed - held together the best.

Hoping I see my downy woodpeckers, but even if not, lots of birds enjoy a little fat in their diet, to help keep them warm during the Maine winter.