Saturday, October 29, 2011


Hello! I hope you're enjoying your Saturday. I thought I'd do a quick update of some of the craftings  that have been happening here this week..

Sunshine Soap! Made with homegrown calendula petals. Every time I look at them, I think of sunshine - yes it's corny but so true.

I also noticed that our comfrey had shot into a burst of spring growth. After harvesting a good bunch from various plants, I made a batch of comfrey ointment (recipe here), that is so good to rub on aching bones and joints.
Comfrey ointment
Some oily infusions also took place. The one pictured below has eucalyptus leaves from our property infusing into oil in the vintage crock pot.

Another soapy experiment to update on soon..

'butterflies' by folding paper in half over wet paint
..and a touch of beading by the 8yo. One of the lovely birthday gifts she received...

Black paint was also pulled out and brushes gathered. Egg cartons and pipecleaners too!

Spooky craftings were then able to take place..


What craftings have been happening at your place lately?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Calendula Soap

"Final boarding call for the Christmas Soap call."

That's what it felt like while making soap this week. Putting it off until the very last minute, I figured if I didn't get cracking, those hotly fantasised about soaps won't be ready to give as gifts in just a few short weeks time. Needing a good 6+ weeks to cure, the time for soapmaking was now. This was the moment!

Are you in? Are you making soaps to give as handmade gifts this year? Are you boarding the train with me before it pulls out of the station? I'm seated and comfy now..there's a good view to be had out of the hazy window...I think I even recognise a few fellow passengers already on board!

Cleaning out the sewing room recently, I came across a good stash of homegrown calendula petals from last year that were dried and ready to go. Ah, yes, calendula soap. I had wanted to have a crack at this for quite some time and my memory had been jogged after chatting soap and calendula with a vegie groupie just last week. Calendula is well known for it's skin soothing properties and as an added bonus, the petals actually keep their colour during the saponification process, when the lye and oils mix together to form 'soap'. I just had to give it a go..

(**This is not a detailed tutorial for making soap. Certain safety precautions need to be observed when making soap at home which I haven't covered here. See Rhonda's cold pressed soap recipe if starting out with handmade soaps for the first time.**)

The dried petals were infused in rice bran oil in my vintage crock pot, set aside for just such purposes. It has the mildest heat on 'low'! The oil and petals were left to do their thing for close to two hours..

..after such time the oil was strained and added to the oil pot. The heat of the calendula infused oil melted the already soft coconut oil and then the olive oil was added.

After a spell or rather, a sidetracked walk around the garden after tending the goats, the oils had cooled sufficiently to match the cooled lye solution (which had been prepared while the oil was being infused). The cooled lye solution was slowly added to the oils, both being at 105f.

My trusty soapmaking stick blender was called back into action. It's such a time saving device, I would only go back to using a free standing set of beaters while soapmaking under sufferance!

More dried petals were pulled out of the bag and whizzed to a fine, crumbly mix in the coffee grinder.

These were added at a thin trace. The mixture continued to be whizzed and stirred alternately until it reached as thick a trace as I was game to bring it to...

..and it was then poured into the prepared mould. A plastic container, greased and lined with baking paper.
Some extra whole petals were scattered across the surface and the lid was clamped down to seal the warming mass..

Wrapped tightly in a thick towel, it is left undisturbed for a day or two.


Me too! We'll just have to wait and see how it turned out...

Calendula Soap
(6% superfat, unscented)
226g lye (caustic soda)
500g distilled water

470g coconut oil
500g olive oil
650g rice bran oil

Total oils: 1620g

16g dried calendula petals to infuse into oil plus extra for scattering.

Don't forget the goggles, apron, open window and rubber gloves!

29/10/11 ETA:  - ...and here it is after cutting:

Sunshine Soap

Have you boarded the train yet? 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday @ home..

{kite flying attempts}
..and success! It's up! Just.
a brief siesta in between slug gathering shifts
{water fun}
mobile brushcutters and Spring growth = a winning combination
..although the tastiest treats always come from the oak tree
Sundays at home are my favourite kind of Sundays!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Glimpses of the week..

Lemons from Oma's backyard.. 
Lemon butter or a cake or two...I can't decide!

A salad which included some homegrown mung bean sprouts and some mozzarella from the cheesemaking workshop.
Along with avocado, beans, tomatoes and fresh herbs it was a complete lunch, drizzled with an olive oil/white balsamic dressing. 

Fresh mozzarella calls for pizzas...and so they were made..
...the melt looks good...
..and the cheese appears stringier several days after it has been made...
I'm tempted to purchase a cheesemaking kit to try making some mozzarella at home.

The never ending jobs to do around the property. Splitting wood on this particular day..

I'm finding my mind drawn here. It appears I've been subconsciously buying up second hand books on the topic for several months now...

The time is feeling right to sit down and start reading them..
I hope you're enjoying the day!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Mozzarella Cheese Making Workshop

Yesterday, 6 ladies from Friday Vegie Group and myself, were lucky enough to attend a cheesemaking session run by Gavin, of The Greening of Gavin blog. Amongst many other sustainable activities, Gavin makes his own cheeses at home and keeps a record of them at his cheesemaking blog, The Little Green Cheese.

It turns out Gavin is just a stone's throw away from us (in the scheme of the blogging world at least!) and was happy to come over and show us how to go about making a 30-minute mozzarella.

The session started with a run down on cheesemaking equipment and supplies that would be needed if we were to make cheese at home and where to find them. He also chatted about rennet, it's history and the alternatives (we had opted to use vegetarian rennet and lipase). While he was introducing us to the cheesemaking ways, our cooking pots were sterilised and then we started getting our hands busy...

(I won't go into technical's all still sinking in. For more specific information you can visit his blog!)

The milk which was organic, homogenised and pastuerised was heated gently over a low heat after the addition of some citric acid and lipase...

...and brought up to 33c.

The rennet was then added...

..and below, testing for a curd set..

Below, the curds and how they looked after being re-heated..

Gavin, draining the curds through cheesecloth:

After the curds had been drained, they required kneading to remove as much whey as possible...

..this was done in between short bursts in the microwave. The cheese became smoother and stretchier between each burst of heat...

Such a good bunch of women! Thanks for washing my bowl, ladies :)

The Cheese Maker himself, immersed in cheesy literature.

Below, one of the finished cheeses:

 Smooth, shiny, fresh mozzarella goodness. Apparently the addition of lipase improves the flavour greatly the next day. Guess what I'll be playing with later on today? (!).

Thanks again Gav for an amazing workshop, it was lovely to meet you, Kim and Ben, be introduced to the cheesy world and take home some beautiful mozzarella. It was loads of fun! And thanks Friday Vegie Group for being such great company, as always!

To take a look at Kirsty's cheese, click here
...and here is Gavin's account of the day.

*Books Gavin recommends:
Making Artisan Cheese - Tim Smith (Australian publication)
Home Cheesemaking - Ricki Carroll (US publication)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hand rolled beeswax candles

Several months ago during a morning of op-shopping, I came across an interesting looking kit for candlemaking. Thinking it would be a fun present for one of the tweens, I put it aside and thought no more about it. With birthdays creeping up recently, I remembered this interesting kit and with a bug themed party for the youngest on the cards, thought a spot of candle making with actual beeswax would be just the activity for the smallish people to fit into the tight two hour window.

Making candles this way is surprisingly quick and easy - easy enough for kids to do, with a little help for their first try. I confess, I got so carried away 'testing' out this little craft, further supplies had to be ordered. Beeswax sheets are readily available online from soap/candle suppliers and come in large sheets, sized 42cm x 20.5cm. I found that two tall candles were easily made from one sheet of wax and so commenced slicing my newly purchased beeswax sheets in half!

Beeswax sheets 21cm x 10.2cm

Some extra wick, sold by the metre was also ordered. For this, I chose a medium thickness.

The total time needed to make one candle is only about a minute or two..perfect for a kids party where chaos reigns!

To start off, the beeswax sheets need to be warmed slightly over a heat source until they are bendy and flexible to prevent them from snapping or crumbling when rolling. The heat source could be a sunny windowsill, a hairdryer or a heater/fireplace. During the party I chose to use the hairdryer for speed, but if on my own, prefer to use the heater/fireplace which is just so nice so sit by!

Hold the sheets about 20cm away from the heat source and move it gently in front of it. It should only take about 20-30 seconds for the sheet to become flexible enough to roll (longer if sitting them on a sunny windowsill).

Place the now soft beeswax sheet onto the work surface and place a piece of wick along one side, just up from the edge (about 0.5cm). The wick needs to overhang at one end by a couple of centimeters. Press the wick lightly into the wax to fix it into place.

Fold the edge of the wax over the wick, pressing gently again, to firm the wax onto the wick.

Once this step is completed, the wax can be rolled up smoothly and swiftly, creating the candle.

Press the outer edge of the beeswax sheet slightly to secure it to the body of the candle. Trim the wick to about 1cm and set aside until ready to light.

Beeswax  candles are so lovely to burn, they have a slight honey fragrance and seem to glow from within.

The smallish people really enjoyed this craft and with the 11yo supervising, we got through helping them roll the candles in record time. A really fun party activity and interesting addition to the take home 'goody bag'.