Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bees and Butterflies are Happy

Colorado has been enjoying a nice summer growing season. The flowers and clover plants we have in the yard are doing well. Here are a few pictures I took last week.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Haircut

Barney the Chihuahua has a new look this summer. I decided to trim his hair all over to make him more comfortable during the warm months.
He did very well sitting still while I cut his hair with scissors. I think it probably felt like a massage, since I pulled groups of hair up with my fingers to cut. It has been very helpful having his leg hair short, as now he doesn't pick up so many little twigs and sticks in the yard.

He's a real cool dog now !! Get it ??

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Soap Making Is Still Fun

Summer time is a more difficult season to make soap for me since I have to wear a mask over my mouth and nose, plus gloves and eye protection. That can make a person a bit stuffy on a warm day. But despite that, I still enjoy the little science project called cold process goat's milk soap making.

As with many projects, the largest amount of time is spent on the preparation. I pull out my tupperware boxes full of stainless steel pans and utensils, check that I have enough of the ingredients, and prepare the kitchen for the job.

Here are my ingredients: Goat's Milk, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, and Lye.  In the past I have experimented with adding scented oils and herbs, but in the end decided plain soap is really my favorite to use. The other types are pretty, but pure bars are lovely and soft to use. My husband made the soap molds for me. I love them because they have removable sides so I can get the soap log out easily after it cures for a day or two.

I carefully weigh the oils and add them to one pan. Next I take the frozen milk cubes and put them in the other pan. Time for the gloves and face protection as I REALLY carefully measure out the lye and slowly add it to the milk.

After the lye has all been added and the contents of both pans are at about the same temperature, I pour the milk pan's contents into the oil pan. Here's where the science happens, as the ingredients combine and begin to form soap. I use a hand mixer and a spatula to continually stir the batch until it thickens up. The thick mixture, once it reaches what is called 'trace', gets poured into the soap molds.
The soap mixture begins with a yellow tint, but as it hardens up it turns more of an oatmeal color. At this stage it just needs to sit still and cool down. It hardens up enough after one day to allow me to remove the sides from the molds. After two days, I remove the bottom of the molds and slice the bars into their final form.
Now comes the time for patience. Handmade soap needs to be rotated frequently to allow air to circulate all around the bar. This cures the bars and helps them get harder as they lose some moisture. My bars go through this process for a month. I use shelves to keep the bars where I can see them so I remember to rotate them around every day or two.

It is really fun making handmade soap, and even more fun using it. People tell me the bars are good for regular washing, as well as being used like shaving creme. These bars will be in the shop later in August once they are cured.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Visit to Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado has so many beautiful places to visit, including nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, near Estes Park. We had a fun road trip last week, driving up to the park through Loveland and along the Big Thompson river.
The road in the park takes you up and up, then gives you views of where you have been.
We continued further until there was snow on the mountains. The views up this high are spectacular !!
Moving above tree-line, we came upon the largest herd of elk I've ever seen in the park. They were right next to the road!
Next we came upon three beautiful bull elks with full racks on their heads!
Our day trip to the park was certainly fun !!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

What's Happening in the Yard?

Besides lots of watering, here's a sample of some sights in my backyard.

First, much to Barney's annoyance, our Western Meadowlark friend walks boldly about catching miller moths.

He enjoys catching bugs and in the process always gives us a nice show. I think there is a nest or two nearby in the grasses. I love the strong yellow color of this bird. He really has an attitude!

Barney sits in front of the window and talks to the birds. Sometimes he slaps the window, letting the birds in the yard know he's watching. One time we were outside and the Meadowlark was visiting at the same time. Barney walked close to him and the bird hopped away. They kept doing it this for a few jumps until the bird flew away. I guess he wasn't too scared of a dog not much bigger than he is.

Our other bird adventures involve chickens. We got a few chicks earlier this spring, and now they are starting to lay eggs. The early eggs are quite small but soon will be larger. Here's a picture of the third egg we found.

Finally, here are some pictures of the flowers in the yard. The clay pot has one basil plant, still recovering from the recent hail, and some zinnea flowers just sprouting up. I love zinneas and collect their seeds each fall to replant the next year. And who could forget the wild Black-Eyed Susan flowers. We have them in abundance and let them grow where we can since even weed flowers are good for bees and other creatures.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Flowers Make It Better

People are resilient, aren't we? After a hail storm, what do we do? We trim back what has been damaged and start anew. Our corn couldn't be saved, so there are fresh seeds germinating in the ground now. The tall clover looked wind whipped, but now it is straightening out and reaching for the sun again. Hope brings out action, I suppose.

I've been crocheting flowers every day again. This craft goes well with listening to the news, or enjoying an audiobook from the library. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to create soft flowers. Here are a few I've worked on lately.