Saturday, June 29, 2013

Silver Lining

Silver Lining  ;)
I promised to do a post on making your own colloidal silver, so here it is.  For those of you who are not familiar with colloidal silver, it is available at many health food stores and pharmacies and is usually quite pricey.  It is widely used by burn units all over the country and we are now starting to see it in bandages in the stores.

Colloidal silver is an inert suspension of silver in water.  The documented use of silver for medical uses goes back as far as Hippocrates.  Silver has been used on the battlefield for a disinfectant and treatment of some medical conditions.  Before I go any further, I am not a medical professional, and I am not offering this as medical advice.  By all means talk to your doctor if you have any concerns that require treatment.  There is no single cure-all for everything in nature or pharmaceuticals.  As with anything else, abuse or overuse of this solution can cause permanent problems.  That being said, I do believe that silver can be used as part of a natural medicine cabinet.  Silver has anti-bacterial properties as well as anti-microbial, including the antibiotic resistant strains.  Colloidal silver also does not create resistant strains to any other treatment.

In my research on this subject I have learned that what we make is actually ionized silver.  It is still safe to use, it just does not have as many silver particles in suspension as true colloidal silver.  True colloidal silver would be very difficult to make at home and very expensive also.

The Equipment
I personally do not take colloidal silver internally on a regular basis.  To me it has a metallic taste in water and to be honest I frequently forget about it.  My mother in the other hand puts a "slug" in her water at least once an day and she is a very healthy lady.  I do use it when I am coming down with a cold or a sore throat.  I will make up a cup of hot tea and instead of water I will use colloidal silver.  I have noticed that when I do this the problem clears up much more quickly.  We do not have insurance at this time, due to financial constraints and the fact that it is too expensive to get on our own.  As a result, we try to stay healthy so that we don't need to go to the doctor.  When we do need to go we simply pay for the doctor's visit, but that doesn't happen very often thankfully.

Detail of the power supply

Now on to the procedure.
Equipment: 1 - colored glass bottle to hold the finished product
                 1- quart jar filled with filtered or distilled water
                 1 - funnel for moving the finished product from the quart jar to colored glass jar neatly
                 2 - pieces of quality silver wire bent into a hook at one end
                 1 - cord with a plug and a ballast rated for 9V output
                 2 - alligator clips fastened to the ends of the cord, one to each wire
                 1 - timer set for 8 minutes
Alligator clips to the silver pieces

You can see the silver particles coming
off of the silver wire
After filling your quart jar with water, place your pieces of silver wire on each side of the mouth of the quart jar hanging mostly into the water.  They should not be touching or you might short out your circuit, not a good thing for your peace of mind.  Next you want to attach an alligator clip to the end of each of the pieces of silver wire, do this before you plug the cord into your socket.  After this is all set up, it is time to plug the cord in and start your timer.  You will see bubbles rising from on piece of silver and a white "mist" coming from the  other.  This is normal.  What you see is the silver particles coming off of the piece of silver and into the water.  If you add just a small pinch of non-iodized salt this will be more pronounced.  When your 8 minutes are up, unplug the cord and un-clip your alligator clips from your silver.  You are finished making your colloidal silver.   If you are like me and either forgot to set a timer or had to go take care of something, you will get a fine sediment in the bottom of your quart jar.  This is not harmful, it is just a little extra silver.  I usually just try to avoid pouring it into the jar for storage.  It is important to use a colored glass bottle for storage.  Light will directly effect the effectiveness of this solution.   After you have poured your colloidal silver into your bottle it can be stored indefinitely.  Clean up is easy.  Just wipe your silver pieces off with a paper towel and store in a safe place with the cord.
The black that comes off is entirely normal.  It is the
silver that didn't actually make it into the

Uses:  * Pink eye - apply one to two drops to the corner of the affected eye and blink.  Close the effected eye for 10 - 15 minutes. This will allow your eye to rest while the silver works.  This will burn a little, but it will clear it right up.
* Burns - use a bandage that has been treated with colloidal silver to cover and protect the burn.  This will help prevent infection.
The particles from leaving it too long.
* Sore throat, UTI, kidney infection - drink either 1 cup of colloidal silver made into tea (heat the colloidal silver and add a tea bag and if desired a little honey) and drink.  The tea will mask the slightly metallic taste of the colloidal silver.  The silver will kill any bacteria it comes into contact with.
* Abscesses or cold sores in the mouth - swish colloidal silver in your mouth for at least seven minutes, after which you can spit it out.

Again I am not a medical professional.  Please do not use these treatments without consulting your doctor.  Each situation is different, and while these remedies may work for me, they may cause you problems.  This blog is not for medical advise, but is a compilation of my personal journey and experiences.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me through my contact page.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Totally not Deep Pink

Poppy Seed Mint
I goofed!  At least my effort wasn't totally wasted.  I had tried to use hibiscus to color soap.  I totally forgot that I had read a post by someone who had tried the same thing, and she described the failure and why it failed.  I really should have remembered, but I didn't.  Let me just say, NEVER use hibiscus for soap.  The minute that the lye comes in contact with the hibiscus it turns it into a scummy, brown, nasty mess.  I had tried adding part of the water that I had steeped the hibiscus in directly to the oil.  When I added the lye water, it changed the hibiscus to a mess.  It didn't get scummy, but it didn't smell pretty or look pretty.

Texture of the poppy seed mint
Unfortunately because we had Vacation Bible School all week and I had a shower that I was taking these soaps to, I don't have pictures of the mess that the hibiscus made of my soap.

Top of the poppy seed mint
So I doctored on it a bit.  I added peppermint oil and poppy seeds to the soap.  I also added additional poppy seeds to the top of the soap.  The soap is still a brown shade, but it mostly smells of peppermint.  If I had some lemon oil on hand I would have used that, but all I have is extract and I didn't want to chance a soap on a stick situation.  For non-soapers out there this is what is commonly referred to as seizing.  When this happens the soap goes from trace to solid almost at once.  I really don't want to go there!  If I had gone with lemon oil it would look somewhat like lemon- poppy seed loaf.

When I cut the soap I initially could really smell the hibiscus.  I don't think that it will remain that strong, but it might.  It seems to be dissipating, at least the hibiscus is but the mint is quite pleasant.  It will be interesting to see how well it works for exfoliating once it has finished curing.

Texture of the lavender soap
On a more pleasant note, I tried my hand at my first batch of cold process lavender soap.  I only did a three pound batch for starters.  I sprinkled lavender buds on the top of the soap before and after baking it at 170*.  I love the texture of the soap.  The color is a soft creamy lovely shade.  I scented it with some lavender essential oil.  The use of the shortening seems to make the soap lighter in shade.

Cut lavender soap
These soaps won't be ready for at least 4 weeks.  I have put both soaps in my dehydrator in hopes that it will help them to cure more quickly.  I don't know if it will work, but I am hoping that it will take a little time off.  Although my dehydrator does not have a fan, but just supplies heat.  To solve the airflow issue I have placed my dehydrator on a milk crate over an air vent.

My next soaps I think will be based on teas while I wait for some essential oils which I can't order quite yet due to financial constraints.  I am going to try white and green tea with jasmine.
Lavender buds on top
In the dehydrator

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dandilion Soap

So I am ready to make a new batch of soap.  My first batch of cold process (after this referred to as CP) is cured enough to use, although it is still fairly soft.  However this recipe didn't rate very highly for hardness according to

This soap will also be naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal due to my using colloidal silver as my liquid for this recipe.  However because I am not sure how the silver will effect the process this will be a small batch.  I don't think that it will cause any issues however.  This won't make the soap more expensive to make because I make my own colloidal silver (post coming in the near future.)  It isn't expensive to make so it won't really effect the price of making the soap.

In my closet curing
I started by steeping dandelion flowers in olive oil overnight.   Dandelion is should to be soothing to damaged skin due to it's anti-inflammatory properties.  It also prohibits the growth of candida albicans  After about 20 hours, I drained the oil off and tossed the flowers.  I then used the olive oil in the soap along with organic shortening with palm oil, coconut oil, beeswax, and castor oil.  I also used colloidal silver instead of water to mix with the lye.  I did not see any adverse effects from the colloidal silver either in trace or up to and thru cutting the soap.

After I got to medium trace, I added one ounce of vitamin E oil and mixed for another 30 seconds in order to fully incorporate the vitamin E.  I added about a quarter of an ounce of sweet orange essential oil and about a quarter teaspoon of paprika and stirred to combine.  At this point I scraped the entire batch into my prepared mold. (a freezer paper lined ice cream bucket)  I let the mold rest on the counter for about 20 minutes to firm up a little bit and then added swirls to the top with my spoon.
I love the frosted look of the soap that is "cooked" in the oven.

After I finished swirling the soap, I turned the oven to 170* and placed the mold on the center rack.  The tutorials that I had read recommended leaving the soap in the oven for one hour.  In the mean time I folded laundry, after all what mother of three doesn't have mountains of laundry to fold.  As a result of the laundry folding, my soap got left in the oven for about two hours.  When I pulled it out, the soap had a really fun texture on the top.

I had to let the soap sit overnight before attempting to cut it.  It was still fairly soft the next evening when I pulled it out of the mold to cut.  As referenced in my Soap Suds post, I tried a wire this time for cutting.  I pulled out some of my 28 gauge copper jewelry wire and wrapped it around posts so that I would not cut my fingers with the wire when I was cutting.  Next time I will go with a heavier wire so that it isn't so hard to work with when cutting.   After I got the soap cut I was pretty pleased with the results.  The soap was still pretty soft when I cut it, but it wasn't soft enough to change the shape of the bars as I cut them.  It did influence the straightness of the cuts however.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Surprising Pink

My dye color in the jar
 I have read several accounts of people using avocados for dyeing and I thought that I would try it.  I loved the soft muted pinks that were the result.  And before you start fussing about wasting food, you only use the skin and the pit, both things that most people just throw away.  This is one of the things that intrigued me about the whole idea.  I really like to be able to squeeze more out of my money.

everything kept trying to float
I have been saving avocado skins in my freezer for a couple of months now.  I didn't know until recently that the pits would work too.  So this last time I used the pits also.  This batch of dye used the skins from 7 avocados and 2 pits.  I used about 5 cups of filtered water for boiling the skins and pits.  I boiled it for about a half hour.  I had tried to clean the skins and pits, but because avocados are full of all of those wonderful healthy fats, it makes them very hard to clean completely.  As a result, the dye had to be filtered a little bit.  When it was somewhat cooled, I used a sieve and strained most of the particles out.

I finally got everything to
stay put
 I put two crocheted flowers, a scrap of flannel, and a piece of a sheet.  Everything except the sheet, everything I tried is 100% cotton.  The flowers were crocheted by me even.  I plan to use these in my shop.  The flowers will be used for hair clips, and the sheet piece for a bag for my swaddling blankets or my photographic props.  I thought that since these will be naturally dyed it made sense to dye the bags the same way.  The flannel is just for my records so I can track the effectiveness of my dyes.

Vinegar water after simmering
I started by putting my materials to be dyed into the pot with the dye and boiling them for about 20 - 30 minutes.  I let them cool for about the same amount of time before transferring the material to a jar and filling it with the dye from the pot.  I left this sitting on the stove top for almost 20 hours.  After I got home from church on Sunday evening, I pulled the fabric out of the jar and squeezed as much dye as I could out into the pot.  I then poured the remaining dye back into the jar.  Next, I used about 3/4 cup of white vinegar and 1 1/2 cups of water and simmered them for about 20 minutes to fix the dye to the material.

The final color when wet
As you can see from the picture to the right, very little of the dye came out in the vinegar water.  I drained the vinegar solution back into it's bottle since I had used the last of the bottle.  I think that I can safely use this for my second round that is in the dye right now.  Next, I used my homemade laundry detergent to hand wash my dyed items.  I gently agitated them in the pot and then rinsed them under cool water.  After rinsing I hung out the flannel and the sheet and laid out the flowers so that everything can dry overnight.
All dry 
Everything is dry now.  I really love the soft, subtle pink that I got.  I think I will let the current batch remain in the dye for a couple of days though.  I would like to have a little more saturation for the other items.

I really like to be able to use all of the parts of the avocado.  It is a wonderful way to recycle and the boiled bits go into the compost.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Chai Delight

Cut bars of soap
I have my new soap mold, so I just had to try it out.  I figured that it would take at least a four pound batch to fill this mold.  I got on to the soap calc site, my go to site for figuring recipes, and started figuring out a recipe.
Mold open with the freezer paper
Mold closed 
I started by lining my mold with freezer paper.  I cut along the edge of the ends to fit the ends of the mold.  Next I cut the ends that I will fold over at an angle and trimmed them.  I then folded them up and closed up my mold.  After that I just had to trim off the part over the top of the mold.

I decided to use chai tea as a base liquid for this recipe, and I used coconut oil, olive oil, new Crisco with palm oil, rice bran oil and about a half ounce of vitamin E oil.  The vitamin E oil acts as a preservative.  I am only using the Crisco until I can get some palm oil.  I measured everything out and started to mix the soap.  This recipe traced really quickly.  I love it when they trace quickly!  After it traced I added cinnamon.

Top trimmed & ready for soap

I molded the soap, let it cool a little bit to sculpt it, and put it in the oven at 170* for an hour.  I have not had good results with just insulating to gel the soap.  This heat is enough to complete basic saponification but the ph is still high.   The next step was to let it cool so that I could cut it.  

On the floor, doesn't everyone have days like this?
I needed good pics of the soap in the mold so I was carrying it my front porch for some sunlight.  I was walking toward my front door when one side of my mold let loose.  of course, the soap slid out of the mold and hit the floor.  Fortunately, most of the soap stayed in the liner.  Of course, not all of it did, so I scraped up what hit the floor.  Fortunately I had just mopped the floor.  I got it all molded back up.  I put a little more cinnamon on top, and took it outside and got my pics.
Soap in the mold

I love the rich color that I got from the tea, and with the cinnamon it smells wonderful.   I do think that this mold would work better for at least a five pound batch.  The soap was still a little shallower in the mold than I would like.  

Close-up of the top of the soap

After allowing the soap to cool overnight, I released the sides of the mold and pealed the paper off of the sides.  I started cutting the first bar off of the block with my wire and dowels cutting setup.  I got this one bar cut and  and realized I needed to take the soap completely out of the mold and pull the paper off of the bottom.  After pulling the paper off, I cut the remaining bars and spread them out a little bit to start curing.  In the process I have decided that I need to take the gate hooks off and put industrial Velcro on to close the mold.

Cut soap and the dowels and wire that
I use to cut the soap
My husband came home and started raving about how the chocolate bread looked really awesome and when would it be cool enough to eat.  Mind you my husband is one of those strange  ;) people who doesn't like chocolate.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Soap Mold

Materials and tools
I have been making soap now for a couple of months.  Up to now I have been using plastic containers as my molds.  However since we recently were able to re-purpose a fair amount of wood, I decided that it was time to make a wooden mold, especially since the only cost would be hardware.  I cut all of the wood that I needed from scraps of the wood that we used for the chicken coop upgrades.  I still think that it is pretty cool that we were able to do all that work without spending any money on wood.
Step 1

I was originally planning to make the mold all in one piece.  I was basically planning to make a box.  However, I got to thinking about it and decided that it would be easier to use if the sides were attached with hinges.  So on to the hardware store for the hardware.  I purchased two sets of 1" hinges and 2 sets of short gate hooks.

I started by attaching the legs first with basic 1" wood screws.  I used 2 screws per leg for added strength and stability.  I did have to tinker with placement just a little bit.
Step 2

Step 3
 After attaching both legs,  I then had to attach the hinges.  I started by testing placement with the hinges at the base by attaching it in between the boards.  After looking at it, I decided that it would be better to place the hinges underneath.  I screwed the  hinges to the base first and then the sides.  I used slightly shorter screws for the base.  This means that I don't have screws sticking through the base board.   I then screwed the hinges to the side boards.  When open the sides will both fold down to facilitate cutting and unmolding.

After the side boards were attached I then needed to use something to keep the mold closed when in use.  So enter the gate hooks.  I think that even though the sides are a little uneven that it will still work just fine.

Step 4

So tomorrow I am going to make a batch of soap so that I can use it.  ;)  After all any excuse to craft is a good one in my book.  I will update with pictures after I have made soap and molded it.

Step 5

All Finished

Friday, June 7, 2013

Coop Upgrade

What we started with
So after having the coop built for a year now we have discovered some improvements that need to be made.  So when we went to do our spring cleaning this year we decided to get some of them taken care of while we had a chance.

Mind you we have 2 hens setting right now, so we are having to deal with that also.  One hen is setting on 8 eggs, the other is setting on 4 - 5.   They switch nests every so often and we keep having to remove freshly laid eggs out of the nest boxes.  Of course, they also choose to set in the two favorite nest boxes, even though there are six nest boxes.

List of upgrades:
1. linoleum inside the nest boxes
2. chicken wire instead of 1/2" hardware cloth under the roosts
3. multi-level roosts offset to avoid pooping issues not on diagonal posts
4. fold down flap at the bottom outside edge of the nest boxes
5. Installed storage for feed inside the coop
6. Nest boxes for setting installed inside the coop - no exterior access

New roost setup
To start with we are going to scrape out all of the old litter and compost.  After that we will be power-washing to coop so we can start with a clean slate.  We got the power washer started finally after some phone help from my hubby.  It was definitely a messy process.  In the process, I sprayed the top of my foot with the sprayer.  NEVER spray anything living with a power washer!!!!  It hurts!  I had taken off my crocs since the inside was clean enough that I was afraid I would track in more dirt with them on my feet.  Since my feet were bare the top of my foot was very vulnerable to spraying.  I finally got it all clean.

New setup complete with frame underneath
Now on to improvements.  Since we have two hens setting, we will have to wait about another week before doing anything to the nest boxes.  We took out the roosts that we had installed in the coop.  After that we cut out the wire underneath.  While we were working on the inside of the coop, my sister looked at me and made a wonderful suggestion.  The suggestion being that we leave the wire out and put wire around the base of the coop.  This would allow the chickens to use the area under the coop when the weather is bad.  So we fenced up underneath the coop and left it open for the chickens.  We discovered a problem this afternoon.  One of the chickens had laid an egg underneath the coop.  We had left one place that could be opened up, but we had closed it with zip-ties and didn't feel like cutting them.  So we got underneath to retrieve the egg and started working on a removable frame that we are putting chicken wire over.  We will be able to use the area underneath during the winter.   Then it will be cold enough that the chickens won't lay eggs underneath.
Our shelf for chickens

We built the frame for the area under the roosts, but in trying it out we discovered that we needed to take off a quarter inch. After we made this minor adjustment, which included replacing one of the end boards due to cracking, the frame fit just right.  This frame is covered as tightly as possible with chicken wire. The frame is held in by a board that is also removable and fitted into a space in between nails.  This will make it much easier to clean out the coop next time.  This arrangement should work well for us.

Since I had taken out the roosts, I had to do something else for the chickens.  I started by screwing a post to the studs across from each other.  Then I had to make supports for the other roosts.  I took 2x4's and attached them in pairs on the sides of the coop and screwed them in firmly.  After that I attached the roost piece to the top of the 2x4s.  I still have one more level of roost to install after I find an appropriate piece of wood.

The next step was building a shelf about 14" wide about four feet off the floor.  This shelf starts right at the edge of roosts and goes to right over the door from the coop into the greenhouse.  This should give the chickens more space to use.  Since we have all of these new chicks coming into the coop, we are going to need the extra room.

We also had to build a panel to go under the ramp into our greenhouse/run.  We tried putting plastic up this winter, but try as we might we couldn't get it to cooperate.  So we installed our panel and we will be able to staple the plastic to the panel this winter.

On a more fun note, we had our first egg hatch and it is an adorable fuzzy little ball of golden fluff. We had two chickens setting when I started writing this post.  As of this morning they both decided to go on strike.  So as a result, we have 2 hens that both think they should mother this poor little chick.  At least we won't have to worry about the rest of the flock picking on her.  As far as we can tell at this point it looks like it is a hen.  But you can never have too many pictures of cute babies.
This is Goldy
Such a good mama
Mama and Baby

List of upgrades:
1. linoleum inside the nest boxes  - Later
2. chicken wire instead of 1/2" hardware cloth under the roosts  - Check
3. multi-level roosts offset to avoid pooping issues not on diagonal posts  - In Progress
4. fold down flap at the bottom outside edge of the nest boxes - Check
5. Installed storage for feed inside the coop - In Progress
6. Nest boxes for setting installed inside the coop - no exterior access - Later

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Starting the Garden

Holes for tomatoes
 So we finally started planting the garden.  It has been unseasonably cool recently, so we hesitated to plant anything.  This is going to be our seed garden.  I will be hand pollinating at least some of the blooms so that we will have seeds that aren't cross pollinated.  We have over twelve varieties of tomato that are open pollinated or heirlooms.

I have also planted about a dozen corn seed.  It is very difficult to find heirloom sweet corn so we want to make sure that we have seed for next year.  I also planted scalloped squash, acorn squash, cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, and bell peppers.

Added Agricultural lime
Added Epsom Salts
Tomatoes are very sensitive to nutrient availability.  They need very particular nutrients in fairly large amounts.  After the holes are dug deeply enough to bury the roots up to the first set of leaves, I put about a cup of agricultural lime and a about 1/4 cup of Epsom salts in the hole.  I then mix the  lime and Epsom salts into the dirt a little bit.  This keeps there from being and pockets of agricultural lime that are unusable by the plant.  Then I put the plant in and refill the hole all the way up to the first set of leaves.

Mixed Epsom salts and lime with dirt and adding plants
The next step involves a lot of newspaper from my grandmother.  I wet the newspaper and spread it out on the garden around the plants.  Then I am putting leaves on top of the paper to keep the paper from blowing off of the garden.

I am also using old blind slats to label all of the tomatoes.  I cut pieces and hang them from the tomato cages.

S poking the squash seeds into the ground
All of my children helped in planting the garden. They almost fought over who got to push the seeds into the ground.  S was really cute as you can see.  He had a lot of fun helping to plant the squash seeds.

More garden updates coming up.

Thank you for all the kind support.