Saturday, July 9, 2016

Indoor Winter Activities

It's raining again and not worth heading outside. Time to try something new - soap making. The first step was to make some 'lye'. This is potassium hydroxide and it can be made from wood ash. The ash is placed in a bucket with a small nail hole about an inch from the base and blocked with the nail. The base of the bucket is covered with gravel or something similar that acts as a filter. Some recommend straw but we used part of an old fly screen. Then hot water is poured onto the ash and it is left to seep through. This liquid is poured back through a second time. To gain a suitable strength for soap making the liquid need to be boiled until it reaches a density at which a fresh egg will float about 80% under water.
The photo below shows the lye water on the stove with the egg and the glove ready. Being so caustic you don't want to touch the stuff. Once it reached the suitable concentration we added mutton fat at a ratio of 1kg to 4l of lye. By adding a tsp of salt for each kg it was meant to make the soap harden.
The bucket of ash gently dripping into the lye bucket.
The experiment worked to some degree but some of the soap mixture separated into harder fat and lye water. We will try again sometime with whiter ash, more care over using hot water and draining the lye and more time to mix the fat and salt together.
Michelle is proud of these socks. The wool for these was shorn from our own sheep on Australia Day.  She has then carded the fleece and spun it, plied it and made into a ball and then knitted a pair of socks. I can vouch for the fact that they are the warmest and most comfortable pair I have ever worn and as homemade as you can get.


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