Home Made Laundry Soap

About 5 years ago our aging washer (it’ll be 20 years old here before too long) got sick enough to have to call the repairman in to give her a look over.

Happily it was a fairly simple (although not inexpensive) repair.

But what shocked me most was the comment the repairman made.

He said, “You’re using too much laundry detergent.”

Now – you gotta know that I’m a bit of a cheap-o, and I’d always prided myself on using just a little bit less than recommended by the manufacturer of the laundry detergent per load. With satisfactory results, I might add. And so I was puzzled.

I replied, “How can you tell?”

He said, “Run your fingers over the inside of the drum here.” And he demonstrated.

I did.

YUCK.

“That film is built up detergent. It builds up on your clothes, too, and damages them.” He went on to explain that I could probably get away with using HALF of what the manufacturer recommended.

Something to ponder, to be sure.

A couple of years later, when doing our routine grocery shopping, I stopped and looked in horror at the outrageous increase in the cost of – yes, even the generic! – laundry detergent!

I turned to John and said, “That’s just not right!”

And so I started doing some research and experimenting.

And thinking.

Often this researching, experimenting, and thinking will include a question that I have a feeling probably originated with my Grammy years and years ago.

Said question:

“What would they have done 100 years ago?”

Okay – so some of you would say I’m kinda granola, and I make way too much stuff from scratch at home, that it’s too much bother, and not worth the time or effort. I’ll admit – I came to the same conclusion after trying out the home made dishwasher detergent I gave a whirl a couple of years ago – not worth the effort, and less than satisfactory results.

But hello?! People have been washing clothes for millennia. Without the mass-produced goo that we fork out nearly $20 for.

I’m not saying I want a wash board and a sturdy rock on the side of a stream – but I want something I can make affordably at home – that actually works!

Is that asking too much?

So – as it happens, I happened to find just the right formula, and for the past couple of years have been making my own laundry soap. With lovely results. Ridiculously cheaply.

I’ve had quite a few people ask me to show them how to make this, and for the recipe, and I keep meaning to add it to the blog – so here you go. How to make your own laundry soap.

You don’t need much to get it done.

A large container – I use the last container I had from when we bought the expensive stuff – over and over and over again. If/when it dies; I’ll use one of those gallon containers you can put water in the fridge with. You know – something like this:

Then you need a funnel. I have this little set from Kitchen Aid – it has a silicone tip on it – which works PERFECTLY for this application – you’ll see why in a minute. Seriously – if you don’t have these yet – you need them. Just in general.

Then you need Borax. It’s super old school and you may have never bought it – but you can bet your grandparents or great-grandparents had it on hand. You probably have walked past it in the laundry detergent aisle at the grocery store a bazillion times and not even realized it’s there. It’s there. Buy it. It’s cheap. It’s awesome for homemade cleaning supplies! (DO NOT, however, ingest it. Got it?!)

Next, you need washing soda. This is also something you can find in your local grocery store on the laundry detergent aisle. It’s pretty cheap, too. Know what? You can make your own with stuff you already have at home. Get a glass baking dish – you know, the kind you bake brownies in – put an inch or so of baking soda in the glass dish. Preheat your oven to 400° F. Place said glass baking dish with baking soda in the oven. Bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool. Voila! You know have washing soda. (BTW, this is another one of those you shouldn’t ingest. Store it in an air-tight jar.)

And, lastly – you need Dawn dish soap. The blue stuff. Yes, you can try the other stuff if you want. I’ve just found that the blue stuff (which works particularly well with cutting grease) works best. Trust me on this.

See: everything you need here:

First – put 4 Tablespoons of washing soda in the funnel.

This is where that silicone tipped funnel comes in handy. You’ll need to break up the little clumps that will inevitably be in the powders to get them into the container.

Next, add the Borax. Again – I use the funnel tip to squeeze the clumps through and into the container. Works like a charm.

Next step: I add a pot full of boiling water to the container via my handy-dandy funnel. It’s about 4 to 6 cups of water.

Then I let it sit for about 15 minutes – so that the powders melt down in the water.

Next, I add cold water until the container is nearly full. Leave about an inch of head space. Lastly – add 3 Tablespoons of the blue Dawn dish soap.

After the dish soap has been added, I put the cap on the container; shake it around a bit to mix stuff up. And then use it.

And that’s it.

Seriously.

THAT. IS. ALL.

Did I mention it was ridiculously easy?

So back to the washing machine appliance repair dude. Remember how he showed me the grody film in my washing machine?

Yeah – it’s not there anymore.

What’s more, my towels have never felt/smelled cleaner.

There are some things you need to know.

This stuff is not the thick gooey stuff you buy at the grocery store.

This stuff will be kind of a watery-type consistency. That is normal.

I use the same cup to measure the laundry soap into the washing machine with that I did with the old commercially produced laundry soap. Measure for measure.

Yes, you’re right. It doesn’t smell flowery. That kinda freaks some folks out. I like that it doesn’t – we’ve got enough allergies to deal with at our house.

All tolled – it takes maybe 15 to 20 minutes to mix this stuff up and put into use. Depending on how long you wait between the boiling water part and the cold water part.

And – you WILL feel empowered and invincible and considerably richer once you start making your own and leave the commercial stuff in the dust.

Have at it!

Mommy Material

About a month ago a pair of my Cuckoo Maran hens went broody.

Some broody hens just stay out of the way, are relatively docile, and are over it all in a few days.

Some broody hens are persistent. They just won’t give up – no matter what – unless they get babies.

Occasionally, I’ll have a broody who is not just not nice – but who is downright mean.

This particular pair of Cuckoo Maran hens that went broody last month are of the persistent AND mean variety.

I tried kicking them off of the nest.

I tried keeping them outside of the fenced run so they couldn’t get back in to the coop and the nests they were so committed to.

I pretty much tried it all.

But to no avail.

What’s worse – these two particular girls have a propensity to take eggs that the other girls are laying and somehow transport them from one nest box to the other to collect a nice sized clutch of eggs.

There was – of course – more than one broken egg in the process!

About two weeks into this persistent broody behavior I decided maybe I should look for some fertile eggs to let them hatch. The problem being – I usually only put one broody in the broody mama section of the coop at a time – and these two were determined to be broody together. What a pain! So I started reading up – and what do you know – sometimes that will work out, so I was willing to consider giving it a whirl.

I just couldn’t decide what breed of egg to find.

And then when I decided – I couldn’t find fertile of that breed!

Recently I talked to a couple of chicken owners who had had success with switching out non-fertile eggs from under a persistently broody hen with store-bought day-old chicks – effectively tricking the broody hen into believing she’d just hatched out a clutch of eggs.

We tried this once before.

It didn’t work well.

But after more research, we decided we know better how to pursue this and that conditions were right. We were gonna give it a whirl.

So yesterday we moved our two broody hens into the broody mama section of the coop, gave them each a nest with 5 eggs on it, and left them to settle in.

We also picked up a dozen day-ish old chicks from Burns Feed. My goal in breed this time? The youngest chicks I could find.

Fran, the amazing chicken lady at Burns Feed recommended the Light Brahmas and the Blue Laced Red Wyandottes – they were both the youngest good layers she had on hand.

As it turned out, there were 11 of the Light Brahmas, and I couldn’t bring myself to just leave a few of them behind, so I got them all and added in one of the BLR Wyandotte – I’m gonna call her Lucy because she’s going to have a red head.

So – late last night – after it was good and dark, after all of the girls had settled in for the night, John, Jessica, and I and the box full of chicks made our way out to the coop.

I started by reaching under the more settled of the two hens (Bertha) and replacing one egg for one chick – she seemed perfectly fine with it. Then I tried the same for the other hen (Mable) – she wasn’t so sure about this!

By the time I got to the 3rd chick for Mable it became clear that Mable was NOT mommy material. We grabbed her up and sent her packing to the other part of the coop!

So – wow – that meant Bertha would have to mother TWELVE chicks. I wondered if she could even FIT 12 chicks underneath her! But I managed to trade out all of the eggs under her (she’d stolen some of Mabels) and replaced them all with chicks – and then added the balance.

All we could do was leave them for the night and check first thing in the morning to see if Bertha was mommy material or not.

John set the alarm for 5:30 am this morning.

Success!

Bertha is MAJOR mommy material!

Can you believe she’s got ELEVEN chicks under her with just this one out checking things out?

I’m so impressed!

She’s not even phased by the fact that she’s the mother to an even dozen!

Woo Hoo!

Now – all I gotta do is sell the Anconas…. Anyone want 3 laying hens?

More chick shots as I’m able.

Finally! Phew!

There’s something really amazing about the day that you actually start planting the garden.

I have this sense of – I dunno – relief? I feel like yelling, “FINALLY!”

And then doing a little happy dance.

I can admit it – I say a little prayer of thanks and sing a little song of thanksgiving to God for this incredible blessing of dirt to plant in.

So – Denise – you asked about John’s tomato trellis system. Here’s a sort of closer look at a panel he added to the line-up yesterday.

It’s three tall fence stakes and a panel of cattle fencing. These one he secured the fencing on with zip ties. (My husband LOVES zip ties!) That’s it. It works fabulously.

This year we’ve got 62 feet of tomato trellis. We’ve got 32 tomato plants in the ground along these 62 feet of trellis. We plant on one side of the trellis with tomatoes, and on the other side I’ll add things like chives and basil and maybe some marigolds – all of which are great companions to tomatoes.

We’re growing Cherry tomatoes, Cherokee Purple, Roman, Brandywine, Beefsteak, Legend, Siletz, and Romas. A nice blend of both determinate and indeterminate, early, moderate, and longer maturing varieties.

:sigh:

I can’t wait until that first tomato comes in from the garden!

Today we also got planted:

A variety of lettuces on the underside of the green bean trellis. The first planting of the blue lake green beans are on the “outside” of the trellis, too.

A variety of radishes. John decided to mix it up a bit – literally – and broadcast these together on the next segment of this green bean trellis. (And yes, we do staple the seed packages to the frame. We’re getting old – it helps us remember what’s where! )

Beets were next. We’re out of John’s mind-blowingly amazing pickled beets. It’s SO time for a good harvest of beets!

This shot gives you a better idea of how the lettuces, radishes, and beets were laid out:

Along the back and side of the fence are two varieties of Peas:

…and…

You can sort of see where they are here:

John’s standing next to the potato condo, and then to the right of where he’s at you can see the envelope for the Cascade Bush Snap Peas. The Oregon Surgar Pod Peas are planted along the fencing to the right.

And then about 8 feet of turnips:

It’s a pretty sweet thing to look across the yard and actually see things planted in the garden!

(Impressive fencing job, huh?)

All-in-all, a pretty productive day.

The girls sure enjoyed the snippets of sunshine, too.

So did Pepper!

Hope your Memorial Day was – and continues to be – filled with blessings.

Gratuitous Baby Chick Shots…

They’ve been home for a week now.

Get a load of that feather development! Won’t be long until they’re testing out those wings!

And, I know this isn’t a gratuitous baby chick shot – but I thought it was lovely, nonetheless…

This is the moss on the trunk of the mammoth willow in the run. The colors, textures, and depth just make me pause. God’s handiwork is nothing short of breathtaking.

Happy Friday!

Lovely Day for a Drive

My day was all planned out.

I was going to can 10 pounds of navy beans 10 pounds of garbanzo beans. At some point in time toward the end of the processing time I was going to make some Sambica Apple Crisp for John – who has been craving it.

Then the phone rang.

And it was time to get in the car.

New plan!

Over the river…

I’m sure I went through some woods…

To Burns Feed Store I went.

The official plan was to NOT buy new chicks this year.

So much for the plan.

Six little Cuckoo Maran chicks.

:sigh:

They’re so cute.

They would arrive on the coldest day of the year! Oh well – got the heat lamps set up, the bricks right underneath them to soak up the heat and keep the babies warm out in the coop.

More baby reports as they are available.

…Hi, my name is Dina. I have a problem. I love baby chicks. Admitting it is the first step to getting help, right?… Wait. What if I don’t want help?…

Stinking Hawk!

Can you see it there in the mist?

This hawk has taken to hanging out quite near to the girls.

It seems fairly young.

Rather lithe.

It’s definitely bold.

It will swoop right down into the chicken run – with me standing just feet away!

I wish I could get a picture of it in action like that! But I’d have to actually look out the window before walking out the door – hands full of egg basket, table scraps for the girls, etc. – and be prepared with camera ready at the go.

Makes me thankful for the crows that hang out – they take great delight in harassing this hawk! Go crows!

This morning, as I walked out and nearly came face to face with the hawk – all of the girls huddling under cover – I was surprised that once the hawk winged it up to the tree just beyond the willow that the girls seemed happy as can be to just resume normal activity.

Because I was there? I don’t offer all that much protection – although I can yell – well, except for right now – I’m losing my voice to this stupid cold. I gave the girls a stern talking to about using caution with the stinking hawk hanging out so close by.

See how concerned they were:

Huh? You talking to us?

Yeah – so – obviously – they seemed to feel the danger had passed.

Oh – hey – remember Lacey?

She was one of the chicks Jezebel hatched in February. You can see her a little older here, too.

She’s done some growing up

She’s the Silver Laced Wyandotte in the middle. Pretty, huh?

Dommy (the Dominque – original, huh?) – one of the chicks that Buffy hatched in May may well be going broody… She’s kind of half-hearted about it – part of the time on the nest, part of the time off… That’s her behind the Leghorns. After we muck out the coop this weekend, I’ll set up the Broody Mama portion of the coop and see if she really wants to set eggs or not… If so, we’ll be getting some fertile eggs to bring in for her to hatch.

I don’t think I’ve introduced Blanche yet, either.

This is she:

She’s a buff colored Easter Egger – re-homed to us this winter. Blanche, she’s such a different girl. Kind of a social “special needs” kinda hen. She just doesn’t play well with others and self-isolates quite a lot. She has gotten bolder of late with the warmer weather – venturing out amongst the other girls now and then. But definitely not the team player the other girls are. She lays a lovely nice-sized blue-ish green egg every few days – but always in the wackiest locations! She makes me laugh.

I took some pictures yesterday that I’ll try and post later today or tomorrow. Hard to believe kind of stuff – particularly for those of our loved ones and friends who are on the East Coast awaiting the latest snow storm to arrive…

Back to rest for me, with a fresh mug of hot tea and honey for my very sore throat. Always with an eye out the window for the stinking hawk!

Wowza!

When you first get chicks you think about how precious they are, and how fun it will be to take care of them, and how thrilling it will be to collect eggs from them.

All of that is absolutely spot on and valid.

But I’m not going to lie to you.

STINK!

It’s cold out there!

Like 30 degrees, with a wind chill of 20-something, and freezing rain just started when I was heading home after picking William up from play auditions at school. (I know – I’m a weather wimp compared to most of the rest of you people who live in much more frigid climes!)

Brrr!

But – doesn’t matter.

The girls gotta get tucked in and put to bed.

The rounds have to be made.

Gotta count heads, make sure there’s food, water, and that everyone is a-okay.

Thankfully, this is the time of year that the girls realize that sleeping up in the willow is a tad bit foolhardy.

But I still gotta go out and make sure everyone made it inside okay.

It’s always nice to get out there – step out of the icy wind into the protection of the coop and hear clucks of welcome.

Not gonna be sad when winter gives way to Spring, though! 🙂

The Cost of Eggs

Yeah, yeah, I know.

It’s kind of mundane, but well – I need some input.

Honestly – I greatly value your input!

We find ourselves in that point of chicken ownership where we’ve carefully (well, most of the time) recorded things like the cost of feed, equipment, and care of our flock and balanced it with the number of eggs produced (4,722 so far – and December isn’t quite over yet!) and the number of eggs sold.

Long story short – with the rising cost of corn and feed – we’re having to decide whether just squeaking by on what we make from egg sales (we’re coming out at $35 just shy of breaking even) or whether we actually do cover all of the costs from what the girls earn.

Right now, we charge $3.00 for a dozen eggs.

If you buy eggs from us that means that the eggs you get are typically somewhere in the minutes to 48 hours old age. (More than one of you have remarked about the fact that you’ve never felt a egg just laid and are surprised at just how warm they are! :))

I.e., FRESH. Really, really fresh.

NOT what you get from the grocery store.

Not only are they fresh – you might even get to meet the hen who laid your egg! You decidedly get to see the girls as you drive in. Some of you have favorites – Mollie loves the green eggs and is disappointed when there are none in her dozen. Several of us (myself included) adore BB’s deep brown, nearly glowing, large eggs that help produce the very best chocolate chip cookies known to man!

If you go to the local organic type grocery store the closest thing you can get to what we offer rings in between $3.50 and $4.50 a dozen.

At the local farm stands you’ll pay between $5.00 and $7.00 a dozen.

(Okay – this is completely ridiculous, but I know of an organic chicken farmer in California who charges $8.50 a dozen for his eggs! Excuse me while I faint!)

I won’t lie. I like having the price at $3.00. It seems reasonable. It’s handy and doesn’t involve making change with quarters. It seems fair.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite cutting it when it all comes out of the wash.

So – we want to know – what do YOU consider a fair price for fresh – really fresh – eggs? Will you respond to the poll for us?

And if you’re willing to help us out a little further – one more question: What are your favorite eggs?

And if you have any other input – we’d greatly appreciate that, as well – so please leave a comment to this post.

And just so you know – should you happen to buy your eggs from us – we won’t be making a price change immediately – we’ll give you some notice. Okay?

Thank you!

What we think we know…

This post is part of the Simple Lives Thursday blog hop at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa, hosted by the beautiful, talented, incredibly intelligent, and all-around fabulous Diana!

There’s a really interesting – sad, sort of telling, but really – bottom line – very pathetic – conversation happening over on our PDX Backyard Chickens Yahoo Group.

A member of our group (and one of my own fabulous neighbors!) gifted a loved-one with fresh – just laid, probably not been out of the chicken more than hours fresh – eggs from her backyard flock of chickens.

The loved one – suspicious of the thick shell and brightly colored yolks – threw said gifted eggs in the trash – sure that they were not as safe as the factory farmed eggs she was accustomed to purchasing for a song at the local grocery store. Yeah – you know – those eggs. Eggs like those half a BILLION that were recalled of late due to a very real risk of salmonella poisoning.

How have we – as a society – strayed so far from real food?

From knowing what a real egg from an actual healthy chicken looks, feels, and tastes like?

How can it be that a local teacher has informed her students that backyard chickens are at higher risk for salmonella – which she, I’m assuming emphasized for dramatic effect for her high school aged students, would quite potentially kill the consumers thereof.

UGH!

It makes me mad.

But maybe more than that – it makes me sad.

Remember this?

Do you see the reference to the date there? 1918.

My Grammy was 6 years old then.

For her – growing up in town in Booneville, Arkansas – it was normal, matter-of-fact, routine that they would have a flock of backyard chickens. Some for meat. Some for eggs. In fact, she told a hilarious story about how one day she was left in charge – as a teenager – to prepare a meal for her Father and Grandfather (both of whom worked on the railroad) and would be home for their noonday meal – expecting a roasted chicken dinner. Both men came home to a squawking – beakless – young roo voicing his outrage around their yard – and a vegetarian meal! She’d tried – she’d seen her Mom harvest a chicken several times a week her entire life – but her aim was not what her Mother’s was! (Her Papa came to the rescue, and roasted chicken was on the menu for the evening meal that evening!) She said when word of it got out pretty much everyone in town had a good laugh – with her, of course, but at her too – because – hello!? – who doesn’t know how to take a chicken from the backyard and get it to the table?!

Um – nowadays – pretty much everyone.

Not only can we not harvest a chicken that has been healthfully raised (as opposed to what is the norm – warning this video is graphic).

I’m always amazed when I take Americans to Spain and give them a tour through the Central Market – sort of like an indoor farmer’s market for those who have never been fortunate enough to experience this.

Sights like this:

and this…

are the norm.

Americans are shocked to see animals being butchered – in plain sight – and more times than not – really don’t know how to handle it.

I’ve had grown adults break out in tears – because they’d never put two and two together that the cute picture of the little farm animal in the advertisement had anything to do with the item that ended up on their plate.

How have we gotten to this point?

What can we do to change it?

I – for one – want to make sure my children know and understand that their food comes at a price – and not just financial.

I want them to respect the process that goes into raising healthy food – be it animal or vegetable.

And I’ll continue on – committed to healthy, local, organic, sustainably grown REAL food.

…and pasturing the girls, and keeping them happy, healthy, and hilarious!

Wing Clipping

When you get a delivery of beautiful little chicks, chances are you don’t consider that one day, said adorable little chicks will develop a wanderlust.

And want to sleep places like this:

Not only that – when new threats present themselves to your flock – you want to take measures to protect them! Particularly when said threat involves three small-elephant-sized, aggressive neighbor dogs!

So you fence! (And make sure your dog knows that she’s a good dog for protecting her flock!)

Then – you realize that your flock is kinda sneaky.

In fact, they become quite adept at escaping above-mentioned protective fencing!

What’s a girl to do?

Clip some wings, that’s what!

I know, I know. It’s controversial. It’s also got some questionable efficacy. But – well – sometimes it’s the best option to try and keep your flock safe!

I will admit – the first time we considered clipping wings I was a little freaked out. I mean – dang – doesn’t that hurt them? Honestly – no – it doesn’t. It’s about the same as you or I getting a haircut. Really!

And if you spend any amount of time researching online, you’ll see lots of videos about wing clipping, drawings, and the like. There are some that I like particularly that I’ll share with you. But I’ll also show you what we just wrapped up with – clipping the wings of our girls.

First – my personal favorite time of day to do this – when all of the girls have gone to bed. Wait until everyone is roosted, and it’s mostly dark out, and grab yourself a pair of really good scissors. I use an old pair of kitchen shears – and I make sure they’re nice and sharp.

It’s best to gently take hold of the hen – holding her feet with one hand, and cradling her with the other.

Next, hang her upside down.

Yes – really.

Then extend one of her wings.

(Pepper is upset, she’s worried we’re doing something not very nice to her chicken!)

It doesn’t matter which side – just choose a wing.

Now this is important – see that first section of the wing? Right where my right pinky is below?

Do you see the little set of wings on the underside of that wing? THAT is our guide.

Those little feathers are the primary coverts. The bigger feathers underneath there are the primary flight feathers – those are the ones we want to trim.

See?

You just trim that first set – it’s not that many feathers.

Afterward – you right the hen, cuddle her a little, speak soothingly to her, and then resituate her back on the roost she came from. She might be a little indignant for a moment – but not too long – ’cause she won’t want anyone moving in on her favorite roost spot!

Here’s another one – different coloration – so it might be easier to see…

And another…

See?!

Nothing to it!

Things you need to know…

When your chicken molts – she’ll loose most of her feathers – and regrow new ones – and well, if you feel this is a beneficial thing for your flock – you’ll have to re-clip those wings.

This does put them off kilter a bit when they fly. If you’ve got a particularly motivated flier – well, then you might want to clip BOTH wings – so they’re not so off kilter that they fly INTO stuff, you know? The benefit being that they will be less able/likely to fly so far or high.

Nope – this does not hamper their ability to roost at all. My girls still get up on their 5 foot high roosts with their clipped wings.

And – yes – you may well still have a girl who can do this:

AFTER her wings have been clipped.

Go figure!

Now – some resources you may find helpful.

When you’re clipping wings – remember, you’re using the tips of primary coverts to guide where to trim the primary flight feathers.

And here’s a great video!

Hope you find this helpful!