Mr. Imagination, who is my nature-loving, scientific sort of child, spent a couple of weeks recently taking photos of all the birds he could see around here. This wood pigeon posed for him on top of the electric pole.
Activities at Home
Finally, the last few photos from July!
Two little girls reading. Miss Joy is sitting on a bag of little bits of firewood.
Some time in July, Miss Joy and her big sister collided on a trampoline, and Miss Joy ended up with a broken leg. It was just a greenstick fracture, so not very serious, but she had her leg in a cast for a little over three weeks. She was walking on it only about nine days after the accident, and getting around pretty much normally, but the first few days were a bit challenging. It’s a good thing she has a naturally sunny disposition! The other hard part was near the end; I think the cast must have been irritating her, because little things that normally wouldn’t bother her at all made her scream. Maybe her leg was itchy, and she couldn’t figure out how to tell us? Anyway, here are some of the things she did during the time she had her cast on.
This first picture was a few days before she broke her leg. I had a bowl of beans on the counter, soaking, and when she needed something to, I gave her a sieve and a bowl and let her scoop beans and water. You’ll see down a little ways why I included this!
The morning after the accident, Miss Joy couldn’t move below the waist at all. The only thing she could do was sit; she couldn’t even figure out how to roll over. She was sitting on the couch with her books, and asked me for a “Bible.” I figured out she wanted a songbook, so I gave it to her and she sang for us. You can hear her in this video clip.
The next day, she figured out how to crawl, and she was off! That evening, Esther gave her a permanent marker and showed her how to draw on her cast. You can see in this video how focused she was.
Right around that time, she caught sight of another bowl of beans I was soaking when I carried her through the kitchen. “Beans!” she exclaimed. She couldn’t stand up, so I put her on the floor with the beans, making sure there wasn’t too much water in them. I didn’t want the plaster cast to get wet! She happily played with the beans for a long time.
One evening, she wanted more beans, but I didn’t have any soaking. Instead, I put rice on a tray and gave it to her. She spent an hour or so playing with that! We had to sweep it up a couple of times, but it was sure worth it.
It didn’t end up being too hard an experience, after all. I sure wouldn’t want this to happen again, but we made it through, and she is as good as new again.
I like to make soap once a year, and make enough for at least a year. It’s a very satisfying thing to do; I can make enough for our family for a year or more and only spend about $15 and a little time.
I start by rendering fat from either sheep or cattle, whichever I can easily source. I put it in a roaster in the oven and bake it at about 150°C for several hours. As the tallow melts out of the fat, I ladle it out of a corner, then put it back in the oven. Eventually, I take a pancake turner and cut through the fat to help melt more of it out. When it’s still very hot, it needs to be in a metal bowl, and then when it cools down a bit I put it in a plastic carton and, after it’s cool, put it in the freezer until I’m ready to use it.
To make the soap, I melt 13 cups of fat in a large pot. Then, I measure out 12 ounces of lye (caustic soda) into a dry bowl. Put 4 cups of cold water in a large glass dish. I always take it outside for the next step. Carefully pour the lye into the cold water, and stir with a plastic or stainless spoon (not wooden or aluminum) until the lye is dissolved. Now, check the temperature of the melted fat and the lye. They need to be within 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit (I can’t remember the exact number, but it isn’t too crucial) of each other. Once they are a similar temperature, carefully pour the lye water into the fat and stir. If you use a stick blender or hand mixer for this, you’ll reach the next step more quickly.
What you watch for now is called “tracing.” Tracing is simply being able to see a dribble of soap on top when you lift your spoon or the blender out and let it fall back in. Basically, as far as I can tell, it means the soap is thickening enough that it takes an instant to disappear inside again, if that makes sense. When you see tracing, it’s time to pour the soap into the molds—and with cow or sheep fat, you have to work fast, since it hardens quickly at this point! I use plastic Tupperware containers for molds. I made a double batch this year, and filled three 9”x13” containers.
Two days later, I cut the soap. At this point, it’s still pretty soft. I used a butter knife to cut it into the size blocks we like, and then lifted them out of the containers. If I had left the soap in them for a week or two, the soap would have likely hardened enough that I could pop the whole slab out, and then cut on a cutting board.
I stack the bars of soap in a cardboard box, with newspaper between the layers. This will hopefully keep it drier in our damp house. We keep it in the warmest, driest place we have. We leave it sit to cure for two months to completely finish the saponification process (the chemical reaction).
This is the way I make soap; there are other methods. Do some research for yourself if you are interested in making soap—you’ll probably come up with a lot of tips I don’t know! If you want to make goat’s milk soap, which I do when I have goat’s milk, use it in place of the water. Just be sure to freeze it first, and then let it thaw just till slushy before adding the lye.
I never got a post up last weekend. I always plan to do that on Sunday after we come home from church. This week, though, we came home for about 10 minutes and then took off to a hut the boys have been going to every so often the last couple of months, hunting possums. We stopped before we got there, though, and took off through the bush on a walking track the boys have been unsuccessfully searching for for about six weeks. I had been telling them they might find it more easily in the daylight (they hunt at night)…. This track, they were told, goes to a hut beside the river. We spent almost an hour walking along it before we decided we’d better turn around so we wouldn’t get caught in the dark. What a tramp! It obviously used to be a fairly easy walking track; it looks like it may have been the grade for a bush railway back in the logging days. Now, it’s getting overgrown, and there are trees laid down across it in many places from a cyclone 3 1/2 years ago. Someone had gone through with a chainsaw and cut out enough that we could get through, over and under the trunks, but it was a fun adventure! I may post about it sometime; Esther had her camera and took pictures. Anyway, that’s why you never saw a post last week, in case you noticed it was missing!
Here are the rest of our June pictures. Esther happened to be with Elijah at his job one day, and got a couple of pictures of him working. He was spreading glue on the floor, and when it dried, he laid down carpet tiles.
We went to Canterbury one weekend for a midwinter dinner, and then visited a couple of other friends. One person gave us a large stack of puzzles she was clearing out, and as soon as we got home, they were all being used!
The day before Christmas, we replaced the carpet in the living room. It looked wonderful! We had enough left to do two more rooms, so we decided to do the hallway next. It still had the old carpet from the 1930s, which was very pretty when new, but by now…. It was quite threadbare. This is what it looked like:
When I took that picture in early February, I had already packed all our books and we had taken the bookshelves out (this hallway is wide enough that we have made it into our library, with bookshelves on both sides of the room). Elijah finished ripping out the carpet so it was all ready to lay the new carpet when he and his boss had time to do it. This next picture shows Elijah working on laying the carpet, with his boss overseeing him.
The end of the hall toward the laundry room/entry to the house looked like this. In May or June, I got the idea that floor-to-ceiling bookshelves would be a much more efficient use of the space, so asked Elijah if he would be interested in building them. He was! I used my spare time one day to draw up plans, and then one day when Elijah had an unexpected day off, he went to town and bought wood for building the shelves.
Over the next month or so, Elijah worked on the shelves when he had time, and once they were in place, I painted them. It took a few more weeks for the wood to completely dry, but last week I was able to fill them with books. Instead of having books here and in our bedroom, they are all here now, and very well organized. I even labeled the shelves so everyone knows where each category of books is supposed to be! (We’ll see how long that lasts.) I dreamed, when I was a little girl, of being a librarian. It looks like that dream has come true!
Elijah was excited to put the games on the second-to-top shelf yesterday. They had been in a deep closet, where they were hard to find. Now, we can easily see which one we want, even if not all of us can easily reach them!
We took a lot of pictures of Miss Joy in June! She loves to cuddle her babies,
She is a dear little girl, and we can’t imagine life without her! We are so thankful for our little bundle of energy. She has every one of her family wrapped around her little finger—I enjoyed seeing her 17-year-old brother catering to her this morning.
Esther merged my old blog with this one this week. She signed up with a new hosting service, and when she migrated this blog over, she decided there was enough storage space available that we could do that. So, now all the posts I have ever written are together! We’re not sure yet if all the photos transferred; we know most did, but there was one page she looked at that had them missing. She can’t remember where it was, though!
Anyway, when I was looking at my oldest posts to see that they had transferred, I noticed the date on the very first one: July 23, 2011. That was ten years ago yesterday! I hadn’t thought about how long I’ve been blogging; ten years sounds like a long time. If you want to read it, just click on the bar to the right, just under “Archives,” and scroll down to the bottom of that. It’s rather fun to look at the old pictures and see how much the children have grown up!
Here are the rest of our photos from May!
Esther took photos one evening of what everyone was doing. The little girls were reading books.
The pictures we took during May don’t fit very well into categories, so I decided to just do two posts of random pictures.
This happened every day during May. This must have been a Saturday morning, since it was daylight. The cow in the lead is Poppy, the older one; the other is Pansy, her daughter. Pansy is now dry, so we’re only milking Poppy. They live in the paddock we use out of town; it takes about 10-15 minutes to walk them up here to the shed for milking.