As intentional homesteaders (translation: crazy people) Dan and I each have a short-list of skills we'd like to learn. Mine includes such things as basket weaving, bee keeping, and scavenging for edible mushrooms. But high on the list this past year was making soap. What kind of a homestead are you if you can't make your own soap?
The first step to soap making, if you're me, is to take several months to psyche yourself up. There's a list of things to gather: safety goggles, rubber gloves, spatula, whisk, stainless pot and a wooden box. Then there's locating the oils (coconut is sold at Whole Foods, palm oil nowhere I can find except online) and the dreaded sodium hydroxide. All this is to get you to ask yourself over and over again, "Do you really want to make soap? Really? Are you sure? Don't you know you can BUY soap instead?"
Soap making and children do not mix, unfortunately. Almost as much as soap an children refuse to mix, ha ha ha! No, but really, soap making is an activity to do only while the children sleep soundly AND there is back-up parental coverage, for two reasons. One, the children can't be around the lye, and two, the soap solution needs constant stirring for 15-30 minutes, and seriously I can't leave to check on the baby for one second or I've wasted $20 worth of ingredients.
So there were several nights of very cautious chemistry, and a month later I ended up with two big batches of soap.
I felt very fancy indeed wrapping the bars in tissue paper and sealing them with the beautiful labels Dan made. Unfortunately the big wow of "You made soap!" was lost on my friends who have all known for months that I've been working up to this soap thing. I guess I'm bad at keeping secrets. Only my Dad was pleasantly surprised, and asked more scientific questions than I was able to answer (Der, you stir it up an it becomes soap. Der.)
We've been using the soap in our bathroom since last week and it's VERY soapy. It's like if you washed your hands with soap and then put moisturizer on them immediately after. Not to say that's bad, but it's rather surprising. I don't want to call it a "soap scum" but I will say that the oils stay clinging to your hand in a way that's lovely if you want to feel moisturized and irritating if you want to feel sterilized. Oh well, it's homemade. Next year... baskets.