23 July 2008

Answers to previous comments

Graphic from the Carl Larsen gallery

I was going to write about starting off your chicken flock but there are a few loose ends from yesterday's post so I'll tidy those up and write about chooks tomorrow.

First of all, welcome to the newcomers, especially those who have taken the time to say hello. The comments here are a big part of the blog so it's nice to know who has joined the community. Also, thanks to everyone for the lovely comments, I do appreciate them and although I might not always have the time to answer, I do read everyone of them. Yesterday, for instance, they provided a welcomed respite in a busy day at work. When I was waiting on the phone, or in between other activities, I peeked in, read and moderated the comments. I often think to myself that I have to respond to a particular comment but the hours roll by and I forget, or get busy again. Rest assure though, every comment is read.

Sara, wise move to use your stock of plastics, disposals and chemicals, then start afresh. We had a swap here about a year ago for cloth napkins and many of the ladies here didn't go back to the disposals after that.

Coleen, it's going well although we did run out of a few things - loose tea, brown sugar, brown rice and apples - so I bought them at the local IGA on my way home from work. All our other supplies are healthy and will go the distance.

Hello Stuff, you are the same age as my sons :- ) If you have the will to do it, there will be many things you could start with in your home - your cleaning, trash, knitting dishcloths, cooking from scratch, decluttering. Many things only need a solo effort, and the first step - that one is the most difficult. Let me know when you post and I'll make sure I come over to visit you.

Kristi, I don't know where Mt Clare is but I'm about 2000 kms north of Melbourne, the capital of Victoria. If you have a look at a map of Australia, find Brisbane, which is north of Sydney, and I'm 100 kms north of Brisbane, in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast.

Sophie, how wonderful to be working alongside your daughter making soft nappies for Ava. Sharing those gentle tasks really strengthens relationships while making memories for the future. I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit.

Hello Mandy and girls. Yes, Caloundra isn't the little fishing village is once was, still, it's good to see those things to understand the value of what you have at home.

Anonymous, here is my soap making tutorial, with recipe. It seems like quite a daunting task when you first start on soap making but after your first batch you'll know it's a simple process that needs to be done with care. You will use caustic soda (lye) and that will burn anything that it touches, so make sure the kids and pets are out of the room and go steadily and you'll be fine. BTW, the lye in the soap neutralises during and after the soap making process and there is no way of making soap from scratch without it. Overall, it's a great skill to have because you will be able to make good soap, using only vegetable oils, and you can add scents and herbs of your choice. Start off with the simple recipe in the tutorial, or the one that follows and I'm sure you'll make a good basic soap.

BTW, Copha in the following recipe is solidified coconut oil. You could also use Frymaster, which is solidified palm oil. If you decide to change the recipe, make sure you run your recipe through the soap calculator - the link is in the tutorial.

OLIVE OIL AND COPHA SOAP Olive Oil - 500 grams
Copha - 4 blocks or 1 kg (2.2 lbs) - melted slowly
Rain water - 550 mls
Lye (caustic soda) - 230 grams

The main thing to remember about soap making is that it is five basic steps that must be followed to the letter:
  1. Accurately measure your ingredients.
  2. Mix the lye and water and allow it to cool (it will heat up without being put on the stove).
  3. Heat your oils and allow them to cool.
  4. When the lye and the oils are at the same temp (about 50C), mix them together.
  5. Then stir your mix until you reach trace.
Read the tutorial, it is, I hope, a much clearer guide.

Sharon, you're right, every little bit helps. Doing what you can makes you part of the solution.

Bec, Belinda is a good friend to me. She has done some wonderful guest posts here on living simply with children. See above about the soap recipe.

Anna, congratulations! That is wonderful news. Please pass on my best wishes to Mr T as well. I send warm hugs and love to you.

Sarah, you are a wise woman. "I cannot count the number of times I've wondered if I'll ever be "as good as" you. Perhaps I really should just work on being "as good as" I can be at doing things my way....whatever that is..." You hit the nail right on the head and summed up the point of my post in those two sentences.

Kym, change is an incredible thing, isn't it. Just as you have looked back and rejoice in how you have changed, I too look back at the old me and celebrate the journey from there to here. I hope you all enjoy your camping. What is a hydro?

Great work, Jules. That is exactly what I do. I don't want to make cheese, I find it difficult and tedious, so I buy local cheese, just as you have found your local egg suppliers. It's a win/win. You get fresh local product, you also support your local growers. Good luck with your fruit.

Beth from upstate NY, the pickles made the other day are for the fridge only. I did not sterilise them but they will be fine in the fridge for a couple of months. I'll write more about the difference between sterilising preserves and making them for the fridge in the next week or so.

Cathy, I'll write about the dogs and chooks tomorrow when I do my getting started with chickens post.

I know I still haven't answered all the questions, or the emails for that matter. Please be patient with me, I do as much as I can on each given day. I hope you're not disappointed if I haven't responded to you yet.

It's raining here, and cold (10C) , and I'm looking forward to lighting the fire at work as soon as I get there. I hope you are well and today has brought you contentment. Thank you for reading my blog and for your comments.



  1. Ever since I read your first post on soap making, it has sparked my interest. Your bars of soap are lovely.

    Do you sell them?

  2. suzen, thank you. I will sell soap in the future, I don't have time to do it at the moment. My intention is to open an Etsy shop and to sell soap as well as gift packs of soap and luffas and soap and knitted dishcloths. Hopefully the soap and dishcloths will be ready before Christmas. The luffas are a hot weather crop, we'll grow them organically over Christmas and harvest them in January and February. I will start making soap and stockpiling it from next month.

  3. Rhonda,
    How exciting. I cant wait. I will be one of your first customers.

  4. Hi Rhonda, I'll be looking forward to your post about chickens, since my kids and I saw those poor chicken in cages I am determined to get some of my own, I'm slowing putting the idea in my hubby's mind.

    I also wanted to ask, do you have any suggestion about knitting my own dishclothes - I can't knit at all, is it something I can teach myself? And what type of material do I use?

  5. kathy, I use Debbie waffle pattern, it's easy and it makes a nice square cloth. There is a link to it here: http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/2008/07/i-am-home-body.html

    You'll need some worsted weight knitting cotton, do you live in Australia? I'm going to work now, if you let me know where you are, I'll recommend a cotton for you to start with.

    Ladies, are there any expereinced knitted commenting today? If so, can you give Kathy a link to a good online learning how to knit guide? There are a lot of them around but not all of them are simple and easy to follow for a beginner. Thanks ladies!

    I'll be back when I have a break at work.

  6. A good place to start is Knitting Help as there are supporting videos showing everything from how to cast on your first row to more advanced techniques like circular knitting, heels (for socks) etc.

  7. I'm not Kym, but I have moved from an area where Hydro is a common place word to a place where they look at you as if you have 2 heads. Hydro is power/electricity, it is just generated using running water. Where I grew up, Niagara Falls was used to generate our electricity.

  8. Dearest Rhonda,
    You are such a dear!! Thank you doing a post on your dogs and chickens...I can't wait to read it.

    I hope your day is going well. You sure are a blessing to so many.

    Blessings to you,

  9. Hi Rhonda,
    I was reading further down that you blanch and freeze your silverbeet. Can I leave mine in the ground and pick it as i need it? Or will it die off soon? I live on the Gold Coast. Thankyou for all your hard work, I love checking up on your life and your garden.
    All the best

  10. Hi Rhonda,

    I have discovered your blog after reading your article in the current issue of 'Warm Earth'. Your comment "all else is flim flam" really struck a cord with me.

    I have been on my journey towards simple living for a while now. I have always gardened, cooked, preserved etc. I have changed my cleaning routines in response to a family member's health issues. I actually find green cleaning more effective and quicker because you need a few things for many jobs rather than a spray for this and another spray for that etc.

    I find your blog inspirational and if I can learn a few things and use it my life, I will be a happy woman (if I'm happy, the family's happy!). The simplest change I have made recently is to get up an hour before everyone else (not 4 am though!) and that way I get a lot more done. I feel a great sense of satisfaction from getting these things done which makes the rest of the day more enjoyable and fruitful.

    Kind regards,


  11. I am curious if rubbermaid bins are good enough for long term storage?
    I saw that on your post about deepening the pantry and I never thought about using them:).

    I'm thinking 6 mo to a year?

    Thanks for all your ideas. This is something I've been working on but it's good to see other ideas.

  12. I made the olive oil and copha soap. I had trouble slicing it (is there a trick to it?) but i'm pleased with the results.
    thanks :)

  13. Hello, I'm one of those newbies that you spoke of. My husband and I and our two cats live in Boston, MA while I work my way through my last year of graduate school. I've been reading your blog for about a month now and have learned a lot. My husband and I live very simply right now (compared to "regular" Americans) but once we buy a house of our own we'll be working on expanding what we already do. I like to say I'm in my "information gathering" stage right now, so thank you very much for continuing to share all that you do.

  14. I sometimes forget that Canada is the only place in the world that calls electricity, hydro, much of our power although not all, comes from water based sources.

  15. Thanks, Rhonda. Mt. Clear is a little south of Ballarat. That's the closest "large" town. And it's very far from you! I'm just back from a very nice picnic/potluck and recommend this as a delightful and green and inexpensive way of getting together with a group of people....At 63, I think I was the youngest in the group of 16! Or perhaps one other person was also my age. After we played cards and chatted.......

  16. Rhonda Jean I love your blog and can't wait to try out your soap recipe.

    I would love to be a part of your next swap, no matter what it is. Any idea when you will have another?

    Catherine, Ontario Canada

  17. I've been reading here steady for about three weeks now. I share your blog with others every chance I get, I'm that impressed.

    Sometime when you're doing an answer session, I'd love to know more about the artwork you post (Carl Larsen gallery). I love it!

  18. Hi Rhonda I always read your blog, its very inspiring and useful but I dont usually comment. I noticed that you had a few readers comment about using reusable nappies and thought that it might be opportune to mention that in Oz we have a group called the Australian Nappy Network which aims to promote reusable nappy use (I am one of the Directors of the organisation). In October we have Reusable Nappy Week and there will be events such as info sessions, nappy making workshops and gatherings all over the country. If your readers would like to find something close to them they can check out http://modernclothnappies.org/ or http://www.nappynetwork.org.au/. I have to say that using cloth nappies was the catalyst for us looking at our environmental impact and making changes in our lives.

  19. Thanks Rhonda and Sharon. Yes I do live in Aust, NSW.

  20. A question on your soaps...how long does a "typical" bar of soap last in your household? Also, I would love to be able to buy some soap and luffas and dishcloths. When you set up your shop, will you ship to the USA/specifically, to Texas? Thanks.

  21. Kim - Scotland also uses Hydro.

    Carrie x

  22. Hi there, yours is my new favourite blog!! For the first time I am going to attempt washing liquid making. I got all the ingredients today in the groceries. One thing at a time. After that I will try bread making, after that I will try soap making. Yesterday I tried Lemonade making, my two boys LOVED it!! So Ta!

  23. Just one point as you've mentioned palm oil. Before using readers should inform themselves about how most palm oil is produced and ensure they are using an orangutan friendly and sustainably produced one. There is a wealth of information on this topic on the internet.

    I'm looking forward to finally having my own place next week(still rented but not sharing with anyone). Soapmaking is one of the first things I'm going to try once I'm settled. It'll tie in very nicely with my new love of felting as I'll be able to make felt covered soap as gifts for people.

  24. Rhonda, I read your blog every morning, but haven't stopped to comment. I just want to tell you that it's a joy to read, and I always look forward to it. It 'slows me down' a bit. My husband and I are making the effort to make our lives more simple, and I gain so much insight from you, thank you so much.

  25. Rhonda,
    I was wondering the same as Pam....once you start your shop, would you send to the U.S? Though, I bet the postage rate would be very high.

    Blessings to you,

  26. Pam and Cathy, yes, I would post to the US, or anywhere. I have a postal scale here, I use it to weigh my soap ingredients, and here is what I discovered:

    one of the large bars of soap weighs 170 grams, a small bar is 90 grams and the dishcloths are 35 grams.

    According to the online postage calculator, air mail to the US for up to 250 grams is $8.80, so for that I could send 1 large bar of soap and two dishcloths. To send 1 kilo (1000 grams) to the US is $25.45. I could send 4 large bars + 2 small bars + 2 dishcloths or luffas.

    I haven't worked out my prices for the dishcloths, luffas or soap yet. I will keep the prices as low as I can but until I price bulk amounts of olive oil and coconut oil, I can't do that costing.

  27. I want to try out the soap making, but really can't afford (financially) to make any errors, so am very wary of getting it wrong. As long as I use the same quantity of oil, does it matter which I use? Copha is not available here and the extra virgin Coconut oil I have is costly, so I'd prefer to use an alternative. Does is have to be an oil that's hard at room temperature, or could I use a liquid one? As for the rice bran oil - would I be able to sub that with sunflower oil? The soap calculator left me gawping in confusion and, as I said, I need to get this right first time. Many thanks in advance - I enjoy reading this blog so much and love how supportive all the other readers on here are.


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