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Self Sufficient Farm Living Today, Issue #002 -- teaser here
February 24, 2009

Handicrafts were one time part of every day living. People thought no more of making candles then we do today in turning on the television.

In colonial days, and by visiting Self Sufficient Farm Living, crafts were and can still be the survival skills of average men and women.

Today, many people are beginning to go back to the "good old days" for fun, for economy reasons, but most of all for the feeling of independence that comes when we make do for ourselves.

My mother has been quilting for 40 years and still does today.

All her children and grandchildren and many friends sleep with the comfort of her homemade quilts.

Colonial Soapmaking

Colonial soapmaking is an easy process once you have the necessary ingredients. From Colonial times to the present the traditional way to make lye is to leach it from wood ashes. I give much more detail on my website, but here is some basic steps to get you motivated.

Lye that is made in this manner is known as potash and is mostly potassium carbonate, a less caustic matter then commercial lye.

You can use a large wooden container for the lye making process, just make sure it is big enough to handle the amount of potash you are going to use. The more ashes that the water seeps through, the more concentrated will be your lye solution.

Take a large tub or barrel and drill a hole close to the bottom for leaching out your lye. This is an excellent process and works wonderful.

Place the wooden barrel on cement blocks or other supports so that a pot or pan can be placed underneath it to collect the lye water as it seeps out.

Set the barrel up at an angle, with the drilled hole at the lowest point, so that the lye water will run out of it and into the pan. Make sure you use a large enough pan to catch your lye water.

Line the bottom of the barrel with hay or straw to prevent ashes from sifting into the lye solution. Then, fill the barrel with ashes.

Colonial soapmaking may use any hardwood, but oak and hickory produce the strongest lye and is the most prevalent in my area of the country. That is also the type of wood I burn in my wood stove, so it is very convenient.

Finally, make a depression at the top of your ash pile that is large enough to hold 2 to 3 quarts of water.

To make the lye, it is a common practice to use rainwater. Hear your rainwater to boiling the fill the depression, and let the water seep down through the ashes.

Add more water when the water has all seeped away.

It will be a little while for the lye to trickle out of the bottom. It may take several days if you pack the ashes tight. So, be patient and let the water do the work.

Don't try and hurry the process along by adding to much water to soon.

Soap can be made directly from the lye, but it is much easier to have the lye in crystalline form.

To create crystalline potash from lye water, boil down the solution in a stainless steel pan or an enamel pot.

You will first see a black salt substance form.

Keep maintaining your heat and additional impurities can be driven off that will leave the grayish white potash.

This is what you need for your soap.

By following these instructions, you are on your way to being a colonial soapmaking expert. Self Sufficient Farm Living, A Wave for the Future!

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