Saturday, February 27, 2010


One of my new hobbies is making soap. I like the mad scientist feel of stirring my boiling cauldron and then having to let it sit for a long time before I can test it. Some day I will have enough confidence in my soap to let people try it or maybe even sell it to unsuspecting victims. For now I will just mass product soap and store it until we use it all.

I've made a variety of soaps. The first was a basic lard and lye soap which was OK. Then I made a mint soap that was a little better, but still didn't turn out exactly how it was supposed to. The third soap I made was green apple scented. I liked that one, it works great on my hair, but I really liked the idea of not using scents.

The last soap I made was my first vegetarian soap and I made it with oatmeal and honey. I really liked the way it turned out. I made it with oils that would make it good on the hair, but the little chunks of oatmeal stick in your hair which is less than desirable. The honey makes it rough so it's a good exfoliate. This was a pretty good soap, but while it keeps my hands moist, it makes my face all oily and I don't like that. I do like using the oatmeal and honey soap on my hands and the green apple soap for my body, face and hair.

OK, I really like making the soap, but I'm really bad at judging them.

My ultimate success in soap making is with the shape. In my 32 years of life, I have noticed that bar soap is the wrong shape. It fits nicely into your hand when you first open the package, but then within a short time it's long and thin so that it breaks and just doesn't work out right. When I made the oatmeal honey soap, I cut it into almost a cube shape. When you first start using the soap, it's a little awkward, but it fits nicely in the hand in no time at all. And it keeps a nice shape until it is almost gone. Right now a normal bar of soap would be so thin that it would break, but with my not-yet-patented soap shape, it is still usable and convenient.

Tonight I'm going to try and make a citrus soap.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Wrestle time

One of my favorite things to do with the boys is to wrestle. Sometimes I will let them pin me down and tell them to keep me pinned down and then I will try to get all of them pinned at the same time (which takes a little doing since there are three of them and they are all quite squirmy. Other times I will throw them around one at a time and let them enjoy the ride.

I really enjoy wrestle time and the Mugwump has expressed on numerous occasions that is one of his favorite things. The problem is that when my back is a little sore or I'm tired, it's hard to muster the motivation to roll around and wrestle with kids who have no respect for a sore back.

The other day I was flinging Jaguar (two year old) around and then the Mugwump (6 year old) wanted me to do the same thing to him. I realized that he was too big. When did he get too big for me to fling him around? I noticed missed opportunities in the past. Today the Mugwump set a 'family goal' to have wrestle time every night. I'm not sure that my back will handle that, but we'll try. And who let's the kids decide the family goals?

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I found a new use for my chickens today. I got some big translucent plastic barrels from work that I'm going to use to plant things earlier in the season. Since we have new garden ideas for this year (under the oak tree didn't work well for us last year), we need to clear some grass away.

I hate clearing grass away. That means that I have to spend time with my pick-ax tearing up the lawn. It's good exercise and all, but it never works out right. The soil is always clumpy and the grass generally grows back in my garden which I then have to weed out grass that I put there myself. It never works out how I want it to.

Today I found the spot where I wanted to start the first little piece of my garden, so I sprinkled some chicken feed in that area. The chickens have been eating and scratching at that spot for the last 20 minutes. The grass isn't gone yet, but I have high hopes. Who needs oxen or a tractor to pull big devices through the soil. I'm going to use my chickens. ... I have yet to see if it actually works.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The living of dreams

I am a big proponent of living your dreams. I think that pursuing dreams should be more important than making money... although not having enough money to feed your family certainly wouldn't be considered a dream. Drifting aimlessly at pursuits that at one point seem like a dream is also not what I have in mind when I think of living my dreams.

My dreams seem to involve an organic farm and sustainable living. There are a lot of smaller components that are involved in my dream, but being able to work alongside my family and make a living while sustaining and helping better the land is my dream.

Just one problem. I don't know how to farm. I've had some mediocre gardens and I've raised almost enough eggs to support my family's egg habit, but really I don't have the knowledge that I need to pursue my dreams. That's OK, I can learn.

Here is the thing that really annoys me. When I look at people who say they are living their dreams it always seems to be prefaced with quitting a high paying job, or finally coming upon the money to get things started. There are seldom stories of the guy making $30k a year who is suddenly able to pursue his dreams.

What if part of my dream is to show that it doesn't take lots of money to pursue dreams? What if I want to do this without making lots of money? What if it's more about the path than the outcome?

"Don't ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." (someone said it and I don't know who.)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Maiden voyage

When I was 13 I saved up my money and I bought my first real bike. Maybe I should rewind a little. The day before and the day of my 13th birthday I road my first Seattle to Portland bike ride. it was 200 miles and it took 2 LONG days. My first year I rode a Huffy 10-speed. We called it the 'pipe bike' because it weighed in at no less than 50 pounds (that may be an exaggeration, but it weighed ALOT).

With that first big bike ride I proved to my parents that maybe I would stick with cycling. I dreamed of saving up for a Trek 1420. A top notch road bike with a triple chainring on the front. As a 14 year old, more gears was better. I eventually settled for a Trek 1100 which wasn't quite as nice as the 1420, but it still had way more gears than I would ever need. I rode that bike for years.

Last week I bought a 1992 Trek 1400 on Ebay. It is essentially the same as a 1420, except with 14 gears instead of 21. Today I took my dream bike on it's first ride. Actually, it has probably been on lots of rides, but it was the first that she did with me.

I have named the bike 'my therapist' because that is what it is.

The plan for the day was to carry enough food and water to spend about 2 hours lost. I succeeded. I headed for horse country and started my morning watching a horse rolling around in the snow. I wished I had a camera; I would have called the picture, "snow angels".

I went over Zion's Hill which, from my understanding, was one of the first settlements of free blacks in the area.

I found a mill next to a river. It appeared to me as if the river was the original source of power for the mill and I wonder if it still is (I doubt it, but how cool would that be?). By the mill was a stone fence built with old mill stones. It was a beautiful place.

There was a place where I briefly found a busy road that I didn't want to spend a lot of time on. That was the only part of the ride that was even remotely bad.

As I returned toward the city I saw a woodpecker with a bright red head and thought of the old "Woody-Woodpecker" cartoons. I'm sure that Woody was taken from this type of woodpecker. I also saw a small group of cardinals, all bright red against the snow covered backdrop.

The thing I liked the most about my ride was the opportunity to dream. I thought of a short film I watched last night about a couple ladies in Portland that became 'backyard farmers'. instead of starting a CSA, which requires a bunch of land and water rights, etc. They started a business farming in other peoples' yards. So if you want fresh produce, you call these ladies to make your backyard produce food. They come weekly and weed and leave anything they picked next to your door. I think it's a great idea. I dream of doing something like that.

I got home, changed clothes and was instantly slapped with reality. My taxes are almost finished and I should be able to file them next week.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What's new

I haven't posted in a long time. Every time I think of posting, I feel that I don't have anything to say. I would really like to post more and i would really like to keep up on my writing because I have some ideas for things I would like to publish.

So here is what is new at the Sans House. Actually, I am sans auto; I do have a house. Actually, I drove my wife's car to work three times this week due to needing to be places across town in time frames that made the bicycle unreasonable.

First an update on the chickens. After the problems with wildlife, we have 7 chickens left and they have started laying. Tuesday we got 8 eggs (I think that was from a couple of days). Wednesday we got 2. Thursday 6, and today we got 5. I couldn't be more pleased with the amount of eggs we are getting from the chickens. The chickens range most of the day and they have actually turned out to be a little smarter than I initially anticipated. On cold, snowy days with high winds I will open the door to their henhouse and they will stick their heads out, but then turn right around and stay warm. Not as dumb as they initially seem.

My compost pile is coming right along and feel really good about the progress of the garden... at least in thought. We have big plans for the garden, but with several inches of snow still on the ground, we haven't progressed much.

The next step is bees. I have recently found that I enjoy making soap. I also like eating sweet things. It seems logical then, that I should start a bee hive in my back yard. I will have fresh honey and bees wax for making soap and like products.

When I started looking into building a beehive, they said that it would cost at least $300 to get started, and really it would take more than that. I almost gave up there, but I figured I could save a bunch of money by making my own hive container. I then found that you can capture a swarm rather than buying the bees. I also discovered that I really had no desire to 'capture' a swarm, but have found some information on attracting a swarm. So I'm going to give it a shot. I will be building a hive in the next few weeks that I estimate will cost about $5 in supplies and a bunch of scraps that I have collected from various sources. I'll post pictures and stuff once I make more progress. I'm really excited to have bees.

I have things to post about, but it seems that I never do. I will change that and soon I will be posting several times a week.