Simple sugar scrub for dry skin

Usually we only use the vegetable oil soap I make to clean our whole bodies. It’s cheap and simple to use the same product for everything, but sometimes I have to break out and use something decadent (and a bit more heavy duty). Not being able to wash my right hand and forearm for six weeks has resulted in a whole lot of dry, scaly skin accumulating on my hand and arm. It has given me an insight into how many skin cells we lose to our environment every day… a LOT.

This is my hand after six weeks of no soap and water.

I decided to make a sugar scrub to get rid of all that dead skin. I found a post with a recipe and whipped up a batch for myself and a jar for my daughters too.

Sugar scrub

1/2 cup brown sugar/raw sugar mixed

1/4 cup coconut oil (I used copha)

1/2 tspn ground cinnamon

Whiz the ingredients together in a food processor (I have a mini food processor, so the small amount was easy) until it is a nice texture that you can work with. Spoon your sugar scrub into clean jars and store in a cool place.

This is my hand after using my sugar scrub.

Because it was a cool day when I made this scrub, the coconut oil didn’t melt much. This resulted in a grainy consistency, but I don’t mind that. The scrub itself worked really well on my hand and my skin is amazingly soft too. I have gone on to use this scrub on my feet, on my legs and even on my face. I feel very… sweet.

Being able to wash my whole body again is amazingly restorative. I feel so much more able to deal with the world after a shower. Although the gains in flexibility from my daily sessions of shower yoga will be missed (keeping one hand in a plastic bag while trying to wash all over and scrub feet with a nail brush using only the left hand should be classed as a master class in yoga).

Make dolmades from nasturtium leaf

I found a recipe for dolmades… I love dolmades! This recipe uses nasturtium leaf as the wrapper, rather than the usual grape vine leaf. I have been trying to use things from the garden that the possums and bandicoots don’t eat, my reasoning is that if I can get my family to eat what does grow here, I won’t have to be disappointed by trying to grow what they will eat, but I fail at growing.

I harvested about 20 leaves from the nasturtium plants… there were plenty. I also cut a few flowers to add to the stuffing mix while I was there.

Then I put a cup of rice and a handful of dried peas into the hay box cooker with enough water to cover. I put it on the stove and got it boiling before popping it all into the container.

While the rice cooked, I fried some onions, grated carrot and garlic with some sundried tomato and pepper. I also added some paprika at the last minute.

When it was all cooked, I chopped the nasturtium flowers and a cup of spinach (and other green things) and stirred the lot in together.

Rolling the stuffing up in the leaves with a bung hand was a mission, but I got it done in the end.

Lastly, I poured about 3/4 cup of vegetable stock over the little bundles in my Dutch oven and put it in the oven on medium heat for 40 minutes.

The result was a great tasting dolmade that had a very weak wrap. They taste spicy and flavourful, and are filling, so I think I will make them again.

Sentro knitted sweater vest

I made my first piece of clothing on the Sentro! It’s a rustic looking piece, made from all hand spun yarn and finished off this week with ribbing knitted by hand (yes, I am allowed to knit again). I used all the left over balls of naturally dyed yarn I had laying around in my stash, you may recognise some of the colours from my ’50 shades of beige’ dye series.

The process was quick and simple; I made two panels (like this) that were 40 stitches wide and long enough to go from the front edge, over my shoulder and down to the back edge. I then mattress stitched the two panels together up the middle, leaving a space for my head. A seam up each side, leaving a space for the arm holes finished the stitching part of the project.

Finally, I picked up the stitches from the bottom edge, removed the waste yarn and knitted a ribbed edge using 6mm circular needles. I repeated this for the neck and sleeves.

I have worn this vest to work and to town already. I love the feel of it on my skin and it makes me feel so self sufficient. I think I will have a go at making a jumper with sleeves next.

Make cheap dish soap

Some time ago I made some dish washing tabs, but everyone except me refused to use them. I am trying again with a liquid version. After watching a video that featured this recipe, I decided to make a liquid using most of the ingredients, but slightly different proportions. My recipe is below;

Dish soap

Dissolve 1 cake of soap in 1 litre of hot water.

Store this liquid in a sealed bottle for future batches. Now mix;

2/3 cup soap liquid

1/3 cup vinegar

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 tblspn bicarbonate of soda

1 tblspn washing soda

All my ingredients gathered on my messy bench (I spilled water on it while making my coffee)

The mixture will froth, but subsides quickly. When it has finished frothing, store it in a sealable bottle. This mixture is used at a rate of 1/4 cup per sink full of water.

This is the mixture frothing up. I make it straight into the bottle. It is best to sit your container in the sink for this bit. Please excuse the coffee grounds in the sink.
The final product. This lasts us for about a week, but it is so simple to make, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t last that long.

So far everyone is using the liquid. I am getting grumbles about the low froth, but it works to clean the dishes, except that it doesn’t remove the oil on baking trays very well. Using an extra splash of the soap on the trays solves that problem though.

Meet Henry – A new family member

After a recent post I realised that I haven’t introduced Henry yet. Henry is our newest family member, he is a dog… I won’t go further than that because we are really not sure what breed of dog he is. Here is the full story;

Way back in February (the 19th to be exact), a neighbor called to say that a puppy had wandered out of the bush to sit on her verandah. We had been hearing dogs barking and yelping in the bush for a few weeks and we think that this puppy just got lost from the pack. My neighbor didn’t want another dog and we decided to take the pup and try to rehome him.

The above photo is that puppy. We named him Humphrey.

We gave him a bath and took him to the vet for a check up, vaccinations and microchipping.

At the vet surgery, we met some friends of ours, who fell in love with him instantly… and he fell in love with them.

So Humphrey had a home. He stayed with us for a few weeks while our friends got their house ready for a wild baby, then off he went into the world. He still visits now and then to spend time with Henry.

The photo above is Humphrey today.

While Humphrey was still with us, but after he had found his family, we got a call from the same neighbor, saying she had found another puppy. She said this one had something wrong with him and he was very sick. She was going to put him down because he looked to be suffering. We (of course) said we would take him to the vet. Henry was delivered to our gate within the hour.

I took him to the vet, who told us he had a dislocated hip and a spiral fracture of the hind leg. He was probably going to be a three legged dog. We decided right there that we were now a four dog household (the difficulty of finding a home for a three legged feral pup was just too much).

Above are two photos of Henry on his way to his first vet visit. He had been given some pain medication for the trip (it takes two and a half hours to drive to the vet). Look at that grin!

The above photo is our first of Henry. He looked so small and sick. He was in a huge amount of pain and was still a friendly little boy.

Over the weeks, Henry began to improve and after two weeks of cage rest, he was allowed out to begin the process of building muscle in his bad leg.

Henry and Humphrey playing during cage rest.
Henry on one of his early walks, building muscle but still limping.
Melvin loved that period of time. He had so many friends to play with.
Melvin playing with Henry.
Henry at the vet.

After a few months, we took Henry back to the vet to see how he was going. Previously the vet had predicted that he would either lose the leg or have to have a serious operation to remove the ball joint of his hip as the dislocation had been done a long time before he got medical help. The dislocation had popped back in by itself, but remained ‘loose’. This time, the vet was excited to see that the hip joint was tight and that the fracture had healed clean. Henry was declared a sound dog… and that is when the fun started.

He demands to go on a walk every day, so someone has to take him. He gets into everything, and because he is so large we have had to move everything up to head height to stay ahead of his puppy phase (he loves to steal wool). Despite the inconvenience of locking things away and being dragged out for walks all the time, we love him, he is smart and easily trained, he is a loving boy who just wants everyone to be happy which is lucky because we think he will be a fairly big dog when he is grown. He reminds me a little of Jess, a past family member we lost some time ago.

Please leave a comment with your guess as to his breeding. So far we think there is some Kelpie, Border Collie and Bull Arab in there.

Natural Dyes – Dead man’s foot mushroom

On my walk this morning I found a lovely surprise. I was walking along slowly, much to the disgust of my puppy; Henry, when I saw a small brown lump at the edge of the path. This brown lump was a pisolithus arrhizus otherwise known as a Dead Man’s foot. This unassuming little sphere gives lovely rich browns and russet tones to wool in the dye pot… apparently. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. Of course I forgot to get a photo of it before bringing it home.

The brownish ball at the front of the photo is my Dead Man’s Foot fungus (such a charming name). The avocado skins and seeds are drying for future use as dye stuff.

I cut my prize in half and put a pot of water on to boil straight away. The two halves of the mushroom were just thrown in and plonked on the wood stove to boil.

You can see the immature spores at the top, they look like little golden spheres. The brownish powder is the mature spores.

After about an hour of boiling, The pot had a lovely deep brown colour. Most fungas dyes are substantive (meaning they don’t need a mordant to stick to wool), so I just wet my last skein of home spun wool yarn and popped it into the dye pot (in a paint bag to protect it from dyestuff).

The yarn was in the dye bath on the stove (at a steady simmer) for two hours. Then I let it cool, before taking the yarn out of the pot.

The colour wasn’t as dark as I wanted, so I popped it back in, along with an avocado seed as a mordant (avocado seeds contain tannin, which acts to mordant and slightly darken wool).

After another two hours simmering, it was taken off the heat and left to cool. Eventually, I washed the yarn in clean water and spun it out. The final colour is glorious! Variable browns and russets and a sneaky flash of yellow.

I love the colours in tis yarn. The yarn is a loosely plyed two ply from some merino fleece I was given long ago. From now on I will be searching the ground for these fungus as I walk, they are apparently fairly common in the Autumn and Winter.

Update: I found another one this morning!

This one is huge. You can also see the remains of the first one, I fished it out and plan on saving it to use again.

This is where I found the first one; growing out of the hard soil of the track.

I found the second one here in the soil at the edge of the road. The puppy is Henry, our newest baby. Look for an origin story soon.

Saving cucumber seed

This year we had a huge cucumber harvest, the variety I planted was a basic continental, I watered them with the washing water as usual, I mulched them with sheep bedding, as always. I can only guess that the mild Summer let the two plants thrive. I let two cucumbers stay on the vine to save the seed, and because we were all sick of cucumber by the end of the Summer.

Today I went out and got the cucumbers, the vines are long gone by now. Then it was simply a matter of cutting them in half and squeezing , scraping and tipping the seeds out of the cucumber onto some paper towels. This part was not particularly simple, having only one usable hand meant asking for help with cutting the cucumber in half, and using my cast to hold the fruit still while the seed was extracted.

I put the paper towels in the sun to dry out. When they are dry it will be time to bag them up ready for Spring planting.

Make foaming hand soap

Due to not being able to work on anything at the moment, I am looking for things I can do. For a few years now, I have been buying Tirtyl foaming hand wash tabs. They certainly have saved a lot of plastic bottles in our home. I am the sort of person who will just use a cake of soap to wash my hands… but my partner is not. He prefers to use a foaming hand wash, and will go against explicit orders and buy it. That means I have to learn to make it. I looked around and found this recipe, I can use as a starting point.

First I grabbed all the small bits of soap left over from the shower and a lump of soap from the soap cache. I put a litre and a half of water in a pot with the soap and let it melt down and heat.

It is then just a simple matter of filling up the foaming hand wash bottle with 1/3 water and 2/3 soap liquid.

It works really well, and cost hardly anything to make.

Learning to knit with my left hand

I am extremely bored. Not being able to use my right hand at all is slowing me down so much. I am trying to stay away from activities that will introduce dirt to the wounded finger, I don’t want to get an infection. No gardening and no outdoor work. No spinning or weaving as both those crafts need nimble fingers. I am left with knitting and a few small jobs around the house (like vacuuming). I have always knitted in the English style, but that involves me using my right hand. Time to find a new way to knit.

Who knew there were so many ways to knit with one hand??

I found these inspirational tutorials: style one, style two.

I also remembered Continental knitting, which I tried to learn many years ago to be able to knit faster. I never did learn to speed knit, but this method might be the answer to my present problem.

The main issue I am having with knitting is the immovable nature of my right hand; I can’t hold the yarn with any tension and I can’t ‘throw’ the yarn over the needle to make a stitch at all. With Continental knitting, the yarn is held and tensioned in the left hand while the right hand holds the knitting and moves the stitches to where they need to be. I have found that I can knit this way in a slow and halting way, but it is no fun at all and I make a lot of mistakes.

Enter the Sentro knitting machine.

I saw this little machine on YouTube, and I realised I could use it to knit with only one hand. I ordered one, it cost about $40, and when it arrived, I started knitting. All you need to do is wid the handle, once the stitches are set up. The result is certainly not high quality knitting, but it is usable and functional knitting.

Two pairs of socks (with no heels) later, I found the larger machine for sale and bought that too. I was able to make a hat or two, and have started dreaming about making a vest or a sweater.

These little machines will keep me busy making while my hand heals.

Why do I spin?

I was recently watching a YouTube video about why we spin in the modern age, and the presenter outlined her journey from disconnection from the source of her sustenance to connection to Nature. My journey has been somewhat different; I come from a background that is closer to the realities of Nature than she did.

I learned to spin first at a women’s Wiccan retreat. The friend who ran this retreat used a chopstick and an onion to give us the basics and mechanics of spinning, she also outlined the history of spinning. Humans have been spinning from the beginning of time, perhaps even before we were humans. Fibre has been found at dig sites all over the world despite the ephemeral nature of fabric and yarn. My instructor on that long ago day, told me to keep practicing because ‘my hands would remember’ and my hands did… eventually. It started me on a train of thought; such a long lived activity must have left traces on our genes… mustn’t it? Our race memory must contain that knowledge, the means to dress and protect ourselves, just like birds remember how to build a nest. I spin, in part, to access the need to provide for myself, the deep need to do something for myself.

There is also the matter of giving thanks to the beings that provide for us. Taking time and giving attention to the process of spinning (and everything else involved in the process) is respectful to the beings that provided the materials for this activity. While I spin, I think about where the fleece came from… increasingly the fleece comes from Eli (our one fleece sheep), but I also have fleece from friends and local growers. Other fibres I spin come from plants I grow here in my garden or silk moths raised by me and fed from our mulberry tree. I know how much work and sacrifice goes into each gram of fibre, and so I give thanks for it.

Added to these deep and amorphous (at times) thoughts is the sheer enjoyment I feel when spinning. The mastery of the skills involved, and the promise of more to learn, draws me onwards. The repetitive nature of the activity puts me in a calm and focused state, where I can think deep thoughts and retain the gist of my thinking (instead of my mind running away with me). The simple enjoyment of the activity is enough, but the sense of connection, to Nature and to the past, makes spinning a therapeutic activity, and it really should be tax deductible and classed as a mental health therapy.

All these thoughts floating through my mind as I sit here, unable to spin.