Promise

I promised myself that I would add one of these stories here every time I told one. I tell them at one point or another throughout the summer. There will be no chronology - not yet anyway - nor will there be much of a schedule. You never know; I might add a story every day and I might not. This is my life. Every day is an adventure.

Anna

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Soap

For forever, I've wanted to learn how to make my own soap. I mean, it goes along with the whole 'off the grid' thing. Ever since working at the lodges (I think) I found it nearly impossible to throw away those uses bars of soap. The lodge buys brand new soaps and I put them in the cabins. The guests might take like one shower before they go home, and there's that used bar of soap. I certainly can't leave it there for the next guy to use, so I would take them home. Over the years I managed to accumulate a lot of soap of all kinds.

Here recently, like the last four years, the owners of the lodges have bought Dove soaps, the full sized bars. Sigh, yeah, I brought them home. Throwing them away is such a waste of good soap.

This summer, I decided to buy a soap mold. Not one of your little pretty one, just something functional. I wasn't interested in anything fancy. I just wanted to consolidate all those bars of soap I'd accumulated, not that I knew what I'd do with them when I was done, but still...

I was looking at the stack of soaps I'd accumulated at the lodge one day, and I decided I'd ask and see if I could do the same for them. My boss's wife was thrilled with the idea, so I took a bunch of those soaps home. There's still more there on the shelf, but there was only so much room in the box I was using.

I used all the odd soaps I'd accumulated as my learning curve, and worked my way through six different batches as I experimented with how much water to add to how much soap, and then what size bars to cut. It was an interesting experiment.

My recipe for this was: 2lb grated soap to 1C water

I decided to wrap them in typing paper sliced in half - It's what I have here. Since I made no effort to match up colors, my end product ended up shaded from a pale green to a pale beige, and since the soap never totally dissolves, there are flecks of actual color in there. I'm certain, over time, as I continue to recycle them, the flecks will fade. Keep that last statement in mind as you read on.

So, now that I think I know what I'm doing, I move on to the box of Dove soap. Now these I wanted to look nice, and by coincidence, the mold kit I'd ordered came with a straight edged cutter and a waffle edged cutter. I figured I would use the waffle edged cutter for the lodge soap. Just a little fancier than your plane block of soap, you know.

My very first batch of Dove soap, and I knew everything was different. Then I remembered that Dove soap was different; it contained lotion, so I was forced to start my experimenting all over again. Two pounds of soap and one cup of water produced something like whipped cream only thicker. Everything before had been much thinner and I could pour it. This would never pour. Cautiously I added more water, but nothing much changed. Finally, at two cups of water, I didn't dare go any farther. I scooped it out and pressed it into my mold, hoping to get it into all corners. Hoping it would work.

It did, I thought. My mold looks like a five pound block of cheese, though maybe a little thinner. So once that set up, I started cutting. My idea of using the waffle edged cutter meant that I generated quite a bit of scrap, and yeah, I couldn't throw that away either.

I didn't have any trouble with the original soaps, and I didn't count how many batches I did, but eventually I came around to using the scrap pieces. Now here I ran into more and more trouble. The soap refused to hold together. It crumbled and cracked easily, and many times it would come apart as it was drying. This concerned me, so I went back to those first soaps, and discovered several of them (probably my first batch with too much water) had shrunk, warped and cracked. They were no longer pretty.

The first thing I tried to do to solve my problem was to go back to the straight edged cutter, but I got no better results. Out of every mold, I was doing good to get one or two usable bars of soap. The rest broke and crumbled as they were being cut. I even stopped adding water since I thought that might be the issue, but I got no better results.

Finally I decided to get back with my boss's wife and ask her if she minded my mixing some of those very first soaps in, explaining that the color would no longer be white. She wasn't the slightest bit concerned about color. This thrilled me. That meant that I could use all that soap I'd made at first. All I had to do was go through them and make them pretty enough to use at the lodge.

I used up all the Dove soap, mixing two pounds of Dove with one pound of other stuff. I increased the amount of soap, reasoning that they weren't as dry as originals - it seemed to work well that way. Ever since I switched back from the waffle edged cutter, I decided I'd bevel the edges of the bars in an effort to make them look more finished - prettier, so as soon as all the Dove was used up, I decided I'd re-recycle the rest of them, so they'd be uniform. Yeah, I'm weird like that. Almost immediately, I changed that. There wasn't anything wrong with them; they just needed to be prettied up.

Some of those original soaps, I knew I'd have to redo. One batch was cut all wrong and another was too soft. Unfortunately, since I'd marked my batches with a marker, the ink had bled through onto the soap. I couldn't have that, so I sorted them out for recycle.  I ended up with two full batches of those. The rest just needed to be cleaned up and beveled - there was probably about two full batches of those. My last batch was all the trimmings and shavings I'd accumulated. When all was said and done - the project for this season finished - I had an entire square bucket full of neatly wrapped soaps. Now I need to find something better to wrap them in as well as a suitable label.

It was a very interesting project, and I'm pleased with the results.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Summer's Over

Yeah, my summer is mostly over. Leaves are turning and berries are ripe. It smells awesome out there, like over ripe cranberries (high bush) and rain-washed whatever. The weather was truly odd this summer when talking about river levels. I finally made it to work on the first of June - it sucks that I missed two weeks of work. Because of that there were things I normally do that I skipped this year. I can wash walls next year - people aren't allowed to smoke inside anyway.

Water levels remained medium low all summer long, but as time passed, it became increasingly clear that water levels were rain dependent rather than snow-melt dependent - which is really out of the ordinary. Fortunately there was enough rain to keep the rivers full enough for me to drive to work. I drove a jet-drive through most of the summer because, at first, the water was really scary-low - meaning that gravel-bars I know to exist were sticking up, and some of them were very nearly over my head. Islands that I normally see were small mountains. There was one thing good about seeing the water that low. I learned that some channels where I'd driven for years, had moved, and some gravel-bars had grown (or seemed to have done so).

Other than water levels, which increased slowly, but steadily, my summer went well. I was able to devote time to my gardens, and got plenty of complements because of that. I met some great people, and even sold a couple books. I also passed out a few business cards, so with luck, I sold a few more books that way.

In other news related to work, I bought a soap mold. It has always been very nearly impossible for me to throw away used soap, so over the years, I've accumulated quite a few. The last lodge I worked at and now this one both use Dove soap, and I was stacking it on a shelf in the laundry room. It really rankled that they'd all been used only once or twice, some maybe a little more. They were full sized bars - it was such a waste. I did a little research and discovered that Dove makes half-sized bars, and my boss's wife was able to find some in town. Even so, it was a waste, so I kept those too. When I told her I would take her soaps and remake them into smaller bars, she did a little searching and found some fish-shaped molds. I haven't seen them yet, but then I'm still learning how to do this recycling of soaps. I took all the random (other than Dove) soaps and am trying to refine a recipe. My first effort was a bunch of unmeasured soap that I'd grated up years ago and put in a big glass cooky jar to this end. In a bigger pot (think double-boiler) I tried to melt the soap. The recipe I found online said to add a little water, so I did, adding a little more until the soap started to get soft. What was on the surface of my mass kept cooling to clumps, so I spooned it into my mold and tried to smooth it out. The result cooled quickly and I was able to cut them into blocks, trimming away the ugly edges to be added to my next batch. They are not pretty as far as color, and they are inconsistent in shape, but they are usable bars of soap, so I'm happy. However, my effort taught me that I needed a better recipe.

On to my second effort. I found a recipe that called for 2 cups of soap to 1 cup of water. My stumbling block was, how do you measure out 2 cups of soap. So I did the next best thing, I changed the volume measure to a weight measure. 2 cups is 16 oz or one pound so I weighed up 2 pounds of soap bars and started grating. When I bought my mold I thought I read in the questions or reviews somewhere that it holds 5 pounds of soap, and my first effort didn't fill my mold quite full. So I figured I'd aim for 4 pounds of soap, which (according to my recipe) called for 2 cups of water. I grated up my first pound of soap and added it to my cookie jar and after I added my 2 cups of water, I realized that there was no way my cookie jar was going to hold 4 pounds of grated soap. Cringe. I wanted to drain away that water, but didn't. I should have, but I added another pound of soap and proceeded.

This time, my concoction was more like what they said in the recipes in that I could pour it. It was thick, but was it thick enough? Time would tell. I did learn that 2 pounds of soap is the max my mold will hold. I let the block cool over night and it was solid enough to take out of it's mold, but it's still kinda soft. I cut it into some bars, discovering that my cut was thinner than I like, but it is what it is. Now those bars are laying out on a cooky sheet. According to my research, it's not uncommon for bars to cure for up to a week. Cross your fingers. Worse case scenario, I redo. I still got more soap to experiment on before I get to my boss's soap. I'll figure it all out.

In the mean time - On the first of August, my son who lives down in Arizona came up to visit and go fishing. He brought his two kids, his girlfriend, and her son. It was awesome. They stayed for two weeks and went fishing every day, bringing home nearly 18 fish every day. I also showed the girlfriend how to can fish. I canned up a couple batches to make room in the freezer, but starting a load after I got home from work meant staying up till near midnight. Needless to say, I only did enough to make room.

When he left, my son took a hundred pounds of frozen fish home with him as well as a case of canned, and my freezer was still stuffed. Three days after work was over, I started canning fish. Last week, my other son came out to help pull boats again and he took home 4 cases of fish. I am finally getting to the bottom of the freezer. I have fish thawing out here in the house for tomorrow's canning session and three more bags in the freezer to go, and I have six and a half cases of fish done as of today. That is more fish than I've canned up in a very long time.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Worries Come True

Be ware of rant - sorry.

In an earlier post this last winter, I complained about the lack of snow. I mean, this is Alaska. We're SUPPOSED to have tons and tons of snow every winter. When we first moved out here, it was common to truly avoid stepping off the packed trail unless you had snowshoes. If you stepped off the trail and went in only to waist deep or so, it was considered a low snow year, but still no great cause for worry.

Then Vice President Al Gore, apparently a fierce environmentalist, came to power in 1993, and it suddenly became all the rage to clean up the world. I followed this - kinda - there was really no avoiding it, and to a certain degree, I agreed with the concept. It's only right to take care of our world; it's the only one we have. I do my very best to make sure my little piece of it does not collect so much as cigarette butts.

But then clean-up evolved from global cooling in the 70s to global warming scare it is today. But since I see no sign of coastal cities preparing for those drowning years, I have always had my doubts. And since my life is so weather-dependent, I do try to keep up as much as possible.

The trend I've seen here is that the winters seem to be warmer than what they were say 30 or 40 years ago, but for the most part the temperatures seem to follow a normal path through the winter. Maybe some winters are slightly warmer than others, but then some winters were also slightly colder than others too - over all, there was no change that I could see.

Then Obama came to visit our state back in August of '15. Of course it was all over the news, and in reality I was really ashamed of our president. To be seen standing with two girls, he and both girls holding up fish, but he using thick rubber gloves? That is not a picture to make me proud. The man is a wimp. I don't have much respect for him, but that's not the issue of this post. Then in September of that year, he was on the Bear Grylls survival show where his greatest risk was to drink a little glacier water. I mean, it was almost an insult to the show. The point of the show was to discuss how badly the glaciers were receding. That show, and every other documentary I have ever watched to date involving either the glaciers receding or the polar icecap breaking up, failed miserably to convince me that there was an issue.

To me, the issue with the ice cap can be directly blamed on the fleet of ice breakers they use to keep the shipping lanes open. And glaciers - well, they come and go with the season just like they are supposed to do. Now, don't get me wrong, some glaciers aren't doing so well, but all things change. No. The trouble with the glaciers, and by weather-related connection, the ice cap, is directly related to precipitation coming down as snow. As long as there was enough snow, the glaciers would do just fine.

But those seeking to further the global warming/global change issues can't have status quo when it comes to snowfall in Alaska. That would not further their drowning of coastal cities agenda. I believe Obama managed to accomplish two things during his visit. One was to somehow force Alaska to sign up for his health care farce - we had been holding out until his visit. Another was to look into the glacier issue.

He was not gone from this state for even a week when jets started flying over in force, and they were flying over in a grid - a very obvious square criss-cross pattern. I drive to work in a boat. the sky is wide open to me. I saw this with my very own eyes. The next day or two, and more or less from then on, the air stank.

Now cloud seeding has been around for years. They started trying to modify the weather down in the mid-west way back in the 60s, and they wanted to enhance snowfall in the Rockies too, all in an attempt to replenish the reservoir under the whole nation. Rivers were drying up, and nearly all the farms now used sprinklers to water their crops. The whole country was drying up. Was it working? I don't think so, but what do I know.

What they did up here - with such stinking concentration seemed to do one thing. We had a nasty flood that fall - the worst I've seen for over twenty years. The damage to the area was extensive, but we recovered. We washed the river mud out of our building and we repaired the damage, and we carried on. That winter we still had about 2 or 3 feet of snow here, but other damage had been done too. For the first time in a while, the Iditarod Sled Dog Race was forced to start in Fairbanks due to lack of snow. It's happened in the past - no biggie. Life goes on. So what is several businesses, who'd spent thousands of $$$ to get ready for the big race, lost out on all that income. My life is not the only life that revolves around the weather. For that race to start in Fairbanks two years in a row, due to lack of snow, is unprecedented. Those weather-control dudes had to have been having a field day, celebrating with champagne and caviar.

Thanks to stinky air all through the summer last year, we here on the river were blessed with not just one flood, but four. Lodges were forced to ship guests to town and some closed early. At the lodge where I work, my boss remained open but he was calling guests right and left, telling them of the issue and offering to rebook them for next year - their trip had already been paid for so it was covered. Again, mega loss of business, but the global climate 'change' was paramount. They simply had to starve those glaciers until they went away.

Now, thanks to all their efforts, and more to the point of this post, I should have been able to go to work on the 15th. Take a look at those pictures. See all that sand and where the water is? All that sand should be under water by now, or at least very close to it. Spring melt off almost always causes a near flood to start with - it makes launching the boats easier. This year, even after the ice in the rivers had gone away, there was not enough water to even float a boat, let alone go anywhere, and here it is, very nearly a week later, and I'm waiting for the water to come up. Don't get me wrong, it was coming up a couple inches a day until day before yesterday when it rained. I was lazy that day; I didn't go check the river in the rain. I went yesterday instead. Much to my dismay, the water went down a couple inches. Now, to add to my dismay, last night it frosted. Frost here tells me the mountains are still frozen. At this point that is my only source of river water.

I can see making it rain on dry farmers, but the agenda here is purely political and it makes me want to shoot someone. I am so angry about this, and I feel so impotent.

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