Wildfires, a Glimpse Into the Future?

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been having to deal with wildfire smoke coming through the Hell’s Canyon (which is an appropriate name right now). I had a chance to witness it slowly rolling in like a carpet of doom. Thankfully, we haven’t had any fires in close proximity but the smoke is extremely choking and horrible to breath.

smokeRollingInThe smoke usually didn’t stay long thanks to the winds, but the last couple of days its been really bad. No wind. The AQI was near dangerous levels and I can tell you from experience; you don’t want to breath this stuff for more than a few mins. Visibility is only about a quarter mile. smoke

It’s like we’re living on a different planet with a different atmosphere. Reminds me of the book, “The Martian” by Andy Weir. The bad thing is, there really is no where to go except back south or far east to get some relief. Most surrounding states are also affected. Check out Wildfire Today to see where the jet stream is taking the smoke across the US and which states are affected.

I don’t know if Dallas Fort Worth is being affected like the chart says it is, maybe some of our Fort Worth friends can comment to that. My biggest concern, is that this will continue to get worse each year.

The best thing to do they say is to stay inside, but the smoke slowly seeps into the vents and through small cracks in doors. It’s relentless. Some of the locals were saying that the air quality is similar to when Mount St Helens erupted back the 80’s.

Is this is a sign of things to come for the future? I’m not sure, there are many people who would point at this as direct evidence of climate change. I would have thought that the Pacific Northwest would have had enough rain and snow like it usually does that helps prevent wildfires; not this year. Perhaps the climate is changing.

All i know is, we moved up here to get fresh air. Maybe its time to move again, but to where?

First Batch of Soap

I know what your thinking…a manly man making soap? Well, the way i’m thinking is, “Hey, I have means to make a product to sell for a decent profit margin, why not?” Plus, who likes to smell like a yak in heat all the time? Besides, I love chemistry and I can always say the wife made me do it, right?

This is our first attempt to make cold process soap, and after a lot research we decided to acquire the components, tools, materials and found a basic recipe to use, courtesy of soapqueen and soapdeli.

Our setup consists of a scale, hand blender, thermometer, several non-aluminum pots, spatulas, dyes, oils, lye, fragrance, googles, gloves, wooden spoon and soap molds. I made a wooden mold that holds about 3.5 lbs and a wooden cutter template out of pine board.

soapSetup

I went into this thinking the process was going to be somewhat messy and difficult. I was surprised to learn that it is very easy. Almost easier than reloading bullets, and like reloading, you need to pay attention to what your doing and not get distracted. Takes about 30 mins to mix up a batch.

Sodium Hydroxide (lye) solution is not something you want to splash on you or anyone around you. Googles and gloves are a minimum when you mix the lye with water, some people use aprons and masks in addition to those. We got the lye flakes, so it was easy to mix into distilled water. By the way, the temperature when mixed is near 190 degrees F. I suited up like a hazmat technician and mixed it outside the first time.

sodiumHydroxide

Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) flakes

This is what our first batch looked like after 24 hours. The soap was hard enough to cut into bars at this point. Kinda looked like a large maple doughnut bar.

firstBatchToBeCut

Transferred soap loaf from mold to cutter template

cuttingFirstbar

Cutting each bar, which is 7/8 inches thick to fit into a 1 inch deep cardboard packaging box

barCut

The first bar cut from the first batch ever made by us. I shall call him….”One Eye”

yield

Each batch yields 13 bars around 3.8 oz each.

Here is the procedure that we used:

  1. Measure out your lye according to the recipe and add the lye to the distilled water slowly into a container that isn’t aluminium. Mix it up with a wooden spoon, then let it cool to about 100-110 degrees F.
  2. While its cooling, mix up your oils, butters etc in a large stock pot and let it cool to about the same temperature.
  3. Add the lye solution to the oils slowly, then hand mix and pulse the blender until it starts to turn to a light custard like consistency or light trace.
  4. At this point you can add dyes and fragrances and continue to mix until a medium trace develops. Mix well.
  5. Pour the soap into the wooden mold lined with either plastic or parchment paper. We used the latter.
  6. Drop mold on concrete to remove bubbles.
  7. Cover with cardboard and then place a insulating blanket on top for at least 24 hours.
  8. Cut into bars and let cure for 3-4 weeks.

The next few batches we will get a little more creative and use dyes and try some more artsy fartsy stuff.

Hay Burners

We have a lot of hay on our property. Timothy and Orchard Grass mixed with a sprinkling of weeds. When we moved, we were hoping to get a local farmer to cut and bail it for some cash. However, our timing was late and the hay wasn’t worth cutting now since its past its prime.  Our only neighbor, knew of someone who needed a pasture for his horses and well, the rest is history as they say. horses3

horses

The owner is getting a really good deal on hay, we’re getting some cash and reducing fire risk. Oh yeah, we have some new friends too; one mare and 3 geldings. The mare (dark brown one) is the boss and the geldings just follow her around like she’s some kind of super-model horse or something. They will probably be with us until winter or whenever the owners outfit them to go hunting.

Nice Rack

Image

Kelly’s brother and his family drove all the way out here to visit with us for a few days. One night while we were out on the patio watching the sun go down, a small herd of Whitetail does came wandering in about 100 feet away from the front porch. While this is a regular occurrence for us, they don’t get to see deer up close very often. This night was even better because a young buck came in after the rest of them. You can see the velvet on his rack. Its not quite hunting season yet, but i think this one might be a good one to harvest….from the porch!

deer