I was looking for handmade Christmas gift ideas that could use up some of the bounty from the farm harvest. I spent hours on Pinterest but it was a passing comment from someone on Facebook that reminded me of soapmaking.
Light bulb! I’ve made soap! It’s not terribly difficult! And…I have about thirty pounds of lard in the freezer!
Raising pigs this year was extremely rewarding. Nothing else I did made me feel quit so farm-ish; rounding up escaped pigs in the early morning mist (the trick is cookies and an air of indifference. Never give chase!). Repairing fence that the aforementioned pigs had busted through with their incessant snoozling. Luring the pigs into the livestock trailer (the trick is marshmallows and a lot of patience) for eventual butchering.
It’s hard to grow animals from babyhood to adolescence and then send them off to be killed. To be honest, I would prefer if we did our own butchering, but our proximity to a busy highway and lack of a barn would make it unpleasant for the folks around us to witness by force. So we take good care of them, we give them back scratches and baths and lots of treats and then we have a gloomy afternoon after they are on their way to be processed.
Every time I question our decision to raise our own meat, and every time it comes to this: if I am going to eat meat (and for now, I am), then it is my job to bear witness to the lives we take for it.
What does this have to do with soap? Well, I want every bit of our pork back when we take our pigs in to be butchered. We take good care of our animals and I don’t want any part of them wasted. When I realized I could make soap with some of the lard we’d kept I was elated – what a neat memento of our first year of farming! And an easy way to make something small to send to my large family and give as gifts to the folks who supported us in getting this all started.
I knew a little bit about soapmaking already – my friend Jenn made cold-process soap for years and I helped her a couple times, then tried hot process on my own to make olive oil soap (best thing for cleaning oil paint from paintbrushes).