This week I am so pleased to bring you a guest post from artisan soapmaker of more than ten years experience, Ros Wathen of Larkrise Soaps, about her inspiring journey to more natural living.
My family had always lived a fairly healthy life, cooking from scratch, growing our own vegies, keeping chooks, making bread, preserving and bottling fruits and vegies. We lived this way because it made us happy, and it was the way my parents and theirs had always done things.
Then ten or so years ago my eldest son developed cancer while in his mid-twenties. How could this be? No-one in our family had suffered like this before, and the only difference I could see between the way my children grew up and lived and the way my parents did was the amount of artificial stuff present in the environment, in processed food, in cleaning products, in makeup, in plastics, everywhere!
So I decided to try to live without as many of these substances as I possibly could.
As our food was fairly chemical free anyway, I started by teaching myself to make soap. I was amazed firstly at how much fun it was to make – handling natural ingredients and combining them to make a beautiful product was like a miracle. I remember squealing with delight and dancing around the house as my first batch started to saponify. The soap was such a revelation, and loved by family and friends alike, that soon we had a small business going, selling at farmers markets in our little town and those nearby.
I continued experimenting with natural cleaning products for around the house. We haven’t bought toilet cleaner for years because bicarb soda and vinegar are perfectly good. Neither have I used shampoo or conditioner. Natural handmade soap followed by a rinse with apple cider vinegar does an excellent job of keeping our hair clean and shiny, and our scalp healthy.
I love experimenting with ingredients and so eventually mastered all the variations of soapmaking. I tried transparent soap. I learnt to make liquid castile soap. I tried hot process soap, making little balls, layered with different colours from various herbal ingredients, sometimes from our garden.
Once I dug up my rhubarb plant and ground the root to soak in olive oil for a few weeks, straining the resulting mess through a cloth. The outcome?
Gorgeous pink soap.
Experiments with purple cabbage, (failure), grated carrot (limited success), parsley (ditto), beetroot (failure). As you see, I’ve had a succession of witchy messes in what is laughingly called the laundry.
I noticed after one of my experiments that the stainless steel pot I was using was always startlingly gleaming when I’d cleaned up. I mixed some of the new soap with some bicarb and tried it on the old kitchen toaster. Amazing! I could see my face in it with only a few rubs.
This was a very exciting development for me, because I realised that now I could really clean the house without buying any commercial products at all.
And so that’s what we do.
We have natural handmade soaps for personal use in the bath and shower and as shampoo.
We have home made spray cleaner for the shower glass, the toilet. and the ring around the bath. If there’s accumulated grime, we use cleaning paste. We have liquid castile soap for handwashing. We use general purpose liquid soap for almost everything else. I won’t use conditioner. I can’t make it myself (it’s not soap) and so-called natural conditioner bases always seem to contain something dodgy. Anyway, the apple cider vinegar does an excellent job.
I couldn’t be more pleased with these products, and have just recently added them to the list of items we sell on our little farmers market stall. They contain no toxic substances at all, and not even anything called ‘plant derived’. We’ve decided to offer them fragrance free, or perfumed with essential oils.
A footnote to this story – my son is now cancer-free. Modern chemicals do have their application for ‘good’!
As usual this post will be shared over at the Lovely Jess’s I Blog On Tuesdays.