Monday, January 10, 2022

Gaining Clarity in the Midst of Chaos


 I have a confession to make. It's bizarre. in November of 2019, while I was standing in the guest cottage I was struck out of nowhere by the thought, "how could I get out of doing all the things I've gotten myself into?" Just like that. In a flash. 

You might assume that I'd gotten myself into a lot of terrible things like I'd accidentally joined a Mexican drug cartel or I'd become addicted to gambling and owed a ton of money to loan sharks or something else equally nefarious. 


I was questioning how I could untangle myself from a pretty great bunch of things I'd said yes to over the past few years.  A few years ago my motto for the year was "Let the opportunity reveal the path." In that year and to some extent since then, I have been working on saying yes to new or challenging things. My introverted nature is to say no and I was working to overcome that. 

Old things that I had prioritized like serious reading and spending time each day in deep thought were edged out of my schedule by all the new things I was doing, all of which were challenging and enjoyable. I was having a lot of fun and hanging out with really cool and interesting people. At the same time, I was feeling ever more scattered and disconnected. While doing any activity I felt like there were 5 other things I should be doing. I was busier than I've ever been and definitely more social. I was having the time of my life but also wondering why I couldn't gain any clarity and constantly felt so restless. 

Sometimes my husband would say "You're doing too much." To which I would reply that I was not and reaffirm to myself that all I needed was to be more organized or something and go on to the next task. I loved every single thing I was doing! But as an introvert part of what makes life bearable is the time to process what's happening. I'd come to a point where one activity, many that involved other people flowed into the next and it felt like a pressure relief valve was clogged somewhere. But the fun kept me going and who wants to quit doing the fun stuff? 

Not this girl, that's for sure! 

Cue the pandemic: Within the first couple of weeks I knocked out every project I'd been trying to get to for a while. I was in a rush because "15 days to flatten the curve" right? 

Projects completed and lockdown extended (but hey only six weeks!) I turned my attention to the collection of books that lay around unread. I started with Marcus Aurelius and a few pages in I could feel my mind calm. I moved on to Churchill's History of English Speaking Peoples-The Birth of Britain. Thoughtful reading takes time to settle into and I couldn't do that while flitting from one thing to another. 

I also stopped writing on the blog and slowly extricated myself from social media. Instead of writing about, photographing, and sharing the garden on social media I was tending it and what's more, just being in it.  I worked in the garden because it needed tending not because something would make a beautiful photo. The joy of gardening returned. And beekeeping. And learning things quietly by myself. 

My extroverts are getting nervous just reading about it, I know. Stay with me. 

New projects are happening. But priorities have shifted, and many things that were valued in the past have been replaced with a sense of purposeful joy. 

More about that in a future post. 

Sunday, January 31, 2021

What I'm Reading Now


The past few years have been fun and a bit out of character for me. I've done less reading and deep thinking and more projects and getting to know new people. All of those are good things but as there are only so many hours in the day everything is a trade-off. I had a teacher in high school who told us that one day in class and it might be the truest thing anyone ever said in a classroom. 

Everything you choose to do comes at the cost of some other thing. 

So while working and meeting new people wasn't much of an option in 2020 and I had time to finish the main projects I'd been putting off, The desire to read along with the time to absorb and connect with what I was reading returned. I can only tolerate enthralling fiction. My preferred reading material has always been non-fiction. In particular personal development but also, history and biographies. 


I revisited Marcus Aurelius and began Churchill's History of English Speaking Peoples: The Birth of Britain which I'm still working on. It's a book that I often put down to do online research about a place or person mentioned because Churchill assumed a lot of knowledge about English history on the part of his reader. Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life was a game-changer when it came to getting myself in order and sorting out what my priorities should be. Candace Owen's Blackout was enlightening. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich made me grateful for even the simplest pleasure. Reading The Fourth Turning gave me a fresh new view of history and changed my perspective about what looks like chaos. 


The first quarter of this year is dedicated to reclaiming mental and physical strength and energy. My current reading list reflects that. 


Atomic Habits might be the best book on improving habits and hacking your own brain I've ever read and trust me, I've read a ton of these kinds of books. Backed up with plenty of science and research, heavily footnoted, and easy to read you can use this book to change your behavior and your life. I'll be keeping it around as a reference tool and rereading it as well. 

Becoming Bulletproof is about how to overcome fear, learn to read people, and gain situational awareness. Written by Evy Pompouras a former Secret Service agent it's full of practical tips and things everyone should know. The lessons she teaches, if put into practice, can help you feel more powerful and less likely to be a potential victim. 

Loserthink. I like everything Scott Adams does. This book is no exception though his best book is actually How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. In Loserthink he's working on getting the reader to look for flaws in their own thinking and to see how little credence we should really give our thoughts and opinions and those of others until we evaluate them. 

Essentialism is exactly what it sounds like. A book about determining what's essential and how to let the rest of it go. The author, Greg McKeown, has written this helpful book so that it's beneficial whether you are using it to make career decisions or use it to evaluate and enhance your personal life.  For instance, what's the most important thing now? 

For something other than personal development I'm reading A World Beneath the Sands: The Golden Age of Egyptology. It's a subject I'm interested in, my vision board has quite a few pictures of Egypt on it. This book is a detailed account that starts with Napoleon and ends with Carter. The pages in between are filled with people who changed Egypt and Egyptology that you've never heard of. 

I'm currently building the list for February. You'll notice that I've linked to Amazon so you can see the books and get more information about them, but please purchase from your independent local bookseller. 

What's on your reading list right now? 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Who I'm Listening To Right Now


In the midst of the chaos of 2020, I went searching for depth. Around June when I awakened from my Netflix stupor I began with Marcus Aurelius. But I'm weird that way. Don't do that. Unless you know, you are a big fan of reading ancient common sense from brilliant dead Romans. 

To be completely honest I did my share of arguing and trolling on social media last fall. It's how I learned that if you are debating communists or college kids who think they're communists, they'll always tell you whatever failed state you want to name with death tolls in the millions weren't "real communism."  It's their universal answer.  They also think having tax-funded roads we all use is the same thing as socialism. 

In my quest over the past few months to put all that is happening in perspective and gain a better understanding, I discovered a lot of helpful resources. It may be worth noting that what I consider helpful is generally going to be rational and not given to being over-emotional or one-sided. Overall this list has a liberal, scientific, and/or academic slant. When emotions are so ramped up choosing the calmest voice in the storm seems like the best option. 


 Scott Adams. Don't know that name right off? How about Dilbert? So yes, at the moment the majority of news I'm consuming is from a cartoonist. But a cartoonist who also happens to have a degree in economics and is a trained hypnotist and expert in persuasion. There's no better way to get your information than from a guy who can point out all the ways the media is using brainwashing techniques instead of reporting the news. He's also a liberal which means that even though he was a Trump supporter you are getting a very unbiased, not to mention entertaining, view of what's happening. His daily (even on Christmas!) Youtube live stream is like having coffee with a really smart friend and discussing the events of the day. 

Real Coffee with Scott Adams

Tim Pool: Another classical liberal, Tim made a name for himself covering the Occupy Wallstreet Protests. He gives the news citing several different sources including social media and his commentary is especially interesting because he's a Millenial. I like to see things from that perspective. He posts multiple times a day and has a live podcast in the evenings generally with other Millenials as his guests. 

Timcast News


Jordan Peterson: Dr. Peterson is a clinical psychologist with decades of practical experience. He's a professor at the University of Toronto. He's the author of 12 Rules for Life and the upcoming sequel, 12 More Rules for Life. He has over 500 hours of lectures available on Youtube. More than anyone else I'd say Peterson has helped me to gain some clarity recently and get myself in order. 

Bret Weinstein: Dr. Weinstein is a biologist and evolutionary theorist. He gained notoriety during the Evergreen State College protests in 2017. Among other subjects, he talks about the current war against free speech on college campuses. More recently I've discovered his brother, Eric Weinstein, the head of Thiel Capital, and physicist. This pair of brothers coined the term intellectual dark web. 

Gad Saad: Professor Saad is an behavioral scientist and author. His podcast, The Saad Truth has the best title of any podcast. He's the author of The Consuming Effect and The Parasitic Mind. 

Jonathan Haidt: Author of The Coddling of the American Mind, The Righteous Mind, and The Happiness Hypothesis. He's a professor at New York University. He's challenging us all to overcome our confirmation bias and listen in a deep way we might not have done before. He researches the effects of overprotective parenting and social media access on kids. 

Joe Rogan: The number one rated podcast in the world. He's interviewed pretty much everyone at this point and his podcast is a fantastic resource for being introduced to free thinkers and influencers you may not have heard about. 

My friends on the right are going to think this looks like a list of mostly atheistic professors and people who occasionally use some pretty bad language and are too far left. My friends on the left are going to think these people are dangerous with their words that could hurt people's feelings and contain a seeming lack of sensitivity. 


It's called the rational center and it's a place that if the majority of citizens had time to give ideas deep thought and were willing to escape from their information silos and echo chambers we could all meet to construct solutions that work and change that would be worth the effort instead of just a campaign slogan. 

Remember when there was news (who, what, when, where, why) instead of a narrative? 

What do all these people have in common?  They are advocates for free speech and are loudly sounding the alarm about the very real danger we are in of the First Amendment as we know it becoming a thing of the past. There's plenty to agree and disagree with from all of them, but isn't only listening to people we agree with all the time kind of how we got here? 


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

2021:Daring to Make a Vision Board


Did your vision board for last year end up in the trash? I'll be honest there was one day in particular when I wanted to take mine out to the yard and set fire to it. My 2020 vision board was so powerful it caused a global pandemic and nationwide lockdown so I could stay at home and get all my projects done. 

Sorry world. I didn't know my own strength. 

My word of the year was Fika, a Swedish word meaning to slow down and enjoy the good things in life and I wanted to "make time for wellness." 

It had a picture on it of a woman with beautiful gray hair but I didn't plan on stopping coloring mine until I was 60 because there's always a trip planned or an event to attend. 

If only no one would see me while it grew out, I'd do it, I thought. 

You can see why I put extra thought into my action board for 2021. You can feel safe in knowing that there is nothing on this year's board about staying at home or slowing down. 

Now, you might be saying, "Michelle, what about all that's going on right now? How do we make a plan with so much uncertainty?" To which I say, any certainty we ever have in this life is an illusion. Especially when it concerns other people. 

But what we have is control over ourselves.

“Strengthen the individual. Start with yourself. Take care with yourself. Define who you are. Refine your personality. Choose your destination and articulate your Being. As the great nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche so brilliantly noted, ‘He whose life has a why can bear almost any how.‘”

~Jordan Peterson

With that in mind, I gave a lot of thought to what should be on my vision board when I made it over the holidays. To be honest, as I've covered in a previous post, I let 2020 be an excuse to become soft and weak and slovenly. I gained extra weight. I spent too much time on social media. I read less and watched more television than I have in years. I wasn't my best self in the past 12 months. 

Read my post Straight Talk for the New Year. 

Setting ourselves in order doesn't get any more basic than getting our bodies in shape. So I've started there. In fact, that is the only real aim of the first 75 days of 2021. The overarching priority of the year is family. We aren't best serving our families if we are tired and unmotivated.  Following closely behind is a return to serious reading, something that was at the center of my day for a quarter of a century but was edged out in the past few years by other things.

Here's how it looks applied to a vision or as I prefer to call it most of the time an ACTION board. You'll  notice the entire bottom half is dedicated to travel. We have to have hope, right? 

Half of the board is about health and habits. In future posts I'll be sharing more about my actual plan. 

The other half of the board is dedicated to family, community, and embracing this particular part of life.

Last year's board was filled with beekeeping and gardening and home projects. You can see that there are casual nods to them this year because they are built into life and don't need special concentrated effort. 

We need some hope, right? Make sure you put some on your board! 

And after a year in which millions of people have lived in fear, struggled with depression and lack of motivation, and all the (insert your favorite expletive here) rest of it we need to focus on living beyond fear and focusing on our mental health. Again, getting ourselves in order. 

How are you going about planning your year? What was your biggest struggle in 2020? What did you learn about yourself and how is that going to affect how you live in this fledgling new year? 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Straight Talk for the New Year

I hope you don't know the people in this photo. I took it at the beach a few years back but I couldn't find anything else that better represented how 2020 made me feel. 

 Let me start by saying that this post is mostly about me and where I am and what I think I need to change. But there's a pretty good chance coming out of 2020 that someone else needs to hear this.

This post is not for you if: you are the caregiver for another person. God bless you, you probably aren't even asking for all the help you really need. If you are sick or getting over an illness. I'm a big fan of proper rest. Especially if you are recovering from Covid. Our experience was that the fatigue lasted far longer and was more powerful than anyone was talking about.  Today's post isn't for you if you know deep down you are at your limit and are doing your best or if you feel at all like you are just hanging on. If any of that sounds like you, then please take care of yourself in the best way you know how. It isn't for you if you are depressed, have lost your business, or are grieving. 


The rest of us need a little straight talk. 

I love the self help world of vision boards and affirmations. It's comforting. It was especially comforting when I've been watching Netflix like it was my full time job and eating cookies on the sofa since March. You can want things to change, but the underlying attitude is that you should just accept yourself and keep telling yourself you're awesome. Lots of people need this message. If you have low self-esteem or have spent years or even decades beating yourself up. We need those voices. 

But do we need them endlessly? 

A lot of the messaging is so supportive, empathetic, and focused on self-love that it can fairly easily slide into a lack of discipline. A pass for every weakness. An excuse for every failure. I know this because I've fallen pretty deep into this trap myself in 2020. 

Yes, Netflix. I'm still watching. What's your point? 

In the self-help/motivational arena the pendulum has swung too far toward the overly compassionate self-care biased view of what's good for people.  We're starting to see repercussions of it in society. 

We've been lounging around making vision boards and saying affirmations when we should have been at local town halls, prying ourselves off the couch to go for a walk, and skipping junk food. We've been expecting so little of ourselves because, you know, the struggle is real and all, that we've become ineffective and slothful. Feckless: my anti word for the year. Our quest for happiness and bliss has caused us to steer away from telling ourselves the truth. 

I'm pretty mad to learn that the 2020 calories ended up counting. 

On social media, I've been watching a blowback campaign against a celebrity who posted that she was doing a cleanse to focus on her health. She's being called all kinds of names and accused of being intolerant of fat people. We have entered territory where instead of rude people cruelly fat-shaming, other rude people are now shaming people who are taking responsibility for their own health. We are watching the human crabs pull their own back down into the bucket.  

The best way to fight against all of this is to get our own house in order. Be responsible for ourselves. Tend our own health and wellbeing. Stop acting like life is hard. Read a history book. We are living the easiest, most luxurious, safest lives in the history of mankind, all the while whining about the struggle. 

I still made a vision board for 2021 (It's awesome) and I still think affirmations are great. But I also recognize I've been coddling myself. Anyone else lost touch with their inner adult? I've said "But we're in a pandemic!" for the last time. I'm turning off the TV and brushing the crumbs off my shirt. 

I'm getting myself in order. Who's with me? 

If you need to start slow because you lost momentum in 2020 (and who didn't?) start here with some simple steps anyone can do to get going.  Fresh Start Field Guide: 31 Simple Steps for Improving Simply. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Why I Stopped Posting About Politics

Out of the ten years I've been blogging I spent the first five discussing culture, politics, books, wellbeing and a host of other serious topics with a friend.  It was called The Professor and the Housewife. We posted twice a week for five years. Our discussions were wordy and weedy.  We were pretty boring and no one read it. But the exercise of doing it clarified my thinking on a lot of issues. 

 Here's a tip: If you want to know what you really think about something write about it. Writing is thinking. It was a great challenge. All during 2020, I have missed it because this would have been the best year ever for that particular project. 

Eventually, the blog died a natural death which was sad at first but then felt like a relief as I focused more on writing about bees, gardening, and decorating. I've spent the last five years focusing on health and personal happiness. I've loved encouraging people, teaching, and giving tips. 

But the real reason I stopped writing about the big stuff was that the more research I did the more I realized how little any of us really understand what is going on in the world or in our own minds. We live in the most complex and interconnected period in history.  We see a sliver of what is happening, and that sliver is chosen for us. 

Today's food for thought: Has that last sentence always been true? 

And much of that lack of understanding has to do with our own brains and how they are hardwired to focus on some things and not focus on others. If you don't know about the dancing gorilla experiment done by Daniel Simons you might not know how easily your brain's attention can be manipulated (the social media companies do though). That video alone will make you question everything you think you know about how your mind works. Beyond that, ongoing research seems to prove that no matter how hard we try to be rational humans our irrational emotional brains are hard to tame. 

Yale did a study that seemed to show conservatives would flip to more liberal ideas if you could convince them they were completely safe.  Another study showed that parents who have a daughter are more likely to vote Republican. According to Science Direct, both liberals and conservatives are similarly motivated to avoid crosscutting informationA study at Rice University indicated Conservatives generally pay more attention to a broad array of threats. Did you know that feeling "safe and endowed with strength" causes people to lean left? A survey by the thinktank More In Common revealed that the higher education level a person has the less likely they are to accurately understand the motives and views of the opposing side and it was true of Democrats and Republicans. There's an endless supply of these studies just so cherry-pick the one that proves the point you want to make. 

My point is this: 

We all believe that we have our opinions because we have studied or done our own independent research and have reached our conclusions after much thought and analysis. 

That simply isn't the case. Instead, we are seeing the world through our personal filters. What is really happening is that our opinions are handed to us. Handed to us by our families, churches, communities, advertisers, organizations, political parties, the school system, the media we consume, and institutions of higher learning. Or we identify with some particular group and we adopt their beliefs wholeheartedly (literally) without doing any deep and challenging thinking. 

More recently the corporatization of the media and the rise of big-tech have worked to take these opinion assignments and make them global. They are more deep-seated. Corporate media and big tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have colluded to make sure that finding factual information requires extra effort that an overworked, over-scheduled, over distracted populace isn't going to do.

If you aren't constantly questioning your own thinking, sources of information, assumptions, and occasionally coming to conclusions that you were hoping were wrong, you are a low informed voter and citizen no matter how much media you consume. 

Given that we can't trust our own primitive brains which are concerned overwhelmingly with survival (not being cast out of the tribe is a big part of that) and given that we often only think we are thinking I began to focus more on what I could actually influence. What could I teach? How could I help? Who could I encourage? Because what's the point of discussing things that we can't change? And let's face it if you know any humans you know you are not likely to change their thinking with facts and data. I'll bet you've tried and you've only been frustrated.  That's because while we all like to think we are super intellectual, informed, and aware, in fact, all of us are making decisions based on emotion then using confirmation bias to bolster in a way that seems like reasoning our emotionally held beliefs.  

I'll bet you're thinking "No wonder no one read their blog." Well, anyway this is I stopped writing about politics and started posting pretty pictures of bees and flowers instead. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

It's Never Too Late to Start Over Even in 2020

Remember when there were goals for 2020? Remember #2020vision ? I know. I'm laughing too.  But I'm also realizing a lot of the goals I had A topic for another post. Today let's tackle today. Only today. Wondering how to get back on track as we near 2021? How to have hope for the future? How to go back out in the world and be around people? How to get back in shape? How to start writing again after taking 8 months off like me? This was the year I was going to write a book. 

If you've been winning 2020 this post is not for you, it's for those who are struggling. 

I've been reading my own blog posts about getting things done. I've written a lot about it. I started the year with 31 Simple Steps and they're pretty helpful if you need to begin at the beginning. 

For many of us the main problem of the past few months has been that every day has mostly been the same and there is little to look forward to. Motivation to get anything done is lacking, there's no sense of urgency. Tomorrow will be like today. It can be overwhelming and depressing. There's little to do and yet somehow it all seems like too much. How to move forward? If you are struggling with finding any enthusiasm for the day in our isolated, and anxious world right now, I feel you. But enough is enough. I'm starting to feel like I've been too kind to myself the past few months and that we've come to the time for some tough love. I'm starting slow. 

One must begin. So let's do that. 

1. Get up. Done.

2. Vitamins and water. Done. 

3. Stretching. Done. 

After that, it's painfully obvious that I'm out of shape. That perhaps should be the thing and maybe the only thing that I focus on for the foreseeable future. Without mental and physical health nothing else much matters. Climbing the stairs should not make my heart race and this morning it did. 

4. Writing. Okay, we're in the process, so that's something. 

5. What next? Often when we don't know what to do or don't feel inspired or motivated by anything the thing to do is to put something in order. Hang up some clothes piled in a chair. Load the dishwasher. Sort the mail. Empty the trash. 

6. Eat the most nutritious thing that can be found in the house. There's something about knowing your body, at least temporarily has the things it needs to function on a cellular level that causes you to lurch forward a bit and gain momentum. Drink some more water. 

7. Sit in the sun. No need to do anything but just sit there except perhaps think about soaking up Vitamin C and D and acknowledge the release of serotonin in the brain which makes everything better. 

8. Read some inspiring non-fiction. Something by someone who is either further along the journey or has accomplished something worthwhile, or a biography of someone who lived an admirable life. 

9. Don't think about the big goals. Think about putting a system in place for today that can be replicated tomorrow and the next day and so on. 

10. Go to bed at a reasonable hour. Haven't we all watched enough Netflix already? 

Our lives have been disrupted in big and small ways we couldn't have imagined one short year ago. You may have to string a few of these days together to be in a place to demand more of yourself. That's okay. I'm amused that at the beginning of 2020 when I wrote about a Gentle January I had no idea how much more useful the concept would be a year later. 

But here we are. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

What to Do if You Find a Bumblebee Nest Around Your House or Garden

Last week I rescued a bumblebee nest from the front porch of someone's home. I thought it might be a good time to revisit this topic. 

I have a bumblebee nest in my potting shed. As a beekeeper, I'm pretty knowledgeable about honeybees but I had to read up on bumblebees, their behavior, and nesting habits. First, let me tell you that bumblebees, unlike honey bees are native to North America. So they are vital to the environment along with carpenter bees and the 4,000 other species of natives. Honeybees brought here by the Europeans were introduced to provide the colonists with honey and beeswax. They are vital to our food supply but actually compete with native bees for resources.

Bumblebees are amazing pollinators so be kind to them when you come upon them in the garden!

Here's a video of the nest. You can see the queen bringing pollen into the nest to prepare for laying eggs. Once her offspring hatch, which takes about 21 days, she'll no longer leave the nest but stay inside laying eggs. Good thing I caught her on this video!

Unlike honeybees bumblebees nest under the ground usually but one particular species, Bombus hypnorum or Tree bumblebee, nests in birdhouses so I'm fairly sure that's what we have here. After hiving my very first bees I hung the swarm box up in the potting shed where it's been for 6 years. This box is about 5 or 6 feet off the ground and contains an abandoned Carolina wren nest. This box is how bees are shipped through the mail. Let's just say when it contains 10K bees the postal workers are most eager for you to arrive and retrieve your package!

Compared to the 60K-100K residents a honeybee hive might contain a Bumblebee nest is made up of around 50 to 400 bees. Since this nest is in a high traffic area during summer I'm hoping things stay on the smaller side. While male honeybees cannot sting and the females are far less defensive than honeybees or wasps they can sting if the next is threatened so I'll be giving these bees as much space as I can despite the fact that they have made themselves at home in a busy spot this time of year. Being careful not to get too close or breathe on them seems to be important.

I'm moving a few garden tools out of the way today so as not to disturb them. Read about other residents of the potting shed in All Things Great and Small Love a Potting Shed.

Everything about this nest meets the requirements I read about for the Tree Bumblebee: an old birdbox or nest, 5 or 6 feet off the ground, a shady corner out of the day's heat and direct sunlight.

I have to say I'm very excited about having bluebirds and bumblebees in the same year!

I'll keep you posted on what happens with them but if you'd like to know more check out Bumbleebee Conservation. Org

What to do if you have a bumblebee nest:

Quite a few of you have contacted me with questions about how to deal with the nests at your homes.
Here's the buzz on that. (sorry I can't help myself)

1. Remember that bumblebee nests don't last long, unlike honeybee colonies. The bumblebees all die before autumn, with the exception of the queen.

2. It is likely that if you don't disturb them they won't bother you at all.

3. Remember that while bumblebees can sting they are far less likely to do so than ground hornets or wasps.

4. If you can see where the nest is avoid spraying chemicals near it or mowing over it. You don't want to disturb the next but you also don't want to stir them up.

5. If they are in a truly undesirable location you can place a board or other object like a plastic container cut in two to redirect their traffic.

6. If it's absolutely necessary you can attempt to move the nest, at night, while wearing protective gloves and long sleeves. Only half of bumblebee nests are successful so this is, or course, a last resort.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

How to Make Soap at Home

homemade soap

If you have never paid much attention to soap I'm sure it has your attention now! While we're in a global hand washing frenzy and have a little extra time on our hands I thought I'd reshare the recipe I use to make my own soap. If you want to make the simplest version of soap possible you can start with melt and pour. For that read Goats Milk and Honey Soap. 

If you want to make the most cost effective from scratch recipe like grandma used to make, well she was probably using tallow instead of these fancy fats, here's how to do that. 

Often people see lye in the ingredients and ask if this is a harsh soap. Well, this is the only soap we use and my husband whose skin used to be so irritated by commercial soap loves it. I use it on my face. What makes commercial soap so harsh and drying isn't the lye which is necessary to make soap its all the detergents and other things added to it. As you'll see the fats and oils added to this recipe are very soothing.

Now let's get started!

But first...


Lye is an extremely dangerous thing to work with. Especially when it is mixed with water. Always wear eye protection, rubber gloves, long sleeves, pants, and shoes for your protection. Do not make soap in the presence of children or pets! 

Now that I've scared you silly, let's have some fun. You can use a lot of things for molds. Boxes, milk cartons, and silicone ice cube trays.

goats milk guest soap

 Some of my most popular soap is the little honeycomb ones. It's made in a silicone cake pan available on Amazon. 

home made soap


distilled water
 coconut oil
 olive oil
 shea butter
 stearic acid


Eye protection
Rubber gloves

Digital scale
stainless steel thermometer
large glass container 
large stainless steel pot 
non-reactive spoon or spatula
stick blender
oils or scents

The Process:

Lye + water + oil/fat = soap

Lye (sodium hydroxide) is a salt. When the lye is combined with the oils/fats a the process that takes place is called saponification. Though lye is caustic in its original form once the saponification process is complete, no lye will be left in the finished product. 



Because a chemical reaction is taking place is it important that you carefully measure all the ingredients. It's best not to use kitchen measuring cups or spoons for this but a digital scale. 

The measurements I use for this recipe are: 

16 oz. coconut oil

2 oz. olive oil 

2 oz. shea butter

1 oz. stearic acid

3.4 oz. lye

7.1 oz. distilled water

making soap

Making the soap: 

Carefully and slowly add the lye to the water (never the water to the lye!!!) and stir. Let cool. 

Melt the oils and fats together in a glass container in the microwave. I add the shea butter last because it can get a little grainy if overheated. 

Measure the temperature of the lye mixture and the oil mixture until they have cooled to 10 degrees of each other and are both below 130 degrees. 

Pour the melted oils/fats into a large stainless steel pot. Carefully (are you wearing your goggles and gloves?) pour the lye mixture into the pot and stir. Next, insert the stick blender and begin blending your soap mixture. Gently, not vigorously. You don't want to introduce air bubbles. Continue blending until you achieve "trace." 

Trace is when you can see a trail where you have dragged the blender through or when you drip some soap on the surface and it doesn't immediately disappear. Add colors and scents at this point and give a quick blend then pour into your mold. If you want to put anything in it that will remain solid now is the time to do that. I like to encrust my soap with herbs or flowers. 

Cover with a towel and either let cool at room temperature of pop in the fridge. Overnight. 

making soap at home

The next day pop it out of the mold and cut if necessary. Place in a cool dry place with good air circulation for 3-6 weeks. The process of making soap isn't finished until it has fully cured. 

After that enjoy your luxurious homemade soap!