Green Tomato Tallow Soap

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by Sarah Hart Morgan

When a friend’s husband butchered a few head of cattle and asked if I wanted some of the beef fat for soap-making, I couldn’t pass it up. After two days of slow-rendering the fat, it was time to get started on the soap.

I decided this would be a “clean out the fridge” soap. After canning every ripe tomato from my garden, I still had a ton of green fruits on the vines that likely weren’t going to turn before the first frost. Years ago, I’d made a successful soap using my heirloom tomatoes, so I decided to try another batch using the juice of green tomatoes.

I used green Romas for this formula, but any green tomato will work. After processing the tomatoes in my blender with a bit of added water, I ran the resulting pulp through a fine-mesh sieve to collect the liquid. I added the seeds and pulp to my compost pile.

I like to develop formulas in percentages, because when I share them, it’s easier for oth­ers to scale the formula to fit their soap molds. Be sure to run this formula through a soap calculator using the size of your own mold to get the proper lye and liquid measurements (see I use a digital kitchen scale when measuring ingredients.

  • Beef tallow: 60 percent
  • Olive oil: 25 percent
  • Unrefined shea butter: 10 percent
  • Castor oil: 5 percent

Additionally, I like to add 1-1/2 percent of the total weight of fats and oils in beeswax. This doesn’t get factored into the total weight of fats and oils, because I treat it as an additive; the beeswax gets added to the fats during the melting stage.

I used my green tomato juice in place of water, and I typically use about only 90 percent of the water the soap calculator tells me to use (that’s a 10 percent “water discount”). Reducing the water that’s mixed with the lye is a good idea when using vegetable puree in soap, as it results in a shorter curing time.

I prefer not to use any fragrance or essential oils in my soap. Instead, I like to use infused oils to extract the skin-loving benefits of the plants I use. In this soap batch, I used lavender-infused olive oil, wild-rose-infused olive oil, juniper-berry-infused olive oil, and red-clover-infused olive oil. The resulting soap ended up with a naturally clean, pleasant scent. It’s a hard bar that produces a nice lather. I let the bars cure for 6 weeks before using.

Sarah Hart Morgan
Front Royal, Virginia

Rules of Attraction

When working with small screws, nuts, and bolts, it’s handy to keep a magnet in your toolbox. I use a magnetic canning-lid wand, but the kind of magnetic wands used by teaching aides will work too.

To find fallen hardware in a jiffy, just take up the magnet and swipe slowly over the workspace where the hardware dropped. Magnets are also useful for finding hardware that’s fallen behind a shop bench or an appliance. To fabricate a longer handle for those hard-to-reach places, tape the magnet onto a ruler or yardstick.

Michelle Fryc

Harris, Minnesota

No Crying Over Spilled Oil

All you need to clean up spilled cooking oil from a tile floor is some wood ash, which you’ll have in abundance if you own a woodstove. Simply cover the spilled oil with a liberal amount of wood ash, leave it for a few hours or even a day, and then sweep it up. No need for soap, because the ash will absorb the greasy substance better than paper towels will.

I’ve found the same trick to work on droplets of coffee that’ve fallen on my carpet, but I have to be quick!

Sarah Rijziger


An Idea to Knock Your Socks Off

I love wearing heavy socks in winter, but the heels eventually wear out, while the tops remain in good shape. I’ve found that those tops make excellent wrist warmers when I simply cut through the worn-out socks at the ankles. The remaining sock bottoms don’t go to waste either, because they make excellent dust cloths.

Patsy Allen

Marshall, North Carolina

Natural Hair Care

I’m a hairdresser, and I always urge people to quit using expensive, chemical-laden dry shampoos. Cornstarch is a great alternative that won’t leave your hair greasy over time.

If you prefer a wet shampoo, I recommend apple cider vinegar and green tea. A mixture of 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 11⁄2 cups of liquid green tea will make your hair shiny and vibrant. You’ll never have to douse your hair with chemicals again!

Mercedes Cervantes

Detroit, Michigan

Jack Frost Thwarted

We use foam pipe-insulation tubes to protect our young saplings from winter sun scald and chewing rodents. Wrapped with foam, our mulberry sapling is all set to withstand an upstate New York winter!

Renee Schloupt

Wolcott, New York

Keeping His Back Up

As the years have passed, the chances of me pulling my back from carrying firewood have increased. So, I’ve built several small wooden tables to hold my firewood carriers. Now, I don’t have to bend over to lift the carriers up off the ground.

I’ve placed some small tables just outside and inside the door to the house, and another table next to the woodpile. Sometimes, I set a table next to the wheelbarrow I use to bring the firewood as close to the house as possible. This keeps both my hands free to load the wood and quickly open and close the door.

To prevent the carriers from bringing snow or mud into the house, I place pieces of plywood on the tabletops, and then remove the wood after rain or snow to provide a dry surface on which to place the carriers.

I’ve found that oval metal washtubs make good firewood carriers, and they also look nice sitting next to the woodstove.

Philip S. Getty

New Hope, Pennsylvania

Make Do and Mend

I inherited an overabundance of sewing supplies. As I also had a plethora of unused eyeglass cases, I turned them into sewing kits for my neighborhood church’s food pantry.

Lynn Sterner

Los Osos, California

Lemon Power

Before juicing your lemons, remove strips of peel with a vegetable peeler. Place those peels in a new container of white distilled vinegar. Within a few short weeks, you’ll have a refreshing scented cleaner that can be used for a multitude of tasks.

Here are a few ways I like to use my homemade lemon vinegar.

1 In my washing machine’s fabric softener dispenser. It makes my clothes nice and soft, with an added bonus of not masking smells like commercial fabric softeners do.

2 In the rinse cycle of my dishwasher to remove hard-water stains and clean the inside of the dishwasher while doing so.

3 As a general household cleaning spray. I dilute my lemon vinegar with an equal amount of water. You can also add some drops of essential oil. I’m partial to eucalyptus and tea tree. No need to worry about a vinegar smell, as the lemon peel will create a light, refreshing scent.

4 As a base for a light summer salad dressing, with some additional fresh herbs, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. When my original bottle of lemon vinegar is a quarter full of peels, I start a new one.

Another way to use lemon rinds is to rub them on your face as a natural facial exfoliant. I’ll also add some yogurt or honey for extra moisture, let it dry on my face, and then remove it with a warm washcloth.

You can also freeze lemon rinds and then later toss them into the garbage disposal to freshen and clean it.

Marisa Phillips

Meadville, Pennsylvania

Get a Grip on a Great Idea

can on counter with clamp around it

As I grow older, I’ve discovered that my one-time iron grip has degenerated into more of a firm handshake. Nowadays, when I encounter a jar with a lid that’s too tight to open, I pull out a trusty furniture clamp, tighten it on the lid, and pop off the lid with an easy twist of the clamp. I now store one of my furniture clamps in the pantry, to be ready for rebellious spaghetti jar lids.

Ken York

Falls Church, Virginia

‘Berry’ Successful

I’ve been growing blueberries in Kansas for about 20 years. While my soil is neutral (about 7.0 on the pH scale), blueberries need acidic soil. I’ve had limited success raising them in the ground. I tried feeding them with fertilizer for acid-loving plants, mulching them with pine needles, constantly amending the soil with soil sulfur, and more. Although I grew cultivars that were supposed to be compatible with the Kansas climate, getting them to survive the first summer was difficult. They looked great all season long, but they died as soon as the weather started to cool off. At most, the yield from my in-ground blueberry bushes was 1 to 2 gallons per season from no more than seven bushes.

About four years ago, I read about growing blueberries in containers and decided to try this technique. I bought several plastic half-barrels and drilled a couple of 1⁄2-inch holes on the sides, about 2 inches above the base, so some moisture would be retained in the bottom of the pots. Then, I filled the barrels with a homemade mix of 50 percent sphagnum peat moss, 20 percent homemade compost (made from coffee grounds, leaves, and grass clippings), 10 percent garden soil, 10 percent sand, 5 percent perlite, and 5 percent vermiculite. To this, I added a handful of powdered sulfur. I’ve found it’s best to let this blend overwinter in the pots. I made my mixture in early fall but didn’t plant the blueberries in it until the following June.

I bought good-quality rooted bushes from a reputable greenhouse. A couple of weeks after planting them in the pots, I started feeding my containers with ammonium sulfate…–…about 1⁄4 cup stirred into a 5-gallon bucket of rainwater (because tap water will raise the pH). I was striving for between 4.5 to 5.5 pH, preferably the lower end of this range. I stopped feeding the ammonium sulfate in early September, but continued watering with rainwater about once a week through winter.

With this growing technique, my second-year plants grew about 2-1/2 feet in just one summer, and I picked 5 to 6 gallons of blueberries from five bushes that year!

Tim Wiedmaier

Tecumseh, Kansas

Mob-Feeding Calves

calf eating

On our farm, we mob-feed our calves in groups of up to 10. Our homemade feeder is constructed from a nonworking (free) chest freezer and $20 worth of plastic tubing, rubber nipples, and PVC caps and check valves. We’ve found that a single freezer has enough space to feed 8 to 10 calves. We’ve fed calves this way for more than 10 years, and it works great.

inside freezer with milk line into 5 gallon bucket and calf eating on outside

Here’s how we made the mob feeder. We cut four 4-inch-diameter holes in both sides of the freezer, and glued in PVC end caps. Then, we cut 1-inch-diameter holes into the center of each end cap. Next, we threaded rubber nipples through the end-cap holes, and attached plastic tubing and check valves. (We used Peach Teats products.) Finally, we zip-tied the plastic tubing together and fastened a metal washer onto the bottom of the cluster of tubing to keep it from floating in the pails of milk.

The freezer is weatherproof and calf-proof, and it can be used inside the barn or outside in a pasture.

Mary Whitcomb

Williston, Vermont

Big Bird Deterrent

I came up with an idea to keep the birds away from my blueberries. I stapled strips of black plastic onto an umbrella, cut the cover to look like bird wings, and tied on two disks to resemble eyes. Then, I attached my “big bird” to a bamboo pole. So far, so good; I picked berries by the gallon.

Elizabeth Diebold

Elkton, Maryland

Dry Food, Happy Hens

hen in old window

Here’s a tip for readers of your wonderful magazine, copies of which I enjoy sharing with my son. I use an old window greenhouse as a dry place to feed my laying hens. I use black rubber feeder pans made for horses and livestock; two hold grain and table scraps for the hens, and a third pan holds their water. The food and water seldom freeze, because the greenhouse is located on the south side of the coop, which provides protection from the wind. In summer, the greenhouse setup is shaded by flowers and trees.

Mary Marsh

Chaplin, Connecticut

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