DIY- Making Soap Instead of Gardening

In an attempt to forget about my lack of gardening success I decided to make another batch of olive oil soap. My first batch a couple of years ago turned out pretty good even though it was quite unattractive. This time around I used a proper soap mold ($6) and cutter ($5) that I bought from in the winter.  The items were ordered on the same day and shipping was included in the pricing. The cutter arrived within two weeks, but the soap mold was sent on the slow boat from China and landed in my mail box  about three months later.

Silicon soap mold and soap cutter, with a free gift from China.

The batch was too much for the mold, so I used a piece of PVC pipe and cap for the leftover soap.

The PCV pipe with the cap off.

I got this bright idea from a U-tube video. It worked fine on the video – the lady effortlessly removed the cap and gently tapped the soap out of the pipe.  In my case, it took at least twenty minutes to remove the cap and then I couldn’t get the soap out by tapping it. I had to push it out by putting my arm in the pipe and pressing as hard as possible on the soap. Luckily, I didn’t get my arm caught in the pipe. The soap was easy to cut with the cutter, but next time I will use an old juice container for the leftover soap.

If you can remove the soap from the PCV pipe it is easy to cut.


Here is the end result – some rectangular and round soap.



Gardening 2017

After last year’s dismal garden I was hoping for an improved version this summer. I prepared some seedlings in early spring in my indoor greenhouse. Although the greenhouse was in front of a window on the south side of the house the plants struggled to absorb the sunshine and flourish. In the beginning they looked pretty good, but as spring lingered for weeks they looked withered by the time I was ready to place them in the garden. In the end, I trashed them and bought tomato seedlings from the garden center. This was my last attempt at starting seedlings indoors. The hassle and disappointment are not worth saving a few dollars. From now on I am going straight to the local garden center to pick up seedlings.  I converted the mini-greenhouse into a shoe closet in the basement. 

In addition, to my garden boxes I made a small cucumber patch by using some decorative fences that my neighbour was throwing out.

I also made a garden for beets, onions and string beans. This garden is proving very popular with my yard visitors – rabbits and groundhogs. These guys are feasting on the beets and beans.

I guess they don’t like onions.  I took preventive measures to keep them out of the raised garden. I used chicken coup and bamboo stakes to make a barrier. This is a temporary fix for now. I plan on making a fence around the raised boxes, but this may not happen this summer.

My herb garden is doing great. All of the herbs resurfaced in late spring with the exception of the rosemary plant. Of course, this is my favorite, but it is not hardy enough to survive an eastern Canadian winter. It acts as an annual in our area, so I got some at the garden center. 


Garden and Chaga Update

My seedlings that I started indoors in the spring in my mini-greenhouse didn’t make a smooth transition to life outdoors. The tomato plants that survived were tall and skinny and produced only a few tomatoes. The cucumbers were even worse – short and stubby. The beets and yellow beans were a bit more successful, but they would not win any prizes at the local agricultural show.

What a terrible garden!

What a terrible garden!

In general, it was not a great summer for local gardens and the lack of attention given to mine definitely contributed to the poor results. Although I was too busy to plant a vegetable garden at my new place this year I planted a small herb garden that did much better than the garden at the cabin. (Below are some close-ups of the plants.)

Although I spent hours last winter scouring the forest on skis searching for chaga I came up empty-handed. Then my brother, who was not looking, stumbled across a ridge with a lot and he harvested some for me. Here are a couple of huge chunks that I cut them into smaller pieces and placed in tin cans to keep dry.

I should have enough for a few months. I also set aside  a big chunk for one of my neighbors who mentioned that he is getting low on his supply.

Daily Prompt: Shelf

Today’s one-word prompt: shelf  was the motivation that I needed to assemble my mini-indoor green house that I purchased on the spur of the moment on Monday. It was reduced by 50% and at $34.99 it seemed like a good investment and a way to start seedlings indoors instead of buying them at the local market.

This will be a gren house in a few minutes.

This will be a green house in a few minutes.

After bringing it home I put it on a shelf in the garage to avoid clutter in the cabin. After all who needs more clutter? Then again what is the point of getting a greenhouse if I am not going to assemble and use it?

It only took about ten minutes to assemble the parts and it is much sturdier than I expected. The most difficult part is putting the plastic cover on because it needs to be snug and you have to be careful not to tear or damage it.

The seeds, soil, bedding trays and pots are on the shelves waiting the arrival of spring on the 19th, two days earlier than normal.  Then, I can start my seedlings and begin the countdown to summer.

From the Cubicle to the Cabin

I packed up my cubicle in July and returned to Canada. Although I don’t miss my tiny cubicle I sometimes long for all the free time I had there. In my cubicle I often struggled to fill my day with tasks and activities whereas now I strive to find the time to do all the things I want to do. There is always something that needs to be done at my cabin and I find little time for blogging.

During the summer I finally completed the abandoned building that I started renovating in the  summer of 2014 to use as a mini-gym. I used pine boards for the walls and ceiling and then painted them with a clear veneer. I painted the floor with some leftover gray paint that someone gave me instead of putting down a new laminate floor as I originally planned. Then I put a fold-up tatami matt that I got in South Korea about fifteen years ago in the center of the room as a rug. Then I decided to transform it into a mini-yoga studio and a place to practice my hobbies instead of a room for my treadmill.

The building is a bit bare, but eventually I hope to furnish and decorate it. For starters, I restored an old table that I discovered abandoned in the woods last summer. It had several layers of paint and many rough spots. It took a few hours to remove the paint with a scraper, plain the top of the table and then sand it off as smooth as possible before staining it dark brown. Now, I am on the lookout for a chair to match my table.

In addition, I stained an old bookshelf to match the table. I am using it for ornaments. As soon as I find some cheap material or old curtains at a yard or rummage sale I will make some curtains. I stored the patio table and chairs along with my soap making equipment in the corner for now.

This brings me to my first batch of homemade soap. Let’s just say the end result is not very attractive – not exactly something to show off on your blog. Actually, the goal was to make some chemical free soap using natural ingredients, so even though it looks a bit rough it has a nice texture and it keeps my skin from drying out, especially in the winter months. Before I make my next batch I am going to make a wooden mold to place the silicon baking pans in so that the soap will be square instead of curved.

After my failed garden in Nizwa I was determined to have a successful one in Canada. Before I arrived Florian was in charge of preparing the soil, sowing the seeds and transplanting seedlings and protecting them from late frost. He did a fantastic job. The garden was ready and waiting for me to take care of it. The garden flourished thanks to the long, hot summer and we enjoyed fresh vegetables from the beginning of August through to mid-September. The cucumber, beans and tomatoes were abundant. We couldn’t eat them all, so I made pickled beans, relish, bread n’ butter pickles and salsa. Now, I am getting tired of eating this stuff.

I rearranged the garage and found a suitable place for the treadmill in a section of the garage that I use for storage. I only plan on using this machine when the weather is rainy, snowy or extremely cold, so it is not necessary to have a special building for it. Yet, I keep pondering the idea of converting part of the garage into a rec room.

The winter is in full force with plenty of snow for cross-country skiing. Santa Claus dropped off a new set of skis at my house and I am discovering new muscles aches as I venture out in the woods on my skis in search of chaga. So far I have come home empty-handed, but I have not given up on finding my own source and eventually I will stumble across or ski into a birch covered in chaga. I am also busy knitting a scarf for my cat with some left over yarn.

I will be back soon with a photo of my cat with his new scarf and hopefully some chaga.

Winter Garden in Nizwa – Update

My garden experience in Nizwa has been dismal. Basically it did not grow. I will blame this on the soil and hot weather rather than on my gardening skills. The cucumbers did not germinate. The lettuce started to grow but it wilted away and died before I had a chance to get a photo. The tomatoes grew a little but produced very few fruits. Here are a few photos as they progressed over the winter months.

The watermelon patch started off well enough, but it suddenly died for no apparent reason – perhaps some exotic fungus attached the plants.


The garden did not grow but my little stray cat is getting bigger and bigger. She never seems to stop meowing even when I give her food. Sometimes she disappears for a day or two and I miss her dearly.

Winter Garden in Nizwa

The scorching heat makes it impossible to grow anything in summer but the cooler temperatures and the occasional rain allow for a garden in winter. I have to admit that thinking about planting a garden is quite easy. The difficult part is actually getting started because with the heat and long work days I lack the motivation and initiative to prepare the soil after work. At one point, I considered hiring a laborer to pull out the weeds, dig up the soil, mix in the new earth, prepare the rows and sow the seeds.

In the end, I forced myself to get up at 5 o’clock on the weekend so that I could prepare my garden for planting. I started with a small space that was full of weeds, garbage, rocks and sand.

Is this really a garden?

Is this really a garden?

After about five minutes I made a new friend – an adorable little kitty that I discovered hiding amongst the overgrown water spinach.

What should I do with this little kitten?

What should I do with this little kitten?

I  used a small shovel, a broken rake and a garden tool to remove the weeds and rocks. This took much longer that I expected because that silly kitten didn’t want to leave its shady patch of weeds.

What a mess!

What a mess!

Eventually my garden was empty and I felt like calling it a day as the sun was making its way around to the garden. 

Almost finished.

Almost finished.

However, I forged on by making a long row for lettuce and four smaller rows for tomatoes and bell peppers. I used some homemade compost and potting soil that I bought at the local nursery for each row. I also kept a small area near the wall for cucumbers.

The garden is ready for sowing seeds.

The garden is ready for sowing seeds.

My colleague gave me some organic seeds that he brought back from Australia and I hope these will be suitable for the local climate.

After preparing the main garden I decided that to do something with this mess in the yard.

With a little work this could be a garden.

With a little work this could be a garden.

So, the next day I cleaned up the mess by moving the cement blocks to the side of the fence and tearing out all the dead plants and weeds. After about an hour I took a short break and when I returned someone was waiting for me.

Are you making a sandbox for me?

Are you making a sandbox for me?

The kitten might think that this is a sandbox but it is going to be my watermelon garden.

Going to try and grow watermelons here.

Going to try to grow watermelons here.

When it cools off a bit I am going to carry the cement blocks to the roof and use them along with a couple of wood pallets that I found near the garbage dumpster to make a table and bench so that I can relax and enjoy fresh watermelons in the evening after work.