why yes, it is real snakeskin

poor mr. snake

We went to the Laurel last week and met with a woman who had just killed this snake.  I have no idea why, it was really small and non-threatening, but you know some people just can’t let things that freak them out slither away.  So, I asked her if she was going to use it, and she gave it to me.

scissors work well for cutting open a snake

I’ve never done anything with a dead snake before, but when my pocketknife failed to produce the desired effect, I decided to use scissors.  Worked like a charm.

peeling the snake open

Once I got the skin split down the length of the snake, I gutted it.  It was pretty much just like gutting a fish, much easier than a chicken for sure.

peeling the skin off

After I cut off the head, I worked the skin off at that point and it was really easy to peel it off the rest of the snake.  If it had been a bigger snake I might’ve decided to eat the meat, but it looked like it would really be more trouble than it was worth.

see, not much meat

So, I already knew that I could preserve snakeskin with glycerin and alcohol, both of which are common household items for me…I have glycerin for soapmaking purposes, but I understand that it is quite pricey if you don’t buy it in quantity from the soap supply.  Anyway, after a quick online search I found that you can use isopropyl alcohol, it doesn’t need to be denatured, so we were good to go.  It’s a half and half solution.  I just eyeballed it, I didn’t measure.  I poured the isopropyl in first and then the glycerin.  This is my attempt at a picture showing the two before they became one.

probably just looks like clear liquid, ack

Hey!  you can see where the line was.  Well, sort of.  I think the white line is the top of the counter as refracted (is that what I mean?  someone will tell me) in the liquid, but you can clearly see there is some swirly action there in there.  I think if I had waited, the two substances would’ve made a uniform substance on their own, but I stirred them up.

it wanted to float, which is why the skewer is in there

So, at first the skin bobbed out a little, so I wrangled it down with a skewer.  After it soaked up some of the solution it was okay, so I put the lid on the jar and waited three days.

We went for a nice long hike at Mill Ridge one of those days.

butterflies mating

We saw these butterflies mating, too, and I had to snap a picture.  I’m surprised it turned out so well.

stretching day

After three days we get to stretch the skin.  I was surprised at how it really has to be stretched.  It was wiggly and puckered.

wiggly and puckered, see?

All that I had to do now was pin it down and work more pure glycerin into it.

stretching the snakeskin and pinning it
the fully pinned down skin
rubbing glycerin into the pinned skin

So now I have to wait until tomorrow, and then it’s supposed to be finished, according to everything I’ve read about it.  I am thinking of making a choker necklace from it, since it is not a really big skin, but I would like some other ideas if you have any.  I’d like to have it completed before I go to the Firefly gathering so I can show it off to my fellow primitive skills enthusiasts.  I am really excited about this! so if you see a dead snake in the road or something, I’d love to have it.  I know only a true friend who really really loves me, or someone who’s just as much of a weirdo, I guess, will pick up roadkill for me, but if it’s a big enough snake to use it’s vertebrae as beads, I’ll make you something pretty with them.  Promise!  I haven’t proceeded to other forms of road kill yet so, hold off on the possums and raccoons for now.  If you see a fox, though, I might just accelerate my learning for one of those.  Yes, I know they spell possum with an o at the beginning but that’s just wrong.

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jewelweed soap and what it led to

This is the flower of the jewelweed that grows in our front yard. Some varieties are more yellow, less orange.  Jewelweed is useful as a poison ivy remedy and I like to make soap with the pulp in it in summer.

patch of jewelweed (and others)
wineberries

When I was out harvesting jewelweed, I came across an unpicked hidden surprise wineberry vine

jewelweed stems look sort of powdery blue

So when using jewelweed for poison ivy, what you want is the pulp inside the stems.  I like to look for big jewelweed plants with big nodes, because the nodes have a big chunk of the pulp in them.

Later in the summer they get even bigger and we will harvest them and freeze the pulp for next spring.

this bowl of wineberries is what I harvested from inside the jewelweed patch, minus the ones I ate while picking

After I harvested the berries and jewelweed I decided to take a few pictures of stuff that’s going on outside at our place before heading inside to get to work (Actually I had already started the batch of soap cooking in the slowcooker)

first praying mantis
upside down tomatoes
volunteer egg gourd

So, now back to work.  We split open the stalks and scrape out the pulp.

split open node and stalk section
nodes have a lot of pulp
I use an old grapefruit spoon to get the pulp out
jewelweed pulp in a jar
the soap overflowed!

This is the first time I’ve used the slow cooker to cook soap.  I guess I need to cut my recipe down so it doesn’t overflow like this next time.  I cook the soap that I make into jewelweed and other herbal soaps to protect the properties of the herb from the chemical reaction of the lye.  I will add the pulverized jewelweed pulp to the soap at the end of the cook and incorporate it with a stick blender.

cabbage water ph indicator

purple cabbage water is a ph indicator.  I decided to make some as a little experiment.

cabbage water turned green by soap on spoon

I don’t think the cabbage water ever shows a neutral color for soap.  Just a little aside experiment.

the jewelweed pulp being pulverized with the stick blender
adding the pulp to the soap
adding essential and superfatting oils

I add essential oils to scent the soap with a calming scent, and a little shea oil to soften up the soap that has been cooking for so long.

stick blendering it together
into a cardboard box mold
in it's mold waiting to be sold