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Wednesday, May 30th 2012

10:11 PM

The Golden Pond

Bob is making a trip to the manure lagoon this Saturday. He likes to call it the Golden Pond. I call it the Poop Pond. The town we live in has many more cows than people. Therefore, there is an abundance of these lagoons. Why, might you ask, would a sound minded person do such a thing on a Saturday morning? It’s all about the glycerin.

Glycerin is an interesting compound. It is also called glycerol, a colorless sweet viscous liquid derived from vegetable fats. It is a by-product of the soap-making process, which separates the glycerin from the fatty acids in the oil. The naturally-occurring glycerin stays in handmade soaps, but is usually removed from commercial soaps. Glycerin is a humectant that absorbs moisture from the air to keep hair and skin moist. It is also used as an emollient (skin softener), lubricant (skin lubricator that helps prevents moisture loss), emulsifier (thickener) and diluting agent in cosmetics. Glycerin is what makes natural liquid soap a strong degreaser.

Glycerin is also a byproduct of the production of biofuel from waste vegetable oil. Bob makes fuel for all three of our vehicles so there is a lot of glycerin byproduct. He makes Full Cycle Soap from some of the byproduct. It is a fine, rich dark brown, liquid soap which is an excellent all purpose cleaner. In this case, the soap making process starts out with the glycerin byproduct (a combination of glycerin,  free fatty acids and residual soap) instead of the oils. The soap production proceeds by adding an alkali (lye), water and heat. However, unless someone orders a tanker truck of soap, there will always be a large quantity of glycerin to be dealt with. Hence the manure lagoon, the perfect place to dispose of this excess.

It turns out that another aspect of glycerin is that, when diluted, even with liquid manure, it can be used to enrich the soil. So, it’s not a matter of doing no harm. The glycerin is actually beneficial when applied to the soil along with the liquid manure. A local farmer friend is happy to have the glycerin and it gives Bob a close handy place for disposal. Of course, manure lagoons come with their own set of challenges. There is the smell and if anyone knows Pastor Mike, ask him about his boot sometime.

As for me, I don’t go near the Poop Pond. My job is to have lunch for Bob when he gets back and to clean his work clothes (using Full Cycle Soap), which is enough. 

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