Selecting from a collection of soaps displayed inside Venersborg School House, Battle Ground resident Kristina Salmi Klotz held out a bar that smells like bacon.
The scent was not intentional, Klotz said.
“This is the kind of soap that might have been made 100 years ago,” Klotz said. “They would have used animal fats. This one is made from lard from a local pig.”
Klotz, who typically makes her soaps from beeswax and vegetable oils, gave a soapmaking demonstration Sunday as part of Venersborg Community Club’s first Homestead Day. The event aimed to raise money to complete a bathroom under construction in Clark County’s only surviving one-room schoolhouse.
Soapmaking was just one of the homespun demonstrations volunteers gave Sunday to a full-house audience. The event was a hit with attendees, many of whom are part of a lifestyle movement that favors homemade products over those bought at a store. Consumer concerns about what’s in the products they use and the economic downturn have helped to give the movement steam.
“There is real interest in people being able to use those old skills, whether they have a hobby farm or just to be economical,” said Kristine White, treasurer of the Venersborg Community Club. The club takes care of the schoolhouse, which is on the state and national historic registers.
Volunteers on Sunday offered lessons on pickling, making bread and jam, raising chickens, milking goats, spinning and extracting seeds from dried flowers.
Ridgefield resident Dolores Dougherty showed a group of onlookers how to fashion a drop spindle out of two CDs and a wooden dowel. Then, she demonstrated how to spin sheep’s wool into yarn.
“Basically, they’ve been doing this since Egyptian times, only they did it with silk,” she said.
Dougherty said that 35 years ago, the Vancouver spinning club she’s part of had only four members.
“We had to have our spinning wheels made for us,” she said. “Now, there are 35 women. We all get together and spin, so it’s not a dying art.”
During the soap demonstration, Kelso resident Erin Fields asked Klotz for a critique of her homemade laundry detergent.
“It’s not sudsy enough,” Fields said. “I was wondering if I need to add more soap.”
The question spawned an enthusiastic exchange between Fields, Klotz and Rainier, Ore., resident Jennifer Walter on recipes for making many of the products often associated with store shelves.
“I just found a homemade Febreze recipe,” Fields said. “You just use some conditioner, fabric softener and water. I also have a recipe for fabric softener without all the chemicals in the store-bought kind.”
“Vinegar is a good fabric softener, and it doesn’t smell,” Walter chimed in.
Fields said making her own products gives her a sense of accomplishment.
“Plus, I’m saving money and saving the environment, and I know what’s in the products I’m making,” she said.
The Venersborg School House was built in 1912 as a school and community hub for a colony of Northern European immigrants who settled the area. The Venersborg Homemakers Club, now known as the Venersborg Community Club, took stewardship of the building in 1949. The building is now used for weddings and community and educational events.
An apple tasting is scheduled at the schoolhouse Oct. 23, and there is a free wreath-making lesson Dec. 4. The community of Venersborg is about five miles east of Battle Ground.