Sunday, April 17, 2011
It's No Lye That Soap Is Made From Pot Ash
The word potassium came from the Dutch word "potash" literally referring to the substance left behind in the kettle or pot when wood ashes are leached with water and then left to evaporate--whence my title [insert snickering reference to the Dutch and their penchant for "pot"].
Scooping the ash out of the fireplace reminded me of how people used to make their own soap from lard. The first step in making soap is to have a good quantity of lye on hand. Lye is just concentrated potassium hydroxide, KOH, easily made from wood ash. recipe Someone I knew back in Wisconsin used to make his own soap from used motor oil. The stuff worked quite well and really cut grease, but it smelled a bit like...used motor oil.
Potassium (but not sodium) is essential to plants and the growth of wild plants is often limited by their supply of K+. This is also why fertilizer is classed according to its nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) content. Plants don't have feelings and the proof is that they don't require the sodium crucial for propagating nerve impulses. I found a cool animation of how potassium and sodium are channeled and gated here. Back in my day we had no such animation tools and we had to imagine concepts like this. Here is a complete animated overview of how our brains communicate with our toes: link. Sodium and potassium are crucial for these processes.
In a way, this also describes how words become flesh.