Category Archives: AboutOurSoap

When we say local, we mean it

The milk in our soap and lotion represents money spent with the hay guy in Forest Grove. Money spent at Wilco in Cornelius. At Ag West in Hillsboro. At Aloha Feed. At Metro New Holland in North Plains. At Pacific Tractor in Hillsboro. At Motz Nursery. At the local grain elevator, to the local tax assessor, and with the local livestock veterinarian. And on and on. We’re a small farm, but each little farm spending locally keeps these other farms and farm providers in business. Each farm lost adds up to eventually losing the critical farm infrastructure necessary for the remaining farms to stay viable. Did you know that one of the criteria for taking farms out of zoning protection is the absence of local agricultural service providers? Already, Portland-area farms have to drive to North Plains and Cornelius for a lot of essential farm supplies.

When you buy Mamma Goat soap, you aren’t just supporting a local “crafter”  (I am not a “crafter;” I am a goat farmer).  You’re supporting the local economy, especially local agriculture.

Sure, we could make soap with powdered milk. We could have our nights and weekends back, free of farm chores, liberated from farm taxes. But we won’t do it. We believe that powdered and ultra-pastuerized milk is far inferior to fresh, raw, local milk.

It’s like deep-fried frozen broccoli vs. steamed broccoli fresh from the garden. High heat and dessication denatures the essence of foods. You know how milk at the store has Vitamin A and D added? That’s because pasteurization heat destroys those vitamins, just one example of how excess processing changes the ingredients. We work hard to keep the soaping process cool so the milk stays in the most natural form possible.

Our commitment to the local economy doesn’t end with the milk, either. Our Camelina oil comes from the same farmer you buy from at local farmer’s markets, grown in Washington state. Our canola oil is grown in the Pacific Northwest, too. Our “tropical” oils would be cheaper from East Coast and MidWestern importers, but we buy them locally. Those local suppliers need customer support to keep local jobs alive. And we urge them – with every single order – to source more local ingredients. Most soap-makers don’t do that. But farming is a different perspective. We support healthy communities of microbes in our soil, healthy communities of goats, and healthy human communities around us.

As farmers, we care about how our ingredients are grown, but that’s not the main reason we use so many organic oils. We use organic coconut and palm oils because non-organic versions can contain chemical residues from processing. I don’t want to rub those residues on my skin, so I don’t ask my customers to, either.

I talked to a local soapmaker recently. Known as the “goat milk soap lady” she uses powdered milk. She seemed to think I’m a fool. I probably am. I can’t leave the farm for Christmas, and I certainly can’t take a vacation without extensive planning for a qualified farmsitter.  The “goat milk soap lady” will never run out of powdered milk, while I live in fear of my goats getting sick or hurt or attacked by a coyote. We charge the same price for the same size bar, but her profits are higher. She said that customers don’t care if the milk is powdered or how the vegetable oils are produced.

Even if you don’t care, even if you think that powdered milk makes the same soap, please know that powdered milk supports farms somewhere far away, in whatever state or country offers the cheapest price to the manufacturer.  Goat milk soap from fresh milk supports local farms, and local farms support you.  Your spending is compounded across other local farms and local services.  When the soap is made with other local ingredients, the local “compound interest” just grows and grows.

Unfortunately, you can’t get that local “compound interest” in stores.  Last I checked, there was only 1 store that carries any Oregon-grown goat milk.  Virtually every bottle, box, can or carton of goat milk on Oregon store shelves comes from out of state.  Most liquid goat milks are ultrapasteurized to provide the long shelf-life needed for trucking goat milk soap across the country or across the ocean.  Powdered goat milk can sit on a shelf for years, and removing the water makes it cheap to ship by truck, boat, or plane from wherever it can be produced most cheaply.

* If a soapmaker claims that insurance “requires” powdered milk, tell them to get better insurance.  Since our vegan soap, lotions, etc. are not covered under our farm policy, we carry soap insurance through the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild.  It’s the leading insurance for the handcrafter industry and it fully supports the use of fresh, raw real milk for soap making.

Whole Foods fully supports soap made from fresh, raw goat milk, because they carry quality products.  We had to disclose our farming practices in detail, we had to have a recall process manual (with tests); we even had to have a written employee illness policy for our family farm with no employees.  They covered just about every risk anyone could think of – raw goat milk soap was perfectly fine with them.

What’s that white stuff on the outside of my soap?

It’s commonly called soda ash.  It is a harmless “precipitate” of minerals that form on the outside of the soap when the minerals react with the air.

Cold process soapmakers typically use distilled water to make soap to minimize the mineral content that can cause harmless – but cosmetically non-ideal – soda ash from forming.

But you’re buying goat milk soap.  Goat milk contains minerals.  We like it that way.  Minerals are good for baby goats.  Minerals are good for our family when we drink the milk.  They just don’t make the soap pretty.  So, if you see soda ash, you can thank a Mamma for making extra good milk for her kids.  If you don’t see it – you can thank a corporate soap company for putting almost no milk into their “goat milk” soap, or, once in a blue moon, you can thank us for cleaning the soda ash off the soap.  Soda ash in goat milk soap is kind of unpredictable.  It’s higher or lower depending on the soap recipe, soaping temperature, curing conditions, the goat’s diet the day she made the milk, etc.  It’s always going to be there to some extent, but it can range from barely visible to a white crust.

One way to reduce soda ash is to spray rubbing alcohol on the soap.  Most of it will evaporate, but we don’t want rubbing alcohol in the soap and it doesn’t make a big enough difference for us to use it.  Another way to remove soda ash is to wash the soap off – but the labor cost would require us to raise the price on our soap just to make it pretty on the shelf.  It will wash off in the first use or three.  So we mostly leave the mineral ash there and hope you appreciate it as the mark of really natural goat milk soap.  It’s an innate part of the farm product – like the greens that grow on carrots.

The cool thing about soda ash is that is dulls the look of the soap before it’s used.  So the soap often ends up prettier – like a polished marble – after a couple uses.  When a Mamma gives birth, it’s kind of like Christmas – we know what we put on the wish list (our breeding inputs), but we don’t know what’s under the tree until she opens up the wrapping.  Soda ash is like that – you know what kind of good soap you got, but you don’t know quite how pretty it us until you use it.

But if you want a polished marble before you use the soap, you can scrub off the soda ash using a microfiber cloth or pantyhose and a bit of water (distilled water gives a really clean look).  Or you can pass a steamer over the surface of the soap.  Steam seems to clarify the look of the soda ash a bit.  We occasionally steam soaps that contain dark-colored swirls to make the design pop, but not often.  We’re more interested in making the soap look good on you than on the shelf.

Buy the loaf

We’re now offering the option of buying a loaf of a single soap.  This is similar to other soap companies’ block option (but ours is actually made in single loaves to preserve the quality without sacrificing the milk content).

When you buy a loaf of soap, you get to cut it any way you want.  You can cut little bitty guest size soaps or big man-size soaps.  It’s your choice.  Then you cure the soap for a minimum of 4 weeks, up to 8 months for a true olive oil castile soap.  Curing lets the water evaporate out of the soap, and liquid oils like olive oil continue saponifying, so the soap gets milder as it cures along with becoming harder.  A harder bar lasts longer and holds up to water better.

The soap is still soft when it’s fresh, so you can cut it with cookie cutters to make special shapes, stamp it with your custom stamp, or even carve into it (write on it!) with a feather quill.  But you’ll want to handle it carefully, because you can dent it or scratch it when it’s fresh.

For normal soaps, we can deliver a loaf about a week after you place an order.  For specialty soaps, it may take longer.  Yes, we even offer the option of custom scents (but pricing will be significantly higher if you want a scent we don’t stock and the lead time will be at least 3 weeks; ordering small quantities of essential oils or fragrance oils is pricey).  But if you want a custom blend of our standard essential oils, no problem.  And we have a pretty good variety of essential oils on hand.  We do not offer scents in true castile; it is strictly an unscented soap.

If you order before October, most soaps will be fully cured by Christmas.  Practically Castile does better with 3 months of curing time (so order now for holiday soaps), and true olive oil castile really requires a minimum of 6 months to reach decent quality, but plan on 8 months.

If you just absolutely cannot wait, you can cut a small piece of soap for early use and let the others cure longer.  But you still need to cure it several weeks so it gets good and mild.

Pricing ranges from $34 for a round loaf of palm-free soap with standard essential oils to $50 for organic virgin olive oil castile in a 58 oz loaf (which would cure to about 50.6 oz; equivalent to about 17  of that corporate goat milk soap company’s standard 3 oz. bars).  Contact us for pricing; please let us know which soap type you want and which scent(s) (or unscented).

Note for crafters: Our soap is cold-process natural soap.  It won’t melt for melt-and-pour.  It can make nice embeds, but melt-and-pour soap wears away faster in usage, so your soap will become uneven over time.  Rebatch soaps don’t produce the smooth finish that raw soap or melt-and-pour produces; rebatch soap, when done well, produces a rustic texture more like hot process soap.  But rebatch is a special skill that takes practice to master.

Thank you.