Monthly Archives: August 2014

City goat, country goat

When I was a kid, we had a garden.  It wasn’t much, but it kept our family in fresh vegetables during a pretty bad recession.  But I was a kid.  All I understood was that we had zucchini every. single. night.  All of us kids were tired of zucchini.  One night, my parents explained that we had a lot of zucchini, and that was why we ate it every night.

I was a kid.  I decided to fix the problem.  My logic was too much zucchini = we’re sick of it; no zucchini = all better.

So I loaded up a little wagon with zucchini.  I dragged it around the block, selling that blasted zucchini door-to-door.  There was a lot of zucchini.  The wagon was heavy.  Walking up and down all those sidewalks was exhausting.

So I took my little traveling veggie stand to the nearby apartment complex, where the doors were closer to each other.  There were a LOT of people there who were really happy to buy fresh zucchini.  They acted like they had never eaten zucchini every night.  They were happy to give me money in exchange for making the zucchini go away.

It turned into a regular route with whatever was giving us a bumper crop.  Seniors were my best customers.  I was too young to understand how much work it was for them to haul groceries on the bus.  Every time they gave me money for those blasted zucchinis, they thanked me with such enthusiasm and sincerity, it confused me.

Did they know these were zucchinis?!

As I grew up, I understood a little better.  Our garden wasn’t much, but it was more than a lot of people had.  Zucchini was – after eating it every day – my least favorite vegetable ever.  But for a lot of people, it was a taste of summer, of old times when they had their own garden, or just something fresh in a world of scratch-and-dent canned veggies.

Those zucchinis stuck with me.  (I enjoy them again, by the way.)

My cousins had a farm.  By the time I was old enough to know anything, there wasn’t a lot of farming left.  I collected eggs when I visited, and rode horses.  I got to spend a summer with them, join 4H, take a horse into competition and collect some ribbons.  I loved it.  My cousins were kind of over it, but they gave me an incredible experience anyway.  And the other horse – sort of forgotten in pasture – got some riding time when her teenaged owner saw the farm again with my fresh eyes.  She went back to 4H that summer and collected some ribbons, herself.

It doesn’t take a perfect farm to make a difference.  And, sometimes, sharing a little farm means something and rejuvenates a little, too.

Our farm now isn’t much, but we’re working on it.  We sacrificed a lot to save up for a farm, and we have been working insanely hard since the day we moved in.  We didn’t inherit the privilege of farming, we worked for it, but we still see it as a privilege.  And we hope to share tidbits when we can.  Our farm isn’t set up for visitors, but taking baby goats out to the market today was great.

We had some kids who’d never seen a goat before.  We had some kids who had only seen goats at the zoo – which is sort of out-of-context for a farm animal that can be a beloved member of the family and a milk producer, too.  And we had a lot of adults who wanted to hug a baby goat.  It was really fun taking pictures for people, and watching kids decide whether they wanted to pet the strange animal in front of them.  It was fun hearing parents remember growing up with goats.  Stories they may not have shared with their children yet.  Now the kids would have a reference point for what a goat is.  We heard a lot of kids exclaim with surprise “she’s so soft!”  Baby goats are fresh and clean, and, yes, soft like kittens (and small and cuddly like kittens, too).  One kid wanted a kiss from a baby goat.  We taught her how we kiss goats – a little bit of space, air kisses, maybe touch noses.

Then our little truckload of goats turned into a pumpkin.  We promised to stay until 1 pm, then rush the babies back to their Mamma after giving her a 2 hour break.  At 12:51, the babies started looking tired and hungry.  At 1, we packed them up and rushed them home.

We took them right back to Mamma, they dove right in for a drink of milk, Mamma sniffed them all over, and then they curled up for a nap after their adventure.  We were really proud of them.  They were troopers, walking up to the fence to meet new people, or just curling up for a nap in our arms while people petted them and enjoyed a little break.  They enjoyed napping in any secure embrace, and we hope to see some of those pictures, too.

Our thanks to the Market Sprouts folks at Hillsboro Farmers’ Market for making the babies’ little outing possible!

Meet the new baby goats this Saturday

baby goats

We’re honored to have three new babies joining our family.  Our floppy-eared little balls of joy and energy have decided to come meet our community at Hillsboro Farmer’s Market this weekend! We hope you’ll stop by to welcome them!

 

What: Meet the Baby Goats

Where: Hillsboro Farmer’s Market, spaces 220 or 222 on the west side of 2nd street, south of Main Street

When: Saturday, August 30, 11 am – 1 pm

We hope your family will enjoy meeting the new addition to our family farm (and the goats are definitely part of the family!). The babies’ Mamma gets shy around crowds, so she’s going to stay home and enjoy a couple hours of “me” time with her friends.

We will not be selling at Saturday’s market.  We’ll be focused on the baby goats.  If you need soap, come see us on Sunday at Orenco or next Saturday at Hillsboro.

Belated photos

Last time we had BGs, the blog software wouldn’t let me upload photos.  Lest you think this weekends’ babies are the best babies ever, I present to you the Monkeys – summer LaMancha babes.

Hot off the presses (day of birth):

MonkeysFresh

Two days old, climbing on a bale of straw (which is about 2′ tall):

MonkeysFreshlimb

Little troublemaker on the right, little angel on the left:

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Helpy helperton:

 

 

MonkeyHelper

“How do you turn this thing on?”

  So, you see, the most beautiful goat in the world is the one standing in front of you right now.  Because they’re all beautiful.

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.

Curing soap

We make soap using the “cold process” which means that it stays relatively cool throughout the process of making it (it’s actually about 90-140 degrees).  Commercial soap is often “cooked” or produced using a heated process that completes the saponification immediately.  With cold process, saponification mostly happens in the first 24 hours, but additional saponification occurs over the next several weeks (up to many months for true Castile).

Curing means letting the soap rest after making it and cutting it.  During the rest period, the soap becomes milder and liquid evaporates out.  As the soap dries, it becomes harder and longer-lasting.

Soaps with a lot of “hard” oils like coconut and palm oil tend to cure a bit faster.  Soaps with less hard oils cure slower.  Our mildest recipes cure the slowest.  Curing time varies from one recipe to another, and the hardening process will vary a bit with storage conditions.  Soaps harden up faster in dry conditions, and they may not harden up at all in very humid conditions.

If you Buy the Loaf, you’ll need to cure the soap after you cut it.  We’ll provide general guidelines on curing times.  We suggest storing the soap in the dryest part of your house while it cures, and putting it on a shelf with good airflow, or hanging it in a cotton bag.

Why we make soap in small batches

Most commercial handmade soap is made in big blocks, and then cut into loaf-sized slabs and then cut into bars.  The mold is about the size of a milk crate.

That doesn’t work for our soap because we use maximum milk.  Milk adds heat to the saponification process.  We use multiple techniques to keep the temperature low throughout the process.  It’s time-consuming, but it’s worth it because it doesn’t “cook” the milk and it lets us put the maximum goaty goodness into the finished soap.  One of the ways we keep the process cool is using single loaf molds for the soap.  The single loaf has a relatively large surface area for releasing heat.

After mixing the soap, the vegetable oils and milkfats get transformed into soap and the reaction produces heat.  Milk adds more hat; if the heat gets too high, the soap actually kind of boils over.  In big blocks, you can only add a token amount of milk or else the heat gets trapped in all that mass and makes a mess.  So we use individual loaf molds to keep the heat low to preserve the maximum natural milk goodness without cutting back on the amount of milk in the soap recipe.

Meet the new kids

Jpeg

Photographing goat kids is like herding cats.  By the time you get the camera out, they have either fallen asleep, turned their heads, or discovered some other amazing thing somewhere else that they HAVE to investigate.  Often, that thing is the camera itself.  It’s sooo easy to take a close-up of goat noses.  Whole-baby pictures, however, require careful planning and a steady lap.

Jpeg

Well, sure enough, the first girl fell asleep, and we didn’t want to wake her, so we just added another goat to the lap.  And he fell asleep.  The third one thought about napping, but decided to stay up and play, so she just elbowed her siblings for a bit and got down.

Jpeg

Yep, that’s the culprit.  She already looks mischievous.  This other little girl is a looker.  Beauty is not the goal.  But it is a nice fringe benefit.

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(Yeah, I’m not dressed for barn work or photos, but this is what I threw on under a flannel shirt at 4 am when I woke up to check on the newborns.)

Beauty

At this stage, they’re easy to babysit.  They mostly sleep.  Or practice – it literally IS their first day with new legs.  The skinny one is already practicing her hopping skills.

They’ll stay in the barn for at least a day, letting the new Mamma settle into her role while she gets lots of hugs and rubs and “good job, girl”s.  She’ll call to them and learn how to get them to follow her while they learn to recognize her voice.  Because leading baby goats is like cat herding, too.

We reserve all copyrights to our photos.  Even the bad ones.

New babies, no pics

Mamma finally popped.  Our farm-chores weekend will consist of hugging, snuggling, and worrying over BGs (baby goats).  Well, and building an enclosure if my back can handle it, and birthing another set, bringing in feed, finding the memory card for the camera…. and taking pictures of some of the prettiest BGs ever.

One of the new girls was struggling last night – I’m not sure she’s over the hump, but she’s energetic today, so yay!