first soap batch and mistake


Years ago, when Andy and I first met he asked me if I wanted to see his soap. This was after he showed me his bee hives, garden and chicken coop. I’m sure I answered something like, ‘Really? You make soap? That’s so cool, I’ve always wanted to make soap. That’s really fascinating. Of course I want to see your soap.’ I did think it was cool and fascinating and I did want to make my own soap, but I just couldn’t believe I’d been invited to see another layer of my (unbeknownst to me) future husband’s many gifts and creative talents.


So, I saw his soap stash and his lip balms and essential oils (I think that was all in the same cabinet) and was really impressed. The soap wasn’t pretty. It didn’t make awesome suds and occasionally it didn’t cure long enough so the lye would completely burn your skin off and it left a terrible residue in the bath tub, but I was still smitten with soap and chickens and bee hives and eventually the urban farmer who considered himself nothing of the sort but, really enjoyed all of those farmy things and is now full time farming with me and our brood and my new found love of soap making. That’s right! 7 years or so after that day I walked in and saw his soapbox I have finally finally finally made my first batch of soap.


It is so fresh that I can’t use it yet and won’t know how it suds or cleans or works for at least another month, because it needs to cure, but it’s beautiful and with the exception of the lye and the natural fragrance oil it is made from ingredients that we produce here on the farm like goat milk and beef tallow and another fat that I’m too embarrassed to talk about right now, because it was a complete accident but is actually a legitimate ingredient used for soap making. I just thought it was beef tallow but it wasn’t. So, my first bars will be quite interesting and remind me of the time a chicken toe was left in the collard greens that we ate for Thanksgiving with my family one year. We can laugh about it now, because we know that chicken feet make excellent stock, but at the time Andy quickly put the toe in a napkin and I made him keep quiet so my sisters wouldn’t find out.


Back to the soap: I only made a half batch to experiment and I used a basic recipe from Mother Earth News, substituting the water in the recipe with some frozen goat milk  that I had on hand when there was a surplus of goat milk and no one to consume it. I used the lye calculator from Brambleberry (a big soap making supplier/company), got my supplies together and went for it while Andy and the kids were down at the river and hunting for arrowheads.


It looks and smells great and I didn’t even realize my accidental tallow mistake until we were sitting down to dinner and I told Andy that I didn’t have enough tallow in the freezer and had to melt it and strain it before using so it would be really clean and he said, ‘honey that’s not tallow. The tallow is all in the crock in the barn.’ I was hysterically laughing about my first batch and big mistake until I quickly looked at the lye calculator and lo and behold my crazy ingredient is completely legitimate and apparently popular enough to be listed as an official soap fat option. Let’s just say that if this soap turns out to be the best of all my future experiments, including the ones I’m going to try with olive and coconut oils and beeswax then I’m going to have to render a lot more chicken fat.



Wide Open Spaces

We live on 1100 acres in the heart of Georgia. 1100 acres! That’s a lot. That’s a lot of land. Land with pastures, ponds, woods and a river. We are on a mile of the Ohoopee River. A mile! It’s surreal. Really. We are caretakers of all of this space and loads of animals. There are beef cows and sheep and dairy goats and a beautiful Jersey milk cow and horses and dogs and chickens and ducks and so much more. There are wild pigs and coyotes and bobcats and deer and who knows what else.


How did we get here? I know it’s crazy. We’ve moved a ton in our short marriage and have lived on 4 different farms. The first was an internship, 2nd and 3rd are where we established our own farm business and now Andy’s got a good gig here on this farm as the manager/caretaker/keep everything alive and growinger/make a business modeler/and more and while we’d love to have our own place someday this is where we are today.


We’ve rented different properties and farmed on 2 of our last rentals. The first farm we rented was 40 acres and the second was 26. We carved ourselves little spots out of those abandoned acres that were no longer being utilized for homesteading and cleaned up junk and fed the soil with loads of compost and then moved on for different reasons in the best interest of our family.


From Savannah to South Carolina back to Savannah and now near Swainsboro Ga and we’re just getting started. Our original goals haven’t changed much and while our business and work keeps evolving, we are still pressing towards our main desires or being able to care for the needs of the hungry, the orphans among us, the widows, our parents and our children’s children. We aren’t there yet.


For now, we are here cultivating and taming some of these wild 1100 acres and it’s awesome. We are simply stewards of these wide open spaces. XO.