Goat's milk makes for key soap ingredient
LEICESTER — Even hundreds of feet from the Moore family’s Leicester home, fragrance hangs in the air. Step inside the house, and the scent is even stronger: lemongrass, pine, cinnamon, lavender and peppermint, and a background bouquet that’s best described as clean.
And although a visitor is immediately struck by the strong smells, no one in the family notices the scent.
“We don’t even smell it anymore,” said Linda Moore, mother of the clan.
One day last week the family was preparing to make a new batch of Garland Goat Soap, this one scented with lemongrass essential oils. Pamela, Nathaniel and Emily, three of Linda and Greg Moore’s older children, were hard at work alongside their mother in the airy kitchen. The room was filled with buckets and boxes of beeswax and various oils: palm, coconut, olive and vitamin E, and, of course, a large bottle of lemongrass essential oil. Then there was the vessel full of goat’s milk, from one of the family’s four goats.
Watch the Moore family make soap
The whole process takes about half an hour. Linda said it comes out best when done in small batches. Last Monday’s work yielded around 50 bars. On such a small scale it’s clear that the Moores have been busy. Since they took the business over last spring, they’ve made an estimated 7,000 bars.
Pamela, Nathaniel and Emily — who have seven siblings — have been the main force behind the business since they took it over this spring from their sister-in-law Arielle, wife of their oldest brother Greg Jr. Arielle began making soap as a child in Connecticut, naming the business Garland Goat Soap of Maine after her family moved north. Over the years she developed her signature goat soap recipe, which the Moore family says draws many people who suffer from allergies to less mild soaps.
But several months after marrying Greg Jr., Arielle found herself swamped with orders, trying to help out with her husband’s piano tuning business, and expecting a baby. So she offered the business to her in-laws.
“We thought it would be a fun family thing to do,” said Linda.
And the business fits right in with the family’s goals. They moved from New Hampshire in 2001 so the children could get some hands-on experience working the land, said Linda, and now they’re getting hands-on business experience, too. And Linda’s role?
“I do what they tell me to do,” she said with a laugh.
Shortly after agreeing to take charge of Garland Goat Soap, the Moores received a delivery of soapmaking supplies and drying frames, plus a series of tutorials in exactly how to make the soap from Arielle. Then the work began.
With the bigger workforce — 21-year-old Pamela keeping the records, 14-year-old Emily handling shipping, and 17-year-old Nathaniel ordering supplies and contacting potential buyers — the family was soon juggling lots of selling opportunities. They sold soap at the last few Middlebury Winter Farmers Markets of the year, then at the Brandon Farmers Market.
They sell through the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op and to the Vites & Herbs Shoppe in Middlebury, and to Gourmet Provence and Carr’s Floral Shop in Brandon. Recently the Moores have been selling at regional holiday markets.
The family still makes milk and honey soap for a wholesaler, a gig they inherited from Arielle. But beyond that, Arielle had depended on her website, garlandgoatsoap.com, a couple of stores and one craft show a year. While it was a lot for a one-woman company to keep up with, the sales since the Moores took over have added up. They’ve even received an order from Australia.
“We’ve at least doubled, if not tripled, the business,” said Nathaniel.
And something else has happened, too: Demand for the soap is skyrocketing to the point where the little side room that stores business records and the soaps while they are curing has almost become too small.
For the actual soapmaking process, the family uses the whole house — though they are hoping someday to be able to expand into a separate workspace. While Pamela, Nathaniel and Emily melted down the solid oils last Monday afternoon, Linda took a pot of water, a jug of goat’s milk and a blender out to the garage, along with a gas mask and gloves to protect her from the noxious gases released as she mixed everything with the lye. Lye reacts with the fats when combined, and allows the mixture to become soap.
While Linda blended the mixture and hot vapors spiraled upward, the pot’s contents changed. After five minutes, the mixture was a warm, frothy yellow-orange, and she brought the milk-lye concoction back to the kitchen to be mixed with the oils.
Before the mixture cooled and hardened, all four worked on pouring the mixture into the plastic molds laid out on the table, in a variety of designs from daffodil to beehive.
Then comes the waiting — the soap must cure for four weeks before it’s sold, on racks in the small side room off the kitchen. That day, eight scents of goat soap and one unscented kind sat curing on the racks, and drawers of shrink-wrapped soaps lined the walls.
The four Moores surveyed their inventory, smiling.
“It’s the only soap we use,” said Linda.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at firstname.lastname@example.org.