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  • Writer's pictureTina

Play Days

When I began making soap in 2016, it was exciting and new. It was also something I needed. The universe has an odd way of knowing what we need and delivering it to us. My family was just settling into life here at the farm. We had moved here almost two years prior. I had wanted nothing more than to move home after nearly twenty years of living more than an hour away. I looked forward to being close to my mom, sister, nephew, and niece. For a bit, all was well until it wasn’t.

As my relationship with my family quickly disintegrated, I was struggling. My body was telling me, in not-so-subtle ways, that I needed to do something to process the stress. I was suffering from tremors, and my hands and head shook uncontrollably. It was to the point that my rheumatologist wanted to have me tested for Parkinson’s disease or other neurological issues. My blood pressure was sky-high, and my autoimmune issues were in overdrive. Not to mention the psychological toll the stress was taking. It was a dark time.

Sometimes, out of darkness, something extraordinary is created. We got goats, we had a ton of milk, and I needed something to do with said milk. I could lose myself in research for hours. I had something that was all mine to focus on and occupy my mind other than the stress and turmoil going on around me. Once I began to try my hand at making soap, it was cathartic. Making soap had become therapeutic for me. I was so fearful of the chemical process that I was regimental in my practices. This took all my time, focus, and energy, and it was good. I had something to look forward to that was positive and was a relief from a stress-filled situation. I also sought professional therapy, which helped relieve some of the stress and helped me gain perspective.

Between the comfort of being around my then small herd of goats and the stress outlet of soap making, as well as making some tough choices, things slowly began to improve, and I began to feel better. Now, seven years later, things are vastly different. I no longer make soap for therapeutic reasons. Our goat herd hovers around twenty goats until the baby season, and then the skies are the limit. I’ve accepted and made peace with the changes in my family dynamic. Seven years later, I am in good space.

Although I no longer make soap alone and soap making is no longer a therapeutic activity, I continue to enjoy what we do. I continue to be excited about soap and goat’s milk products, especially when we “play” or try something new. This time of year affords us the opportunity to play around with soap and try new things. After the holiday rush, we have a brief window where we aren’t quite as pressed to keep up with production, and we don’t have to make seasonals for the upcoming market season. It’s a slight, brief reprieve before we begin production in earnest.

Yesterday was a play day. Making pine tar soap has been on my list of things to try for a few years. Unbeknownst to me, The Bibbed Wonder and The Bean made a secret plan to try their hand at making goat’s milk and pine tar soap. I don’t give my bib overall wearing buddy enough credit sometimes. Rather than creating something new without me, he told me of his plan, and we played around with making pine tar soap together. Although he took the lead in planning and preparation, I was invited to participate. He knew making a new soap without me would put me into a tailspin, and he would never hear the end of it. It’s comforting and enjoyable to make soap with my best… that’s something I say to him, “You’re my best.” I also say this to my bean because it’s true. They are my best.

Everything I have read about making pine tar soap left me feeling intimidated. Several articles and videos stated that pine tar is a super accelerator in soap. Acceleration means the process of turning oils, fats, milk, and lye into soap goes very quickly. Much to our surprise, it seemed to go in the opposite direction. Once the pine tar was added, it was watery. My research and Eric’s research stated that one could not use a stick blender to make pine tar soap. This, too, was not our experience. We stick blended until it slowly reached trace, or the thick pudding consistency when we pour the batter into molds. My bib overall-wearing buddy wanted to add “grit” to the soap, so he used oatmeal and poppy seeds. We scented our soap with a blend of pine oil, wintergreen oil, and patchouli oil. In my blending beaker, it smelled lovely. In the soap, it kind of smells like Pine-Sol cleaner. We are waiting for the soap to cure to see if the scent settles down and smells less like household cleaner and more like a lovely pine forest. Only time will tell.

The pine tar soap is not a pretty soap. It is a clay-colored deep brown with flecks of oatmeal and poppy seed throughout. Beauty is not the focus of this bar. The Bibbed Wonder wanted a more utilitarian and masculine appearance for his creation. While he plans his utilitarian manly soaps, I am contemplating making soap dough to create custom embeds for the pretty soaps that are yet to be created. I am looking forward to our upcoming year and new soaps. I received a new order of oils yesterday, and I can’t wait to blend and “play.” Planning, creating, blending, and new product development have become my new creative outlet. Creating something new is where I feel my strength lies. I no longer get to play in the studio alone with my music. However, I look forward to putting in my earbuds, sitting down with my oils, creating new blends, breaking out my colored pencils, and designing new soaps for the upcoming year. It’s still a form of therapy for me, and it brings me happiness and peace.

Things have changed quite a bit in the last seven years. It’s nice to look back to where and how things began, but it’s even better to look ahead to see the possibilities. I love what I do, and my hope for you is that you, too, get to do what you love. I hope your life is filled with things that bring you peace, make you happy, and inspire you. Stay safe, and be smart; it’s okay to look back but focus on the future and keep washing your hands.

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