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Family turns goat milk into income

It's like a scene from the late 1800s -- rolling acres of farmland; horses, cows and donkeys in the pastures; little boys with pocket knives whittling sticks; and little girls in dresses gathering eggs.

But cars are parked in the driveway and, when it snowed recently, the children sledded on Rubbermaid lids towed by a golf cart.

Kenny and Valerie Green live on Shakerock Farm in western McDuffie County with their nine children, who are home schooled and heavily involved in taking care of the 90-acre farm.

"We are thankful to have a place for the kids to have responsibilities and to work with their hands and not sit idle in front of a television or video games all day," Valerie Green said.

When the sixth child, Thomas, was born with eczema, a family business was born. Valerie and eldest daughter Carolyn did research to find ways to treat the skin disorder, and what they discovered coincided nicely with one of Carolyn's pet projects. She had received three small goats for her birthday that year. Their research revealed that bathing the skin with goat-milk soap would help the irritation.

"It started clicking," Valerie said. "We looked up the recipe and made a few bars for us and for the family."

"Then more people heard about it and wanted the soap, and it developed a life of its own," Kenny added.

Carolyn is in charge of milking at least one of the goats -- there are now four -- twice a day. It's a job that has to be done seven days a week, 365 days a year, so when Carolyn can't do it her brothers -- Joseph, 10, Benjamin, 9, and Thomas, 6 -- fill in.

"I work with all the animals, but the goats are my favorite," Carolyn said.

She strains the milk and places it in the freezer "until slushy." Valerie then mixes in extra-virgin olive oil or palm oil.

"Carolyn and Valerie spent hours researching the proportion of oils to come up with a formula that won't dry the skin out," Kenny explained.

"We're very selective. Just because it's natural doesn't mean it's good for you," Valerie said.

Kenny makes a lye solution to add to the blended ingredients.

"Sugars in milk caramelize real easily, so we have to constantly stir it to keep it from burning," he said. "I like to keep a thermometer in it, but Valerie and Carolyn don't need one."

The whole process takes about two hours. The next day, the soap is unmolded, cut into bars and placed on racks to air-cure for four weeks.

The younger siblings then help Carolyn cut fabric and raffia and wrap it around each bar. They place the bars on shelves in "the soap room," in the entryway of the house.

"Carolyn has an eye for picking out fabric to go with the scent of the soap," Valerie said. "The soap is tan, so it needs a colorful cover to dress it up. She fits the personality of the soap."

The soap is made into about a dozen fragrances, which vary with the seasons. About 56 bars are made twice a week, and they are sold at Hair It Is in Augusta, LMN Pharmacy in Thomson, Etc. of Harlem, at area festivals and online.

Besides soap, the family's goat milk products include lotions, beauty products and lip balm.

Valerie said they receive a regular order from several physicians' offices in Augusta "because the nurses have to wash their hands a lot."

While the soap is curing, life on the farm stays busy. Older brother Daniel, 18, works the farm and has his own farrier business, which includes looking after the family's seven horses. Carolyn also takes piano and cake-decorating lessons.

"With all the kids, we have lots of birthdays," she said. "So they get to pick what they want on their cake, and I make it."

Joseph recently became the proud owner of two sheep and is in the process of learning to shear them. Carolyn and Grace, 7, are learning how to spin the wool into thread, and Valerie is researching how to make sheep milk soap.

Younger brothers Thomas and Nathaniel, 4, are nicknamed Frank and Jessie James "because they get into so much together," their dad said. They stay busy playing practical jokes. They also like to carve treasures from the scraps of soap bars.

Julieann, 2, and Anna Rose, 14 months, stay close to their mother in the house and enjoy attention from their older siblings throughout the day.

All these activities take place around daily school lessons.

One room of the 4,500-square-foot house has been transformed into a school room, with a desk for each child -- as well as their maternal teacher -- bulletin boards and chalkboards, bookshelves and a computer.

In the spring, the whole family works a vegetable and fruit garden. This year, they plan to try growing blueberries, which could inspire a new soap scent.



Web posted on Thursday, March 03, 2011













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