Serendipity: A Few of My (Unexpected!) Favorite Things

Life is full of surprises, that’s for sure!  As a child I often dreamed of the future (I had plans of becoming a professional ballerina, despite being 5’8″ tall and finding the pain of pointe shoes slightly unbearable), and never envisioned my life at 38 to include these gems:

Becoming a Skier – My first experience skiing was a disaster.  A complete and total disaster.  We went to Swiss Valley in Jones, MI on a class field trip in 7th grade, and after an hour on the bunny hill, we were turned loose to ski the intermediate and advanced slopes.  My first run down was terrifying – I hadn’t mastered turning or stopping, and had no idea how to do either.  I’m lucky I didn’t end up in the hospital; I relied on the barricade at the bottom of the hill to stop.  I left the ski hill knowing that I hated skiing and would never be any good at it.

When I met by husband Kevin in 2000, he had been skiing since childhood and taught me how to ski (including that oh-so-important skill of stopping!) and bought me a pair of my own.  All 3 of our children can ski (well, Igor snowboards) and our youngest, 6-year-old Dominic is finishing up his 2nd year as a member of Timber Ridge’s Junior Racing Team.  I love skiing now, and spend as much time outdoors in the winter as a I do in the summer (maybe even more??).  I logged 15 visits to the slopes this season – my 13-year-old self would be stunned.

Becoming a Morning Person – who knew it was possible?  I surely didn’t.  I am naturally a night owl, and come from a long lineage of night owls – my mom and dad still have the ability to  watch an enthralling movie until 2am.  I loved Saturdays because I could sleep in until 10am and would often feel like I was drugged when I tried to wake up “early”.  But last year I stumbled upon a life-changing book called The Morning Miracle by Hal Elrod that put me on the path to early rising.  I realized that I could be so much more productive, and really enhance the quality of my life by waking early.  So it’s Saturday, and I was up a little after 6am today.

Becoming a Small Business Owner – I studied Math in college, and managed to get a minor in Dance (my third audition was the charm that got me into that department), and after graduation I went to work as an actuary (rate-maker) for a large insurance company.  (I know it sounds incredibly boring, but for a nerd like me it was actually a lot of fun!)  The thought of being a business owner was not something I even considered.  But… here I am – and it’s fascinating, challenging, and captivating.  It’s a bit of an obsession, to tell the truth, and completely unexpected.

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Nichole shrink wraps soaps

(You can read more about the beginning of Pure Goat Soapworks here.)

What are some of the unexpected favorites in your life?

 

 

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Behind the Scenes Sneak Peak at Making Soap

Are you curious to know how we make artisan goat milk soap?  Fascinated by the combination of colors and fragrance?  When my eyes first gazed upon Kenna Cote’s Tiger Stripe Soap back in 2013, I was smitten.  I was mesmerized.  I was hooked.  I couldn’t believe that I was actually looking at soap!  I could scarcely imagine that I would some day be capable of creating anything as stunning as what I saw.   Hopefully today I can inspire you!  Here is a behinds the scenes look at how we make the artistic color design of our Arabian Nights – Sandalwood Goat Milk Soap at Pure Goat Soapworks.
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We begin by prepping our workspace and laying out all of the tools we will need to design our soap.  Here you can see that we have already lined our large tray mold with a trashcan liner.  It makes for easy soap removal and is lightening fast!  We also have pre-mixed our colorants.  The tiny squirt bottles have a mixture of reflective mica, mineral pigments, and glycerin in them.  The containers for the colorants are at the opposite end of the table, and already contain a mixture of mineral pigments and some of the warmed oils from our soap.  At this time we have already made our cold process goat milk soap batter and are ready for our color design.

Next we add some of our soap batter to the pre-mixed blue and gold colorants, and pour the balance of our soap into the mold.  Then we begin pouring the colored portion of the soap into lines.

Once all of the soap has been poured into lines, we can manipulate it to make gorgeous patters.  Arabian Nights features a pattern in soapmaking known as the Peacock Swirl.  Kevin custom made tools so we can quickly and evenly rake the soap.  Then we take another tool and make an s-pattern to recreate the peacock feather pattern.  When we are content with the look of the design, we insert the dividers, cover the mold, and wait patiently for at least 24 hours before we can unmold.

The final result stirs the same excitement in my heart as my first discovery of handcrafted artisan soap!  Are you smitten as well?  You can have your own piece of the magic here!Arabian-Nights-no-bkgrnd-web

 

Think Spring + Farmers Markets (Despite the Snow Storm!!)

Yes, I do realize that I am in Michigan, and despite the spring-like weather we’ve had over the past few days, I know we’re about to get blasted with up to 11 inches of snow, but… Spring is coming!  And with it comes the start of our farmers market season!

The Bank Street Kalamazoo Farmers Market is the largest, most vibrant market we participate in.  It has an upbeat, festival feel to it, fresh produce, food trucks, unique handmade gifts, and live music.  Saturday brings crowds of up to 8,000 people, or so I have been told, so come early – the market is open from 7am – 2pm – but it really clears out after 1pm.  It’s a wonderful start to your weekend.

Habanaro carmels.jpgMy favorite treat is a package of Habanero Caramels made by Cherri’s Chocol’Art.  They’re salty, sweet, and spicy.  I’m not usually a caramel fan, nor a fan of spicy foods, but these are absolutely amazing.  One of my customers so very kindly gave me a sample one Saturday morning last year, and eating them has turned into my weekly habit and reward for waking at 4:45am to make it to the market on time!

We’ve participated in the Allegan Farmers Market since 2013 (wow – this is our 4th season!) and are excited for the growth it has experienced.  The Allegan Farmers Market is a smaller market open on Thursdays from 8am – 2pm in Allegan on M-222.  Last year they added an on-site market manager, and vendors can now accept SNAP tokens, Double Up Food Bucks tokens, WIC Project Fresh coupons, or Senior Market Fresh coupons.  New for 2016 is a USDA grant that will give free rides to the market!

Both the Kalamazoo and Allegan markets open in the first week of May – we can’t wait to see you there!  But in the meantime, you can find us at Pure Goat Soapworks!

Passionate Work, Love + Inspire

 

I am passionate about soapmaking, and running an Indie business! Here is what I cherish most about our work at Pure Goat Soapworks:

Art & Creativity – Did you ever want to be good at something as a child, but just knew that you weren’t, and would never be? I wanted to be good at art when I was in elementary school, but I lacked (and still lack!) the fine motor skills to draw or paint well. In college, I had my roommates paint my fingernails for me because I was inept at doing it myself. It would have been easier for me to stick my fingers in a paint can and then remove the excess, than be able to paint my nails myself.

But then I began making soap, which changed everything! I realized that I was creative, and that I could design patterns, mix color and fragrance, and make something that was entirely unique and beautiful. I actually was creative and artistic. The 4th grader inside of me was overjoyed!

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Nichole makes Arabian Nights Sandalwood Goat Milk Soap

Making Soap – Science and Art meet in making artisan soap, and it’s been exhilarating to participate in the marriage of the two. Formulating and tweaking recipes, learning how to use colorants, creating color schemes and patterns – it’s been a sweet journey!

Our Customers – I truly enjoy building relationships with the many wonderful people I’ve met since we started our business, like “Mr. G.” from our Allegan Farmers Market. Mr. G is in his 80’s, and comes weekly to the market with his daughter and dog Greta. Every time I see him, he has a smile on his face, and a sparkle in his eyes. He always stops by to say hello, even when he doesn’t need to buy soap or raw honey.

Connecting with other Indie Makers – There is a community of Indie business owners and Makers that I am blessed to have found, and a Makers Movement that is satisfying to be a part of. So many of the products we buy are made overseas, mass-produced. There are so many more unique things available right here in the US, in your own hometown, being made by talented, hardworking people. The Bank Street Kalamazoo Farmers Market hosts more than 100 amazing small businesses. I love meeting other creative makers, and patronizing their shops.

Love + Inspire – I hope to inspire you love to one another. We are passionate about helping orphans and the families adopting them through Reece’s Rainbow. I am grateful to have a voice to be able to bring attention to the plight of orphans, and help them in whatever small way I am able.

Why Use Handcrafted Goat Milk Soap?

Have you been intrigued by the idea using handcrafted soap?  Have you wondered how goat milk soap is made, and why it’s good for you?

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Nichole makes artisan goat milk soap at Pure Goat Soapworks

Soap is made by combining oils, lye, and water, or another liquid such as goat milk, in specific quantities.  The chemical reaction that makes soap is called saponification.  You might hear the word “lye” and think that soap is unsafe, but that is not true.  All soap is made with lye, but no lye remains in properly made soap.  It is used up in the chemical reaction that makes the soap.  To ensure that no lye remains in our soap, we “superfat” our soap – we add 5 – 7% more oils than are needed to make soap.  This makes our soap richer, and easier on your skin!

 

While we really like handcrafted soap, we adore goat milk soaps!  Why?  It adds a creaminess and richness to our soaps, and it is wonderful for sensitive skin!  Goat milk contains alpha-hydroxy acids which naturally remove dead skin cells by binding with them.  Your beautifully soft skin is then able to shine through!  Goat milk soaps are extremely gentle and safe to use.

Not all soaps labeled “goat milk soap” are created equally, so it’s really important to read the list of ingredients.  Our natural (no colorants added) goat milk soaps use 100% goat milk for the liquid portion, and our artisan color bars use more than 50% goat milk in the liquid portion.   (Goat milk contains natural sugars that darken and caramelize in the soap-making process.  We use >50% goat milk in our Artisan bars in order to lessen the amount of mineral colorants needed and to create lighter colored soap that better shows our designs.)

Giving to Reece’s Rainbow to Help Orphans

At Pure Goat Soapworks we have a special love for orphans since our oldest two children came to our family through adoption. As a way to support orphans and adoptive families, we choose to support Reece’s Rainbow, an adoption charity that raises grants for waiting special needs children and families adopting special needs children.

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We became a family of 4 in Ukraine when we adopted Lida and Igor on May 18, 2007.  Pictured with orphanage director Nina Vassilyvna.

Did you know that the statistic are bad – very bad – for children who age out of orphanages in Eastern Europe?  Justice For Orphans reports:

“In Ukraine & Russia kids who “age-out” face a bleak future. Statistics reveal that 10-15% commit suicide before the age of 18. 60% of the girls are forced into prostitution (human trafficking). 70% of the boys become hardened criminals. Ukraine has the highest number of victims of human trafficking in all of Eastern Europe with about 117,000 annually. Those at greatest risk to fall prey to traffickers: the poor, uneducated, unskilled = aged-out orphan girls!”

Children with special needs like Down Syndrome are transferred to adult mental institutions, sometimes at ages as young as 6, and are left to languish.

Reece’s Rainbow is an adoption grant charity that raises money for specific waiting children and offers grants to help offset the high costs of adoption.  They also provide a way for adopting families to fundraise for their adoption, and allow others to make tax-free donations.

It breaks my heart to know that there are so many children without parents to love and care for them, who await a bleak future if they are not adopted.  We aim to help by donating 100% of the profits of specific soaps to families adopting through Reece’s Rainbow.  Click here to see the soaps available this month.

 

The Begining

 

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Welcome to the inaugural blog post from Pure Goat Soapworks!  I’m Nichole Hasse, soapmaker, owner, and co-founder along with my husband Kevin.  In 2012 we set off to create Hasse Family Farms and Apiary, a small farm with the hopes of growing it to multifaceted business that we could some day both work full time in.

Ever full of ideas and energy, Kevin brought home honeybees, baby chicks, three Nubian/LaMancha goats, and equipment to tap our maple trees, in addition to planting a garden.  We set about learning the ins and outs of raising bees, chickens, and goats, contemplated starting a dairy, and learned to make fresh Chevre (goat cheese).

By 2013 our goats each had kids, and we had an abundance of goat milk sitting in our refrigerator.  Again spearheading our foray into the natural arts, Kevin suggested that we make goat milk soap and bought the books, molds, oils, and lye necessary to make it.  I was skeptical, and unenthusiastic.  If only I had known what awaited me!

Our first batch of soap took forever to make.  The book we had selected was written before the emergence of the stick blender into the handcrafted soap-making world and had us stirring our first batch by hand.  We were looking for something called “trace”, when the combination of water and lye with the soap-making oils is fully emulsified and thickens so the soap leaves a thin trail on the soap batter when lifted out with a spatula and dribbled across the top.

With a stick blender, you can reach trace in a few minutes.  Stirring by hand?  Well, we were stirring for around 45 minutes before I had the bright idea to use our retired hand mixer to speed the process along.  Within a minute we were at trace, and ready to pour our first ever batch of soap.   It was magical, really, seeing the reaction between the lye water and oils to make soap.  We unmolded our creation the next day, and set it out to cure for the next several weeks.

Inspired by our first batch and Kevin’s encouragement, I set out to make goat milk soap on my own for the first time.  Our initial batch of soap was made without the goat milk, but we knew we wanted to incorporate the milk since we had heard so many wonderful things about goat milk soaps.

Being green to soap-making, I didn’t know that I needed to first freeze the goat milk or else the sugars in the milk would caramelize and then overheat, burning the goat milk and lye solution into a stinking orange mess.  After scouring the internet, I determined what my error was, and after properly freezing the goat milk, I tried once again and was successful.

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Our First Goat Milk Soaps

My soap-making interest steadily grew as I gained knowledge and began to use our goat milk soaps.  I didn’t realize just how much better the goat milk soaps felt on my skin until I visited my parents’ house and washed with regular soap.  I was shocked at the difference, and was excited that I could create soaps that were so silky smooth.  I was soon completely captivated by making goat milk soaps, and set about improving my recipe until I made something I felt was truly phenomenal.

Ever the man to challenge me to grow, Kevin then urged me to set up a booth at the Allegan Farmers Market in our hometown of Allegan, Michigan.  Armed with goat milk soaps, maple syrup, free range eggs, and raw honey, we set up shop at the farmers market, and were elated when we had our first sales.

As the summer went on, we saw more and more customers returning, thrilled with our soap.  Many customers confided that our soaps were so gentle that they were seeing fantastic results using them instead of the commercially made soaps that had dried their skin.  We realized that we were on to something amazing, and couldn’t wait to grow Pure Goat Soapworks!