Nebraska family finds success in making goat milk soap
LYONS, NE - It is an idyllic place.
Green trees dot the landscape of gently rolling hills. An Australian shepherd puppy named Maverick scampers in tall grass near a barn. Green grass carpets an area around the house.
Inside, Angie and Blake Meyer sit near a tray of soap, lotion and bath fizzies made of goat's milk and talk about the journey that's brought them thus far.
The Meyers and their 4-year-old twin daughters, Adalene and Ainsley, live on a property about 2 miles southeast of Lyons. Angie is a kindergarten-through-12th grade art teacher for Oakland-Craig Public Schools. Blake is a service technician for Platte Valley Equipment in Fremont.
About a year ago, Angie and her mom, Beth Reisz of Creighton, started making goat's milk soap, a project that's morphed into other products.
Today, Wildwood products are sold online and in Younker's department stores in Omaha and Lincoln, the Fremont Tribune reported .
The venture began quite simply.
After the Meyers moved from Oakland to the place they call Wildwood Acres, Angie bought a Nigerian dwarf dairy goat and her two kids as weed-eaters. Then in 2015, she saw on Facebook that somebody was looking for goat milk soap.
"People make soap out of milk?" she wondered.
So she began researching the topic and talked to her mom, who said she'd always wanted to make soap.
Years ago, Angie's maternal grandmother, the late Margaret York, made her own soap.
"Grandma would make it in her basement and that's what they'd use," Meyer said. "I think a lot of farm women at that time would do that. She didn't have the milk, but she would use other ingredients for a basic soap."
Meyer and her mom made their first batch of soap in April 2016. Meyer bought three more goats — a buck and two does — which had more kids. She started milking the goats and freezing the milk.
She and Reisz were soap-makers.
"We made a lot of mistakes, but we learned from them," Meyer said. "We kept making more soap. You want to try different scents and colors and shapes. You want to find something that everyone likes."
It's not easy to make.
Milk is mixed slowly with lye (sodium hydroxide).
"It can heat up pretty fast and you have to have it a certain temperature or you will scorch the milk," she said.
Different oils or fragrances can be mixed in and when the mixture is thick enough it's poured into molds. The soap is cooled. It's taken out of the molds after a day or so and then must sit for four to six weeks to harden.
"If you would use it the day after, it would just kind of melt away," she said. "That's what's hard for people to understand. We have to give it time to set up."
The small batches make the product unique. The soap also has vitamins, oils and butters which are nourishing and soothing to the skin, Meyer said.
Customers have said the products help them. A fellow teacher, whose fingers would crack during the winter, began using some of the soap. Last winter, for the first time in many years, her fingers didn't crack.
"We've had people with eczema and psoriasis, people who have done chemotherapy treatments, buy our soaps to help their skin, because it's dry and the soap is very soothing and not harsh on their skin," she said.
The Nigerian Dwarf milk is very high on butter fat, which is soothing, very creamy and has a great lather, she said.
In 2016, Meyer and her mom went to Country Market Days in Pilger, where vendors could sell their products.
"We realized people really liked our stuff," Meyer said. "Teachers from my school have really supported me and they were some of my first customers. They wanted to give it a try and they've bought ever since."
Blake Meyer makes soap dishes out of cedar. The dishes allow the soap to drain and last longer.
Word about their products would spread. The department store chain, Bon-Ton, parent company of Yonkers and Herberger's, saw the women's Wildwood Handcrafted Goat Milk Soap on Etsy, an e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items.
"They wanted our Nebraska-based products in three of their stores," Meyer said.
Their goat milk soap is sold at Yonkers at Westroads and Oak View shopping malls in Omaha and in Gateway Mall in Lincoln.
Reisz makes most of the soap. When Meyer goes to her mom's house to make the soap, the twins' uncles take the twins somewhere.
The women also make goat milk lotion with different scents, oils and butters and recently made goat milk bath cakes (bath bombs). The cakes dissolve and fill the water with fragrant oils and moisturizing butters and oils.
"They're really popular with teenage kids," Meyer said. "It fizzes and you soak in it and relax and it's very calming after a long day."
The cakes can be cut in half and there are smaller cakes. Some people use the cakes, which have salts like kosher and Epsom salts, as a foot soak. The women make lip balm and body butter, determining what will sell and what won't.
It's a busy life.
In the spring, the goats have their kids.
"Kidding is pretty big," Meyer said. "We usually sit in there with them, if they don't have them in the middle of the night."
The goats, which have names like Blossom, Tiger Lily, Peaches and Wren, are mild-mannered.
"Nigerian (goats) are just like big dogs," she said. "They lie in your lap. They're very social. They're a herd animal. They can't be alone. They follow you around. When I get home or when I go outside and they hear me, they all start bleating."
The Meyers have 14 goats at the moment and she currently milks two. Next spring, she'll probably be milking six. Depending on the quality of the goat, Meyer can get 3 or 4 cups per milking from one goat. The Meyers have a small milking machine and she milks them once a day.
Meyer is admittedly very organized.
"I grew up on a farm and you all have your jobs and you work together," she said. "It's good responsibility for the girls. They like to help walk the goats around and they feed them."
Meyer has enjoyed this soap-making venture.
"It's great to work with family and my two best friends — my husband and my mom — and all our critters," Meyer said, adding she likes to be able to help and meet people.
She looks ahead to the future.
"My mom and I were making it (the soap) for fun and for ourselves and I said, 'Whatever God wants us to do, I'm OK with it. It's in his hands,' and it's taken off."
Information from: Fremont Tribune, http://www.fremontneb.com