HUNLOCK CREEK — She spent the first 11 years of her life in the Big Apple, but you wouldn’t mistake Darlene Pearson for a city slicker nowadays — not when you watch her morning ritual of feeding and milking her goats.
“They eat a lot of hay and grain. They like sunflower seeds, apples and raisins and animal crackers too,” Pearson said as she greeted the females — Dotty, Savannah, Beauty, Violet, Letty, Jetta and Daisy — in their pen.
On a recent Wednesday, Pearson explained that only one of the does — Daisy, who gave birth in August to a set of twins that have since been sold — is currently giving milk.
She led Daisy to a milking stand, slipped the animal’s head through a wooden stanchion to hold her steady and gave her a bowl of food to munch while she massaged and coaxed a stream of milk from the goat’s udder.
“Whoosh, whoosh,” came the sound as the milk filled Pearson’s container.
When the milking was done, the doe scampered off to eat hay from a hay crib, and Pearson went into her house where she started working on a batch of goat milk soap, using milk she had previously frozen.
Pearson uses a cold process method, and starts with milk that is well below room temperature so it will not scorch when she adds lye — a harsh necessary ingredient if you want to make real soap.
Because the lye can cause skin and eye irritation, Pearson wore gloves and a protective face mask and went outside, onto her porch, to slowly and thoroughly mix the lye into the milk. This heated the milk and returned it to its liquid state.
“I’m using 29 ounces of milk to 12 ounces of lye,” she said, explaining the lye would undergo a chemical reaction with the fat in the goat milk, as well as the fat in the coconut oil, palm oil and olive oil she planned to add next. The reaction is called saponification, and it transforms the lye and the fat into soap.
“You mix it until you get a light-pudding consistency,” she said, stirring oil into the mix with a spatula in one hand and an immersion blender in the other.
For this batch, she also added mint oil for fragrance and spirulina powder, derived from algae, to give a blue/green color. When it was all blended, she poured the liquid soap into molds so it could set.
“I really can’t remember why I started” raising goats, Pearson said with a laugh, adding she began to raise chickens as a science project when she was homeschooling her daughter, Jessica. Years later, she still keeps chickens plus the seven female goats and two males goats, Dusty and Fireball, who have a separate pen except when it’s time for breeding.
Pearson has made about 700 bars of her Irish Blue Goat Soap so far this year — peppermint, patchouli and “autumn bliss” are popular scents — and she sells them on etsy.com as well as at Lehman Nursery in Dallas, The Lands at Hillside Farm in Kingston Township, Fall’s Edge Boutique in Benton and Willow Tree Shop in Clarks Summit.
She’s also been offering them for $5 a bar at area craft shows; next up is the Band Boosters Fall Craft Fair at Lake-Lehman High School on Old Route 115 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 18.
“I like to have fun with it, to take my time and swirl different colors,” she said, explaining why she makes small batches. “I like to take my time and be careful.”
She encases the soap in wrappers that show pictures of her goats and include a Bible verse “just so people know God loves them.”
The crafter doesn’t advertise her soaps as having any special health benefits, but a friend has told her about a young nephew who suffered from eczema and has been using an unscented variety of her goat milk soap. The boy’s doctor told the boy’s family, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”
“That’s always nice to hear,” Pearson said with a smile.