Friday, October 1, 2010

"A Day in the Life" with Marlene

We are beginning a new segment here called “A Day in the Life” where I will be featuring a shop owner that I’m sure you will enjoy visiting.  So grab your cup-o-joe, get comfy and let’s take a journey to:

"A Day in the Life with Marlene, owner of 

Country Soaps By Marlene"
Duuuuuude:  How long have you been creating soaps?

Lots of Fragrances
Marlene:  I've been making soap for almost 8 years and I've been selling for 4 years. I still clearly remember my first was horrible, it didn't even make good laundry soap. :) I'm a self taught soaper and it took me almost a year before I tried it again. My first soaps were all unscented. Until I had the recipe down I didn't want to try fragrances. Now I have a whole kitchen cabinet just for fragrance oils and essential oils. 
Duuuuuude:  What made you get into making homemade goats milk soap?

Marlene:  My kids...I had some daughters that took piano lessons on a farm that raised goats. They were sent home some billy goats as pets and I brought up to them about saving their money to buy a nanny or 2. Billy goats really don't do much except stink. :) So they bought 2 nanny goats....we are up to 7 right now. We tried making cheese, yogurt...anything with goats milk. The last thing on the list was soap. 
Duuuuuude:  Tell us a little bit about your process for creating

Marlene:  It started off with our daughters hand milking the goats twice a day. They bring it in and it gets strained through a coffee filter to remove any debris like hair and hay. Then we measure it out and freeze it. I have to start off with frozen goats milk to keep my temperature below 100 degrees for cold process soap making. Once it is froze I can then make soap. The first part of soap making is keeping the oils from the milk mixture. You add the lye to the milk and keep stirring it.
Liquid Soap
 So as the milk melts you don't scorch it. Meanwhile, I'm melting the oils. Once everything is melted you wait until it cools to put the 2 together...remember, I have to keep everything below 100 degrees. When you are to the point of mixing, I pour the lye/milk mixture into the oils and use my stick blender. It's really fun watching as the 2 become 1. 

Lemon Poppy Seed Soap
When I see that everything has come together that's when I'll add the fragrance or oatmeal depending on what kind of soap I'm making. At this point it's called trace...the soap looks like thick milk or pudding.  When everything is added and mixed you can now pour it into the mold(s), wait at least 24 hours and then I cut it into bars. 

Curing Soap Closet
Now you sit and wait for 4-6 weeks before you can sell it. What is going on through this time is the PH is slowly going down to be able to safely use. 

Duuuuuude:  Where do you typically get your supplies? (handmade, online, craft shops, etc.)

Marlene:  I buy some of my supplies on line and some from a local Amish store. My oils come in 50# pails. I watch for pre-buys and sales to get the best possible price on fragrance oils. The lye is what can cause some problems. With meth labs around the world they have really clamped down and added aluminum crystals to drain cleaners. Those are the little blue specks in your drain cleaner. I can't use drain cleaners it has to be pure sodium hydroxide (lye). Aluminum is a big no-no when making soap. I use all stainless steel pots, bowls and spoons. Yes, I accidentally used aluminum and ended up with a mess. I thought the pan was SS but quickly found out that it wasn't.
Duuuuuude:  Where do you get your ideas for your items? 

Kitchen at Christmastime
Marlene:  I get a few ideas from things around me or pictures I see but many of my ideas will come from customers. They will message me with concerns, ideas and thoughts...I take every word to heart to create for them. I know what works by how quickly it sells. I recently had a potential customer message me about unscented soaps. It made me realize the need for more or at least more of a variety. So my latest batches were unscented. 
Duuuuuude:  Where do you sell your items?

MarIene:  I sell on Etsy at CountrySoapsByMarlen and I sell on hyena cart at CountrySoapsByMarlene I'm also at our local farmers market in Waupun on Thursday afternoons. Recently I've been added to a consignment shop in Watertown, WI called Josephine's. Now until Christmas I'll be at craft shows on Saturdays. And of course, out of my home. 

Duuuuuude:  Anything else you'd like us to know?

Marlene:  I'm married to a great guy, Mark, for 27 years in December. We have 11 children, 6 of which are still at home and 1 daughter in law. We homeschool them on our southern WI dairy farm. We are the third generation raising the fourth and it will soon be a century farm. (A farm that has been in the family for 100 years) This is one of the few family farms still left, we aren't a mega farm. I enjoy canning and freezing from our garden, sewing, crocheting and knitting. The kids and I enjoy scrapbooking together and playing Wii. :) 

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Marlene a little more.  I know I did.  And don’t forget to check out her shops.  : )


jj said...

This is great and I love reading about Marlene's soap making process. She always impressed me enough with raising 11 children, and being a soap maker and business women, puts her over the top.
Thanks so much for sharing!

Marlene said...

Thanks so much for the feature, I'm very honored. Just to make it clear...I still have daughters...hehe My kids see my mistake and I'll never hear the end. That will teach me to fill out interviews early in the morning. LOL

Me said...

Great feature. Thanks for sharing some more insight into your process Marlene. I am always amazed at how much you do. You are truly a "Super Woman" in my book. I bet that curing closet smells great :-)

Peppercorns said...

Wonderful post! I've always admired Marlene, mainly because she is so accomplished, homeschools and has raised a terrific family, can do anything, is always cheerful and upbeat, oh well, you get the idea. LOL

Enjoyed this interview Duuuuuude and Marlene. :0)

goodgosh said...

I want to live with Marlene!!

good job duuuuuuuuuude :)

A Collective Journal said...

I was gonna go fix the boo boo but figured, I don't want to mess with someone's elses words. Sorry Marlene! :)

VintageEmbellishment said...

I never even noticed a boo boo!

I have bought some of Marlene's soaps (especially for my husband) and we love them!
And since buying them from her seems so much easier than making my own....enough said!

Now I am tired from reading all the things she manages to I need a nap! chose an Amazing Woman for your first interview!