Stoney Creek homesteaders make soap from goat’s milk

Star Photo/Kayla Carter David and Bethany Banks hold a couple of the turkeys they let roam the property.

Star Photo/Kayla Carter
David and Bethany Banks hold a couple of the turkeys they let roam the property.

Homesteaders Bethany and David Banks have turned their Stoney Creek property into a vessel of self-sufficiency. They call it Free Reign Farm.

“It’s not free range,” Bethany said. “It’s free reign because we let God have free reign over our lives.”

The Bankses’ farm includes goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks and pigs.

“Everything has a purpose,” Bethany said. “They all do something a little different.”

The goats provide the main ingredient for the Free Reign Farm Goat Milk Soap operation.

The goat milk soap business came about when David began looking for a remedy for dry, cracked hands.

“He works at the hospital,” Bethany said. “All of the alcohol was drying out his hands really badly.”

A friend informed her that goat’s milk helps heal and nourish skin.

“I said, ‘Well, let’s try it,’ and it worked,” she said. “Before we knew it, everyone on his floor needed some, and then my parents needed some, and then my friends needed some.”

It didn’t take long for the business to grow from making it on the stove top to purchasing larger equipment to make larger batches.

The process begins with milking the goats by hand. After that, the milk is strained and placed in the freezer.

“We have to freeze it because the reaction of making soap by adding lye will cause it to heat up very fast,” she said. “It can go from frozen to over 200 degrees in about eight minutes.”

Depending on the recipe, a soap could have coconut or olive oil in it. The other important ingredient is lard.

“That is the classic old-time soap, especially in this area,” she said. “It’s wonderful. There’s nothing like a lard soap. It’s one of those mountain secrets.”

Various essential oils are added to create the different scents the Bankses offer.

“They are all steam-distilled from plant matter,” she said. “Everything is all natural. A lot of these plants were used to dye wool before we had synthetic dyes.”

Lumber Jack, Log Cabin, Mountain Goat, Promised Land, Mountain Rose, Grandma’s Kitchen, Summer Romance, Tropical Escape, Earth & Sky, Girl’s Day Out and Winter Breath are some of the types of soaps Bethany keeps in stock. Mother’s Touch is a soap made especially for babies. There’s also a soap that soothes itching from poison ivy and washes away the plant’s oils, which cause the rash.

Each batch makes 220 bars of soap. Once the mixture has set up inside of a mold, it’s removed before Bethany begins the process of cutting the soaps.

“We have different cutters here,” she said. “My grandpaw made the cutters for me.”

After the soaps are cut down to size, they get a lot number and label, which details what all ingredients were used to make each type of soap.

“They take six weeks to cure,” she said. “After they cure, they go into boxes with labels on them and we sell them.”

Bethany is always looking for the next festival at which to showcase her soaps.

“Most of the time festivals are looking for more craft vendors,” she said. “They don’t necessarily want you to sell something to eat. The farmers markets are a bit more diversified.”

The Banks family can be found at various farmers markets throughout the area.

Alongside the soaps, the family brings meat to sell.

“We’ve gone through 100 or more chickens this year so far,” she said.

“We have the potential to supply quite a bit of food to the community,” David said.

Bethany has been interested in homesteading and farming since she was a little girl.

“It’s something that I would do regardless,” she said. “Even before soap came along, this farm was started to feed us. We didn’t like all the chemicals that were in everything. We didn’t like the way animals are being raised in confinement.”

At that time, the farm was of course smaller. The farm grew to meet the demand Bethany saw for locally raised meat.

They now have seven different lots and have packed as many animals as appropriate on their land. They also lease a piece of land more than an hour away because they couldn’t find anyone locally willing to let them use land for pigs and goats.

“There is a huge demand for the natural lifestyle,” Bethany said. “We started out just making the soap for us and farming for ourselves, but then we would have a ton of people asking us for it.”

In addition to the goat milk soap, their website offers many more natural products like lip balms, lotions, salves and deodorant.

For more information, go online to freereignfarm.com, visit the farm on Facebook by searching Free Reign Farm Goat Milk Soaps, or email Bethany at soap@freereignfarm.com.

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