Heidi Simpson’s kitchen smelled deliciously of white tea and ginger. She poured a generous amount of the scented oils into a big pot ﬁlled with a thick, yellow combination of lye, oils and goat’s milk.
She’s made this so many times she doesn’t even look at the recipe. She has a practiced eye and hand, and instinctively she knows when the oil is hot enough, the milk too warm, the lye not yet dissolved. “You just get a feel for it,” she said, concentrating on her pots and pans. “I never thought I’d be a chemist, but here I am, making soap.”
Heidi began making her Udder Suds soaps and Udder Budder lotions about ﬁve years ago. At that time, she’d begun raising Boer and dairy goats as part of her 4-H leadership and county fair superintendent capacity. With a pen full of the animals, she realized she had a large amount of goat’s milk to use up. Since her family didn’t drink the milk, Heidi began researching for recipes to use the milk in.
She stumbled onto a goat’s milk soap recipe. “It’s an old-fashioned recipe,” she said. “I really like the nostalgia of a lye-based soap, and I like the idea of doing something my great-grandmother probably did.”
A ranching family-including Heidi’s husband Dan, 14-year-old Tyler, 8-year-old Grady and 2 1/2-year-old Kaylee — the Simpsons were used to raising their own meat and vegetables, so using a by-product of her goats was a no-brainer. “It’s a natural ﬁt,” Heidi said. “It’s getting back to the basics.”
Her soap recipe is lovely in its simplicity. She combines vegetable shortening with light olive oil, safﬂower oil and canola oil. Into the unpasteurized ice-cold milk, she adds lye, a bit at a time, and stirs the mixture until the lye dissolves. Then the two mixtures are combined.
At this point, Heidi adds oil-based fragrance or things like oatmeal, cocoa powder, cinnamon or lavender ﬂowers. She never adds perfumes, alcohols or artiﬁcial colors to her products; everything is natural. Heidi has limitless scent combinations for her soaps. The two most popular are the oatmeal honey and lavender. For Christmas, she concocted several holiday scents, including “Sleigh Ride,” which smelled of spruce and mint. She has two men’s fragrances, and the soaps come unscented as well. She likes taking special requests for new fragrances, too. The scents are mild and mellow.
From start to ﬁnish, one batch of soap takes about four weeks to make, mold, cure and wrap for sale.
The soap making began as a hobby. She made bars for friends and family at ﬁrst just to try out. But then people began commenting on how great Heidi’s product was. Goat’s milk is a protein-and nutrient-rich milk, and when it’s combined with the lye, forming glycerin, the result is an extremely hydrating, rich, creamy soap. Soap made from goat’s milk is a natural moisturizer, and after using her soap for just a while, Heidi’s friends began noticing that they didn’t need to use as much lotion or moisturizer — their skin was becoming more and more hydrated with each use.
A friend suggested she try and sell her soaps commercially. So three years ago, Heidi approached the people at Homestead Market in Paonia. The market began carrying her products. It wasn’t too long after that when the owners of Black Bridge Winery contacted Heidi and asked to carry her soaps and lotions as well. “Having it in Homestead spread the word,” she said. “It’s just kind of happened.”
She added the 100 percent goat’s milk lotions to her product line. “The soap just kind of happened,” she explained. “But the lotion is trying my patience.” Since the milk is unpasteurized and there is less than one percent of preservative in the product, it has a short shelf life. She could add more preservatives to the lotion to prolong the shelf life, but she said doing so would take away from her all-natural product. She’s still experimenting with the lotions.
She also makes lotion bars from cocoa butter, olive oil and beeswax, and lip balms made from petroleum jelly and beeswax.
She’s been slowly letting the hobby-with-potential turn into a business. She has a loyal, small-yet growing-fan base all over the country to people who’ve visited Paonia and picked up some of her soaps, or people who’ve received her products as gifts. People are not only snapping up Udder Suds because of the hydrating product, Heidi believes, but because of the recent trend to get back to the basics, and her products ﬁll that niche.
“It just kind of took off,” she said. Her anticipation is that one day she can grow the business and work full time out of her home. “For now, whatever happens, happens,” she said.
She’s taken Udder Suds and Udder Budder mobile, too. She taught a few Delta Vision classes on soap making, a project the kids loved, she said. She’d like to come into other schools in the district, too. She’s also started to do home-based parties on soap making, and is willing to make special order soaps and lotions for baby shower, birthday or wedding shower gifts.
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