Why We Make Soap

Posted by Joe on 3/28/2011

When we decided to launch this business in the summer of 2010, most of our friends, family and colleagues asked: “Soap? Why soap?” I can’t think of a more appropriate topic for my first blog on our new website.

I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world! I have endless memories of a childhood that was simple, uncomplicated and somehow magical. I was raised in central Pennsylvania in a small community on the banks of the Juniata River. Originally, the town supplied river ferrying services and later supported the Pennsylvania Railroad with its associated towpath canals.

Today, agriculture is the region’s principal economic engine. The region’s soil is said to be some of the best in the world. Growing up, most of us in the town were farmers or friends of farmers. Both of my parents come from farming families. My great grandmother, widowed, ran a dairy farm well into her 80s.

This area of Pennsylvania is popularly known as Pennsylvania “Dutch” Country, from the German “Deutsch,” named for the German immigrants (including mine) who settled the region in the early 18th century. My childhood memories are filled with images of Amish buggies, hex signs, strawberry ice cream socials and country life.

While outwardly charming to tourists, rural living was not always an easy life. Many parents, including my own, worked more than one job to make ends meet. Many families developed cottage industries: businesses run from their homes that made quality, handmade goods for local residents. Despite its challenges, country living was sustainable and wholesome. We canned and froze our own fruits, vegetables, soups and sauces from recipes that were handed down from generation to generation. Some of our clothes were handmade rather than purchased from a department store. Instead of bakeries, we had “cake ladies” who made wedding cakes and desserts from scratch and sold them out of their home kitchens. Most families had large garden plots and many non-farming families raised small quantities of livestock or poultry.

Autumn was butchering time, a good excuse for a two-day party full of food, drink, bonfires and seasonal celebration.  This annual event produced a bounty of fresh meat, sausage and fats. Rendered fat from pork (lard) was used for cooking, baking and even waterproofing. My mother loved to use lard to make SOAP!

She made her soaps by heating fats to their melting point and blending lye, dissolved in water, into the fats. The fresh soap was poured into whatever wass available for molding; usually a disposable aluminum baking pan or a shallow cardboard box used to hold cases of soda. The mixture was left undisturbed until firm, then cut into bars and allowed to cure for 3-4 weeks. We never used this soap for bathing, rather my mother used it for laundry, especially for stain removal. To this day, she still claims that it’ is “the best laundry soap on God’s green earth.”

My mother’s soap inspired me to create a cruelty-free, all-natural body soap that was as good for the skin as her soap was for laundry. Being animal lovers and not wanting to craft our soap from animal fats, we opted for another time-honored, but cruelty-free method for soap making using raw, fresh goat milk and natural, sustainable vegetable oils that are beneficial to the skin. In keeping with our mission to promote cottage industries in local communities, our goat milk is provided by local family-owned farms where the goats graze freely and are never given antibiotics and hormones.

Why We Make Soap
My Mom and Dad

With all due respect to my mother, I believe our goat milk soap is the best soap on God’s green earth. Rich in emollients, fatty acids and vitamins, goat milk soap never leaves your skin feeling tight, dry or over scrubbed. It leaves the skin feeling refreshed and natural. There are no detergents, artificial preservatives, salts or alcohol (the chief agent in commercial soaps that causes flaking and skin irritation) in our soaps. Our goat milk soap is simply the way nature intended, using the highest possible concentration of goat milk and ingredients you can spell.

Our business philosophy is simple: we offer exceptional products and great service at a fair price. There are many talented artists and crafters in our area and across the nation. Bringing their goods to market in ways that helps local farms and business flourish is our goal.

The cottage businesses of my youth and my mother’s passion for homemaking inspired me to start The Old Colony Company. By starting as a cottage business, our dream is to use this business as a platform for sharing the local way of life and its fruits with the world. We believe if more people bought local and supported cottage businesses we would collectively solve the world’s economic woes while making people and their communities happier and healthier.

In their own quirky way my parents taught me that wealth is not something that can be measured or bought. Quality comes from the heart and soul of its creator. I would like to thank them for teaching me this and raising me in an area that allowed me to have the childhood I did. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. As we launch another chapter in our lives, I dedicate my first blog to my parents. Thank you Mom and Dad, from the bottom of my heart! I love you both.

- Joey