If you are my parents, the NSA, or any of the other four people who regularly follows me online, you may have noticed that I’ve been MIA from GGM for the past two weeks. Sopresa, puta! I’ve been in Guatemala! I’ve had this special post up up my indigenous embroidered sleeve for a few days now, but it’s been on hold for two reasons: 1) I’ve been up to my elbows in tamales, beans, and seed beads and 2) the woman who wrote the below guest post is finna put my blog out of business. Michelle is a natural writer… I couldn’t believe it when she told me she had never written anything longer than a Facebook status! While she makes my posts look like something Coco the monkey fingerpainted on a concrete wall, I hope you’ll stick around for my upcoming Guatemala recap. Hasta luego, sucios!
Rhea and I were lucky enough to meet online through a mutual friend on Facebook. I’m a huge fan of her blog, she makes me laugh until I hurt, and yet - we’re opposites. She lives in a city and I live on a farm in Maine. While she is applying eyeliner in the morning, I’m scraping mud off my boots. I’ve never worn lipstick, but I have found myself slumped into the corner eating tear-seasoned Ben & Jerry’s wondering, “Who hurt you, Adele?!” Girl power connection! I was pleasantly surprised to find an email from Rhea a few days ago explaining that she would be heading to Guatemala. She suggested that I guest write a piece for her blog while she was away. I suggested that she continue to write, and I hop the plane to Guatemala instead. Guess we just aren’t that close yet.
So here I am, on our farm in Winterport Maine, where it’s considerably colder and where we have about 4 more feet of snow on the ground than they do in Guatemala. We offer heritage breed, pasture raised pork and organically grown vegetables. We grow for ourselves, our customers and for markets and local co-ops. We also have a few dozen laying hens and recently added a pair of peacocks, because sometimes we just make weird choices….and because hey, everybody! Look! We have peacocks!
After years of educating others about the importance of local food and paying close attention to what we eat, I took a step back to look at what we put ON our bodies. Our skin is our largest organ and we should not be bathing with ingredients that we cannot pronounce. Should any of us be using or eating anything that includes numbers in the ingredients list? As I started researching what goes into a commercial bar of soap I learned some scary stuff. I discovered lists of ingredients that I could not begin to pronounce. Why would anti-freeze and soap share some of the same additives? There was also a whole bunch of junk they throw in that’s main purpose is just to open your pores in order to help you absorb some of these wretched things into your system! I was furious.
I started to read all that I could about making soap. Obsessively. Although we raise pigs and have a steady supply of fat back, I decided early on that I wanted my soaps to be plant based. I also liked the idea of starting a business that could include a creative process, an educational opportunity, had a low start up budget and one that my daughter Maile could actively participate with. I was determined to make a bar of soap with a handful of natural ingredients right here in my kitchen. The day came when I had finally gathered all of my supplies, ordered my ingredients and found a great beginners recipe. It was time to do some science! The one thing holding me back: lye. I was scared to death of it. Mama ain’t raised no fool. I’ve seen that episode of CSI. I’ve seen Fight Club. I will say, when Tyler Durden describes the lye experience as “premature enlightenment”, that sounds a bit too magical to me. I describe it as: Guys. This shit will burn you. If you are going to try it out, you’d better suit up like you’re freakin’ Heisenburg. After my first solo round with sodium hydroxide, my kid pulled enough cash out of the swear jar to buy an Xbox One. And a pony. Respect the lye.
Over the past year I have decided I just love it. I love making soap. I love everything about it. The smells, the oils, the process, the people I meet, watching my daughter willingly help me with something, drinking a glass of wine on the job, packaging, marketing, wearing an apron in the kitchen…all to produce a product I whole-heartedly stand behind. I just think I’ve finally found my passion. If I can help inspire just a few people to take a step back and maybe ditch that anti-bacterial liquid junk, to educate themselves about what they have blindly been using on their family’s skin and putting into the water, then I have done what I set out to do.
This April will mark SoulShine Soap Company’s first birthday. Over this past year I have settled on a recipe I love, found some great markets for my product, built a solid customer base and launched a rad new website. I love hearing feedback from my customers. They’ve finally found a bar of soap that doesn’t dry their skin. Their acne has cleared. Their child’s psoriasis has begun to heal. I often meet customers in random parking lots for seemingly sketchy deliveries. This is a scene I revel in. We both get out of our cars, sometimes in a school parking lot. They ask me if I have their stuff. I hand them a brown bag, they open it and comment on how great it smells and then hand me cash and we both make a clean get away. I secretly hope to get pulled over one of these days. But my favorite remark, that I’ve heard on several occasions: “Is it weird that I think of you while I’m in the shower?”
Clean AND dirty? I’m in my element.
You can purchase Michelle’s soaps at www.soulshinesoapcompany.com.