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Osage family up to elbows in goat soap

FEEDING TIME for the goats on the Harms farm between Osage and Ponsford. Goat milk is used there to make soap.

Tucked away in the Smokey Hills between Osage and Ponsford sits the Maid In the Hills.

"I'm the Maid," smiled Trisha Harms, as her husband, Mitch adds, "I guess I'm just one of the slaves," he laughs, tending to one of their goats.

Along with two teenagers and multiple cats, dogs, chickens, llamas and one cow, the Harms also have roughly 70 goats.

"We originally bought them for the milk," explained Trisha, who says they got their first few goats in 2008, "but pretty soon we were getting like eight or nine gallons a day and we couldn't sell it, but we didn't want to throw it -- so we started brainstorming."

That's when the Harms came up with a plan to use that milk for soap production.

"Goats milk is very moisturizing," said Trish, "If you go back in history, Cleopatra used to take goat milk baths -- it's very easily absorbed into the skin, and so with the other ingredients I use, it's very, very moisturizing."

Those other ingredients are all natural, just the way the family like things.

"It's authentically homemade, so it's got all the raw materials," said Mitch, "like soap you buy uptown, they extract the glycerin out of it as a byproduct and sell it, they don't leave it in there and that's what holds the moisture in."

The old fashioned recipe that the Maid in the Hills uses includes mixing the goats milk with lye ... an ingredient that Trisha says sort of cooks the soap as it naturally rises to a high temperature and cures for about six weeks.

They even have to wear goggles and masks during the mixing process because lye will eat right through the skin.

"It goes through a sort of chemical reaction and what happens is, during the six weeks it sits and cures in the soap room, it neutralizes and so it's no longer harmful to you," said Trisha Harms, who then adds essential oils like olive, coconut, peppermint, tangerine, lavender and several more.

She will also add fragrances like cucumber, black raspberry vanilla and even cotton candy to some, but very little.

"I try to keep it as natural as possible because if you were to look at your labels of what you use, it would scare you to know how bad the chemicals are that are in there," said Trish.

The family then takes the cut bars (which are around five to six ounces each) and packages them for sale.

Even 12-year-old Kyle and 16-year-old Nathan get in on a lot of the family business, helping with everything from taking care of the goats to packaging the soap.

"My favorite part is keeping the goats in line," said Nathan, pointing to a staff as his little brother, Kyle laughs, "Mine is getting paid for helping."

Although so far the business is just supplemental to the family's income, both Trish and Mitch say they'd love to be able to take it to a level where that's all they did was the goats and the soap.

That goal may not be too far off either, as word of mouth has them making about 300 bars a week.

"You wouldn't believe how many people think this is just the greatest thing," said Mitch, " People that have eczema, psoriasis or skin dryness...they just rave about it after they use it and want more."

The Harms suggest taking a bar of the soap and throwing it in the bath tub to make the water a milky color and just sit and soak for about a half hour.

"Your skin will be so nice and soft," said Trish, who also got her first shipment of ingredients in Tuesday to begin experimenting with face and body lotion, as well as shampoo and conditioner.

"I have quite a few people that are willing to be my guinea pigs," she laughed.

The family also harvests raw honey from beehives, from which they may also begin to make their own chapstick to add to their line of products.

Right now Maid in the Hills does have a website where consumers can go and browse the over 20 scents of soaps.

"But we don't take credit card or anything like that yet, so how we do it is we have people mail a check or money order to us and then we ship it," said Trish, adding that the soap is $4 per bar or three for $10.

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