Archive for the ‘Primitive Crafts & Country Style’ Category

2017 Workshops at the Farm



Come learn at the farm!

Discover the Sassafras Farm experience.
All workshops take place at Sassafras Farm– home of Chickens in the Road–located in the beautiful Appalachian foothills of Roane County, West Virginia, approximately 30 minutes north of Charleston, WV. Workshops start at 9:00 a.m. and end at 3:00 p.m. Price includes lunch, all supplies and instruction, and take-homes: $75 per person.

See 2017 workshop schedule and information below, choose your workshop and date, and sign up for your adventure! Directions and other information will be emailed to attendees closer to the time of the workshop. If you have questions or need other information, feel free to email me! Workshops also make great gifts!

TO SIGN UP: Email me at to sign up by mail OR sign up online using a credit or debit card or Paypal on Etsy! To register via Etsy, go here: Sign up on Etsy.

2017 workshops currently OPEN FOR REGISTRATION–If a workshop is listed, there are available spots. Workshops that are filled are already removed from the list.

Taste of Sassafras Farm Workshops

IMG_2139All the fun that can be packed into one day! It is a true “taste of Sassafras Farm” touring you through my most popular workshops all in one day. Milk the cow, hands-on, and learn about managing a home dairy, make mozzarella cheese, grind grain and bake rustic-style bread, and whip up a batch of hot process soap. Yes, you’ll really do all of that in one day–and take it home along with some great memories! Take-homes include your soap and bread. 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. One-day workshop. Lunch is included. Price: $75.
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Saturday, August 26, 2017
Saturday, October 14, 2017

Spaces are limited! Sign up to hold yours! Email to sign up by mail, or go here to register online via Etsy.


Soap Making Workshops

varietypackLearn to make both cold process and hot process bar soap as well as the liquid soap process used for shampoo, body wash, hand and dish soap! In this full day, you will create your own soaps from scratch using natural ingredients and a variety of bases including milk, water, tea, and beer as you learn the chemistry of soap, how to use additives, what is superfatting, and how to develop safe personalized recipes using a soap calculator. We’ll also explore ideas and resources for packaging, gifting, and even selling your creations. Take-homes include some of everything! 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Lunch is included. One day workshop. $75.
Saturday, September 23, 2017

Spaces are limited! Sign up to hold yours! Email to sign up by mail, or go here to register online via Etsy.


Hard Cheese Made Easy Workshops

IMG_5757Explore the basic how and why of milk, cultures, rennet, cheese presses (homemade and spring-weighted), as well as resources and education about the basic supplies and equipment to set up a home cheese cave. You will practice hands-on making two hard cheeses–a washed curd cheese and a cheddar–from pot to press along with drying and waxing. Whether you’re thinking of getting your own cow or goat, or just want to experience the whole process from barn to kitchen, this workshop is for you. Every attendee will get hands-on practice milking a cow or goat both by hand and by machine and learn to handle fresh milk from filtering to skimming cream. Learn all about handling dairy livestock, breeding, housing, feeding, and managing babies along with maintaining a family dairy, hands on. Leave with hard cheese demystified and the skills to make your own at home. 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. One-day workshop. Lunch is included. $75.
Saturday, October 21, 2017

Spaces are limited! Sign up to hold yours! Email to sign up by mail, or go here to register online via Etsy.


Home Artisan Soft Cheese Workshops

DSC_3033Master simple but artisan soft cheeses at home! You will practice hands-on making a number of soft and semi-soft cheeses including sour cream, yogurt, ricotta, feta, along with herbed and aged soft cheeses. Whether you’re thinking of getting your own cow or goat, or just want to experience the whole process from barn to kitchen, this workshop is for you. Every attendee will get hands-on practice milking by hand and by machine and learn to handle fresh milk from filtering to skimming cream. Explore the basic how and why of milk, cultures, rennet, as well as resources and education about the basic supplies and equipment to make cheese at home. Learn all about handling dairy livestock, breeding, housing, feeding, and managing babies along with maintaining a family dairy, hands on. Leave with soft cheeses demystified and the skills to make your own at home. 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. One-day workshop. Lunch is included. $75.
Saturday, September 30, 2017

Spaces are limited! Sign up to hold yours! Email to sign up by mail, or go here to register online via Etsy.

The Sassafras Farm Experience

Learn! Find old-time skills and fresh, new methods with in-person mentorship, in-depth and hands-on, at a real working family farm. Take home fun and functional know-how for self-sufficient living and old-fashioned crafting–and take home what you make, too. Workshop days include lunch from a health department-approved kitchen plus all your instruction, supplies, and take-homes along with an opportunity to milk the cows or goats, visit the chickens, give treats to the animals, and rock on the porch while you watch the calves frolic. All you need to bring is an apron (optional), muck boots (recommended for forays to the barn), and your enthusiasm to learn! Every workshop is HANDS-ON with teacher and milk maid Suzanne McMinn, writer and creator of Chickens in the Road.
Accommodations are not included. See the Suggested Accommodations page.

Kids are welcome. Sassafras Farm workshops are family-friendly events. School-age children and teens may sign up to attend accompanied by a parent/guardian. (Both children/teens and parents must be paid attendees. Please be a good judge of your child’s maturity, behavior, and interest in the subject matter.)

Location: All workshops take place in the Studio at Sassafras Farm in Roane County, WV, about 30 minutes north of Charleston, WV near I-79. Directions to the farm and other information will be provided to attendees in advance of the workshop.

Cost: Cost includes ALL instruction, supplies, lunch and snacks, and take-homes. The price per person per workshop is $75 and must be paid in full in advance, at the time of reservation. If you sign up, please plan to attend. Workshop reservations are nonrefundable. If you can’t attend for some reason, your reservation payment can be applied to another workshop of your choice where there are openings available. (Workshops also make great gifts to friends and family!) And yes, many men attend workshops here!

Sign up! Email me at to sign up by mail OR sign up online using a credit or debit card or Paypal on Etsy! To register via Etsy, go here: Sign up on Etsy.

Looking forward to seeing you at the farm!

Suzanne McMinn


See the “Traveling WV” video of Sassafras Farm at WCHS-TV here!

Comments Comments
Share: |    Subscribe to my feed Subscribe
Posted by Suzanne McMinn | Permalink  

More posts you might enjoy:

Sign up for the Chickens in the Road Newsletter

A Hand-Crafter’s View of Etsy


The Muffin of the Month Club.

I’ve been wanting to write about my experience with Etsy, but my experience with Etsy keeps me on my feet so many hours a day in the kitchen making pepperoni rolls that I barely have time to write about my experience with Etsy! So who knows when I will post this, but I’m trying. I want this post to be for everyone who has ever thought about selling on Etsy, and for everyone who shops on Etsy. I have SO MUCH IN MY HEAD. Here it is.

I have thought about selling on Etsy for quite some time. I’m not sure how long, at least a year, probably longer. I’ve had many people say to me, “Why don’t you sell on Etsy?” I’ve sold soap and lotions and other things in the studio to workshop attendees for years, and occasionally have sold products directly through my website. The idea of using a seller platform seemed…foreign… But, I thought about it. In March of this year (2016) I made an experiment. I made a very rudimentary shop on Etsy–with no header photo or anything else, I didn’t take the time to fill out any seller information, I was busy with workshops starting for the year–and posted a listing for one soap, with photo. AND TOLD NO ONE. Then I ignored it henceforth because I was busy and wasn’t sure I wanted to sell on Etsy anyway.

In result, I got no sales, no views, nothing. Not that I knew since I didn’t even look in on my Etsy for months and months. I mean, if I’d had a sale, I would have gotten an email notification, but I didn’t get a sale. Or even any views on my barely-existent shop. And it was a bad photo anyway.

When I came back to log in to Etsy again in October (this year, 2016), I still had something to learn from the experience thus far, which was barely an experience, but still. I had listed soap for sale on Etsy and NOTHING HAD HAPPENED. I was feeling slightly more motivated about getting an Etsy shop going, so I examined the situation in light of what I should do going forward. I hadn’t sold a single bar of soap in six months. Was Etsy worthless? Of course, I hadn’t promoted in any way through my website or my Chickens in the Road Facebook, but I knew that if I was to be successful on Etsy, I would need more than my readership. I would need TOTAL STRANGERS to want to buy from me. Thus the six-month experiment of posting one soap and telling no one. If I was to post about it and promote it through my website, the experiment would be false. What I wanted to see was–HOW HARD is it to sell on Etsy, WITHOUT an existing platform of promotion? Well, yeah, it was hard, like as in, NO SALES. Then I decided to go for it, and I’m going to tell you how that went, too. And you know me–I’m going to be very frank.

From that point in early October, to now, mid-December, I’ve had over 18,000 views of my shop, over 350 shop and listing favorites, over 160 sales, and $2500 revenue. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? I need to tell you. Especially for those of you thinking of starting an Etsy shop, but also for an insider view to those of you who shop on Etsy–to understand the Etsy seller and their challenges, and their appreciation of YOU, the Etsy buyer. And, you know, just for you, my dearest readers, to understand my TOTAL EXHAUSTION right now.

Remember that year, when I first moved to Sassafras Farm, and all the pipes froze, and I had no money, and it was like, Kids, be happy we have running water, that is your Christmas present? This year is almost like that, but with running water, and it’s like, Kids, be happy there are a couple leftover cookies after I make this batch I’m shipping, cuz other than that, you can just starve! OR PAY ME BECAUSE I CHARGE FOR FOOD.


Okay, let’s talk about Etsy.

So first off, personally, my big deal was, why should I pay someone else to list my stuff??? I can sell it off the shelf in the studio, or from my website. Let’s go back to the reaching beyond my readership thing. Yes, I know, I have a platform. But NO ONE can survive just on that. I can’t survive just on that to sell workshops, so I already knew that. I’ve been selling workshops for years by promoting and advertising outside my website. The same is true for anything else. I have to stretch beyond my personal reach. Etsy gives me that platform that is beyond my personal platform. And if you don’t have a website with a platform, you need the Etsy platform just as much. If I need it, you need it. My first concern was cost. How much does it cost for me to sell through Etsy? It costs 3% per sale, and 20 cents per listing you publish. It’s not much. It’s worth it. IF you will do more than what I did for the first six months.

Let me talk to the soapmakers for a moment. What I’m going to say is not just based on my initial Etsy experiment with soap, but also on extensive browsing and research on Etsy in homemade soap. Homemade soap is one of the most competitive markets on Etsy. There are so many hand-crafters selling soap on Etsy, it is insane. Thus, the price is downgraded due to competition, and the chances of getting discovered selling soap is very low. I’m not going to tell you that it’s impossible to make a successful business selling soap on Etsy, but I’m here to tell you that you’ve got a tough row to hoe.

Rustic Farmstead Soap.
I decided immediately in October when I came back to Etsy “for real” that soap was going to be an “add-on” item in my shop, not my main focus. I love to make soap, and I make a quality soap, but I didn’t see a reasonable path to making a successful shop based on soap alone. I determined to diversify.

Diversification is not the norm on Etsy. I researched all the avenues of products I was interested in potentially pursuing on Etsy. I found, by vast majority, shops that specialized–in soaps and/or soaps/lotions, fudge and/or fudge/candies, vintage/candles/whatever, bread and other savory items, sweet baked goods, preserves, and so on. Many hand-crafters specialize. Due to the fact that for many years I’ve given workshops and/or written tutorials about so many varied things, I’m a jack of all trades. I took advantage of that to diversify my shop with soaps, fudges, lotions, candles, homemade mixes of all kinds, breads, sweets, anything and everything.

Tip: The more listings you have on Etsy, the easier it is for people to discover you.

Tip: The more diversified you are, the easier it is for people to discover you.

Tip: The more diversified you are, the more multiple item sales you will get.

How much does my personal website/Facebook platform play into it? Etsy provides extensive stats. More of my sales come from direct searches on Etsy (due to my diversification) or through Etsy’s Google shopping than from my website or my Facebook. What I want you to know is that anyone can do it. You don’t have to be me.

Now I want to mention my two biggest challenges.

Neither of which is Molasses Cookies.
Pricing: This has been SO hard for me, and I’ve changed prices on various things numerous times as I’ve gone through this, trying to understand my time, my ingredient cost, and what is valid for profit. I underpriced horribly in the beginning, but am more reasonably priced now. I want to give you this example.

The Biscuit of the Month Club. (I created this by request, by the way. Someone messaged me asking for it, so I created it!)
I posted a link to it on Facebook, and a lovely person kindly remarked that he couldn’t believe anyone would pay $300 for biscuits. Okay, first it’s not $300. A 12-month subscription is actually $244.80, and that includes not only the biscuits but also the shipping. (Shipping! Another story.) I sell one dozen basic Southern Biscuits for $10.95, with varying price points over that for numerous biscuit variations, such as Pepperoni & Mozzarella.
Shipping per box of biscuits costs $8.45. (Biscuits are one of my bestselling items. I’ve got this shipping down pat.) I sell the Biscuit of the Month in 3, 6, 9, or 12 month subscriptions. It’s a great gift item. The cost includes the shipping per box for the number of months subscribed, plus the biscuits. The biscuits include the ingredients, the time, and ME. (Can you tell how much this person irritated me? Not much? No? Really?! Yeah. Is my exhaustion showing? There’s nothing like someone telling you that what you’re doing isn’t worth what you’re charging right when you’re dying of exhaustion from doing it.)

What is a hand-crafter worth? Can you buy biscuits–or cookies or fudge or soap or bread of whatever–for less at the grocery store? YES. But you don’t get the hand-crafter. You don’t get the individual batch per order. You don’t get homemade. You don’t get that attention to detail. You don’t get that packaging that makes every order of a dozen biscuits (or whatever) look like a present under the Christmas tree. That is what you get from a hand-crafter on Etsy.

I make every batch of ANYTHING individually. There are no multiple batches. Everything is made to order, and every batch is individual. Everything is customized. And when it’s done, if it’s a fresh-baked good, it’s triple wrapped. I wrap first in Press n Seal. This seals out air. Then I place in a twist-tie bag, then that is placed inside a ziplocked bag. Then it’s tied with a bow with a label. Then I put a personal handwritten thank-you note in the box. Or I put in a printed note on my shop letterhead if it’s a gift and they’ve requested a gift note. To me, the crafting goes all the way from the creation of the product to the packaging, what they see when they take it out of the box. All of the effort to retain freshness in shipping does cost money. Triple wrapping is part of the cost of creating the product that may be shipped anywhere from down the road to Florida or Maine or Seattle.

If you want cheap, go to the grocery store, you are not my customer. They have lots of cheap stuff at the grocery store, go for it. If you want individual attention and quality, go to Etsy. That hand-crafter that you might think charges a couple dollars too much because you can get it cheaper at the store? She is up at 4 am and she doesn’t go to bed till 8 pm when she falls in it–and she did it all with joy, so pay her fairly. AND–most people do, and never complain, I want to say that, too. The wonderful people who have bought from me at my shop GET IT.

Customer Service. Speaking of customers–ohmygod, give them service!!! They are buying from you! I have made mistakes. It’s inevitable. I’ve gotten a few orders wrong, and they won’t be the last. When I get an order wrong, I send them the correct item, asap, at no charge, and often send them something extra. The other day, I had a local order. They paid for shipping. The delivery address was like 10 minutes away. I was on my way to the post office. I found the house. I stopped, and gave the delivery to a sweet little old lady. Then went home and refunded the shipping charge to the buyer.

Speaking of shipping… The automated shipping calculation on Etsy has been a huge challenge for me. I think this is mostly due to the fact that people tend to buy multiple different types of items (due to my diversification) in one order, and the Etsy calculation is often wrong. As soon as I figured out how to refund shipping overages, I started doing it.

How to sell successfully on Etsy? Promote. You don’t need an existing platform like I have, but you do need to promote. I promote through Etsy and Google (through Etsy). Diversify–so important. Don’t depend on one avenue of sales. Let people find you in multiple ways. And be ready to work! Every day is a new day and the orders tell me what I’m doing.

Typical day for me– Get up, start baking. Cooling baked goods. All non-baked goods are already packed and boxed. As soon as baked goods are cooled, they’re triple wrapped and added to the prepped boxes. A soap sample goes in every box, along with a thank-you note or printed gift letter. Boxes are finished and go to the car. Most of the time, I go to my favorite post office in Elkview. Sometimes it takes me two to three trips to get all the boxes in. I love my post office lady. She knows I sell on Etsy and we discuss what’s in each box and when she’s done, she asks me how I did today on being right on shipping, then says, “See you tomorrow!” I go home, whip out my post office receipt and send shipping notifications to everyone who has had orders shipped that day, and refund anyone who gets a shipping overage refund.

I take care of the animals.


Start all over the next morning.

I think this will slack off some after the holidays are over, but not too much–I hope!

Come see me at my Etsy shop! In the past two months, I’ve put up 90 listings. And no, you can’t see that original soap listing anymore. I deleted it. But I hope you learned something from what I’ve learned!

And yes, I’m tired. Is Christmas over yet? I have a list as long as my arm of orders to go out by Monday, and yes, I’m still taking orders through this weekend for Christmas shipping.

Visit my shop! You know you wanna see my $300 biscuits! (ha)

And I finished this post!

Comments 4 Comments
Share: |    Subscribe to my feed Subscribe
Posted by Suzanne McMinn | Permalink  

More posts you might enjoy:

Sign up for the Chickens in the Road Newsletter

Making Soap with Beer


Since I’ve been making, and selling, soap with beer, I’ve had people ask me how do you do that? It’s definitely a special process from a usual soap, and it’s not a last-minute project. You gotta plan ahead if you want to make beer soap. Gotta have flat beer.

I start with a 12 ounce bottle of beer, pour it into a small saucepan, and bring it to a boil. Then I simmer it for about three minutes. After that, I pour the beer into an open container and place it in the refrigerator for at least one day (uncovered) until using. This process is all about first burning off the alcohol in the simmering, then releasing the carbonation by leaving it sitting in an open container for at least 24 hours. (The reason I place the open container in the refrigerator is because of those little bugs that love yeasty things! We don’t want beer-bug soap, just beer soap!) Releasing the alcohol and carbonation makes the subsequent combination with lye a safe thing to do. You don’t want to mix an alcoholic carbonated liquid with lye.

Of course, you lose some of the beer to the simmering and the evaporation, so don’t expect to have 12 ounces of beer when you’re done. Depending on your recipe, you’ll have to add some amount of water back to add up to the required amount of liquid. You’ll lose about 30-40% of the beer. OR you could use a beer and a half (and drink the other half, if you like beer). OR you could do what I do, which is rather than adding water, I add goat’s milk to make a combination beer and goat’s milk soap.

Will the soap end up smelling like beer? Not really, but they sell ale-scented fragrance oils, so you could try that. I think beer goes great with citrus, so I use orange and patchouli essential oils in mine.

Why use beer in soap at all? Beer adds lather and conditioning to soap.

By the way, you can use this same simmer-evaporation process to make soaps using other types of alcohol, such as wine. Though I think this is a misuse of wine personally. (Ha ha.)

If you want to learn how in person, I have two upcoming all-day soapmaking workshops, November 19 and December 10. (The November 19 date is nearly filled, but I have a number of openings for December 10.) We’ll be making both hot and cold process soaps, including goat’s milk, beer, green tea, and liquid soap, plus homemade aloe vera body lotion, and you’ll learn how to use a soap calculator to create your own recipes. You can find out more about the soapmaking workshops here.

Or, visit my Soap Store if you just want to buy some!

Comments 2 Comments
Share: |    Subscribe to my feed Subscribe
Posted by Suzanne McMinn | Permalink  

More posts you might enjoy:

Sign up for the Chickens in the Road Newsletter

Hand-Crafted Goat’s Milk Soaps


All products are natural and preservative-free.

Bar SoapsFresh & Creamy
Goat’s milk soaps from Sassafras Farm are made with fresh raw goat milk from our own herd, with all the milk’s benefits of natural, nourishing vitamins, proteins, and alpha hydroxy acids. My soaps are hand-crafted the old-fashioned way, in small batches, using as many organic, locally-sourced, and home-grown ingredients as possible. These are simple, rustic, hand-cut bars, developed from my years of soap-making and soap-teaching experience, that will leave your skin feeling soft and moisturized. Every soap is made with 100% goat’s milk from the farm (no water added) except the beer soap, which is made with a combination of beer and goat’s milk. In addition, all soaps are formulated with the following fats and oils: Cocoa butter, lard, olive oil, coconut oil, and shea butter. Extra large bars, approximately 5 ounces. Find available soaps and other products below along with ordering details, and for more information, see the Questions section at the bottom of this page.

Note: Plain, fragrance-free goat’s milk soap is available on request.

lavenderoatmeal1Goat’s Milk Lavender & Oatmeal Soap. Made with dried lavender, lavender essential oil, and ground oatmeal for soothing qualities.

coffeepeppGoat’s Milk Peppermint & Coffee Soap. Made with coffee grounds for gentle conditioning, with peppermint essential oil.

beer1Beer Me Babe Goat’s Milk Soap. This is the only one of my soaps that is not made with 100% goat’s milk. It’s made with 60% beer for the sugars and carbs that make added lather, and 40% goat’s milk, with dried orange peel and orange and patchouli essential oils.

lemongrasshoneyGoat’s Milk Lemongrass & Honey Soap. Made with dried lemon peel and the natural healing properties of local raw honey with refreshing lemongrass essential oil.

sugarspiceGoat’s Milk Burnt Sugar & Spice Soap. A burnt sugar fragrance oil blended with orange essential oil scents this soap straight out of the farmhouse kitchen–sugar and spices and fruit.

rosemaryGoat’s Milk Forever Rosemary Soap. Made with dried rosemary from our own gardens and the clean, invigorating scent of rosemary essential oil.

brownsugaroatsGoat’s Milk Brown Sugar & Oats Soap. Smells like the inside of a cookie, sweetened with real brown sugar and a spiced brown sugar fragrance oil blended with the warmth of cedarwood essential oil. Light conditioning with finely ground oats.

sampler4Goat’s Milk Soap Sampler Pack. Enjoy every goat’s milk bar soap variety made at Sassafras Farm! The Soap Sampler Pack includes seven handmade bars, one each of Beer Me Babe, Burnt Sugar & Spice, Lavender & Oatmeal, Lemongrass & Honey, Brown Sugar & Oats, Forever Rosemary, and Peppermint & Coffee. Save 50 cents per bar off the regular individual bar price when buying the sampler pack.

soapcubesGoat’s Milk Soap CubesPerfect for travel or guest bath
Mini blocks of creamy goat’s milk soaps, convenient for use on trips or to create an inviting, country-style display for guests in your home. Soap cubes come in Lavender & Oatmeal, Peppermint & Coffee, Beer Me Babe, Lemongrass & Honey, Forever Rosemary, Burnt Sugar & Spice, or Brown Sugar & Oats. Six cubes per package.

lotion1Aloe Vera LotionLight & Nourishing
My homemade lotion is moisturizing and safe for both face and body. 4 ounce jars. Fragrance free. Made with olive oil, water, glycerin, and aloe vera. Can be shipped with soap orders.

bodybutter1Vitamin E Body ButterRich & Luxurious
My body butter is decadently crafted with cocoa butter, shea butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and Vitamin E. 4 ounce jars. Fragrance free. Can be shipped with soap orders.

$7 per soap bar (1 bar)
$45.50 per Goat’s Milk Soap Sampler Pack (7 bars)
$7 per package soap cubes (6 cubes)
$4 per aloe vera lotion (1 jar)
$9 per body butter (1 jar)

Shipping: Soap and/or soap cube packages can be shipped in padded envelopes by USPS first class mail. For example, I can ship a couple of bars of soap or soap cube packages for about $3 by first class mail. (Body lotions and butters must be shipped by USPS priority mail medium size box ($13.45) and can be combined with soap orders.)

For priority mail (two-day mail) I can ship up to six bars of soap and/or soap cubes for $6.45. If ordering a larger number of soaps or combination items of soap, lotion, and/or body butter, contact me for a shipping quote based on your order. In most cases, the shipping price for larger or combination orders including body butters and lotions will be $13.45 (medium size priority mail box). Stock up and combine items for your best shipping deal! You can also combine items with an order from my Fudge Shop.

One free soap sample comes with each order.

When you contact me with your order, let me know if you want to ship by first class mail or priority mail and I will get back to you with a shipping price specific to your order along with your payment information.

Shipping prices listed are for continental U.S. only. For Canada and other locations, contact me for a shipping quote.

Gift Orders: Soap makes a great gift! If your order is a gift, I can ship your items directly to your recipient with a handwritten note letting them know it is a gift from you. Just let me know when you order.

Contact Suzanne at to place your order!

Payment may be made by check or PayPal. If you wish to use PayPal, please contact me first for my PayPal address and additional information.

Or if you prefer, you can order through my Etsy shop here.

Valentina’s happy face.


Q: Does the milk really come from your own goats?
A: Yes. I milk my Alpine and Lamancha dairy goats every day. You can see me milking my goats here, with video!

Q: Why do hand-crafted beauty products cost so much?
A: Ingredients, man. What we think is soap at the store often isn’t even soap. It’s a synthetic detergent from a manufacturing plant. Real soap is made with lye (sodium hydroxide) and real ingredients, natural and nourishing. And those ingredients don’t come cheap. For example, each bar of hand-crafted Sassafras Farm soap costs over $3 just in ingredients. Add in my time and labor–hours per batch of soap and years of experience developing knowledge–and I think $7 per bar is a fair price for a soap including natural cocoa butter, shea butter, and only premium grade essential oils along with all the other ingredients, in extra-thick cut bars. (If you’re getting hand-crafted soap cheaper, the ingredients are cheaper and the bar is smaller.) It’s a similar equation for the lotion and body butter. My prices are as low as I can go and still justify doing it for love. Regarding shipping, prices are what the post office charges, I can’t help that.

Q: Do you make any vegetarian/vegan soaps?
A: I regularly use lard in all of my soaps. Lard is a hardening agent, and is an historic ingredient in soap for that reason. Non-animal fat hardening agents in soap (such as palm oil) come from non-sustainable practices that are harmful to the environment. Lard comes from pigs that are going to be butchered anyway. They aren’t butchered for soap. The lard is a by-product. Plus, bacon is delicious. I love pigs! See my pigs here.

Q: How should I take care of my soap, lotion, or body butter after it arrives?
A: If your order includes soap, please know that the plastic bag used to enclose your soap is for shipping only. Please remove your soap from its bag on arrival. Soap should always be exposed to air as it needs to breathe. If your order includes homemade lotion or body butter, please remember that these are preservative-free products. You may keep your lotion or body butter at a room temperature of 68-70 degrees for two months. If you will use it more slowly than that, or if you purchased extra lotions or butters, please keep refrigerated until ready to use. Refrigerated lotion or body butter will keep for six months or more.
Q: I want to make my own soap. How can I learn how?
A: Come to a workshop at Sassafras Farm! See all the workshops coming up here.

Comments 4 Comments
Share: |    Subscribe to my feed Subscribe
Posted by Suzanne McMinn | Permalink  

More posts you might enjoy:

Sign up for the Chickens in the Road Newsletter

Easy Homemade Liquid Soap Shampoo


Whenever I dig in to a major endeavor learning something new, it usually goes like this. First, it’s exciting and intimidating. I study and research whatever it is, then try it out, repeatedly, generally with mixed results. Then I get frustrated and impatient with the learning curve, and try again in fits and spurts. Then I give up for awhile and pout. Eventually, I get over myself and try again, at which point some kind of magic happens and all the experience–albeit frustrating–suddenly starts clicking in my brain, and it’s like the mysterious, anxious clouds part and I understand. My journey into cheesemaking, especially hard cheeses, was like that. I make a lot of hard cheeses now, and the process feels very easy to me anymore. And my cheeses come out great. But it wasn’t always like that. I went through a lot of frustration before I started seeing the light. Liquid soap has been like that for me, too, and I think it’s that way for a lot of people. Try googling homemade liquid soap–there’s not a lot of information out there unless you count tutorials on how to grate bar soap and melt it into liquid soap. When it comes to making liquid soap from scratch using potassium hydroxide, the information pool is pretty small.

I’m not sure why that is. Maybe because, since it’s liquid, it’s more functional than artsy as opposed to hard bar homemade soap. Or maybe also because the best known resource for homemade liquid soap is Making Natural Liquid Soaps by Catherine Failor, in which she presents a very complicated method. I followed that method myself when I started making liquid soap, and I’m not dissing it–it’s a perfectly good method for making liquid soap, but it’s very focused on clear liquid soaps. The way the recipes are formulated and the complicated methodology are all centered on that central concept of clarity. I still recommend the book as a good resource on understanding liquid soap, and I have a lengthy post with recipes for clear liquid soaps here.

But eventually–when I reached the period past initial excitement and intimidation, past study and research, past frustration and impatience and giving up and pouting, and finally started making liquid soaps again, the magic happened, as it usually does, and the clouds parted–I stopped following the Failor method for making liquid soap. I don’t care if my liquid soap is clear. I also started formulating my own recipes (using SoapCalc) because published recipes geared toward clear liquid soaps are too high in coconut oil (which contributes to clarity but makes them drying). And I simplified the whole process based on my years of soaping experience, both with liquid and hard bar soaps. I stopped trying to climb this mystical Mt. Everest of perfect liquid soap according to….who all, I don’t know….and just treated making liquid soap like I was making soap. Because, hello, that’s all it is.

Here’s how I make liquid soap now, and I wanted to share this here because it’s been years (five years!) since I first wrote about liquid soap. Because I don’t have all the time in the world to make every type of soap I use in my home on a daily basis, I mostly make shampoo. It goes on my hair. I’m mostly interested in what goes on or in my body, not so much what goes on my dishes or my laundry, but you can create (or find) recipes for those types of soaps, also. Remember, this liquid soap will not be clear–it will be a clear-ish amber color, and it may not be just right for your hair. It’s just right for mine (which is not dry or oily, just normal), that’s all I can say. It’s a Vitamin E-rich liquid soap with its high wheat germ oil content. I use it both as a shampoo and as a body wash. I like to call it my Rapunzel soap (because I have long hair). How much this recipe makes varies according to your dilution, but it should be between 1 and 2 quarts. I keep it in an olive oil dispenser, but an old shampoo bottle will do just as well.
IMG_8481 copy
*Remember to use potassium hydroxide, the lye for liquid soap, not sodium hydroxide.

Printer-Friendly Printer-Friendly
How to make Vitamin E Rapunzel Shampoo & Body Wash:

8 ounces coconut oil
6.5 ounces wheat germ oil
5.5 ounces castor oil
4 ounces olive oil
1 ounce lanolin

4.8 ounces potassium hydroxide
9.5 ounces water

Melt the coconut oil along with the other oils in a large crock pot.

Add the potassium hydroxide to the water (never the other way around! and you should be wearing goggles and gloves). When the lye is dissolved in the water, add the mixture to the oils in the crock pot and stick blend until the mixture reaches trace. Put the lid on the crock pot and cook it till it tests safe using a 1% phenolphthalein solution. Now you have your soap paste, ready to dilute.

Make a borax solution using 3 ounces of borax dissolved in 6 ounces of boiling hot water. The borax solution will aid in dilution. Add to the soap paste (still in the crock pot) along with a couple of cups of water. I’m not going to get detailed about how much water and we’re not going to do any math or consult any dilution tables. Just add water every once in a while and always in small quantities at a time. The goal is to dilute as thickly as possible while still completely diluting. Leave the crock pot on low with the lid on. Check on it periodically, stir it around, add more water if you have to. If it’s bedtime, turn off the crock pot and go to bed. The soap will keep working on itself while you’re sleeping. Next morning, stir it around, see if it’s diluted to your satisfaction. If not, add some more water. I’ve had liquid soap be ready the next morning, and I’ve had batches of liquid soap I’ve left in the crock pot for two weeks! (Mostly because I got busy doing other things and left the pot turned off for days at a time before I got back to paying attention to it. Liquid soap will wait for you.) I don’t rush the dilution phase. I just add a little water at a time, check on it every once in a while, and it’s done when it’s done. I like liquid soap to be about the consistency of molasses, thick but pourable at the same time. In my experience I’ve found that the more slowly and patiently I deal with dilution, the thicker end result I can attain.

When it’s done, I add a couple ounces of sulfated castor oil. Sulfated castor oil is NOT the same thing as regular castor oil. I use it for superfatting. It’s the only oil that won’t separate in a water-based mixture. I don’t add fragrance to this, but you can if you want–use fragrance sparingly, like several drops. Fragrance and essential oils are oils so they are prone to separation in a water-based mixture if you use too much.

And there you have it. If you look back at my post here from five years ago about how I made liquid soap then, you’ll see how much simpler I make it now. And it’s better soap, too, go figure!

Comments 10 Comments
Share: |    Subscribe to my feed Subscribe
Posted by Suzanne McMinn | Permalink  

More posts you might enjoy:

Sign up for the Chickens in the Road Newsletter

Moon Pie’s Opening Day


Saturdays are busy days. I have workshops here almost every Saturday all the way through to early December. Most workshops include goat or cow milking. This past Saturday was a Taste of Sassafras Farm, which includes cow milking, cheesemaking, soapmaking, grain grinding and breadbaking, and candlemaking. It was Moon Pie’s first performance before an audience! She’s still a milker in training, and part of the training here means learning to handle being hand-milked by multiple people and calmly tolerating multiple people in the milking parlor.

The day starts with breakfast in the studio then down to the barnyard to milk.
Everyone enjoys visiting with the animals on the way.
Then we’re on to the milking parlor. I was proud of Moon Pie–she did great! One of the attendees milking Moon Pie:
Everyone who wanted to milk got to milk. Moon Pie stayed calm and carried on! Sometimes not all attendees want to put their hands on the cow, but most of them want to give it a try. Usually right around the time someone says, “I can’t get anything to come out!” is when they squirt themselves in the face with milk.

I warn people about this phenomenon.

But it still happens.
After milking, there’s time to ramble around the barnyard and visit the animals some more.
I tell everyone to bring “barn boots” before they come.
Back at the studio, I have workshop stations set up outside and divide attendees into groups for cheesemaking.
I love seeing people make cheese for the first time. There’s always a sense of wonder. LOOK, CHEESE!
Cheese IS pretty amazing.
I hand out packages of crackers and they get to eat their fresh warm cheese right away.
Next up is soapmaking (and lunch).
Not to mention a visit from someone special.
Maia, in her tutu and bunny ears, with one of Saturday’s younger attendees.
Back in the studio, everyone makes a loaf of bread with fresh ground soft white wheat.
I make loaves of fresh ground grains (kamut, spelt, hard red spring wheat, and soft white winter wheat) for everyone to sample at supper.
The day rounds out with candlemaking.
Everyone takes home their own loaf of bread, cut bars of their own soap, and their candle.
The previous two Saturdays had been goat workshops, so a cow workshop was a nice change of pace this past Saturday, and there’s an even bigger change of pace coming up this Saturday–it’s the first chicken processing workshop!

You can see all my workshops and dates coming up this year here, and more pictures of the Studio at Sassafras Farm here.

Comments 4 Comments
Share: |    Subscribe to my feed Subscribe
Posted by Suzanne McMinn | Permalink  

More posts you might enjoy:

Sign up for the Chickens in the Road Newsletter

Perfect Hot Process Goat’s Milk Soap


Since I’ve had the new milk goats, I’ve been making a lot of goat’s milk soap. To make a goat’s milk soap that’s not dark, I focused on cold process methods. There’s nothing wrong with a darker soap, it’s just an aesthetic issue. Milk soaps are darker than soaps made from a water base because of the reaction of the lye to the sugars in milk. When mixing milk and lye, the milk will turn an orange color. (Basically, the milk is scalded by the chemical reaction with the lye.) Later, this color translates to a dark brown in the finished soap–especially if it’s a cooked soap made by hot process. I had a lot of success with the cold process goat’s milk soap method I outlined here. The soap depicted in that post was made with coffee grounds, for a coffee scrub soap, and even the addition of coffee grounds didn’t darken the soap. Three weeks later, it’s still a nice, light cold process soap that saponified within two weeks (despite being refrigerated immediately after being placed in the mold). That quick cool-down in the fridge aided in keeping a loaf mold soap from continuing to heat the milk, though it did slow final saponification.

Could it be done in hot process? Am I not the person who said to forget about making a lighter goat’s milk soap with the hot process method? Sometimes I eat my words, and I’m happy to eat them! I’ve done numerous test methods with goat’s milk soap and the hot process method, despite being perfectly happy with the cold process method I outlined in the afore-linked coffee scrub post. That method was a 50% goat’s milk and 50% water method. That’s still a good percentage of goat’s milk in the soap, but. What about a 100% goat’s milk soap? And what about hot process? I teach the hot process method of soapmaking in workshops. And the reason for that is because of the immediate gratification factor. During one-day workshops, I’m dealing with limited time constraints. I need to send fully-saponified soap home with attendees within hours of them making the soap. This means hot process. And there are plenty of other reasons to make soap by the hot process method anyway. I’ve always been a hot process fan. To me, it’s just a more authentic method. I’m a sucker for the old-fashioned way. And I love soap that’s soap right away. But how to make a perfect hot process goat’s milk soap, that doesn’t get that bad cooked-milk stink, doesn’t turn horribly dark, cooks/saponifies quickly, and is actually a full 100% goat’s milk soap?

Test after test after test after test later…. The method I developed from trial and error is what I call hot process goat’s milk soap with a cold process treatment, because the brainstorms and light bulbs that went off in my head that led to this incredible result came from my experiments in cold process–which I then applied to my thinking about hot process.

Why do I call it incredible?
The soap on the left is a hot process goat’s milk soap made the usual hot process way, and there’s even only 4 ounces of goat milk in the soap. The soap on the right is the hot process goat’s milk soap made with the cold process treatment–and it’s made with 100% goat’s milk. You tell me if that’s not an incredible difference. NO WAY can a hot process goat’s milk soap with 12 ounces of goat’s milk be that much lighter than a hot process soap made with just 4 ounces of goat’s milk.

Yes way. It’s all in the method. I’m gonna show you how. If you’re ready to get down to the business end of your stick blender, let’s go!

Printer-Friendly Printer-Friendly
Crisco — 9.6 ounces or 272.155 grams
olive oil OR olive oil pomace — 9.6 ounces or 272.155 grams
lard — 6.4 ounces or 181.437 grams
coconut oil (76-degree melt point) — 6.4 ounces or 181.437 grams
goat’s milk — 12.16 ounces or 344.73 grams
lye — 4.463 ounces or 126.524 grams

CAUTION: Always be safe. Wear goggles and gloves any time you’re dealing with lye and while handling the soap until it tests non-caustic.

How to make Perfect Hot Process Goat’s Milk Soap:

Gather all tools, utensils, ingredients, and other supplies including your molds and prepare your work area.

Step 1

Weigh your goat’s milk and place in the freezer. Wait about an hour, with the milk chilling in the freezer, then move on to Step 2.

Step 2

Weigh each fat/oil. Place fats/oils in a crock pot on Low. Heat until completely melted. Turn the crock pot off. Remove crock from pot and place on a wire rack to cool.
It’s not necessary to take the temperature of the mixture–just let it cool while you move on to Step 3.

Step 3

Put on your goggles and gloves. Weigh the lye. Remove the milk from the freezer–it should be very cold by now, like a slushy. It doesn’t need to be completely frozen. Begin to gradually add the lye to the milk. DO NOT add very much at a time. ALWAYS ADD LYE TO THE MILK, not the other way around. Adding the lye to the milk should take about 45 minutes. This keeps the entire mixture at a controlled cool temperature during the combining of the milk and lye, and is a key part of the “cold process treatment” you’re giving to the hot process soap.
Over the course of the slow lye addition to the milk, the mixture will turn yellowish.
By the time you’re finished, it will be a lemon-y color. With your crock back in the pot (heat still off), it’s time to combine the lye/milk mixture with the melted and cooled fats/oils.
Step 4

Carefully pour the lye/milk mixture into the fats/oils and begin stick blending.
Once you reach a nice, strong trace, it’s time to turn the crock pot back on Low.

Step 5

Put on the lid, but check back frequently. Early in the cook:
As the mixture turns from the outside in into a gel state, the extra and variable fat in goat’s milk can separate.
You can see it bubbling at the sides of the pot if you dip a spoon in there.
This is one of the tricky aspects of a milk soap. When using fresh farm milk, it’s impossible to account for the exact amount of cream content in the milk, especially goat’s milk which is homogenized and not readily skimmed. Basically, it’s extremely super-fatted. Put the stick blender back in the crock and re-emulsify it.
End of the cook:
The rapid re-emulsification with the stick blender will speed the finish time, and help keep the soap from over-cooking or darkening or getting a cooked-milk stink. I use a 1% phenolphthalein solution to test the soap.

Step 6

Before placing hot process soap in the mold, I always transfer it first to a stainless steel bowl. This is where I mix in additives and fragrances. I like to get it off the heat as quickly as possible. If you’ve paid attention to your soap and not over-cooked it, it will still be in a smooth and workable state for another 5-10 minutes. Especially if I’m adding fragrances, I like to stir the soap around and cool it slightly before adding scents.
The soap in this state, just finished, looks dark, but when it cools and hardens, it will lighten. For this soap, I didn’t add any additives or fragrances at all. I wanted to show a baseline on how light the soap is in this method if you don’t add any fragrance or additives that could affect color.

Step 7

Place the soap in the prepared mold. I’m using a loaf mold here.
Put the soap in the freezer. This quick cool-down will further interact with the rest of the “cold process treatment” we’ve given this hot process soap to keep the color lighter by kicking back the heat on the soap as quickly as possible. Leave it in the freezer for at least two hours before removing. Let the soap come to room temperature before unmolding.

Here is the finished soap, unmolded.
Here, cut into bars.
Here it is in comparison to another hot process goat’s milk soap, made without the “cold process treatment” method.
The difference is incredible. The keys to this method are: 1) Treating the soap with cold process techniques at the beginning by cooling the fats/oils and also cooling the lye/milk mixture not only by freezing the milk but by the very slow lye addition; 2) re-emulsifying with the stick blender at mid-cook to speed the cooking process and lessen the heat effects on the milk; and 3) freezing the finished soap in the mold to quickly kick back the heat. Hot process soap–but with a cold process treatment.

See how to make “regular” hot process soap here to see the differences in the methods.

As the soap sits and cures to harden, the color doesn’t change or darken.
Now that’s perfect hot process goat’s milk soap! Light, mild, creamy, and 100% goat’s milk.

If you try my method, let me know how it works for you! Note: Your mileage will vary if you include additives or fragrances that darken soap.

Comments 6 Comments
Share: |    Subscribe to my feed Subscribe
Posted by Suzanne McMinn | Permalink  

More posts you might enjoy:

Sign up for the Chickens in the Road Newsletter

Making Lighter Colored Milk Soaps


Milk soaps are popular because they’re naturally nourishing, but they’re also naturally darker than soaps made from a water base because of the reaction of the lye to the sugars in milk. When mixing milk and lye, the milk will turn an orange color. Later, this color translates to a dark brown in the finished soap. The most common way to minimize this is to freeze the milk to a slushy consistency before adding the lye.

This helps. Some.

In the photo below, the soap on the left is made from a normal combination of lye and milk where the milk is simply at refrigerator temperature. The color is like fudge.
The soap on the right is a water-based/milk-based combination. The water-based soap was poured in the mold first and the milk-based portion of the soap was poured on top. The color of the milk-based portion is lighter than the soap on the left because the milk was at a frozen-slushy temperature.

So, yes, the frozen-slushy consistency helps lighten the finished soap. Some. What if you want to lighten it more? (There’s nothing wrong with the darker appearance, by the way. It doesn’t have any effect on the qualities of the soap. It’s an aesthetic matter, and a personal preference.)

Since I’ve been milking goats again, I’ve been researching how to make a lighter colored goat’s milk soap. One method I discovered is the use of powdered goat’s milk as an additive mixed into the soap at trace. I’m not interested in that method. (It seems a little disingenuous to me, not to mention that the whole purpose–for me–is to create a natural goat’s milk soap fresh off the farm.) After researching across numerous websites and forum discussions, and talking to some soaper friends, I came up with several ideas that I wanted to experiment with, using the cold process method. (You can forget about making a much lighter colored milk soap with hot process.)

Along with making the lye-milk combination with the milk at a frozen-slushy consistency, place the bowl in an ice bath during the lye-milk mixing–and add the lye slowly, a little at a time, taking up to an hour to complete the combination. This works! If you take your time, and a lot of time, you’ll never see that orange milk-scalding color in your lye-milk combination.

Then! Yes, then! After mixing the lye-milk mixture with your oils, bringing it to trace, and transferring the soap to the mold, place the mold in the refrigerator for 24 hours. The refrigeration prevents the gel phase–the point where your cold process soap heats in the mold. This also, of course, slows saponification.

This is a cold process goat’s milk soap made by this method, after 24 hours.
As you can see, the soap is still very light. I used coffee grounds in this soap recipe, so I was living dangerously since coffee grounds can also add color to soap. I used essentials oils that I know will not add color to soap–a blend of peppermint and rosemary, to balance my walk on the wild side with the coffee grounds. Some fragrance and essential oils add color to soap, so if you’re trying to achieve a lighter colored milk soap, avoid those oils. Avoid additives that add color, also. Like, you know, COFFEE GROUNDS. But hey, I was in the mood for a coffee scrub soap. Next batch, I’m making a lavender goat’s milk soap. Lavender essential oil and lavender petals do not add color, so I’ll compare the two finished soaps and see how much of an impact the coffee grounds had on the final color.

After 24 hours in the fridge, I set the mold at room temperature for another 24 hours before unmolding and cutting into bars.
I expect the cure and hardening time to finish the soap to be longer than usual due to interrupting the gel phase, so I’ll be testing it periodically to see how long it takes to finish, and also take more photographs as time goes by to test color changes. I don’t expect the soap to stay this light, but I’m hoping for something lighter than I’ve achieved before.

Coffee Scrub Goat’s Milk Soap.
So far. Color changes take time. I’ll post again with my results as the soap cures.

Have you experimented with milk soaps? If you’ve got any ideas, I’d love to hear!

Comments 2 Comments
Share: |    Subscribe to my feed Subscribe
Posted by Suzanne McMinn | Permalink  

More posts you might enjoy:

Sign up for the Chickens in the Road Newsletter

Daily Farm

If you would like to help support the overhead costs of this website, you may donate. Thank you!

Sign up for the
Chickens in the Road Newsletter

The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

Today on Chickens in the Road

Join the Community in the Forum

Search This Blog


March 2018
« Dec    

Out My Window

Walton, WV
Weather from OpenWeatherMap

I Love Your Comments

I Have a Cow

And she's ornery. Read my barnyard stories!

Entire Contents © Copyright 2004-2018 Chickens in the Road, Inc.
Text and photographs may not be published, broadcast, redistributed or aggregated without express permission. Thank you.

Privacy Policy, Disclosure, Disclaimer, and Terms of Use