The Farmstand Is Open!

Over the weekend we opened our brand new farmstand, conveniently located at 189 Ragged Lake Rd, Owls Head, NY 12969. The stand is stocked with our raw goat’s milk (for animal consumption, sold by the half gallon in returnable glass bottles), fresh eggs, and a variety of our handmade goat’s milk soaps. We will be adding seasonal produce and baked goods as the summer gets underway. We are big believers in the importance of local food, therefore, we will be partnering with other North Country farms to make it easier to eat locally in Owls Head. Our partner farms and their products will be listed on the Farmstand page of our website; be looking for updates on what we will carry.

DIY Dishwasher Pods

Happy Monday! I figured I would share this recipe while everyone is stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for something to do.

I’m a big fan of dishwasher pods. To be honest, I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t use dishwasher pods. Unfortunately, though, they’re fairly expensive, and of course full of chemicals that I don’t necessarily want to use on things that I eat off of. My solution? DIY! (Seriously, when isn’t DIY my solution?) I found a super simple recipe on Pinterest, that only requires 4 ingredients: salt, baking soda, white vinegar, and dish soap.

  1. Start by combining 1/4 cup of salt with 1 cup of baking soda in a medium bowl.
  2. Mix in 2 teaspoons of a dish soap of your choice. I use my own, all natural dish soap, the recipe for which can be found here.
  3. Add white vinegar until the ingredients form a thick paste. The instructions in the original recipe say to start with 2 tablespoons, adding more as needed. I always use about 3 tablespoons.
  4. Spoon the paste into a silicone ice cube tray (or in our case, a silicone soap mold). Once each chamber has been filled with roughly the same amount of paste, use a spatula, spoon, or a finger to pack it tightly.
  5. Allow the pods to harden for a few days, then pop them out of the silicone, and store them in a jar or other container.
The silicone soap mold that we use to make dishwasher pods and miniature bar soaps for guests.

My only complaint about these dishwasher pods is that they sometimes leave our son’s bottles looking a bit cloudy. After doing some reading, I found that our dishwasher doesn’t rinse the dishes as well as it should, because we have very hard water. To overcome this, I started using diluted vinegar as a natural rinse aid, and problem solved! Adding straight vinegar to the rinse aid dispenser isn’t recommended, as vinegar can cause the rubber seals to deteriorate.

Here’s a link to the original recipe: https://www.superhealthykids.com/healthy-home/how-to-make-all-natural-dishwasher-pods/

Progress On Our Farmstand

Today we put the roof on our farmstand, despite getting caught in the rain. We are so excited to be bringing fresh, local food to our little community. Hopefully we will have things up and running in just a few weeks!

We received a generous grant from the Food Animal Concerns Trust to help cover the cost of having a utility pole installed at the new property to power our farmstand, and eventually, our barn. We are very grateful for these funds, and we hope to share the wealth with other local farmers by marketing their products through our farmstand. We already have several partnerships in the works, but we’d love to hear what you’d like to see! Goat’s milk lotion, maple syrup, honey, beef, pork, chicken, and a greater variety of produce are all possibilities.

The Facts On Raw Milk

The sale and consumption of raw milk is a bit of a hot topic. Like it or not, the laws prohibiting the consumption of raw milk were put in place to keep people safe. In my home state of New Hampshire, they take the motto “Live Free or Die!” quite literally. There, the sale of raw milk is legal and almost entirely unregulated. Here in New York it’s a different story. While raw milk sales are legal, it is exceedingly difficult to become a licensed raw milk dairy. We’ve found the licensing process to be cost prohibitive for small farms like ours, so we decided to go in a different direction and sell our raw goat’s milk for pets. There is a thriving market of dog and cat owners who purchase raw milk as a probiotic for their furry companions, however, we recognize that there is probably a percentage of that customer base who aren’t buying milk for the intended purpose. We definitely don’t encourage it, but since there isn’t much we can do to stop it, we want to do our part to educate people so that they can make safe choices regarding raw dairy products.

If you are choosing to partake in the consumption of raw milk, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Sanitation is everything!

  • You should NEVER buy milk from someone who doesn’t use a closed milking system. Dirt, hair, feces and insects can easily fall into a milking pail. Even though these things can usually be strained out, the milk has been tainted and should not be consumed.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your farmer questions! He or she should be able to walk you through all of their sanitation protocols step by step. Some things to listen for are:
    • Washing all of the milking equipment with soap and hot water.
    • Rinsing all of the milking equipment with some sort of acid. This prevents solids from being redeposited after the initial wash.
    • Using teat dip before and after milking.
    • Wearing gloves during milking.
    • Using a clean towel to wipe each goat’s teats.
    • Chilling milk immediately after milking. When the milk comes out of the udder, it is around 100 degrees (the body temperature of the cow or doe). Milk will spoil quickly if it is left sitting in the barn at this temperature.
  • The living conditions of the animals play a big role in milk safety, as well as in the health and welfare of the animals. Pens should be kept clean to prevent the cows or does from contracting mastitis (an infection of the mammary glands). Dirty pens lead to dirty animals, which leads to an increased chance of fecal contamination during milking.
  • Milk should be tested regularly. There are several different tests that can be used to assure the safety of raw milk. Which tests are run and how often isn’t of particular importance, what matters is that your farmer is monitoring their bacterial counts and taking measures to keep them low. I will share more about the different types of tests and how to interpret them in a later post. Testing can be expensive, but if someone says that they can’t afford to test their milk, you should be extremely wary, as this indicates poor management, which may extend to their herd management as well.

I will be making another post soon that will spell out our farm’s sanitation and testing protocols. We believe in total transparency; that’s why we will be making our milk test results available to the public. Our hope is that one day, consumers will become so well educated about agriculture that they’ll be able to make decisions about food safety themselves, and the current ultra stringent regulations will no longer be necessary.

5 Minute DIY Dish Soap

At our house, we love DIY solutions, especially when they’re all natural and save us money. We also love finding creative ways to use our handmade goat’s milk soaps besides just washing our hands and bodies. We’ve been making our own laundry soap for quite a while by grating our end bars, and combining the shredded soap with washing soda, borax, and baking soda. When I stumbled upon a super simple dish soap recipe, I couldn’t resist trying it out!

This recipe only calls for three ingredients: shredded soap, baking soda, and water. The first time I made it, I used our own peppermint goat’s milk soap (of course). In hindsight, I should have opted for a bar that didn’t contain dried herbs, because the little bits of leaf stick to the dishes. The next time I used a bar of balsam instead, and I was much happier with the result.

This recipe couldn’t be simpler to make:

  1. Set a small bowl on a kitchen scale. Grate a bar of soap over the bowl until you have 35-40 grams. (You can use any natural soap that you like!)
  2. Place the grated soap in a pot, and add 2.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the soap flakes are completely dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat. Allow the liquid to cool until it is warm, but not hot. Stir in 2 teaspoons of baking soda.
  4. Allow the mixture to stand overnight. Transfer to a bottle or jar for use.

This recipe is based on one I found on https://wastelandrebel.com/. I made a few changes to make it work better with our soap. I also omitted the essential oil because I felt that the essential oils in our soap provided enough of a scent. The result is much thinner than a commercial dish soap, most likely because it lacks glycerin, however, I’ve found it to be equally as effective at cutting through grease. Just give this dish soap a little shake every now and then to keep it from separating, and enjoy washing your dishes with something all natural!

Looking for an alternative to plastic sponges that you have to throw away? My mother-in-law crochets these adorable dish scrubbies out of 100% cotton yarn.

My Plastic-Free Shampoo Obsession

You may have read my last post, about the greasy, stringy DISASTER that was my homemade shampoo experience. After spending two months looking like I hadn’t showered, I was ready to give up on my mission to find a plastic-free shampoo solution. It just didn’t seem possible. I knew that I couldn’t pull off making my own shampoo, but I also had read quite a bit about how shampoo bars don’t really work, so what other options did I have? As it turns out, I had two other options: shampoo in returnable aluminum bottles (Plaine Products was the one I kept coming across) or Beauty Kubes. I decided to test out the least expensive option first, and ordered a box of the Beauty Kubes Shampoo for Oily Hair, and the Beauty Kubes Conditioner.

Photo comes from the Beauty Kubes website: https://beautykubes.co.uk/

What are Beauty Kubes? They’re the greatest thing since sliced bread! They’re little cubes of shampoo (like sugar cubes) that you crumble in the palm of your hand and rehydrate in the shower. From the first time I used one, I was hooked. So what do I love about them?

  1. They make my hair look amazing! In one wash, my hair went from being sad and greasy to being better than it ever has been! I swear, the Beauty Kubes have taken my natural waves to a whole new level.
  2. They smell amazing. I can’t put my finger on exactly what I’m smelling, but they smell of essential oils, which I like.
  3. The ingredients are listed on their website. Many beauty companies don’t disclose all of the ingredients that are in their products for whatever reason. We’re big fans of transparency. We list all of the ingredients that go into our soaps right on the tag, and expect other companies to do the same.
  4. They are sulphate and silicone free. If you aren’t using a sulphate free shampoo already, make the switch! Your hair will thank you.
  5. They are perfect for traveling. No more funneling shampoo into TSA approved bottles, no more using low quality hotel shampoo. Just toss a few cubes into a container and you can have goddess hair no matter where your journey takes you.

I honestly don’t have enough good things to say about them. The only thing that I don’t LOVE about them is the price. It costs $15.00 for a box of 27 cubes, which is a little bit more expensive than the grocery store shampoo brand I had been buying, but isn’t nearly as much as some of the salon quality shampoos out there. I use one cube per wash, and wash my hair every other day (in part to cut down on the cost, but also because I’m lazy). You may be able to get by with a half a cube, or you may need to use two, depending on the length and thickness of your hair.

Beauty Kubes are made by a British company, so the prices on their website are listed in pounds. I ordered through Oregon-based distributor Well Earth Goods. If you are interested in living the plastic-free lifestyle, check them out! They have all sorts of products, from tote bags, to bamboo toothbrushes to reusable coffee filters: https://wellearthgoods.com/

DIY Shampoo Fail (And Why We Don’t Make a Shampoo Bar)

Since we made the commitment to eliminate single-use plastics from our life, we’ve been experimenting with a lot of new products, some good, some bad. Today, I’m going to tell you about the really bad. I mean REALLY bad; my hair still looked wet 24 hours after showering and my husband kept calling me “greaseball”. From what I’ve read, there is a transition period when switching from a chemical-laden commercial shampoo to a natural shampoo, but for me, the transition period lasted for a month and a half AKA it didn’t end.

We’re often asked whether our goat’s milk soap can be used as a shampoo, and we usually say yes, but not for the long term. (I’ve tried it, and I wasn’t pleased with the results.) Soaps, and many of the shampoo bars on the market, have an alkaline pH, which makes them a poor choice for maintaining healthy hair. If I’ve learned one thing from all of my research on natural shampoo, it’s that it’s all about pH. Hair is happiest and healthiest when its pH is somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5. This acidity helps to protect the scalp from fungi and bacteria growth. Using an alkaline shampoo will disrupt the pH balance of the scalp. Some people claim that this doesn’t matter, as long as you rinse with something acidic, such as apple cider vinegar, but I did not find this to help much.

I knew I wanted a pH balanced natural shampoo, so I scoured the internet for a recipe that I could make with the ingredients I already had at home. I found one that used coconut milk, castor oil, honey, apple cider vinegar, and essential oils. What was odd about this recipe was that it wasn’t stable at room temperature, which makes sense, since the coconut milk and the honey would require the use of an artificial preservative. Following the recipe, I made shampoo cubes that I stored in the freezer. I thawed one cube every other shower, and kept the thawed shampoo in a Mason jar in the refrigerator when I wasn’t using it. The shampoo had a pleasant smell and a creamy consistency, but it didn’t seem to lather well (which can be normal for natural shampoos). I knew before I began using this recipe that the first few days (or even weeks) would be rough as my scalp adjusted to produce less oil. What I didn’t know is that my hair would turn into a sad, greasy mess for the entire month and I half that I stuck with this recipe, or that it would become progressively more greasy. IT WAS BAD. 

I’m a firm believer in learning from our mistakes, and what I learned is that pH balanced hair care products are best left to the professionals! This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my quest to find a sustainable alternative to buying shampoo in plastic bottles. I’ve found a few companies that sell natural shampoo in recyclable aluminum bottles (and will even provide shipping labels to return the empty bottles to be reused). I am currently testing a product called Beauty Kubes, which are basically dehydrated cubes of shampoo and conditioner that are crumbled and rehydrated in the shower. I haven’t been using them for long enough to draw any conclusions as to whether they work or not, but I will be sure to share the results (good, bad, or ugly) here on the blog!

Goat Milk: For Your Pets?

Today is a big day for us here at the Cook Farm. Our pet food license from the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets has finally arrived! (We had been checking our mailbox religiously every morning for the past month waiting for it to come in.) What does this mean? We are now authorized to sell raw goat’s milk as a nutritional supplement for dogs and cats (or other species). We will begin offering milk in returnable glass bottles as soon as we can get our farmstand up and running this spring.

So, what’s the deal? Why on earth would anyone sell goat’s milk as a nutritional supplement for pets? Here are our two big reasons:

1) We love our goats! We love them so much, that we made milking them our business. You may have tried one of our goat’s milk soaps before (if you haven’t, check them out here). We really enjoy making and selling our soaps, but we think that our goats have a lot more to offer. Goat’s milk, goat’s milk cheeses, and goat’s milk frozen yogurt are all delicious and we would love to be able to sell them for human consumption, but there’s one BIG problem: becoming a Grade A dairy is incredibly cost-prohibitive! For us to do so, we would need to construct a brand new milking parlor, separate milk house, while navigating an incredibly complex series of regulatory hurdles. (Don’t even get us started on NY’s raw milk regulations!)

2) Goat’s milk is actually GREAT for your pet! If you don’t believe us, check out this article from The Dog Bakery (based in California) on all of the health benefits that goat’s milk has to offer your pet. Our friend Rosemarie has noticed that her dog Molly’s skin allergies have improved since she started giving her our raw goat’s milk, and she believes that the RAW part is key. Pasteurization was designed to kill harmful bacteria in milk, but unfortunately, it also destroys many of the beneficial probiotics and vitamins, alters the structure of healthy fats and proteins, and deactivates important digestive enzymes. Organic Pastures (a family-owned farm in Fresno, CA) posted a handy chart on their website to illustrate how raw milk, pasteurized milk, and plant-based milk substitutes compare, which you can find here. Dogs and cats really seem to love the taste, and look forward to their daily milk treat!

You will notice that each bottle of our milk states “WARNING: NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION – THIS PRODUCT HAS NOT BEEN PASTEURIZED AND MAY CONTAIN HARMFUL BACTERIA”, but rest assured, we regularly test our milk to ensure that our SCC (short for somatic cell count, which is the total number of cells per milliliter) is low, reducing the likelihood that harmful bacteria may be present. We will post our test results here on our website when we receive them.

Hopefully this post has been informative, and you are now curious enough to try giving some of our goat’s milk to your pet! We will be sure to share updates as we approach the completion of our farmstand and have milk available to sell.

Baby Goat Care

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: kidding season! While our does aren’t due until mid-April, we’ve noticed a lot of babies being posted for sale by farms throughout NY, VT, and PA. As breeders, we believe that we have a duty to educate future goat owners about the best practices for raising happy, healthy kids. For this reason, I spent the winter creating a comprehensive kid care guide (PDF download) that I’d like to share with you, covering the following topics:

  • Housing (Fencing, Shelter, Toys)
  • Feeding (Bottle-Feeding, Grain, Forages, Minerals)
  • Health (Vaccination, Hoof Trimming, Disbudding, Castration, Detecting Illness)
  • Socialization & Companionship

I referenced a few helpful resources at the end of the guide, but I’d like to take this opportunity to list several more that I consult regularly.

Books:

The Dairy Goat Handbook: For Backyard, Homestead, and Small Farm by Ann Starbard

Small-Scale Livestock Farming: A Grass-Based Approach for Health, Sustainability, and Profit by Carol Ekarius

Websites:

Maryland Small Ruminant Page http://sheepandgoat.com/

ADGA Knowledgebase http://adga.org/knowledgebase/

The Goat Spot http://thegoatspot.net/

Dairy Practices Council http://dairypc.org/

Other:

Cornell Cooperative Extension http://cce.cornell.edu/

I wanted to keep this guide short and simple, while still touching on all of the critical aspects of kid care. I am by no means a goat expert; our family began raising goats in 2018, prior to then I worked with dairy cattle, and I studied animal health while completing my Agribusiness degree. If any more seasoned herdsmen have any changes to suggest, I would welcome them to share their insight and I will certainly take it into consideration as I revise the guide in the future.

Simple Deodorant Recipe

Today marks two weeks into the new year, and we are still on track with our resolutions! (I think that may be a first.) For those of you that don’t know, our family’s goal for 2020 is to go plastic-free. I decided to share our progress with the world, in the hopes that we may help others achieve their sustainability goals. Today’s post will be a brief review of a simple homemade deodorant recipe that we found online. You can find the link to that recipe here: https://simplegreensmoothies.com/recipes/green-beauty/homemade-deodorant

Photo comes from Jen Hansard’s original post on https://simplegreensmoothies.com/

This recipe takes less than 5 minutes to make, and uses a few common ingredients that you may already have in your kitchen. We used corn starch instead of the recommended arrowroot powder, just because we had it in the pantry and we couldn’t wait to test it out. In this recipe, you can use any essential oil (or combination of oils) that you like, so long as they have antibacterial properties. We chose to use a blend of eucalyptus and orange , but we will probably do something different next time, just to mix it up!

Our Thoughts

We have been using this deodorant for about a month now, and it really does work! We have both been stink-free, except of course for the usual smells that come along with caring for farm animals. The deodorant is a good consistency; it is solid at room temperature, but seems to melt as you put it on, allowing for full armpit coverage. The only negative we noticed is that the baking soda gives this deodorant a gritty feeling, so it’s best to apply it with a light hand. We will experiment with using less baking soda in the future.

The original poster stores her deodorant in a mason jar, which works quite well. I’m of the belief that mason jars are the solution to everything. They’re sturdy, easy to clean, multipurpose, and infinitely reusable! However, my husband and I prefer the convenience of a deodorant stick, so we ordered some top-fill deodorant tubes online, reheated the deodorant, and poured it into those. I spent hours searching for containers that were not made from plastic, but was unsuccessful, so I’ve committed to using this single tube over and over again for the rest of my life. (If anyone knows of a metal/wood/bamboo alternative, please leave a comment!) It is important to note that this recipe will fill more than one standard sized deodorant tube, so consider gifting the second one to your spouse, kid, friend, or your funny-smelling coworker.

Overall, we are satisfied with this deodorant recipe, although my husband does find the baking soda to be somewhat irritating. It checks all the boxes for us: it’s effective, it smells nice, it’s 100% natural, and (most importantly) we will never throw away another plastic deodorant tube! Give it a try for yourself, and keep checking our blog to see what other sustainable solutions we discover.