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.

New Year’s Resolution

Happy New Year! You may have seen that we shared our New Year’s resolution on our Facebook page, but for those of you who missed it or who don’t follow us there, I will reiterate: we are going green! We will be eliminating single-use plastic from our business and our lives in 2020. We have been packaging our soaps in biodegradable materials from the very beginning, but now we are turning our attention to the supply side. We are reducing our plastic consumption as much as possible, and finding creative ways to repurpose our plastic grain bags, buckets, etc.

We know that many of our customers are also trying to cut back on single-use plastics, and thought that you might like to see what we are doing to become more eco-conscious as consumers. We will need to find alternatives for the following:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Deodorant
  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Dish soap
  • Laundry detergent
  • Household cleaners

We enjoy DIY projects, so we will be attempting to create our own substitutes for some of these everyday staples. We prefer to make our own products because doing so gives us complete control over the quality and sourcing of ingredients, however, we recognize that some of these items may be difficult to produce ourselves without sacrificing their effectiveness. We will be sharing recipes and reviews of other companies’ products over the course of the year, in the hopes that we can help others find environmentally-friendly solutions that will work for them! Keep checking our blog to see the latest updates.

Our New Property

We recently purchased two properties that will serve as the new base of operations for our farm. Initially, we purchased a 26 acre wooded lot that we planned to clear and build upon, but the opportunity presented itself to purchase the half acre adjoining it, which already has power, water, and septic. (As we’ve discovered, installing these utilities can get expensive quickly, with the cost of drilling a well being $15-$30 PER FOOT!)

Old fencing is embedded in trees on the perimeter of our new property.

Not only is purchasing this second parcel saving us money, but it adds to the overall cool-factor of our property; we believe it to be the site of the original farmhouse and barn. When we walked our land for the first time, we noticed old barbed wire and panel fencing embedded in trees around the perimeter. From what Brandon’s grandfather tells us, it may have been a sheep farm sometime in the early to mid 20th century. We were excited to hear this, and we think it’s pretty cool that our goats will be grazing land that used to be pasture over half a century ago. It’s just going to take a few years of work to get there!

What we believe may have been a sheep barn many, many years ago.

It will be slow going at first, as we acquire the equipment that we’ll need and get in touch with all of the right people, but I plan on sharing progress reports here on our website whenever we’ve done something worth sharing. We are hoping to get our greenhouse up before winter arrives, so that we can start plants in the spring to get our farmstand up and running next season!

A Bull is Born

On Friday morning we welcomed Nova’s first calf to our herd. He is a robust young bull, whose name has yet to be determined. Nova delivered him overnight without complication, and has seamlessly transitioned into her new role as a mother. The calf will be available for purchase when he is weaned in the fall.

Nova and her new baby.

Where Our Soap Has Traveled

We thought it would be neat to make a map of all of the states we’ve shipped our soaps to thus far. Our goal is to reach all 50 someday, so if you know anyone who lives in Alaska, be sure to tell them about us!


Our First Kids

Yesterday afternoon we welcomed two new additions to our farm! Both healthy little does, one solid black, and one black and tan (chamoisee) like their father. Their birth was quick and uneventful. Ginger was exhibiting signs of early labor when we checked on her around 1:00 PM, and by the time we went out to feed at 5:00, the kids were already up on their feet. Both are vigorous nursers, and their mother, Ginger, has been taking excellent care of them. Their birth marks a milestone for us, as these are the first of many babies to be born on our farm!

A peek at the newborns.