It was because of the goats, Marti Cook will tell you, that she and her husband Lee got into the soap-making business.
And before you can even raise an eyebrow, she goes on to say, "About four years ago we had some goats and we thought, What are we going to do with all this milk? We can't give it away. We can't sell it. We're not a dairy. It's against the law to do absolutely anything with it."
Then one day, she continues, they saw somebody selling goat milk soap. "And we thought that would be something to get into, something to do with our extra milk."
The Cooks, who are homesteaders farming several acres in Pasadena, learned how to make soap from a friend and changed the standard recipe by replacing half the water called for with goat milk. "It makes a milder soap. And it turns out that it's very good for sensitive skin," Mrs. Cook says.
First they just made it for themselves. "I'm out working in the hot sun a good part of the day almost every day," she explains. "My skin really needs to be protected and I've found this soap really does it."
Then their friend Leroy Wilton, who grows and sells organic plants at a farm near the Cooks, began to take some along to the local festivals where he sells his plants. People bought the soap, then came back to other shows and bought more. They asked for an unscented soap, so the Cooks started making that, just using vitamin E or a plain cocoa butter. Then other people came back and wanted more scented soap so they kept adding different fragrances. "The more people came back to us, the more we started making," she says.
Now they make three basic types -- copra-olive with coconut oil and olive oil; palma-christi soap, a mild soap with castor oil plus the coconut and olive oils; and something they call Grandma's Old-Fashioned Lye Soap. "That's just lye, tallow and water, just those three ingredients. It's great for poison ivy."
In addition to the unscented soap, they make soaps scented with herb and flower essences including carnation, lilac, woody musk, apple blossom, lemon verbena, marjoram, strawberry, wildflower, rose geranium, peach blossom, orchid, jasmine, cinnamon rose, honeysuckle, rosemary and lavender, gardenia, woody musk and Irish cream, which is heather and musk.
"Woody musk is a big seller. Everyone likes that one, especially the men. Rosemary smells almost like an astringent but it's a clean smell with the lavender."
They're planning to make up an herbal flea-repellent soap for pets.
Most of the soaps contain very finely ground oatmeal and are also superfatted with vitamin E oil, cocoa butter oil or aloe vera.
The whole operation is done in the kitchen of their home, an old farmhouse that they currently share with the Dunn family, a young couple and their three children. "We wanted to adopt a child but they told us we're too old. So we adopted a whole family. Not one but five."
The Dunns are missionaries who are taking this time to gather support for their work in family ministry. They moved in last December and plan to spend another year there.
The Cooks get their milk from eight does, Nubians and Lamanchas, which are registered and certified. All the feed they give them is organic and natural, with no antibiotics or other medications.
At their farm, they also have two male goats and four baby goats plus two indoor cats, three barn cats that protect the feed, two front yard dogs, five sheep (a ram, two ewes and two lambs), chickens, rabbits, two turkeys and two hives of bees. A $l Komondor dog named Fella stays with the goats and sheep to protect them.
They grow all the food they eat in a 75-by-100-foot organic garden. Anything they have an overabundance of, Mrs. Cook takes to the shelters and soup kitchens in Baltimore. "I try not to let anything go to bad," she says.
The Cooks are recent converts to farming. Until a few years ago Mrs. Cook was a senior computer operator. When the company relocated to Richmond, Va., she decided not to get another full-time job. She works part-time helping the Wilton family at their farm. "I like to pick his brain. He knows everything about gardening."
Mr. Cook started out with one tomato plant in the backyard in 1978 when he first bought the property. After the Cooks were married in 1985, together they kept expanding the garden. They added a couple of chickens, then thought goats would be fun and things snowballed.
Another project Mrs. Cook has is taking some of her farm animals to local schools. She has taken a small five-month old goat, a large New Zealand red rabbit and an Egyptian Silky chicken. "Those Egyptian Silky chickens look like a great big powder puff running around. When I went to the Rolling Road school, a couple of the kids were blind and I would take it and hold it up next to their cheek so they could feel how soft it was."
She hopes to find more local schools to get involved with. "I would really like doing that more. I think that would be a blessing for me."
The Cooks are just beginning to market their soap, still mostly by taking it to festivals and fairs. The next occasion they'll be selling the soap is on June 15 at a fair at their church, the Church of the Crucifixion in Glen Burnie. The Wiltons will be selling the soap at their booth at the Annapolis Wine and Cheese Festival on June 8 and 9.
They also sell the soap by mail order and directly from the farm. Or you can call for a list of the next fairs and festivals that the Cooks will be attending. The Cooks can be reached at their farm by calling 437-4029.