Cabin fever in the barn yard continues. Although we have had a bit of a thaw and I have made them walk all the way down the hill for their hay they are all still exhibiting signs of boredom. The horse and pony are still doing their their little biting game and the goats are doing a lot of standing on their hind legs and butting heads. I have noticed that Midnight has taken to standing on the bottom of the barn door to reach up and chew on the barn. Soon the grass will be green and they will all be busy out eating it instead of the barn.
by Maryclaire Mayes
by Maryclaire Mayes
We are honored to be this months Member Spotlight on the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic guild. It is the only international non-profit trade association promoting the benefits of handcrafted soap and cosmetics.
Ed. Note: When we asked Maryclaire Mayes, founder of Alabu Skin Care, for Alabu’s founding story, her response was so nicely put we decided to publish it in its entirety. Grab a mug of tea, sit back, and enjoy!
“People always ask me how we got into the adventure of our natural skin care business. I always thought I was born a century too late. I always liked the old fashion way of doing things and sometimes doubted that “progress” was going in the right direction. I longed for the horse and buggy days when life was slower and people lived with the rhythms of the earth. Maybe my way of thinking about living is a bit unconventional…I’m ok with that. Listening to my folks and helping in our family garden, I learned about organic gardening – before it was called that. We helped mom preserve what we grew and enjoyed the profits of our hard work long after the harvest. I tried to learn from my parents’ wise ways. I developed a lifelong interest in keeping life simple, happy and clean.
I grew up, met my husband, and had two wonderful children, still dreaming of the simple self-sufficient lifestyle. As the children grew, we got our son chickens and our daughter two milk goats. She really wanted a horse but my practical side said they don’t give milk or eggs, pretty as they are, they just eat. So our days were filled with taking care of animals, gardening, preserving, maple sugaring, and sewing. We became deeply rooted in our rich but simple life.
On a sunny winter day in 1997, a friend, my goat mentor, recruited my help on a soap-making project. She had nine milking does and was drowning in goat milk. She was selling it, freezing it, making cheese and yogurt, but she had gallons more and was hoping she could use it up to make soap too. Her first attempt was a nasty mess and she said she needed my moral support to try it again. She added that it would be a good chemistry lesson for our homeschooled children. I jumped at the chance to see my friend, try something new and have a science field trip for the kids. As we crowded into her kitchen equipped with goggles and gloves, she explained how lye combines with oils to make soap.
We waited weeks for the soap to cure. At first, I was a little afraid to try it, remembering some harsh handmade soap my great Uncle used to bring us when we were kids. But trusting my friend’s explanation on how handcrafted soaps today have really progressed and why old fashion soaps tended to be harsh (they were making their own lye from wood ashes and could never be sure about the strength of it), I put it in the shower. I was so surprised; I had never realized how drying commercial “soaps” (most are actually detergents) were to my skin. No more coming out of the shower and having your skin feel like it shrank. No more flaking and itching. I was definitely hooked on making my own soaps. I was hooked on this unconventional way to be clean. I made it for my family and started giving it away as gifts. The response was overwhelming. Everybody loved my soap.
I am a natural researcher and I was curious if all handmade soaps were as wonderful as mine or was it something about the goat milk that made my skin feel so soft and nice. I started buying other handmade soaps and found that goat milk was a superior soap to any other soap I had tried.
My husband Dean convinced (nagged) me that we should go into business selling my soap. And that’s how Alabu was born. I soon was researching and trying to learn all I could about making the best soap possible. The more I learned, the more I was sure I never wanted to use commercial “soaps” again. I started to read soap labels. I found that most of the ingredients had nothing to do with cleansing, and could be irritating to your skin and really didn’t fit my philosophy of the simple life and avoiding unnecessary chemicals.
Alabu has always been a family effort. First our daughter Nell helped out milking the goats and then with wrapping and fragrance choices for soaps. Our son Hal was not as excited. You can imagine how thrilled a 10-year-old boy (who loved to dig tunnels and play in the dirt) was that his mom was making soap. But Hal had also inherited his dad’s geeky side. When he wasn’t getting dirty he was sitting on his dad’s lap infatuated with the computer. Remarkable as it seems he started helping his dad with our webpage around 11 years old. He went on to do all our graphic design work too. Time went on and children grow up. Nell went off to college and got married. Hal went to college but continued his involvement via the Internet. When he came home he became an integral part of Alabu’s growth. Over the next 6 years, he spearheaded our expansion with many new ideas, growing our offering of natural skin care products and all things Alabu. His friends even called him Halabu! Then it happened. Hal met the love of his life and planned to get married. He could see his departure coming and we worked out a plan for this new transition. Now Hal is happily married and we couldn’t be happier for him and his bride. Hal hasn’t forgotten us. He still helps us out when he can.
Dean and I are still here and natural has continued to be at the forefront of our business and lifestyle. Our lives have always been filled with unconventional ways of living naturally. We go to extraordinary lengths to use quality; clean ingredients to bring you effective natural skin care products. As someone who cares a lot about being healthy and clean, I can assure you that you’ll love these products. Visit our blog for more stories of our unconventional adventures.”
In business for 14 years (and an HSCG member for 13!), find Alabu Skin Care’s goat milk soap, natural moisturizers, lotions and lip balms online and in stores around the country. For sweet happenings on the farm, funny musings, and the occasional soap-related update, follow Alabu Skin Care on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks, Maryclaire, for your long-time support of the Guild and for sharing your incredible story with us!
by Maryclaire Mayes
- Remove your nail polish (if you’re wearing any).
- Soak your feet in warm water (use dead sea salt or epsom salt if you have it!) for five to ten minutes.
- Dry your feet and use a small brush to remove dead skin (a pumice stone also works well for calluses).
- Soak your feet in water for a few more minutes.
- Apply your favorite Body Butter to your feet and massage thoroughly.
- Next you’ll want to trim or file your nails. Just cut straight across to prevent them from becoming ingrown. If you are prone to this, just cut a small notch in the middle of the nail to relieve the outward pressure.
- You can use a cuticle stick to push the cuticle back at this point.
- Finish with your favorite nail polish. You might want to add a clear base coat to smooth the surface out before adding the final color coat. Adding a top clear coat will help your pedicure last longer.
- Pantyhose or stockings should be the correct size.
- Never cut corns and calluses with a razor or knife.
- Bathe your feet daily in lukewarm (not hot) water, using a mild soap, preferably one containing moisturizers, or use a moisturizer separately.
- Test the water temperature with your hand.
- Trim or file your toenails straight across.
- Inspect your feet every day, especially if you have diabetes.
by Maryclaire Mayes
This month the view from my window has been very white. This winter has been extremely cold and Facsi has had a really bad attitude about it. She throws a little fit every morning waiting for her breakfast to arrive. Poor Caddy is usually the object of her displeasure. She taunts him over the fence throwing and shaking her head at him with her ears pinned back and occasionally tries to nip him. When all of this is going on the goats pretty much just try to stay out of her way. But little Caddy isn’t the least bit afraid of her and doesn’t back down and tries to nip at her too. This goes on until it’s about feeding time, then they both look in the direction of the house and wait for their humans to come and feed them. When we get to the barn Fasci bangs on her door with her front foot! She is rather grumpy and demanding when she is hungry. I think part of the reason she bothers Caddy so much is because he is a very slow eater and she gets mad that after she has gobbled up all her hay she can see him happily munching away on his hay.
by Maryclaire Mayes
Spring may be just around the corner but Winter may still cause dry skin. The climate varies around the country, but the problems our skin experiences are similar. In the winter your skin is exposed to many harsh environments like dry indoor air, cold and wind outside, and a lack of sunshine. All this causes very dry, flaky irritated skin in the winter months. But there something you can do to be comfortable in your skin! What you need to do is moisturize, exfoliate, and moisturize again. Your skin reacts differently in the winter so you need to adjust accordingly.
Cleansing: In the Winter one of the most important things to keep in mind is hot water dries your skin. As good as it feels to take a steaming hot shower your skin will suffer the consequences. If your skin is very dry try washing with water that is warm but not hot. You want your cleaning routine to be as moisturizing as possible, so you might want to change to one of our more moisturizing soaps such as Baby Me or Olive soap if you are not already using it.
Moisturize: Replenish Moisturizer is great but if you need something more in the winter try the Shea Body Butter, even though it is a heavier moisturizer, the ingredients are all non-comedogenic, so it can be used on your face without fear of clogging pores.
It is a good idea to use a heavier moisturizer in the winter since your skin has more extreme conditions to deal with. Itchy skin often happens because the dry air of winter is causing the moisture in the top layer of your skin to evaporate.
Exfoliate: This is done to remove dead skin cells and allow your skin to absorb the extra moisturizer you are applying. But don’t exfoliate more than twice per week.
Hydrotherapy: This stimulates your circulatory system for better blood flow to your skin. You can do this at home by using your shower. Start out with a warm shower, before you finish switch the water to cold for about fifteen seconds then back to warm. Repeat the process for two minutes. Try it and see if you don’t feel better.
Moisturize: The best time to moisturize is right after a bath or shower. The bath helps to hydrate your skin and the Shea Body Butter helps to keep it from evaporating.
And remember healthy skin starts from the inside, so eat healthy whole foods and drink plenty of water.