With too much goat's milk to handle, Rachyl finds herself in soap business

With too much goat's milk to handle, Rachyl finds herself in soap business

Rachyl Travis, 11, feeds just a few of her many goats on her familyÕs farm on Rocky Hill Road in North Scituate. What started as the gift of one goat has turned into a small business and her ÒRachylÕs Goat Milk Soap.Ó The farm Ð thanks to the kindness of many friends Ð is recovering from a fire in the barn last month that killed several of the familyÕs animals. (Valley Breeze & Observer Photos by Tom Ward)

SCITUATE - Rachyl Travis, who was then 7 years old, faced a dilemma few can imagine.

"A couple of years ago, I got a goat for my birthday (on May 5) and we started getting all this goat milk," she related. The goat, named Butterscotch, produced a gallon of milk every day. That's a lot, Rachyl said, "especially when you have nothing to do with it."

So, the 12 members of the Travis family drank some and cooked up what they call "farmers cheese" with some, but still were left with way too much of the milk some say is better for you than cow's milk.

And the problem only grew as Rachyl over the years acquired more goats and Butterscotch had babies.

"I looked online to find out what you can do with goat milk and I found goat milk soap," she relates, and the rest is history.

The 11-year-old so loves her goats that she bottle-feeds the newborns with goat milk warmed on the kitchen stove and she's figured out a way to feed four at once, with a bottle in each hand and two between her knees. Goats, she says, "are fun to play with, and over all, they're sweet animals, they love to cuddle and play."

The special, loving care that Rachyl gives her goats - Jaclyn points out how "nurturing" her little sister is - has a purpose: to keep the animals healthy and friendly.

Bottle-feeding the babies, Rachyl says, makes them friendly because they become accustomed to and even bond with their caregivers. It also helps preserve the mother goat's udders, while pasteurization, accomplished by heating the milk, helps protect the babies from disease.

All the goats at the Travis farm have been de-horned because, Rachyl explains, those with horns can injure each other by butting.

Luckily, any goats lost in the March 10 fire that destroyed the family's nursery barn have been largely replaced with donations from generous neighbors and fellow farmers, so Rachyl has seven adult and five baby Nubian and Mini-Nubian dairy goats, all female does, producing milk for her soap.

The first time that soap was made, Rachyl's mom Lili and her older sister Jaklyn did all the work because the ingredients include lye "so it can be dangerous," Jaklyn said, and they felt Rachyl was too young back then to handle it safely

But, Jakyln didn't enjoy making soap. "I didn't want to do it," she says. "I fell in love with it," Rachyl says, "because it's like a science experiment. You put the oils and the milk in a crock pot together and, as you mix it, it starts turning into soap."

All natural products and essential oils are used in the soap-making process with dozens of different scents, the girls said. Besides soap, they also hand-make sugar and salt scrubs for exfoliating skin, lip balm, and Rachyl even crochets wash cloths.

"We recycle everything," Jaklyn added. They cut up used feed bags to wrap the finished soap in, for instance, and they make grocery totes out of the bags, too.

Jakyln and Rachyl are well aware of the cost associated with keeping farm animals and they try to make sure that the creatures contribute, if you will, to their own upkeep.

As much as they love their animals, Jaklyn said, "we can't afford to have them" unless they provide for themselves. Besides the goat milk soap, other revenue-enhancers include the sale of puppies and baby goats.

Rachyl breeds her female goats once a year off-site, taking the does to the bucks, with five-month pregnancies to follow.

At first, with the exception of the local Scituate Farmers Market, no one would sell Rachyl's goat milk soap for her. Merchants looked askance at a little girl selling soap. But she persevered, selling on the Internet and at local fairs and festivals, eventually building up a clientele that convinced places to stock her wares.

But today the tables have turned. The skeptics now, Jaklyn says, "ask us to go to (their) events."

The Travis girls have their soap for sale at the Country Mutt store on Danielson Park in the town center and at Wright's Dairy Farm in North Smithfield. They'll sell soap this year at the Scituate Farmers Market and the Northwest Farmers Market, as well as others yet to be determined.

Rachyl's soap is also stocked in the gift shops of Dave's Marketplace and remains available on the Internet.

"We have our soaps all over the country now," Jaklyn says, noting that there are even a few bars of their soap in California and New York.

"It's really cool."

Rachyl also is saving some of the money she earns to attend college and medical school someday because she hopes to become a doctor.

A former Clayville Elementary School student, she is currently home-schooled. But for now, nothing could take her away from the goats, the farm and the family she loves in Scituate.

"I wouldn't trade this for the world," she confides to a visitor.

Izak Travis, the youngest of the Travis family children, shows off his own creation, a goat milk soap made especially for dogs, to a visitor to the farm last week. You can find the soaps for sale at $6.50 each on the familyÕs web site, www.rachylsgoatmilksoap.com . There are many different varieties and scents.