We kept goats named Jack and Jill and made goatsmilk soap, and the house smelled of essential oils and clean warm milk.I spent Saturdays alone in the kitchen soapmaking in late summer, after each week of homeschooling on our little farmette in the woods. The soap had to age for several weeks before it could be used so by this time of year I would have already made all my calculations and stirred until my arms burned and poured and cut hundreds and hundreds of bars. This was peak holiday season. Evenings I beveled the edges with a sharp knife, cut strips of muslin for wrapping, labeled, dated, crated - handling each bar as much as it would be when actually used. We advertised them as "hand stirred" but everything about them was about hands, down to when we handed them to the buyer in a brown paper bag, like produce.
During summers my daughter and I set up shop at fairs in neighboring counties. She liked the shows with live music. I liked the shows with indoor toilets. We shared our booth with a friend who made beeswax candles. Our girls stood outside the booth with an antique pitcher and bowl and helped people wash their hands with our soap. After that, most people bought, happily, charmed. We put out bubbles for the passing children, and a cooler of food behind the table.The favorite bars, every show, were always the cinnamon: constellations of spice under the surface.
Our family and friends have long since used all the soap but looking at these pictures I can smell that tray, and I can feel my fingerprints on a fresh bar. The prickles on my wrist where I splattered lye, the drag of the wooden spoon as the liquid warmed itself and then saponified into the exact moment it could be poured.