A long-term ambition of mine has been to make goat milk soaps and body lotions. I’ve been waffling on about this for a couple of years actually. Now that I finally have a goat who is producing goat milk, I can put my money where my mouth is, as they say. I don’t think my goat, Mabel, is too keen on the idea of me stealing some of her milk though. She has been looking at me oddly every time I mention it to her (yes, sad but true: I talk to the all the animals on the farm. Sometimes they answer back; sometimes they don’t!).

Making soaps is a serious business involving scary chemistry. I basically sucked at chemistry in high school. Did all I could to avoid it. I preferred to learn about dead things – dead people, dead civilisations. You know: history. So the thought of using sodium hydroxide (which has the mysterious symbol of NaOH) scares the bejesus out of me.

I’ve been reading about how you need to kit yourself out with eye goggles, safety gear and sturdy shoes because this lye stuff is dangerous with a capital D. I even spoke to a woman the other day who has 18 goats and makes her own soaps and she regaled me with her scary story of lye escaping down the kitchen sink and eating up the pipes.

I’ve consulted all my soap making books and searched the Internet. Alas, it looks like I can’t get around making soaps without dabbling with lye. But you can make soaps using a soap base that has already had the lye mixed in. All you do is add your own special ingredients. I’ll have to get some clarification on this soap base though. The one I bought is made from “natural palm flakes” and I’m hoping this isn’t from palm oil because products derived from palm oil have a devastating effect on orangutans and their natural habitats. I grilled the saleslady but she didn’t know.

Following the idiot-proof instructions, I added my own stuff – cocoa powder for a chocolate soap; oatmeal for a bit of exfoliation; and orange essential oil. I hoped this would give me a jaffa-scented, mildly exfoliating bar of soap.

Wasn’t hard really but the whole business of getting the mixture into moulds and having the soaps look a little less like big brown turds and more like elegant soaps – well, that’s a bit tricky. This will require some serious practice. Because I was using a soap base, the soaps only had to cure for 24 hours. The soap itself is okay – lathers well – but no hint of a jaffa scent.

I’ve now watched a DVD showing how to mix lye into water. The dude demonstrating looked like he was dressed up to go into some sort of high radiation area. Scary. But I’ll have to face it if I want to get serious about soap making. Good hint though – I can use silicone cake moulds that will produce a round or square slab of soap that I can cut, rather than pouring into teensy weensy moulds.

Now, I just have to convince Mabel to cooperate with me. Hello Mabel – where are you? We need to talk.

My very first batch of soap - chocolate jaffa oatmeal. They don't look very pretty do they?!

24 hours later - unmoulded - they don't look quite so bad and are like soap muffins.