Monday, July 18, 2011

Southern Belles Soap Co.

When you combine an artist and a gardener into a laid back, fun loving farm girl, the garden and home results are a mix that makes for whimsy, interest, surprise, and fun.  Members of the Merry Weather Garden Club and two guests from the Iris Garden Club met at Marilyn Austin Carter’s home and garden in Woodland for the July 18th meeting.  Co hosting was nearby neighbor Lynda Woodall.
Garden clubbers met early and car pooled to Woodland and beat the heat by walking through the garden in cool morning temperatures with the dew still on the grass.  Carter’s garden is a myriad of paths lined with colorful bottles, folk art, and artistic creations. Carter has taken bicycle rims, spray painted them and used them to support phlox and other fine stemmed bloomers.  But the symmetrical addition of the horizontal circles makes for interest and surprise in the garden.
Carter has also taken the bike rims and wired in odd patterns of crystal saucers that catch the light and then hung them from trellises and trees. The artsy focal point is an addition that members said they were going home to make for their gardens.
Carter’s flower beds surround her lake and home with a purpose-moving through vegetable areas, to areas with bright bursts of colorful annuals to classic Southern perennials.  Unusual plants she pointed out were toad lilies, white and blue native orchids, water magnolias, and the fruit areas of pomegranates, blueberries and grapes. “Naked Ladies” was a lovely pink blooming plant on a tall stalk with no leaves-hence called naked.
Guests enjoyed seeing Carter’s chickens and guineas and her back yard buildings filled with flea market and estate sale items she will turn into beautiful art. She currently is working on odd pieces of colored crystals from glasses to saucers that she “married” into statuesque garden art that reflects the light.
Carter introduced her friend of forty years and one time relative, Nancy Barrett, who presented the program on Southern Belles Soaps that are made in Warm Springs and shipped worldwide. Barrett has worked with the soap company for six years that was started twelve years ago by Linda and Bob Seymour. Nancy said she was the guinea pig for testing the new recipes and fragrances but has thoroughly enjoyed working with the handmade milk soaps. She said some like the earthy fragrances while others go for the floral scents. Scents and ingredients have purpose in their soaps with some made for those with allergies, some made to calm the nervous temperament, and others to soften and smooth the skin.
Calendula is infused in the soap and helps with diaper rash; zinc oxide helps those with acne, eczema, and psoriasis; and citronella goes into the Bug Off Soap. Southern Belles Soap have a spa line with soaps made of coal and clay to exfoliate, Dead Sea salts and Neem Oil to clean then heal, milk and mud to tighten skin, and Sea Buckthorn for cell regeneration. They make soaps for athlete’s foot and for your favorite pooch’s hot spots.
All the soaps are made by hand in small batches of fifty bars.  Nancy cuts the giant square mold of soap with a cheese cutter, and says the process may be viewed on Utube under Georgia Goats Milk Soap. For the Seymours, the business started at the kitchen stove then moved to the spare bedroom and bath before moving into the garage, expanding, and adding additions to the garage. 
The business imports items from as far away as Egypt. They have six goats they milk. They grow the “tried and true” herbs natural to this region and import others from organic growers. Some herbs are dried while others are cooked and added into the soap.  The ingredients are mixed with oils like coconut, olive, palm, sweet almond, grape seed and soybean or with butters like shea and cocoa. The softened mixture is heated with goat’s milk added and stirred for 5-8 minutes.  Goat’s milk is preferred because it has more peptides than cow’s milk. After being poured into a heavy wooden square mold, the soap sits for several days drying before being cuts into logs, drying some more, then cut into bars with the edges mitered. The trimmed edges are rolled into “Family Soap” or round balls. 
Currently Southern Belles Soap is preparing for the Christmas season.  The soaps are finished in 4-6 weeks and vendors buy in September and October for Christmas. Popular winter purchases are their Hand and Heels stick.
Lynda Woodall and Marilyn Carter served a delightful lunch and guests spread out throughout Carter’s interesting house and garden to dine.  The next meeting of the Merry Weather Garden Club will be on August 19th when the club will tour the organic community gardens at Serenbe in Palmetto.  To make reservations call Sallie Mabon by the 12th .