Miel Y Leche: My Santa Fe Goat Co-Op

Photos by Simon Lee-Plunket

Santa Fe is an amazing place. I live right in town—and within three miles of TWO goat coops! I was part of one, and now I’ve switched to the other!  It’s an amazing coincidence that my new coop is called “Miel Y Leche” (Honey & Milk).

Love and Leche, goat coop in New Mexico

Here is a pictorial tour of my new coop. The girls are quite a mix—the ones that look like they have no ears (this takes some getting used to) are called LaManchas. Then there are two brown goats that have Alpine heritage; and then the two youngest girls, one with airplane ears, and one with tiny-stunted ears—they are a blend of LaMancha and Nubians.

Love and Leche, goat coop in New Mexico Love and Leche, goat coop in New Mexico My favorite breed is Nubians, with their floppy ears and strong personalities, but I am delighting in getting to know these new girls. Love and Leche, goat coop in New Mexico

They are great milkers, and I get to share the responsibilities with 12 other coop members.  And we still get enough milk for our household and for your soap!

Love and Leche, goat coop in New Mexico

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Featured Collaborator: Steve Wall

“Beekeeper Steve Wall, of Buckin’ Bee Honey here in Santa Fe, was one of my first collaborators.  Before I was accepted to sell at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, I was working with Steve.  He guided me as I kept my two beehives, and gave me business advice too. Unlike commercial beeswax, Steve’s wax is never bleached, and as he states below, his bees are not exposed to pesticides and other chemicals that would be absorbed right into your skin if they were in my products. Nope, this is the real, natural, golden stuff that smells just like sweet summer. Steve also makes beautiful beeswax candles. If you email him, he might be willing to ship some of his wares to you in the mail.” –Daven

MilkHoney©GenevieveRussell-6561 copyAre you from New Mexico? Did you grow up on a farm?
I’m originally from Oklahoma (studied horticulture at Oklahoma State University) but started keeping bees in Texas. I actually was a city boy, but loved to dig in the dirt. I’ve been gardening since I was a little kid in Tulsa. Beekeeping, to me, just seemed to be a natural extension of horticulture. Both activities stem from a curiosity about the nature of things.

Can you tell us about your bees, your farm, and how you got started?
My bees are called Apis mellifera. They are not native to this continent, and were brought here by Europeans. They are the only species that has colonies of 50,000 or more. Each colony can produce up to 60 lbs. of honey in a year. Other species collect honey and pollinate plants, but no other species has colonies that large or produce that much honey.

I had a landscape company in Dallas and one of my clients had a bee hive in his yard. I asked him about it and he said “You want it?” I said yes, even though I knew next to nothing about bees. I studied like a mad man, joined a club, got a mentor, and expanded my holdings until I had two dozen hives. At that point we decided to move to New Mexico. So, I loaded up the bees and hauled them here. Today I keep around 100 hives in and around Santa Fe.MilkHoney©GenevieveRussell-7509 copy

How do you feel about the declining bee population in the US?
The declining bee population worries me. Not so much for those of us who keep honey bees, but for all the native pollinators that no one is watching. Who knows how many native species are dwindling and dying out due to pesticides, urban sprawl, lack of forage, global warming, etc. To me they are the canary in the coal mine.

Do you sell your honey and beeswax to other New Mexico makers?
I do sell to other crafters, but they are a small fraction of what I sell to Daven. She’s my biggest wholesale client.

Is the honey that’s used in Love+Leche products different from the honey you would eat on your morning toast?
Much of the honey and wax you purchase at the store comes from large commercial operations that use miticides and antibiotics in their hives. These chemicals do end up in the final product. I use neither. So, yes, the wax and honey Daven puts in her products is cleaner than the wax and honey used in others’ products.

MilkHoney©GenevieveRussell-7569 copyHow many times a day do you get stung by bees?
I get stung at least once a day. Usually because I get careless. Often, however, I have to work without gloves (while catching queens or grafting larvae to raise new queens). It still hurts, but the reaction is minimal.

How do you use honey and beeswax in your daily life?
Honey is pretty much the only sweetener we use at our house. We don’t burn a lot of candles, but we do use a lot of beeswax lip balm.

If people are interested in purchasing your honey or beeswax, how would they reach you?
95% of my customers simply come to the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market. The rest come by my house to pick up honey, etc. They call, tell me what they want, and I put it on the front porch. I can also be reached by email at stevewall@buckinbee.com. MilkHoney©GenevieveRussell-7554 copy

 

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Introducing Love+Leche

I am excited to introduce our newest custom soap mold design, as well as share the news of our new name. Both are called Love+Leche.
 Love+LecheSoapThree
Our-Lady-of-Guadalupe-detail
The Virgin of Guadalupe

This beautiful new mold design harkens back to the very first year that I began my business.  Taken under the wing of a local goatherd/milkmaid and soap maker Francesca Oldani, she shared with me not only her secrets and techniques for making soap, but also this beautiful custom design she had created for her by local sculptor Stephanie Huerta. I loved (and coveted) this design the moment I saw it. It captured the sweetness of the Nubian goats I adored and was raising, and the human-like maternal feeling shared between these two reflected my own mothering with my then small children. The rays in the background not only add a great graphic depth to the design, but echo the holy rays that always surround the Virgin of Guadalupe, a ubiquitous figure we have here in Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico. And the square shape and size is of course the perfect dimension for a bar of soap. Struck by an inspiration, we adapted the design into our signature round-shape for our lotion bars.

Fast forward a few years, and I have designed my own custom soap and lotion molds with Stephanie–but have never forgotten this one. I hang on to a bar of soap that Francesca made with her mold, and every so often take it out and gaze at it in appreciation. Then, last year, I received a call from Francesca. Her life changed shortly after she helped me get started in soap making, and her custom soap design never really came out into the world. Now she was sorting and cleaning out and found the original clay sculpture of this design, and would I like to buy it? Yes! And so here it is.
I have named it Love+Leche—for obvious reasons, no? Of course Leche (pronounced “lay-chay”) is the Spanish word for milk. It’s what babies ask their mothers for (when they can talk!) and what I get from the goats, and what makes your skin feel so good when you use my soap.
nursing
My daughter Roan enjoying her leche 17 years ago–she just got accepted to college!
And beginning today, Milk+Honey becomes Love+Leche. After ten amazing years as Milk+Honey, a perfect name if ever there was one, I discovered that this name has been registered as a Trademark by another company. My brilliant daughter came up with Love+Leche during a brainstorming evening (she is the namer of the family). And so it is! Giving us an opportunity to let you all know that other than the name, our business continues as it always has, run by myself (CEO and Milkmaid), as a family business here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with our values as strong as ever:
  • A belief in Mother Nature
  • An appreciation for things natural, handmade, sensual and beautiful
  • A passion to create a meaningful life that inspires others to do the same.


Love
+Leche.

This will be a transition . . . we can’t wait to hear what you think.

Marly Bird’s Yarn Thing

A couple weeks ago Daven was a guest on Marly Bird’s Yarn Thing podcast. During the post she talked about her early knitting projects, and we thought it would be nice for listeners to see the projects Daven talked about! If you haven’t heard it yet, you can listen to the whole podcast here, and read the show notes here.

Daven’s first knitting project, a sweater for her daughter. If you watch our new video you can see Roan, now 17! First Sweater from Milk+Honey

Daven’s second knit sweater. Second Sweater from Milk+HoneyOne of Daven’s knit toys, an elephant. Knit Elephant from Milk+Honey

Filming at Milk+Honey

We’re so excited about our new videos, and today we’re sharing some behind-the-scenes photos from our shooting! First up is a video about our company, our ingredients, and our family. You can watch the video here.

And, of course, we’re sharing some behind-the-scenes photos from the filming.Milk+Honey Milk+Honey Milk+Honey Milk+Honey

Next is our short and sweet video, all about using and enjoying our lotion bars. If you haven’t seen the video yet, you can see it here. Here are a couple photos from our filming.

photo 2 (6) Milk+Honey

We really loved making these videos, and we hope you’ll enjoy them, too!

calendula

Here at Milk+Honey we use locally-grown, certified organic calendula flowers to infuse the almond oil for our lotion bars and the organic extra-virgin olive oil for our soaps. We steep the flowers in the oil like you would a tea bag.  These beautiful, deep-orange flowers are a powerful, all-purpose skin-healing herb that soothes skin ailments from dryness and itching to rashes and burns, generally promoting skin healing, while making normal skin softer and healthier.

These are photos of farmer Kristen Davenport and her family, of Boxcar Farms.  My other grower is Heather Harrell of For the Love of Bees.  Both women work their land just outside of Taos, NM.

Milk+Honey local Calendula flowers are used in our handmade soaps and lotions Oils infused with calendula can also be used for breast-health massage–a lovely use of Milk+Honey Lotion Bars.
Milk+Honey local Calendula flowers are used in our handmade soaps and lotions

Calendula is in bloom now, and we can’t wait to get another batch of these beautiful flowers from Kristen and Heather.

New Scent: Lavender-Rosemary

We’re so excited about our new scent, Lavender-Rosemary! It’s a lovely earthy blend of two wonderful scents combined to create something new and wonderful. Available as both a lotion bar and goat milk soap and in all of our different molds. We hope you’ll enjoy this delicious scent as much as we do!

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Santa Fe Farmers Market

Milk+Honey debuted in 2005 at the Santa Fe Farmers Market selling handmade goat milk soaps and beeswax lotion bars. We continue to go to the market every Saturday (and Tuesday during the summer season) to sell our handmade milk soaps and lotion bars. We’re so grateful to be part of this wonderful nationally renowned market. We’ve met so many lovely people throughout the years thanks to this local gem. To celebrate Milk+Honey at the Santa Fe Farmers Market today we’re sharing photos of our booth at the market.

 

Milk+Honey hand crafted soaps and lotion bars at the Santa Fe Farmers Market

everyone loves Milk+Honey hand made soaps and lotion bars

Milk+Honey hand crafted soaps and lotion bars at the Santa Fe Farmers Market

Milk+Honey hand crafted soaps and lotion bars at the Santa Fe Farmers Market

Milk+Honey hand crafted soaps and lotion bars at the Santa Fe Farmers Market

 

If you’re in Santa Fe we hope you’ll come and visit us at the market!