Local woman produces goats milk soap

ALPENA — Mary Centala can’t be in a hurry when she makes soap.

The whole process from start to finish takes a long time, but Centala said it’s worth it.

“The goats have become my friends. I have a soft heart for them,” she said.

Mary makes the soap at the farm she and her husband, Mike, own. They have goats, sheep, chickens and a greenhouse.

When he doesn’t milk the goats Mike helps with different chores around the farm, as they’re both retired.

“It keeps us busy and it’s a nice way to help make money,” Mike said.

Mary said selling the goat’s milk soap helps to fund her passion, which is the goats themselves.

“I grew up on a dairy farm and I always felt blessed,” she said.

As a young child Mary said she admired the movie “Heidi” and always wanted to raise goats.

As she grew up one of her sisters raised goats for 4-H.

“One of the activities was to milk a goat. That was toxic, that put the idea there. Then time goes by and we’re going to buy a farm. I said ‘good I can get goats,'” she said.

Now they have about 15 goats that are milked in the summer. She stores the milk so she is able to make the soap year-round.

One of the reasons she continues to make soap, among other things, is because of her childhood.

“My dad and my mom grew up in the depression, so they were always having the fear of not having your own food. Making our own food is very important,” she said.

This helped to promote the concept of sustainability in many parts of her life.

To make her soap Mary’s days start early.

“Often times I would get up about 5 a.m., depending on how many goats to milk. It was kind of like an algebra problem. Basically it was 20 minutes to do chores and five minutes for each goat I had to milk. I would have to get up at 2:30 a.m. to get to work (she worked as an instructional assistant for Alpena Public Schools). That told me I was either really stupid or dedicated. Retirement allows me to get up at a normal time and come in and go out,” she said.

In the summer the goats will tell you when to wake up, she said.

“Heaven forbid you’re late for milk time, because they complain,” Mary said.

She prefers to milk by hand because this allows her to gauge their udders health, she said.

“Catching any mastitis in the early stages can making curing them of the infection speedier,” she said.

She does this twice a day and the goats always remain on her mind, she said.

“I am always aware of the doe’s presence. Is she eating? Are her feet getting ready to kick the milk bucket?,” Mary said. “I have worked with my goats enough that if they kick, it is not because they are wild things with me, it might be that there is a stranger in the barn, (maybe the dog sneaked in) or her udder hurts and she is trying to tell me that something is wrong.”

Once the milk is collected Mary can make the soap. This is done in a few steps.

She uses a cold process for her soap, which means the milk starts frozen. Lye is added to the milk. She also measures out the oils and softens them on the stove. These two mixtures are combined then everything is poured into molds. When finished the soap is cut.

Mary said people can try to mix colors, fragrances and more to soap, but she prefers to keep things simple.

She sells the soap at the farmers market and out of her home.

She enjoys to hear feedback from customers and what works for them.

“I feel like it is something I am supposed to do. Perhaps it is my calling? I know I am an out-of-the-ordinary kind of person, but I have come to accept it. It is what it is. We are all God’s people,” she said.

Jordan Spence can be reached via email at jspence@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687.