Have you 'herd?' Goats milk soap is good for your skin
Damascus couple's hobby farm launches a cottage industry offering skin care products
Fair-haired Elsie added to the tribe June 19, when she gave birth to three little ladies and one little man.
The young'uns, however, have not been officially named.
We usually dont name the babies because we sell them, Julie Austin said, laughing. If they have names, theyre part of the family and really hard to let go of.
Before anyone calls the authorities about the sale of infants, lets be clear Julie is referring to the herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats she and her husband, Ken, raise on their one-acre hobby farm in Damascus. Roaming the back 40 are seven female goats, two bucks and the four little ones, along with two pigs and a smattering of chickens.
The Austins cottage industry, JK Goats, began as a hankering for a few farm-type animals by a former city-dwelling family, but has evolved into a burgeoning business where the employees pay their own way.
The Austins, who were longtime East County residents, weren't looking to exchange career clothes for coveralls when they moved to Damascus eight years ago. A corporate security officer for Bank of America and a dental assistant respectively, Ken and Julie were simply seeking to escape proposed big box development near their Centennial neighborhood in southwest Gresham.
We just wanted to be some place quieter, Julie said. When Walmart announced it wanted to build a SuperCenter, we decided we didnt want the traffic. We certainly werent looking to raise goats or have a farm.
The pair became smitten with the property that contained a 1930s home and gently sloped backyard. Shortly after moving in, Julie announced in jest that the land was perfect for goats and donkeys.
I was half-joking, half-serious, she said. But then (16-year-old daughter) Allysons friend got chickens and it just started from there.
The notion to raise goats stemmed from a friend of the couples, whose son was on a veterinary mission in Uganda. Julie made a donation to the young mans cause after learning the money collected would be used to purchase dairy goats for the villagers to raise.
Since I couldnt have goats of my own, he told me I could name the two I had donated to, Julie said. Thats what started it all really, because he was the one who suggested the smaller Nigerian Dwarf breed. Within a year, it was Kens idea to have goats.
In May 2011, they acquired Elsie, Hazel and Mabel the girls, as they are called. The following July, the girls gave birth to JK Goats first round of kids.
We ended up with boy/girl twins from three does, Julie said. And all of them had blue eyes.
After selling the three males, and eventually the sire, the Austins were left with a herd of six females Mabel, Elsie, Hazel, Ruth, Lillie and Pearl.
All the girls are named after our grandmothers, Julie explained.
With the occupants in the barn continuing to multiply, Ken has taken on duties as the herd master. He vaccinates the goats, treats them for parasites and worms, and helps goat expert Deana Clark disbud the babies (burn their horn buds), tattoo their ears with JKs herd identification and wether the males (castrate them).
But it didnt take Julie long to realize that the goats were more than just delightful backyard companions. She discovered the rich and creamy texture of goat's milk has become a much sought-after base for soap. So in the fall of 2012, Julie produced her first batch of soap with the JK Goats label.
I gave a lot of it out as Christmas presents, but everybody liked it so well, I started making lotions the following spring, she said. Im working on a baby soap and shaving cream now.
Julie manufactures anywhere from 45-60 bars of soap each week. She has developed a special blend of natural ingredients to complement the benefits of goat's milk on the skin, using essential oils like avocado and almond to boost its effects in hydration and healing. Her product line, which now includes moisturizing cream, a lotion bar, lip balm, and hand and body lotion, is available in scented and unscented forms. (the Pear Moisturizing Lotion gets a two thumbs up from one newspaper reporter.)
Julie caters to a loyal local following, and thanks to the companys website, JK Goats customer base extends into the Midwest and southern United States. But sales arent limited to the Internet. The Austins have booth space at several open-air markets during the season, often with the little ones in tow. Theyre the biggest attraction, Julie said, and also the best sales force.
Medical issues forced Julie to leave her job in the dental field in 2011. Though she initially was frustrated by an inability to remain in a profession she loved, the move turned out to be rather fortuitous. Her girls and a thriving business is her idea good ol farm living.
I was looking for a job once my health issues were resolved until recently, she said. Instead, I decided to see about making a good run with this for a while. Things are going so well with t
Meet the girls and learn more about JK Goats skin products line by visiting jkgoats.net.
Or check them out up close and personal at the follow open-air markets:
n Milwaukie Sunday Farmers Market, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Southeast Main Street and Harrison, through Oct. 26.
n Oregon City Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every other Saturday, 2051 Kaen Road, off Beavercreek Road, through Oct. 25.
n Summer Market in Sellwood, 3:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Stone Cottage, 8609 S.E. 17th Ave., Portland, through Oct. 28.
n. Damascus Fresh and Local Market, 3-7 p.m. Thursdays, St. Paul of Damascus Lutheran Church, 24510 S.E. Highway 212, through Sept. 25.he markets this year, but this is a two-man operation, and this is all we can handle right now.Add a comment