When you walk into their beautiful log home on a curvy road near Jackson Lake, you instantly know what their business is. You can smell it. The lovely scents of their soaps and other handcrafted products is evident and distinct.
Sue House and Scott Carlstrom are owners of Singing River Farms and they love what they do.
House has been making her own lotions for 30 years, she said, because I wanted to know what was in the lotion I used. Then, about three years ago, they started making soap for themselves, for the same reasons, and giving it to friends. After that, it just took off as a business.
The couple raise their own food, raise chickens and bees, own horses, and operate an apiary on their farm. They try to do things as simply as possible.
They not only make soap, though. They offer a whole line of body care products that contain the natural ingredients that they believe in. There are so many different things that we do, House said. And they just keep adding new items to their line.
In addition to the 40 different scents of soap that they make, they also have lotion sticks, lotion in a tin or a tub, and, of course, lotion in a bottle. They have added a new sea salt face mask as part of their spa line, and will be adding salt scrubs, bath salts and body mists. They use the bees wax from their own hives to make the bees wax lotion, and there are lotions and creams with shea butter, goats milk and aloe vera juice.
But the main thing they make right now is soap and each one has a unique label, corresponding to the scent. They mix up the soap in their kitchen, one batch at a time. They can make 360 bars of soap at once, using the wooden molds that Scott has created for the purpose. They line them with paper, pour the soap mixture into it, and when it has become hard, they cut it with a special tool that cuts them all in uniform shapes. It takes about 24 hours for the soap to set up, said House. But mixing the soap mixture is not as easy as it sounds. After it cooks for a bit, it has to saponify, or come to a certain stage, and then the fragrance is added. Sometimes, if you arent sure of what youre doing, the soap wont set up, said House.
Its really a chemical process, said Carlstrom. The lye is necessary to make soap, but you add oil to make sure the lye is gone. If the ingredients are not exact, it wont set up or it separates. The formula needs to be just right.
After the soap is made, it needs to cure for at least two months, and then they hand-bevel the bars to take the edges off.
All-natural ingredients go into their products, said Carlstrom, such as olive oil, cocoa butter, carrot seed oil and even castor oil. They also try to get as many of the ingredients locally as they can, but there are some they just have to have shipped to them - even from out of the country. They use all fragrance oils for the scents and earth pigments for the colors. They use Dead Sea mud from Israel and many of their fragrances, such as lavender, come from France, House said. There are so many things they can add to the lotions and soaps. I never felt creative until I started making soap, House said.
They ship their soaps and lotions all over the country by mail order, stores and website orders. The spa line theyve created is featured at a store in Pagosa Springs, she said, and they have their products at Picaya Home in Cortez and Cowboy Trading Company in Durango. They had a booth at the Mancos Farmers Market last year, but will not be there this year. There are just so many things to do, said House. We both work full time and we try to go to as many shows as we can.
While its difficult to make everyone happy and carry all the scents that everyone wants, the two work hard at bringing in new scents and phasing out ones that dont seem to sell well. The molded soaps they make are popular and they can also make small soaps for wedding favors, complete with the bride and grooms name on the label.
Houses favorite is a lavender chamomile goats milk soap. I just like the way it makes my skin feel, she said.
Soap is like fine wine - the older it gets, the better it is, said House.