There are six new baby goats cavorting around Basilwood Farm in Prather.
The kids are everything you’d imagine: playful, occasionally wobbly and climbing anything they can. That includes the wheelbarrow full of alfalfa rolled into their pen on a recent morning, which so many kids clambered onto that they knocked it over – and then still tried to climb up it.
There’s a lot going on with the humans at the farm, too. Three generations of the Spruance family are busy running the farm and a growing business selling soap, bath bombs and other products made from goat’s milk.
The picturesque little farm at 15759 Morgan Canyon Road, a little more than a half hour’s drive up Highway 168, is open to the public three days a week.
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From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, visitors can check out the eight goats and their six kids that were born just over a month ago. More kids are due any day now, but the newborn ones are hidden away as their mothers are more protective when they’re tiny.
While visitors check out the goats (from outside their pen), a Spruance family member is around to answer questions. (Such as, why are goats’ pupils shaped like horizontal lines? So they can see all around them to look for predators.)
A typical visit also includes checking out the chicken coop and stop at the boutique on the property. The store – in the family’s former living room – sells dozens of kinds of colorful soap made on the farm, from the elderflower-scented “princess” bars to spiced mahogany-scented “beard buster” soap for men.
Each group of young goats is named with a theme. This year it’s British names so there’s a George, Victoria, Elizabeth and Bobby (whose mother is a “rescue goat” named Patty).
Cuteness aside, the family running the farm is making a living from it. Three generations of the Spruance family hand-milk the goats, make the soap and live on the property.
Kim and Jill Spruance, married for 34 years, raised and home-schooled their two daughters on the property. Kim left a job running a local winery last summer to join other family members running the business and the farm.
Their adult daughter Shelby Blackburn, her husband, Philip (who also has an outside job managing a Fresno Chipotle) and their son, Max, 2, live next door. Max’s official title is CIO, chief inspiration officer, though his blond curls mean he’s also a frequent model for the company’s photos.
Kim and Jill always knew they wanted to run their own business. When their daughters grew up and sold their childhood horses, the pair got a couple of goats. They drank the milk and made yogurt and goat cheese, and eventually tried making soap with the extra milk in 2011.
“Immediately we realized when we started using it what it did for your skin,” Jill she says.
That’s when the soap-making company was born. The family doesn’t sell goat’s milk or edible products made with it because of the numerous regulations involved, she says.
The soap is 23 percent whole, raw goat’s milk, each bar made by hand.
Regular soap always seemed to leave her skin dry and tight, but the soap made from goat’s milk left her skin feeling moisturized, she says.
To make it, the milk is combined with fragrances and various kinds of oils, including locally made Enzo olive oil that they buy in 55-gallon drums. No heat is used in making the soap.
Some bars are topped with botanicals like dried rose petals or lavender and are topped with body glitter. Most have swirls of bright colors from mica, the same mineral that’s used to color makeup.
The pixie dust soap is “collected from the pixies who live on the farm and they are super magical,” Spruance says. (At least that’s what they tell the little girls who visit. In reality, it’s a fresh and fruity fragrance.)
Other soaps come in manly black.
“Guys like soaps with black in them,” Spruance says, adding that they also sell a line of military-themed soaps such as “wild blue yonder” for the Air Force and “hooah” for the Army.
Most soaps cost $6.99 a bar.
The name Basilwood Farm (Basil rhymes with dazzle here) comes from Basil the hare in the “Redwall” series of children’s fantasy books by Brian Jacques.
The soap is made in a garage that the Spruances converted into a manufacturing room. There are 65 types of soap made here, some of them seasonal, all by hand. In all, four full-time and one part-time employee make, package and selling soap and other products.
Chief soapmaker Jill Spruance uses stick blenders and everyday kitchen utensils such as chopsticks to blend the soap and swirl colors into them. A cutting device her husband made from guitar strings cuts long loaves of soap into bars, and each edge is then softened with a hand-held cutting tool. The soap then needs to cure for three to five weeks.
“We’ve grown a lot in the last four, four and a half years,” she says. “Our business has quadrupled.”
They’ve added more products, including bath bombs made from dehydrated goat’s milk that fizzes and conditions the skin when dropped in a bath. The bath bombs are made in the family’s former home school room.
The business is slowly taking over the property. The couple decided they didn’t really need a living room and turned it into the store.
“That’s OK,” Spruance says. “We have never been normal in that regard.”
Customers walk through the kitchen to make their purchases and the kitchen also doubles as a classroom for the occasional goat cheese-making class.
They have added products like a soap for dogs called “shampooch,” sugar and salt scrubs, lotions, laundry soap and T-shirts with a little image of a goat and its brand “Go the way of the goat.”
And of course, the products can be purchased at the farm.
The family has been busy helping goats give birth in recent days. Goats often give birth to two or three kids at a time – a “kidding,” the birth is called.
And the goats are smart, Spruance says. That’s why each gate has an extra latch requiring thumbs to open.
“They’re smarter than dogs,” she says. “They would happily let themselves out and mow down all of the landscaping if given the chance.”