Oswego resident Dawn Barr’s house smells delicious.
It’s not the smell of fresh baked apple pie, or chocolate chip cookies. It’s not even one discernable scent.
It’s the smell of around 20 different flavors of homemade, organic soaps that Barr makes for her small business Iron Star Soap out of her farm home.
Barr said she began her hobby when she moved to Oswego about 10 years ago onto the little hobby farm.
“We wanted to get goats,” said Barr. She and her family currently have five goats as pets.
Their goat quest led them to a woman who made all-natural soaps from her goat’s milk and Barr was very intrigued by the idea.
“I found out how she was making it and I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s evolved a lot as a figure what does and doesn’t work.”
Soap is made using two vats of material: an oil mixture and then some kind of water, tea, or milk which are mixed along the line with lye. Barr has actually moved away from using goat milk and instead primarily uses spring water.
“It was a super tedious process of getting milk from the goat each day,” said Barr, who actually obtained hers from a 4-H family as all of her goats are male. “Plus, the bars with goat milk tend to be brown and I can’t really add any colors. I’ve found people really like bars that look pretty.”
One of the driving forces behind Barr’s business is her commitment to using natural ingredients. “Chemicals kind of freak me out,” she said. “My family won’t use products that aren’t natural.”
She said her customers after using her organic soaps for the first time will not go back to store-bought soap. "They get hooked on them. It's just such a different feeling."
Barr, who works as a landscape designer, described herself as earth-based and said she’s always been into plants and the outdoors. “I wanted to make something that plays into that,” she said.
Iron Star Soap, named due to an iron star that Barr found on her property, creates around 20 different scents and Barr is always experimenting to find more.
Using different colored clays she changes the color of the soap, and then adds in natural ingredients to scent and decorate the soaps.
One of her most popular she said is “Grandma’s Home Remedy,” which is a blend of lavender, rosemary and peppermint and does use goat milk.
“I wrap each soap up in paper with an image I designed. Grandma’s has a little old lady with curler’s in her hair, and I think people just like it,” she laughed.
Other favorite scents are the peppermint soap bar, Happy Hippy and pumpkin ones for fall.
“I definitely think it’s an art,” Barr said of soap making and designing the labels. “It’s not just a hobby to me anymore.” She recently made a coffee-scented one and will soon be making a batch of Christmas scents.
The soaps take over a month from start to finish, so Barr said she’s always trying to anticipate popular scents for the seasons well in advance. Pumpkin was a new scent for this fall which she said did rather well.
Barr sells her soaps at the Village Grind and recently opened up an Iron Star Soap Facebook page.