Tottys Bend Soap Farm is located in the scenic Duck river valley area of middle Tennessee. Tottys Bend itself is a small farming community that dates back two centuries. In 1810 Robert Totty came to the area from Nashville and camped in his wagon while he built the first house on the bend. His sons, after returning from the war of 1812, each built houses and began to farm. To this day the name Totty is strongly rooted in this area. Tottys Bend has several century farms. A century farm is a farm that has been continually farmed by the same family for more than 100 years. We even have a few that are twice that old. The bend in Tottys Bend is in fact a bend in the Duck River. The Duck River is the longest river inside of Tennessee, and one of the cleanest and most biologically diverse rivers in the United States. There are species of fish and muscles in the Duck River that are found nowhere else on the planet! Our farm is about a quarter-mile from the river as the crow flies. Tottys Bend is a very special place and we at the Soap Farm are proud to fly the Tottys Bend banner.
Our Place on Tottys Bend
Our little piece of the bend is situated on the ridge part of Tottys Bend. Land that is closer to the river is not for sale, unless your name is Totty. We have just over sixteen acres of woods and fields. When we decided to start farming, we had a few things to help get us started. The people who lived here before us had a horse, so there was already a fence up. But there were no gates. Also we had a pole barn, but it had no walls. We also had a couple of out buildings that would come in handy. One of our themes is to use what you’ve got, so we went to work. First we tackled the fence.
My friend, Miss Pam, once said, “Any fence that will hold water will hold a goat.” A goat is very hard on a fence. They are true believers in the idea that the grass is always greener on the other side. They climb, they rub and they try to go under your fence. Everything about our fence was wrong. It was attached to the wrong side of the posts, it was attached too high up from the ground and it was old and rusty. But we had already paid for it, so I set about re-enforcing it as best I could. We hung some gates. That was easy, except getting a fourteen foot gate home from the co-op in the back of a short bedded pick-up is a little nerve-wracking. Keeping the fence in good working order is a constant job. Patching holes in the fence could require a trip to the co-op to buy more fence, or more likely, a trip to the scrap shed to find something to wire over it. Any goat farmer who says they don’t do this is probably lying to you.
Goats need shelter, so next we had to work on the barn. Our barn was really just poles and a roof when we started. We added the walls, built a nice hay loft and hung a door that we also built. It was the biggest construction job we have attempted so far. We have since added a feed room and some kidding stalls. The goats love their barn.
Our Milk Parlor
Dairy goats are for milking, so we knew we would have to have a place to do our milking. We visited many farms to get good ideas about how our milk room could look. We both had worked in restaurants for many years, so we know plenty about food safety. We wanted some place clean and sanitary. Some place with light and heat that we could wash down after each milking. In other words, not the barn. There was a little shed about thirty yards behind our barn that had the potential to meet our needs. It had electricity but the floor needed work. We laid a new sub-floor, put down some linoleum that we got a deal on and put a fresh coat of white paint on the trim. Next we hung commercial kitchen wall panels and put tin on the ceiling. Finally I built our milk stand, which we still use. It has a place for the goats to stand and eat their morning grain while we milk them. I use a stainless steel milk pail that can be sanitized after each use. When the pail is full, I strain the milk through a special filter into a sanitized glass jar. I put each jar of fresh milk into an ice bath, which cools the milk down to the proper temperature as quickly as possible. After it is cooled, we keep the milk in our handy goat milk refrigerator. We set our milk parlor up so that the milk from our goats is always clean and properly refrigerated. The care we take in our milk room insures the milk we use in our goat milk soaps is the best it can be.
Adaptability is the Key
Goats are extremely adaptable. It is one of the reasons they make such great farm animals. No matter where you might live in this great country, goats can live there with you. Here at Tottys Bend Soap Farm, we like to think that we are adaptable too. We started our adventure not knowing the first thing about farming. But with blind faith, a little reading and a lot of kindness from our neighbors, we prevailed. Now we are the ones who answer people’s goat questions and give advice to new farmers. Never be afraid to pursue your dreams. They may not turn out like you imagine (ours didn’t) but what you end up with may be beyond your dreams.