January 17, 2022 at 3:39 a.m.

A love for goats 

Mother, daughter raise caprines, start business 
The Hovels – (from left) Brad, Kelly and Lily – milk seven goats near Cannon Falls, Minnesota. The Hovels also make and sell goat milk soap. PHOTO BY KATE RECHTZIGEL
The Hovels – (from left) Brad, Kelly and Lily – milk seven goats near Cannon Falls, Minnesota. The Hovels also make and sell goat milk soap. PHOTO BY KATE RECHTZIGEL

By Kate Rechtzigel- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

CANNON FALLS, Minn. − For Kelly Hovel, goats have been a way of bringing her closer to her daughter, Lily.  
“I never imagined myself with goats,” Hovel said. “We got them on a whim, but then they were kind of like an addiction. We fell in love.” 
Hovel and her family − husband Brad and children Lily, 10, and Riggin, 6 − milk seven dairy goats near Cannon Falls. They have 12 Nigerian Dwarf does, one Saanen doe, one Nubian doe and five bucks on their farm in Goodhue County. 
The family began milking last year. 
“We started with three Nigerian Dwarf wethers and it grew from there,” Hovel said. “By luck, we got a Nubian doe, and my son just fell in love with the long ears.” 
From there, the family grew their small farm with another Nubian doe and buck and a Saanen doe. They also have chickens and ducks. 
“This summer, we are going to have Nubian babies,” Hovel said. 
Every morning, Hovel gives the goats fresh water and hay, and Lily and Riggin take care of their rabbits, ducks and chickens. At night, Hovel gives the goats fresh hay, grain and water, and Lily and Riggin make sure the ducks and chickens have fresh feed and water. 
Working from home as a registered nurse allows Hovel to take care of her goats and other farm animals.
“I don’t make the kids go out when it’s really cold,” Hovel said. “But the kids want to show in 4-H so they understand that part of 4-H is making sure their animals are fed daily.”
Hovel milks her goats twice a day on milk test. They kid in late spring or early summer and milk through mid-September. Her longest milking goat this year was on a 229-day milk test.
“This year, I want to continue to milk through December on a 305-day test so the goats can earn their milk stars,” Hovel said. “That is where the does milk volume, butterfat and protein weights are calculated and averaged to determine if the goat has enough points to receive a star.” 
Hovel milks in a small shed. In the shed, she also stores hay and animal feed. 
“I have two milk stands,” Hovel said. “I bring them in two at a time and milk one as the other one waits. Then, I get the other one set up and milk her as I put the other one back and then bring in another one. I hope to one day have a nice pole barn to milk them in.” 
Hovel stored the milk in a freezer for about six months before deciding what to do with it.
“I joined a bunch of different goat groups on Facebook and saw what others were doing,” Hovel said. “I hadn’t learned how to make cheese yet so I decided to learn how to make soap.” 
Hovel and her family watched many videos, bought soap making books and eventually determined a recipe that works for them. 
“My husband told me to make a recipe, perfect it and use that,” Hovel said. “That’s what we did, but there’s so many different options you can use.” 
Hovel starts her soap making process by melting oils together and mixing frozen milk with a lye solution. 
“I use frozen milk so that it doesn’t scourge when lye is added to it,” Hovel said. “This part takes the longest because you have to mix the lye into the milk slowly.” 
From there, she mixes her oils and milk solution together with an immersion blender and adds any colors or fragrances. 
“It’s fun making soap with Lily,” Hovel said. “She tells me what kind of designs and colors she likes and we go from there. It’s fun to see Lily’s excitement.” 
After the soap is mixed, the soap sits in a mold for 24 hours. Hovel then cuts the soap and ages it for over six weeks.  
“We do it for fun,” Hovel said. “It’s rewarding to come up with our soap designs after milking the goats all summer, and I like getting Lily, my family and friends involved.” 
Even Hovel’s husband, who is a full-time hog, beef and crop farmer, takes time to show off Hovel’s soaps for various vendor events and on the farm’s social media page.
“He’s my soap model,” Hovel said. “I’ll take a picture of him posing with a new bar of soap and people get really excited about it. Some even say I should make a calendar of him and my soap.” 
Besides being active on social media and at vendor events in 2021, Hovel’s main customers are her family and friends. 
“My mom, Lori, keeps my soap for decoration in her bathroom,” Hovel said. “She says it’s too pretty too use. But it’s really cool after many trials that I actually made a product that we can use and enjoy.”
Hovel also enjoys teaching others about her goat milk soap. 
“Brad’s aunt, Sue Franklin, and her friend came over six weeks before Christmas, and I taught them how to make soap,” Hovel said. “I still have a lot to learn, but it’s fun teaching others about our soap. And, knowing that it comes from my goat herd is really rewarding.”
The family has also dealt with learning curves over the past couple years. 
“I’m not a perfectionist by any means,” Hovel said. “Occasionally, we will have one batch that won’t work out because we added the lye too fast or something, and we’ll get bummed. It really helps to have a community of soap makers who encourages us to try a different recipe, make sure we are weighing out our ingredients correctly and having accurate measurements.” 
Hovel plans to continue making goat milk soap as a hobby. 
“As long as we still have goats and I’m on milk test, I plan to keep making soap,” Hovel said. “I’d like to have a better facility to keep all the goats and hay in but that’s more of a dream. For now, I hope the kids like showing goats in 4-H.”


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