I love the color and designs of Amber Blakeslee’s handmade soap. With names like Butterfly Flower and Tropical Resort, they look almost too pretty to use. But appearance isn’t the only thing unique about her soaps. She makes them out of camel’s milk.
They added camels to their 7-acre Milford, Indiana, homestead as a way to control the grass without having to mow it. “We wanted versatile livestock that could be productive in multiple ways,” says Luke Blakeslee. Though their 5 camels don’t manage the grass as well as they hoped, Blakeslee says they are happy with their decision to purchase them a few years ago after riding camels, attending a hands-on training clinic, and speaking with owners of other camel dairies.
“Camels do well in a variety of climates,” Blakeslee says, from hot climates in the South to cold climates in Canada. The Blakeslees have shelter for them to get out of the weather and are renovating the barn to make it even nicer for newborn calves. Camels thrive on poor forage such as weeds, twigs and leaves, so Blakeslee monitors the grass to make sure it isn’t too rich, and supplements with grain and minerals the camels need. They are fed orchard grass hay through the winter.
“They require a lot of loose salt. They scoop up mouthfuls,” Blakeslee says. “We give them Himalayan salt, and that makes their milk salty.”
The biggest challenge is milking.
“They are very tame about being milked, but the longest let down has been 2 minutes and 12 seconds,” Blakeslee says. “You do what you can.” Currently he milks twice a day by hand or with a milker. Each camel has a unique temperament and the amount of milk varies from 2 to 6 pints per milking.
After filtering the milk three times, it is frozen until Amber makes soap. She made her first soaps in 2015, with purchased camel milk as a way to earn money to buy camels. With 10 times the iron and three times more Vitamin C than cow’s milk, camel milk has essential natural antioxidants that promote healthy skin and prevent dryness.
“Customers say it is a lot creamier than other soaps and lathers very nicely,” Blakeslee says. “The milk is light and absorbs into the skin very quickly. It combines nicely with luxury oils.”
They offer tours, and they hope to expand the business to sell camel ice cream. The name of the farm, River Jordan, is a statement of faith symbolizing healing, he says. For the Blakeslees, producing quality products from camel milk is part of that, while raising their young children and animals on their rural property.