LEADER OF THE FLOCK

LIFE­LONG SOUTH­ERN HIGH­LANDS RES­I­DENT AND EX-CHEESE­MAKER HAR­RIET TURN­NIDGE ON MAK­ING SOAP WITH EWE’S MILK.

Country Style - - CONTENTS - WORDS SALLY FELD­MAN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY AB­BIE MELLE

From her prop­erty in NSW’S South­ern High­lands, Har­riet Turn­nidge is pro­duc­ing soap from ewe’s milk.

IN HAR­RIET TURN­NIDGE’S soap shed, all is or­der and calm. The stain­less-steel work­bench and metic­u­lously stacked shelves are off­set by vases of flow­ers and an or­nate glass­fronted cab­i­net; and the air is scented with the gen­tle waft of beeswax and es­sen­tial oils. One of the orig­i­nal build­ings on a Mit­tagong prop­erty in NSW’S South­ern High­lands, this shed is Har­riet’s cre­ative do­main where she’s been de­vel­op­ing Aedel ewe’s-milk soaps for the past three years. The name Aedel is a pho­netic deriva­tion of the Ger­man word edel, mean­ing ‘pre­cious’ and ‘no­ble’. “The East Friesian breed of sheep has his­toric ties to the Fries­land re­gion of north­ern Ger­many,” ex­plains Har­riet. “The word sym­bol­ises our ethos from pro­duc­tion to end use.” Though Har­riet stud­ied tex­tile de­sign in Mel­bourne, the 33-year-old has no yearn­ing for city life. Her mother’s fam­ily hails from the South­ern High­lands: her great-grand­fa­ther Wil­liam F. Fo­ley, a tai­lor, was mayor of Bowral, where she was born. Har­riet grew up on the his­toric merino and polo stud Spring­field Sta­tion, on the other side of Goul­burn. “We lived in a gor­geous blue­stone cot­tage,” she says. “I was an avid horse rider and had a lot of free­dom. Live­stock was just part of the land­scape; I loved grow­ing up there.” A woman of for­mi­da­ble cre­ativ­ity and cu­rios­ity, Har­riet has long em­braced a life­style fo­cused on health and well­be­ing — she’s also a qual­i­fied re­me­dial masseuse — but work­ing at a cheesery set her course. “I wanted to >

ex­plore mak­ing a beau­ti­ful prod­uct for my­self from scratch. Ewe’s milk is in­cred­i­bly rich and high in fats and solids. It’s higher than goat’s milk,” Har­riet says. “I ini­tially chose soap be­cause it seemed like such a lus­cious thing to do.” She bought Rosie, an East Friesian, and Mal­ish, an Awassi, at one week old and raised them by hand. “Rosie’s my dar­ling, even though I know you shouldn’t have favourites,” she says with a smile. “East Friesians pro­duce high vol­umes of milk but can be a lit­tle del­i­cate com­pared with Awas­sis, an ex­tremely ro­bust Mid­dle Eastern breed.” Shortly af­ter, she ac­quired an East Friesian ram and Rosie soon pro­duced Cherry, who com­pleted her lit­tle flock. Har­riet was vo­ra­cious in her re­search and watched Youtube videos and at­tended work­shops to hone her skills. “There’s a plethora of in­for­ma­tion you can ac­cess like on­line lye cal­cu­la­tors to en­sure you get the chem­istry right,” she says. “Where you have to be more cre­ative is with the scent and es­sen­tial-oil blend­ing.” She also taught her­self pho­tog­ra­phy, used to great ef­fect on Aedel’s web­site and In­sta­gram. In­suf­fi­cient graz­ing space on the prop­erty and in­creas­ing ur­ban­i­sa­tion meant Har­riet now ag­ists her flock around the High­lands: “You end up meet­ing some­one ran­domly and

say­ing, ‘Hey, this pad­dock’s empty and you’re mow­ing it; how about we put our sheep on there?’ ” The up­side has been the friend­ships forged in­clud­ing one with re­tirees Lauren and Jimmy, whose hazel­nut farm at Werai is cur­rently host­ing last spring’s lambs. There’s also the time-hon­oured util­ity of the lo­cal co-op noticeboard. “This lovely gen­tle­man Arthur rings up and tells me he’s got a pad­dock where he used to keep his house cow. He’s 87 and has lived and worked in the area all his life. He built the house with his own hands.” Har­riet sources most of her raw ma­te­ri­als for her soaps lo­cally, in­clud­ing olive oil from Sut­ton For­est Olives and beeswax from a nearby api­arist. “When­ever I visit, I end up get­ting a tour around his gar­den and com­ing away with arm­fuls of veg­eta­bles!” Dur­ing milk­ing sea­son which starts when her lambs are fully weaned and con­tin­ues un­til win­ter Har­riet uses the milk fresh. “Sum­mer is when the rhythm of car­ing for the ewes and milk­ing is set. Re­gard­less of the size of the dairy, you have to be present to milk twice a day. There’s some­thing quite spe­cial about that com­mit­ment, though; get­ting up early on Christ­mas morn­ing be­fore the heat of the day sets in to milk and tend to the ewes.” While she’s work­ing to at least dou­ble her pro­duc­tion in time for Christ­mas, Har­riet ap­pears un­ruf­fled. “One of the ben­e­fits of a sta­ble prod­uct like soap is that I can make it ahead; in fact, the longer it gets to cure, the harder the bar and the denser and creamier the lather.” Her part­ner Oliver Gruesser tends to the tech side of the busi­ness and also made the forms for her soap blocks. Each yields 60 bars and re­quires two litres of ewe’s milk. “To make soap, you have three ba­sic in­gre­di­ents oils or fats, the liq­uid com­po­nent (ewe’s milk), and then lye, which is the cat­a­lyst,” she says. “I blend the other oils olive or co­conut oil, beeswax or lovely mois­tur­is­ing ones for the skin like apri­cot ker­nel and sweet al­mond. I make a cus­tard­like mix­ture, then leave it to set for 24 hours be­fore freez­ing it overnight so I can re­move it from the form.” Once hand-cut and wrapped in pack­ag­ing de­signed by Har­riet, the soaps var­i­ously scented with rose, clary sage, laven­der, and orange and gin­ger are ready to be dis­trib­uted to 12 out­lets and count­ing, plus on­line, around Aus­tralia.“build­ing Aedel com­bines a lot of my pas­sions and skills,” she says. “There’s room for me to be cre­ative, it brings in my love of an­i­mals and work­ing with qual­ity in­gre­di­ents, and al­lows me to pro­duce some­thing on a small scale that’s re­ally beau­ti­ful.” For more in­for­ma­tion, visit aedel.com.au or fol­low @aedel.soap on In­sta­gram.

LEFT Aedel soaps ready to be posted out for Christ­mas. Each boxed soap re­tails for $10. FAC­ING PAGE Har­riet keeps her flock small — she’s hold­ing Rosie’s lamb, who has one blue eye. The other sheep are Mal­ish, Cherry and Rosie.

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