Whisk up, mix up an inspiring, diligent student with her curious-but-slightly-bored-with-grammer English teacher, a dose of biofuel green chemistry, a big 120 gal reclaimed steel pot, and wise, hardy "grandmothers" with dogged work ethic and their "nurturing" legacy. What do you get?
Still thinking? (Yes, it's necessary to have a big pot to get all this in there and make something out of it.)
We got an Innovative, creative, naturally aggressive ride on our Warhorse. And we are hanging on!
The Student and The Biofuels Mentor... student Liz Russell inspired me with her biofuel and sustainability senior project in 2007. As her teacher, I got to go on the sustainability journey with her. I met Bob, her uncle and biofuel mentor, worked with him for several months, and nagged my husband Carl into building the biofuel processor setup I needed. Carl caved but cautioned me that I would ruin my Passat's engine. We'll see I said. He shook his head and left me to it. I made the fuel--in the evenings and on weekends, reclaiming local restaurant oil and reading biofuel docs and calling my college professor friends. And I called my mentor, Bob. He came running. I learned and I learned, made emulsified milkshakes and started over. Eventually, my sons, my husband, and I drove on transesesterified monoglyceride veggie fuel, filling our diesel engined TDI's, Chevy Duramax and '82 Luv, old red Massey tractor, and John Deere lawn mower (15,000 gallons to date on our fuel meter and all made from local restaurant used soybean and canola oils).
The Late Night Chemistry... What do with all that dark glycerin and left over vegetable oils? There's potential in it. Soap chemistry and biofuels chemistry are related. I started in a 3 gallon pot. After teaching during the day and editing enlightening senior English essays by night, the formulating continued late into the nights. My dark circles got bigger. The soap pot got bigger. The soap got better. Kick butt cleaning was perfected, while softening the skin. It was an oxymoron. I was in a phase where I didn’t need much sleep (They say the older you get, the less you need.?) The name?
The Warhorse...Warhorses are my students who never gave up, even with lots of heavy weight to carry. Burdens far beyond their heavy book laden book bags. The kind of burdens that can erode the spirit if determination is weakened. My resourceful grandmothers are Warhorses, my sister is a Warhorse, my husband is a Warhorse. The Warhorse cleaning soap was named after students and family members who chose perseverance over whining and apathy. Mr. Thomas, a Warhorse himself, is the fellow teacher who drew my Warhorse. The Warhorse Grandmothers...tireless women who used their creativity and natural resources to keep hearth and home moving forward. Like many children, we too inherited good traits from our elders.
The Sister, The Community, The Students... Over the years, the gallons of cleaner flowed--farm, barn, truck, multi purpose kick butt cleaner. My sister Amanda gave away our cleaning soap to Humane Societies, horse farms, fire departments, state trooper garage, cleaning companies, neighbors. I tweaked the recipe. Polk High art and science teachers cleaned with the free soap. We sent it to several university sustainability professors. A former student and chef took the dark Warhorse cleaner to Savannah restaurants. Lyndsey, another high school student, tested it at her farm--washing horse trailers, trucks, and tack. We listened to our small, local users who tested it and gave us feedback. Eventually getting so many requests, we began some serious research, combining sustainable, clean technology with age-old ingredients to produce several types of natural cleaning soaps.
The Softer Side of Warhose--Pet and People Cleanser...With the help of nearby Bonnie Brae Veterinarian Hospital, local farms owners and pet lovers, we developed a nutrient-rich formula that cleans and feeds the skin--the softer side of Warhorse. Lyndsey distributed free samples and gathered feedback. Glycerin, sea salt, castor and sweet almond oils were healing staples in grandmother Lillian's remedy cabinet and their well-known benefits are also in our pet and people soap.
A Bigger Pot and a Bigger Shop... Once our local customers, veterinarians, and businesses validated our soaps’ effectiveness over the next few years, I got an even bigger soap pot, a bigger spoon, and a bigger shop. I left my beloved classroom of 15 years to set up an incubation research stage--proof of concept and scale. Could I make my from-scratch-innovative-recipes on a larger scale? My shopping list changed-- a trip to reclaim commercial soap pots from their graveyard, a purchase of a new geared motor, recycled diaphragm pumps, agitators, a new 750,000 BTU hydronic hot water boiler, Phil, a local electrical guru, and New Earth fabrication experts and engineers built my flash evaporator for glycerin refining, my husband’s NEVER ENDING help, and more immersion into biofuel chemistry for our commercial cleaners… all while 4 more years passed. My sister hopped on the Warhorse ride full time--volunteering of course--and we got to cooking 500 gallon batches and gave most of it away. Delayed gratification can be a beautiful thing.
No, we’re not twins. But, people often think we are. Clearly, we don’t dress in our grandmothers’ style...
I miss teaching, but some of my former high school students--now college students, entrepreneurs, and world travelers--drop by the Warhorse shop to see our big soap pot. And they come by for free samples too.
We just moved again and have gotten some bigger pots, partnering with an ISO 9000 facility in NC that is a short drive for many of our raw materials, crop oils, and other partners. Biofuels chemistry is now a state science course at our high school. Growing and gaining momentum, the Warhorse is moving, but leaving as small of a carbon hoof print as possible.