FAIRVIEW, Alta. — A Jersey milk cow gave her name to Cheryl Bieda’s business and the arrangement has worked out as smooth as cream — in more ways than one.
Misty is the cow, and Misty Meadows Soap is the business, which involves the making and selling of soaps, creams, balms and other products.
Bieda makes her products on the family’s 640-acre farm northeast of Fairview, where she also milks a few cows, makes cheese, butter and yogurt, and grows many of the herbs used in an array of items.
A step inside her pantry is a step inside an apothecary shop like those depicted in movies. Dried herbs hang from the shelves and ceiling. Glass jars hold all manner of dried foods, herbs and spices. A dehydrator, butter churn and cream separator stand at the ready.
In another room are shelves full of soaps, baskets of lip balm and projects in various stages of completion.
“Sometimes, I start with a name,” says Bieda, as she surveys soaps with names like Bear Trap, Running Lake and Cowboy Up.
But when she started making soaps about 10 years ago, the reasons were practical.
“What got me into that is that I had eczema really bad on my hands and I didn’t want to use steroid creams. I thought there had to be a more natural way.”
Given that the family ate little processed food and raised its own meat, eggs and milk plus many vegetables, she concluded that soaps and detergents were contributing to her skin condition.
“I don’t have eczema anymore,” she said, as she held up her hands.
The soap led to more experiments and product development.
How many products?
“Too many,” said Bieda. “I’m always thinking of more. My motto is keep it simple, keep it natural, enjoy life. There’s so much that’s crap out there.
“Knowing what I know now, I would never have used anything from the store on my kids. I would have raised them as little hippies right from the get go.”
As her knowledge and skill grew, she developed Hippy Healer, a balm used on cuts and sores that employs essential oils and ingredients including St. John’s Wort, calendula and arneca.
She has also developed a rub for sore muscles that involves essential oil infusions of hot peppers that she grows in her on-farm greenhouse.
“Once I started learning more and more about plants, I started infusing the oils. Then, it’s just through trial and error. The more I learn, the more I want to put it to use.”
Now her product line includes deodorants, hand and lip balms, a type of vapo rub, cream for stretch marks, facial creams, room sprays, body mists, foot soaks and scrubs and balm to ease cracked heels.
“Some of it is trial and error,” said Bieda. “I hate wasting ingredients. If it doesn’t work out, I get mad. I’ve chucked stuff in the garbage.
“The rule is now, when mother’s making soap, nobody comes around for four hours. Don’t talk to me, because when they’re talking, then I can’t concentrate on my measuring and that’s when I always screw up. So now they’ve learned.”
Christmas is the peak of the sales season for Misty Meadows, and Bieda had a long list of Christmas markets and craft shows where she plans to sell her wares.
She also has products in stores around northern Alberta.
Bieda said she is often asked about opening her own store, but she remains ambivalent. However, she does admit that inventing new products is sort of addictive.
“It can get like a drug. A good drug.”