Thursday, July 30, 2009

How Now Brown Cow ?



July 30, 2009

Calving takes place year round on Green Acres Farm. In the warm weather it is almost always in the pasture and an uneventful occurrence. This past Tuesday Keith noticed a cow in labor and grabbed our granddaughter Allana just in time to witness another birth. She was impressed but a little more worried about the thistles poking her legs.

What always amazes me is how attentive and interested the rest of the herd is. The moment that new babe is born they are poking their noses into things.

"No wonder she birthed so easy
what with that tiny tangerine
sized head, my Eggbert had a head the size of a beach ball. Now THAT was labor !"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Plant it and they will come.

July 29, 2009

When my husband first told me months ago we were going to plant SorghumXSudan Grass, I did my usual smile and nod trick. I know a large amount about what goes on around our farm and there is a large amount I don't know. And at that time I had no idea why he wanted to plant some syrupy grass from an Mid Eastern country . Turns out its not sticky at all (until it breaks down a little), its available right here in the US of A and it will help us meet the nutritional needs our 100% grass fed herd. It is also a frost sensitive, warm season erect annual grass that proves to be quite drought resistant. So he planted it, and it grew. Then came time to prepare it for winter silage.

We're small farmers. We have small equipment. So at times we need to hire friends and neighbors to help with certain tasks. This was one of those times







First came the Schaeffer family who hauled in
their bagger/chopper and sileage wagons.






Following them was Matt Stork who brought forth his hay mower and tractor. (Matt had cut the grass for us the day before). Our son Jason came by to help as well. So with the sun shining above the work began

.



The grass after being cut before chopping began














Gathering up the grass with the chopper and
blowing it into the wagon.









Transferring the sileage from the wagon into the bagger.












The completed bag filled full with sileage to be used this next winter.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Putting the art before the course.

July 26, 2009

My middle granddaughter has a saying "yaya, lets MAKE ART !" (That is too exactly how she says it, with capitalized words and exclamation points. So I quess it is more of a demand than a saying. We don't mince words much in this family.) And earlier this week when she made that pronouncement, I answered her just like the super involved always hands-on grandmother I am, "Sure, make all the art you want, supplies are in the junk drawer, I gotta take a shower."

So with the bathroom door open and my ears on high alert, I heard her proclaim, "All I need is string and tape." I told her where to find them. A minute later I hear the back door open. My bionic ear perked up. "Where I you going ?" Allana replied. "I need more art, I'll be right back" She did come right back, so I finished scrubbing the goat saliva off my feet. Don't ask.

When I came out of the bathroom, my granddaughter was grining all the way around her face. This is what she made out of string, tape, and lily petals. She had some peas attached too but they fell off. (Peas release me let me go...)


So, stop what you are doing today on this gorgeous Sunday. Make a little art for yourself.


"All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artisit once he (she) grows up."

Pablo Picasso

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Got Milk ? (From a real cow ?)


July 25, 2009

Hubbie Keith and middle son Jason were vendors today at the first, soon- to- be-annual "Old Time Country Carnival and Fair" held in Bonfield , Illinois. Faith's Farm , owner Kim Snyder, was the host of this event which offered many farm specific attractions such as the opportunity to milk a cow. Enter us. Green Acres Farm. Keith and Jason brought one of our gentlest cows and our youngest calf and allowed people to actually TOUCH said animals. Those brave enough were allowed to try their hand(s) at milking. Keith reported a crowd of over 400, many coming from the Chicago area. Vendors were also wide spread, some from small farms like us, some from the high end restaurants of the city looking for supplies of organic/natural meats and produce. Keith also sold quite a bit of our pre-packaged meat and added names to our list of future beef and pork customers.

The Kankakee Journal sent staff to the event and both my guys were interviewed and photographed with chefs from Chicago. Watch the paper for the story soon. Sadly I have no pics of the event itself to post here, as our Green Acres Photographer (moi) was wasting the day away sleeping. (Yes, I worked last night, 12 hr shift, feel sorry for me). But I did scan the flyer. Thanks Kim for including us in this great event.

Another (?!?!?!) Birthday

July 25, 2009

Happy Birthday to Kyle our youngest son! 19 today and totally self supporting. Engaged to a super neat girl. He has great taste this son of ours. And yes, I'll be posting a baby pic of him too. As soon as I sleep off this 12 hour night shift I just worked. Now where did I put my bed ?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pork Chop Crop 2009

July 24, 2009

For the last five years Keith and I have been raising pigs over the summer to be butchered and sold in the fall. Our customer base increases every year as people learn about the difference in taste between confinement hogs who never see the light of day, coming from who knows where, versus the pasture raised piggie who is never burdened with antibiotics or hormones. Pigs that are raised by people you know and have the run of lots of green pasture. Some folks will even come visit their little ham bones before butchering time, encouraging them. "Oh come on now, you can eat more than that...shall I get some syrup for your grain ? We can call it granola."



Our "pork chop crop" as we lovingly refer to them have the best of all of all worlds up until the day the hammer comes down . Keith often leaves large piles of manure for them to root through. I always fill up any holes they dig with water, forming a swine spa/mud bath over time. They are often fed older eggs we have on hand and several can now sit on their bottoms and beg for said treats. Regular feeding consists of organic grain mixed with organic milk which makes one fine breakfast slurry. Keith hand feeds our pig village building self esteem as he does. "Man , that is some fine lookin' bacon you got going on there ." and "If I didn't know better I would say your pork butt is even BIGGER than yesterday ! Job well done. " Once he accidently gave this wife compliments meant for pork chop crop. He won't make that mistake again.



I believe one year Keith even took the trailer through the local Dairy Queen drive up before he took them to the locker plant. Sort of a Last Meal Deal. Those Peanut Buster Parfaits made for some sticky snouts , and a raised eyebrow or three from the locker plant staff.

NOW is the time to order your pork. Don't miss out as these little porkers go very fast. See our web site for more info and prices at www.greenacresdairy.com
or just call us at 815-635-3414

Thursday, July 23, 2009

They say it's your birthday, happy birthday to ya !


July 23, 2009.

Our oldest child, Raven (and only girl), is 29 today. She is such a special young woman and I am so proud to have her as my daughter.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Life in General



July 22, 2009

Todays predominant feeling.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Caught between a sock and a hard place.



July 21, 2009

My Aunt Bernie is 90, residing in an assisted living facility near me. She moved there after living independently all of her adult life. For the majority of that life she cared for a mentally retarded sister (Down Syndrome had not been invented at that time, so my deceased Aunt Teresa will always be lovingly referred to as "retarded" in our family). Her devotion kept my Aunt Teresa at home free of institutionalization, even though she functioned only at the level of a three year old. In the 70's when My Aunt Bernies father became ill she took care of him also. Offered marriage and perhaps an escape from her family obligations, she declined. Several times.

Now its my turn to take care of her but SHE WILL NOT LET ME WASH HER SOCKS !! I visit my aunt 2-3 times a week and another sister of mine sees her when I am unable. Together we do her housekeeping, medications, shopping and laundry . Except the friggin' socks. My Aunt insists on washing them herself. She rinses them out every night and hangs them in the bathroom to dry, or on the back of her chair, or the doorknob. They are not getting very clean. She is losing the ability to scrub. This follows immediately after losing the ability to tell fresh milk from sour milk, which is why we do not buy her milk for her little frig anymore, just single serving juice.

So when I visit and see the socks I will sneek them into my laundry bag to take home and wash properly. Yesterday she sees me doing this and yells "What the hell are you doing !?" I state the obvious, "I'm taking your socks home to make puppets out of them to distribute to the arts deprived children of Appalachia." She does not fall for that story. She may be confused at times, but never gullible. "The hell you are !", she responds. "Put them back where you found them, if I can't wash my own socks you might as well throw me over that railing there." She has a small balcony off her studio apt. She's been using the throw-me-off-the-balcony-threat more and more. I do appreciate the drama of it.

So I put the socks back on the edge of the tub. But when she came into the bathroom to get ready for supper, I took several pair out of her socks out of her dresser drawer and hid them in my purse. When she finds out I am going to be sooooo grounded.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

To the Moon Alice !

July 19, 2009

I was 10 in the summer of 1969. We had moved out of Chicago the year before, into the little village of Warrenville. I was outside playing with neighbors Ray and Robin when my dad called me inside using his famous two- fingers-the-mouth whistle. That particular whistle meant "COME HERE NOW !" I ran to the house convinced I was in trouble. He ushered me into the living room and told me "sit down, you need to watch this. " TV ? In the middle of the day ? I sat down and looked at the black and white screen. Some weird science fiction show . A goofball on some foreign planet with an American Flag in his hand. I started to get up. My fathers' hand pressed down on my shoulder. "Stay." I stayed. And I watched the first man in the history ...walk on the moon.

My dad has been gone 19 years , but with tomorrow being the 40th anniversary of that momentous occasion , that days memories are very clear. I can feel his strength through his hand on my shoulder. I can smell the unfiltered Camels on his white short sleeved button up shirt. I can remember what it was like to hug him around his waist and have the metal buckle of his cheap belt scratch my arm. The only belt he owned. The one he wore every day to hold up his pants that were always too big for him. Funny thing those pants. He was a heavy man but still his pants were always too big for him.

I don't believe I ever told him how much it meant to me that he recognized history was being made and he wanted me to be a part of it. That moment in front of the TV, just me and my dad has cemented itself in my brain. Thanks dad. Thank you very much.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Dangerous Zucchini

July 16, 2009

I just ate my lunch. One large zucchini from our own garden. I did not even bother to wash it.
Why ? We don't spray chemicals of any kind. Its a REAL organic garden not a fake one like Queen Michelle has. After I picked it, I cut it up skin and all. Then I dipped it in a lethal concoction of an also unwashed egg, I had gathered from the chicken house minutes before, and....raw milk. Yup. Raw milk. Not homogenized, not pasturized, just fresh from the cows my husband milked just this morning. Then I fried it in oil and butter. Oooooooo. I am such a risk taker. Makes my days of hitching a ride with bikers in Sturgis S.D. look pretty mild doesn't it ?.

Well, if our goofy government gets their way with HR 875, The Food Safety Modernization Act, I might not be able to be so frivalous with food growth, preparation and consumption in the near future. I will certainly be limited in what I can sell at the farmers markets or even give away to friends and family. The act states its main focus is to "Protect the public." Puuleeese. If our goverment is so worried about protecting me from the food I CHOOSE AS AN INFORMED ADULT to consume then why must they also increase my taxes to do so. ? Why is it everytime the folks in Washington want to do something to help me or protect me it costs ME more money ?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Give Peas a Chance


July 15, 2009

Spent the majority of the day cleaning a house that hadn't seen soap and water since 2005. The spider webs had been woven over and over upon themselves for lack of new space thus creating several afgans in the corners of the kitchen. Attractive. By 3 pm I had made a serious dent in the housework and headed to the garden.

Peas, peas and more peas. Supposedly a cool weather crop, this variety had outdone itself. Two weeks ago it was over 90 for several days in a row and after that, cool and rainy. Lately, it has been hot and humid. But these weather changes seem to just egg these guys on. The variety is Mammoth Melting Pea, an organic pea from Irish Eyes Garden City Seeds in Ellensburg, Wa. (www.irisheyesgardencityseeds.com). The package says they will grow 4-5 feet and need "trellising." I just used a metal fence post and covered it vertically with 2 foot wide chicken wire. My vines are well over 6 foot and still blooming !

When they are small they are very sweet and perfect for salads, no cutting needed. As they grow they are wonderful for just snacking on while wedding in the garden. Our garden is completely organic so no need to wash anything before eating. I've gotten pretty good at swiping 3-4 pods off the vine as I run by the pea pole with my lawn mower. Now some of the pods are quite full and I can snap it open with one hand and pop the peas directly in my mouth. Eventually I'll get some to the table, I might even cook some.

The rubber band man can.

July 14, 2009

A couple of days ago we castrated our little bull calves. This year "we" really meant something. In the past, when our boys lived at home, Keith would get their help to hold calves while he applied the rubber band or as I like to call it, the testicular eliminator. But, the boys are grown and mamma is the main helper now. Fortunately, we had an intern to assist. Young farmer-to-be "A" who through gritted teeth and half closed eyes (this process is always harder on the menfolk) made the task go pretty quick. Placing the rubberband was easier than I thought. You just reach between their back legs (with your own face off to the side as much as possible) find the scrotum and pull it through the the the little device that stretches out the rubberband, then you pull that handy tool back, leaving the rubberband in place up above the two testicles.

What always amazes me is how these little guys pop back so quickly after this is done. No pre-op Versed, no post-op Morphine. Having a very tight and tiny rubber band applied at the top of your scrotum would be bad enough but for the process to work it has to be LEFT ON until the scrotal sack completely dies and falls off. (Yeah, I see you crossing your legs) Yes, they hop around a little bit afterwards but not for long. And they eat and drink normally at the next feeding. They were even jumping and leaping at me for their bottle like they always do.

I've been watching them, and their parts, these last few days, observing how the lack of circulation to that area causes the sack to shrink and making sure they were OK even though my husband assures me they will be. I'm just so in awe of how these babies recover without any antibiotics, sterile dressing changes (or any dressing at all !) or social service intervention for their impending loss. Now some of you are likely asking, "Hey, why is OK to castrate them but not dehorn them ?" Fabulous question. Because...having a bunch of horny bulls running around would just be nuts wouldn't it. ?

Oh come on. You HAD to have seen that one coming.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Horny Little Calves


July 14, 2009

When Keith and I completed our organic certification survey in April of this year, we also decided to stop dehorning our calves. Our reasons were many. Our SOLE reason was, we both hated the process. Keith had been the one brandishing the dehorning tool for years and I had only helped a handful of times but we both felt bad doing it. The mornful crying, violent head tossing, post dehorning disorientation, reek of burning flesh and hair was just too cruel. Once I learned to get out the way, however; my injuries decreased, but the calves suffered a little discomfort as well.

So we stopped dehorning and now we wait. Other organic farmers who have taken this same route tell us the calves will be happier, healthier and will adapt well to using their horns just as nature originally intended. We do have many coyotes in our area and it would be ideal if a our herd was able to defend itself better. Our older farm dogs went to the big farm in the sky last summer and our new farm dogs (a lazy boxer with a reclining chair fetish and a border collie mix in training), aren't completely up to snuff yet as far as herd protection goes.

Non-organic farmers and our college-educated-ag-major-son think we are INSANE with a capital CRAZY for not dehorning. They tell us horror stories of cows tossing each other up in the air like circus jugglers or holding each other hostage with their horns , trapping the weakest of the herd against the barn while the stronger, color-wearing, bovines munch down the best pasture. They frighten us with images of lacerated udders , ripped apart milk tanks, beheaded farmers, and punctured tractor tires. But we are not afraid. (OK, a little maybe. But we're still going to give it a try. I wonder what color helmet my husband wants for milking time?)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Fragile Peacock



July 12, 2009

My husband is a barterer. From the old time barterers of Rt 24, a soon to be extinct group of country folk who believe money should be the last thing exchanged between friends. Instead, one should trade services, (stop that line of thinking right now) produce, labor, livestock etc...So, when he did some work for another farmer a couple of years ago and returned with several peachicks instead of cash, I was not too surprised.

Concerned about the care of said peachicks, I googled them. Apparently we were given a very complex and difficult to raise bird. They would need high protein food (we bought it), a special cage (we planned to build it), and lots of attention to help them thrive, (we thought about it). After a few weeks of intensive care in the cutest little chick house you ever saw, they got loose. Any farm animal worth their salt will get loose if you ask me.

In the midst of our busy farm life we let them go. We'll catch them "later."Do you know what they did ? They THRIVED !!

They found plenty of food in the barn, or they stole it from the cats and dogs. They found water in all the automatic waterers we have scattered about. They roosted in our trees, our neighbors machine shed (he finds them exotic) and on the top of our roof. They had babies and a few more. They keep the fly and mosquito population at bay and they provide us with beautiful feathers for decorating or giving away to delighted visitors. Consider them for your farm. We have extra for sale, if we can catch them.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Garden of Eatin'


July 10, 2009

This year the garden will be better than last year. That was our mantra in May. By this time in July it is more like "There's still some peas in there somewhere, bring a flashlight." Our veggie garden at Green Acres Farm is always an experimental work in progress. Four years ago I thought it would be lovely to intersperse a few morning glory seeds among the pumpkins.

Six weeks later all we could see was morning glories. True, their pretty little blue and lavender flowers were "lovely" but their life-sucking-evil-doing roots , their invasive vines and tendrils choked the breath out of innocent Blue Lake Beans just minding their own business. I ripped them out, again and again. But it was so useless. They would see us coming and drop millions of seeds before we could reach them with the hoe. The next year we waited till the morning glories were up and growing but not yet making seed. Then we gleefully ripped through them with the big tractor driven tiller. The third year when they had the nerve to sprout once again, we flooded the garden plot with gasoline (of course it was certified organic, why would you ask ?) and we torched the vindictive vines in a searing blaze of angry gardener angst. Naaaaa. we just pulled and dug and tilled and chopped them up...again.

Year four after the big MG Fiasco...and we have won the battle. One or two still bravely pop up but I very delightfully riiiiiip their heads off. I AM IN CONTROL of the MG's and have proven it by "allowing" just a few of them to grow in another part of the yard where, if they DARED to spread, it would do no harm.

Obviously I still have much to learn about gardening. Remember, I spent my formative years playing on the concrete that "grew" on Ashland Ave. in Chicago.

Potatoes continue to vex me. I've tried ditches with dirt shoveled on top as the plants grow, so that the ditch became big hills by the end of the season. I tried tires last year. It made the garden look like a very neat automotive graveyard but the end result was about 4 spuds per tire tower. This year, the tots were planted in shallow rows, covered with dirt, allowed to grow some more and then repeatedly covered with old hay and straw. Not sure what the end result will be but the mulch has kept weeds at bay.

I also added more flowers . The non-invasive always cooperative Zinnia for example, just to add some color and perhaps force me to see the beauty of the space and not just the tasks that need to be accomplished. I set up two old metal chairs and a recycled tire coffee table so I might actually sit and enjoy the fruits of our labor. We'll see my friend, we'll see.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Work: The curse of the drinking class.

July 16, 2009

My husband and I are eejits, baffoons and maroons. We are slow learners, poor retainers and rapidly forming our own "puddle of retards" *

We get up, get the coffee, get the chore boots and get to work. We often do the same thing over and over and expect different results (see definition of insanity). We work in the rain, in the snow, in the heat , in gale force winds and on holidays.

We work when we are sick, when we are happy and immediately after fighting over how much bleach in the milk equipment wash water is too much bleach. We work for profit , for loss, for the improved lifestyle of ourselves and our family and some days... we work for no good reason at all.

We work because we are farmers.

Its a habit that sneaks up on you. You start with a list and complete it. Then the list gets longer and you complete that one. Then you notice a fence that is down, a goat that needs clipped, a calf that needs tagged , pigs that need a new waterer (they ate the last three), a cow that needs shipped and another pasture to be reseeded and you can't find your to- do list so you just do those things you just noticed but forget to do the things that were on your original to-do list to begin with. Then you lose your pen. Shortly after, you lose your mind.

BUT THEN...you sleep. You get up, you get the coffee, you get the chore boots, the weather is cool , the American flag is waving so proudly in the breeze on that great pole your son gave you and you think, "Man, what a great day to get a lot of WORK done."

* The term "puddle of retards" came from good friend T.H. who owns all rights and responsibilities that come with such a politically insensitive but absolutely brilliant term.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Land of the Free. Home of the Brave

July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July !!! Enjoy your families and your freedoms.

Friday, July 3, 2009

No Grain No Pain



July 3, 2009

Like many other dairy farmers Keith had always fed grain as part of our dairy herds diet. When we decided to seek organic certification we of course had to feed certified organic grain. Took a while for the cows to adapt to the change. Cows like things to taste the same. Similar to toddlers, a change in texture can mean a rebellion. Then after meeting with the folks at Traders Point Creamery (TPC) in Zionsville Indiana , we decided NO GRAIN was the way to go.

We made THIS new change at the perfect time; just as the cows were getting out to new spring pastures. Our milk production did drop as expected but not for long and not as much as we had feared. One problem we did not plan for, was how to get the cows into the parlor for milking. Before, it was the grain that enticed them. A little more reading, some phone calls to TPC and bingo-bango-bongo we discovered molasses. A sweet treat that provides a little extra energy for our bovines.

It took more phone calls to find a supplier for organic molasses in bulk and the winner was Zook Molasses Company in Pennslyvania. They sell us the "Zook Gook" in large plastic totes and deliver it to TPC where we pick it up with a borrowed trailer. (Thanks again Ken Kurtenbaugh)

At first the cows were afraid of the liquid black stuff being dribbled into their feed bin but soon they grew accustomed and lately have been requesting pancakes to go with their syrup. Never enough for those girls. Never enough. Yesterday we made the 6 hour round trip to Zionsville to pick up another load of molasses. The ride is long but TPC is always a great place to visit. Check them out at traderspointcreamery.com

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Don't Tread on Me


July 2, 2009 NAIS

Thomas Jefferson said it best,

"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have ."

NAIS , the National Animal Identification System Illustrates this perfectly. Put simply, NAIS is the USDA's proposed plan to identify every single livestock animal in the United States. Incidently, the proposed plan was never voted into law by Congress and was supposed to be a three step "voluntary program". The law requires that each animal will be tagged or microchipped and their movement will be tracked, logged and reported to our government. The benefit is for the huge factory farms only as they will be allowed to do single ID's for large group of animals. Small farmers like us , households who raise 4-H animals, and homesteaders raising meat for their own use, will have to identify AND TAG every single farm animal. Yes, that means every chicken, every duck, every pig, every pony. Even Aunt Bessie with her one egg a day chicken will have to register her home as a "farm premise", obtain a premise ID, tag or microchip her Chicken Little, file the paperwork, and pay the fees.

There are no exceptions under the NAIS plan if passed in its current form.The USDA slipped this through the back door and past several states before residents were aware it was happening. Wisconsin was blind-sided in 2006 and residents are working desperately to have the law repealed. The cost of tagging and recording all these animals, their owners, and the farms they come from will be cost prohibitive to the average farmer, causing even more family farms to close their barn doors for good. Additional program costs will eventually be passed onto YOU, in the form of higher food prices to start, and other methods of finance reimbursement to the government not yet defined of course. Think increased taxes.

Educate yourself about NAIS. Get involved. Write your representative. Go to NoNAIS.org.
DO SOMETHING NOW . SAVE OUR FARMS !

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Special Thanks to Mom Parrish


July 1, 2009 Keiths birthday

Special thanks to my mother-in-law Lois who 47 years ago gave birth to her seventh child, her last child, her baby, who grew up to become my wonderful husband and our farms expert herdsman.