Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tootsie Rolls for Cows


August 30, 2009

This field of round bales near our farm always reminds me of big tootsie rolls. Maybe its time to ease up on my low-carb diet a little.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Raingirl

August 29, 2009



















Childs wagon adapted for hauling milk bottles to calves..........................................................Free

Slick see-through rain poncho from The Dollar Tree Store............................................$1 (duh)

Authentic Wellies from County Clare Ireland cut down to allow room for midlife farmwife's ample
calves..........................................Air fare RT $425
.....................................................Car rental $200
...............................Wellington Chore Boots $18

Life on Green Acres Farm..........PRICELESS !

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Words from Wee Wesley

August 27, 2009

Wesley here. My sisters have gone off to school and left me alone with the yaya. She's napping under the wheelbarrow again. Thinks I can't see her striped feet sticking out like some kind of wicked witch of organicville. So today its my turn to blog being as it appears I'm the only one working around here today. Where are those child labor law folk when you need them ?















































Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Little House on the Dairy


August 26, 2009

This little house is our feed shed. Lights left on by some farmwife in rubber boots and worn thin Old Navy shorts, rushing through chores. On my way back from the barn after dark, I saw it and stopped for 10 whole seconds. I liked the way the light poured through the window and the door, the way the yard light behind me illuminated the old claw foot tub full of morning glory vines. I liked the way the peeling paint on the walls looked more silver and mysterious and less like just one more task I had not yet accomplished this summer.

I liked our farm.

But...I am worried about it. After 5 months of phone calls, meetings, and emails, the creamery we trusted to be buying our organic milk backed out of the deal. No written contracts had been signed but verbal offers were made and hands were shaken. Once upon a time that meant good business. Now it means we are back to ground zero after months of work. We have a great product. 100% grass fed organic milk from a herd of hard working bovines with udders to die for.
Do we relinquish our organic certification and return to the conventional milk world ? Or maybe we can take the heart breaking step so many dairy farmers have taken before us and sell our herd, close our barn doors? Or do we enter the cow-share world and distribute milk directly to our customers.? Or do turn 360 degrees and assume HUGE debt while opening our own bottling plant ? Or raise minks ? Or sell hemp purses ? Or what ? (I am so Jessica Lange in "Country" are'nt I?)

We don't know. What we do know is we want to farm. Organically and profitably. And we want other people to enjoy the milk we produce with all its benefits. We know we have the support of our family and friends whatever choice we make. Except for the minks, we're more denim folk. So, if you have the faith, prayers would be welcome. And if you have money and are so inclined, when you see a bottle of organic milk in your store with a Smirking Green Acres Cow on the label, we'd appreciate your patronage.

Please and thank you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This is so corny but,


August 25, 2009

Here in Central Illinois, one hour from Bloomington, one hour from Champaign, one hour from Kankakee we are missing many things. There are no awesome Cliffs of Mohr, not a hint of sandy beaches with blue green waves, nothing that can even come close to the Grand Canyon but we do have beauty. We are in the middle of some of the richest farmland in the nation. We feed millions. (Well, not Keith and I on our own, but farmers in general you goof.) We too are America the Beautiful.

Take a drive in the country today. Stop and pick up some locally grown produce. Appreciate all that we have.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Duck? Duck? Goose !

August 23, 2009

On my way home this am I flew past an alfalfa field filled with ducks.I remembered I had my camera with me so I flipped the car around in a perfectly executed 8 point turn. (Hey, don't judge, after a 12 hr night shift I'm lucky not to be driving home backwards, like I did that one time.) I pulled into the field a little bit, recognized the ducks were geese, walked slowly in and got this shot:


Now its obvious I am getting too far into their personal bubbles and they turn their backs to me:

Enough already, this chick is obviously stalking us...Fly Bubba fly !!


They struggle to get organized:



The famous V-formation takes shape, and they are gone:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Homemade is bestmade at home


August 22, 2009


This was our noon meal yesterday. The last of the green beans stir fried with some olive oil, fresh basil torn in strips and chucks of red onion. Pork burgers done on the grill mixed with a little sage and ground pepper before shaping into patties. Sweet corn, soaked in a little salt water, covered with butter and sprinkled with dried white and red pepper. Also cooked on the grill. Everything on the plate (except the ketchup and mustard) was grown on our farm.

On days like that, when we take the time to make our own even better, we feel how good it is to call ourselves farmers.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Inventory sale, now in progress.

August 21, 2009

My husband should write a book, "How to make your farm wife happy in one day." Some husbands might think they already know the secret to a happy wife. A few roses, a paltry diamond ring or two, a night at the Pink House near St Joe. Honorable attempts but the real secret is dejunking. Ooops, I mean "inventory reduction", because on our farm there is no real junk just a lot of potential lurking in several piles on our land. Not all our land, we have some rules you know. I am in charge of the areas between the house and the driveway that circles our house. I keep that area pretty free of extra non usable stuff. Over the last couple years though,I have moved my troops farther out and begun invasion of what used to be farmerville. Bit, by bit, tire by tire, rusty fence pole by rusty fence pole I have molded the farm into a neater place.




Junk Pile number one. Half way
through the sorting process.













Junk Pile number two. Soon to be
adressed







When I say "I", it really means Keith. I suggest, suggest some more, suggest again and he begins to move things. I help with manpower too, I'm not a total nag, but truth is Keith does most of the strong arm work. Now fall is coming upon us and as we expect more customers and visitors to the farm my husband jumped right in this am (with our faithful intern Aaron at his side), and began the shifting of the piles. The iron is sorted through and loaded up to be taken to the junk yard, the burn pile is burning, the inventory we agreed to keep is all relocating to ONE spot in the farmyard which will have a decorative fence placed in front of it (Thank you Kristy and Adam for the fence).




Previous junk pile. Now a wide open
space to allow bovine observation on
a quiet evening.







So, wife is happy, which makes husband happy. Life is good. Watch this blog as fall cleanup evolves.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lord, help the mister, who comes between me and my SEESTER


August 20, 2009



I can't recall who coined the phrase first, but several years ago one of us O'Shaughnessy sisters started calling ourselves the "seesters." The original founding group were myself, my sister Peg, my sister Mary and my sister Teresa. (Not to be confused with Mother Teresa but there are definite similarities. Over the years, as our female offspring reached adulthood, they were inducted into the seesterhood, usually against their will. Daughter-in-laws rounded out the membership.

I too often take this relationship we have for granted. Everyone lives within 60 miles of our farm. We gather every Holiday , for many birthdays, for weddings and funerals. We do not gather for Tupperware parties. We ride our ponies in a circle around any seester whose wagon might be in trouble even if it is just a wobbly wheel.

We pass the same 50 pounds back and forth to each other like an obese volleyball. "Look out, its coming your way, BEND YOUR KNEES !!! We often send along clothes that will fit the new body shape, be it sleeker or slacker. We pray for each other. A way better gift than that orange plastic bowl that burps itself.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stop egging her on !


August 18, 2009

So, I wander to the chicken coop and this is what awaits me. In one nestbox, just one tiny blue green egg. A joke ? A comment about the fact I missed feeding them ONE TIME last week ? Or maybe a Robin stopped by for coffee and left her own baby on accident ? I really don't have time for these kind of games. I can make a lillipution omelet just as easy as a super-sized one. Don't think I won't. As soon as my granddaughter brings it back to the farm I will. Oops I forgot to tell my daughter to check HER daughters pocket. I'm not exactly sure where she put that little egg.

Monday, August 17, 2009

And the winning bride is.....


August 17, 2009

Yesterday, my family and I hosted a bridal shower for my daughter-in-law -to- be, Amanda. She is a wonderful young woman who will be the bride of our youngest son Kyle in just a few weeks. Our daughter-in-law Tab provided all the food, drinks and cake while our daughter Raven was in charge of games. Sidebar: at the same time this shower was held, Kyles' uncle Dave held a "non-shower" for Kyle at out house. No games were played, a few new tools were thrown Kyles way and lots of meat was eaten. Probably raw.

One of the games we females played was Toilet Paper Bride, a favorite at bridal showers world-wide.( Except in Cuba which is currently very short on toilet paper. Just one more reason to celebrate America). For this game, woman folk separate into teams and design a wedding dress on one of the other team members who has no problem looking foolish, often an unsuspecting child. This years winner, chosen by the real bride, was our oldest granddaughter Nicole. She was delighted.

At the end of the event I went all mushy inside. Seeing my grandaughter being fussed over by not one but TWO great grandma's was awesome. Both of them are seamstresses as well as women who have lived through financially tight times. No wonder they knew how to make bows, tiara's and trains out of TP ! The whole event also made me miss my own mommy, now gone 11 years. Thelma Lucille Durham O'Shaughnessy only made it to age 67. She knew just a few of her grandchildren, dying before even a hint of great grandchildren was possible.

But her absence left me sad for just a moment. Mostly it intensified my gratefullness for the matriarchs we still have in our family. The GREAT ladies of Charmin as they shall now be forever known.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Don't let the sun...go down on me.


August 14, 2008



This was last nights sunset looking west past our windbreak and into the 20 acres we rent next to our house. It has been rare this summer for me to finish my calf chores and cleanup before 9:30 PM, so I have not paid attention to some perfectly good sunsets lately. But last night the cows milked well, no one got loose, the calves ate quickly and all was well enough in the universe for me to glance up at the horizon as I was walking to the house . Gods artwork is always all around us. Last night I slowed down enough to actually appreciate it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Oh Honey, you're so sweet.

August 13, 2009



Our bees have been so busy, filling their hive with all that sweet goodness, just waiting for someone to cart away all their hard work , strain it , sell it, take all the credit and profit for it. They are obviously conservative bees working under a liberal queen.

Last week our son Jason collected enough honey to fill 25 one pound jars. This week Keith and I will do the same. Its likely they'll be at least 2 more collections of the same size before summer is over, all this from one hive. And for those of you naive' enough to refer to honey as "bee-spit" lets get something straight. The bees collect the nectar and inside the hive they ingest and regurgitate it. They continue to ingest and regurgitate this nectar several times until it is partially digested (probably while sitting in a recliner watching "King of Queens", since they are just a bunch of drones.)

Therefore, it is obvious it is NOT bee-spit...it is bee-puke. Now I'm going to put some on my cereal, my toast, my cookies, in my tea, and in my Jamison. Its going to be a BEE-U-TI-FUL day !

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bored of the Flies


August 12, 2009

Manure happens. Livestock begets manure, and manure begets flies. Last year and the year before we used the parasitic wasps. They come in a little box looking like black rice nestled in shavings. The directions say to watch closely and when the first one hatches you promptly spread it over your manured areas. The wasps hatch and eat all the fly larvae.

We had our own technique. We would leave them on the kitchen table and forget about them until they all hatched and began to drift around our kitchen like little bittie snowflakes. Every time that would happen we would look up and say hmmmmm....what are those things ? Seems we retain less and less these days.

Amazingly, they seemed to work in the barn too, but there was no way to measure this. We discussed some kind of automatic counter that the flies would march past, perhaps a mini subway gate, but being flies they chose to be non-compliant with this.

So instead, we measure flies on the most reliable FISH scale (Farmwife Is Swearing Heavily) . If the flies are bad, well...I'm a little irritable. I once slapped a fly on my forehead hard enough to back flip my rotund self in front of the milkman. He hid in his truck untill the milk tank was empty.


This year we decided to skip the wasps and see if it made any real difference. Overall the fly population seems less. We have had good luck with two products. The first is Crystal Creeks No Fly liquid concentrate. Made of alcohol, water and coconut oil, it lends a tropical aire to the livestock. It works great on humans too. We keep a large spray bottle in the milk parlor and I keep one by the calf hutches. The other rocket science item is the old fashioned Fly Strip. We hang small ones here and there and have a very large roller type fly strip that winds through the pump room and into the milk parlor.

The best fly deterent though, has to be our poultry. Between the peacocks, the chickens and the ducks we have had many less flies and bugs overall in the garden and in the house. (NO, you dweebs, I do not keep a peacock in the kitchen, but they wander around the perimeter of the house all day, so when we go in and out there are less pests crossing the border with me.) Hey you other organic dairy farmers, what works for you ?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Just Smile and Nod




August 11, 2009

I am a horse yeller. I failed the horse whisperer course. But my yelling seems to work. When I go out to the pasture and yell loudly "HORSES !", they come running. I am sure it has nothing to do with the bucket of grain I am holding. Its just pure respect I tell you.

My mare Nora, age 6, is the most receptive to my yelling, it seems to motivate her. Must be because we share so much in common. The love of running in circles, the desire to wind up the other horses for no good reason. I never ride enough, always making excuses..but I do love to play with my horses when I have an extra 10 minutes. When I was taking pics of Nora in my round pen last night she went into her head nodding game. Enjoy the video
video

Monday, August 10, 2009

Knights in White Satin

August 19, 2009

When I trudged to my garden early this morning, coffee dribbling down my sleep deprived lips, I found these two ghostly images. The sighting of this pair is rare, in fact usually only seen by members of this family. When we have visitors we'll take them to the porch and tell them mystical stories of our all-white peacocks, but when they never show up, our visitors are sure we are once again just fabricating stories of the wonder that is Green Acres Farm. We'll tell them "No, wait ! They'll be here any second. One has an eye that glows glittery amber and the other leaves the aroma of lavender as she flies past your face. Its pure magic I tell you." But again the peacocks remain aloof, make fools of the farmer.

But this morning, the Midlife Farmwife had her camera close by and evidence was captured.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cutest Chicks on the Farm



August 9, 2009

Granddaughter Allana is the chick with the blond hair. "Peckie" is the brunette.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ready Freddy ?


August 8, 2009

Put your hands together please for our new addition to the Pest Control Team at Green Acres Farm. Freddy, half Border Collie, Half Corgi, is 3 months old and hails from the Farmer City area. (Yeeeeeesssss, there really is a town named Farmer City in Illinois, it is just southeast of Soy Village over there by Wheatland, could I get back to the puppy story please ?!)

Freddy comes from a long line of livestock herders. His great grandfather Freddie' the Fabulous, (he came from Fraaance) traveled with the original New World settlers, moving cattle down the Chisholm Trail. We therefore have tremendous hope for our new canine, and feel He'll make an excellent herd dog. (Once he gets over the childish habit of ramming his ice cold nose up unsuspecting peacock bottoms just to see how high they'll leap in the air.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Denim dude


August 7, 2009

My husband is a very demanding man. Last week, in front of company no less, he asked me to bring him another cup of coffee ! The week before that he...never mind...that was someone else. But the week before that he insisted I...wait...I got nothing. Well, maybe he's not THAT demanding but he sure lets it be known that he appreciates something. Like having his clothes hung out on the line. He'll say really manipulative things like, "those clothes sure do smell good."

Is that not a huge amount of pressure ?! So I caved. It is impossible to be strong willed and selfish every single day I tell you. And just to prove that I do consider my husbands wishes once in a full moon I took pictures of the clothes and the full moon.

He was right. They do smell good.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Its a Raw Deal



August 6, 2009

We have cows, who eat grass, who produce milk. Real RAW milk. The kind I drank as a child, (when I was lucky enough to visit the Schlick farm) The kind my children drank. The kind my grandchildren now drink. None of us has 3 eyes, purple noses, or uncontrollable twitching. We drink it because it tastes fantastic and we believe it is far better for us than the overheated, fat removed, watered down crud that is sold in the stores.

Raw organic milk from pastured cows has been proven to be higher in vital nutrients like Vitamin A and D and vitamin E. It has fewer pesticides as proven in 2004 by the USDA Pesticide Data Program. It has more antioxidants, two to three times more. These antioxidants are extremely important for eye health. It has more Omega-3 fatty acids and more CLA (conjugated linoleic acids) which increase metabolism, immunity and muscle growth.

With all this going for it our government still makes it illegal to sell raw milk in 22 states !! In the 28 states that do allow raw milk sales, each state has widely varying rules and regs on HOW you can sell raw milk. In Illinois where we are located, consumers can buy raw milk from us as long as they bring their own container and transfer the milk from our tank into their container themselves. And as nice as it is that Illinois will ALLOW us to sell a product that we have produced, on on our farm, with our own hard labor, we are not allowed to advertise that we sell raw milk. So once more the illogical lawmaker rears its two-sided head by telling the farmer its OK to sell the raw milk, just don't TELL anyone you do. WHAT !?!?

Fascinating irony by our law makers once again since it is LEGAL TO CONSUME RAW MILK just not always legal to sell it. In fact, it is even illegal for me to give away what we have produced on our own farm. Because if I put some of our cold fresh milk into a canning jar with a pretty ribbon and then give it away on Christmas morning to my best pal Anastasia B. , I am considered a "bottling plant." Now I am worried. When I pour a glass of milk and give it to one of the grandbabies (oldest now 7) , could I be arrested for illegal bottling and distribution of raw milk ? Should I have the second grader sign a waiver of liability ? Perhaps it is time to construct a secret raw milk distribution and consumption hut in my neighbors woods. We could build a hidden tunnel, pump milk to the hut late at night, wear masks of Dean Foods Head Honchos ,consume raw milk by candlelight and sing kumbaya . And people wonder why the family farm is rapidly disappearing from our once very free country.

Now its time for my breakfast. Cereal with raw milk, scrambled eggs made with raw milk, a big glass of raw milk. I might even sautee some bacon in it.

Read more about raw milk at www.realmilk.com and www.farmtoconsumer.org

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Horton Hears a Dew


August 4, 2009


See it ? The tiny little drop of dew in the middle of the Phlox ? Yup. That's it for today. The contemplation of a whole other universe, right under your nose.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Nora in Charge


August 3, 2009

On the way to the garden to weed last evening my husband yelled out, "No ! Go play with your horses !" So, being the obedient and ever dutiful wife, I did. I switched them from pasture number one, well consumed, to pasture number two full of lush new grass. My three horses; Nora, Sally and Gus, and one donkey, Doolin rushed in eagerly. That is when I noticed the beautiful lighting as the sun was setting. I grabbed my camera.



Snapping pics, standing in the circle of nags, I stopped looking at the light and started really seeing the horses. All appeared about the same at first. Four grazing equines. But with closer inspection I noticed how extremely different they were. Nora in charge, my Alpha horse, was ripping up the grass with her teeth, her wide spread eyes rapidly moving. She was the watchful one, searching for predators,ready to move her herd at a miliseconds notice if need be. When she moved to lusher spot in the pasture the other 3 moved to that area immediately after her. All of them staying within 10-20 feet of each other.

Nora would also move them out of a spot she wanted with a couple steps towards them, neck outreached, teeth showing just a little. They moved. Fast. They backed up over each other, into each other. One look their direction and instattaneously that particular horse had packed up their tack into brown cardboard boxes, rented a U-Haul and gotten out of Dodge. She didn't bite them or kick them she just threatened, and they listened.

Sally, the number two horse, was only in charge if Nora was gone, like up at the barn getting a drink. She would then take the opportunity to chase Gus, old-man-horse-at-bottom-of-totem-pole. She, unlike Nora, never had a real goal in mind. She just liked to boss Gus around
for the fun of it. Consequently, Gus was the one with the bite marks and a few "been kicked" dents in his hide. Yet, he still stuck close to his girls and when he grazed his eyes were always down. He knew it was Nora's job to watch for the dreaded Midwest horse- eating lions. His job was merely to submit to Nora's will.

And then there is Doolin the Donkey. He is the court jester. He moves equally among the crowd. Eats with the higher up Nora as well as with the hired help Gus. Like Sally, he will pretend to be in charge if Nora is indisposed, perhaps being worked by me in the round pen. He is the worst of all followers. If Nora swipes at Gus, so will Doolin. If Nora acts like she is going to rip away a little donkey hair, he'll take off after the new puppy. Everyone needs a scapegoat.

With all this grazing, bossing around, moving to better pastures, more bossing around I thought about my sisters. I have 3 "seesters" as we call ourselves. I am the oldest. We are very close emotionally and geographically. We know a million things about each other. There is another million things we don't know about each other. A couple of weeks ago we had a disagreement about who was supposed to be organizing a couples weekend. I confronted them . (Other people TALK but no, not me, I must CONFRONT)

Why must I always be the one in charge ? The one to make all the plans ? I implored. Because, my youngest sister said , she had no desire to organize anything, ever. The next youngest sister echoed this. "You are so good at organizing things, why would we want to mess with that?" And the sister closest in age to me responded. " Because you said you would."

I did ?!?! Yeah I did. I said I would organize the vacation and then I failed to send out all the info on email.
Big plate of crow. For me. To eat. Fortunately my sisters forgave me. The same way Gus forgives Nora for bossing him around. The same way he forgives Sally for taking over when the Alpha girl is busy working extra shifts at the hospital, I mean drinking water at the barn. I guess they really do see me as Nora, the boss lady, the one who naturally by order of birth is SUPPOSED to run things...or maybe if truth be told they just let me think I'm Nora, when they really see me more like Doolin, the one who often makes an ass of him(her)self.