Saturday, January 30, 2010

What in the ?!?!

Just the other day my granddaughters were these tiny, cuddly, cooing, bundles of joy and light. Then overnight they became these mean-lean-snowball-throwing machines. In this pic you can barely see Nicole as she attacks her innocent Yaya with the ever lethal exploding snowball.Well done Nikki Lynners.

P.S. My donkey Doolin saw his shadow yesterday meaning we only have six more years of winter.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Four chefs and a side of beef

Now THAT would be a great title for a new book. Mystery ? Horror ? Romance ? Too creepy. Cookbook ? Too predictable. Sci-fi ? Maybe.

For now four chefs and a side of beef is exactly what it says. Look to the left and you will see the beef, to the right is our hog. Well, it was our hog . Now it belongs to Jared Van Camp and Yoni Levi at Old Town Social to be turned into something truly tasty.  Jared is on the far right and Yoni is next to him. Then you have Ray , then Sam. Or was it Sam then Ray ? Sorry guys. My Aricept had not yet kicked in when we met you at the crack of noon. But I do remember how sharp you 4 looked in your black and whites.

Twas a cold cold day for deliveries in Chicago  but the sun was out and the traffic was good. My morning started at 4:30. I woke, splashed some coffee down my throat, (ow and OW !) then picked up youngest son Kyle in Fairbury. He traveled with me to the Bittners Eureka Locker 60 miles away to help load the 400 plus pounds of beef. Half for us and half for Jared. This is the first beef we've processed at Eureka and they were grrreat ! I'm sure we'll use them again in the future.Then we back tracked to Chenoa to pick up the hog. Since the freezer was already full of beef we wrapped the hog very nicely in a brand new tarp tied with a pretty little rope bow. Kinda like a big bacon bouquet..Onto Fairbury again where I pushed Kyle out of the truck with our share of the beef and chore instructions back at the farm. I then met Keith in Forrest and we headed up Route 47 to the big city.

Halfway up Ashland Ave., a cop, who was traveling to the left of me, suddenly swooped in behind me. I suspected he noticed the nicely wrapped body bag in the back of the truck "Here we go"  I thought. I looked for his flashing lights. Never happened. Guess I finally reached the age where I and my actions no longer look suspicious. Probably that ridiculous cow brooch I was wearing on my lapel. It made me a little sad.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"We're moving on up...

to the East side. To a dee-luxe apartment in the sky ." Well, its not exactly in the sky but it is a move up for our four sows and it is on the east side of our property and it sure is deluxe. Yesterday Keith and Kyle loaded up the four girls with promises of a big straw filled bed and lots of room to roam. They loaded like a dream and unloaded just as nicely. Of course it was helpful that the guys had put out large pans of ground corn  for them in front of the new digs. Always works for me.

While the other girls chowed down, Lady Anna, our "boss hog" began walking up and down the fence perimeter, checking out the neighborhood. After eating, Little Debbie got on-line and ordered new comforters while Dot and Spot shopped for nursery items. If Fritz (God rest his soul) did his job, we have just 7 weeks until our first litter of piglets is due.

While the men folk were playing with the sow folk I finished our first grant application and sent it off. The grant took a large amount of time but I have to admit I enjoyed doing it. Reminded me of the old budget days at OSF St. James where you could not just ASK for money you had to fully validate WHY you needed it, HOW you would use it and WHAT you would do if your budget plans did not pan out. Too bad our own President isn't being held as accountable. Of course he was not trained by Paula Corrigan  CFO, like I was.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Purple Rain

Really, do not muck with me. I have new boots and I know how to use them. The original Muck Boots are now alive and well on Green Acres Farm. I'd been reading about them in some other blogs for some time but they were so expensive. Why spend $70 on a pair of boots when I could spend $20 at Big R and just replace them every 6 months.? Well, I didn't start with the best. I worked my way up. 10 years ago when my farm time was limited to collecting eggs and planting the garden, I wore Flip Flops. Which might explain why I still have last decades garden dirt under my toenails. Then I worked my way up to Tennis Shoes. (Like I ever played tennis, now vollyball...that's a different story) A few years and several increased farm responsibilities later, I made the big jump to real boots form Big R. Big ugly green rubber boots that split and tore after one lousy winter season. 5 years ago I bought my first pair of Wellington boots while in Ireland. They lasted 3 years and I felt like a genuine farm child of County Clare wearing them. Good boots for the E. 30 I paid for them.

Then I discovered the Muck.  My first pair arrived last month and my feet have been joyful joyful ever since. Warm, waterproof ,soft, comfy, flexible WIDE ENOUGH FOR MY CALVES and oh so stylin'. Easy on easy off and oh so stylin'. Durable, washable, comfortable and oh so stylin'. So really, stop mucking around with the cheap, soon- to- develop- a -hole- in- them -boots. Get yourself some real farm boots. And really it is so much fun to substitute the word "muck" for certain other words, you know, like "duck" and "schmuck" and "luck" and "truck" and "pluck" and, and, and.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Your opinion please.

When I entered the barn last night Mad Max and Cagney confronted me about the lack of comments in regards to recent Red Wattle postings. Several of you  non-swine types have also been telling  me for some time you would like to comment on my blog but have had difficulty doing so. Let me clarify. You have had no difficulty telling me VERBALLY when you see me but the trouble has been in leaving a written comment on my blog. Please try again. I have redone several of my blog settings and it should allow every Tom, Dick and Mary to be able to leave a comment. (Should I be frightened ?)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fanny Mae aka Lisa

Our new livestock guard dog Fanny is growing way too fast. Only 3 months old and she is as large as our 9 month old Border Collie mix Freddie. Our two dogs are like night and day, Oscar and Felix, Starskey and Hutch, Frick and Frack. (3rd cousins of my hillbilly mother if I recall.) When Fanny wants your attention she lightly puts a paw on our leg. When Freddie wants your time he jumps up on your shoulder and sticks his tongue in your ear. If Fanny is playful she lopes gently down the barn aisle. If Freddie is playful he chases the ducks and guinea hens and chickens into a circle so tight only their heads can move. Then he repeats this action over and over and over. She sleeps peacefully between two calves. Freddie has never been seen asleep.

How can two farm creatures be so different and get along so well. ?

P.S. Our granddaughter has to rename every animal we have, its just her thing. So next time you see Allana be sure to refer to the new puppy as "Lisa". Its just easier that way.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Green Acres Bed and Breakfast

Yup, we have our first B&B facility ready for pigs. Only Pigs. So don't be showing up at my door, suitcase in hand, Brownie camera hanging from your neck, looking for an "ensuite" bedroom all decked out with lace curtains and wing backed chairs. However; if you happen to weigh about 5oo pounds, you eat without silverware, and it appears you might be pregnant with the dearly departed Fritz's offspring, then you are most certainly welcome.

Our new pig condo is the genius work and design of husband Keith. Assisted by two of our sons, (Jason and Kyle) and two of our nephews, (Nick and Logan) the Pigs Rome was not built in a day but rather over a couple months time. Its very difficult on a busy farm to focus on one project. Generally there are several going on at one time. This project was just one of many we've had to prioritize this winter. Weather always factors into the equation as well. The recent warm spell allowed Keith more time outdoors this week to finish the condo.

The most amazing part of the design is the bottom. Check out the huge "skis" made from old metal beams Keith had been hiding from me, the garbage nazi, behind the cow barn. He found them here when we bought our farm 16 years ago and just knew they would come in handy one day. This time he was spot on. Son Jason did the creative beam cutting and welding , shaping the beams like skis so that the entire complex could be easily pulled from one area to another by tractor.

You can see by the photo their plan worked very well and the condo was easily pulled from its construction spot by the machine shed, into our north pasture. A distance of about 200 feet. You can also see by the picture why my lawn never receives the Chatsworth "Yard of the Month" award. I'm thinking the back wall of the condo would be a great place for a Miss Piggy Mural.

The condo measures an impressive 10 foot by 16 foot. It is 5 foot high in the front and slants down to 4 foot high in the back. Built with heavy duty lumber both new and recycled, it is sided with white steel to coordinate with the rest of our red and white buildings here on GREEN acres farm. No, as a matter of fact I have NEVER thought to call it Candy Cane Acres. That is just another false rumor circulating at Rustys Elliot Cafe.

The condo is intended to shelter our four sows until farrowing time in March. By then we ("we" is in the C.P. sense of the word as in "did WE finish the pig condo yet ?" Of course Keith is the "we" ) will have a second condo built . Each condo will eventually house a family of pigs which includes 2 mature sows, their litters of baby piglets and one mature boar. A deep bed of straw will be added before we move the sows into their new home. Note the two large square bales of organic hay. Covering up half of the open south wall of the condo, it will allow the pigs 24 hour access to organic hay, and provide a nice windbreak and precipitation barrier for the rest of the winter. Any hay left on the ground will naturally become part of the condo's bedding keeping things warm and cozy for our hog herd. Each family of hogs will have an acre or so of land to roam, to wallow, to rut, to do pig pilates, whatever makes them happy.

We had planned to move the sows into their new home yesterday. Stuff happened. We might get to it today, except that I am frantically trying to finish a grant application due very soon. Perhaps we'll get it done tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Now where did I put those kids ?!?

January 17, 2010

This morning, as I was scraping the ice off my car window before leaving the hospital parking lot, I realized something. I had no idea where ANY of my 4 kids were. It just struck me very suddenly that they were indeed all grown up with lives of their own and I had no idea what they were doing at that exact moment. This situation is not new. Our youngest son moved out two years ago this month. It just became so real this morning. Perhaps it was the fatigue of working all night, or the cold winter air constricting even more atrophyied blood vessels in my head than is normal for me, but regardless of the became apparent my kids were off functioning all by themselves.

I used to know exactly where the four of them were at all times. I knew which Nike shirt they wore to school, I knew the names of their friends, I knew what veggies they would and would not eat, I knew which TV shows they liked and which Fraggle Rock glass was their favorite. I knew which one ate butter by the teaspoon when they thought I was not looking and I knew which one watched the Simpsons with Keith when I was not home. I knew who was the one most likely to have taken the last of the juice and put the empty container back in the frig and I knew which one used so much hairspray in the morning the mirror was opaque.

Yet somehow time got away from me and there I was all alone at 7:06 am Standard Central Time with no clue where my children were or what they were doing. Probably still all in bed, except for the one who works 3rd shift and maybe had an extra shift last night. Or perhaps the middle son was out in a barn or a field helping a cow deliver a calf at his full time job. And maybe my daughter was already awake with one of her kids who thought getting up early on a Sunday morning would be entertaining. Or maybe my youngest son was still awake playing a computer game. The point was I did not know.

Don't worry. I'm Ok. I'm not crushed or depressed or regretful....LIAR LIAR Pants on Fire. I am too, regretful. What parent isn't? It all went too fast. But it was all good and a second generation is here and alive and well and I'm a little smarter about enjoying the time I have with them. The other day I watched my grandson sleep. It was time well spent.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Tranquilty of Farm Life

January 15, 2010

Keith and I had the best two days this past Wednesday and Thursday. Nothing on our schedule so spent the days at home just chilling out, drinking wine, watching Malcolm in the Middle reruns.

I just wanted to write that to see how it looks. It looks cute. Totally inaccurate but oh so cute. Here is the real story. On Wednesday morning we got up early to get chores done early to take a hog to the locker plant early. Our son Kyle had time to work for us that day and it was a good good thing because we had lots to do to prepare for our Chicago Delivery Thursday. While Keith unloaded yet another semi-load of organic hay (he had already dealt with two huge loads on Tuesday,) Kyle and I bedded the calves, horses and pigs and then played the freezer flip-flop game.

Meat from the machine shed freezer had to moved to the freezers in our basement, so the fresh pig we were taking to Chicago would have a place to rest on the trip up. Some of you might remember that loose pig parts on the back of a farmers truck seems to draw too much attention on the city streets, so now we put them in containers. Then the burger order we had set aside for Green Grocer needed to be counted, labeled and replaced in coolers to be placed in ANOTHER freezer. After that Kyle and Keith loaded the now empty chest freezer from the machine shed onto the back of our truck . While backing up that truck to hook up the trailer so we could take a steer to yet ANOTHER locker...the brake line on Keith's 14 year old truck broke. We of course had to get the steer to the locker by 4:30.

Now before I drag you further into this saga you readers with common sense might ask "Why did you have to take two animals to two DIFFERENT lockers ?!?! Well, because...our hogs are not yet certified organic, they do not require an organic processor. Our beef is certified organic and the only certified organic processor in all of Central Illinois is in Eureka 70 miles from our farm.

Back to the truck. Still broke. A quick call to son-in-law Donnie who just happened to have bought a new used truck recently. Yes, we could borrow it. Then instructions to son Kyle. "Take my car to Pontiac, get Donnies truck...uh quickly" I did not tell him to speed and I will admit, I did not tell him not too, either. Since I am the one who taught him to drive, I knew he was the man for the job. He returned with the truck in most excellent time and we hooked up the trailer and made it to Eureka Locker with the steer hanging on for dear life ( a lot of good THAT did him ) with about 60 seconds to spare before closing time. We debated for half a second about visiting my sister Teresa who lives there but knew we were already late for milking so went home.

We milked and fed and watered about 2 hours later than usual and fell into bed around 11 pm. At 5am Thursday we were up and out to get chores done early. Left at 8am to pick up the live hog we took to Chenoa Wed. Now dead, it did not mind riding up to Old Town Social in the back of the truck in the freezer at all. I have found that generally pigs are very easy to get along with. We motored up Route 55 in the son-in-laws borrowed truck and made it to Green Grocer in Chicago to deliver burger at 11 am, up to Old Town Social to drop off the pig and visit with chef friend Yoni. Off again and further north to The Bristol Restaurant to meet with more chefs, including friend Jared Van Camp and the members of The Stewards of the Land.

We had a great lunch and meeting which will be a separate blog as it deserves, then back in the truck, down Damien Ave to 55 and the 120 mile trip home. Arriving at the farm at 6pm just in time to look at our mail and take a phone call from sister Mary. Turns out she is in Pontiac visiting our Aunt and since I have to go back to Pontiac to return the truck .....we should meet. Keith unloaded the freezer with his tractor and I got into monster truck again to return it to Pontiac and collect my car. (We were very grateful to have the truck for our use but the sucker was about 10 feet off the ground and very hard for this petite yaya to be hauling her round self in and out of. )

A brief hello to grandchildren, a brief coffee and yakity- yack meeting with my sister and I was home again by 9pm. My last phone call of the day was to my husband in the barn offering him all kinds of favors if he could please do my share of the animal chores tonight. Before he could say yes (he always does because he's that kind of husband) I was asleep on the kitchen floor. The tranquil life hath consumeth me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Who is Mrs Lowery ?

January 12, 2010

I continue to plug away at my book. 20 chapters are down and I have no idea how many more to go. My writing routine is scattered and unpredictable but remains totally enjoyable. I am so fortunate to have a large old home with extra rooms upstairs upstairs now that 4 kids have flown the coop. We turned one room into the library and filled it with...books. It now has an old recliner, which is where I sit with my laptop, and the desk my husbands uncle gave him 30 years ago. Its a putrid green. Wish I could blame the uncle but I'm the one who painted the desk 10 years ago.

Last week I printed off my book as it is so far, and spread out all the pages on the putrid green desk. I then went through it page by page and found a few characters I had not remembered. For example one Mrs Lowery. She appeared in chapter six and just began talking as if she had been in my book all along. Not unlike those strange folks who get on the elevator with you and act like your best buddy. Some of the stuff she said made sense, the rest was drivel. I asked the other main characters if they knew who she was, where she came from and whether or not she should be expanded or given the boot. I received no feedback. Perhaps they were worried that if they ratted out one of their own, I might see them as useless to the core of the story and eliminate them as well. These book characters can be a bit cliquey. So for now Mrs Lowery stays but Doctor Seuss had to go. I wasn't sure but I may have gotten that name from another book and who needs a literary lawsuit at this stage of my novel ?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Got cold ?

January 6, 2010

Baby, it is friggin' cold outside. And you should now, I do not use that word "friggin" lightly. But tough times call for tough words. Our little cold snap is about a week long, which I know for some of you( like Art Bloomquist at is nothing compared to daily temps of -15, but for us here in Central Illinois, it has been a bit uncomfortable. Two nights ago it was -8 and I was wimping out. I lodged two warm bottles of milk under my armpits as I walked out to the calf hutches and tried desperately to shove a couple more into my boots. But since my boots were already filled with two fat calves I had to settle for holding the other bottles between my knees. Lead mom walking. (No, it was not a pretty sight, why do you think I do most of my chores after dark ? )Then I threw the bottles into the bottle holders attached to the hutches and ran 50 feet into our machine shed where I huddled out of the wind for a couple of minutes before going back out into the Artic to collect the bottles.

Yes, we do bundle up for the cold with insulated coveralls and exotic looking hats but some nights it never seems like enough. I have even resorted to wearing the long underwear my 91 yr old aunt gave me this week. Made by Sears in 1941, they smell odd and work well. Even the warmest part of our barn, the milk tank room, had ice on the inside of the windows. Pretty enough for a picture or two.

Today we hit 18 degrees and I was outside bedding calves and pigs without my hat feeling pretty darn comfortable. This was primarily because there was no wind. For now. We're expecting a large amount of snow tonight and tomorrow with winds which will of course cause drifting across our farm. Thus, the reason Keith and I were outside a good part if the afternoon...getting ready for tomorrow. We have learned that the more you prepare for bad weather the less likely it will occur.