Friday, February 26, 2010

South Pork Ranch is proud to announce...

the arrival of our first Red Wattle litter. I told you a little about it yesterday but without pics what is the point ? The bambinos are doing well this am. Mama Debbie is not being bothered by the other 3 sows and in fact when she gets up to go outside the hogcienda to eat, the little ones are smart enough to find their way over to Lady Anna's wide bottom. They snuggle up against her hide end until real comes back. Then Debbie  makes this little bark noise and they all get up and come back to her.

Debbie had no problem with me being in  her space this morning. I went slowly with my back to the open doorway (just like they teach  us nurses to do with psych patients) but she was totally OK with me being next to her. I scratched her ears, rubbed her neck and she fell back asleep.Suddenly, she lifted her head and growled this low, deep, alien coming out between her udders , menacing growl. I thought "here we go, she is going to make an HLT (that would be Human-Lettuce-Tomato )  sandwich out of me !  Then I noticed from behind me, one of cats sneaking in for a closer look at the new arrivals. The cat got Debbies hint very quickly and RAN out of reach.

The piglets remind me quite a bit of human babies with their delicate see-through  skin, their little wrinkles, the fine hair on their back. But those crazy ears ! Never seen those on a humanoid. Good thing.  

And check out that nest Debbie made ! Keith put in three big bales of straw on Wednesday but did she use that ? Nope. Obviously that building material was too common for her. Instead, she tore away at the big bales of organic hay just in front of the hogcienda and used it for the king size mattress she built with JUST HER MOUTH. If I had to rely on just my mouth to make a bed, well it would still be unmade. In fact it is still unmade now at 10 am. So what was the point of that comparison ? I have no idea. I have flights of ideas lately but no real solid ones. I blame it on the plaster dust from our recently sanded , lead painted windows, walls and trim.

What was I talking about ? Oh yeah, global warming . There is no such thing.
Oh, I almost forgot , we have Red Wattle babies and we like them.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The babies are here, the babies are here !

Of course. I leave the farm for a day to learn grant writing  in a class at Heartland College, and the pig I've been watching day and night, night and day for the last week, decides to give birth. Figures. Little Miss Debbie had her litter of eleven just before noon today. Our first litter of pure bred Red Wattles. Long live Fritz the boar. (May he rest in peace) That means the winner of our Litter Lottery is...drum roll please...MUSTARD !!  If you are unfamiliar with Mustard he is one of the hardworking chefs at Epiphany Farms. You can check out all that they do on their site   Mustards guess was so close to perfect , he said Feb 25 at noon, 11 piggies, I think he must've been hiding out in the little hog hutch watching Iand then counting as the piggies emerged. I'd like to think his intentions were pure and his concern was only for Debbies welfare but the Red Wattle meat is know for its rich tasting meat and Mustard is a chef. You do the math. I'll get your prize in the mail to you very soon Mustard, and thanks for playing this months REAL farmville game .

Now the sad news. Not all piglets survived. Keith reports two were stillborn and one was...uh..rolled on. Since Debbie decided to deliver in the large hogcienda instead of the mini hog hutch built for one, we cannot assume it was her fault. I've never really trusted our sow Dot. She's not a Red Wattle and I've noticed her giving Debbie the eye when she thinks I am not looking. An obvious case of swine envy since those recent news articles never really mentioned our cross bred hogs. Tomorrow the candied ham cam goes up in the hogcienda.

Actually Keith reports (I told you I was in class !! I can't be every where at once) that all four sows are acting very nicely toward the surviving piglets. The weather is cold but dry and clear without wind so the babes should be quite warm in the deep straw bedding coupled with the body heat of 2000 pounds of mama sows. Tomorrow I'll post pics.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hoary Frost

Oh, you people are a laugh riot. No. Hoary Frost is not an old CB handle of mine, it is a beautiful fact of nature. This year WEATHER has been a key factor in all we do here. Some days it is just a huge pain in the keister and other days it truly is a sight to behold. The other morning when I came home from work our trees were coated with this gorgeous frost. Known as Hoary Frost or Hoar Frost or Radiation Frost, it  refers to the white ice crystals loosely deposited on objects that form on cold clear nights when heat losses into the open skies cause objects to become colder than the surrounding air. It is also know as an Air Hoar, a Surface Hoar or a Crevice Hoar. Hmmmmmm.

Little Debbie update. No babies and her appetite is great. A pig loving friend of ours (thank you Dot) tells me her appetite will decrease the morning of the day she delivers. Keith and I walk out to the hogcienda every few hours looking for evidence of labor. I'm sure it will be soon. Don't worry, you'll be the first to know.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I hate my kitchen !

I hate the way the walls crumble at my  feet when I put in a nail for a picture. I hate how the kitchen window is off center from the counter below it. And how the wind whistles though it at night and in the day time but never at dusk, no never at dusk. I hate how the doors do not hang level. I hate how the ceiling bows a little in the middle, and in the corners and along the wall. I  hate how the cabinets are so deep I need to stand on one of my grandchildren to reach the back. I hate how the floor has an inch thick layer of old carpet glue over the original hardwood floors and a hunk of steel covering up some secret trap door. I hate how the wiring causes small animals in the barn to receive tiny electrical jolts every time I use the pull switch for the light over the sink. I hate my kitchen.

I love my kitchen ! I love the way the 10 layers of paint and wallpaper show evidence of all the families who shared food, stories and love. I love the way the wood floor has been patched with a 2 foot by 2 foot piece of steel covering up what I am sure is hidden treasure.  I love the huge cabinets obviously custom made in the 40's by some man who loved his wife enough to give her good space for her "modern" kitchenware. I love the thick floorboards  that protect the walls from the kicking feet of a two year olds tandrum. I love my kitchen.

After 15 years of waiting, my kitchen is getting a remodel.  Not a total, gutted to the studs makeover, but a very nice update. Sort of an Oil of Olay treatment instead of a complete face lift. Our house is 120 years old. When we moved in (1995) there was brown and orange carpet in the kitchen. We had four young kids, very little money and no time. The carpet was removed, replaced with a vinyl remnant and the walls got a thick layer of Ivy wallpaper. We moved in planning to remodel in a "couple" of years.My how time flies when you are raising a family and a farm.

But, the wait is over and the work has begun. Some of it being done by Keith and I and some being done by our contractor. We're keeping the very old cabinets because they are very well built and new cabinets are crazy expensive. Instead they will be painted...dark brown to show less dirt. All the years I fed four kids in that kitchen my cabinets were white. You know what they say, beauty before brains. The old countertop was put in in the 50's, a laminate so tough tanks could've been covered in it. My floor had been covered with a sub floor of plywood (painted bright green ) waiting for tile "one day" but when the sub floor was pulled up we found the original hardwood. It is filthy, but intact. We'll see what a professional can do to save it.

We have replaced the countertop with a wood countertop from IKEA. At 1/4 the cost of other hardwood suppliers we were very pleased with the product. The tile was found at BJ's liquidation in Kankakee. It was .59 cents a square foot compared to $6.50 a square  foot  in retail stores. With the average kitchen remodel coming in at $30,000 we thought we'd save some money on the kitchen and invest  it into pigs instead. I guess I would rather have fabulous tasting meat in an economy kitchen instead of a microwave dinner in a fabulous kitchen. Rationalization at its best.

In the midst of all this the weather broke and we have mud everywhere. Of course. Why remodel when the whether is good ? That would defy logic.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hello, my name is...

South Pork Ranch.  A cross between the humor of South Park TV,  the drama of South Fork Ranch in Dallas, we are the new and improved dramatically fun South Pork Ranch LLC. We have been known as Green Acres Farm since our first cow Kiki graced us with our first glass of fresh milk but times "they are a changin'" and we need to change a little to keep up.

Our primary reason for the name change was confusion. NO, NOT MINE !! Seems Green Acres Farm is a name others had thought of and had been using. Not so much here in Livingston County but as we moved (literally, in the back of our pickup) our product a little farther away from the protective fencing of our farm, we ran into more folks with our name. Some of these similar named farms even recieved our payment checks from some of our customers. Not to worry, all folks with the name "Green Acres" were good folks and returned the checks, but it cinched our decision for a name change.

Son Colton, is working on the new website, with a very similar appearance and links from old site to new site. Our LLC (limited liability company paperwork is complete and being filed with the state of Illinois) and a professional artist has been hired to take our niece Micahs new farm logo, to a print -ready status. In the meantime...the sows and cows could care less what the sign at the end of our lane says, as long as the great quality organic hay keeps on coming until spring brings back the fresh green grass we are all missing. Hmmm "sows and cows" now THAT is a great name for a new reality show.

Little Debbie update: Udder fuller, teats hanging lower, UPS delivered a huge box of Huggies to the pig condo last night. Seems we're getting closer to birth of South Pork Ranch's first litter of Red Wattle babies.  Keep those hooves crossed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


First a Little Debbie update. There is still time to enter the Litter Lottery (see my blog on Feb. 13). To date I have 8 guesses. Remember, her due date is around Feb . 24. Just email your guess on time, date, and number of piggies to THE WINNER WILL RECEIVE a beautiful silk scarf , white with green shamrocks, purchased on my last trip to Ireland. Just in time for Saint Patricks day ! I will announce the winning guess as soon as Debbie delivers the goods. And if by some stroke of luck, a man wins, I'm sure I've got some Guinness lying around here somewhere if he is not a silk and shamrocks kind of guy. In fact, regardless of your gender and whether you win or not , just drop by , I'll definitely  be sipping on some Guinness this March 17.

 Here is Debbie as of this am. She asks you to please ignore her long nails, its just not as easy to bend over as it was a few weeks ago.


Now, about that Hogcienda. The large hog castle Keith and friends built a few weeks ago is plenty big for several mama's and their litters , but because Debbie is on the bottom of the hog hierarchy totem pole (thus the reason we have nicknamed her "Sausage Patty"), we decided she might do better with a smaller hut. So Keith hit the World Wide Web, traveling all the way to Iowa, and found plans for the E-Hut. Farmers Dan and Colin Wilson shared their plans on the following site:

Keith and Kyle got busy and made this really cool labor and delivery hideaway. It is a great place to quietly give birth away from the madding crowds or just to curl up with a good book. (Which lasted about 30 minutes until Keith came looking for me. Alone time people, I just need a little alone time ) The front of the hogcienda has a smaller door which can be locked if you need to keep mama pig in or out, or if she's just not in the mood for Big Anna to come by with more unsolicited liter raising advice.

The sides are sturdy and wide enough for our new logo. Soon to be announced. Hey ,I just noticed something ! If you look at the wood swirls sideways with your right eye half closed  it looks just like my favorite roller coaster at Riverview Park in Chicago. Sorta. Kinda.

The top lid can be lifted up for more viewing or just improved air movement when the weather is hot. Keith demonstrates the OPEN position.

The back has a slide away section that can be locked in place allowing little pigs to be lifted up and out for castrating or other care. The whole hut is slanted in the back so that little babies can get into the back section but mama can't, so less chance of her accidently crushing them.

Once again my mind flits back to those troublesome teen years . "Really officer, I had no idea he (or she) was sleeping there. I guess I just "accidently" crushed them." Oh you never had those thoughts. We, unlike mama pig, just didn't act on them.

Keith and Kyle  placed the new hogcienda in the pig pasture a few days ago about 100 feet from the main hog house.  There are pig tracks in the snow so we know the girls are checking it out, or else its the wild Chatsworth Rhino we've been hearing about , but still no pictures on the wall or curtains hug yet. "Build it and they will come." We'll see.

Monday, February 15, 2010

When I grow up I want to be...

a minimalist. A person with few things. A monk maybe. Someone with a whole lot less JUNK ! The above pic was taken last night after clearing our kitchen as we prepared for a "facelift." We cannot at this point in our lives afford a total remodel but we are able to do some of the improvements I've been waiting for a long time.We have hired a friend of ours to paint cabinets (which are around 70 years old and very solid), refinish the original hardwood floor (hidden under carpet, vinyl and a subfloor of plywood, not necesarily  in that order), attach a new backsplash, install a new window, add several new outlets and hang some lights. I will remove all the old ivy wallpaper (how 80's!) and paint the walls.

But back to that pile of kitchen crap. There was a time in my life, specifically The Sturgis Motel in Sturgis S.D.circa 1978, where all I owned cookware wise, was an electric skillet. I was master chef with that skillet. I could make eggs and bacon for breakfast, noodles for lunch and popcorn for summer. I could fry potatoes, simmer a good stew and pan sear steak. I could whip up a delicious creme brulee, OK thats going too far, but the point is...I only needed ONE pan to cook in. After all, I was just one person, in one small room, in a one horse, two cowboy town.

Over the last few decades I have acquired some ridiculous cookware. Take for example the WAFFLE STICK MAKER. Where did that come from ? A gag gift ? A wedding gift ? Mothers Day ? (Because you know we all love getting appliances on Mothers Day) And then there is the set of silicone bakeware I bought from Chef  Tony Bolony . It seemed so cool at first how you put something all rubbery in a 500 degree oven and not have it melt. But the dang stuff sucked up whatever you baked in it and was impossible to clean. I kept it because it cost too much and I couldn't admit what a huge mistake it was to buy. Next we have the spritz cookie maker. Do I look like a spritz cookie eater ?! Enough said.

Tomorrow, about 75% of the stuff on that table is gone, finito, Bye Bye Miss American Pie Crust Shield. My life as a simpler person with far less stuff begins today. Of course by tomorrow evening Keith will have removed all that junk from the dumpster and "hidden" it in the loft above the machine shed, but that is a whole 'nother blog.

P.S. I am still working on the gift prize for whomever guesses Little Debbies' litter size and delivery date. Stay tuned

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Litter Lottery

This is Little Debbie. All five hundred plus pound of her. Our Red Wattle mama-to-be. If our records are correct, and they rarely are, she was impregnated by Fritz (God rest his soul) in the back of our livestock trailer on the trip home from Rockford when she and Fritz and Lady Anne were first purchased. That would make her a member of the "Tire-High" Club. The livestock trailer is too low to enable her to be  a member of the Mile-High Club. (Thanks to J.M. for that idea)

The gestation period for hogs is 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days and some say 3 hours and 3 minutes.( One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three.) This means Debbie is due to farrow...soon, in about 12 days on February 24, give or take a minute. Red Wattles are known for having large litters of between 10-16 adorable piglets. So here is the contest. Send me your guess for the date of birth and number of piglets, to my email, Whoever is closest on both  accounts will receive a wonderful prize which I will announce in a day or two. I'll take some more pictures of Debbie and her belly as we get closer to the expected due date to help you with your guestimation. In the event of a tie, the winner will be the person with the earliest entry. You may enter as often as you wish. Ready, set GO!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You've got a friend

 Today our neighbor Neil got up early, went out into the cold and drove his tractor over to our farm, so he could plow our drive, so Keith could take our hogs to the locker, so the locker could kill and chill them, so we could pick them up tomorrow, so we could deliver them to Old Town Social and The Bristol, so the chefs could create wonderful SLOOOOOW food with them, so the customers could be very happy and make Chicago a more cheerful place.

All because Neil got up out of his warm bed.

Thank you Neil

Monday, February 8, 2010

Edgar Allen Snow

Two nights ago it snowed. It's winter. It happens. My drive home from work Sunday AM was slower than normal , slippery but not terrible. My drive up our lane was more tricky. Our house is perched nicely on top of a small hill. Very convenient when it rains as water drains nicely away from our home. In the winter however, we are the bullseyes every snowstorm aims for. My fault entirely as I am the one who decided on a red roof.

Surrounded by fields on all sides, the wind usually whips up from the south west ( as the raven flies) and blows snow into the the most annoying drifts all around our house and up and down the drive. Keith works hard to keep our nearly 1/4 mile lane clear for the milk truck, milk customers and the irritable wife coming home after a 12 hr night shift. Some times though our Kubota tractor can't do all that needs to be done and we end up driving through the yard in order to make it to the house.

Family and neighbors are surprised too see the snow drifts on our place still in place two days post storm. After all, the highway is clear, but then again we've always been a bit different.

Tonight, more snow is predicted and winds are expected to kick up again tomorrow.  Keith and son Kyle spent a huge part of the day "getting ready." For town folk this might mean stocking the shelves with extra peanut butter and bread but for us it entailed adding lots more bedding to the pig palace, cow chalet, horse mahal and goat cottages. In addition they moved several piles of snow trying to plan which way the snow might drift and thus avoiding (hopefully) our getting trapped on the farm. We have 3 deliveries to Chicago on Thursday which means taking pigs to the locker Wed. so the livestock trailer had to obtained tonight, since the roads are expected to be quite bad tomorrow which if you are still keeping track would be Tuesday.

In addition I made plans with my daughter regarding the grand kids whom I babysit on Mondays and Tuesdays. In the event of bad weather they will not be returned to Pontiac tomorrow night, they will just stay with us...until spring.

In about an hour when I head out to feed calves and pigs, I will double up on hay and water thus hopefully reducing the amount of time we have to be out in the elements tomorrow am. After all this preparation I fully expect the storm and its predicted 7 inches of snow will float innocently by. And THAT will really tick me off.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sally's last supper

They say "three heads are better than on." or is it just two ? Maybe it was four. All I know is when I pulled our truck and borrowed livestock trailer into the horse pasture my horses were ALL OVER that truck. I pulled the trailer in to remind Sally how to properly load in order to prepare her for the ride to her new home. Before the truck came to a stop my three stooges had their heads buried in the truck bed. Seems when son Kyle was hauling grain the day before (for our pigs) some spilled in the truck bed. That truck bed was licked clean by the major lip action of those horses. A nice treat for Sally since a few hours later her new owner showed up to take her to a new barn. Filled with oats and in a generally very happy mood she loaded on and off our trailer like a dream. This was not her regular behavior. I believe she knew this new beginning for her was going to be a good one.

Owning Sally has been a huge learning experience for me. (She is the middle head in the picture above.) When I bought her 7 years ago I already knew "everything " about horses. After all I had been riding since I was 8, and I already owned my trusty mount Johnny. But Johnny was the kind of horse anyone could ride. No buck, no kick, always willing to please. An old trail horse from a kids camp.You could've set a flaming Chritmas Tree on his back and he would've behaved. But not Sally. Green broke at four which really meant she had been haltered twice, I had my hands full. It took us 3 hours to load her that first day. Should've been a clear sign then there was trouble ahead, but I wanted her and ignored the signs. She was pretty you know. I struggled on my own for a couple years and then starting reading and attending clinics. The longer I had Sally the less I knew about horses.

She was always one hoof in front of me. When I first taught her to lead she yanked me off my feet, with just a flip of her big strong Quarterhorse head. When I first taught her to lounge she sent me flying and I mean FLYING through the air in front of witnesses no less. Once my nieces saw that I was breathing they laughed hilariously. Special girls those two. Sally taught me then...I needed a round pen. We bought one and her training accelerated. When we began transitioning from jogs into lopes she transitioned into bucking. I never fell during those times due more to my hefty statue than to my skills. Big girls are harder to buck off. Its just physics. The one time I did fall off  it was all my fault. My husband had just dumped lots of new sand into the round pen, the weather was grand, so with him in full sight  she and I went from jog to lope to jog when she slipped in the too deep sand. She fell forward and so did I. Up and not quite over the saddle, I slammed my thigh into the saddle horn. My head hit the ground hard enough to crack my helmet. Note the word HELMET. Always a good thing when riding. I sported  a cantaloupe- sized bruise inside my thigh for weeks

I recovered, but my husband who was right there, did not. He doesn't watch me ride much anymore. He does always make sure I have my cell phone and helmet on me when I do. About that time my trusty mount Johnny, the one I would always ride when I was not in the mood for more Sally work, needed to be put down. At 27 it was time. His demise was short and sweet as we have the most excellent vet. I missed him terribly. After that I rode Sally less and less and less. I bought two new horses last year hoping to get my riding Mojo back but then the farm got very busy. Sooooooo

I gave her to my niece who was also a horse nut. Sally proved too much for her skill level and she came back home. Then I posted an ad for a FREE horse to a good home. Experienced riders only. I interviewed several people. I picked one. The gal already owns four horses, has a 20 stall barn and 7 acres. I spent two hours with Sally yesterday reminiscing about our trials together, explaining how much we learned from each other and how much more riding life we both had left in us. She understood. When her new owner came she could not have been more cooperative. She pretty much leapt into their trailer. I waved goodbye and before she was down the lane I had a bridle on Nora , my 6 year old mare ,and she and I rode bareback awhile. With my helmet on and a couple tears in my eyes. Thanks Sally for a good ride.You taught me well.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hello Mr President

Its not often a simple farm in Central Illinois is graced by a visit from The President but yesterday was our lucky day. Brian Jordan, President of the  Red Wattle Hog Association or RWHA  as well as the associations secretary, Dot Jordan, came to visit us. Dot just also happens to be Brians' wife and farm partner so we had no worries about whom to sit then next to whom at our presidential luncheon. Of course I understand all of this is a little unbelievable since I failed to take a picture of the two of them while they were in our presence. You'll just have to take my word for it until the article Dot is writing about us is published in the RWHA  newsletter.
    Dot was specifically asking us questions about how we have been marketing our hogs to the Chicago area restaurants. We had a great time sharing information back and forth. Dot and Brian have been raising the Red Wattles longer than us and had many helpful tips about animal management. They also brought us five more BEAUTIFUL, HEALTHY feeder pigs to raise as our restaurants are asking for the meat as fast (faster) than we can grow it. While here, they checked up on the breeder family they sold us a couple months ago, Mad Max, Cagney and Lacey. We all agreed Mad Max is growing fast and is going to be one big boar. Yawwnn

Be sure to check out Dot and Brians farm at .

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Girls just want to have fun.

I read that pigs need toys since pigs  are bright, imaginative and love to play. So I went to Kmart, which by the way, does NOT suck, and bought a big rubber ball. When the grand kids were visiting last Friday we let them introduce the Big Blue Ball. The pigs were only mildly interested. I suspect they are just smart enough not to make fools of themselves in public. If only I had that kind of reserve.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The farmer takes a wife...

on a mini vacation. When you own a dairy farm, time off is rare. It is very difficult to find "relief milkers" in the Central Illinois area. In Wisconsin , where dairy is still quite large, there are groups that do nothing but relief milk for farmers.In our area dairy farmers get very little relief unless they have family involved in the business and fortunately for us, we do. Son Jason did 3 chore rotations for us which gave us almost 36 hrs off the farm.

We traveled a short distance, about two hours, down to Petersburg, Illinois. There we met two of my sisters and their husbands for an overnight stay at the Branson House Bed and Breakfast.  A magnificent Victorian home which was warm, cozy and most importantly, did not have a single pig, cow or goat inside of it. The 6 of us ate supper together and then stayed up WAY past our bedtimes catching up on some hilarious movies. Death at a Funeral is a must see. What those people do with an unconscious,  gravitationally challenged man...oh my.

The best deal was the gut filling breakfast of blueberry pancakes and for the men, assorted MEATS, fresh fruit, and strong coffee. As the owner John told us, "We don't make wussy coffee here." The rooms were so cozy and the beds so comfortable, next time we go for more than one night.And speaking of night. Saturday night there was this eerie full moon draped in several layers of wafting clouds. Take one such moon and add it to 150 year old Victorian home and this is what you get.

On Sunday morning we  visited several antique stores which I love, yet they sadden me sometimes.

How did all those old family pictures get away from the families who once loved them ? The Aunt Bertha's, the Uncle Clydes, looking at me through stern expressions behind glass framed cages. They once hung in stately homes overlooking grand staircases made of oak and now they are hung from a stores' paneled walls looking down on a collection of red and white enamel ware pots and pans.Which made me wonder , what about the 7000 photos on my computer ? Where will they end up ? Who will love them like I do ?

Its time to collect a few more gesso and gilt frames and get those pics out of their cyber prison and onto some walls of our own. I'll do that on my next mini-vacation.