Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fannie Farmer

The original Fannie Farmer was a woman who lived between 1857 and 1915. At 16 she had a paralytic stroke which kept her from walking for some time. She turned to cooking and eventually converted her parents home into a boarding house with a strong reputation for great food. At age 30 she entered the Boston Cooking School, became a top student and later became the schools principal ! She lectured at top schools like Harvard and went on to write the Boston Cooking School Cookbook  which contained 1,849 recipes. It also contained information about houskeeping, and food preservation.

Due to her own physical struggles, she held a special place in her heart for those who were ill or convalescing and often geared her recipes towards the use of fresh food.

She became so popular, her cookbook became known as "Fannie Farmers Cookbook" which is still available today.

This is OUR Fannie Farmer

I bought her last Christmas for Keith. A full blooded Great Pyrenees she is now just 10 months old but weighs well over 100 pounds. She stands at my hip, which is very close to Stands With A Lisp but not quite. She does not cook but she will eat any dead thing (very handy on a farm) AND she is a master drooler. At any given time one might notice the Niagra Falls dripping out of her mouth. Often the unsuspecting visitor will reach down to pet her and come away gagging when they notice their slimed hand. It is, in my opinion, Fannies only fault.

She is devoted to our grandchildren, she stays with them constantly when they are here. In fact, in this picture , the kids are sitting on the ground just a few feet from her, having a picnic. She does not bother our small chicks, ducklings or peafowl. She often lays in the hutches with the calves to keep them warm on cool days (or maybe just to keep herslf warm, either way she appears heroic).

At night she lies on the back porch barking back at the coyotes, warning them that she is here all night to protect us. And I mean ALL NIGHT. At 10 pm I am telling her. "Good girl, now go to sleep". At 1 am I am yelling out the window. "SHUT UP !!!!"  At 3 am I am hoisting the living room couch at her. She does not waiver. We are hers to protect whether we like it or not. So now you know why so many country folk have upholstered furniture on their porches. It's really more than just bad design taste.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The aliens have landed

So I'm walking in the yard with the grandkids minding my own very busy-ness and we run into this !

I thrust my arm across the kids, I am sure saving their lives because this creature looks like it just crawled out of a bad actors chest wall. This space oddity was almost 3 inches long and 1.2 inch thick with its "face" all smashed in and level with the rest of its body similar to Kenny in the hood from South Park. I'm not sure about its visual abilities, it refused to give me eye contact. When we touched it (Allana was DYING too, Wesley and I watched from inside a Haz Mat Suit), the beastly creepy crawler did this...

Yeah. Real impressive. It obviously has some gymnastic training in its past. Who doesn't ? After that it just stayed there in that position playing possum with us. So who knows what this is ? Some sort of genetically modified caterpillar that will evole into what ? A helicopter ? The limb it is clinging to is one of our grape vines and I should warn you, it was not traveling alone. Another clone just like it was on another part of the grape vine a few inces away. It too would not talk even after we waterboarded it a wee bit with the hose.

So send me your thoughts you garden scientists.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Salt of the Earth

I do many things on our farm. I do not milk cows. I used to help milk our cows. Then I stopped. This... is my story.

Salt was a black and white spawn of Lucifer. She would kick while being milked just for the pure exhilaration of intimidation. She kicked occasionally at my husband Keith but always at me, at least once a milking.

Then one dark and stormy day, I was walking behind her, far away from her personal space, or so I thought, carrying a broom, when she nailed me ! She aimed her back leg at my chest, hoof curled into a meat hook  shape and let fly. I knew her intentions were murderous and I saw my life glow before my eyes. (I am 51, my life doesn't really FLASH before my eyes at much speed).

She missed. Instead of hitting me mid-sternally as I know she had intended she hit the broom I was holding, snapping it as the crafty lioness might snap off the head of a graceful gazelle. Hear it ? SNAP!! In half. I was standing there, mouth open with two pieces of a broom stick in either hand.

Not too long after this event Salt died a natural and peaceful death. That's my story and I am sticking to it like Aunt Jemima's Syrup to a 3 yr olds face. Keith buried her but it was hot that summer and perhaps the grave could have been deeper. Perhaps. The dogs showed up one day with a momento from Salt. We returned it to its resting place. They unearthed it again. Keith buried it. It appeared again, at my back door.

Great. Now this spiteful and ugly souled creature is haunting me. Fine. I'm always looking for new ways to pretty up my garden. Take that Salt.

And stop staring at me you RUDE COW !!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Laid Back Lifestyle

Heat. Lots of heat. Stifling heat. Hard to work in, hard to sleep in , hard to relax in. But, you should cry not for me Argentina. We chose this sauna of life. Years ago when we moved into our over 100 year old farm house we did have the place fitted for a new furnace and possible an air conditioner "some day". The "some day" keeps getting put off. We are concerned that if we had a comfortable place to go to indoors we would gravitate there and the work we need to accomplish outside would suffer.

So instead we suffer and the work progresses. AND YET, I lose very little weight. Oh I always drop about 20 pounds every summer without any change in diet since my activity ramps up so much, but with all the work and all the sweating I should be Twiggy size. Wait...half of you don't know who Twiggy is. How about Calista Flockhart ?  Oh come on. Lindsey Lohan then.  The hardest part to deal with is my husband Keith because we all know how hard he is to deal with. Its hard because he is the same size he was in highschool. A 32 in waist which coincidentally is the same size as my upper arm. He works, I work. He sweats. I sweat. He loses weight so easily I have to keep a dozen of Caseys donuts and a gallon of milk on the counter at all times. Getting weight off me is harder than capping a BP oil leak. I'm just sayin'

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Medium Raw Please

            Keith brings in our herd for evening milking

They told us if we didn't stop selling raw milk they would stop buying our milk for the conventional market.  But we didn't listen. They told us we would never find enough people to buy raw milk and we'd be out of business in a month. We didn't listen. They told us they would not license us as a Grade A dairy anymore even though we'd have good inspections the last 11 years. We said fine. We'll still follow the rules just for kicks and giggles and because we believe in a good milk product. They told us people would not drive ALL THE WAY to our farm for raw milk but our customers didn't listen. They told us we'd be dumping most of our milk. Well, we do dump quite a bit of it, right into the trough for our feeder pigs.

 They look fabulous and taste scrumptious. We thought we would have to sell half our dairy herd. We've sold only five cows to four wonderful homesteads. (Yes, the Scholte family was brave enough to take TWO ) We're thinking we might need to keep more than we originally planned in order to meet the growing needs of our customers.

Keith helps our cow Pam adjust to her new home
                                               at Epiphany Farms in Downs Illinois

Supply and demand is working out very well here. Except for those days we forget to get milk for ourselves !!

So here we are 3 months into our new venture of selling all our from our farm and I have to say, its going well. On Mondays we often sell out. We've had to move some customers to other days. Since the article about our farm ran in GRAZE magazine last month,  we've had 2-3 new milk customers every week. Some have driven as much as 3 hours one way to get to us. Thank you. Let me say it again . Thank You !

We do our best to make it worth the trip. We give tours of the farm. We let customers children actually TOUCH the farm animals.  Young children love to collect the feathers laying around. Not only do they collect the feathers, they turn themsleves into Lovely Peacock Lady and Angry Chicken Girl and write a play about those characters.

We also make it known we have 100% grass fed beef and pastured pork for sale . On good days the chickens cooperate enough to produce a few eggs to go with the bacon.

And we don't have to get up so early in order to get all the milking done before the milk truck comes. We milk on the best schedule for us and for our cows. Viva La Raw Milk !!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hog Wash...and rinse and repeat.

Hey, it just dawned on me. I'm a legal adult , its very hot inside and out (we don't have AC) and there is a cold Java Stout Beer in the frig. I'll be right back. Talk amongst yourselves....And I'm back, cold beer next to the keyboard. Now what was I going to talk about ?

Pigs. When I tell Keith I am going out to water the pigs it is not what you think it is. Yes, I do fill the water pans but I am a holistic farmer, I treat more than just the pigs thirst. I stand tall (with lisp) the running hose in my hand and call the pigs forth. They will run up when they see me, coated with dried caked mud from our last encounter.

Pigs do not sweat. So if you hear someone saying "I'm sweating like a pig"  you should inform them, politely of course, that they are speaking hogwash as pigs have no sweat glands. They tolerate heat poorly and need water or mud to help them thermoregulate. Poor critters can't even pant like dogs. To help them out in the recent heat wave, we flood the area by the water pans and then for fun we take it a step further and hose them down.

They LOVE it ! They will stand there as long as I do, water dripping down their chinny chin chins. They will shake their ears, turn full circle so I can cool off both the shoulder roasts  and the hams and then flop down and roll around covering themselves with mud.

The mud protects their skin from the sun and the parasites. It also allows them to run into town and rob the bank as it covers up all their identifying marks. Easier (and cooler) than finding a black knit cap or heaven forbid some queen size pantyhose big enough to cover their faces.

Our little piglets (10 wks old) love the water just as much as the mamas and papas do. (Monday, Monday)

 They dig in the bottom of their water hole like Jacques Cousteau giving a whole new meaning to mud facials.
The sign ?

Can't remember where I got it. Probably one of those Thelma and Louise road trips I took with my friend Jay. I do know it makes me smile whenever I run across it. The juxtaposition between city and country I suppose. A great summary of my current life.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Child Labor

Go ahead. Report me. We encourage  our grandchildren to work. We used to make our own children work. In fact, Keith and I have been known to work. Sometimes it is a strength. Other times it is a bad habit we cannot seem to break. The problem with farm work is, it is never DONE. But often it can be good enough and it can be fun.

Grandkids teach us about "good enough." They teach us about doing things for the shear pleasure of doing them VS the outcome. Our grandkids have been helping us feed calves for many years. At first they rode in the wagon with the bottles. Then they were able to help push the wagon as Wes demonstrates here. Later they developed enough muscle to PULL the wagon and finally they are strong enough to actually hoist the bottle up into the calf feeder and then run away quickly enough before a hungry calf steps on them. When grandkids "help" the process takes 2-3 times longer than normal but it is also twice as much fun. The trip from the barn to the calf hutches takes longer. There are butterflies to observe, baby chicks to count, rubber boots to empty of water as the kids accidently splash through a puddle.

A recent study concluded that young school children often do not have the upper body strength to pull themselves up on the monkey bars or even to hold themselves on a swing without falling. Maybe if schools would raise a few calves each year we could reverse this trend.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ducks in a Row

Running a farm business drives me quackers most days. As I look ahead into the thick grass for the future pork and beef  needs of our restaurants, our off-the-farm customers, our grocery stores and our own family, I struggle with  keeping track of the projects just behind me. Such as maintaining the rules and regs of Organic Certification  and managing our raw milk business ? Often while trying to keep my eyes both ahead and behind me I will step my big webbed feet into a pile of  warm excrement. Hey ?! Where did that come from ?! Fortunately, I am duck like, and most bothersome things do pretty much roll off my back. The bottom of my feet however are a very different story. Now where did I put that pond ?