Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thank You Graze

Well you know me, if there is a soapbox I will stand on it, an opinion needed; I will give one. Like all things it goes back to parochial school. (Ha, you thought I was going to say Kevin Bacon didn't you?) If Sister Mary Gerard hadn't asked me what color the bathroom should be painted when I was in first grade, I might've grown up thinking the world could get by without my opinion. But she did, so here I am.

My raw milk battle continues, although I seem to be fighting it all alone . No I'm not talking about you people, or our customers, or the general public.  I am talking about our fearless leaders who do not want to play with me.

To date I have had no response from any of my emails,advertisements,letters, or phone calls regarding the statute prohibiting raw milk advertising in Illinois. I started this campaign on October 24, over a month ago. My how times flies when you are the one asking questions of THEM.

So I notched it up another level.

I contacted Joel McNair editor of Graze magazine  and pitched an idea about doing a raw milk update as it related to our farm in Illinois specifically, and the rest of the country in general. Joel had published another article of mine a few months ago and had encouraged me to write for him on a regular basis. I was thrilled that he was interested in this follow-up article " A Raw Deal : You can sell it;  Just don't tell it."

My article summarizes much of what I've been talking about on this blog the last several weeks but still, I am small town enough to think it may draw the attention of the higher ups who might, maybe, please with cream-on-top, be able to tell me WHY this farmer cannot advertise one of our farm products?  I am also small town enough to be excited to see our issues published in a national magazine.

Will I still be excited when IDPH notices and comes knocking, calling, asking to be invited in for a civil conversation about raw milk over a plate full of cookies? Yeah, I think I will be. But at the rate Illinois is moving in regards  to my questions I think I may have a little time to prepare for their visit.

How long exactly does it take for hell to freeze over?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Slippery Sunday

Once in a Green Moon Soap.
Fun to make but too much Titanium Dioxide causes cracking.
But then again the moon's surface was dry and cracked was it not?
Sunday is supposed to be about soap, except when your friend Jay comes to visit As with all Jay visits, it started out quite simply.We sat around the kitchen table and caught up on work, family, and the most recent holiday. We then moved into the living room to watch a couple movies and eat entirely too much popcorn covered with butter. And about a ton of salt.
Jay, dissecting my dining room wall after stripping it of its its previous
decor such as clocks and photos.
Before I go on, you need a little background about Jay.. Years ago, in fact, over 35 years ago, he and I and his twin brother ran away for two weeks. We lived out of the blue Chevy van, which had carpeting not only on the floor it on all the walls. It was 1976, and our parents did not." understand us." So of course we had to run away. Since that time we have remained good friends, even though we sometimes will go a year or two without seeing each other But we always keep in touch. . But once Jay comes to visit is always an event. By day Jay, works in construction but by night and on the weekends he works primarily in design.
All cold process but with the two layers done about an hour apart, The cicles are
balls of hot process soap made last week. Scented with pine and cedarwood essential oils.
This year's event in redecorating  was all my fault. I started it, as Jay had given me a gift of about 100 small butter pat dishes several years ago. He also built a wonderful display box for all of them. I meant to get them up on the wall but I never did. So when he showed up yesterday. I asked him about helping me with this project.

Butter pat dishes up in first rack. Some old, some new
some white, some blue.
When I came down the stairs this morning at O730. He'd already had a good start; coffee was made ,  and the walls were marked. Screwdrive,r drill , nails, hanging wire were all requested and arranged.  Pictures clocks, etc. were removed, from every wall in my dining room, and then every wall in my  living room. In addition, every knickknack I had in those two rooms  was placed in the dining room on the table . . Pictures were rehung, shelves were rearranged, clocks were reset, batteries were replaced. Colors were coordinated, textures were redefined, balance was discovered, equilibrium was restored, and the farmhouse  had quite an adjustment. I will admit, as I always have to do after Jay visits, my house looks much better. Of course, watching him work is always exhausting.

Butter pat dish racks up on dining room wall with
my stained glass piece from Ireland in the middle.
He never does one thing at a time, he usually has six or seven things going at once , , but at the end it all comes together very nicely.  And then he goes home and the tornado that was my house dissipates. quiet  and peace return , but but so does that little empty spot that was filled for a little while by a friend named Jay.
Colored with wheat grass powder, the textures were oh so natural looking

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Three Little Piggies...improve

A few days ago I blogged about the three little failure to thrive piglets. We moved them out of the big group into a separate and roomy barn stall and a few days after that, moved them again into a calf hutch with a small outdoor space.

 The calf hutch is cosier than the big barn stall with minimal drafts even though the south end of the hutch is open. The heavy polyvinyl walls keep warm air in (via southern sun in the afternoon)  and cold air down to a minimum. Coupled with a very thick layer of straw bedding with lots of room to roam, dig, and play; we've seen great improvement in piggies number 1 and 2 and slow improvement in the 3rd piggie. They are fun to watch as they have become quite attached to each other and now to us with all the extra attention. They sleep all lined up side by side, buried so deep in their straw we can only see noses. Very cute.

Today, I ordered diatomaceous earth (DE)  and we will feed it in combination with the garlic powder, organic grain, organic raw milk, hay and grass cuttings.

In answer to several comments on my last blog about these three, we do agree parasite infection is the key culprit which is the reason for initiating the DE. This product was new to me so had to do some research. Often folks will believe because we are certified organic, we can't "do anything" when we have a sick animal.  By "anything" they are referring to antibiotics or in this case an antihelminic. They are unaware that there are other approved methods but it takes time to find them. Not only do I have to discover the best method I have to ensure it is certified organic and then I have to contact our certifying agency MOSA to ensure THEY approve the product and its supplier.

Its not just a matter of picking up any old product off the shelves at Farm and Fleet.

DE is rarely the first assault of a farmer or a vet because its takes some time to see results, and conventional  farmers rarely want to take the time to treat naturally. This explains why, if you ever tour a very large conventional dairy or hog farm and you get brave and look around the BACK of the animal barns, you will see large piles of dead animals. It's more cost effective (when you have a "farm" with 5000 animals) to not treat sick animals and just let them die, then hire the Dead Animal truck to remove them routinely.

But, illness does happen , even on organic farms and I would rather include our visitors in its treatment then pretend we have no challenges. We do, but with each generation we learn more and our animals are healthier, their DNA more valuable for future generations. Now back to the Diatomaceous Earth.

Its not "earth" per see but rather the skeletal remains of fossilized marine algae specifically the one-celled Diatoms. (I am SO going to memorize that last sentence so I can throw it around at the next cocktail party I am asked to attend. I think you should as well.)

It works by  physical not chemical action as the razor-sharp  remains  punctures the insects exoskeleton and then absorbs the moisture in their bodies causing death by dehydration.  In addition DE is also made up of  trace minerals also sharp enough to cut through an insects waxy shell. Is that not so cool or what? Well I think it is very cool because from what I've read it can be taken by humans, household pets and livestock without harm. Of course check with your doctor before you start substituting algae remains for sugar on your cereal, OK? This post is about LIVESTOCK health.

Seems DE is effective against a huge range of household and garden pests and  internal parasites including but not limited to:

ants, bag worms, bed bugs, box elder bugs, carpet beetles,
caterpillars, centipedes, cockroaches, Colorado potato beetles,
crickets, cucumber beetles earwigs ,fleas, fluke flies, lung worms, millipedes, mites scorpions, nematodes, pin worms, roundworms,silver fish, slugs, snails, spiders, stink bugs, squash vine borers,tapeworms, termites , and ticks.

So, I am excited about this DE delivery and its expected results. If you have used DE in your livestock or with your pets (yourself?) please leave a comment. No need to send photos. Only I am allowed to post gross pics on this blog.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

One Stethoscope Free Year

I cannot believe it has been one whole year (plus a few days) since I left the magical, mystery tour of nursing. One complete year with no outside job income. One total year filled with nights of  nail biting, tossing  and turning wondering if invoices we've sent out will be returned with payment checks BEFORE the mortgage is due. One whole year of hoping that my health insurance premiums would get paid before I was trampled by a 700 pound Red Wattle Boar. (Yes I know I could have a less risky job than farming but even knitters stab themselves sometimes, don't they? )

It was also an entire year of not having my arse chewed out by a physician, because  I notified him about a mistake HE  had made in a patent's chart that if followed would have caused drastic harm. One entire year of not having to worry about being sued by a drug addict who went home AMA but still thought I was obligated to send him on his way with a prescription for HEROIN.   A total year of not working a 14 hour night shift, sleeping for two hours the next day and then trying to act somewhat civil during family events the next day. A complete year of not having to reposition a  400 pound patient side to side with the assistance of  only one very tiny nurses aide because we were short staffed and the institution I worked for was too cheap to buy the appropriate equipment to make it easier.

Sadly though, it was a year without working side-by-side with some of the best professionals I have ever known . . Another year without sitting in a circle at 2 AM  in the nurses station talking about family issues, spouse issues, off the rocker teenagers,  deaths in the family, crazy mother-in-laws (present company included)  and the most recent data confirming that night shift nurses always died of terrible diseases much sooner than the rest of the population.  Nothing will replace those special times when I worked with my colleagues on particularly difficult cases, such as helping a mother deal with the impending death of a newborn, watching the family matriarch  leave the building before her beloved children could make it to her bedside, or  helping a 30-year-old deal with the diagnosis of terminal cancer.

 Stepping back from it all and looking at it through a different mirror , . I really do miss the times that I was allowed to practice real nursing. I ache for those moments in hospice when my autonomy and the trust of the hospice physicians, allowed me to provide excellent symptom control .  The decade I spent in hospice was outstanding.   The  following decade I spent after that, working night shift in a tiny little community hospital with nurses and nurse aides  I would trust my life with in a second, was equally outstanding. 

So why did I leave? The reasons are complicated and yet simple as 3.14   It was time. With 36 years in health care (11 as a nurses aide and 25 as an RN) I was ready to move closer to our farm world. Why should my husband have all the manure laden fun? I also wanted to write novels, lots and lots of novels.

So here I am,7/8 of the way through my first book and  sweating it out in between hog sales, raw milk ads, beef locker appointments and the occasional free lance article. We were very spolied in the past. If we needed unbudgeted tractor repairs or a new livestock waterer or even better, a trip to County Clare, I just agreed to work an extra shift. Oh sure, there are plenty of "extra shifts" here on South Pork Ranch but the pay has a tendency to DECREASE with each addtional hour worked. Farming is funny that way.

No, I do not regret it. When I left I was needed by other family members and had I been working off farm, I never would have been able to help the way I wanted to. In addition, my body is now adapting to its healthier lifestyle. Without trying I have lost 25# this year. No more staying up all night eating everything in sight and in reach just to stay awake.  No more wondering if I would be able to stay alert enough to make it make it home without rolling over in a ditch, unfortunately, a common occurance to night shift workers.  I do not miss arrogant physicians who still think it is accetable to throw charts  at nurses or family members who mistake hospitals for five-star hotels. I do not miss the risk and liability which every nurse has to deal with when they are expected to do so much with so little. . I do not miss administration who are rarely seen from Friday noon until Monday at 10 AM.(This does not apply to great administrators like C.M. and never will)

But I do miss working with true professionals , my colleagues, the best nurses, nurse aides,  supervisors, unit secretaries, and yes even  a few rare physicians, in the world.

They know who they are.

Raw Milk Update,

You know what they say,   No News is …. No one taking the time to return my phone calls, e-mails or letters , but never fear, I carry on. I recently wrote another article for Graze magazine,  which will be published in about a week. In it, I talk about raw milk issues I have been addressing on this blog and my lack of success in getting answers. I keep hoping that the more public I take this issue the more likely my requests will be answered.

In the meantime.  our ads for raw milk continued to run and we continue to get new customers every week .. and that is indeed, good news.

Monday, November 21, 2011

This little pig called WEEEEE wee wee...

Keith noticed last week, three little piggies not growing as well as they should. Sometimes its a bully thing. Bigger pigs push little pigs out of the way. Or they might have a worm issue. Parasites are a way of life on farms. We do not "pre-treat" by loading them with tons of antihelmintics (worming meds) from the minute they are born, but instead we give them room to roam and build up their immune systems allowing them to fight off investations of creepy things.

But sometimes, they need help. These three little ones certainly fit the bill.

Poor coat condition, dull eyes, skinny legs with bigger tummies, we needed to intervene. Keith separated them from the group and started adding organic powdered garlic to their grain mix and raw milk. Their appetites were good and their activity level improved but after a week we decided they needed even more special treatment.

The hog relocation program was put into effect. We moved them closer to our calves, putting them in the path of our morning chores, thus forcing us to keep an eye on them several times a day. We carried them from the barn into their new area (they screamed a mighty scream. Lung condition:good)
and settled them into an unused calf hutch piled HIGH with fresh straw. Sorry, I forgot to take a pic of their new abode, catch me tomorrow.

Inside the calf hutch, they will  have the opportunity to dig through the old manure, making it easier for us to move such next spring, and they find more good bugs and worms to eat. Yes, there are good worms and bad worms, which is why following one species of animal with another is good practice. They will also get petted, rubbed and scratched every day as research (and good common sense) proves that human touch is very good for ill animals just as the love of an animal is excellent therapy for sick (or elderly, or handicapped) humans.

We expect these three to do well over the next few weeks, but if we don't see more improvement in a couple days we'll have the vet visit. . If he thinks they could benefit from antibiotics they will get them. The National Organic Program prohibits antibiotics unless an animals life is in danger. Then you are allowed to treat but the animal must be removed from the rest of the herd.

I'll keep you updated. You can send Get Well Cards to:

Three Little Piggies
South Pork Ranch LLC
32796 E 750 N Rd
Chatsworth, Illinois 60921.

No. They do not have names, are you new to this blog?!?
Opps. Sorry.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sudsy Sunday

Yes, I'm showing consistency. Two weeks in a row I am talking about soap. I kind of enjoy the stress free environment. To date there are few regulations regarding homemade soap sales. You do need to label them ingredient wise and you do need to be honest with that labeling. I think I can do that without even thinking about arguing the points with any government types.

Isn't that refreshing?

Oh, there's one more thing. I can't claim that my soap will cure leprosy or shrink tumors or return sight to the blind. Again, shouldn't be hard. Heck I don't even guarantee it will do I know what kind of water you have at home?

But I do feel pretty comfortable saying it SHOULD lather. How's that for a marketing slogan?

Now lets get to todays soap topic. My bed is calling. Last year when I started this new hobby I tried all the fun stuff, the lab made dyes, crayons, RIT dye, yup I'm ashamed but tis best to come clean . After a few weeks of experimentation I decided to go all natural. I thought this would mean all brown because of what I was seeing out there in the stores and Farmers Markets.

Then a wonderful fairy godmpther of soap, Mz. Cocobong herself sent me some clays to play with. (And before I forget, Monsieur Magnon is not allowed to comment on this post. We all know why) They were FUN. It's taken some time to learn how much clay, a couple batches came out a bit dry, but over time I improved. I then moved onto plant powders (yes, all legal) and even some algae powder (spirulina). I also color with beer, eggs, milk, aloe gel, juices, and coffee.

Last week I gathered up all my leftover bars, and samples and put them into this box. Look at all those colors! Now I'm selling the peices in my store and folks love them. Especially those who have problems with decision making. They can take 2-3 samples home with them for the price of one bar.

 A great way to enjoy something natural without making a long term committment to it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

And your name is?

We have a rule here on South Pork, if you have a name there's a good chance you won't end up in the crock pot. We all have Harold to thank for that.

Along time ago in a land far away there lived a fine steer named Harold or was it Hank ? Howie? Anyway he had name and we knew what it was back in 1993. He was our very first beef. Keith bought him from his boss at the time. He was a sickly calf and not expected to live and on that big farm, time was not wasted trying to save an animal. So Keith brought him home to our little rental farm and we all pitched in.

With 2 adults and 4 kids to help feed Herbert, he grew well. He was also very tame and loveable. Keith taught him to stand on some concrete blocks with his front feet and then reeeeeeach over the fence with his neck to get a treat.

Then it was time to take him to the locker. Even the farmer man had a hard time loading him. A few weeks later Horace came home, all wrapped up in shiny white freezer paper. Only Keith could eat him, heck I couldn't even COOK him let alone swallow him. So, lessons were learned. We don't name the ones we eat.

There are exceptions. Occasionally we get a bad sow. One that buries her piglets alive. One named Morticia. I have no problem whatsoever eating that big fat pig. In fact I will ask for her by name .
"Hey, while you're in the store  will you brink up some Morticia chops? Thanks Honey."

But the rule does apply for these two bird brains

To your left the dainty Banana, a Blue Slate Turkey. To your right is her friend since they were little hatchlings, Sunset, a Black Spaniard, I mean Spanish. We got both of them as gifts at about 1 day old and they became pets immediately. So much so that they really freak out some of our customers as they follow them around the farm, and then hop up on their car hoods to grab some engine heat.

They even like the occasional cuddle

So, even though we make our living raising and selling meat, and even though Sunset here has been raised on all natural grains, bugs, worms and would taste WONDERFUL this Thanksgiving...he has been pardoned.

Yes, Banana too.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Liar Liar Pants On Fire

Yes. I lied. I told you yesterday I would have something NEW and EXCITING to talk about on today's blog. But, truth is, the only new thing around here is making me sad.

For the last 11 months our grand kids have been with us every weekend, from Friday afternoon until late Monday morning,  while their mommy worked 12 hr night shifts three nights in a row,(she's an RN like me the goofy girl.)

Well, nothing lasts forever and recently her schedule changed, she now is working day shift,  which means our grand kids schedule changed which means our schedule changed  and we will only have the GK's every third weekend.

This is our first weekend without a couple of hoodlums we love dearly. And that has made me sad. New and exciting will just have to wait. In the meantime lets all sing together, shall we?
                       OH-BLA-DI  OH-BLA-DA life goes on.....

The Spotted Wattle

Now that our little farm store, The Spotted Wattle,  is all out in the open as far as Big Brother goes I thought I'd tell some of you new followers about the reality of rural retail. (Yup, I was working on that all day) but first I want to remind you about Farmhouse Fridays on The Renegade Farmer. Its a great way to meet and great other bloggers of like minds, or unlike minds or the mindless...

Read all about it here  Now start blog hopping!

Some of this is a repeat I know, but we have to think of others sometimes don't we?  Tomorrow I promise to be totally NEW and EXCITING.

So we conceived of the store over a year ago. I blogged about our dream to have one. Then the most marvelous thing happened. One of our regular customers offered to fund the store as an investment. WHAT?!, we were stunned and grateful. A simple contract was signed, we drew it up ourselves, then we went shopping. We found a building and had it delivered. We insulated and painted it. Now we are paying back our investors. Sometimes we pay them cash, sometimes we trade them milk or meat. Once they wanted me to dance in their garden fountain dressed as an Irish Faerie Princess. I had to draw the line at that one.

We liked our store so much we put things in it. Our things, other farmers things, but only things grown or made or designed by individuals. We also stock only produce, eggs, meat and  other foods that are GMO, antibiotic and hormone free. No Walmart crud.

We put prices on the things we put in the store. Not easy to do. Must cover our costs and allow for some profit without being too greedy. We want return customers. So I snoop in other similar stores to check out their prices and comparison shop on the internet as well.

At first we had just 1-2 customers a week, then 1-2 a day and now we average 4-5 each day. We try to stock practical everyday items,

Like laundry soap and really good for your skin bar soap. But since man cannot live on soap alone (except for that one guy who buys like 10 bars at a time every couple of weeks. I'm real happy about the sales and all but I am a little concerned about what he is doing with all that soap. Probably just reselling it at some Chicago Spa for $15 a bar. Gotta love the American way.) we also put meat in the store.

In fact, just a few hours ago, Keith and I put 777 pounds of beef in the store. You know how you hate to put away groceries ? Yeah, imagine 777 pounds. It could've been worse. It could've been 666 pounds. And just so you don't worry. NONE of our meat is tested on animals. I'm pretty sure though that most of it is MADE from animals. Pretty sure.

A brand new item is hand embroidered book marks crafted by my talented sister-in-law Jeanne. They are so pretty and just $10 each (plus $2 S&H for 1-5 of them) Each one is unique but trouble is I am not sure which to keep for myself. I got this new Stephen King book I've been reading...

The inside of our store is simple.

The counter was bought at auction years ago by Keith's dad probably for less than $10. The little desk was left to me by Laura Ingalls Wilder. At least that is what I wrote in ink on the underside of it so it must be true. Because we are not in the store all day we have a self-serve program. Customers take what they need, add it up, write out a sales slip and leave us money.

They trust us and we trust them. The way we figure it, if somone takes a few chops without paying they must be really hungry. We'll make it up by charging that super soap buyer, a little extra.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The G-Man Rings

Farm Store sign hidden in plain view

The thing I hated about NaBloWriMo was posting everyday. It took effort. And it seemed to be too much posting. Was it too much? The thing I loved about NaBloWriMo was posting everyday and it kept me on task and kept you all up to date on crucial items here on South Pork Ranch. It wasn't too much was it?

Case in point. I blogged on Sunday. I meant to blog on Monday and Tuesday but here it is Wed and finally I am blogging. Was I missed? Did you care?

Lets move on. The ads we posted in the Pantagraph (started 11 days ago) and in The Kankakee Leader (started 7 days ago) have proven beneficial. From the Pantagraph we have gotten, as of today, 6 new meat customers, 3 of which bought large carcasses, and 4 new raw milk customers.

The Self Serve Dairy Barn.
Definite return for our money. In the meantime I have heard nothing from any of the G-Men  I contacted regarding the raw milk advertising laws/NASDA survey questions. I thought maybe our ads, which state in the very first line "Raw Milk for Sale," might convince them to pick up the phone.

But the Bat Line to all government offices stayed quiet, until two days ago. I was sitting at my desk minding my own business (I can't mind everyones business all the time. Even I need a break) when the phone rang ominously.  (For those of you who don't know,  an "ominous ring" causes the temperature in the room to drop by 20 degrees and the phone itself to turn black) I looked at the caller ID. It said, and I quote, "blocked call."

Only salesmen, unpopular in-laws, the IRS  and well, any government office will show up as "blocked call." We listened to the message. A gentleman from the Illinois Department of Public Health said "I need to talk to you about your operation."

Yeah, me too, I was sure he wanted to buy some of my all natural soap for his mama for Christmas. So I returned his call.

That's not what he wanted.

He wanted to talk about our store. See, many months ago I applied for a retail store permit from IDPH. I paid the $100 fee. I got back letters that were just goofy about how we needed to have plumbing in the store and a concrete pad under the dumpster. I called IDPH's office and asked for clarification and still I got pure goofiness, so we decided not to pursue the permit in light of the Farmers Market Act that said we had the right to sell our produce without paying for permits.

This new phone call was just as goofy. 45 minutes of him reading me rules and regs and then me reading him regs and rules. At one point he interrupts me and says "Yeah yeah yeah, I get that you are anti-government" and I replied  I was NOT anti-government because I had a drivers license which was issued by a government office. He was not amused.

He put a end to our little tete a' tete telling me that if we did not have the store inspected he would seek a judge who would send us a court order to "cease and desist."  any farm store sales and I told him I'd give him my decision in 48 hrs. Keith and I talked for about 5 minutes and decided THIS battle was not one we were going to fight since we had an approaching raw milk battle coming up, we were running short on swords and shields and besides they still had my check for $100. I called Mr. IDPH back and told him he was more than welcome to come inspect our store.

There was a odd noise. I think he swallowed his tongue.

He came yesterday. He looked around, he opened drawers, he checked freezers, he punched a few frozen meat packages. He ignored the raw milk sign on the wall and then he...he...
pronounced our Farm Store "Awesome." One of the best little country stores he had ever seen and he printed out our retail store permit on his handy dandy portable printer which I paid for with last years taxes.

When he had packed up all his do-dads, he turned to me and said "Are you still selling raw milk?"
Suddenly the sky turned deep purple and the earth rumbled beneath my feet. I said "we sure are, its legal to sell it you know."

"Oh yeah, I know, but you can't tell me its really better for you." I told him why I thought it was indeed better than pasteurized milk and then he left. But he didn't buy a single thing. Can you believe it ?!?!

Some people

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Secret Soap Mission...COMPLETED!

You may not have known this, being as it was a secret and all, but I have been on a top secret mission. Even my closest family members had no idea what I was involved in but now that it is over, I am finally free to speak, the bar of soap dislodged from my mouth.

A couple of weeks ago, Oct. 24 to be exact, a soaper I highly respect and whose soaps I lust after, requested volunteers.
Jennifer Young of Jenora Soaps/Naturalmente Mediterraneo needed me, and I was not going to let her down. I volunteered for service leaving those I loved in the dust, literally as I wasn't going to share these soaps with anyone!

I was sent four precious samples under discreet brown paper packaging. These were soaps all made with olive oil but different TYPES of olive oil. I was asked, I still can't believe this part, to give my opinion.

But Jen was not completely honest with me. She did not tell me, or even hint, that the soaps were all PERFECTLY excellent soaps. They even looked exactly the same.

OK, OK, I'll get serious.  Yes, the blue soap is mine. It saw those cute girls from Spain and had to spend a little Spa time with them. The four little soaps Jen sent were the same size but ever so slightly off a shade or two. I took each bar and used them ALL DAY for ALL THINGS. I washed my hands with it, took my shower with it, and washed my hair with it. Even though Jen did not promote these are shampoo bars I thought why not? But in fairness I will not judge them as shampoo bars.

So my testing took 4 days (one day for each soap) and the samples were well worn down by the end of the trial. As a farmer/cook/soaper/writer/model/housewife/pig trainer, I wash my hands many many times each day, after doing some uh--yucky tasks. I wanted to see how they would perform under harsh conditions.

Here are the results.

None of them, not one, was a bad soap. (And I know bad soap, I've made many this first year of soaping) All of them lathered, smelled pleasant or not at all and felt good on my skin. None of them dried my skin but I have fat hands and being well cushioned it takes a lot to dry them.

But ONE of them stood out above the rest. The very best soap, the one I adored was...was...was...

NUMBER THREE ! This little gem had it all. The suds were immediate with very little friction needed, a perfect creamy thickness. I had to use great restraint not to use up all of the bar before my evening shower. I did briefly contemplate a quick bath in the kitchen sink like I used to do with the GK's when they were tiny but then remembered the new sink we bought was deep but not wide.

The scent was non specific but still so light and pleasant but what I loved most was the way it slid around so easily in my hand, like running my hand under a waterfall of silk. It rinsed well and my skin felt so soft, a softness that just got, how can I say it ? Softer as the day went on.

So there you have it, the winner is #3. After that it was a toss up between #'s 1 and 2.  In last place, I am so sorry , was number 4. But even her last place soap (in my opinion) was so much better than my own first place soap.(again just my opinion)  Just goes to prove...I'm no soap artisan, just a partisan. But being given the chance to evaluate a professionals soap was a great experience. Thank you so much Jen for allowing me this opportunity.

Now just watch, all the other testers will say soap # 3 was the worst and # 4 was the best. I will then have to stop blogging publicly about soap making having lost all credibility.

In addition to the test bars, generous Jen also sent nice big hunks of three other bars, Orange Poppy seed, Prickly Pear, and Prickly Pear with the seeds. The wrapping is indescribably perfect. The delicate paper with the geometrically correct triangular corners,  the bright white folded card stock, the petite ingredient labels.

I started sleeping with them from day one.

Unfortunately the GK's noticed the soap bumps in my bed and wanted them. Its my fault entirely, as I give them sample pieces of every new bar of soap I make. So I held a little contest to see which kid could have which soap. Four year old Wes was very happy with his prize.

Seven year old Allana took hers immediately to the tub. I stopped her just before she started to unwrap hers. HORRORS. I was able to substitute the Prickly Pear Soap with the seeds instead. Neither she or I found it too scratchy Jen. Again we have some pretty thick stuff to wash off at the end of our days.

Allana did want to know if we could plant the prickly pear seeds next spring. Can we Jen ? Can we?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

For Love of a Dragon

This evening's sky as seen from
The Midlife Farmwife's back porch

Before I forget....too late, let me think...I was sitting right here at the keyboard, I had just ordered new software to help me finish my book, its called Dragon Naturally Speaking the Premier Version (the software, not my book, my book title is up in the air but several titles are in the running) so I can talk into my little digital voice recorder and then download my story ideas to my PC where Dragon will instantaneously turn it into WORDS on my Microsoft Word Program so I can get this book finished because I was only in HS three years no not because I was a dummy but because I wanted to graduate early and so I never ever took a typing class and I therefore don't really type I mostly hen peck really really fast and then I remembered I lost the cord to connect the voice recorder to the PC so I went back on Amazon and ordered THAT and then checked my email for a receipt and found another  email asking me about participating in


I was going to tell you all about Farmhouse Fridays on The Renegade Farmer. Check it out right here

And we're back. Showed the house to our first prospective buyer today. We've had folks ask us about the farm, and the realtor has had several calls but this was the first serious interest. As we walked around showing all that is going on here it dawned on me how quickly our life might be changing. What if this buyer is THE ONE? What if all we have been planning for, a tinier, simpler life with one vehicle (have not yet killed each other with week one of this) a small scale house and growing food only for ourselves, actually comes true?

Can we really downsize that fast ? Furniture to sell or give away, "trinkets" to throw away or re gift, clothing to pack up and share with those in greater need and 18 years of collections to find homes for.
On top of that a new home must be found. Animals for our new farm must be choosen .Will we rent an apartment while we look or just live in the youngest sons HUGE attached garage as we keep threatening?  Where will the choosen animals stay? Perhaps we will buy an old locomotive car, remodel it into a live able space and park it on some land. Or maybe, we'll buy an old gypsy wagon, hook up the horses who need to learn their keep and just take off know...the county or something. Winter is coming you know, lets not get too drastic about long distance travel.

Or this person  who looked around today will go home and say "No way am I doing all that work, those people are insane!"

Either way, the events of today has given us a ton to think about and thinking about speaking...did I mention the new Dragon Naturally Speaking software I just bought? I forget what it's for but I'm sure my grand daughter will love it. She adores Dragons.

Speaking of which, last week we had a new customer whose first name was Dragon. I kid you not. You know if I was Stephen  King I would turn all these coincidences into another scary novel. I would call it...wait for it...Dragons Lot or was it The Dragon Tower ? Dragon Cemetery?

Someone, just put me to sleep.

                                      Raw Milk Update

No news yet from Mr Bill Beaty at the Illinois Department of Public Health. Our ad in the Bloomington Pantagraph has resulted in four new raw milk customers and two new meat customers. The Kankakee Leader called me yesterday and changed their mind about running our ad (They had told us 3 days ago they could not) They said they now WILL run our ad for raw milk and meat. I don't have any idea why the change of heart but decided not to look a gift horse in the classified mouth. That ad started today so we'll see who in the Kankaee area is looking for raw milk.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Locally Made Best in Trade

I was grumpy yesterday. I blame the weather, all cool and rainy and dark. Like Fall or something. I had so much to do at home but didn't want to go back after being in Pontiac all day. I was missing Ireland. I was tired. I was being a big baby about life

So I stopped at my favorite antique store, The Antique Shoppe, in Fairbury.  I always feel better just walking around in there. The owner Kathy Kuperschmid was having her Christmas Open House. Now keep in mind, I don't do open houses. They usually have all these...uh...people there. Now don't get me wrong, I generally like people, in fact we even have a few people in our own family but as I already said once but you probably weren't listening...I was grumpy yesterday.

But I like Kathy, and her store, so I went in. Now you should know, even though her store was gorgeous I am not going to talk about that here. You can see how beautiful it was on her Facebook Page

Instead I am going to talk about the rarity of customer service. Kathy's staff made sure I found the snacks (Like I needed help to find food. So cute) And they made certain, without being obnoxious, that I found any items I was looking for. Then they were super organized at the checkout counter with one person adding up my purchases while another wrapped them.

And lets  just talk about that wrapping shall we? I did not spend all of last months milk money, I was quite frugal I believe, selecting a few shimmery, silvery ornaments. (Yes, I am part crow, Your should see my nest. No, on second thought you should not)

But Kathy's staff wrapped each of my items as if I'd spent a million bucks, with care and soft paper.

THEN she gave me 20%off  my highest price item. Not the lowest price like so many Mall Rats do but 20% off the highest item. I used that towards a scarf I bought. One that will not be worn in manure land. No, I am not showing you the scarf  'cause you'll want it and you'll call me and email me and who needs that? Just got to Kathy's store and get one yourselves you big bottom feeders you.

As if all that wasn't enough, Kathy sticks a card in my bag for another 20% off any item the next time I come. So, I left feeling all special and giggly as I now had a pretty package to carry and glittery,shiny things to decorate my home with.

Just a good reminder about WHY I shop local more and more and more. Because shop owners like Kathy and her husband Daton (who by the way manages the Local Ace Hardware where I buy all my Lye for soap making) go to the effort to make you feel like you matter. As if they really are glad you came into their store that day.

I hope Keith and I do the same for our customers. If not, tell us. I can't promise I'll be putting bows on your packages of bacon but I can certainly remember to smile more and I feel a 20% off day coming real soon. Stay posted. Now go out there and SHOP LOCAL this Christmas season!

Raw Milk Update

The Bloomington/Normal Pantagraph started running our ad for raw milk last Friday. We have had a few extra calls from interested future customers. The Kankakee Journal will not run our ad and will not tell me why. I'm still waiting for an answer from a supervisor. I have not yet heard back from Mr Bill Beaty at the Illinois Department of Public Health regarding Raw milk laws in Illinois. Our customers have done very well with our increase to $5 a gallon for our raw milk effective Nov. 1 and one customer today spent $90 for milk and meat and gave me $120. He would not accept his change telling me it was in support of all that we do and fight for. Amazed and humbled I was. Grumpy mood all gone. You People...are the best.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Soapy Sunday

Been blogging for 2 and 1/2 years and still terribly unstructured in my posts. But not anymore. From here on out SUNDAY will be Soapy Sunday. No, it will not include bathing of farm animals, nor is it a reference to cleaning my house. That project is so past saving, why bother ? Today I noticed a toothbrush on the floor of our bathroom, in the corner, under a protective cover of spider webs. This means that not only is the house dirty...but someone has not bothered to brush their teeth for awhile. You think YOU are grossed out ?!?

Thus Soapy Sunday can only refer to the act of saponification. Oh how I love that word. If you want to love that word too then you must memorize the following definition. Or not. Just skip to the pictures if you refuse to expand your medulla oblongata.

Saponification is a process that produces soap, usually from fats and lye. In technical terms, saponification involves base (usually caustic soda NaOH) hydrolysis of triglycerides, which are esters of fatty acids, to form the sodium salt of a carboxylate. In addition to soap, such traditional saponification processes produces glycerol. "Saponifiable substances" are those that can be converted into soap.[1]

With Christmas rapidly approaching and several requests for soaps to give as gifts I have turned to hot process to beef up my store stock. The main reason I like HP is you have to really SLAM the mold on the counter very hard to get the soap well packed. I can't help it. It just feels good to SLAM something once in awhile. I was going to call this soap "Christmas Tree" as I used wheat grass powder for the green color and thought I'd get this nice snow on a Evergreen Effect with some titanium dioxide for the top layer.

Apparently I was too stingy with the wheat grass powder. But then I saw something else. A lovely sea green effect. And those waves ! In one bar I swear I saw the image of a sailboat. Maybe you'll see it too. Look closely, its a little hard to make out.

Did you see it ? Cool huh ?
After studying these bars more closely...

Its obvious that "Christmas Tree" doesn't work even though I scented with a fun combo of Pine, Cedar wood, Blood Orange and Eucalyptus essential oils. Instead I'm thinking of something more like "Celtic Sea Waves of  a Benumbing Winter Morn Crashing onto the Shores of Kinvara Bay"

What do you think?

Friday, November 4, 2011

One small step towards debt reduction, one big step for SELF SUFFICIENCY

Last week, the husbands 16 year old Chevy Silverado truck up and died, more or less. Still moved forward at the speed of mud but with a transmission dead in the water.

1996 Chevy bought 6 years ago. Literally worked it to death. 
 Trade in value $400
Which was $399 more than we had hoped.

Estimated cost of repair $3000. Value of truck $2000 if we could sell it to a sightless person. Had a little rust  it did. So we spend a few days looking for another cheap truck, which aren't all that cheap.

That's when I had my epiphany. ( I'm over 50. I'm allowed to have epiphanies whenever I want.)

What if we traded in BOTH our vehicles and in return bought just ONE vehicle for us to share? It would mean only one insurance payment, only one tank to fill with gas, only one car payment, only one vehicle to maintain. And, even better, if we traded down instead of up with our final mode of transportation costing less than the value of our 2010 Ford Transit we could decrease our overall debt load. How about that?!

Our Ford Transit, bought new June2010, traded in Nov. 2011.
Last words uttered by the vehicle "I feel used"
So we started looking at newer trucks. It had to be a truck as we still have to pull a livestock trailer to the locker plant and haul grain, hay, straw and pull grain wagons etc...In a 24 hour span, in between chores, we drove several trucks and then drove one we really liked twice.

And then we did it. Traded in both our vehicles for one shiny red, like new (only 10 years old is like new to pa Ingalls  and me) 2002 Ford F-150 with only 107,000 miles on it. After all numbers were crunched and new loan papers signed, our payment is now $100 LESS than the Transit was. The old truck had been paid off years back.  We were giddy with joy and the brilliance of our plan to save even more money as we prepare for our very simple life of total self sufficiency. We happily went to sleep after a long day of vehicular negotiations.

Red truck new truck old truck green truck

We woke up the next morning screaming.

WHAT HAVE WE DONE?!?!  First of all and most importantly is the radio station pre-set dilemma. I need Jethro Tull and Supertramp on my stations while he wants all talk radio all the time. (I prefer to listen to Rush, Hannity and Levin in the privacy of my own kitchen) Then we have the whole using the cab of the truck as nuclear waste storage area (him) while I feel it is imperative to clean the car after each trip including short jaunts to the mailbox. And what about the height difference? I am built like Roseanne Barr-Arnold-Whoever and hubby resembles Dick Van Dyke. This means constant readjustment to all the mirrors, and the seat. Then there is the glove box battle. In my opinion this is the area to store Motrin, vehicle registration papers, CD's, extra hair do-dads, and emergency boxes of Good and Plenty. In HIS opinion the glove box is for a years worth of Honey-Bun Wrappers, assorted bungee cords, 101 screw drivers, 102 pencils without erasers or lead and crushed pop cans that never make their way to the recycling bin.

Have I ever told you how much I despise recycling?

OK, so say we work out the technical difficulties, now we have scheduling issues.  We are going to have to communicate to make this work. 18 years of marriage where we finally had the whole hand signal/nod/grunt/glare  method perfected and now we will have to (shudder) talk to each other about our plans for the day, for the week even. He can't very well go traipsing off to visit mummy if I have a dinner date with my editor from Random House (HEY! It could happen) now could he?

Honestly, this is going to be a logistics nightmare, a scheduling crisis, a coordination catastrophe. This is going to the 1950's !!!!!!

Ah well, I better get used to it. If we keep downsizing the way we are our next vehicle will be Doolin the donkey and his yellow cart. Where will I store all my CD's then?

                                                    RAW MILK UPDATE

Spoke with the Classifieds Folk at The Pantagraph several times today to come up with a reasonable price for our ad. The rate for any old car sale ad with the number of words we had was $86. to run for two weeks. The paper wanted to charge us $588 because we were a "business" (I had put our web site in the ad). I asked her to talk to her supervisor explaining we were a small family farm. They came back with $158. THAT I could live with. It starts tomorrow and the ad looks like this:

Certified Organic Raw Milk, Beef'
and Pork for sale. No chemicals
No hormones, no antibiotics. Must
bring own container for milk. $5 a
gallon. Meat available by the piece
or by the carcass for best savings.
Visit our farm store at 32796 E.
750 N. Rd  Chatsworth, Illinois
Open 10-6 every day.  Closed Sundays.
Ph (815) 635-3414

I also called (again) Bill Beaty Division Chief at the Illinois Department of Agriculture and asked (again) about the laws regarding raw milk advertising in Illinois and the answers given to NASDA's raw milk survey. He apologized explaining he had staffing issues this week. (MBJ

Oh the wheels on this bus are turning slowly indeed.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Piglet Who Could

If this is your first time to my blog...Welcome ! If this isn't well then once again you have my sincerest apologies for anything I might say or do that is over the edge. It's a long standing habit of mine.

For your first timers...the rest of you just use that handy scroll down thingy on your rat, I mean mouse, whatever. I've only had one pot of coffee, be kind. I am doing the (sing along, its good for you) Getting to know you, getting to know all about you, blog because I am participating in Farm Festival Friday on The Renegade Farmer.  Yes, I am aware it is Thursday. But my editor Zan asked that I do it today and I heart her so I am doing it today. May I continue ?

Its a wonderful way to promote your own farm oriented blog. And by "farm" you'll be happy to know the definition is quite broad. Read all about it here.

I am 52, and work full time farming with my husband Keith. Mother to 4 and Yaya to 3. We and the bank, own a small certified organic dairy, beef and pork farm. We sell raw milk, beef and pork carcasses and meat by the cut in our farm store in order to make ends meet. Our customer base includes a few restaurants, a few grocery stores, over a hundred raw milk customers and even more individuals who visit our farm store. I also write part time and make soap when I need a manure break.

I used to be an RN, retiring last year from that gig after 25 years of pure joy working with physicians who still thought I should give them my seat whenever they entered the nurses station. I never budged.

Our farm is for sale.

WHAT ?!?! Yes, life is good and we are ready for something even better, even smaller. You can read about it here

Now lets get back to important stuff like Gimpy the Piglet. I blogged about her awhile back. Born with a deformed back leg we worried about her ability to keep up, her ability to support the weight of her rapidly growing body and we worried about her comfort level.

We're strange farmers that way. Our animals are (primarily) raised for meat but we feel strongly they need to have good lives until that last walk (trailer trip) down the Green Mile. So we've been watching Gimpy for signs that she should be a roaster hog instead of a whole hog carcass.

Yesterday I watched her hang with her mother Spot

Spot, mama pig and 6 week old babies
Spot, in the middle of the ring, is weighing in around 600 pounds and our official 'Guard Pig." She actually barks, sort of, when something isn't right on the farm. You have to see and hear it to believe it. From day one she has treated baby Gimpy as if there was nothing wrong. As good a mom as Forrest Gump had. And since Gimpy was never told she was handicapped, she never acted the part.

Here she is running like the wind

Add Caption (Stop telling me to add a caption. If I wanted to I would have)

Finally she stops long enough for me to capture a picture of her affected back leg. She rests her weight on it when standing and keeps it elevated when running. In the 6 weeks I have known her I have never heard her complain. She does not ask for special privileges and my offer to build a ramp for easier access into her hutch was declined. She is a bit of a hero here on South Pork Ranch.


Today South Pork Ranch starts advertising their raw milk in the local newspaper.
 We refuse to be afraid of our own government.
Get those coins ready for bail money.