Saturday, March 31, 2012

Somatic Cell Count...Why you should care

Raw Milk is very hot...even though it is best served cold, unless you are making hot chocolate and then hot is OK.

What I really mean to say before I was distracted by my own self, raw milk is very popular . Folks are talking about it, arguing about it, protesting about it and sadly being arrested for selling it. Either the government is telling you you'll be dead 10 seconds after the vile stuff passes through your esophagus burning a path of destruction as it goes, OR the health food fanatics are telling you raw milk will grow back your amputated limb.

We believe it's health benefits are somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. We also believe the choice to drink raw milk should be an educated one, not an emotional one. Do your research, read the blogs, scan the studies, talk to your nurse practitioner, doctor, chiropractor, mail lady and then...

Check the Somatic Cell Count.

If you are buying raw milk directly from a farmer you should understand that the Somatic Cell Count is one method of assessing cow health, and healthy cows produce healthy milk. Just because it is legal in some states, like Illinois, to sell raw milk doesn't mean every dairy farmer SHOULD sell raw milk. I know it is the thin, wockety limb I crawl out on, but...some farms are not clean enough to be selling raw milk. There I said it. ,

So if you want to buy and consume raw milk you need to do a little work. Spend some time at the farm. How much manure are cows standing in ? How often is the barn cleaned? How clean is the lot where cows eat? How often (if ever) do you see them on pasture. The more grass time the better.

Look at the cows themselves. Some manure on lower legs is to be expected. Coating their bellies? Not good. Do they seem to like their farmer? Do they come when he calls? Do they approach him when he or she enters the pasture?  Do they wink at you? Cows that wink are happy.

What about the tank room ? The floor should be clean (unless you are visiting during milking time and traffic in the room is high), the hoses you use should smell good, not like old milk and the milk tank should show a temp of 42 degrees or less.

Then you need to ask the farmer about his Somatic Cell Count . Somatic cell count (SCC) measures the white blood cells or leukocytes and is an indicator of the quality of  the milk. The number of somatic cells increases in response to pathogenic bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus,  a cause of mastitis or inflammation of the cows udder.

 Generally a lower somatic cell count indicates better animal health  and most state guidelines for Grade A dairies require that the SCC  shall be not more than one million (1,000,000) cells per milliliter. Some require less than 750,000.

Our herds last SCC was 160,000.

When we were a Grade A Dairy with the state of Illinois, our milk was tested regularly but when we told the state we only wanted to sell directly to the consumer, not through a middle man milk company, they told us Bye Bye. They said they no longer would even consider us as a dairy and took us off all their lists. They refused to survey us anymore.

Fine by us.

We began surveying ourselves, following all the rules even though not required to. And we have our milk regularly tested by an independent lab in Peoria.

We would like our SCC to  be lower and we will continue to strive for that, but 160,000 still makes us happy. We attribute the low results to cows being on pasture where they are "exposed" to fresh air and soft dirt. We also feel strongly that our herds 100% grass fed status has improved their health overall.  In addition we do a very very risky thing that few dairy farmers do anymore; we allow visitors to the farm.

There is this odd belief in the conventional dairy that to keep your animals healthy you have to greatly decrease their exposure to anything harmful, including humans. Visitors to these farms must wear booties and gloves and sometimes even jackets and masks. We, on the other hand think it better to built up our cows immune system (through organic feed and real earth for beds) thus giving them the ammo they need to fight off common bacteria.

Its the same reason we allowed our kids to play barefoot in the sandbox and eat cookies that have fallen on the floor. We don't cry about spilled milk but we sob over wasted cookies.

So, if indeed you have made that decision to drink raw milk ask your farmer about his Somatic Cell Count. It is not the ONLY way to ensure that you are drinking milk from healthy animals but it is a great place to start.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Bees Knees and heads and legs and wings....

It's Spring and we have big plans for the farm. To get the season rolling, we are hosting an all day OPEN FARM on April 21st and I expect all my blog followers, yes even those of you who live in quaint villages like Trelawnd, Forrest,  Peyrot, and Chicago to attend.

The day will be filled with farm tours, pasture walks, and hands on animal husbandry.The main attraction will be Zan Asha herself, all the way from New York, to teach participants how to bee-keep without chemicals.

Zan is...beyond fun.

She is one of a kind and once you hear her teach about non-chemical ways to raise bees you'll be converted and if not converted you will at least be entertained and you will certainly get your moneys worth. For just $50 per class you will hear Zan tell of her own adventures raising bees in the biggest of cities via the rooftop. She will share methods passed down to her from her WW II era European grandfather as well as other tidbits she has learned in her fantastic travels (most recently via horse drawn wagon) across our beautiful country. Learn how to work with bees based on their behavior, WITHOUT the use of pesticides or chemicals


Organic Beekeeping 101 (Beginner's): 10:30a - 1:30pm
Learn the basics of beekeeping: the history of beekeeping, standards of bee society and behavior, set up of hives, various hives including topbar hives, basic bee care, organic answers to pests and more!

Organic Beekeeping 102 (Advanced): 2-5pm
For the more experienced beekeeper, this class discusses progressive organic techniques in keeping bees, including splitting hives, swarming and swarm prevention, advanced disease prevention, honey harvesting and marketing, varietal honey and more!

$50/person/per class

To register and pay for one or both of the classes please go to Zan's site

Payment will also be accepted that day (CASH only) and walk-ins are very welcome.
Tours of the farm are FREE and our farm store will be open. Items for sale include cage free chicken, free range eggs, all natural hand made soaps, GMO free popcorn, organic beef, and pork. Raw milk will also be available for purchase but you will need to bring your own container.

For more information, about these classes, the tours or our farm, please call us at 815-635-3414 or email us at opies99

For directions to our farm please go to our web site

To read a great interview of Zan done by Writer/Farmer/Fellow Central Illinois Blogger
Deborah Nieman go to Deborah's blog
Zan will be teaching the same bee classes at that farm the next day if you can't make it to our place.

Hope to see LOTS of you here on our farm April 21st !!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

From the Ground up

I am really enjoying my new camera.

Having lots of fun trying out new angles

The increased speed is amazing

It was quiet and peaceful just lying in the warm grass.  
Most of my subjects found my position entertaining

Until they realized it was milking time

Opps. I've been discovered

So, break time is over and Keith rounds up the girls

Some are less cooperative than others and need clear direction

How did you spend your spring day?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tracking the Porterhouse

Honestly, if it weren't for family, I'd have far less to blog about. Not too long ago another well intended but highly misinformed family member commented about our dairy/ beef operation. When they asked me, "How are things?" and I commented "Busy" they said, "It can't take that long to throw a few bottles to some calves can it?" And I said...nothing, because it's not their fault really.

Unless you live, eat and breathe our farm like we do, you can't possibly understand what's involved. To folks who see the nicely presented  Porterhouse Steak in it's vacuum packed, clearly labeled, certified organic package it might seem a simple enough process to raise a beef or two.

Truth is, it takes some time, and a large amount of paper, because I LIKE paper. I like charts, I like calenders, I like tables of information  and I LOVE clipboards to hold the paper that holds the information. And have you seen some of those really cute paperclips with the molded flower petals? Love those too.

Granted, I could keep it all organized on the computer but I don't trust computers any more than my parents trusted answering machines. Which is why they jumped up to answer the phone no matter what they were doing. And I do matter what they were doing.

The process from calf to steak goes like this on our wee farm. Calf is born. Information about the birth is recorded in the cow log book or on a piece of paper towel, whichever is handiest. The info about the calf is transcribed in my "Calf Book." The info about the mama is recorded in the "Big Cow Book" 

For the next 2-3 months while the calf is bottle fed twice a day by us, we also record any illnesses and organic treatments. In addition we record when it is castrated, ear tagged and the date it is weaned from the bottle and turned into a its first group pasture. We have to be able to prove that each dairy/beef animal is on pasture at least 120 days a year for organic certification.

Then the animals growth is recorded in the Big Book by Keith. There he records first heats, breeding's, first calving, any health issues as an adult animal and anything else that strikes his fancy.
Sometimes he writes his wish list for Big R in there but don't tell anyone. Around 18 months of age or 1000 pounds, whichever comes first, appointments are made for the locker and the real paperwork begins.

I will first consult our waiting list of customers and contact them. And I will record when I contacted them and HOW I contacted them. If they are ready for beef their name is recorded on my master meat sheet. Then , if there is any meat left to sell I will post it on Facebook and or in our farm store.

Customers will call or email me and then send in their deposits which are recorded in our Quicken computer fiance system and on the invoice that gets sent out after the meat is picked up by the customer. I also record all important customer info like address, email, phone, locker date on my "Pending Orders" log.

The animals are loaded for the locker the night before since it is a 70 mile trip one way to the main locker we use and must be at the locker early in the morning. I copy all the customer names and phone numbers onto our "Locker Instruction" sheet. Keith gives this sheet to the locker plant staff so they know who will be calling them with cutting orders, or they use it to call those customers who forget to call the locker. Like me sometimes.

Later that day I will call the locker and get the animal weights, which I record on MY copy of the Locker instruction sheet. Since we charge our customers by the hanging weight in pounds, I need this info to generate an invoice. I also record the exact animal ID number, and customer name on my Locker Activity Log.

This way I know when the animal has gone to the locker and when I can expect it back . After I know the meat is ready at the locker for customer pickup, I complete the invoice , print a copy and mail it to the customer. But, not all the meat is sold to customers. Some meat comes back to our store (to be sold direct to customers who come to our farm or to be packed at a later date and delivered to one of the four grocery stores we serve)  and must be given a lot number for tracking. These lot numbers are handwritten on each and every package , by Keith or I, as we put the meat away in our store freezers. Some weeks we put away 400 packages of meat.

Yes, we tried a stamp, the ink smeared, so we went to back to the permanent marker. It's time consuming but it works.

In the store, we record by hand, each piece of meat sold and the price. We do not have a computer in our store or even an electronic cash register. It's just not in the budget at this time. So its all recorded on a carbonless Sales Order Form, just one more piece of paper. At the end of the day (or after 2-3 days depending on what else I've gotten tied up with) all the sales slips are hand carried into the house and recorded in our Quicken system. (We've tried to get the pet Turkey to take the sales slips up to the house but turns out he really is as dumb as he looks)

Please, don't get me wrong. We chose this way of life and we enjoy it almost all the time, we just wish our families would keep some of their thoughts to themselves sometimes. What do they think this is ? A free country?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saponification Sunday...Dear Amy, I failed.

Last week Amy Warden,  challenged any soaper who wanted to play, to a soap challenge involving an in the pot swirl. She suggested we use at least one more color than we normally did. Sure, I thought, I think I can handle that.

Not so much.

I followed my regular recipe of babassu, olive , coconut and castor oil. I checked it against the lye calculator and I choose EO's that I thought would be fresh and fun. I infused my plant materials for 24 hours because I wanted them to mix well. I, in fact, infused LOTS of plants  and herbs as still undecided as to what combo I would use.

I did know I had only done a two color swirl before so this time I was going for the big THREE. (Some participants had used 10-12 and even 15 different colors. I was not one of those folk) After flipping several coins and a couple of chickens, they flip easier than cows, I decided on French Red Clay, Orange Peel and Annetto powders. They are the the bottom row, left to right.

I measured, mixed and poured and dropped some color into my pot on top of the plain soap . The orange peel powder and annatto powder  became nearly impossible to tell apart while The French red clay powder took on a purplish color. Was this a reaction to being mixed into the soap or did I space out mid-stirring and pick up the wrong pots of color?

Hard to imagine I used to manage 55 staff at one time isn't it?

With my three colors looking like just two, I worked hard NOT to over swirl. I poured into my high tech diaper wipe mold and then swirled just a little more on the top. I decided not to towel wrap as afraid some of my colorants might get too hot. I plopped it in the frig instead. I waited for 24 hours to cut, a long wait for me.

But when I unmolded, it was soft, really really soft. Especially the bottom, and the colors were mushy and muddy. I almost tossed it in the crock pot to rebatch but I resisted and waited, or the phone rang and I forgot.

Now, when I look at the above photo it looks greasy doesn't it? Perhaps my lye calculation was incorrect or I didn't mix well enough. Four days later I cut a few bars. Still on the soft side, the really, really soft side.

And speaking of soft bottoms aren't these guys the funniest? Four acres to run on just behind them but what do they do? Pile up on top of each other, soft bottoms and funny faces everywhere.

Back to soap, the bars were so soft...So soft the bars STUCK to my knife. (Yes, one day I'll get a real soap cutter and a real mold. Back of mine, off please.)

But the colors that originally looked quite muddy were a little brighter or maybe my meds were just kicking in. I waited two more days to cut the rest of the batch and although still soft there is a possibility this bar may be a keeper.


If not I have other plans for it, that is if I can ever get it unstuck from my knife.

Playdoh comes to mind.

Thanks Amy. After making this in the pot swirl it became quite obvious I was "challenged." Better luck next time, she said to herself.

To read more about Amy's challenge...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Clouds In My Coffee

Everything is up in the air right now, most specifically, the clouds. Marcha, here in Central Illinois, has been full of record breaking days with temps in high 70's and even low 80's, better than some Junes we've had in the past. With the shift in pressures will come storms and rain, making for times of uncertainty. Do we plant or do we wait?

We are doing both. A couple of days ago Keith dug up the flower bed by the milk house while I filled it with numerous flower seeds. They might come up and they might not. Or they will come up and the weather will reverse back to normal and the seedlings will be frostbitten and die, or buried under snow or blown apart by tornadoes.

Hmmmm. Seems like someone needs a nap.

You see, our whole life right now is a big packet of flower seeds. With the farm being for sale do we assume (like last year at this time) it might sell quickly therefore no need to plant any gardens, or do we assume no one is really interested in buying our organic farm business so we might as well accept the fact we are going to be here until we're the ones pushing up the daisies. And if that is the case then I best get on the phone and call all the authorities because several of us still would like to see a family graveyard built (dug?) on our farm.

Do we tear down the old goat barn, contact that lovely young couple named T & J who wanted to harvest the old wood for a pub room in their own house, or do we prop it up with another old steel girder and hope it makes it through another year?

Do we expand the farm store that has grown in activity and revenue steadily the last 6 months or do we focus on adding on a bathroom and turning it into our retirement home and renting the big house to young people with strong backs and unending enthusiasm.?

Do we increase the Red Wattle herd, decrease the Red Wattle herd or just use the boar Mad Max as a substitute for Pony Rides at $10 a pop?

Do we decrease the dairy to 5 cows ? 7 cows ? And if we have less cows do we run more hogs on the pastures or less hogs and more chickens or do we just turn it all into mini-bike trails like our 3 boys, now full grown men wanted us to do over a decade ago? So speaking of trails...should they run clockwise or counter-clockwise?

And what about my book? Where can I find MORE time to finish it? In the morning (HA! Will never happen. Hate mornings) or the afternoon or the evening and then who will keep the toilets and bathtub gleaming the way I like? The have never gleamed before but that's not the point.

Do you all now see what I mean? This unusual warm weather has everything all messed up.

Especially me.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Turkey Without a Country

He was a gift.

The kind that should be immediately returned but you lose the receipt and weeks go by and you decide it's just easier to keep it. At first he was sweet and tiny and cute and because he was cared for by humans alone he imprinted all over us. Then winter ended and he was set loose out of the chicken pen.

Yes, we raised him with a bunch of baby chickens and a few orphan pea chicks and its no wonder he has serious identification issues. Although he's known me many months, when he saw me last week it was like his first time. I was immediately saluted.

It was on from that moment. He follows me all over the yard with his constant feather rattling and red neck giblets dangling.

If I go to the barn he goes to the barn. If I go to the house, he goes to the house. Pushing kids on the tire swing? Surre he's right there. Just about gets himself beheaded as he struts back and forth in front of the swinging Goodyear.Not all that different from my HS years. Many a turkey was attracted to me back then as well.

But, he wasn't  the only one in a good mood this week. Just check out the dueling peacocks.

Who would keep at it all day if they could.

Really, the colored guy isn't as impressive as you think. He had a lot of help from a strong southerly wind. Overall, I have to vote for the ghostly fellow.

And then Keith comes along and Mr Birdbrain Turkey suddenly abandons me for something in long pants. Most fickle pair of drumsticks I have ever known.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Saponification Sunday...International Fame

With over 5 decades behind me, I've been called many names. I would estimate 97% of them were accurate. I have never, however been called, (you might want to tell your minor children to leave the room) a" Maitre-Savoneur."

Yes, I know, seems harsh, but as I said most names I have been called, are deserved. This one however is beyond me. Literally. Six years of French, 3 in grade school, 3 in HS, were not helpful in ascertaining the meaning of this label. But looking at it in context, it seems to mean "Maker of soap." How about that?

Maitre-Savoneur looks so much better than "Soap Maker" and I have my blog friend Cro to thank for my new international fame. Since his post about my soap our lives have been rocked with TV crews, news helicopters hoping to actually view me in the soap making process, and authors wanting first chance at my bibliography.

In addition, my non-soap store is growing with several more orders via email. A school in Chicago is going to use my soap (80 bars) for a fundraiser and the gang at St James bought out a basket of my soap my daughter Raven brought to work. The best part is...This is just a hobby for me, the volume of which I have complete control over and the making of all this soap is pure fun. The first hobby I have had where income is over expenses ( by almost $20 !) How unexpected. Of course this week I need to order more oils and the balance will shift dramatically. Overall though,

The Soapy Life is Good.

However...This weeks creation was not as perfect as I would have liked. Fame has obviously already gone to my head and I became careless. Too much Titanium Dioxide. Lured into the desire for a crisp clean whiter bar I went overboard. When I cut it,  the bar was fine for the upper 2/3 and then crumbled slightly at the bottom. TD sure can heat things up and even though I plopped the soap in the frig for 24 hours I still had a slight gel in the middle.

The bits and bobs of other soaps made it playful enough and 3 days after making,  it created a smooth lather so I'll be able to keep most of it. Photos always show off imperfections and although I'd like to just showcase my best specimens, truth is, most of my specimens are highly imperfect. Looking back over the months I do see (and feel) improvements so I will trudge forward.

I was very brave with my EO's this week, combining Sweet Orange, Grapefruit, Patchouli, Lavender, and Geranium Rose in small amounts. It was sweet but not overly so. The Patchouli grounded it well. So now tell me, you other more experienced soap makers much TD do you use per pound of oils? Many thanks and have great week !

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Renegade DAIRY Farmer

The Following Article was written for this Saturdays Issue  (3/17/12) of The Renegade Farmer
For those followers who already know our story I apologize for this "rerun"
For new followers to my blog on and THANKS for coming aboard!

13 years ago when my husband and I started our Grade A Dairy, folks gave us funny looks. We had not come from dairy families. We had not inherited our dairy.  Statistically, licensed dairy farms had decreased from 131,509 in 1992 to 87,527 in 1999* the year we began. We had strong knowledge of what it means to run a dairy (my husband had worked for other dairy farmers for over a decade) and yet, we still bought a farm, built a barn, and filled it with cows.


Because it was my husbands dream that's why. He always wanted to own his own dairy farm and run it his way. So, we did.  Each of our cows were given a name, all of them had distinct personalities and my husband enjoyed being his own boss. Some days it went well, but over time our dairy farm turned sour. We liked what we did but hated the low pay dairy farmers often received for the 24/7 commitment. Since milk prices were set by beurocratic folks out of touch with real farmers, our milk checks were often far below our milk expenses.

More and more small dairy farms around us began closing their doors. Dairy cows were slaughtered for the families freezer or bought up by the Megafarms. From 1999 to 2009 licensed US Dairies decreased by ANOTHER 32, 595 farms.* We considered the same course.

Frustrated, we explored organic certification. It was a good fit with our beliefs about holistic, non-chemical and humane care of our herd, and 10 years into our lives as conventional dairy farmers, we transitioned. Organic certification further improved the health of our cows and our land but unfortunately made no difference in our milk checks. We were a small farm in an area of very few dairy farms and NO other organic dairy farms. The organic milk companies felt we were too small to mess with, not worth the gas needed to pick up our milk.

And still all around us and in our own state of Illinois, more dairy farms bit the dust. But  instead of following the trend we came up with something virtually un-"herd" of in the dairy world, the removal of Mr. Middle Man. Two years ago we started selling our milk ONLY to individuals who came to our farm, jug in hand. We showed them how to get the milk from our tanks and then we charged them FOUR times the amount the conventional milk company had been paying us. We weren't being greedy, we were just getting our income caught up with our expenses for the first time in years.

Our customers were happy because our charge for a gallon of milk was still HALF what they were paying for organic milk in the store.  Plus, the raw, 100% grass fed milk they bought from us was less than 24 hrs in the tank, more often only out of the cow 6-8 hours before it ended up in their own refrigerators. We had enough money to pay our  bills and our customers had found a place to buy the product they wanted for far less than they had been paying for milk sitting on the shelves for days and days.

Were we geniuses ? Rocker Scientists ? No. If we were we would have come up with this solution much earlier. We're just a couple of farmers who, when they found themselves with their backs up against the wall...took their small dairy business in their own hands.

Our cows, and nearly 100 raw milk customers a month, are glad we did.

* as reported in Hoard's Dairyman March 10, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I need a few annuals please...

To fill up this monstrosity

See it?  Just in front of the silver car? To the right of the garage ? No? What are you? Middle-aged or something? Wait. I'll get closer.

Is that better?  So what is it ? An Art Deco bus stop? Well, I think it must be a planter of some sort. I'm not sure. I made a delivery to Green Grocer today in Chicago and then decided to go for a nice walk around the neighborhood, and there it was. So, I had to get even closer to see those hangy things, hanging down...

Oh, lights. They're lights. Sort of War of the Worlds looking huh? Yeah me too. Made of metal and colored glass. And check out the scrolling metal vine work. Sooo cool

The body itself was metal squares all beautifully aged into a fantastic patina. But how was I going to get this thing home to my new garden, the one I am making out of recycled materials. Yes, I am aware that stealing in not technically the same as recycling but maybe I could make the owners a deal.

I own a bunch of pigs you know, and a genuine miniature donkey, and a turkey who stalks me day and night that I would REALLY like to get rid of. 

So I went up to the gate.

Hmmmm, now that I look at it, this thing reminds me of...of...YEAH ! The gate at Graceland. I don't do country (yes, that's what I said I don't do country, I do Bad Company, Supertramp and lately some fine Adele but not country, OK I do folk but thats not the same. Folk artists don't whine.) Yup, all this gate needed was a couple of huge musical notes. So back to finding the owner of the big planter device.

Problem was, I couldn't find a doorbell or even a man made knocker. I mean a door of this size should have pretty big knocker shouldn't it? (That will be enough out of you Frau Blucker) I looked from this angle...

And I looked close up.

No knocker, so I guess the mystery vase stays in Chicago , on Ohio street in the West Town neighborhood. Sure would love to know the history of this piece. Anyone ? Anyone?

In the meantime I just ask around the neighborhood. There was more than one fine entryway in this neighborhood.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bye Bye Big Tank

Isn't she cute all shiny and petite like? No, not the farmer on the right, I'm talking about the new (old) milk tank. As we continue to downsize our farm and work towards the goal of living on much less, we started with the dairy. Currently milking 12 cows with a goal of milking only 5 by June, we no longer needed the big tank we had when we were milking over 20 cows a day. (We've always been a small dairy farm, now we are just smaller still)

The tank above was our first milk tank when we started the dairy in 1999. Then we outgrew it as we sold more and more milk to Foremost, losing more and more money. We had cows, we had milk but we had no control over what we were paid for our milk. Some years as low as $10 cwt (for every HUNDRED pounds of milk.)  In the good years it rose as high as $17 cwt. We still lost money as price of feed always ran ahead of price paid for milk.

So the small tank went out in the yard. For years I wanted hubby to get rid of it , sell it, just get it off the farm. But he held tight to it. Used it to store grain. Worked well for that. Sort of like he always knew we'd need it again one day.

Then two years ago in April we went rogue and stopped selling to Foremost and started selling only direct to customers. Today we charge just $5 a gallon for raw, certified organic, 100% grass fed milk meaning we receive approx. $62 cwt. (Based on the fact that a gallon of milk weighs about 8 pounds)  We make a small profit after paying for all our organic hay and bedding. Leftovers are fed to pigs which also give us a fair profit as long as you don't figure out what you are paid hourly :)

But, it all takes time, precious time that the two of us cannot create out of thin air. Yes, we have tried.

So, as we cut back, we have less milk and need less space to store it. So out with the huge tank that took up 2/3 of our milk room above and in with the old, now new again tank. It took a couple weeks at the electricians shop to get up and going again but here it is...up and going.

And just LOOK at all that room our milk customers have for their coolers, their kids, their mother-in-laws and whoever else is wonderful enough to help them get the raw milk they want so badly.

Thank you honey for holding on to the small milk tank. I never should have doubted you. Wish I could say it will never happen again but we both know who we're dealing with here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sophies Choice

Mama's Boy

We started raising Red Wattle hogs three years ago. Still listed by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy as "Critically Endangered" we thought we'd like to do our part to increase their numbers. To date there are still less than 2000 of them in the entire world.

Of those 2000, South Pork Ranch is home to 17 of the gentle giants. They are cool pigs, but we have found some of the females to be on the quirky side.

Sophie is one of the quirky ones. Her first litter produced 10 wonderful babes and just one died a few days after farrowing. She was a great mother to the remaining group. Her second farrowing went differently. She had another beautiful litter and all went well until day three when mysteriously...all but one remained.

Her story was flimsy. Granted Sasquatch has been filmed in some parts of the Northwest but not so much in central Illinois. Tracks of the mighty half man, half gorilla were not found near her hutch, unless the hairy beast has taken to wearing rubber boots, the only tracks found anywhere near Sophie's house of ill repute. Hey ! If you suddenly "lose" a group of piglets your home becomes ill-reputed in my eyes. I'm judgemental that way.

Sophie, too busy scratching herself to answer
questions about her missing piglets

So, the case grows cold in front of our very eyes as Sophie focused all her motherly love on one spoiled mamma's boy. Yes, just one male remained and having every single one of Sophie's teats to himself, he has grown fat and sassy since his arrival 4 weeks ago. He also has all the makings for good breeding stock so we left him uncastrated. Oddly just a few days later we got a phone call from a farmer IN NEED of another Red Wattle Boar.

Two wattles, Nice ears, all good reasons
for letting this Baby Red Wattle
keep his pigjigglies.

SOLD. Baby boy will go to his new owner in a few weeks after he is weaned.

So , now we have that tough decision to make. Sophie has had one good litter where she proved herself well. Followed by another litter where several piglets are still unaccounted for. Did she consume them out of boredom? Sell them on the black Red Wattle market and pocket the cash for herself? Do we believe her far fetched Sasquatch fable and give her another chance or do we make her into one large batch of cheddar brats?


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Saponification Sunday

I am home. Wasn't gone long. Didn't go far but home feels good. And speaking about things that feel BAD !

Hotel soap is bad. Of course staying at the Ramada for 50 clams, one is lucky to get any soap but still...I remember the old days when I would be either attending nursing conferences or in my heyday, speaking at nursing conferences (cancer pain control) I was very thrilled to be put up in a hotel.

Rose Soap in Mold

I come from family that slept in the back seat of the wood sided station wagon on road trips, there was no fancy dancy motel, let alone a HOTEL. Nope, the folks took turns driving and we kids took turns fighting over who got to sleep on the back seat VS the floor of the back seat. So, I was well into my 30's before I learned about the word concierge.

And when I got to those fine hotels I am just a tad embarrassed to tell you, I stuffed all the hotel soap and shampoo and conditioner in my paper bag, I mean Samsonite, that I could fit. No, I never took towels...that would be stealing.

Rose Soap sitting in Rescued Miter Box

Yesterday was the first time I DID NOT want to take home any soaps. I did not even want to use them and was kicking myself all over the place singing "we will we will rock you", never mind, I was just upset for not remembering to bring along some of my own soap.

My skin has been paying for it all day. Dry and tight, not the extra firming wasn't a little welcome, but when my eyes starting bulging out and running into my bangs, I knew the soap had tightened my skin over the limit. So as soon as I got home I threw some of my homemade soap into the travel kits I keep stocked at all times. Because you never know when Aer Lingus is going to call and say "You just won a free trip to Galway leaving tonight ! Grab your Bags," that's why.

Rose Soap Tower

This weeks soap was a special order from my sister Peg who asked for "something in a rose please." So I colored with a tiny bit of pink french clay and scented with geranium rose EO. I left it in the frig for 3 days and then cut it on day 8. Not because that was the plan mind you, I just got distracted with farm frolics. It cut great. Smells like a spring garden and I believe the seester will approve. My first shabby chic soap.

Random Rooster painted during
my rooster period
I also mailed soap to several followers this week who had helped me name my beer soap from last week. It is a blast to go into the Chatsworth post and mail off packages to France, Spain, California, Canada and the best one of all METAMORA ! I feel so wordly. Imagine how I would feel if I actually visited those places?

I'd feel broke.

Rose Soap On Bottom Of Miter Box.

Now, all my antique blog friends out there, listen up.  What is your opinion on my new soap cutter? I found this wooden miter box at a resale shop in El Paso, Illinois. The original price was $2 but they were having a clearance sale that day so I paid only TEN CENTS ! Tell me your opinion.

Rose Soap that needs a more creative
name than Rose Soap but no, not via
a contest as you people
are sucking me dry of soap.

 How old? Any value? Shall I keep cutting soap or give it to my son to list it on his EBAY store.? You know your opinions mean the world to me, unless of course you disagree with me.

Miter Box Side. Rose Soap MIA. And how
exactly does a rabbet cut wood anyway?