Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Antiques and Boutiques

So you may have heard, the old man, my old man, who has the nerve to look anything but old, turned 50 this month. Due to prior commitments, two funerals and a wedding specifically, the actual celebration for said old man was put on hold.

But finally, due to the willing nature of Jason-Son, who took over chore duties, I was able to whisk the 50 year old (who annoyingly still looks 30) away for the weekend. He knew we were headed to Galena, Illinois a Deadwood -esque village where houses are stacked up on hill sides and nights are spent worried about earthquakes, but with less gambling joints and more wineries; but he did not know of the two pit stops I had planned.

The first was LeClaire , Iowa, home of our favorite American Pickers, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz and their acerbically brilliant  sidekick slash office manager Danielle Colby AKA "Dannie D". We arrived Friday afternoon ( a three hour drive north of our farm) just as the film crews were winding up. The show has become wildly popular on the History Channel these last couple of years. Crowds were abundant that day we arrived, but other than a B and B expecting us sometime that eve, we had no where to go.

As time passed, excitement built. Paparazzi began to appear everywhere.

The crowd slickens

So like the rest of the Antique Archeology groupies, we got all caught up in the drama of the moment. Comparing notes from the show we all watched, having our pics taken alongside the jalopy in front of the store made famous by the show etc...

Weird how life evolves. 35 years ago I was screaming down the house at Led Zeppelin Concerts, stealing bottles of beer off Three Dog Night stages (because Cory Wells lips touched it That's WHY!!) and now here I was all goo- goo eyed over a couple of middle age junk men. Tastes do change.

But have you seen Mike Wolfe in a leather jacket?  'Nough said. (Google it yourself. He's all copyrighted you know)

I'm A bit worried about fellow picker Frank though. Wearing portable O2 I overheard another fan say he was recently hospitalized. Get well soon Frank, you're the stable Mable in that menage a ' bazaar that makes up the American Pickers group.

Frank Fritz on the right making a deal with a couple
trying to sell him their vintage Harley.
How do you know? They could be Harley Owners.
Yes they could.
Yes. They.

Oh yeah, this couple wanted to sell the guys their grandmothers Red Transfer ware China. Apparently it was complete with a gravy boat! How do you know? They could own
a formal china setting for 12.
Yes they could.
Yes. They.
Facing a long wait we walked across the street to 4 Miles 2 Memphis, the boutique owned by Danielle Colby herself. Fun stuff she had in there. Apparently Ms. Colby does more than just man the phones and track down good picks for the guys. She also runs her own Burlesque Show, designs a line of clothing and jewelry and manages this quirky store that looked a little bit like my own dining room. Hmmmmmmm.

Chandeliers and Leather. LOVE IT

Sadly the lady of the hour was not present but her shop was well manned, I mean, ladied, by her co-horts who were happy to take my money for a "Queen of Rust" T-shirt I had to have. They were also very gracious about having their picture taken with me. Yes, I know the three of us could be triplets.

Can you spell 'dowdy?" Just how I felt after seeing this shot. When did I start looking like such a...such a....such a GRANDMOTHER?!?!?! Well at least I'm tan. Unable to meet Danielle herself I consoled myself with a facsimile. It's OK. The shop gals said I could.

 4 Miles 2 Memphis  (named after son Miles and daughter Memphis) was filled with GRRRRRL Power t-shirts , cowboy boots , antique Singer Sewing Machines and quirky jewelry. Perfect timing as I have been feeling so blue about my house being unkempt, undecorated and uncool. When I left this shoppe I felt that maybe if I just found myself an old birdcage or two I'd feel better. (24 hours later I did! More on that later)

Soon enough we could see action across the street. Crowds were being allowed to move forward.
We strolled back and shoved our way to the front. (With 50% of the crowd over 60 and at least 60% of the crowd using walkers, canes and motorized Scooters "shoving" was unnecessary. ) Without further adieu we entered...

My only complaint: The shop itself was too small. After waiting about 20 minutes after filming ceased, a diverse crowd (bikers, slackers, stalkers as well as pickers) was allowed into a petite ex-garage to visualize lots of familiar items seen on previous shows.

Their was a definite affinity for bikes, trikes (I believe mostly Mikes) as well as some premo skulls. No skeletons in these guys closets, they're all out on the shelves dolled up with cool biker goggles.

Keith is not the crowd lover I am, being as I was raised on North Ashland and he was raised on the North side of any rural route, so he went back outside after a couple minutes while I enjoyed the gang of followers as well as the great old stuff all over the shop. My only (other) disappointment was the lack of price tags and the lack of staff.  OK, I guess that is three concerns but still...I loved everything else.

Would have liked to have bought a little souvenir tidbit but didn't want to go through the trouble of manhandling my way through that vicious crowd again with that wire basket I really wanted, only to find out they picked  it for $4 and wanted $80 for it. Hey, I've seen the show.

So, soon enough I bailed and we headed father north to Galena.
Which I'll tell you about later this week. And after that Miss Effies. No, she is not another  member of Dannie D's Burlesque Troupe but she does do a mean garden dance! Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Saponification Sunday...On Vacation

Yes, even the Midlife Farmwife and her fellow get a break once in a while and this weekend was it. Dying to know where we ran away to? Here is a hint in the form of a photo. I'll tell you all the details tomorrow.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Some like it Wet

Boar's Gold

Several weeks ago. end of May, our friend Duane planted our east pig pasture with Sorghum Sudan Grass. Mad Max our big Red Wattle boar and his ever changing tribe of girlfriends (we rotate the sows between our two boars) was moved into the pasture just north and planting commenced. Our plan was to plant the field and then graze our cows on it.

Then the drought hit.

The seed sprouted and the field looked great for about 10 minutes, but as moisture was sucked away, growth slowed and then stopped. The field, now 8 weeks after planting looks like this:

Very spotted germination and that which sprouted did not grow well.
But we noticed something odd in the south west part of the field. Something...tall

Seems that the Sorghum Sudan grass had an affinity for pig manure. The areas where the pigs had their large hogcienda, where they most often ate , drank, played and relieved themselves, where the straw bedding broke down and decayed,  was obviously the most fertile part of the field. And the little areas where we had placed the smaller hog huts for just one hog to use at a time, also showed immensely improved growth.

Obviously it just goes to prove that organic material such as hay and  straw, especially when mixed with the manure of healthy swine, does an excellent job of adding nutrients to the soil as well as retaining moisture.

 In simpler terms...Pig crap rocks.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Saponification Sunday

So, having fun with my new soap specific Face Book Page  http://www.facebook.com/#!/TheMidlifeFarmwife?bookmark_t=page  I set it up as a prelude to the online soap store I plan to open Oct 15. You know, the store I said a few weeks ago I wouldn't be opening because I was too busy? Yeah that on-line store.

I call this "Stormy Weather" made with Alkanet,
Indigo, Tumeric, Maddor Root powders.
Scented with Amyris, Lavender Essential Oils

I really should keep all thoughts to myself. Of course if I were THAT kind of person I wouldn't have a blog in the first place now would I? It's just that I seem unable to stop...making soap that is. I get such a hoot out of creating it and then selling it. So I thought I'd do the online thing but take lots of time planning it. Part of that plan would be to generate interest via FB so that by the time I was set up for folks to actually buy thru a shopping cart set up they would be ready to so. But funny thing happened on the way to best laid plans...folks started asking to buy the soap NOW.

And this one I call "Stormy Weather in a pile"

Filled four orders this week just off the Facebook page, an amazing piece of free advertising I must say. So these next few weeks I'll be cranking out the soap big time. And yes you can buy either of the two soaps on this post for just $4 each plus shipping. Email me at opies99@gmail.com . But I only have four of each left. The darn Face Book fans hogged the rest of these two batches.

"Irish Seas" made with Spirulina, Wheat Grass
powders and French Green Clay

Fortunately I have tons of extra time on my hands since the drought has made it unnecessary to mow the lawn. So soap making is on the schedule for any free moment the rest of this summer. You know what they say...when God closes one door he open up someones big mouth who then shoots it off bragging about an on-line soap store.

Wonder if it's too late to change my name on my new soap business cards to "Midlife Farmeejit" ?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Photo Dairy of a Drought

These pics were taken this am, several weeks into the worst Central Illinois drought we have seen in over 40 years.  Over the past few weeks we have watered plants and containers less and less, triaging what MUST be watered (like the veggie garden) and letting less important plants ones fight their  own battles. I have not yet givien up on the Secret Garden as the area is small and in return gives me great pleasure.

 If you have any extra rain in your world please send it our way. I will cover all postage and handling and throw in some Porterhouse Steaks for your trouble.

The sweet corn patch. Replanted x 3.
The third time was not a charm

Lilac bush bites the dust

With very little in the pastures to eat cows gossip about
the poor conditions at the water cooler. Don't worry,
they are getting supplemented with lots of hay

Mud Holes for pigs dry out as
soon as they are filled

Frequent showers for everyone!

Dropped one of my flip flops down here.
Hopefully didn't hit anyone in the head in China

To end on a brighter note, at least
the Queen Annes Lace is thriving.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Oh honey.....

As desperate as things are here with our current drought, at least our bees are able to produce something for the farm. Yesterday Keith and I harvested, extracted, filtered, bottled and labeled 51 bottles of  thick sweet honey.

I did the bottling as the sun was setting bringing the internal kitchen temp down from 103 to a brisk 99. At least the honey was easy to pour at that temp.! Not sure why our  bees are doing so well, neighbors are reporting increased hive deaths overall. I'd like to think having them located so close to my secret garden and the water supply in our bird bath might have something to do with it.

Or maybe they are just a super hardy group of worker bees.

Flowers in the fields are practically nil as plants struggle to survive but my secret garden flowers are thriving since I crammed them really close together, their foliage keeping sun rays from drying out the ground completely.  Credit is not due to me though as no planning was involved. I remember clearly being too tired to plant in neat rows so I pretty much just threw whole packages of seeds into nearby holes. Master gardener? Hardly.

The dining room table son Jason made for me...
always comes in handy for our farm projects.

Ag experts are predicting by the end of this week fully 1/3 of the crops in Central Illinois are goners. News programs are telling farmers how to apply for grants and other assistance and insurance companies are reporting a "flood" of claims.

Our veggie garden is struggling and although my nightly watering is helpful with tomatoes, cukes and zucchini it has  not been enough to save cabbages, blueberry bushes or sweet corn. At last weeks farmers market in Fairbury, our farmer members did a good amount of swapping amongst each other as rain has been so irregular.

Honey all set up for sale in our Farm Store
$7.50 for 16 oz.

One of our luckiest members got 2.5 inches one evening while just a few miles away on our farm...zero. Our animals are showing stress as temps up over 100 degrees again the last few days. Yesterday our Red Wattle Deb had a beautiful litter of 13 but she is down to 7 piglets this evening. Keith has worked hard to keep her cool enough to want to nurse her babies but he keeps finding her outside the hutch laying in the water hole she has created with the dumping of her water pan.

I delivered  a big baby girl in July 32 years ago. I can feel her pain.

Our new honey label

Supposed to get a break tomorrow evening so in the meantime we continue to work hard between 6-10 am, rest in the hottest parts of the day and then hit chores again in late evening. I volunteered to make the arduous journey to Normal today to delivery of 100 pounds of burger to Naturally Yours grocery. Someone had to do it and the fact that our truck has AC had nothing to do with my decision.

Just call me Donna Of Arc.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Saponification Sunday. Moving forward

I am a non-expert in the world of soap making but I am less of an amateur every day. With 20 months of experience behind me you could say I'm an advanced amateur.

I know exactly...how much I don't know.

For example, I know the basics of cold process and hot process soaps. I know how to use lye safely, and how to jump out of the way when I am careless. I know how to measure and calculate base oils. I know the basic properties of those same oils, which will give me a hard soap and which will produce a softer soap and which can be substituted in popcorn making when I am out of coconut oil. Hint: it is NOT Castor Oil. No no never.

I know the basics of aromatherapy in regards to mixing the high, low and middle notes of essential oils needed to make my soaps smell wonderful. I also know what to do with those soaps whose high. low and middle notes, clash. They go to the husband who could care less because beside, anything smells better than his clothes after doing pig/cow chores on another 100 degree day.

I am learning all the legal  requirements in regards to soap labeling and marketing. But, apparently...I do not know how to turn OFF a crock pot.

Well Controlled Hot Process Soap . Alkanet powder for color

The translucent mashed potato look of hot process soap
that is ready to be molded.

What a mess.  I thought I had turned the crocked pot to "off" but instead I turned it to "high".  Soap had bubbled over the top, all over the crock pot, counter and onto the floor!! The cool thing about soap though, it takes well to re-batching and as long as your basic calculations are correct, one can scrape bubbled over soap right back into the crock pot and create something beautiful from something that was just minutes ago, quite ugly. And your floor gets really clean when you wipe up.

It is this very forgiving nature of soap that has propelled me forward. I have decided to sell my soaps online in larger quantity. Not through Etsy but instead just a small web site with PayPal abilities. My "Grand Opening" is scheduled for Oct. 15th which will give me three months to make a large amount of soap to have ready for sale and begin to promote my wares.

My SOAP wares thank you very much.

I started with completing the paperwork today to have my name The Midlife Farmwife officially trademarked in Illinois and I have ordered my business cards. I thought about just adding the soap making info  to our current farm business card but decided it would be too cluttered that way.

I also started a new Facebook Page which will focus just on my soaps. Perhaps that might help me focus as well? Not likely but worth a try. Would appreciate if you could "like" me.  And if you can't like me at least respect me.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Total Hogwash in Michigan

For some time now I have been watching a farmer in Michigan, Mark Baker, as he fights yet another inane law inflicted upon decent Americans. The DNR (Department of Natural Resources) in Michigan has decided in their so warped wisdom, that Mr Baker and his family is raising a breed(s) of hogs that can only be defined as "feral." The DNR further believes this feral hog to be dangerous to other livestock as well as to humans and must therefore be destroyed.

Destroying these hogs would destroy Mark Bakers farm and his ability to provide for his family. The Michigan DNR could care less but Keith and I care more. We care enough to support Bakers Green Acres with some of our own hard earned cash and we care enough to talk about it on this blog. Listen here to   Marks Side

We will also admit that we support the Bakers not just out of farmer to farmer camaraderie but also out of fear.

What is happening to them could very easily happen to us. The Michigan DNR is distributing this picture of what they describe as a feral hog. Oddly the photo was taken by Chris Grady of a wild hog seen in Gloucestershire, a county of SOUTH WEST ENGLAND.  Now, tell me, if the feral swine issue was of such magnitude and concern in Michigan wouldn't they have  their own photos of feral Michigan hogs? Or at least a feral hog seen somewhere in the US instead of overseas?

Photo wild boar, Gloucestershire, is property of Chris Grady  www.wildlife-imaging.co.uk
and was used with permission following monetary compensation  by the Midlife Farmwife.

While you ponder that...Please note the similarities to our own Red Wattle Boar Wally

 The Michigan DNR , Invasive Swine Order goes on to describe a "feral" hog as

Depending on ancestral lineage and cross-breeding among breeds, feral swine vary in appearance. Typical fur coloration for true Eurasian boar can be grey to dark brown to black, while domestic breeds can display a wider variety of colors with many defining patterns of striping or spots. Several generations of cross-breeding between domestic and Eurasian lineages can make the physical appearance of these animals drastically different within the same family unit. As with coloration, the size of mature adults can vary greatly depending on the bloodlines. In Michigan, adults typically range in size from 100-200 pounds, but larger specimens do occur.

Furthermore the Michigan DNR identifies the following Specific Characteristics: hair color; solid black, solid red brown, black and white spotted, black and brown/red spotted. Facial profile straight. Dark distal portions, legs, ears. White tipped bristles. Straight tail. Erect ears. Light colored underfur.

It is obvious to me therefore that if we were farming in Michigan our won RW hogs could quite easily meet the above definition. Well, I'm not sure about the tail. Wally 's does have one kink in it but looks pretty straight the last foot or so.Obviously on the day of this photo he was in a most excellent happy pig tail mood.

In my opinion, the only hogs that DO NOT meet the Michigan's DNR description of a feral hog are those very pale colored piggies  being raised in confinement, the non-heritage hogs. Paranoid? You bet. If the Michigan Pork Producers Association can apply enough pressure on the Michigan DNR to enforce this silliness, then Illinois and other states in this union could easily follow suit.

One right at a time. Being stripped away while we stand by with our thumbs up our ...coveralls, waiting to see what will happen or worse yet, ignoring what already has happened. In Mark Bakers own words

     "We are duty bound as Americans to disobey orders that are illegal or unconstitutional."

What can you do? Read both sides of the issue. Follow the links I've highlighted above. And if you agree that what is happening to Mark is wrong then please put your money where your mouth is. Or at least put your mouth out there telling others about this travesty.

At the risk of you getting cut by the shards of my broken record I will say it again...this issue is not about the pigs at Bakers Green Acres . For our farm is is not about Raw Milk Issues.  IT IS about about our rights as Americans being peeled away one bacon strip at a time.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Redneck Pool

Life on South Pork has been miserably hot the last two weeks but 24 hours ago a cool front came in and we all been given back to will to live.

No rain yet and the pastures are now literally crackling with dryness. Even walking across the yard the grass snaps under your feet like fall leaves. The drought is no longer a threat but a reality. Farmers in our area has taken to mowing down some of their corn crops as the likelihood of any real harvest has passed.

Might as well get a jump on the insurance claims is what we are hearing.

Today was a brisk 84 and I almost had to put on gloves. On Saturday we hit an all time high of 107! in our own little yard and this chubbiest farm wife hit the showers...I mean water tank. The book? Well it's just one more fabulous read by Gillian Flynn, "Dark Places" So creepy I had to read it in broad daylight.

So in desperation I filled an old plastic water tank (cut in half years ago and most recently used in our garden as a greenhouse) with well water. The waves turned a bit coppery colored towards the end of the day but none of us cared. We needed relief. The GK's and I were even able to talk hydrophobic Keith into the redneck pool for awhile.

The duck was a pool party crashing friend of Allana's. A real drifter sort.

Last week I painted an old ladder to add some more spark to one of my flower beds. It made the perfect poolside book stand this week.

The GK's had no trouble playing in the less than pristine water. It's amazing how lowering our body temps to a reasonable amount, directly elevates the mood.