Monday, December 24, 2012

Saponification Sunday...You Scrub my Back and I'll Scrub Yours

It's easy to feel a little hopeless lately with continuing sadness in the news, but then a stranger reaches out and we are reminded that the world is generally filled with good people, decent people, generous people, people who send you FREE things!

Got an email last week from a woman who makes soap dishes and she asked if she could send me some at no charge. She read my blog and wanted me to try her product.

Smart lady. She sends me free stuff, I give her some free advertising, I then give some of it away as a hostess gift (along with some of my soap) to a family member and before you know it it' s a win-win-win situation for several people.

All because of this 3 by 3.5 inch piece of wood and a smart entrepreneur.

Made by Cindy Brockway of Pine Branch Designs, the soap dish above is just 3 by 3.5 inches and perfectly sized for my smaller felted soap bars. The wood is well sanded and looks very cute on my sink, working it's magic to keep soap well drained without taking up too much space.
In addition, her prices are very reasonable. The one above, the smallest she makes, is just $1.00 when you order 50-100 of them with further discounts for larger purchases. I've seen these sell for double that in other stores. Inside her business card was a complete price list.
So thanks again Cindy Brockway for your generosity and the petite soap dish. And for any other blog follower who thinks THEY might get some free advertising about their product in exchange for sending me a free sample I have this to say...Bring It On!

I prefer to review items related to farming, writing, and soap making but because I have such a generous soul myself I suppose I could eek out a little time to review the following if it is helpful to my fellow humans.

New cars
New Western Saddles
Ranch Style Homes, preferably with very big kitchens
Designer Clothes (those that make me look like a size 6 will get special preference)
Jody McGill Jewelry  Prefer the large stone necklaces
Aer Lingus vacation packages

For your directories:    Donna OShaughnessy 32796 E 750 N Rd  Chatsworth, Il  60921

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Puppy Love

See the little rocker.? It was Keiths when he was a child, now 50 years later
it belongs to our first grandson. Life is good.

For the entire duration of my child raising years...32.5 to be exact, I have stood strong, always saying NO to the pleas for a puppy indoors. Of  course we've had lots of puppies but they were all outside dogs, farm  dogs, livestock dog.

Until now.

Please welcome Ashland. He is 9 weeks old and 3/4 German Shepard. His other genetics are believed  to be Siberian Husky. When I brought him home 13 days ago he was perfect. Then , 24 hours later, the diarrhea hit, followed by weight loss and anorexia, followed by a visit to the vet, stool samples and testing and a diagnosis of coccidiosis, a parasitic infection of the intestinal.

Diarrhea in a non-house trained puppy. Really , what was I thinking? The good news though...he is responding well to the meds, his appetite is improving, and the floor of the bathroom where he is housed when not under constant supervision, is covered in very durable, washable tile.

So once again...welcome Ashland.

(And yes for those of you who worry, the grandkids washed their hands LOTS after touching said puppy. In fact everything in contact with the puppy has been washed many a time, especially me)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Up on the Housetop,Click Click Click

Farm life with its posts about the cost of pastured beef, the trials of farrowing pigs out of doors, the raw milk advertising bru hah ha can be a bit heavy at times. Wouldn't you agree? I thought you would.

So today's post is brought to you by the Reindeer of Central Illinois. Raised near Rantoul, and originally shipped in from Alaska, the creatures with the big racks are amazing to see, touch and feed. Especially if you are age 5 and 8.

GK Allana in blue.

The Hardy Reindeer ranch charges just $4 to see their amazing animals up close and so personal I found myself screaming out over and over, "Be Careful, You'll Poke Your Eye Out !" Reindeer have no sense of personal space it seems.

GK Wesley. Watching his fingers closely

The 5 year old boy lasted about 3 minutes, he has his Yaya's attention span (oh look, hot chocolate in the cafe) and convinced his Papa to take him back to the hay bale area where a boy can jump as God intended.

The 8 year old female and I stayed extra long as she felt drawn to a tiny reindeer named "Jewel" who was not getting her share of the raw oats we'd been given to entice the deer to stretch over their boundaries.

As a future zookeeper she was compelled to reach out to the runt of the herd. I'll admit, Jewel was indeed charming but even so I could not fathom paying the $125 asking price for the antlers which graced the farms gift shop. Especially since Keith had eyed a very large pile of the dead protein branches out behind one of the buildings.

Yeah, hay bales. Too bad we don't have any of THOSE around our place.

I am all about farmers getting a fair price for their products but the antlers were over the top, well once they were, now they were just scattered all over the ground.  In Ebay land the going is much cheaper , I think I'll buy a few for next years Christmas  decorating. Even so, it was a grand day. Nothing more relaxing than  getting away from your busy farm and going to visit someone else's busy farm.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Farrowing Follies

Outdoor pigs are happy pigs.

In the midst of all important world news I'll bet you were unaware of one of the most vital issues; how best to farrow piglets. Yes, national leaders are sitting around old farm tables with big glasses of raw milk and whiskey chasers (or maybe that's just MY farmhouse) discussing how sows should drop their wee ones into the world.

Today, lucky fools, you get my take on the matter.

I'm not going to discuss the confinement approach vs the pastured hog approach (this time) but instead will just talk about how we manage farrowing, outside, here on South Pork. The idea for this post came from The Beginning Farmer who asked other farmers opinion on farrowing specifically in winter. In addition to farrowing I'll cover in general our whole hog breeding cycle.

Let's start at the beginning. We did it very badly back then.  Well, not horribly but certainly it could've been better but in this area, back 15 years ago, 99% all hogs were raised in long metal buildings and all those pigs lived on concrete. We had few folks to ask for help and I was unaware of the blog world. So our first farrowing event ended in disaster. Mama sow and piglets all died despite our frantic efforts to save them.

She was overweight, the night was cold and rainy, we did not expect the birth when it came, the sun was in our eyes (quite the trick when it is also raining) etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. We vowed to never try it again. But we have short memories.

We did try again but we did more research first. The blog of Walter Jeffries was priceless (really, it was, he charges nothing for all his great advice) and after reading all his posts, literally, we then visited a few pastured hog farmers in northern Illinois and Indiana. The last five years we have raised primarily the critically endangered Red Wattle Hog and here in a little more than a nutshell is what we have learned.

1. Housing. We do group housing. Our 2 breeding groups, consist of one boar and 2-4 sows at any given time. Mad Max's group has the large Hogcienda Keith built  in the midst of a large pasture and Wally's group has a large barn stall connected to a large pasture. Both groups can enter and leave the sheltered areas at will, having pasture access 24/7, year round. When winter approaches Keith places our very large square bales in the shelter's wide openings leaving rooms for hogs to come and go but sufficiently blocking a large amount of the wind, snow and rain. Bedding is deep and of organic straw, a requirement of the national organic program. As the hogs tear into the bales of hay partially blocking their doorways, what isn't eaten becomes  more bedding to the inside of the hog condos.

Our biggest hogcienda which houses one boar and 3-4 sows. Behind it is the same
 size shelter but with opening on narrow end to reduce wind and give hogs
deeper area to burrow into in winter.
 Some housing things we DONT do. we do not use fans or heat lamps. When its hot we provide lots of water and deep water holes, mud pits. In the winter we provide deep bedding, face our hutches/hogciendas to the south, provide shelter from rain and snow and use large bales of hay to block wind and provide additional feed.

2. Breedings .Our boars breed the sows they are shaking up with as the sows allow them too.We don't schedule our breedings, we let Mad Max and Wally schedule their own dates. They even get to pick their choice of wines, but still the sows rule while the boars drool. Most of our sows breed back very quickly, usually within days of their litters being weaned from them. Our oldest sow Deb may not breed back immediately but if not, then she always ends up pregnant the next month. If we had a sow who took longer than that, she's be next weeks Italian Sausage pizza.

3. Gestation. The sows stay with their boar until they are about two weeks from farrowing. Then they are moved (via a bucket of milk soaked grain and a livestock trailer) to another area of the farm that is quiet and has a private, smaller pig house called an E Hut. The hutches are well bedded with doorways that are wide enough for the sow but small enough to limit wind, rain etc. The moms -to- be then start getting milk and grain on a daily basis . In the early years we lost more piglets at birth due to protein deficiency in the mamas.

Note: we tried leaving the sows in the bigger group when they farrowed but because we do not have wooded areas where they can escape for privacy they farrowed inside the large hutch and other bigger hogs would crush or step on the babies. Our Red Wattles are quite social when it comes to other sows piglets but they are big and clumsy. If we had more acreage and more vegetative cover we would not pull the sows away and place them in separate hutches, but we don't, so we do.

Cross bred sow after farrowing  large litter in deep grass at far end of pasture.

4. Farrowing day. When signs of impending birth are noted, such as nest making, lack of appetite, keeping to ones self, ordering Baby Gap online, we will overfill pans with water and feed. Then WE LEAVE THE SOW ALONE. Some folks report they will stand by and assist with the birthing, resuscitate non breathing babes, offer ice chips and Brad Pitt movies for distraction but we have learned to stay away. Our philosophy is this, if the mama is not taking care of the pigfants on her own then we don't want her as a mom in the future. If we rush in to save runt pigs or deformed pigs then we'll be spending lots more time and money on animals that won't make good breeders or feeders. So we take the tough love approach.

5. Post farrowing. About 24 hours after the sows big day we'll remove any dead piglets, provide more water and feed and do a general head count. We find that very few piglets die after they reach the 48 hour mark.

Sow in our mid sized farrowing hutch which used to be used for calves.
Note piglets in corner about two weeks old.  Picture taken in Spring
 6. Post post farrowing. At about one week piglets will be popping their heads around the corner of the hutch and larger piglets are big enough to hop over the bottom threshold of the doorway. We'll watch now and then to make sure they find their way back. Seems there is always a dumb wandering one in the bunch. Momma sow will continue to receive hay, water and milk soaked grain while she is in this heavy nursing stage. This is also the preferred age (for us) to castrate the males. They are small enough to easily handle and old enough to have the strength to recover easily. Again we put mama in the heavy duty, escape proof trailer when we are castrating. We leaned the hard way that an angry mama pig can leap tall buildings with a single bound if the school bully (with a hooked scalpel) is after her babe.

8 week old Red Wattle piglets . Our smallest hutch called the E-Hut behind them
Works best for first time farrowing gilts or small sows under 300 pounds

7. Weaning. Our weaning rule is hard and fast. We do it when the yard gets resurfaced. We've noticed that at about 4 weeks the babies will go under the electric fence and investigate other parts of the farm. They stay pretty close. At 6 weeks they start meeting our customers in the drive causing them to oooo and awwwww with their fat arse cuteness. At 8 weeks they will venture too close to the midlife farmwives rose bushes and weaning will commence immediately. 

Mother sow is returned to her boar or perhaps we mix it up and put her with the other boar. Depends on our breeding mood at the time. (Now return to step two above)

Keith then takes the 8 week old babies and puts them in a large stall in our barn with a small outside run made of escape proof, mostly escape proof, livestock panels. At one end he will run a live electric wire right at their nose level. When they hit the wire they make scoot forward but the panel keeps them from going any father. Missing their buddies they scoot past the live wire again getting another little bite. Within a couple of days they avoid the wire completely.

Piglets on the loose hours before their furlough was cancelled

8. Post weaning. At about 12 weeks we move all piglets to a big pasture with  three sided large hogcienda where they have tons of room to play, dig, run, eat and grow to market size. This usually takes 6-8 months depending on time of year. We want them to be about 230-250 lbs  live weight when we take them to locker as most of our customers  prefer a hanging weight of about 200 pounds give or take a pork chop or two.

So there you have it, our basic hog breeding cycle with additional info about outdoor farrowing. Hope it helps those of you who asked. Those of you who fell asleep at "hello" can always check back tomorrow. Research demonstrates that 1/4 of my posts are actually worth the readers time.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Farm Walkabout

It's been awhile as some of you have reminded me, since I've shown you South Pork Ranch in a walkabout so lets go for a walk, an end of year jog so to speak. Except, I won't be jogging. I will however be dragging along this creature,

For some reason we  thought I needed another dog. So let me introduce this little guy. Ashland is 3/4 German Shepard and 1/4 Huskie. Don't think I'll be carrying him under my arm much longer. If all goes well, he'll be carrying me into my golden arrears.
Let's get moving...From the back door,
A few greens trimmed off the evergreens that are no longer ever-green. Last summers drought destroyed over half of our beautiful windbreak trees. Some still had one or two branches left so before they all became firewood they became garland. Special thanks again to friend Jay who did all the decorative work .
Back to our stroll, to the east of our farmhouse is our front yard which looks better now in mid December than it did in mid July. Adequate amounts of fall rains have given us the green grass we desperately needed. Our horses, cows and pigs have greatly benefited.
Stunning photo eh? Rooster flipping me off with his tail and all but note to the left side of pic the dead  evergreen tree.  Almost as bad as the old tree dead in the center. The grass is awesome though. Heading father north we hit the "stables."
That's Ennis the horse on the right and Doolin the miniature donkey on the left for those of you who might be equinely impaired and don't know the difference. This is their first hay feeding of the cold season. You can see by their overall physiques the pasture was more than enough for them through the fall. 
Hmmm. Do you ever get that feeling you are being followed?
Yeah, me too.
To the west of the horse feeder is my secret garden. It looks so sad don't you think?
I haven't bothered to clean out dead plants, instead choosing to leave the seeds and pods for the birds to pick through. I'm so lazy , eco-minded, aren't I ? Next spring I'll have a big job in there for sure. Now back past the horses and over to the east side of the farm...
We have two hog breeding groups. One boar, Mad max and his females are doing well, even though at first glance they seem unbalanced.
Oh wait, that's me.
Our second group led by the very lovely Wally will be focused on in a future post. Just to the north of them is a new group of feeder pigs who've been in the barn and now have a HUGE pasture to frolic within. Still the highlight of their day is the milk mans visit. Raw and slightly aged to yogurt consistency, they go nuts when they see him coming. (The milk, not Keith)
With his trough made from a split sewer drainage pipe (clean when we started) , these fat pigs all get a chance to get a fair amount. The piglets above come from two sows and I love the degree of red in their coloring. Some very light and some rich red. All are uniformly  greedy.
Heading to the south we arrive at the farm store. We hit the stores two year anniversary last month. and business continues to grow.  We're able to keep enough pork in the store in the way of bacon, chops, roast etc...but never able to keep enough beef. Why? Because beef refuse to grow any faster that they do, unmotivated slugs that they are.
Inside the store the changes are subtle, unlike the author of this blog. We now stock items from 9 area farmers, with the total inventory consisting of pork, beef, bar soap, laundry soap, teas. honey, flour, corn meal , eggs, jelly, jams, lip balm and baby bibs. Everything is either grown on our farm or a local farm and/or is handmade.
Walmart we ain't. Thank God.
So after checking the egg frig (cold) and the two meat freezers (very cold), sweeping the floor (dirty) and pitching the entry rug (filthy dirty) I headed out towards the chicken coop.
We've done nothing with it this year, so far. When we get a moment we'll move some straw bales in front to block the wind and close up some windows. We've had very mild weather so of course have felt no real urge to get things ready for winter. This means we'll likely get gifted with a huge winter storm tonight.
Coming back from the chicken coop and down the West drive you'll see again the amazing green grass. Then under the tree on the left is...yes, a porch. It's the old back porch we removed when the new one was installed months ago. It is now the beginning of a tree fort for the GK's
In this same area are the bee hives. Only two hives are close to the house and our gardens. The rest are located elsewhere. They are hibernating now and more honey won't be available till next spring.
We placed them in the middle of a group of Evergreens, 2/3 of that group now dead. Hopefully the tall, never mowed grasses will also help protect them this winter. The field behind them is winter wheat Keith planted several weeks ago.
So, all that walking wore me out. Time for a nap.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Instead of soap...prayer.

I'd like to ask all my blog followers to take a moment to pray for the families of all the victims of the terrible masacre, loss of precious, innocent life, those involved in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Conneticut, USA.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Drinks all Around

Of course my gang of a family was recently here for our annual sibling Christmas get-together, (Dec. 9th) and of course loving my siblings as no other eldest sibling does, I spared no expense for their visit.  I purchased a couple of very fine wines. Well, as fine as you can get in the aisle of our local grocery store.

First was a lovely Petite Shirah from Boogle Vineyards of California. (the following is to be read in a sexy radio voice) Deeply inky, this wine coats the glass and lingers before the first sip has been taken. Heady aromas of boysenberries and blackberries headline the entry, while flavors of wild blueberries steal the show. Full-bodied and concentrated, seductive juniper and anise tangle with coffee and leather tones as the wine’s finish lingers on stage. Enduring and enthralling, this wine is perfectly suited for an encore.

And then to be fair I also graced the table with a charming little white wine, Danzante Pinot Grigio,
It's bouquet offers delicate floral notes followed by intense aromas of fresh citrus fruit, hints of pineapples and papaya. A crisp vein of tasty acidity adds to the fine balance of all of its components. A very leisurely finish ends on a subtle note of crisp fruit.

" A crisp vein of tasty acidity." I want THAT little diddy on my tombstone for sure. And is that dress not the best? But even with those two most perfect choices available what do you think  my lower piddle class family finished off in about ten seconds time? 

The answer, a bottle hidden in the back of my frig. for who knows how long, specifically this screw-off top atrocity:

Boone's Farm. Nectar of the Sods.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Cull Cow Named Millie

None of us gets out of this world alive...and that includes dairy cows from South Pork Ranch. On average our cows live 8-9 years with some as old as 13-14 years before they are done providing milk to us and our loyal raw milk customers.

View of Millie from our front porch. Worried she might bring shame to the
rest of the herd she asked we not identify her.

But some will be loaded into the livestock trailer for that final trip to the locker, excuse me, abattoir, sooner than later. Thus is the fate of our dairy cow Millie.

It's not her fault, she did nothing wrong. She came in from pasture before curfew, she got pregnant after each of her visits with Keith's glove (we AI all our cows, stopped keeping bulls years ago when one tried running down Keith out in the field) but over the last few months she has indeed let us down...milk production wise.

In general we don't have the highest standards for milk production. We believe animal health and life span is preferred over actual pounds of milk produced each year. But even with our lower than dairy industry standard, Millie was not producing enough milk to validate the cost of hay which must be fed this winter.

So while she is in in great shape physically she will soon be made into burger. Cows older than 3 generally do not make the best steaks and roasts so her entire cowness will become ground beef chubbies and ground beef patties. This is truly one of the most economic things to do with a cow who no longer is putting milk on the table.

Her hanging weight will be in the 700 pound range which means over 500 pounds of burger to take home. At least 200 pounds will go to the grocery stores we service and the remaining 300 pounds  will go into our own farm store which will make our customers happy since we've been without ground beef for a couple weeks.

Ground beef, which is actually ground sirloin here, has NOTHING added  like it is in your average grocery store.  Ours has no added cereals, no added fat, so Pink Slime.  It also comes from an animal that is certified organic and 100% grass fed, no grain ever. And it is the number one seller in our farm store.

So Millie, we want to thank you for the milk you did produce for us and our farm and we want to thank you again for the lovely ground beef you'll be gracing us with very soon.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Saponification Sunday. Mountain of Soap

I personally love Peppermint.
Not everyone feels the same way.

No worries, I'll sell those folks my Patchouli soaps and save the Peppermint for others. Last week played with charcoal some more, using an egg whisk again to get the design. Added maddor root colored soap (the pinky red) for more contrast. The whiteness comes primarily from the Red Wattle lard I use and a little Titanium Dioxide powder, dissolved in hot water then added to the soap. At some point the soap began to resemble Bear Butte in South Dakota. A place dear to my heart.


Without the buffalo of course.

The rest of the time? It just looked,  plain chaotic.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Bill Collector

Only the most high tech methods are used in the business offices of
South Pork Ranch LLC

That would be me.

The bill collector, the one who decides who owes for which product, how much do they owe and when is payment due. Just another of the many fashionable hats I wear here.

Fortunately, 99% of our customers pay their bills in a timely manner. But recently I've had a couple that make me want to ARGHHHHHHHHH. Our collection process is simple. An individual will order some meat, perhaps a 1/2 hog or whole beef. We give them all the financial info. They give us a $100 deposit to hold their meat which is then applied to their final bill

They pay the locker when they pick up their meat,  cut up the way they want and this runs them about 80 cents per pound. Then we bill them the hanging weight of the animal minus the deposit. Our pork sells for $3.25 a pound and our beef is $4.25.

Then they send us payment. And like I said, most send it right away. When they do not, the note I write on the second billing statement ( at least one month later) will go like this:

"Hi! I know you're busy and things get overlooked but at your earliest convenience would you send us payment for the ______?'  Thanks so much

The next letter (and I usually give folks another couple weeks) goes like this:

Hi. Haven't received your payment yet. Please send ASAP. Thanks

The third letter will go out a couple of weeks after that. Please note I have sent THIRD letters to only 3 customers in the last 10 years. Many times folks will send payment just as my second notice is hitting the mail box for delivery.

Payment is past due . Send Immediately.

If payment still doesn't arrive I will call them. If they are having finacial problems I'll work with them and take partial payments. We've been known to take $10 a month, just as long as people make good effort we're happy. We truly understand how hard it is to feed a family, or how devestating it is to lose a job. But if they don't return our calls or if no payments at all, even a small portion of the total bill, I will send send a third letter and suggest small claims court. I have only done this twice in ten years. The first time was two years ago and payment in full appeared quickly. "Quickly" as in 6 months after the individual had picked up and presumably eaten the meat she ordered. Needless to say, we won't provide her any more product .

This past year we had problems with a restaurant paying us. Keep in mind this is the ONLY time we had trouble with a restaurant and we sold direct to over 12 restaurants for a period over three years While providing to this particular eatery, they were often weeks behind in payment, then it became months. Then they called and said they had new management and would send payment in full.

They did not.

More letters from me and many phone calls as well and then the small claims court suggestion. They sent approximately 1/3 of what they owed us. The bill now 18 months old. The remaining  amount was just under the amount required to file in small claims court in Cook County. Hmmmm, seems like the restauarants owner had played this game before. Hiring a lawyer would have cost us more than the amount due. So like so many other small business have to do when they've been screwed treated unfairly...we wrote off the balance as bad debt.

Yes, I could list the restaurants name here in my blog but why take the chance of being taken to court for slander? Instead we'll just tuck the whole experience into our "lessons learned" bucket. From now on all restauarants will have to pay COD. But since we rarely deliver anymore direct to restaurants the issue is DOA.

The experience did not sour us though on other customers who are the cream of any retailers crop. Often folks will send payment BEFORE I send the final bill. Many times our customers leave MORE money in the till than they owe and often our new customers come directly from referrals made by present customers.

Our bad apples are indeed minute. So tell me, other small farmers out there. How do you handle sales and payment for your carcass meat ? Would love to hear your experiences, your requirements for deposits and payments if you'd like to share. Write a post about it and link to it from my blog if you wish or just leave info in the comment area. Can't wait to hear from you.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I learned a new word this week. Amuse. Not as in giggle like but as in food.

Our daughter-in-law Tab, wife of oldest son Colton, had her culinary school final two days ago and we were some of the tres' fortunate meal guests. A six course meal prepared and served by the graduating class, Keith and I were more than amused by the treat.

We were thrilled.

First, here is our family chef, Tab, explaining the entree. Is she not Executive Chef material ?

That's me in front of Tab barely able to close my mouth long enough to listen to her! And I definitely wasn't going to put my fork down in fear some other eager student think I was done and whisk my plate away before I could finish licking it.
The menu in it's entirety below:
The meal went like this. First the Amuse also known as the Amuse Bouche or a very literal translation "something to amuse the mouth" In this case it was a savory creme brulee' in a Parmesan crisp with balsamic syrup.
A sweet morsel with the tiniest little crunch that made your mouth scream MORE!! The joining of the sweet Brulee with the tang of the Balsamic vinegar was unexpected and totally amazing. Following it came:
sauteed flounder with flounder cake, wilted garlic spinach with roasted cherry tomatoes and Lemon caper sauce. The fish shocked me. It tasted like fish! Here in central Illinois I rarely order fish as we are far away from many real water sources and fish in restaurants always taste just like rubber. Not so here. Perhaps the students had their own fish farm in the back of the school? Ditto for tomatoes. Not just brilliant color but a real tomato tang as well. When you took a bite of fish with a little of the spinach and tomato and closed your were transported to a seaside bistro. I should know, I'm genetically a Galway  Girl you know .
Soon after came the pumpkin soap. Twice , a young man tried to take my bowl before I was done. I hope the bite marks on his arm heal in a timely fashion

The candy like cranberry relish was so much FUN!  At this point I was very happy, but even more deliciousness kept appearing. Like this salad with it's goat cheese balls.

Saddened by the sacrifice the male goat had to make, yet not so sad I couldn't consume the greens plate. What? oh, goat CHEESE balls.  Never mind.
Lets move on. The entree was another shocker.

Chicken that tasted like chicken is supposed to. Keith and I rarely order chicken when we go out because it always tastes like sawdust. No excuse for that as the midwest has plenty of room to rise foul outdoors but less than 1% of all chicken farmers do so.

This heavenly hunk, lightly crusted along with a parsnip puree that was more like delightful veggie pudding was over the top. Now don't be making jokes about the portion size. Over several plates it added up very nicely. Finally the fabulous dessert:

Ah yes, the gingerbread tart with caramelized apples. Fresh crisp and so memorable I'm thinking of changing my name. From Midlife Farmwife to Gingerbread Tart. It fits, no?
Yeah. No. Tarts don't have grey hair.
Special thanks to our son Colton for taking all the pics of the food since his mother the professional blogger forget to charge the battery in her phone. Like they say "If it's not one thing, it's a mother"