Monday, September 30, 2013

Raw Milk Monday...No Rules

Please note: If you are new to my blog you can catch up on the reasons for my raw milk passion and the struggles our own farm have experienced, by reading any of the previous posts on the topic I have written over the last 3 years . To do so, simply enter "Raw Milk" in the search bar under the picture of our house, on the right.

Just to clarify, there are no rules in regards to raw milk production and sales in Illinois, there is only unenforceable POLICY.

How can that be, you query?

Well, originally, when all the milk rules were written years ago, the powers that were, assumed all milk sold was pasteurized.  And being so sure about this fact and not bothering to do any real serious research, you know, like asking around, they plunged ahead and wrote the Grade A Pasteurized Milk and Milk Products Act. or PMO as we in the milk business often refer to it.

This act was fairly detailed and lengthy but it left out those of us who sold raw milk being as we are not Grade A since the Department of Public Health refused to allow us to KEEP our Grade A permits a few years ago when we wanted to do so.  The funniest part, well I think it's hysterical but I am in a minority , is the way "dairy farm" is defined in the PMO. And I quote from page one of the act (Public Health 410 ILCS 635/3 section 3, part b.1)

     "Dairy Farm" means any place or premise where one or more cows or goats are kept, and from which a part or all of the milk or milk products are provided, sold, or offered for sale to a milk plant, transfer station, or receiving station.
Now, the reason this gives me the giggles is because none of the raw milk farmers on the Dairy Work Group sell their milk or any part of their milk to a "milk plant, transfer station, or receiving station" We all sell our milk direct to the consumer, no middle man in the form of a milk plant, transfer station, or receiving station, EVER. Thus, in my opinion and based on the definition above, we do not meet the definition of "Dairy Farm"
See why this is so hysterical? Every day my husband milks 10 or so cows, complete with udders, sending that fresh healthy milk through a very clean glass pipeline into a very clean stainless steel tank where it is quickly cooled and where customers then pour it into their milk bottles and feed it to their children.
But according to the IDPH's definition, we are NOT a dairy farm.
So if we are not a dairy farm does it not also follow (your honor) that we cannot be held responsible for the rules written in  the PMO? Seems logical enough to me. But when we asked this same question of IDPH, several times in several meetings, we are told that yes, we are still considered a dairy and must follow the rules. (Except they are not rules only "policy" )
So we asked that the legal department of IDPH to meet with us obviously ignorant, uninformed  farmers and explain to us how we meet the definition of dairy when we don't meet the requirements of a dairy as they have written in the PMO,  and we are told at the September 10 th meeting that the legal department can't be bothered to meet with us directly.
So to recap, there are no rules (only "policy") regarding raw milk in Illinois, thus IDPH had to form the Dairy Work Group in order to write the rules.  But in the rules written for pasteurized milk where raw milk farmers have been excluded based on IDPH's definition of dairy, we are being told that IDPH's legal department says we do meet the definition of dairy yet  none of them can be bothered to tell us WHY in a face to face meeting. Thus if indeed we do meet the definition of dairy in the already preesnt rules of the PMO, then why did IDPH feel the need to form the Dairy Work Group to write NEW rules in the first place?
And they wonder why we have trust issues.
Just four more weeks until our next Dairy Work Group Meeting. It should be very interesting

Friday, September 27, 2013

Born Leader

I do love the Red Wattles and although the majority of my work is computer stuff, I do spend time outside whenever I can , doing whatever I can.

One thing I do not do is feed the big pigs.

They are not mean, they intend no harm but even though I am sturdy I am quite short and not near as fast as my sleek hubbie. So at a certain point, when the pigs are about 3 months old,  it is he who jumps in the middle of the lot and then runs like the wind spreading grain out as evenly as possible before he is run over.

Oh I still help from outside the pen, watering for example, and of course I am the queen of the castration scalpel  but as I've gotten older (and shorter !) I happily step aside  to let he with the fast limbs care for the breeding stock.

The feeder pigs has an large automatic feeder from which they can eat all they want whenever they want. And weight gain is a good thing with feeder pigs destined to be shoulder roast and bacon. But the breeding stock are limited in their diets. Too fat and they will have trouble with fertility as well as farrowing.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Another Year, Another Inspection

Our days start early and end late. They are always full and never dull. Sometimes they are even highly rewarding, like today.
As expected our organic surveyor from MOSA  showed up this afternoon. And as expected I was up late scrambling to get the paperwork together while Keith worked like a fiend to do all that I asked him to do in regards to the paperwork I had to get together. But in general, it wasn't too bad. Except when he refused to believe that all our feed buckets had to lined up in order of 1) size and 2) amount of grain and 3) level of rust on the handle.
This is our 4th inspection and because MOSA is highly consistent in both its approach to and interpretation of the NOP standards and because we really did much better in tracking stuff and filing tags, seed searches, sales slips, all year long not to mention that  our hired hand Aaron was a big help and my husband is such a hard working farmer, the inspection only took about 3 hours. (I believe it was just slightly shorter than that last run-on sentence)
And at the end of the afternoon our inspector handed us our copy of the inspection. It went something like this.
Photo: Another organic survey completed. Time for a nap!
And now we bid you GOOD NIGHT!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Raw Milk Monday...Why Limiting Raw Milk Sales is a Bad, Bad, BAD Thing

Please note: If you are new to my blog you can catch up on the reasons for my raw milk passion and the struggles our own farm have experienced, by reading any of the previous posts on the topic I have written over the last 3 years . To do so, simply enter "Raw Milk" in the search bar under the picture of our house, on the right.

Last week I told you of the events at our last Dairy Work Group meeting covering the details as best I could. Today I want to focus on just one of the new "proposed rules for discussion"  thrown out by The Illinois Department of Public Health on Sept 10.

Specifically the ugly head of  sales limits has raised its festering face again and not just within Tier 2 the higher level of more possibly strict regulations, but under Tier 1 which we intended to be a simple process for those selling only direct to the consumer who comes to the farm.

As you might recall, just before members of the Dairy Work Group, including myself and many other raw milk farmers and consumers  thought the September meeting was over, the words "Sales limit" was tossed to the ground by IDPH representative Steve Divencenzo like raw meat to a dog fight.

They knew those words would illicit a very strong negative response , the same way it did when first presented back in February, which is why it was so casually tossed out, in almost muttered words, just before the last bell of the 3 hour meeting.

Of course, before we could even bite on the raw burger laid at our feet, oozing on the floor, Steve attempted to apply some too- little- too- late- balm by raising his voice over our building complaints stating, "But don't worry, there will not be any limits under Tier 2!"

This move, this very planned move to allow us to participate  almost amicably through the first 2 hours and 55 minutes of the meeting before slamming us with the sales limit verbiage, did not go unnoticed. Nor will it get past  this group without resistance.

So why are limits so bad when it comes to raw milk sales? Where to start?

How about at the basic entrepreneur core upon which  our country was founded ? Hard work which will beget well earned and well deserved income. Income which will in turn feed ones family, roof ones home, pave ones drive, pay for ones Tae Kwon Do lessons or whatever it is we as Americans choose to do with the money we worked hard to earn.

If allowed to limit the milk we sell , won't limiting the beef we sell, the lettuce we sell, the almighty corn and soybeans we sell be right behind? And for arguments sake, lets say they do pass a ridiculous limit on gallons of milk Farmer Parrish can dole out to his customers, how will IDPH monitor it?  Enforce it? Or even more frightening, how will they dole out punishment to the farmer who sells a gallon or two more than is "allowed?

Limiting sales is paramount with limiting effort, which limits dreams and limits lives.  Pleasure in a job well done, satisfaction in meeting a nutritional need of your family, your neighbors, your customers will be squashed.

Limiting sales limits income which limits the farmers ability to feed, clothe and shelter his family. Limiting sales will then drive us towards increases sales in other areas to make up for the loss. But what happens when limits in those areas are exceeded? With less ability to support ourselves, where will we turn?

To our government of course, as is their intent. Eagerly, crazily waiting to support us, as if there is not already an overload of capable adults sucking marrow from the rapidly decaying body of a government who can't even feed itself!

What the blind refuse to see in their desire to squash independent thinkers, workers, and farmers is that limiting raw milk sales will not ever in itself cause a decrease in the consumption of raw milk, the end result sought by Big Dairy who just recently noticed that  CONSUMERS WANT RAW MILK! Instead , crushing the farmer who works way to hard for way to little to produce a gallon of healthy raw milk, will INCREASE the amount of raw milk raised, transported and sold from other states. This will then water down our already greatly thinned out local and state agricultural revenues. For the simple minded folk of our leadership, more money will leak out of  Illinois as young families take their dollars across state lines.

So much for "buying local", the recent cry of Governor Quinn, a expert in the spitting back of meaningless buzz words.

Limiting raw milk sales will only generate huge traffic jams in  the Chicago area natural food parking lots as consumers, cut off from the farmer they knew on a personal level,  wait for more than eager second, third and fourth parties to bring the raw milk to them from Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan.  And because it took MORE gas and time and people to bring this raw milk to a hidden corner just off north Ashland Avenue , consumers will dole out 2-3 X's as much, sometimes up to $18 a gallon for raw milk.

Money that will cross state lines as easily as the milk did. More so ,since money requires no refrigeration.

What about the safety issue IDPH screamed about in the early days of the Dairy Work Group ,lamenting that the only reason IDPH needed to write rules about raw milk at all was to "protect the public"? Right now the public in Illinois has done well in regards to raw milk illness which are extremely few and far between in the Land of Lincoln.

But, mark my words, if there is going to be an outbreak of raw milk related illnesses in Illinois it will come BECAUSE the Department of Public Health insisted in limiting the amount of milk sold. When that dark day comes and milk starts to sneak across state lines after dark by those who see not a chance to share a good product produced by healthy cows, and cared for by educated farmers but an opportunity to make big money in a raw milk DRY state, bacterial counts will flourish faster than the raw milk bootleggers back accounts will.

A state already hemorrhaging dollars from several huge democratic ulcers should be focused on mending the relationships with small farmers rather than constantly picking away at sores never allowed to heal.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Saponification Sunday...Silky Suds

As promised last week I'm going to give you my opinion on adding cruelty free Tussah Silk to your handcrafted cold process soaps following some extremely professional, evidence based, non-grant supported Midlife Farmwife exclusive research.  And the verdict is...

 I'm still not sure.

Mostly leaning towards it, yes, yes I am definitely going  to continue using it and in fact now plan to make it a staple in every single batch (except salt bars) but it is obvious that more  research needs to be done. (From "not sure to definitely " in less than a seconds time, how's that for manic?) For clarification, I used the same amount of silk fibers, .10 oz for every two pounds of oil. This equates to approximately one teaspoon size pinch, maybe twice what the seller recommends.

The silk was dissolved the same way in each experiment. I cut the fibers up into small pieces and then put them into my lye water just after the granules had dissolved completely and while the lye water was very hot.


Silk added to very hot lye water

Silk completely dissolved in lye water

So for the experiment I made six batches of CP soap. Each set of two were exactly alike with the exception that one had Tussah Silk fibers added while the other did not. The first batch was very simple. Pure castle (100% pomace olive oil) and lye, unscented, uncolored. Cured for 4 months.

My castile soap

The results: lather was less in both than in my main recipe which includes Castor oil for bubbles. But that is to be expected with castile soap. Lather is often less and can be a bit slimy at times. But my castile soaps lathered moderately well and I could not tell any difference in the one made with silk. Five minutes after lathering and rinsing. My hands felt the same with both bars. Nice, soft but no more softer with the silk soap.  I tested several days in a row. Still no difference at all. I'll let them cure longer and try again.

The second batch of two was slightly more complicated. Used my basic recipe of Coconut, Olive, Castor and Sweet Almond oil colored with a small amount of Maddor Root powder and scented with geranium rose, lavender and lemongrass EO's. In the second soap batter I did  the same along with the addition of the silk. After letting it cure all of just 6 days (I could not wait) I was surprised to find that the bar with silk did glide better in my hand as if making up for the slightly scratchy feel Maddor Root powder (when used straight) can add.

Soap with Maddor Root powder/ no silk added

In health care when we added a non-narcotic drug to a narcotic drug for pain control we called it an "adjuvant" med. So perhaps the silk is acting as an adjuvant ingredient in soap, making the other ingredients work better? Just a theory.

And again after rinsing no real difference five minutes later in how my hands felt.

The third batch of two was the most complicated. I used my basic soap recipe again but wanted to push the envelope and added both witch hazel powder and comfrey powder. Scented it with eucalyptus, grapefruit, orange and peppermint EO's. And as in the other batches, the second pitcher of lye water got the silk.

As with the second set of soaps I did notice a better "slip" of the soap while working up the lather. Both lathered very well but the bar with the silk just felt more luxurious. I even had my granddaughter had me the bars of soap without me knowing which was which and after 4 rounds I correctly identified the bar with the silk.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I had a 50/50 chance but still...

So there you have it. I like silk in my soaps and I plan to keep on using it. While in the lathering act, it appears to just FEEL better. Afterwards, I cannot say that my hands felt any softer with the silk bar usage. But since so many folks judge their soap in part in how they feel while sudsing up I am for now going to stay with the silk fibers. I find the benefit well worth it and the price very reasonable. About $7.50 for one ounce which will last through about 100 , 2 pound soap batches. Or about 8 cents per two pound batch.

Last week several of you  gave me your opinion on this crucially important world news topic. Would love to hear from more of you this week. Silk or no silk?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Happy Birthday to the Big Boy.

Picture taken by his mother, our daughter,  Raven

I understand there are grandparents in the world who do not see their GK's more than a few times a year. Some by circumstance and some by choice.

What I do not understand is how they function day to day within those barbaric limitations. Hi, my name is Donna and I'm totally addicted to my grand kids. Blessed to always have been geographically very near all three of them they have become a huge part of our lives.

Learning to spell "Red" Not as easy as it may look



Always on the side of his grandparents battles. Whatever they are.


Overnights began early as a few weeks old since parents needed to get back to work to provide the luxuries of food, shelter and juice. Most months we see the GK's anywhere from 5-20 days just depending on work schedules. We have hauled them with us all over the farm as well as the entire state of Illinois including the delivery of headless hog carcasses to Chicago restaurants.

How's that for a field trip?

Making fun of the Yaya's need to reading glasses

They've been carries out to pasture to walk in the cows for milking, up into the hay loft to search for hidden chicken and kitten nests (sometimes these were one and the same) plus into every Farm supply store within a 100 mile radius to pick up more, aluminum waterers and rubber feed pans.

Some of these feed pans were even used by the animals.

With his great grandma Parrish

We know our GK's teachers names (sometimes we have to ask twice), their underwear sizes and weather or not they like pizza or popcorn better on Saturday movie night. (It's popcorn). We have been blessed beyond measure with their cuteness, like tonight when I was told by the boy "Pray fast Yaya, I'm really tired."

Evening cuddle with Papa

So with all that said I have no reason to complain, none at all, but of course I will.

It is all going too fast!!!

Our youngest GK will have his 6th Birthday party tomorrow. He is more excited than our Red Wattle boar Mad Max when he sees Keith approach with a bucket of grain. (we live on a farm, I can compare GK's to a 1000 pound boar if I want to)

But I am not excited at all. Being 6 means in terms simple enough even for the most daft grandparent to understand, he is no longer a baby! Gone are the hour long rocking chair fests where I sing Puff the Magic Dragon over and over, making up the words as I go. Gone are the days where he would cling to my legs when I would leave him until our next visit. Gone are the baths where I could run trucks up and down his chubby legs in the tub while he giggled non-stop.

In it's place however are other miracles. His new found reading ability of which he is so proud. His skill of dressing himself with ALL pieces of clothing right side out. (I can only do this 4 or 5 days of the week myself) His willingness to run to the shop with a message for his papa and run back to me with a message in return.

We do our bests to keep these messages child friendly. Did you not see how he is learning to read?

Yes, indeed he is no longer our grand baby but he has evolved, due to the very hard work of his mama, sprinkled with a little help of ours and then slathered with even greater help from above into one fine young chap.

And although I do miss Baby Wesley, his gurgles and burps and giggles and watching him age has gone faster and perhaps came more painfully for me than his two sisters, we are having a ball with Wesley, the cool big boy.

Who still thinks anything related to farts...highly hysterical.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Please Welcome ...The Poor Farm!!!

Well, it is done. We just closed on our new land, our retirement home, our piece of heaven, our lifelong dream...our future money pit.

You might recall our farm is for sale, and has been now for two years. You might also recall, if you've had your second pot of coffee like I have, that the farm almost sold a few weeks ago. But due to a huge difference between payment offers, it did not.

But because it seemed very likely it would I began looking for our final resting place. (Literally, we plan to build a family cemetery there) I was suddenly aware we might need a place to live if our current farm sold.

Shockingly, I found 7 acres just 20 miles from us!   Original pictures on the day of discovery are HERE, And because the property was in fore closure, the land undeveloped, other than a 150 year old crumbling house, it was much cheaper than other land parcels around us. We pounced on it. Made a bid. Another bid, Another bid and then today we paid out our lives savings, and so now we own this...

A Dr Seuss type tree in the midst of our soon to be new farm
The other trees on our new property look much better. Since the property has not been lived on for over 3 years and prior to that owned by just one family for several decades it is free of...most anything. It does comes with some decrepit buildings and several piles of trash but nothing that cannot be squared away by a couple of 50- somethings ready for a new challenge in their lives.
This fall we will start tearing down the house that is there and moving items that we no longer need here but will absolutely need at the new place, which by the way will now and forever be known as "The Poor Farm"  Because as I said in paragraph 4 above, we spent our life's saving on it, that's why.
Next spring we hope to start building our very tiny retirement home, an earth sheltered Hippie Haven and man are we having fun deciding why that that little gem might be located. Friend Jay and Keith surveyed the piece recently trying to pick the ideal spot to bury ones home.
Maybe over on the south east side...
Or perhaps on the south west side...

Only problem is, the old challenge in our life, our current farm, is alive and well. In order to keep its mortgage paid we must continue to raise the pork and feed the beef and sell in our store and make the soap until one day our prince does come, and I just know he's on his way.
I have to say that. It's only way I can sleep at night.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Raw Milk Monday/Tuesday...IDPH Ignores the Farmers...again.

Raw Milk Wheels...turn Slowly In Illinois
Last week , September 10, our group of pro-raw milk individuals, made up of farmers and consumers, met again with representatives from the Illinois Department of Public Health.  It was our 4th mtg with them. We entered the meeting in good spirits, I mean after all at the last two meetings we had made real progress...didn't we?

But we left the very last meeting feeling as if a hard cold glass of "authoritative" water had been splashed in our faces.

I will admit, it is difficult at times to decide how much to share on this blog. Will I irritate a higher up and cause them to pull out their claws and do damage to the progress we've made out of embarrassment or spite? But after last weeks meeting I have to bonk myself on the head for worrying so much about those in power when it has been made blatantly clear they are not concerned at all with either the raw milk consumer or the raw milk farmer.

They have an agenda and it must be met.

I'll explain. In June during a conference call, a very heated conference call, details can be found HERE.  IDPH agreed we could start with a "clean slate." We were jubilant, well as jubilant as a bunch of farmers can get :)

In July we met in person and although again, a few tense moments as a some of us again tried to get Molly and Steve to  admit there was no REASON for raw milk rules, even though they had the power to do so. We also asked time and again how it was that any of the future rules might apply to us since none of the farms present even met the definition of "dairy farm" since none of us sold to a co-op. 

"Dairy farm" means any place or premise where one

or more cows or goats are kept, and from which a part or all of the milk or milk products are provided, sold, or offered for sale to a milk plant, transfer station, or receiving station.  Grade A Pasteurized Milk and Milk Products Act 410 ILCS 635/3

We had also been told in June there would be a representative from the legal department of IDPH at the July mtg but in legal representative just  Molly who stated "That's just not going to happen" She went on to say that since she had talked to them we basically were going to have to take her word. She was them, they were her, that kind of mantra.

Really? IS there just three employees of IDPH not totally intimidated by our small pro-raw milk group? No one else can be bothered to come to one of these Dairy Work Group Meetings.?

But then  there were good things that occurred in July, despite the set back of not being able to meet with IDPH's legal department. We suggested a two tier system for raw milk produces making Tier 1 very simple to meet and in return sales would be from the farm only. We keep it simple and THEY will keep it simple. Tier 2 would take more time to hammer out but basically required regular inspections, monthly milk testing , The meeting of Grade A or similar standards like those of the Raw Milk Institute testing but in return sales would be allowed at Farmers Markets, possible retail and definitely by delivery and cow share agreements. Looking back I now see it as a "Balm" before the storm.

Last week it all got flipped back on us. Like a backwards time traveling trip to February, coach class.

Molly Lamb could not make the Sept 10 mtg and had to do it by conference call which made communication that much more difficult. I prefer, when folks go back on their word, to see their face up close and personal. Steve Divencenzo from IDPH had lots of papers scattered around him, a deep barrier of sorts.

We agreed to focus on Tier 1. Our requirements as send to Steve and Molly the week before as agenda items were:

1. Voluntary registration with the state
2. Informational signs on the farm informing customers the milk was not pasteurized
3. Direct to consumer sales/consumer containers

In exchange the state would allow the farmer to sell directly off the farm. Easy Peasy huh?

But after several minutes of "review" Steve began to read from his many papers a long list of requirements for the Tier 1 section of proposed raw milk sales as given to him by IDPH's Legal Department. Seems he and Molly had met with them just the day before and No, he did not have copies of those items to share with our group , as he said,  they "had run out of time."

On Steve's list, supposedly recommended by the legal beagles of IDPH  was the following, all to be included under Tier 1

1. Mandatory Registration of all raw Milk Farms, A lifetime permit after initial inspection and "course completion"
2. Informational Signs on the farm informing customers the milk was not pasteurized

AND then

3. Listing of raw milk farms maintained by IDPH on their web site
4. Raw Milk sold only from the Farm Premises.
5. Farmers to provide containers and be responsible for their cleanliness **
6 List of customer names, amount sold, contact info to be shared with IDPH on request.***
7. Dairy Farm will post. "This dairy farm is not routinely inspected by Public Health"
8. Farmer will give receipt to consumer with each sale stating farm contact information, and animal species from which the raw milk originated.
9.Customers be given the opportunity to tour the farm.
10.Dairy farm must give consumer bulletin on their operations, their web site, their safety issues
11. IDPH will be allowed to inspect as wanted or with complaint
12. IDPH can rescind Tier 1 permit if the above not met
13. Raw milk Sale will be limited ****

Once again proper meeting protocol is just thrown out the window , ( the agenda finally emailed back to participates four days before the meeting is far from the actual one used at the meeting) thus not allowing us  time to even consider the recommendations of IDPH's legal team or how they might impact us, reminder that we the farmers and consumers are not so much equal partners in this quasi-democratic process as much as 4th cousin guests being allowed to participate in the Great Oz's little Green Velvet Curtain Show.

Yeah, I'm ticked.

Lets review why. In June Molly and Steve agreed to a clean slate but now several of the first proposed rules we objected too, (customer record keeping and submissions, sales limits, mandatory inspections, Grade A permits) which disappeared from the agenda in July are back on the list. No wait! They were NOT on the Sept. 10 agenda. They were instead verbally read to us by Steve. And when we farmers and consumers objected? Molly back tracked (barely) by telling us through the phone lines, that these items (strongly recommended by IDPH's legal department) were still just "up for discussion?

In addition, not only were the proposed rules we thought long gone, reincarnated like  some kind of statute draped Zombie, NEW rules have been added.  Numbers , 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13. New rules Such as "Customers allowed to tour the farm" Now, please note, there is not a farmer at this table who does not often give tours to customers. But we do it because we want to, because we are proud of our farms, because we have nothing to hide, NOT BECAUSE the state requires us too.

I can just see it now. A customer, on their way home from night shift wants to tour our farm at 7am> We say not a good time, in the middle of milking, can you come at 11? And we are reported to the state, found out of compliance" and lose our permit!!

One good word from Molly this last meeting, "We will not prohibit advertising"  Pretty much a moot point since they are aware they have absolutely no way to enforce that. Giving in on that one is much like throwing a juicy bone to a toothless hound.

 How very generous.

Stay tuned. We've only just begun. Our next meeting with IDPH is November 16.

** During the Sept 10 meeting the group convinced Molly this would not work well putting the farmer at great risk and that the consumer must bring and clean their own containers. Molly agreed. (for now?)

*** Again the group of farmers and consumers strongly disagreed and Molly stated "We will work on the wording."

**** This last tidbit was thrown out at us by Steve, AFTER Molly signed off her call,and just seconds before calling the meeting over. He actually laughed a little.  and said "I'm sure you'll want to discuss this at the next meeting but don't worry there will be no limits in Tier 2!"

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Saponification Sunday...Silk. Real or Hype?

Indigo Soap made with Coconut , Sweet Almond, Castor and Olive Oils
plus a big pinch of real silk. Will it matter at all?

I'm playing with the addition of silk to my soaps. Not entirely new for me but certainly I've not done enough soaps with silk as a key component to really say that I know for sure that it makes a difference.

So this last week I made several batches where the only difference in the recipe was the silk I added. As those bars are all now curing, it's too soon to share results but next week I will.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Milk Fever! All hands on Deck!!

When a cow goes down with milk fever it's considered a life threatening event. It is also a very humbling event for us since recently we were telling another farmer how we "never" see milk fever in our dairy cows since they are 100% grass fed.

Never, NEVER, say never.

Less that 24 hours later one of our best milk cows, Patra,  calved and then develop milk fever. So what is it? Milk fever occurs most often in larger breed, older cows who have had several calves. In simple terms (my personal favorite kind of term)  milk and colostrum which are "let down" in large amounts to the cows udder just after calving, drains calcium from the cows blood stream  putting them in a hypocalcemic state.  Some cows cannot replace this calcium quick enough on their own. Those who do not...



 Will have muscle tremors in head and limbs which will progress to staggering gait and often falling to the ground, usually in a sitting position, often with a "kink" in their neck. A dry muzzle, staring eyes, cold legs and ears, constipation and drowsiness are seen after going down. The heart beat becomes weaker and faster.

 The body temperature falls below normal, especially in cold, wet, windy weather. Sometimes there are additional signs due to complicating factors. Bloat is common in cows unable to "sit up" because the gas in the rumen is unable to escape. Pneumonia and exposure may affect cows left out in bad weather.if untreated they will become unresponsive, lying down completely on their side before circulatory collapse, coma and death.

Prevention is through feed types.  The feeding management of dry cows in the 2 weeks before calving is very important, because it affects both the amount of calcium available to replace blood calcium and the efficiency with which the available calcium can be used.

When the amount of calcium in the diet is greater than is needed, the efficiency of absorbing calcium from the intestine and the efficiency of transferring calcium from the skeleton both become very sluggish and the chance of milk fever is greatly increased.

Our big girl Patra went down quickly and needed to be treated with IV Calcium Gluconate. Given in the jugular vein of the cow in 500 cc bolus's cows often respond very quickly. Sometimes getting back on their feet within minutes. Which is what Patra did. She stayed up, ate more hay, drank well .In Fact when Keith  checked on her late  that rainy night  she was doing so well she made it all the way out to pasture with her girlfriends!

But the next morning she was down again. We blame her sweet calf who bellowed for her causing another huge let down of calcium rich milk. This time when she hit the floor she had made it back into the barn on the manure covered floor. Fortunately we had help that day.

Jim Hart, a graduate of The Farm Beginnings class in Bloomington was doing some "clinical" time with us. Since Petra's head had to be pulled to the side and restrained it was great to have an extra pair of hands to help while we accessed her neck vein (it's nice to feel like a nurse again) and gave more IV Calcium .

Keep in mind, the calcium has to be given slowly, over 20-30 minutes as any faster and Miss Bovine can suffer a heart attack. Since their are no IV pumps available for use in South Pork Ranch ICU we regulate the rate the old fashioned way by lowering and raising the bottle based on the placement of the IV needle in the vein.

Not long after this dose and after spreading limestone on the floor to help her with traction, she felt well enough soon after to get up on her own.

Now three days later, she's doing very well as is her wonderful heifer calf. And once again we have learned to Never say Never again.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

When Cocks Go Bad

Quite the title, yes I know. But I heard a few followers had left and I was desperate to get them back. I thought the title would at least keep your  interest for a short minute.

But as you can see

It's not false advertising. These two are seriously ticked at each other. The neighboring birds have taken notice as well while the farmer, ready for his morning coffee, has taken leave. Soon, the two are squaring off.

After several tense moments and rude comments tossed back and forth about the others mother,
the first move is made.

White rooster leaps high just as Black rooster comes in for a serious peck to the chest. Two of the Guinea sisters come in for a look. Or are they the Guinea brothers? We don't know for sure, we're had 4 perfectly matching Guineas for years, with no babies ever, so whatever sex they are they are definitely all firing blanks.

Anyway, white rooster comes back to earth.

And Black rooster , without  missing a beat lands an excellent shot to his opponents noggin. All other snooping fowl have left the scene now except for the sterile Guineas who having nothing else to do, decide to hang around for round two. Suddenly...


Both both White  and Black leap into the air in a majestic fluttering of feathers attempting to peck each other to death mid air! But gravity wins out, they fall to the ground and suddenly lose all sense of time and direction and purpose.

I take advantage of the brief intermission, rush into the feed house just behind them and scatter some feed. Like the pea brained birds they are, they forget what the brawl was about in the first place and commence with breakfast.

If only we humans could be distracted so easily.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Blues , The Irish do it Best

A few years ago while in Ireland I traveled to Galway to visit one of their antique shops. I had read an article about the shoppe, had called the owner on Saturday to confirm the following Monday hours, gathered my maps, filled my rental with petrol and set off.

On arrival I was quite ticked to find a sign taped to the door of the shoppe which read. "Got the Monday Blues, I'll be in tomorrow"

Today, I know the feeling. See this wonderful bistro like table on our front porch? The one covered with a cutesy sunflower table covering? The one with cheerful fake sunflowers jammed in its middle and real sunflowers thriving just in front of the porch?

Yeah, that's the one. I was going to sit out there every morning this summer and drink my coffee. Then it was going to be every weekend. At least every Sunday. I even strung up several wind chimes to make it a bit more inviting and to remind me of the promise I made myself.

I believe I have sat at that table twice all year.

And thinking of that gave me the Monday Blues. Summer is technically over since the kids are back at school and never mind it was 93 today. The grass is crackly, the garden is toast, the flowers are shriveling up  and I choose to spend the majority of my day in front of the computer solidifying my relationship with Quicken, entering dull data.

Yeah, I have the Monday Blues. And there is no guarantee I'll be in tomorrow

Friday, September 6, 2013

Old wood New Hogcienda

Sitting at my computer working extremely hard (Actually looking at the beautiful tops on Soft Surroundings , (which by the way the one that pops up on this link would be perfect in a 1x for those kids of mine doing some early Christmas shopping, I'm just saying) when I hear the most horrific sound.

Like a thousand giant fingernails scraping against the biggest blackboard ever built. I rush to the window (more like slowly turn away from that luscious silk tunic in blue) and see our hired hand running down Keith with the tractor!!!

I rush to the window for a closer look (turn slowly in my chair  wondering if I could get away with ordering that top in an XL instead of 1X since I have lost a few ounces over the summer or maybe just order THIS BEAUTY instead) when I realize there is no harm intended , just a hog hutch being dragged across the noisy gravel on wooden skids. You would think they could have just carried it across the drive but Noooooooo, they had to make noise being men and all.
Yes, the hog hutch Keith and Aaron started last week is done. Made with 100% recycled materials it is a beauty. Plenty of room for mama sow to move around while in labor and more than enough for the birthing process. Heck, paint the inside a cobalt blue, run an extension cord to a mini-frig filled with Diet coke, raw milk,  and I'm using it for a writing studio.
An abode Pa Ingalls would've happily moved his Little House Family into.


Well designed for cross  breezes and light without direct heat of the sun.
The wood came from an old chicken cage, our old porch and deck and parts of a pig hutch destroyed in the lust of Boar love earlier this summer. The beams may have come from our basement but who cares? The place is for sale anyway.

The doorway may look narrow but trust me, it will work. Keith had me walk through it several times with some ruse about losing a tool in there and would I please look for it? Yeah, width check completed.
Seriously, I think it's wonderful. Problem is there are TWO sows due to farrow next. Mrs Dalloway and Leopard are both scheduled to drop their litters Oct 26th. How will we decide who gets to use the newest Hogcienda? Any ideas?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Price Reduction...Motivated Sellers

South Pork Ranch as the sun sets...August 2013

Please note. "Motivated" does not mean "desperate." It just means...motivated. Since our very- close to- buying, fellow decided NO GO  a couple of weeks ago we've once again changed our direction. Frustrated with our experience of two realtors who worked very little and one round with For Sale By Owner we told each other,

"After this round, we're taking it off the market". Then in a fluke of late night web searching I found the 7 perfect acres just 20 miles from us. Our new home a stone throws away. We saw, we offered, we were accepted, we went through several rounds of paper signing, contract addendums and addendums to the addendums (the property had been in foreclosure and the bank holding it was a stickler on paperwork) we are now set to close in a couple weeks.

So, since we have the land we wanted, in the area we wanted, why not keep the farm up for sale but this time pull out all the stops?

And so we are. First off, we dropped the asking price nearly $50,000 from $398,000 down to $349,999.  We were only going to use that other $50,000 for frivolous things like walls in the new place anyway. We reactivated our For Sale By Owner Listing and we are now upgrading to a National MLS listing and listing for a mere additional $300. This of course means even MORE paperwork filling in all the forms normally a realtor would do for a 6% commission. Makes sense for me to take this on, as I work cheap.

Like a big hairy monkey just give me a huge bowl of buttered and densely salted popcorn at the end of the day and I'm happy. We'll keep that 6% and use it for a new wood cook stove  on the new farm. Thank you very much. This is the model I have my heart set on. The Vermont Bun Baker

In the meantime, back at the (South Pork) Ranch, Yard work is being done, farm buildings are being cleaned (again)  and the inside of the 115 year old farmhouse is being ripped through unceremoniously. Pretty much no one leaves the house without taking a piece or six of furniture with them. Room by room I am de-cluttering SERIOUSLY.  In addition we will soon be purchasing a large steel shipping container and planting it on the new property. We will fill it with all the building materials, recyclables we've been hoarding for years.

Next spring we will begin work on our new home. Our new tiny earth berm home. Somewhere around 900 square feet. Less, if I can get Keith to agree. If we have not sold this place by then "work" may consist of minor land prep. If we have sold then foundations will be poured and walls will go up.

In the meantime, listing descriptions for our current farm have been rewritten and family and friends have been asked to re list on their Facebooks and blogs. Which brings means to you! If you have a blog or a Facebook page, could you, would you, please share our Organic Farm Business and Home For Sale  listing? I'll only ask this one time. Don't want to abuse our Blog friendship. Really, I don't.

Many thanks

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Saponification Sunday...Pure Lard Soap

Pure Lard Soap
Made with 100% Red Wattle Lard

Spent the day yesterday at the Mid America Homesteading Conference in Joliet Illinois. I taught two classes. One was dullsville incarnate, about the rules and regs related to slaughtering, processing and selling your farm raised meat. But the other one I did was a how to on the basics of soap making.

Fun times and a total success. "Success" measured by the fact that I did not burn myself or the participates with my lye water.

The soap worked well too. One guy got so excited he bought some of my soap sample bars AND a five pound bag of lard I brought to the class to show how  to make lard. I do not have any pictures as I did not think to ask anyone to take any so you will just have to trust me when I say the room was filled with almost 2000 people and the event was covered by ABC, CBS and Fox News.

OK. Closer to 15 and I think there was a student reporter drawing a caricature of me in chalk.

I kept the class simple so they could grasp the basic techniques. Also less for me to forget! I made pure lard soap which ironically I have never made before. Oh I have used lard along with other oils but never lard all by itself. That soap was so hard just 24 hours later I could hardly cut it! Can't wait to shave it up and use it in laundry soap since the rumor is that pure lard soap is the best for such.

We shall see.

My recipe was   34.5 oz of lard, 4.5 oz lye and 10 oz water. No colorants no scents