Friday, October 31, 2014

Crap...It's Winter

One last glimpse of the beauty of Fall

My GK'S were asking me the other day about good words and bad words. The writer in me wanted to explain that words are neither good or bad as they have no ability to act immorally but I knew they were not interested in that definition; they basically wanted to know what words, if spewed aloud, might lose them computer time. Basics. Always get down to the basics.

So without an exhaustive list I mentioned a few non acceptable words. Then the 7 year old grandson asked me about the word "crap." For his purposes I decided no. There would be no crap utterances on my watch. But if they are smart, and they are, they will learn like the millions before them; that barn lofts are meant for uttering disallowed words. Cats, chickens and peacocks don't give a crap about your language.

Now, as a farmer..Crap! a most personal favorite of mine, as evidenced this am when I stepped outside to do pig chores. Crap! It was really cold outside and Crap! that's snow coming down isn't it ? And Crap! I'm going to have to go back inside and get a hat and gloves.

Crap! Fall is over and winter is barking up its backside. Sure we will have a few more warm days, a tease, but we all know wha'ts coming here in the Midwest and we best get ready. In the past I would make "Winter Prep" lists but in the midst of a what we thought was a possible farm sale, going back to school, etc...the list was not made. Therefore there is nothing to do to prepare for the ice and wind and snow, correct?

Oh, so wrong mon Cherie. There are hoses to drain and hang which means buckets will be used to carry water to those critters without automatic waterers. Oh joy. Then we have to board up the spots in the barn where snow may drift, secure the open areas on outdoor hutches left open for summer breezes but not helpful when breezes become gales of pure frigidity. Bedding must be packed into hutches to help animals keep warm and fences fixed. Storm windows must return and for those upstairs windows without storms good old plastic must be applied as an additional insulating layer.

The list goes on and on and later this am Keith and I will have our farm meeting and talk seriously...about what we can put off until, or say, the winter of 2017.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Little Poor Farm on the Prairie

Little Poor Farm on the Prairie
What's one more year among friends? Samantha Stephens used to say to Darin in the 1960's TV show when she was about to admit something that might not bode well for her, appears as once again, financing is just not going to happen for the last couple we've been working with. This obviously means no move to The Poor Farm anytime soon. When we purchased the 7 acres last fall we were sure we'd be living there in a months time. Now don't get me wrong, we are definitely into miracles and if one makes its face known we can pack up and ship out in no time flat, but realistically it looks like Prince Farming and his way past Midlife Farmwife are here on South Pork Ranch for the time being.

Now here's the good news. It's been a fabulous summer here. After last winters frigid air and snow dumps our livestock blossomed with the summers lower temps, frequent rains and thick pastures. In years past like in the drought we had two summers ago, we were feeding hay in early July. This year the pastures even now on October 27, look like spring. The growth is so lush we still must watch animals closely for bloat when turned into new areas, something we normally only need to vigilant about in spring.

The Red Wattles have caught up with their breeding schedules and litters born have been large and healthy. All of our pork that will be market age this fall is sold out with none additional available for sale until February. All the beef that grew little or none when the cold was at its worst have bounced back and after months of not having any beef even for ourselves, our freezers are filling up again. Milk production has been so good we were able to take some folks off our raw milk waiting list and actually put them on the raw milk GETTING list! Nothing like great pastures to make great milk. In addition, our very loyal customers remained even more loyal.

And so we sit back (just for a minute) to lick some wounds and then grill up some steaks and lick our fingers. We have plenty of food for ourselves, lots leftover for our customers and the ability physically and mentally to keep doing the work we are doing. Don't cry for us Argentina...instead check out some recent pics of The Poor Farm which has waited this long for new residents, it can wait a little longer.

The 100 year old barn being picked apart piece by piece.
Treasures have been found.

Nature reclaims that once abandoned



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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

To save them you must eat them...and broil them and bake them and fry them.



The irony of our life is stuff for poems. I should know, I just wrote a pig poem the other day.

It's not very good.

But I am good at castrating piglets which is what we did yesterday afternoon after I got home for school. Buehlers life was dull compared to mine. We had another lovely group of pure Red Wattle piglets born last week and it was time to separate the boys from the men.

Except none of them will be "men" this group, none of them as perfect for registration as we would like so will all be sausage, bacon, chops about 6 months time. As more folks learn to appreciate the taste of this NOT the other white meat, then more ask for it and thus more farmers want to raise them. Supply-demand-bacon!

The process is good for the economy, good for small farmers and good for the consumer. Organic pasture raised meat is amazing. Yes, we feel it is even good for the pig as they have a super life, able to roam over large areas, able to play in mud puddles, cuddle up with brothers and sisters and bask in the warm sun whenever they like.

It is amazing even to us how fast this breed will grow. Of course all that extra raw milk does wonders. Just look at how I, I mean they, have grown. The group below is on the way to Eureka locker as I type. No worries, Keith will take them through the scenic country. It's a wonderful morning for a drive.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Helloooooooooo! Anybody home?

Yeah I hear you. Where has she gotten off to this time? Is she not aware anther month, another ridiculous season, has passed since she last posted? If this continues we'll just move on to better and bigger farmwife pastures.

I would not blame you. I might even tag along.

But you are here now so you might as well stay. Lets recap. No, the farm is not yet sold, yes I have made it though the first 5 weeks of school, no, we have not started building on the Poor Farm, yes, we believe this blog is constantly being monitored by IDPH because they have nothing better to do, no, I still cannot speak Italian well and yes, we will have more bacon in the farm store in just a few days.

Farm sale. Still pending. It is not easy in our section of the woods for young (or not) beginning farmers to get loans for farm businesses that are not...dare I say it?...of course I will... created from the almighty corn and soybean mindset. It appears many loans in our county and our state have been nicely floated to those who follow the rules, who remain conventional, who refuse to step outside the box. But if you dare to try something new like manage an organic farm, one that raises a variety of livestock not just the same overused , overbred robostock that no longer even sees real grass, you can expect very little help from local banks and farm agencies. But the young couple we are still working with have a strong entrepreneur strength and we continue to have high hopes that this farm will become their farm.

Good things come to those who wait, who work, who pray, who perservere despite prejudicial treatment.

In the mean time, Keith has been logging longer farm hours as his wife gallivants within the academic world; a world that I will admit, has made me giddy with happiness! Oh sure, it's no cake walk, although it is but a brief walk from the English building to my new favorite restaurant on campus The Red Herring. It's so fun and old- age- new- age there. Great Indie-Rock folk music I can dig, (from Dylan to Sarah Jarosz)  groovy atmosphere for study (they serve "old-hippie" tea in real mugs) and farm fresh food. FARM FRESH from small local farms I tell ya. Sure, its vegetarian but they let me in anyway. Shhhhh, please don't tell them I also eat pork, beef, eggs, chicken, milk and the occasional lamb. I'm kinda a big deal there and don't want to lose my seat under the 8 foot long live plant that drapes itself over my favorite table.

Nearly at the midterm point at UIUC, this semi-senior is getting such a kick of being referred to as a Junior which means I'll graduate with my BA in Fine Arts, Creative Writing in May 2016. I have four intense reading and writing classes plus one kick butt Italian class. Truly I cannot remember caca for that class. (See ? I just used the Spanish word for excrement instead of the Italian word. Geez! The word I want is puah. Now repeat after me..Puu-wah, Benissimo!) Every week I am reading massive amounts of short stories/poetry/essays and then writing about them. I either support them, analyze them, annotate them or argue against them--yeah I LOVE that. Oh that crazy Poe, I adore him so. I returned school to improve my writing and man, am I writing. What I am not doing is getting much sleep in between homework, class time and travel time since I commute 2.5 hours each day. But since lack of sleep causes wrinkles and I am already in that deep boat I fret not. I am also not making soap, not cleaning house, not cooking, not calling friends, not returning calls to friends, and OK I'll admit it, I am not keeping my eyebrows plucked. Why bother? When they are overgrown and bushy disappearing into my untrimmed bangs, my fellow students don't see me raise them as they make totally off the wall unsupported left-winged propagandist statements.

I do represent the establishment you know :)

And THEY do an excellent job of not scoffing out loud when I say something deeply meaningful, insightful and oh so wisdom-- based like "Hey! Who stuck their disgusting gum to the underside of my desk ?!?!" Truth be told I have met some amazingly brilliant young folk on campus and I am learning from them every single day. Every single day. And because of their enthusiasm and desire to excel they have motivated me to push my own envelope. For example I only use the rail to go up and down the stairs about half the time. The other half I risk all and brave the steps, now get this, unassisted.

The farm itself is motoring along nicely. Our livestock did a great job of procreating this summer and we've had many extra piglets to sell as feeders, breeders and eaters. Our waiting list for all those continues to grow. It's exciting to see more and more small farmers wanting to raise the Red Wattle hog. In fact we had another fine litter of these beauties just the other day and as soon as the rain lets up I'll be snapping some photos. All our carcass meat is spoken for through February and soon I'll be taking names for these new feeder pigs. No, I don't want you to name them, I will be putting your names on a list to eat them.

Clarity in sentence structure.
Just one of the many weaknesses I offer.

One of our hogs was featured at Spence Farm's Harvest Feast a couple of weeks ago and that is always a big thrill for us when amazing chefs get their hands on one of our piggies. So, I'll leave you now with a raw milk update and take a few moments to catch up on all your blogs. I really have missed you guys.


When last we spoke raw milk issues were kicking up speed here in Illinois. That train is still rushing full speed ahead and I really do not know where it will end up. We are encouraging everyone and anyone who cares about the right to consume and produce and sell and give away the raw milk from your farm animals to contact JCAR (Joint Commision of Administrative Rules) These big guns will be making the decision on whether or bot these rules will stand. We have just another week or so to get our opinions in writing to them. (email or snail mail) Please go HERE for that contact information.