Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Farm Sale Update

Once again, it's all moving forward. In December the gentleman who we had been working with for 4 months changed his mind about buying our farm business BUT the young couple he had hired (briefly) to run this farm came forward and are now applying for financing. They want to be the owners now not just the hired hands.

It's looking real good.

Selling a farm business is more complicated than selling just a farm house and some acres. And believe me, banks like to complicate things. Even though our asking price includes house, land, acres, buildings, livestock, equipment, frozen meat on hand, shop tools etc...everything needed to start running the business the day of closing, the bank is requiring TWO loans.

The first will be for the real estate, house, land and empty buildings. It will be a traditional 15-30 year loan. The second loan will cover the business part, equipment, cows, pigs, vehicles all the way down to the number of eggs in our farm store refrigerator. That loan will only be for 7 years.

And then of course there is the matter of a down payment. No small potatoes since most banks want to see 10% of the asking price. Lenders also want to see lots of numbers, plans, projections and scenarios.

No wonder it has taken us nearly two years to get to this point. I believe it would be easier for someone to borrow money to open a nuclear power plant than it is to get funds for a small family farm.

But if anyone can get it done, I believe it is this couple we are working with. Soon we (and they) will be purchasing additional livestock so that by the time we reach our projected closing date of Nov. 1 this farm will be running at good capacity. We've hated having to turn down business the last few years because we simply could not keep up.

The potential new owners are going to reverse that trend. They plan to grow the farm in a healthy, honest, continued certified organic way. They talk of customer appreciation days, regular newsletters, meat CSA's, educational events taught here on the farm. And because they are bright enough to understand staff will need to be hired to reach these goals I can assume they will be successful. Not just financially but intrinsically.

Yes, We are getting excited.

But now, the real crunch time is beginning. November is just 8 months away. We will need something to live in on The Poor Farm., while we start to build our new earth covered home. We need to get a barn built for a limited number of livestock. We need to plan this years garden in order to feed us next winter. We need to buy a shipping container and get it located on the Poor Farm so we can start storing all our building materials out there now. We need to get electricity and water going out there so we can build the things we need to build. We need to totally go through all our things here and pitch, give away as they will not fit in the new tinier life. We need to keep running this farm well so when Prince Farming (and spouse) takes over it will be in most excellent shape.

We need, we need, we need.

We need to shut up and get to work!

P.S. Why is this all not happening until November  you ask? Because the potential new owners have another very busy farm up north and customers are depending on them through the summer. Sure they could've walked away from all that and left their supporters high and dry but that's not the kind of people they are. They have this thing about meeting expectations and keeping their word. Just another reason we believe they will be the best fit here on South Pork Ranch.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

South Pork Ice Capades

No, not the lake, but rather just our driveway. After weeks of cold and snow and ice we had a THUNDERSTORM the other night. This resulted in icy rain and some melting then refreezing. Which resulted in a few more falls on the ice. No injuries for us. I'm fat and bounce, Keith is very healthy so he doesn't break, but our neighbors had an older horse fall and break a leg which meant an earlier than expected demise for the creature.

The stalactite development from our roof top made walking around outside that more exhilarating. Would we make it inside before an unfortunate beheading or not?  At one point the longest ice shard was nearly five foot!

But as dangerous as they were they did bring some real beauty into our bedroom window each morning. All in all happy to see them gone with warm breezes yesterday. Of course next week another cold snap coming our way, and then MAYBE a steady warm-up.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

ME-dia Frenzy...

Either all the other small direct sales farms have shut their barn doors or they are just smart enough to say NO but lately we've been bombarded with requests for interviews, mentorships, videos and intern sponsoring.

And we're better because of it.

In years past this type of coverage usually happens in the summer. Farms are real pretty in May, June and July, but fresh- local- small- farm- raised food is one hot topic today. Even in the dead of winter it seems.

Recently,  I did a farm tour/interview with Molly Gleason from The Illinois Stewardship Alliance, (Buy Fresh Buy Local Campaign)  an audio interview with  Eva Voinigescu a reporter with the Medill News Service in Chicago, Megan Larmer Manager of Biodiversity Programs of Slow Food USA  and Next week a couple we are mentoring via the Central Illinois Farm Beginnings will come and visit with us face to face. The last few weeks we've been answering their questions by email.

To ice that media cake, we just spent two days with a grad student from Northwestern, who not only asked us some amazing questions but also got his jeans and hands dirty doing chores. Meet Connor Walters:

When we asked him if he wanted to hold one of the piglets while I did the testicle removal he honestly replied, "no thanks, that's a little too intimate for me"

Well said Connor.

All of this is an invasion of our privacy, our work routine and our ability to...ok..I'll just admit it...take the occasional midafternoon nap to break up our very long work days.

So why do we say yes to every Tom, Dick and Sherry reporter?

Because we really do believe in what we do and when we share it with others it reignites the flame we hold for this kind of farming. When a young man like Connor Walters drives a few hours out of the city to bunk down in a snow tundra of a farm and work with us two days for free and then leave THANKING makes us feel good about what we do.

It makes us want to be better farmers.

The amazing thing still...Connor was not even an agriculture student, he was journalism major who will graduate with that Masters degree this May at the age of 23. Given the choice of interviewing and writing an in depth story about any other topic, he chose small farms. Given the choice of going anywhere in the country, he came to Chatsworth!

And while he was here he learned to: milk cows,  plow snow, minister to a sick calf,  castrate pigs, feed steers, grind grain, and stock a small farm store with yet another side of fresh frozen beef.

I hope we were able to teach him a bit about those things that are not so easily seen. Like how on a farm like ours we don't get "snow days" but we can take time out to share a cup of tea with our son and his wife when they drop by.

About how animals have to be tucked in and cared for before we can take care of ourselves. That customers are not just people who bring us money for goods but friends who care about our welfare in bad weather and leave jars of jellies and jams in our store for our breakfast.

About how satisfying a meal can be when you've raised the beef for over a year and a half before you can enjoy the meatloaf and cared for the cow for over 8 years who gave her milk for you to drink.

Showing others how to do what we do can be tiresome. Some days we would prefer to just go about our business all alone and then just go to bed.

But if did that how would others learn what there is to be taught? You can only go so far with "Mother Earth  News," Google, Bing and YouTube and the upcoming Chipotle sponsored series Farmed and Dangerous.

To really learn about real farming you have to actually spend time with real farmers.

Yes, I know. Profound. But some folks just don't get it. It was through the generosity of others who let us visit their farms in the early years, ask them the endless questions that Keith and I were ever able to get to the spot we are in now.


But still happy to help others who will carry on this way of life...we day when we FINALLY get to take that really long afternoon nap.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Prepare for Liftoff! (With a Rocket Mass Stove)

Oh that Keith. The first time he mentioned a rocket mass stove to me I thought he was trying to live out some boyhood astronaut dream of his.

Turns out he was referring to heat. The kind of heat that just might meet our needs in the new not yet built earth covered home we are planning for the Poor Farm.

Originating in India I am told as well as other third world countries, the rocket stove is a very basic way of cooking using small amounts of wood and minimal hardware with the primary part of the stove being a metal barrel. In fact the fuel needed comes in the form of small diameter twigs that can be harvested with pruning sheers vs the gas guzzling, somewhat dangerous chainsaws.

A very basic rocket stove without the mass heater

You see standard wood stoves waste much of the heat and wood energy when they burn, with a large portion of it going up the chimney as hot smoke. A burns efficiently – converting nearly all of the fuel into CO2 and water, including the smoke. It also stores it’s thermal energy in a “battery”,  a bench that stores the heat from the fire and releases it slowly over the course of the day.  The stove can burn both logs and scrap wood and the best part is, it can heat the same space as a regular wood stove with 1/4 of the wood!When built properly the air intake makes a sort of rocket exhaust sound and thus the name of the stove. The idea is taken further by rigging up additional pipes that extend from the rocket stove where the heat travels.

If you cover up this ductwork with mass like adobe or brick in the shape of a bed, couch or loveseat you get not only a stove that warms your home and cooks food but one that also will provide you with a very nice place to sit. The heat will emote from the "mass" part of the stove for 12-18 hours AFTER the fire has been extinguished.

Some friends of ours built one about 3 years ago and we visited them last week to check it out. But of course I forgot my camera but it was indeed very cool (to look at) and very warm (to sit on). But wait! The very stove they built was featured on the Midwest Permaculture Sight. So I'm able to share it with you after all.

Wayne and Bev Malchows Rocket Mass Stove
and check out that beautiful poured concrete floor!
Is that not so cool? I was sold and cannot wait to build out own in our new home. Heat costs will be minimal since the house will be underground and we've been told that earth homes retain heat so well we may only need to fire up our rocket mass stove about every three days.

That means you can heat a 1200 square foot home for pennies a day. Provided your home is well insulated.

And the metal barrel can even be covered with the matching adobe seen on the bench. Seems they must be replaced about every five years (just the barrel) but if you built it with a stainless steel barrel you may be good for almost 15 years.

I'll be thrilled if I'm good for another 15 years myself.
But if I use it as a primary cooking source how will we prepare food on the days the stove is not running? And what about in the summer when our cool is keeping the home cool and not warm?
We are thinking we might build a little add on summer kitchen. Or put in a small electric stove. We shall see.

In the meantime having a blast looking on line at all the fun rocket mass stove designs. So let me know. Are you familiar with these? Ever built one?  Did you love it ? Hate it? Would enjoy hearing from you rocket mass stove folks out there.

Would You Marry A Farmer?

Would You Marry a Farmer?

I was a city girl. Much of my childhood spent in Chicago with concrete playgrounds and four lane traffic serving as my backyard. When I met my farmer, Keith, I was 33, a divorced mother of two pre-teens. I was a health care professional whose closet was filled with suits, heels and a pompous briefcase or two.

On our first date Keith gave me a dozen eggs. Truth.

After that, I was totally hooked on my farmer. We married, raised four children together and we are still farming side by side.

But as ideallic as magazines like Country Living can make life on a farm sound, it is often a real challenge being married to a man (or woman) who reeks of manure and sour milk and thinks a date day is best spent at Big R shopping for long plastic artificial insemination gloves.

If only there was a book that could help prepare unsuspecting future mates.

Oh wait! There is.

Meet my blog friend Lorna Sixsmith from Carlow, in South-East Ireland and her super cute family.

I've been following Lorna's blog  The Irish Farmerette for some time  (despite the 3500 miles between our farms we live similar lives) and was thrilled when she released her first book Would You Marry A Farmer?.  Prior to that she was a successful blogger, Social Media Consultant, and of course full time mum and farmerette. Not sure what it means to "Stand in the Gap" ? Confused about tweeting, posting, ? Lorna is the person to go to. Catch up with the busy social media side of Lorna with her other popular blog Write On Track

Don't worry. You don't have to be a Blarney Stone Kisser to benefit from her expertice. So much of what she teaches regarding being married to a farmer is universally beneficial. Her insight into the barn life in general, her own life in particular is great fun to read,  Not only did she manage to complete the book, she raised the money to publish it, did the marketing, the promotions, the mailings. She did it all.

And if I find out she has a clean farmhouse to boot I'll have to kill her.

Her book is as expected, pure fun and laughter inducing but it is unexpected in many ways as well. Her research into the history of Irish marriage was enlightening and I especially loved reading about the tradition of dowrys both monetary and in terms of land and livestock. Would You Marry a Farmer is the perfect book to keep on your kitchen table. Read a chapter here and there as you squeeze in a cup of coffee or tea before you head out to castrate pigs or ear tag calves.

Or just read it for fun while you're sitting up top of The Hancock Tower with your penthouse view fantasizing about a life with a man of the earth.

You can purchase her book and follow along on Her Website. or order with free shipping worldwide from Kennys Books.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Saponification Sunday. The Color Of Mute


It's been awhile. No worries, I did some serious soaping last night. A good cross between hot proces(crock pot) and cold process (mix and mold)

I like both ways as they each have their highs and their lows. Pulled out my magic trick box of colorants which I've been collecting for several years. I love all the muted colors and I enjoy how the shades of color they produce vary widely based on the type of oils in your soap, the amount of colorant used, the temperature you soap at (hot lye water or cold) as well as the essential oils you use.

In the first year I saponified I wrote down everything but quickly learned that I love the SURPRISE of soaping and generally don't repeat too many recipes. As long as my basic recipe maintains its proportions everything else is up for grabs.

But last night I lost all touch with reality. I had many different types of oils so I combined the following: olive, coconut, lard, sweet almond, avocado, babassu, Castor, Shea and mango butters. Is that not nuts?!? Actually it was a good mix of moisturizing, lathering and hardening oils.

I hope.

SO while I wait for them to cure I'll tell you more about the colorants I use.

From left going clockwise;

Titanium dioxide for whiter bars. I dissolve 1 tsp in 1/4 cup of HOT water and mix well. About 1 tsp per 2 pounds of oils.

Spirulina, a green algae, makes beautiful green soap but fades quickly. I will usually combine with wheat grass powder or French Green clay for staying power. Mixes well with oil. About 2 tsps. per pound of oil.

French yellow clay mixes with water or oil. Has nice drawing powers nice to use for soap bars intended for acne use. A very light yellow. Will thicken your soap and speed trace. 1/2 tsp per pound of oils.

Morracan Red Clay. Same properties as other clays. Same usage amount. Will produce a muted pink color.

Indigo. Oh how I love indigo. I mix mine with oil before adding to my soap mix but you can throw it straight in if you want. It dissolves well. Small amounts and you'll get light grey, larger amounts a deep blue. Add with a bit of Titanium Dioxide and you'll get a brighter blue.

French green clay (just below the Indigo, sorry about the hard to read label, I'm still learning to play with that picmonkey) Same properties as other clay. Boosts the green in the Spirulina. Can make a nice gray-green color too.

Maddor root. Again a real favorite of mine. You can mix with oil or add directly to your soap. Or infuse it in oil so no particles at all in your final bars. 1-2 tsps. per pound of oil with pink to red range.

Tumeric ! A real powerful colorant. 1/2 tsp to a pound of oil and you will get a BRIGHT bar of soap. Less and you'll have a sunnier less abrasive color. Dissolves well in oil

Alkanet. Will give you grey to deep purple. If you add without infusing first you will definitely get an abrasive, exfoliating bar which is fine if that is what you want. But my favorite way to use in to put about 3 Tablespoons in a 1/2 cup of olive oil and let sit for a week. Then drain the oil and use it to color. So pretty!

Remember: whatever amount of oil you use to dissolve or infuse your colorant must be included in your lye to oil calculations. If you are using several different colorants and not tracking the oil you are adding back into your soap your lye amount may be too little and you may have trouble with getting a true trace.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Donkeys Tale



Some days this whole homesteading gig is just a big load of manure .Yesterday was one of those days. We lost our little miniature donkey Doolin.

"Lost" as in died, not as in he wondered into town, and hopped a bus for the warmth of Florida. I only wish he had.

After weeks of brutal sub zero weather, the temps broke yesterday am. We were elated. Almost 20 degrees ABOVE zero. But it was too little too late apparently. When Keith went out to do chores he heard our donkey call to him, not unusual as Doolin often called when he saw us or was hungry or lonely or bored.

But it sounded different and he wasn't standing by the feed shed as normally he does. He was instead around behind the shed lying flat out on the snow.

It's never a good sign when an animal is lying on his side out in the cold.

Keith came in to get me and it was obvious he was in dire shape. Irregular breathing, bright red blood on his nose, glassy eyes but his body warmth was still good. Keith went to get the tractor. While I waited, kneeling in the snow using my body to keep Doolin up right so he could breathe better I felt that he knew we were helping him.

The way he leaned against me--into me--was more than just fatigue. Rubbing him all over, trying to keep his circulation going, trying to encourage him made us both feel better I think.  With some pulling and lifting we were able to get him in the tractor bucket. He even fought us a little, kicking his abbreviated legs which was good and gave me hope. False as it was.

With my holding up his head and walking next to the tractor while Keith drove slowly, we got him into our machine shed and I called the vet. Our regular one was gone and the other told me "we don't do donkeys" but they would ask the vet for advice. I was ready to go to town to get antibiotics and steroids as I was sure that was what he needed.

Back to the machine shed to see if we could get him to drink but no. And then just as quietly as I have ever in my life seen an animal or person die, and I have sadly seen many of both, he just stopped living.

It took several seconds for me to realize he was indeed gone. Keith got my stethoscope and I listened but only to confirm what I knew.

Death is a regular part of the farm life. Animals get old, animals go to slaughter and sometimes when the weather is just too much animals succumb. But there is much guilt with this passing. Last week I noticed the bright red blood on Doolins nose and even though pneumonia normally produces frothy PINK sputum I still listened to his lungs and belly.

No crackles, (fluid) no wheezing and looking closer at his nose it seemed it was chapped and sore. I decided it was because of the terrible cold and ice and he was probably nosing around in the snow out in pasture just hoping to find some real green grass.

Even animals get tired of the dried stuff (hay) over the long winter.

I treated his nose with coconut oil and the bleeding improved. Then every other day or so I'd see a little more. But his appetite was good, he was active, he was...himself.

Until he wasn't.

I personally do not believe that animals have souls. When they die they die, But I do believe they have hearts and Doolins was big. A gentle creature from the time we brought him home as a tiny foal as a Christmas gift for our GK's 7 years, he had won all our hearts. Not that he couldn't be annoying. Always in your face whenever you tried to fix a fence or saddle up Ennis. He  had to be in the middle of everything!

Many kids got to ride him, many more got to rub his cartoonish face and long fuzzy ears. He was close buddies with our Shepherd Ashland as they spent hours chasing each other back and forth, back and forth in the pasture.

This morning Ennis is standing by the shed by herself. Ashland is laying at her feet ! She looks one way and then the other. I know she is missing her little buddy

She's not the only one.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Outhouse of My Dreams

Over the years we have received many interesting things from our children for Christmas: hand made pottery items, frames made from old china pieces, shelves crafted in woodworking class and we have truly treasured them all. And just when you think (a bit sadly) that the cute little homemade crafts will never be gifted again because, face it...your baby is now get THIS for Christmas

A beautiful hand crafted outhouse! Kept under wraps in our oldest son's Colton's garage, he had apparently started working on it right after we purchased The Poor Farm. We were shocked being as it wasn't even on our wish list. I figured some new socks and a few bags of black licorice would suffice.

But Colton is that that age now where he thinks HE knows what is best for his parents. And he was right. When we start building our new home (still waiting for Prince Farming to come along) we'll need facilities. And being as we currently use the property for target practice and the nearest gas station is a couple of miles away, it will come in handy in present time as well.

The beast was a bit tall and getting it out of the garage and into Coltons pickup took several strong young men.
The Poor Farm is about 11 miles from the site of outhouse creation and travel had to be slow. Couldn't take the chance of dumping it on the highway! "Dump" yeah. It is funny.
Fortunately there were no low bridges to go under and the Outhouse Ma Hal made it in one piece,
Even up the narrow in-desperate-need-of -at-least-two-loads-of-gravel-driveway. Getting it off the truck went well. In fact I hardly broke a sweat, as I just stood there and watched.
As impressive as the outside was the inside was oh la la. I'm telling you the apartments and houses I lived in the first decade of my adult life did not a loo as clean and comfort filled as this one.
Check out that magazine rack! And the double decker toilet paper rolls. And for those who truly understand infection control...the sanitizer dispenser.
So thanks to the Loo Crew

From left son Kyle, husband Keith, friend Nat, son Jason and son Colton.
Not pictured but totally deserving of special thanks is daughter-in-law Tab who gave up her garage parking space for several months while the Loo who Grew was being created.











Raw Milk Monday

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 4 years . To do so, simply enter "Raw Milk" in the search bar, on the right.

Its' certainly been awhile since I've updated everyone about the raw milk status in Illinois. So here goes.

You might recall, the last meeting of the Dairy Work Group, a subcommittee of the Food Safety Committee of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) was held in November 2013. A couple weeks later Molly Lamp of IDPH emailed the members of the Dairy Work Group, of which I was one, telling us the group was no longer needed.

Our comments and suggestions were now on their way up the chain of law making command. After a year of hard work, heated discussions and banging our heads against the brick walls put up by those who were far more interested in the welfare of big Ag than they were in the ability of small farmers to make a living selling a wholesome product.

Last week I was contacted by  Eva Voinigescu  a reporter with the Medill News Service in Chicago. She's working on a video story about raw milk policy in Illinois. Like a good reporter ( a rarity today with so many just re posting and re tweeting without ever verifying their sources) she called Molly Lamb for a comment.

Ms. Lamb told her that the group was NOT disbanded.

How very interesting is that since we've not had another meeting nor have any been scheduled for 2014.?  Ms. Lamb told us herself the proposed rules suggested by the group, and hopefully all the documented opposition to those rules, was making its way towards the Joint Commission of Administrative Rules (JCAR) .But once again I am not surprised. If I learned anything last year in the trenches of law making it was this:

Facts are not valued in the process. Opinion, power and end results for those who will benefit most, are on the other hand, greatly valued.

For your viewing pleasure I've recopied the shortened flow chart of the rule making process for raw milk sales in Illinois. Once again I have to state that we in Illinois were very fortunate that we found out about the changes being suggested BEFORE they went to JCAR and at least had the opportunity to oppose then and suggest more reasonable solutions. Whether or not our work made any difference still remains to be seen. But we were proud to at least be part of the process.

Bottom line as of today February 10, 2014. There are NO enforceable rules regarding raw milk production or sale in Illinois.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Winds of Change

Being in our 50's we understand the facts of life. Teenagers hate you. Produce goes rotten before the cookies do and it snows in Illinois in the winter.

But THIS winter had been over the top. Snow then freeze then thaw then rain then snow and freeze and thaw and sleet and more snow topped with a nice frosting of ice.

99% of the time the wind will come from the south east and the majority of shelters take this into account.

Which means even with bad winds our animals have good dry places to get out of the wind. Except when the wind shifts, like it has been lately and blows in through the open north sides of the barn.

Leaving us and them with indoor precipitation. Drifts in the barn etc...

We are so tired of this winter!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ashland grows Up and Up and Up

You might recall this little guy. The dark one in the back.



He was about 4 months old when the pics above and below were taken.


I snatched him last year while making a delivery in Chicago, on Ashland Avenue thus the name. I am sorry to say I bought him from a pet shop instead of a shelter but he probably would've ended up in a shelter so what's the difference? Well the main difference was he was one sick puppy. Parasites to the max. losing weight, vet visits and his first two weeks here were rough. Then he got better. And bigger and bigger.

He is still growing.

Rumored to be 3/4 German Shepard and 1/4 Huskie, he was the first dog in the history of our farm to ever be allowed inside. Because he was so sick it just had to be. So he was house trained. And he does tricks! Like sit. Who knew dogs could follow commands? We do enjoy his company in the farmhouse.  Except when he insists on lying in front of the sink just because there is a heat register right there.

Sometimes he's inside and sometimes he is out. He tolerates the cold and the heat equally well. Sometimes he chases the pigs while other times he obsesses over the ducks. Chases them but never actually has them for dinner.


Since he came to the farm after Fannie, our Great Pyrenees,  he is at the bottom of the doggie totem pole. When I come out of the house Fannie will not allow him anywhere near me until SHE decides it is time. She eats first and gets the best spots in the barn to sleep in.

But he gets joy from other things

Like chasing snow.

Must be the Husky in him. I'm wondering if its too soon to hook up a sled behind him?  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Feeder, breeder, sucker, eater What's the difference?

You might look at this guys and think...

Pig. Just a pig.

But really he is so much more. He might be a suckling pig still nursing, fat and round and oh so yummy. Sold while still hanging with his family they are oft used for parties. Folks like to roast them whole with head and feet in place so their guests know it's a pig and not a camel they are having at Aunt Bertha's 93rd birthday fest. Roasting pits can be dug directly in the ground or made out of a pile of bricks. They sell for $6.75/pd

Or maybe when he is closer to 8-10 weeks and after weaned from mama, able to enjoy grub all by himself, we might sell him as a  Feeder. Feeder pigs are very popular on the new homesteads. people buy a few, raise them to around 6 month of age and take them on a field trip (no stopping at McDonald's but maybe Bob Evans) to a locker who slaughters and packages the meat. Enough for your own family and maybe some friends. A great way to start raising hogs without having to do chores in the winter. Buy in spring, sell in fall, have ham at Christmas. They sell for $125 each

After the age of 10 months , if large enough, our Red Wattle hogs might be used as breeders. We used to register our young stock, based on the traits of their parents, as breeding stock, but now we wait. We have 3 year old gilts just now having their first litters (thus turning them into sows) and I'm sure I'll probably only register 1 of the 3. She'll be the prettiest one, with the long lashes and the wide hips. They sell for $300 each if young and up to $1200 each if they are a bred sow or proven boar.

Eaters are those hogs we save for our won freezer and for the store freezer. Like the ones we sell to customers they are 6-8 months when they go to the locker. When they come back they are in in nice neat vacuum packed see-through packages with all the appropriate labels. It is the most expensive way we sell our meat. Mostly because of all the packaging and labeling. Each vacuum pack is 40 cents each. Each label with our farm name is 12 cents. Plus more for the organic seal and weighing of the packages.

Pretty is never cheap.

Thus the meat in our store is sold by the pound. Bacon would be $10.49 a pound compared to paying just $ 4.65 pound ($3.75 a pound plus processing) if you bought an entire hog. So now you know why going "Whole Hog" is a good thing.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Farm Diversification ...In Reverse

We got our dairy license in 1995 and sold to a co-op.
We raised a few pigs and calves each summer for freezer meat for a few friends and family
Then we became certified organic and sold more meat out of our basement freezer.
Then we stopped selling milk to the co-op and sold only to folks who came to the farm.
Soon after we started selling to a Chicago Grocery Store
Then another and then two more
Then we sold our meat at the local Farmers Market
Then we started selling to restaurants. First one, then two then ten.
After that we opened up our farm store
Then we sold roaster hogs to folks who liked parties and we delivered all over the state
Then our Red Wattle meat got picked for chef contests and school events and fund raising and and and and

And we were very successful
And totally exhausted.

So we put our farm business up for sale. While we wait for Prince Farming to come along and sign on the dotted lines we have taken up a new direction.

We call it, reverse diversification

First we cut back on roaster hog deliveries and then we eliminated the restaurants. We started resigning from the boards we served on and all the other events.

We stopped entering our pigs in beauty contests!

Last week we stopped selling to grocery stores.

As of  yesterday 100% of all our pork, and milk and beef) will now be sold direct to the consumer who comes to our farm, ONLY and we are very excited but of course worried.  When we ceased selling to restaurants, we prayed our customer base would be strong enough to purchase our meat directly or in the grocery stores.

And now we are pulling away from the grocery stores. Again we have to ask, "what if our customer base is not large enough to support what we are raising?" or "what if there are enough customer numbers but not enough consumer cash to afford our organic meat?" or "what if we have enough customers, who have enough cash but don't want to drive out to our farm?"

What if?
What if?
What if?

What if  we do manage to sell enough meat just out of our own farm store to actually pay the mortgage and the feed bill and the phone bill?

We won't know until we try.

Our customers tell us they would buy more meat if we had it available; that they have friends who would buy our meat if we had enough. That they would like to pre-order a whole beef and a whole hog every year.

So OK we'll give it a try. Instead of spreading ourselves so thin we'll spread ourselves thick.
About 1 &1/2 inch thick for 7.75/pound if you happen to be a bone-in pork chop in our farm store.