Thursday, December 30, 2010

Our Father who liked to Whistle

Walked around the old neighborhood today, North Ashland Ave., Chicago, the land of Our Lady Of  Mispent Youth. Parked the wagon across from Chase Park after dropping off two hogs to Acre Restaurant on North Clark just a few blocks away.

It was a dark and gloomy day...really it was, and rainy too. I walked south past our old gradeschool, (now a training center for LPN's and lab techs) then past the the old convent (now some kind of hippy joint ? Half-way house ? Soup Kitchen ?) and then past our old apartment building. Which is still an apartment building.And then I wondered,  how can a neighborhood smell exactly the same as it did 47 years ago ?

Overcooked cabbage wafting through an open window followed by stale cigar smoke. Oil and gasoline fumes from the traffic motoring on behind me. Coal dust and Noxema mixed in with Brylcream hair treatment and marshmellow eggs. All of it was right there. I felt pulled towards the courtyard where my sister Mary and I would ride our red tricycles  I wanted to jump up on the narrow metal railing circling said courtyard. I could hear Sister Mary Gerard yelling at me from the school, "Miss O'Shaughnessy, you forgot your homework." But best of all I heard my father whistle. The two fingers in his mouth REALLY LOUD kind of whistle that meant, "Come here now!"  And we would.

So new blog design #3. Comments ?
One more thing. Like to cook ? Love to bake ? Love to win great stuff  ? Then check out this wonderful blog and giveaway contest  Tell her the Midlife Farmwife sent you.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Just Playing Around

Soon the New Year will be upon us. I desire something more for my blog. Playing around with my background for starters. The green grass/field thing was too predictable for a "Farmwife" blog. So trying this one on for size. Then will try a couple more until Jan 1. As always comments are welcome as long as they are in complete agreement with my own opinions.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Counting DOWN

If you're a follower of this blog (i.e "stalker") then you might recall our dairy situation. But for those who are new or just forgetful like so many of us Midlifarians, I'll recap. Eight months ago Foremost Coop told us to stop selling raw milk to any folks who came to the farm in need of such. Even though we'd been selling to Foremost for over a decade without any problems , even though all our IDPH inspections were good and even though  selling raw milk is legal in Illinois as long as the customer brings their own container.

Fresh whole raw milk seconds after the cow is milked just
 before it goes into our stainless steel holding tank.
 From there it goes direct to the consumer or the swine of choice.

So we stopped selling milk to Foremost and all our milk is now utilized by selling it raw (non-homogenized, unpasteurized)  direct to farm visitors or by feeding it to our pigs. Sales continue to grow (as do our hogs) every month. Funny thing happened on the way to self-sufficiency. The IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health)  decided they no longer would grant us the Grade A license we had held for over 10 years, because they were no longer going to survey our dairy. Strange way of thinking. IDPH had publicly stated many times their belief that raw milk is dangerous yet when we asked them to please keep surveying us so we could held accountable to the high standards of Grade A licensure...they said NO.

What's a self-sufficient, responsible, certified organic dairy owner to do ?

Well..we continue to follow the IDPH standards for a Grade A Dairy, one of which is the testing of the milk for various things. One required test (if we were licensed but we are not, so its not "required" of us anymore ) is the test for SCC or Somatic Cell Count. Simply put, the SCC is an indicator of milk quality with  "somatic" referring to white blood cells. Somatic cells originate from INSIDE the cows udder and is considered one way of measuring animal health. If a cow has "mastitis" or inflammation of the udder, the SCC will rise. The SCC of Grad A Dairies should not be above one million cells per milliliter states the USDA  (United States Department of Agriculture). Cows with a SCC of less than 200,000 are considered healthy and will not likely show any signs of mastitis. The average SCC for  Grade A Dairies nationwide in 2009, was 233,000.

Our SCC last month was 90,000  (actual report available upon request to any past, present or future milk customer of ours)

Credit for this goes to our massive employee base. Both of them. Keith who milks 95% of the time and our relief milker (and son) Jason. Its because of their technique and overall herd management that our SCC is so low.

 Oh OK. I'll take a little credit. I am the one who does all the NAGGING about all the rules and regs.  Now back to IDPH.  You would think that they would WANT to survey us, to find out what we are doing well so the information can be shared with others  thus lowering SCC measurements for other dairies who sell both conventional and raw milk. Isn't that what they say they are about , a safe food supply ? I mean it just seems so logical.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Big sister is watching

I was the oldest of 6. Then when I was 14 my younger sister Bernie Jo died and I was suddenly ONLY the oldest of 5. I still feel like the oldest of 6. I always will. I've never minded being the oldest. I am bossy by nature. Being in charge and taking control where situations call for a plan comes very naturally for me,

 even though I know it can be annoying to others,

So my first New Years resolution is this:  Be less bossy. Now get off your can, move away from the computer and accomplish something today will ya ?!?!?!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And so this is Christmas...

Its a beautiful Christmas morning here on South Pork Ranch.  Recent snow and ice storms have given us trees like this:

Simple growths like weeds and grasses, seemingly dead after the first frost, come back to life when coated with shimmering ice.

Bare, skinny twigs which were brown and ugly as they lowered themselves to the ground, became elgant feathery fronds as a blanket of  icy-ness was painted over them.

The crystal formations are everywhere, disguising objects this Midlife Farmwife normally describes as junk, into free form objects of wintry art. Rust, when combined with the icy white colors of snow and ice, evolves into something  like this:

And even into something inviting and welcoming like this,

Merry Christmas Everyone and Happy Birthday Baby Jesus !

Friday, December 24, 2010

He's no Freddie Mercury...

...but we still love him. Our Little Freddie, 50% Corgi,  50% Border Collie, 100% nuts. He wants soooo badly to be a real herd dog but we have not gotten around to providing him with professional training. He knows a few commands like  "COME !" and "AWAY !" and then my favorite,  "IF YOU DO THAT AGAIN I'M LOCKING YOU IN WITH OUR BIGGEST SOW ANNE OVERNIGHT AND THEN WE'LL SEE WHO WANTS TO BITE THE HORSES TAILS AGAIN WON'T WE ! ? "  Yeah, he knows the simple commands. But he has a terrible time knowing his left from his right. Let me show you.

Spots piglets, age 6 weeks, (1/2 Red Wattle and half crossbred, we call them the "spotted wattles" ) wandered over to the horse pen,

Then I yell and clap my hands and they begin running

Or in the case of the most frightened pig...FLYING towards their own pen.

When they get across the drive and are heading into their pen where they belong, what does Freddie the Wonder Dog do ? Well, he stops them of course.

Confused, they run back and forth. Confused even more Freddie runs back and forth. Confused most of all, I yell at Freddie and the pigs. No one listens to me. Finally, one of the piglets makes a break for it and they run right through Freddie and the electric fence.

Poor Freddie. Poor poor Freddie. "I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me ."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hog Relocation Program

As our hog herd expands, Keith and I have had to be even more creative about where to locate all of them. To date we have two groups of feeder pigs, bought as tiny babes from other farmers and then finished here. Soon ALL our hogs will be born and raised here, just as soon as demand equals supply. Right now what our customers demand is WAY over what we can supply, even though each month we "supply" more and more.

The Red Wattles continue to be very popular and already several restaurants have reserved RW's for next May, as it will be at that time the current group of RW piglets will be butchering size. In addition, we have four names on our waiting list for breeding stock. These are not problems just blessings to be thankful for. These "blessings" often vex me when they get out from under our fence , run across the drive and into the horse pasture.

Debs purebred Red Wattle piglets resting in between wild jaunts across the drive

Those 8 week old piglets will then stand UNDER the horses feet and dig in the dirt beneath the equines. The horse could are less but it was giving me nightmares. I currently do not have a maket for pig meat indented with horse hooves. So Keith initiated the Hog Relocation Program yesterday and I can report the little RW's are all safely in the big barn. Their mamma Deb was handling the weaning of her litter quite well. I saw her sitting on her hind end with a large rubber tub full of  mulled wine in her hands..uh hooves, as Keith drove away with the 9 wild babes.

In addition to moving Debs litter, he also..
     Moved young Boar Gomez out of his solitary pen into his first breeding group. He now runs with Dot and Debbie. Keith reported he took to his breeding responsibilities very quickly. No advice needed.
     Moved young gilts Morticia and Leopard in with boar  Mad Max for their first dates with the curly haired Hog Juan. Breeding success was also noted by chief herdsman KP.
     Moved older pregnant sow Anne into her own private digs complete with nicely furnished farrowing hut. She is the queen bee of our herd and was a bit miffed by being removed from her kingdom. If we had more acreage we'd leave them all together. Maybe next year.

 Mad Max, Red Wattle Boar, up to his Johnson in fresh snow.
                                           Hmmm, wonder how that will affect his fertility rates ? 
Any U of I folks out there who'd like a new research topic ? Call me.

So, I'll be completing change of address forms for those big fat pigs who seem unable to even do THAT for themselves.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Spirit of Christmas

Chicago is two hours north of our farm but as we deliver more frequently the drive seems shorter and shorter. Last weeks deliveries were about the same as usual. Dead hog in the back of the Ford Transit Wagon, he and I singing along to all the Christmas tunes on the radio, lots of traffic, congested alleys, etc...etc...

I like my delivery days. Usually Keith goes with me but last week so much was going on here that we opted for him to stay home. Fences to fix, repairs to make to the second upright freezer to go into our store, and the endless chores of feeding and watering animals. I don't mind the traffic and I like the alone time. Time to reflect on what is important this time of year, to think about ways to better spread the joy. And in the midst of all these thoughts I look up and there he is...the spirit of Christmas.

                                          The Twisted Spoke.  Bar and grill at 501 N. Ogden  Chicago

I almost rear ended the car in front of me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Slow down

Some people see signs in the water trinkling down the inside of an overpass on a Chicago toll road. Some see signs in the shapes of Fritos or Ding Dongs or freshly dug potatoes. Some see signs in the megalithic stones of Poulnabrone Dolman in County Clare Ireland. I'm a little too dense to make sense of those kind of signs. In this Christmas season where everyone is rushing to parties, to stores for gift buying, to groceries for family get-togethers , I find that it takes a very clear and direct sign for me to notice it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What ? Me worried ?

Alfred E. Newman. Man of the hour, never one to worry. Me ? I'm a little worried. Christmas is only two weeks wait, its 10 days away...WHAT ?! it is only 8 days away ? OK, NOW  I'm worried. In the past decade or so I have always been well organized when it came to Christmas. It started with a major surgery scheduled in Dec 1998. I knew I'd be down and out a few weeks so I had all my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving. I kept that obsession up for over a decade.

This year, not so much. A tree was sacrificed from our yard and a few sorry decorations are scattered in the house but not one single solitary gift has been purchased by me to give to anyone. What can I tell you ? We've been busy hauling hog carcasses , live hogs, live steers, dead steers, meat in packages....meat, our  whole life lately has been meat meat meat. Hmmmmm, I do have some extra hotdogs left in the freezer. Now where did I put those bows ?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jack wagon !

 If you are a fan of  Roe Conn at WLS radio Chicago, you are familar with the term  "Jackwagon", if not then I'll explain. Jackwagon is a derogative term meaning ....uh....jerk. Yeah, thats it, it means jerk. And my donkey Doolin is being a big jerk. He thinks he is above and beyond the electric fence. I should say below and beyond the fence because I sure can't picture him leaping above the fence to get out. For the past few days we have caught him tearing apart the hay pile just outside his pen. The first day I did not actually see him but the mini-manure piles he left behind were incriminating. Then yesterday I CAUGHT HIM in the act ! Sitting at my desk I saw this..

Putting my Chris Cox horse management techniques into use I walked up to him in a power position, expecting him to back right up as my horse Nora does.

Instead I just walked smack into his fuzzy little hide. Jackwagon ! So I used another well known donkey handling trick. I pushed him. Hard. He laughed at me, I swear he did. So I grabbed hold of that large fat pad running down his neckline and swore to him I would use that lard collection in my next batch of soap. Imagine the marketing campaign for that product. "Jackass soap, for those times when your jackwagon is really dirty." Doolin was nonplussed. So time to resort to REAL horsemanship. I gathered some grain from the hog barrel and that little ass followed me right back into his pen. I suppose it is time to check the electric fence. Well, Keith will check the fence and I will bake him something. We are all about Fair Trade here on South Pork Ranch.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Too much time on my hands...

People, people, sure do say the goofiest things. A few days ago I mentioned to a friend of mine I was planning to make soap. Her immediate response was  "must be nice to have so much extra time on your hands." I just grinned. Poor thing, she actually thinks that God has given me MORE time than He has given her. Truth is, I have 24 hours in each day just like her. No more , no less.  I just CHOOSE to use that time in a different way than she. And when I say I am making soap, I did not mean to imply in any way that it would be my only task of the day. In fact I was choosing to add it to the list of other things that still had to be done.

So, despite my friends opinion that I had more time than she did, I went ahead and made soap .I entered the wildly weird world of saponification (google it, I had to) and I liked it. Because it is made with lots of lard from our Red Wattle Hogs, I am calling it Wishy Wattle soap.  I made it after after all my daytime chores were done squeezing it in before I made supper. Mixing caustic lye and raw milk like an Irish Tinker in a tiny trailer, just call me Donegal.  Thus the soap making was done between 7pm and 10 pm. Supper was finished at 10:30, we ate and fell asleep once again, on the kithen floor. This time amidst all the soap making pots and pans. Now that I think about it, I cannot remember what we ate that night for supper but the soap recipe did not make as many bars of soap as it said it would.

 Oh well, people spend big money to be "cleaned out" in a expensive spa setting. Keith and I may have gotten the same treatment for about 1/10 the cost.  Stop with the   "tsk-tsk" -ing. Look at this soap concoction. Does it not look  like the best chicken soup ever ?

I rest my case.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reach for the Sky !

Winter is not easy on us. Keith is outside the most, getting cows into the milk parlor, milking them in the  cold parlor, scraping the manure off the concrete lot  in a tractor with no cab, doing misc. other chores. I am outside some , usually feeding sows and horses and calves and chickens, unless I am making meat deliveries or caring for our grandkids or seeing my elderly aunt. But, we cope. And we drink a large amount of warm fluids and we dress in layers and we talk of spring which will , one day, come again.

The animals on our farm cope with the winter as well. As long as they have a dry shelter out of the wind with a deep manure pack and fresh bedding. Unless they are very old or very young. For example, we found this poor fellow yesterday morning.

Yup. Dead as a doorknob, tail feathers blowing in the breeze. Perched on the wire roof of  the chicken yard. Why was he up there ? Was he watching over his girls ? Enjoying the view ? Maybe he went up to the roof to shovel some snow and BANG , sudden MI. He could have gotten inside if he had wanted to. The door to the chicken yard was open and the little door (bottom left of next picture) leading into the well protected chicken house was open as well.
Or maybe, he was just hen pecked, one too many times.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Routine gone bad

"Ok,I'll be quiet"
"I'll be peace"
-Bill Murray in What About Bob ?

We all like our routines. Our quiet times. Especially small children and midlife farmwives. Recently our family has been going through a bit of turmoil. A few illnesses, two resulting in hospitalizations and a car accident with gratefully no injuries. But it doesn't take much for us weak human beings to feel out of sorts. It all came to a head today in a small resort home called Evenglow.

I took the two youngest members of my family to visit the oldest member of our family. The children have been out of their routine  for several days, which I thought they were dealing with beautifully until 4:06 pm this evening. The 6 year old got things rolling by asking me to color with her. "In a couple of minutes" I said "Just let me visit with Aunt Bernie a minute." Now on a normal day this child would have said "OK" and gone about her business. Not today.

She plopped herself down onto the floor, THREW her crayon (never has she done this) and began to cry. Before I could respond her brother one-upped her and TOSSED his coat up into the air knocking
over several framed photos. Again this is NOT normal behavior for this 3 yr old. None of the frames broke. Even so I felt a glare coming across my face. He laughed. His sister continued to cry. I felt bad for them both and for ME. No one was sleeping in their usual beds at the usual times. Meals were off schedule , the little ones parents were dealing with health issues in another town. Everone had reached a boiling point. Brillant scientist that I am it became clear it was time to leave. I hustled the kids out of there before they flushed the 92 year olds med down the toilet or something just as shocking. My aunt said she'd walk us to the door. A polite way of saying "time to go"

She walked us to the front door and as I hugged her goodbye the 3 year old broke from my grasp and went running towards the Christmas tree. I instictively grabbed his jacket and repositioned him to my side. He again laughed.  Game on. His sister was in a full blown arms -across -chest -pout. With a child on each side and a wobbly wheeled laundry cart in the middle (cheap piece of crap that stupid STUPID laundry cart) we almost made it to the door when my aunt yelled out IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY (well, one other resident and the receptionist)

"Donna, patience is a virtue !"

I smiled tensely, waived and got through the doors. tearing up I managed to get the little ones safely into the car . I then jammed the stupid STUPID laundry cart into the back of the car. I got in, buckled myself up and sat for a minute to compose myself.

Then the 6 year old cheerfully spoke "Yaya ? Can we visit Aunt Bernie again tomorrow ?"

Sure kid. Why not ?

Friday, December 3, 2010

In your face

When we decided to go public with our farm venture our Marketing President (moi) struggled with the appropriate slogan. She discussed it with the General Farm Manager (Keith) who ran it by the Ways and Means Committee. (That was Jason saying "what do you mean ?" and Kyle saying "No Way!" when I suggested our slogan.

Seems some of the higher ups (they are all taller than me) thought the slogan  I was suggesting was a little rude.  Like the slogan "Where's the Beef ?" of the Wendy's company from the early 80's wasn't rude.  Not only did their slogan become famous, the little old lady who yelled it recieved all kinds of awards.

So the Marketing President cooked a great meal for the General Farm Manager , including homemade baking soda biscuits, and got her way. And it wasn't even a Thursday. The Ways and Mean Committe never really had a say since they don't bunk here anymore. And thus our farm slogan was born.

But for those of you who are the softer, gentler type of human being, we also have these

T-shirts (short sleeved) are available in our store or by mail. $20  for the black slogan shirt and $15 for the white shirt with the pig pictures, plus $4 for S&H. They come in adult sizes S, M, L,XL and 2X. I do not yet have kids sizes. Would Make THE MOST EXCELLENT Christmas Gift. Please email me you order at 
And thanks so much for helping support the small family farm.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Child labor...again

Running a farm is hard work. Running a farm business is grounds for involuntary committment. Millions of books exist about non-farm businesses but finding an -all-in-one source for a farm business has been tricky. I suppose if we had just picked ONE "niche" it might have been easier to find resources. But Nooooooooooooooo. We chose, organic beef production, organic pork production, raw milk production, carcass sales to individuals and restaurants, meat by the piece to the grocery store trade and individuals, Red Wattle Breeding Stock production, and our most recent venture...a farm store.

I once whined to one of my sisters about feeling overwhelmed. Her response, "Donna, you've been overwhelmed since Kindergarten." In other words I am the one who made this big straw bed so I better lie (lay ? leigh ?) in it.

With so many venues comes paperwork. Some of it required by regulating agencies but some of it required only by me. For example our raw milk customer list.

                     Allana logging in milk sales for the day.
 A great way to improve your printing skills.

The State of Illinois sees no reason to survey us (we've asked) so we survey ourselves. We follow the rules for a Grade A Dairy just as we have for the last 11 years before IDPH decided raw milk sales were too scary for them to deal with. Even though it is legal to sell raw milk in Illinois and even though we have the smartest group of self-educated customers ever, I still track who buys milk, how much and when. Unless a customer wants to be incognito then by all means he can be. But in the very unlikely but still remotely possible event that something should be wrong with our milk (tank gets too warm for example) I want to be able to contact the affected customers. Funny thing how IDPH feels raw milk is unsafe, yet they legalize the sales and then yet again they reguire absolutely no inspection or milk testing of raw milk dairies. Which reminds me, it is time to send another milk sample off to Daily Labs in Peoria. Results are available to any of our milk customers. Ask and you shall receive.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Galway Hooker

Just one of the conversation topics today from just one of our customers when we opened our farm store this morning. And before I go any farther...a Galway hooker is a boat. Better now ? Good. Seems I am not the only one who has been across the pond lately.


You got your black T-Shirt or you got your white T-Shirt.

So at 10 am we opened the store just like we said we would and at 10:03 I announced to Keith , "You watch, we won't get even three customers today ." Always  the voice of sweetness and light, thats me. A few moments later when I was ready to turn the "OPEN" sign over to the "CLOSED due to Bankruptcy" side, our neighbor Duane came by, followed by other neighbors and their children  from other states, then some current customers, then my old (not very) hospice friend Cheryl and her husband and then some new customers and some more old customers and then a woman and her girls all the way from Elgin and then two HS girls who heard about our farm and wanted to do a paper about us and then and then and then....

The meat scale was in our basement for years,
finally it is cleaned, buffed to a sheen and
working as big ol'paperweight machine.

Before we knew it, the day was over. Looks like we are store owners. Drop by this week between 10am and 5 pm and get a free cookie, free coffee and a free tour. The meat however is not free but we will barter for pasture raised poultry, fresh Atlantic Salmon or that little 1969 Mercedes Benz for sale at Paternoster Ford in Fairbury, Illinois.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Organic Diet Coke

If you open our frig door on any given day you are likely to find this...

A case of Diet Coke, a bottle of tart cherry juice, and a gallon of raw milk. The Diet Coke is a very old habit. I picked it up after I tired of drinking Tab, my pop choice through the 70's and 80's. So for the last two decades its been Diet Coke. I'm a Taurus. I'm very loyal both to my loved ones and to my choice of pop.

Lately I've been drinking the tart cherry juice as its suppossed to be good for so many things. And then there is the ever present container of raw milk from our own dairy, which we use for everything and anything. The other very important, life sustaining drink which is missing is COFFEE. Missing because it must be fresh, strong , black and very hot.

I'd like to dump the pop completely. Its always a work in progress. I can go a couple weeks without it and then I crave it and send Keith out into the driving rain, snow and blowing icebergs to get me some. I know it serves no good purpose in my body, other than fliuds, but still...I am smitten. Forgive me my purist organic friends for I continue to sin.

Guinness ? Of course it is not on the shelf with all the other common drinks. Nectar has its own special place in our dark basement refrigerator.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Windy City Field Trips

Chicago delivery days are always a nice change from our farm work even though delivery days are anything but relaxed. We start by getting up even earlier and while Keith knocks out the livestock chores, I work on getting the wagon ready. While he is milking, I'm doing invoices, while he feeds hay, I clean out coolers and pack up the grocery store orders. While he feeds all the pigs, I clean out the wagon, and gather supplies we'll need for the delivery like meat hooks and bungee straps. The hooks make the back of our Ford Transit Wagon look a little suspicious thus the reason I always keep our meat brokers license handy.

While he feeds calves, I check maps and addresses of the restaurants we are delivering to and double check mapquest for directions to any new customers. We simple folk don't have a Garmin, or a Tom Tom or even a Peg Peg to help guide us, we do it the old fashioned way. We're a solid team in the big city, I was taught to drive by my father, the cop,  so traffic bothers me not and Keith learned to read in school AND has a great sense of direction so he does the map reading and direction giving.

Due to the fact that we deliver WHOLE and half hog carcasses  to the restaurants we don't usually go through the front door (but we do imagine how much fun it might be ) but rather we have the Chicago Alley system to deal with. One particular restaurant receives deliveries all day long which means we have to jockey for space in a narrow area.

Once the hogs are safely escorted into the restaurant (by a very strong , young chef  thank you very much ) I have to usually BACK out of the alley and into downtown Chicago traffic. Times like that have made us very grateful we found the Ford Transit when we did. All its storage room is up top instead of in width or length so its easy to park and maneuver in traffic. (Hey Ford Company, are you listening ? I'm not above being a paid spokesman. At 5ft 1in. I'm not above much at all.) So as long as the piggies don't mind being snuggled up close...

...we don't mind taking them to the chefs for a little R&R. (Roasting ? Rotisserie ? Raw-sages ?)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Never a BOARing moment

Keith and I may look gentile at first but really we are quite the rebels. When Foremost told us that we could not sell raw milk ...we did. When other dairy farmers told us we had to dehorn all our calves, we stopped. When the conventional world told us only grain fed cattle would taste good, we went to all grass fed. So it seems only logical that when we were told boar meat would always be bad we raised one just for the sole purpose of experimentation. Humanely of course. With informed consent.

We blame Walter.

After reading Walter Jeffries blog for quite some time and hearing about the success he had with boar meat we decided to give it a try. I've blogged in the past about castrating our little piglets because both Keith and I had been told/taught that male piglets left with gonads intact would result in bad smelling, bad tasting meat. This being due to the hormones released as they reached puberty. One farmer told me,  "The smell will be so bad you will RUN (Forrest) from your kitchen.

But Walter said No.

So we raised our Red Wattle boar  (born with no wattles even though his folks both had wattles) with another boar of the same age. Fed organic grain, milk and hay and on pasture in the open air we watched and wondered, We kept him away from adult females hogs in a quiet environment where he was fed (and scratched behind the ears ) by Keith or I everyday . Somedays I even hummed to him. Not sure why. It just seemd like the right thing to do. When he was 9 months old and close to 300 pounds we took him for a ride to the butcher. Two weeks later we took him, well his big chops, for a test run.

                   Now you know why we describe our Red Wattle meat as beefy looking.
                                   Not exactly the "other white meat" is it ?

While baking in the oven I kept sniffing the air like a hound dog on a squirrel hunt. Nothing. When Keith came in from chores I let him take the first bite. I'm thoughtful that way. He chewed and swallowed. I waited for the scream of pain as the boar meat eroded  his esophagus. Nothing. Another bite. Still nothing. And then finally, an opinion.  "Seems OK. "  So there you have it. We now pronounce boar meat as "OK."  It might have been "Great " if this amateur chef had not over cooked it.

So Keith suggested we take some to our chefs and get their opinions. Brillant idea. The first chef was thrilled just with the package. "This is BOAR meat ?!?! I haven't been able to find this anywhere ! I've even called TEXAS !"  He was very happy to try it. Chef number two said " Boar meat ? Do you have it in the wagon now ?!" When I said no, we just brought a few chops he said "can you make a special delivery ? I'll buy all you have. " Chef number three acted as if we had given her a special Valentines gift. "For me ? You brought this boar meat for me ?"

Seems boar meat is a delicacy. Desired by chefs. Hard to find. Sought after. Coveted.
Really glad we didn't feed it to the dogs.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Days of Blunder

November. Cool. Bright. Gorgeous. Purple beams of light. Serene dairy herd still on what remains of our pasture.

And the slightly anxious feeling of  "OH DEAR GOD WINTER IS COMING !"
So much to get done and always so little time. Yeah, I hear ya.
"If you have so little time and so much to do than why are you wasting it writing, huh ?"
"Well "  I said to myself,  "Writing centers me, helps me prioritize, and gives me the opportunity to drink another pot of cafe' La Folgers before I hit the ground running, OK walking a little fast"

Not sure why I put a conversation in my head in quotes but lets just move on, shall we ?

Any farmer/homesteader AKA Eejit type who works primarily outside in areas where bananas do not flourish,  goes through this last minute panic. Barns to be secured for high winds and blowing snow, windows to caulk, doors to fix, fences to strengthen, bedding to be obtained, hay to stack , waterers to install etc ...etc... etc. You would think after so many years of doing this we would learn to just do the best we can and pray about the rest but still my faith wavers.

Today for example Keith is taking a load of hogs to the locker for tomorrows Chicago deliveries. Our biggest delivery ever.  6 hogs in our little Ford Wagon.  I'm sure thats not such a big deal to you large hog producers, but to us, a huge deal. This means invoices to complete, morning chores to finish, grocery store orders to pack . While at the locker Keith will pick up the beef and hog we dropped off two weeks ago which means we play the "meat relocation" game as we move meat in and out of the freezers. We also have several last minute things to finish on our Farm Store which will open for business Nov. 27.

I also must allocate time to WORRY that the wagon can hold all that meat without its bottom scraping the ground, generating sparks all the way up Route 55. I mean really don't you just HATE IT when your bottom scrapes the ground ?

Post note: I really, truly am very grateful for the fact that our farm business is going well and that we have been graced with work. Work is good. But still, bottom , scraping,  sparks...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Who took my stuff ?!?!

Last weekend Keith and I decided we needed a break from the farm, so we took a mini-vacation and attended...The Small Farm Show in Columbia Missouri.  Yes, our horizons do need broadening.

On the way home we came through Memphis, Missouri and swung towards downtown to look for a mom and pop cafe. (We, just for the record, HATE Cracker Barrel.)  But before we found grub we found this

                                                           An auction about to begin.

Our pulses quickened, our mouths became suddenly dry . Could we ? Should we ?
Keep in mind my husband had recently brought home yet another truckload of  "inventory"  from his mother's recently sold house and I had knawed lightly on his gluteous about that.  How could I with good conscious suggest we attend this hoedown for hoarders ? I felt slightly guilty to even suggest we look , but I did.

We edged closer, pulled in by the possibility of great treasure, perhaps a new potato fork lurked behind the gold and olive green Tupperware of Carol Bradys time.

Hmmmm, not close enough. Are those tires on the wagon for SALE ? Or just for show ? We edged even closer hoping the locals would not see us. They might start moving the "good stuff" around. Hiding it behind the Suck and Cut home hair trimmer. Finally we were within the Circle of Fiends...

Oh man ! Just Look at it, Look at it  ! Look at it !  All that loot. I broke into song.

Old broken toys and  suitcases of plastic, half opened bottles of shampoo long gone spastic,  boots that are stylin'

And nuns that are smilin'

These are a few of my favorite (auction) things.

Before I go any further, does anyone else see that nuns eyes move as you look at herfrom different angles ? Good.  For a moment I thought it was just me having the Sister Mary Gerard  flashback.

 In the past when it came to auctions, it was said that Keith used me and I used him and neither one cared, BUT as the saying goes in our home lately,  "Someone quit her job  and that would mean LESS MONEY " So we snooped, and opened a few old purses looking for gold coins and then convinced ourselves that although we really WANTED the 30 year old microwave (fruit dryer ? storage unit for extra coffe cups? Funky Terraruim ? We did not really need it .

So like the strong willed folks we are, we walked away. Well I walked away, Keith laid down and kicked and screamed a little but I once spied on one of my teen boys from inside the local car wash, I wasn't above dragging a grown man down the main street in Memphis. (Insert badly rhymed country song here.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chores: Not a laughing matter

Just because his goof ball Yaya shoves a jester hat on his head, does not mean Wesley takes his farm chores any less seriously than any other 3 year old. (The hat was 99 cents at Frugality Store in Fairbury Illinois. How could I NOT buy it ? )

It is amazing what a three year old can safely do to help with chores. He holds the funnel so I can pour milk into calf bottles, hands me the screw on nipples, holds the bottles in the wagon to keep them from tipping and leaking milk. He reminds me to "feed hay now" and he helps me accomplish said task.

Yes, I see the hay twine. We removed it before feeding it to the calves. Relax you CDO farmer types. No, it is not OCD , because those letters would be out of order now wouldn't they ? May I continue please ?
After calves, and sows and goats and chickens, Wes finds time to chill out with the Papa. Wes may look all business but he actually has a childish side to him.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Little Store on the Prairie

Not the most original title but Laura Ingalls Wilder must be dead by now, she probably won't mind. Other store names in the running include "The Spotted Wattle" to honor the cross bred hogs we have here that are half red Wattle and half Spotted Poland. We found combining these two breeds made for some very loooong pieces of hearty tasting bacon. We also kicked around the name "Piggle Wiggles "not too far from the Piggly Wiggly stores of South Dakota very popular in the 70's. The problem with ALL those names is their lack of reference to the beef we will sell in the store and that is just plain unfair. Some fine cow/cattle types have given their lives for our farm, (we call them heros here in Illinois, where do you think they came up with the name for the Hero Sandwich ? Out of thin air ?) and they deserve to be alluded to in our store name don't you agree ?  But our creative juices have dried up lately. It was spent on the BIG decisions like what color to paint the inside window frames. All three of our sons believe white is the classiest choice while mommy dearest insists on Barn Red.

So until we decide its just "The Store". We hope you can drop by and see it ...maybe even name it. Bring a paint brush, there's still a chance all the work may not be 100% complete. Bets are being collected, they are not in my favor.

                            Grand Opening Week
                 Saturday November 27 through
                           Saturday December 4.
                                    10 am to 5pm

                  Certified Organic Beef and Pork
                          All beef is 100% grass fed

                         South Pork Ranch T-shirts
                                  Free range Eggs
                                      Door prizes

click here for directions

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I get no respect

Determined to make our new sustainable life work, I headed out to chores last evening in a gleeful mood and was greeted with this

Really ? Really ?! I dedicate my life to you frieking animals and this is the respect I get ? I have half a mind (and not an ounze more) to add you , yes Sugar the goat I am talking to you, to add you to my already overflowing sausage supply in the freezer.

So why the hostile greeting ? Well apparently I was wearing something that smelled differently than I normally do. Goats have a very acute sense of smell and if they don't like an aroma ,you'll see this ridiculous sneer. Just what I needed, one more judgemental hairy mammal questioning my decisions.

And if that wasn't weird enough...a couple of days ago Keith and I decided we needed another hog hut for the soon to be exploding sow Spot. Due with her litter any day now. We like saying "any day now" that way we can't be accountable for the fact that we cannot seem to count 3 months and 3 weeks, the gestation period of a hog. Back to Spot, she is long, she is HEAVY and she is ready.

 You might recall that last spring Dot's litter was born prematurely and all died. A sad day on the farm. But Spot, even though mired in grief, became one of the herd's best nannies ! She would watch out over the other litters, often with more vigilence than their own mothers. In fact when we gathered up a few to castrate months ago it was Spot that came after us, butcher knife in hand. (Which we just took from her anyway since we forgot our scapels and beside one should never RUN with a knife.)

So with Spot being ready to birth, Keith busied himself with another hog house. He worked in the privacy (and warmth) of our machine shed. And on the seventh day he showed me this...

I hear ya. You think you know someone. You're married to him a long time. You raise 4 children with him. You help him pull calves and goats and pigs out of scary wet places. Then, they think they can just express themselves, out of the blue, with no warning. What next ? Please, if anyone knows tell me. I just don't think I can take any more drama in my life right now. And the thing that REALLY gets me. Everyone thinks I'm the crazy one.