Monday, August 29, 2011

Major Decision Made

Its been along time coming, about 8 months but now it is time. I've played around enough, experimented in areas I had no business (or experience) in exploring, frittered away time that should not have been frittered. Or is it Fritayed ?
Either way, I can no longer avoid the inevitable. I have finally go entirely natural.

No, you alarmists, I am not giving up clothing. I still need customers to come to our farm store for buying out loud. Once again I beg you to try to keep up.

I am talking about soap.

I call this "Dappled Lavender"
At first I tried a little bit of everything. I believe that is fairly common. How can you decide which treat you want  if you do not dip your hand into more than one cookie jar? I'm speaking literally here. If I had never tried a Double Stuffed Oreo I would still be eating dried out and over rated Fig Newtons. But I have once again slid off the tracks.

Whereas this one would be "Knobby Lavender" since it is sitting on a door knob.
I am talking about soap. (The sentence repetition is for my benefit, not yours so don't be getting all bent out of shape like you think that I think you can't stay focused.)

The customers we had on Saturday were unbelievable. One woman recently immigrated from Russia and was so happy to find raw milk ! She had called several dairy farmers near Chicago but none were willing to sell her the raw stuff. She was shocked it was so difficult to get he....What ?...oh Sorry.

Of course this would be "Garden Angel  Lavender" or just GAL
I am talking about soap. After trying lab colors, evil colors like those from crayons (oh cease with the frowning, if you don't try sub standard materials how can you lecture others?)  I monkeyed around with plant extracts and powders. Once again in my life using a mortar and a pestle but without having to crank in the little windows of my trailer with that stupid handle that was forever falling off into the sink, and then pulling shut the cafe curtains with pink and orange peace signs.

And this ? Well, I refer to it as "Lavender Flower" but its false advertising since
everyone knows lavender has very small purple flowers but the Hosta was blooming
This time all compounding was legal. Imagine my delight that paprika made lovely orange soap and a substance called Alkanet would make 30 shades of purple. And then I played around with the fragrances. They were fun but, I hate to admit this, they scared me. You pour them out of the bottle smelling like cakes and cookies and exotic flowers such as Sturgis Sweet Pea but then you look away and...and...your soap has turned into a clay brick, a concrete block, an entire stone fortress !

Another Lavender soap exactly like the last one except its hot process instead
of cold process, I used lots of Alkanet to color instead of hardly any, and I
left out any titanium dioxide for extra whiteness. Oh yeah, the peacocks liked
this one better.
I also explored the slippery world of fats. I never used bacon grease, Keith would've killed me. Imagine using perfectly good cooking fat for soap! But I did enter the wicked world of Crisco. I didn't want to, I knew it was wrong being it was so cheap, but sometimes cheap is just so attractive you know? The soap came out hard and very usable but I couldn't get myself to put "Crisco" on the label.

What it someone took a bite ? Well they might.

My last area of trial and errer was in the area of photography. Seems soap photos are a specialty all its own. My first photos stunk and then evolved into dull. I've tried the photo box with white foam board which wasn't really a box but just me holding up the board behind the soap and trying not to get my shadow in the way.

Pepples. What else?

How about "Pepple Soap shot in Reverse as an alternating
Black and White Theme Within the evening Sun's glow
on the Back Porch Bench" ?
My shadow is bigger than my soap, thus prompting me to  attempt some outdoor soap shooting. Seems my all natural soap looks best on all natural rocks and plants, well if not best it at least looks better than on the floor of my shower.

So my point is, my niche is, my imprint on the soaping world will be...all natural. Now how about this bunny ?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Foodie ?!?!

My father was the original "Foodie"  He loved food of all kinds. Especially the food my mother made. Every meal she made was wonderful (in his mind) and he was grateful.

"Thank you Beautiful, you sure know the way to my heart"

I'm sure at that time my mother was thinking "Oh great, now I've done it. Irish Lover Boy is in a good mood. Just what I need." As she spooned meatloaf out on the plate of child number 6 hoping the kids wouldn't mind the fact that she had to stretch the 1/2 pound of burger with a box of saltines.

We didn't mind. We were hungry and didn't know much better. Now, a few years later I've fairly entrenched in the world of food. Local, all natural, beyond organic, frozen meat to groceries, fresh carcasses to the restaurants and 100% grass fed in our little farm store, etc... etc... food. Still, I'd give a million critically endangered Red Wattles with their awesome back fat and super luscious loins just to have my mom in front of us again serving  over cooked meatloaf swimming in a bath of watered down ketchup.

Food is love in so many ways. It certainly makes my husband very happy when I cook for him.  Men. Made simple by God to make up for the insanity of all womankind.  I can say those kind of things. I'm an ex-feminist. A couple of mornings ago I made him some of these

These are eggs we sell in our store. Three come from 3 neighbor farmers and one is ours, The different shell colors are a result of the breed of the chicken. Shells are pretty to look at but its the INSIDE that tells the real story

At high noon we have an egg for a chicken who has just started being let outside on grass. Also new to natural feed, only having been fed non-commercial feed for about two weeks. At 3 pm we have another pastured chicken egg from chickens who gets commercial feed. Then at 6pm we have an egg from a nice middle aged couple who let their chickens run all over the free world, chased for fun by heathen grandchildren  and eat only bugs they can find on their own and any leftover organic feed the farmers might drop on the ground. Egg number four at 9pm came from free range chickens fed certified organic feed.

Weird thing was, after I cooked them and fed them all to hubbie, not telling him which eggs came from where, he liked them all and couldn't tell the difference. The moral of the story ?

My husband is happy when I cook for him. Period

Friday, August 26, 2011

Equine on my Mind

See this ?

I'm not sure, but I believe it is a horse. Not sure because its been awhile since I've gotten up close and personal with my herd of three. Ironic isn't it ? The animal I love the most is currently the one I do the least with. Why ? Because I see them as pleasure and how can one waste time with that which is solely pleasure when one has so much else that much be done.?

Last summer I rode often in preparation for the 3 day training I was going to do with Chris Cox, cool professional horse guy. It was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. Hard, hard, work but so worth it. August 2010 will always be a month of great memories for me.

Now, a year after that special weekend and I realized yesterday that my horse Nora has not been ridden even ONCE this summer. That's  right, not one time. No wonder I feel out of sync and crabby. No wonder Nora is so happy and flabby !

But, change is on the horizon. It started with a serious talk with the equines. I told them vacation was over and we'd all be back in the saddle this very week. It wasn't just about THEIR needs anymore. It was time for me to meet some of MY needs.

Of course, this announcement was received with only utmost respect.

Yeah, he thinks he's funny, until I start selling packages of donkey brats in the farm store that is.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Certified Organic Farm...Still for Sale

6 weeks ago we listed our farm for sale amidst shock, awe and denial. Keith had some feelings about it as well but he doesn't remember what they were.

Folks were frightened when they heard the news. Many had just this year discovered us and did not want to think about having to find another farmer they could trust. In this area of GMO corn, bean and CAFO livestock (confined to concrete bunkers) it is not easy to secure either certified organic meat or even meat just grown on pasture let alone raw milk. No dairy farmer wants to sell raw milk anymore. Too many horror stories about uninvited governmental interference. (Really who ever INVITES the government to interfere?)

We were concerned that by announcing our plans to sell we might harm our business and fact of the matter is, when you have a mortgage and feed bills to pay...we needed business. Instead, a wonderful thing has occurred. We now have more business. Which just clarifies why we need to sell.

Its all outgrown us. Just like our children have. We can't keep up

And just like our children, we look at not just what we have accomplished but we also see all our mistakes, our misguided notions, the things we should've and could've done better. Take that goat barn for example. Please, TAKE IT. Its falling down and won't make it through this winter. Since it looks like we might be here this winter after all what do we do ?

Invest in a new building to house the ever increasing hog herd we have? True all summer and fall they will use the old goat barn which now houses hogs, very little but a good hard windy winter storm will surely knock it over. We can't risk the injury of animals and frankly the loss of income.

What to do, what to do !? Tear down, shore up, build new WHAT ?!?!

Of course the easy answer to this and more troublesome conundrums here on South Pork Ranch is the sale of our farm. Then new owners with all that great first love & enthusiasm will look at that old goat barn turned hog shelter and see a fantastic opportunity for a gift shop, a writers cottage, a chicken coop, (Its original 1910 purpose)  a training center for wilderness survival groups. The possibilities are endless

But for now, the goat barn remains in limbo. Tired, worn. missing a few boards, in need of a new purpose and some TLC.

Not unlike this writer.

Wanted: Folks with enthusiasm, strong backs and vision. Apply within

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Its all over.

Summer that is. Even though technically summer is not over for a few weeks yet, in these here parts it end abruptly as the last Carnie leaves town thus bringing to a close yet another Fairbury Fair.

For decades the founding Fairbury mothers, because only a mom could be this smart, decided school would not start until the fair ended. It's a great fair for such a small town and this year I noticed several new things. Like carnival workers in uniform, sporting Australian accents and wearing name tags such as, "My name is Mate." It was all enough to get me to fork over $4 for two GK's to pull a couple of cheap plastic ducks out of a mini-moat. (If Keith hadn't been there I probably would've paid for 2 more ducks just to hear Mr. Aussie speak yank at me.

All in all, a great day. First the goat show, followed by a back stage visit to all the show contestants

A petting zoo stop which always bores the GK's with the exception of the buffalo, one critter we do not house on South Pork Ranch

Of course no fair is complete without a Fun House. Does anyone else see Jane Curtain in the mirror or is it just me ?

Soon after a spin around the inside of a blue dragon. Wes kept telling me, "its only pretend Yaya" My screaming must have concerned him.

And speaking of screaming... this girl could win contests.

Quiet moments were abundant as well. As seen here when Keith and Wes discuss how idiotic the grandmother looks as she crawls thorough the tumbling wooden tunnel with all the other second graders

Eventually one talked the other into trying the big slide. Both admitted they had never done anything quite so risky before.

Its a good thing they did not see Allana's face before they went down or they never would've climbed up those stairs.
See you next year Fairbury Fair !

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bye Bye Mrs American Pie

So, I'm walking out of the restaurant where I had just completed without incident, a lovely lunch with oldest son and youngest grandson. Everything had gone so well.  It was a beautiful sunny day. The cafe's apple motif was somewhat charming. The coffee was FRESH. The waitress had been listening and brought exactly what we had ordered with the tiny mistake of bringing my piece of pie AFTER we were done eating instead of during.

But, being flexible and oh so brilliant I said "Make it to go please." We couldn't loiter, preschool was waiting. So she did, and with my boxed lemon pie in one hand and soon to be four yr old GK in the other, (to make room for the pie, I had just let go of the soon to be 30 yr olds hand. It was difficult but it was time.)I paid, I turned and then it happened.

It hurts even now to think about it. It just happened so fast.

I dropped the pie. Face down. Spilling its contents out all over the carpeted (Carpet ? In a restaurant ?!?)
floor. For one insane moment I thought I could fix it, could scoop it up whole. No one really saw but me, at least that's what I told myself.

But it was too late. I wanted to fling myself onto the lemony goodness. I knew if I was very fast I could lick it up without being noticed. But then  I remembered I was 52, and overweight and still holding onto a child. Back in the days of IHOP Pancake houses I could have easily made that dropped pie disappear, but times had changed. So instead I thought about fleeing, fast like the wind, but my orthopaedic tennies had a tendency to stick to carpets. (Carpet ? In a restaurant?!?!)

I had to do the right thing.

I told the waitress. She glared at me, wringing her wet bar rag in a threatening manner. Hanging my head I left as quickly as I could.

The elderly son jumped at the opportunity to rub salt into my pastry wound by announcing, "I'm telling Keith" knowing full well my husband would never have blatantly wasted food the way I did. I ushered everyone out the door, sniffling at my loss.

I need a vacation, and another piece of pie. What do you need ? How about some free soap by this talented soaper ? Enter her contest today !

Friday, August 19, 2011

Poop Scoop

The calves, they are well. Coccidiosis a vexation of the past. Completely organic treatments took longer than conventional as they always do, but all 6 calves are drinking well

and asking for seconds

They would like to thank everyone for all the cards and well wishes and would like folks to also know that their cow pies are absolute loveliness.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hair, the Farmwife Musical

Awhile back I made my first shampoo bar which is basically just a soap bar but better.
Why better?

Well, its fatter, and it lathers well and it smells nice and keeps my hair cleaner longer or maybe I'm just getting lazier but either way it makes me happy. Not giggly happy but enough sometimes to hum in the shower.

Yes, I know humming is not really a musical but musicals didn't start with a million string orchestra did they ?
No, they did not. Somewhere, someone started humming and THEN it became a musical.

Do you think Mozart had a shampoo bar ? Well, I do. Its not like he had Prell back then. Besides as white as his hair was if he used liquid shampoo it would certainly have been Lemon-Up.

Weirdly one of my regular milk, meat and then soap customers asked me if I had ever thought about making a shampoo bar.

I had, just the night before.
And it looks a little something like this

Yup, I really did take this picture with my little
digital camera on my back porch. It
was indeed a good blue sky day
Made in the ultra high tech PVC tube and cut by hand (I know, one can hardly tell) with a crinkle potato knife, it does lather and clean well. Smells of Lemongrass , orange and grapefruit it is indeed fun to shampoo with even if there is no plastic lemon screwed on the top. Color comes from ground organic orange peel.

The recipe is    Coconut Oil 10oz
                       Olive Oil         5 oz
                        Rice Bran Oil 5oz
                       Castor Oil     2.5oz
                       Sunflower Oil  2.5 oz

Now for REAL shampoo bar makers start here and learn from the professionals.

Now, go hit the showers.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Spy With my Little Eyes

GK Allana yelled out "Hurry ! Come look!"
So we did.
I didn't see anything at first
Just a bunch of roosting chickens

"No, LOOK!"
I looked again.

Just a big yellow bird with black feet.
"No, Yaya, those are not feet!"

Appears she was right.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wanted: New Blood

Our Red Wattle blood line needed a little something. A little somethin' somethin' as we used to say on the night shift. We had two extra of the  same ol' same ol' so we put an ad in the ALBC (American Livestock Breed Conservancy) classifieds hoping to sell the two boars we had too much of.

Oh they were fine looking fellows but too well known in the neighborhood DNA wise. Our Red Wattle blood line needed , dare I say it ? Diversity. I often get myself in trouble when I use that word so I've learned to be cautious.

No one seemed interested in buying either of the guys but we did get an offer to trade from another ball team. Get it ? BALL team ? Oh come on, you know that's funny. Is too. So we swapped pictures and profiles, work histories, parental blood lines and other resume stuff. A deal was struck and the Wickham Farmers arrived from Maquoketa, Iowa.

New pig exhausted from his ride. Its not easy laying on a comfy bed
with absolutely no responsibilities you know. Like being a teen again.

Their boar met our high standards..."four legs, check. Two ears, check, ability to play ball ...check." (Sorry, cannot help myself). Our boar winked at the female farmer and grunted "me boar, you Jane" and the deal was completed. Really, her name was Jane. Really.

Cool thing is, this new guy is brother to Barbara, the Gal RW who came to our farm a few months ago from Wisconsin to be bred by our other boar Mad Max. The resemblance was uncanny. Light red color, slender nose and that charming smile. It is definitely a small world here in Red Wattle Willage.

Professional hog movers...were no call, no shows, so Keith and Walt rose
to the challenge. Securing the trailer well with bread loaf twist ties
our dark skinned RW was made ready for the trip West.
Trailers were backed up, critters loaded, unloaded, loaded again and soon we had fancy new blood in the form of a fellow we call "Wickham Farm Wally" unless I change my mind and call him "Maquoketa Wally" or maybe "Maquoketa Man" who knows? Who really cares.

Keith humming "Getting to know you" with new boar Wally.
Obviously one ferocious pig

He has sweet eyes, that's all that matters. Well that and the ability to knock a few out of the ball park

Friday, August 12, 2011

Operation Coccidiosis Begoneis

Its going well. A few days ago I had several posts about one of our calves who died due to complications from Coccidiosis, a parasitic infection. Since then we've been working hard to beat the tar out of that...that...that PARASITE !

Two days ago we pulled four of our calf hutches off their old sites and scrubbed all things dead and alive off their poly bodies. First our intern Aaron and I used the pressure washer to remove the major debris. Then we used good old hot soapy water and scrub brushes to remove the stuck on junk.

After that it was Clorox time. Very hot bleach water was splashed around the inside of the hutches. (Yes, we were careful) and then I crawled inside to do a better job. Not only did the bleach do a great job of sanitizing the calf hutch it also cleared up any lurking bacteria on my own  lower legs.

My knees haven't been this white since I played a nun in my second grade's play of Sound of Music. That would be Lady of Lourdes, Ashland Ave, Chicago circa 1967.

Calf hutch prior to cleaning
Following the bleach, another rinse with the power washer. The hutch was flipped back to an upright position and we started on the outside. Aaron and I completed two hutches while Keith took a hog to the locker. When he returned home and after a short break, he and Aaron finished the other hutches.
Hutches scrubbed, buffed, debugged sportingnew grass/weed carpets.
Later that afternoon, we moved the two oldest calves out of their hutches entirely and into a nicely sized overgrown pasture. Calves were happy with this arrangement. I wish we had the room to put all our calves into a separate pasture from day one but we do not. If we put them out with older cows they get pushed through wire fences so for now they are kept in hutches on long chains until they are about 3 months old then they can fend for themselves better.

Keith walking older calf around his new pasture to show him the hot wire
before he finds it himself and lurches THROUGH it.
The squeaky clean hutches were moved to the south side of our machine shed so now calves have clean housing in a clean neighborhood, Our one other calf who we suspected maybe was also infected with coccidiosis was given Calf 180 from Crystal Creek in the am and pm, plus an extra bottle with the electrolytes mid afternoon.
Four youngest calves enjoying clean digs
He is looking good with high energy, great appetite and dark tarry stool (old blood?) but without any active bleeding or watery stools. Hooves crossed but maybe our efforts are paying off. Now in our 7th day of organic approved treatment for him and prophylactic treatment for our other calves, we are hopeful.
Pic taken yesterday morning. Treatment day 6

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

When the going gets tough, the tough rush out the door sobbing with their tail tucked between their legs, drive home like a maniac, yank out out the Babassu oil and start making soap.

So, I needed something CLEANSING for my heart, my soul and my little kitchen. What better than handcrafted soap? Still not up to call myself an "artisan" soap maker. Not sure how one earns that title. Instead I think I'll just go with Fartisan Soap Maker. Fits my life better, Not quite ready to put it on my soap labels though.  Still want to sell a few bars. So lets just keep that Fartisan thing between you and me, OK?

I was in a hot process mood last night. My basic HP recipe is
     10 oz  Organic Coconut Oil
     10 oz Rice Bran Oil
     10 oz Pure Red Wattle Organic Lard
     5 oz Organic Sunflower
     2 oz Castor Oil
     5.1 oz lye
     12 oz aloe vera juice

Added 1/4 T Maddar Root Powder and essential oil mix of 1and 1/2 Blood Orange and 1/2 Patchouli.
(I recently decided, about one minute ago to share more of my exact recipes. It seems many soapers are all top secret, Agent 99 about their soap which makes it hard for us new soapers to improve so I am breaking the unwritten code, Of course after seeing some of my soaps you'll understand why sharing my recipe is no big deal. It will be like Rosanne Barr/Arnold/Macadamia Nut Queen/ sharing her cookbook)

So batch number one came out like this:

I agree. The flowers are a bit much. Too bright but you don't know until you try. The maddar root powder did not mix as well as I thought it had. Next time I think I will infuse for a couple of days instead of a couple of seconds. I did like the tops though:
The scent was fantastic. Been walking around with a bar taped under my nose all day. A farm girl's gotta do what a farm girls gotta do.

Batch number two consisted of same recipe but I added 2 T ground steel cut Irish Oats and 1T ground orange peel scented with 1oz Sweet Orange and 1oz Cedarwood EO's. It was hideous going into my mold and improved over the next 12 hours. I took these bars outside for their debut.

See that ? A group of three. The only valuable thing I ever learned in my Art 101 for the Dumb at Joliet East HS. Now something very important to remember with this recipe. DO NOT SCRIMP on the Irish Steel Cut Oats. Last month I made this soap with Alabama Machete Cut Oats and it ruined the whole batch. Every time I took a shower I would hum the theme music to Deliverance.

Still not tired enough to sleep I moved on to Hot Process batch number three, the Lavender-Anise. For color I used Alkanet. Seemingly enough to re-tar the street put front. I was looking for a pale blue, I was gifted with this:
Grey Granite ? It is solid as a rock. Maybe if I coat it with a little oil or I could take it outside like the others

Ah better, especially since I plopped it in the middle of the only Lavender plant I have that survived last winter. The green makes the blue less sad. So those were the three batches I made last night but I was on a soap photo roll so I scooped up the egg soap I made a couple of weeks ago and threw it into a nest box.
Don't worry, I won't sell this bar to the public. I'll save it for someone special. An in law perhaps

Not done yet because I do obsess much...I grabbed my 4 week old Patchoily Bar. Called such cause the dang thing smells so heavenly but won't get hard ! I made it lie on top of some stony concrete piles in the hard hoping the texture would motivate it.

So there you have it. I know some sane folks blog about one new soap at a time but...Why?

Monday, August 8, 2011

An ounze of prevention is worth a pound of really expensive certified organic treatments

So, with 7 calves at the beginning of the week, they all rolled over and one fell out via death by Coccidiosis. (see my past two posts) Later that day Keith noted another calf with early scours.No other symptoms. Appetite great and very active,

We got busy.

  • First we moved the newly ill calf into a clean hutch with lots of fresh grass within its reach.
  • The we read all we could find regarding both organic and non organic treatment.
  • Next we called Crystal Creek for new supplies. We were out of important supplements,
  • We ordered Calf 180 which contains yeast, pectin and electrolytes such as potassium and sodium, AND a   big bottle of Whole Leaf Aloe Vera juice.
  • I then washed out all our calves water buckets with hot bleach water. Refilling then only 1/3 of the way to deter ducks from washing up in the buckets as we had seen them do in this recent heat spell.Keith found another larger flatter water pan for the ducks and filled it to the brim for their use.
  • We then began giving supplemental feedings (2 a day) of water and electrolytes from the Calf Shield product we still had on hand
  • And we watched the scoured calf like two hawks on a plump field mouse. No blood in its stool. No change in appetite or activity level.
  • Tomorrow we will move all our hutches to new ground. Wash them with the pressure washer and as new calves are born they will go into "like a virgin" hutches

One more thing. The vets number is on speed dial.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Organic Certification; The Great Debate

The calf died. (Not the calf above. That one is just a stunt double) I'm telling you the ending now to save you the time of scrolling to the bottom of this post, I'm sorry to ruin the suspense but that's just how I am. I often start a book at the last sentence of the last chapter. I read the last sentence of a poem before I read the first word and I don't give a hoot if someone tells me how a movie ends before I see it. They are sadly all so predictable anyway, except for Sixth Sense, Even now, year later, the ending still surprises me.

So that's why I'm telling you the calf died. In a minute I'll tell you the rest of his story but first I must comment about some comments left in the comment section of my last post. They require more than the obligatory "Thanks."

To Lana who is the middle of planning for organic certification right now. Her questions were fantastic and deserve more attention than I can give in my blog so Lana...I will be contacting you very soon via email to hopefully help . I am no expert but I can share my mistakes and hopefully keep you from making the same ones.

To Cro, who wondered about the insanity of having to sell over $5000 worth of organic product before you were required to complete the inspection process prior to LABELING your products organic. Yes, its one of the most ridiculous parts of the United States National Organic Program (NOP). It has nothing to do with your economic status as you can be filthy rich, say as a GMO seed salesman, yet sell only $4900 worth of organic product in a years time thus exempting you from any legal action against you for selling products labeled organic without having completed the inspection. You do however have to follow all the NOP standards. BUT if no one is inspecting you what assurance do your customers have that you are following the standards ? The answer is none. Frankly I have yet to meet one single person who truthfully follow the standards, but elects to sell less than $5000 worth of product in order to avoid the inspection requirement. I HAVE MET several folks who label their products organic, knowing that they can legally do so as long as they sell less than $5000 worth but have no idea or interst in what any of the other standards say or mean.

Confused ? You should be.

Now to Chris who asked, "My chickens are fed 'organic' layers pellets, organic corn, and organic veg and are free range. They don't have a label and haven't passed any tests, certification boards or climbed the sheer rock-face of legislation (even if the produce they consume has).

Question is - are they laying 'organic' eggs even if they don't have a label?

Chris, the answer here in the US is...No, they are not legally organic unless your pellets, your corn and your veggies have all been CERTIFIED organic. In addition , unless you are selling less than $5000 a year you can not label them as organic until you have successfully completed the inspection. Now, if you feed them only certified organic feed and you follow all the organic standards and you sell less than $5000 then you can label them organic, but not CERTIFIED organic until you have submitted all the paperwork, paid all the fees and completed the inspection every single year.

AND if you were my neighbor, Chris,  I would buy your eggs in a heartbeat because it sounds like you are raising some fine chickens and I bet those eggs taste fantastic.

Still confused ? Well read on.

The calf story. Last week one of our calves (6 weeks old) began to scour. (loose stools). We began adding an electrolyte supplement (approved by MOSA, our organic surveyor) to its milk bottles. A couple days later it began to lose its appetite so we started offering it extra water with supplements in between feedings, several times a day. It remained active with nice shiny coat, bright eyes. Next day, no better so we cut back on the milk offering it hay and grass which was hand fed. Each day my husband would move its hutch so the calf had clean ground and fresh grass underneath him. Another day after that we saw streaks of blood in its stool a sure sign of the parasite coccidiosis. Appetite poor, fluid intake poor so we began to tube feed it. (Fluids directly into its stomach via a feeding tube passed down its esophagus)

We discussed calling a vet. The next day it died.

Today we lamented that we should have called the vet sooner. We also reviewed everything we did and re-read important chapters in the book " Alternative Treatments for Ruminant Animals" by Paul Dettloff D.V.M.  Seems we did many things right. Seems we also did many things wrong, Seems we really missed the boat on prevention.

It is rare for a calf to get sick on our farm so we did not have a good treatment plan in place. Instead we scrambled behind each symptom rather than working to avoid the next one.

We should have called the vet.

The NOP standards are very clear that you are not to use antibiotics or other non approved treatments UNLESS the animals life is in danger. We missed the rapid decline of this calves health and if we had sought professional help sooner we would have lost organic certification for that calf (not a big deal) but probably would have saved its life.( A much bigger deal)  After a full recovery we could have sold her as a family milk cow or even had her slaughtered for our own meat supply.

Being certified organic is a whole lot more than a little extra dirt on a few carrots. It takes education, research and commitment. It requires eating crow publicly and admitting when you made a animal husbandry mistake allowing suffering when it possibly could have been avoided.

Next time we'll do better.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Labels I have Known

Its been awhile since my last organic label rant, so here goes. Overheard recently was this less than informed statement, "The only difference between organic and non-organic is that organic food is dirtier."

If it were that simple folks, most all your food labels would say  certified organic as that generally brings in more revenue but the fact is, less than 5% of all grocery store food is labeled organic.

Reason is difficult to be CERTIFIED organic. It takes time, money, knowledge and oh yeah, effort. But before I go too much farther I need to be clear on something. I understand that all things with a carbon base are indeed, organic. This discussion has to do with the National Organic Program (NOP) and the labeling of food items as organic. I frankly do not care if you, yourself eat organic, grow organic, breathe organic, snort organic or wrap your shitzsadoodle puppy in an organic silk caftan. Its your decision to ingest what you like, it is your decision to grow your food however you like.

My beef (pork and chicken) lies with folks who falsely advertise the items they sell, as organic, when they are not. Federal law states you cannot label your products as organic UNLESS

1. They have been through the organic certification process and successfully passed an annual inspection completed by a qualified surveyor OR
 2. You sell less than $5000 a year of product AND follow all the National Organic Program

These are the only two legal ways you can label your product organic.

You can call your items several other names though like, "All Natural," for which there is no government definition. You can also simply list on your label the things you DO NOT put in your products such as

    "no antibiotics"
    "GMO free"
     "chemical free"
     "no hormones"
     "this product contains certified organic oils"
     " free of squirrel tail and bat teeth"

Why does this bother me so ? Because of the work involved. Every year it takes us many many hours to prepare for our annual inspection by MOSA. (Midwest Organic Services Association)  Not only do we have to be antibiotic and chemical free in all we do on our farm, we also have to prove it . This is done through livestock tracking records, animal health forms, receipts etc...It is done by paying over $800 each year for the privilege of being inspected in addition to the costs of feeding certified organic hay and grain. It is done by maintaining the standards all year long not just at inspection time.

Recently the NOP passed the rule requiring that even the bedding we use must be certified organic. The reason being, animals tend to chew on their bedding at times so it best be organic as well. Locating certified organic straw in our area is not easy, nor is it cheap. We recently paid $4 for each bale. At that price we are now storing it in our bedroom, giving authentic meaning to the country decorating look.

So please, if you choose not to be certified organic, then be proud of that decision.  Don't climb up on the back of those who have worked so hard to maintain our organic certifications. Don't say goofy things like "I'm beyond organic I just don't have the fancy label"  How can you be beyond the standards when you've never even picked up the manual and read all its rules ?

So with all my gripes..why do we do it ?

We believe in it. We believe that animals raised without hormones and routine antibiotics, animals who must be outside on pasture at least 120 days of the year,  produce tastier, healthier meat and milk. We could raise our meat this way without the certification but paying customers deserve farmer accountability and they demand it. If they CHOOSE to buy certified organic meat than they should have some way to ensure that the meat they buy is indeed raised according to the standards that are important to them.

That's all I'm saying.

In my next post , I'll talk about some of the methods we used, all approved by NOP, for treatment of a sick calf. It does not include voodoo or purple koolaide. Stay tuned.