Sunday, April 29, 2012

Saponicationnday:The Algae in my Shower

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I am not talking about the stuff on your shower walls, I am instead referring to the algae in your soap. At least if you buy soap from me there might be some algae in it, you never know. Wait, actually, you WILL know, as I label each of my soaps with all the ingredients just to be fair.

My Soap colored with varying concentrations
of powdered Spirulina

But if you saw one of these soaps ( and please forgive the photo quality , again, as my new Nikon Camera is still languishing in some photo repair shop in Farmington, NY. and I had to use some older photos from the ancient Kodak camera. So if you live in that lovely berg could you do me a favor and knock on their door and ask how the repairs are coming? There's a ten spot in it for you if you can get them to mail the camera back to me before my GK's graduate high school. Patience, by the way has never been my virtue.They said it would take 2-3 weeks and it has been 17 days!!!) now, where in Farmington's name was I?

Ah yes, soap with algae would be that colored with Spirulina, which oddly enough is not the name of Pasta Loving Princess, but rather a type of blue-green algae that grows in the warm alkaline, oceans of Africa, South America and Australia and is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. It is thought to be very nutritious and is often consumed as a powder in pills, capsules and smoothies.

Spirulina Powder. Price Varies Widely

Since I am only about 1.5  generations away from my own green teeth family members I prefer to use Spirulina only in my soaps. Some sources suggest just 1/2 teaspoon per pound will make a very dark green soap and it will, but Spirulina is not well known for its commitment value.

Those are not big air bubbles.
It's just my old camera I tell ya.

It can leave overnight. Not unlike a certain pony-tailed-bell-bottomed-Mad Dog 20-20 swirlin'-in-the-jelly-glass-like- he-was-someone-special-guitar-player who swore he'd be around long enough for next months rent payment but...(did I just write that out loud?)

One minute a beautiful green, the next camo green and the next a green brown. The soap, not the guitar player. I have found it stays a  brighter green longer when my soap recipe is at least 25% lard. Perhaps the hardness in a lard soap bar makes it harder for Spirulina to escape. I favor using 1 full teaspoon to each pound of oil.

Water imbued Spirulina

Some other sources think the powdered algae can smell a bit 'oceany." I have smelled no such thing but then again I think the smell of Galway Bay water wafting through mounds of seaweed is nothing sort of heaven.

Spirulina Hill as in "I found my thrill on..."
The cost varies widely,  from $4 an ounce from Brambleberry to 35 cents an oz in the bulk bins at Naturally Yours Grocery in Bloomington, Il. I have not tested the quality of one against the other and have no idea if one Spirulina would outlast the other. I do know I am a distance from Australia and the oceans who grow the algae naturally but HEY I know some international soapers in those areas so tell much does this beautiful, healthy powder cost in your neck of the oceans?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

MOSA blues

How does that saying go ? Oh yeah, The faster I go, the bigger my behind gets. Or so it seemed today. Too much sitting time. Woke with best intentions of completing all the MOSA (Midwest Organic Services Association) paperwork for our annual re-certification. (It's due May 1st) Guess how much I got done ?

Not so much, as in NADA. I kept saying to myself "As soon as you get all the sales receipts entered into Quicken, I'll start" or "As soon as I print off all the invoices for the last 5 hogs we sold, I'll start" or " as soon as see who that is in our store, I'll start." Or my personal favorite, "As soon as I cook up those T-bones that partially thawed last week, but I refroze so I better thaw and eat them to make sure they are still good, and THEN I'll start."

The good news...the T-bones were excellent. The bad news...MOSA application forms still sitting in my email IN box. This afternoon I was sure I'd get to it but I really wanted to get outside. I had been at my desk all morning after all. Except for the few moments I helped Keith load up 5 Red Wattles to take to the vet.

They weren't sick but two have been sold to a couple in Missouri coming this weekend and one has been sold to a fellow in Michigan , also coming soon, and two more are going to the Garfield Farms Endangered Animal show May 20th, thus all of them needed health papers and /or blood tests to ensure they were free of brucellosis and pseudorabies (a terrible disease where you just think you are afraid of water.)

Finally, I found my way outside and planted some beans in the main garden and some really cool moon flower seeds, in my secret garden which is really taking great shape. That's when Keith saw me in the garden and came over to add the 4th wall. This would make lots more sense if I took pics but my camera is STILL in the repair store, sigh.

Moon flowers. Bloom at night, full of light

What did Keith do all day ? Twiddled his thumbs pretty much, as soon as he was done with 8 hours of outside chores he fiddled around putting away a semi load of hay and then hauled the pigs over to the vets. Oh OK, he also mowed and took care of more store customers. But other than that...

Then, around 5 when we imagined we were going to take a break, and this guy comes by to look at the farm. Sorta interested but not really. It's a story for another blog which I will title "People who want to buy our farm but have no intention of actually working as a farmer."

At 7, I called it quits...and started making soap. All in all, a pretty quiet day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Just Hanging Around

PLEASE NOTE: The following post was written in 2012. Our meat prices have changed. Email us at for current prices. Thank you

Its difficult. So many details involved with selling our meat that doing a FAQ page seems not enough. A regular newsletter? Not enough. Covering the basics and then some on our farms Web Page ? Still not enough. Dropping flyers from a privately owned Cessna? I don't fly. My dad had a pilots license but did he ever bother to teach me? Nooooooooo. (Did I ever take an interest in the things that were important ot him like flying, before he died? No again.)
Back to meat. Customers often have a hard time understanding the term "Hanging weight" which is how we sell our meat, as in "The cost of our beef is $3.75 per pound hanging weight." So, thought I'd cover it here, just one more way to reach the masses. (You Protestants will have to get your info somewhere else. Kidding, just kidding.)

Hanging weight is the weight of a side of beef as it hangs upside down in the locker's cooler. Now if it is an average beef and weighs about 300 pounds in this hanging state, skin and head removed, it will lose another 30% in fat and bone that is trimmed away and removed. This leaves about 70% or 210 pounds actual meat you will take home to your freezer.


A very lean beef may lose only 15% to fat and waste and a very fat beef may lose up to 45%.
Now you might ask "Why I am paying the hanging weight of a beef when I donlt actually take home that much meat?" Well the answer is...its a shared loss sort of thing. The famer has to feed and care for the entire animal and therefore has expenses tied up not only in the meat you take home but in the fat and bone that is "wasted". Your best bet as a consumer is to CLAIM as much of the waste as you can.

Bones (knuckle, femur) are great for making soups and stock. Fat can be rendered for cooking and of course soapmaking. The organ meat such as liver, heart and tongue and all wonderful cuts that can be prepared very tastily, ot so our chef friends tell us. So far we just use the liver but we sell all the organs in our store, even the TAIL!

The other less common way of being charged is by the "On the hoof" or "Live Weight", meaning you are charged for the entire weight of the animal as it is standing in the grassy field glaring at you. This weight is usually taken on a large grain scale as the animal stands in the livestock trailer on its way to the locker. Don't worry, the ethical farmer will subtract the weight of the trailer. However if you are ever told that your beef weighed 5 tons you have good reason to be suspect.

If the farmer is charging you Live Weight you will take home an even smaller percentage of meat and your cost per piece might be higher. It all depends on the cost per pound.

Remember as well, in most cases you will need to pay the locker plant for the processing costs. In our neck of the woods this averages about 90 cents per pound. So how does this all shake out? Well, lets figure the cost of a half beef at our prices.

One half beef, HANGING WEIGHT will be about 300 pounds.At $3.75 per pound, you will owe us $1125. Add in the processing of 90 cents per pound or another $270 for a grand total of $1395.  A very tidy sum but if you divide this by the approximate 210 pounds of meat you will take home, you are paying $6.64 per pound.

Not very expensive since your take home meat will include cheaper cuts like burger which we will sell for $4.99 a pound in our farm  store , but lots of roast (which we sell for $8.49/pound) and many steaks like Porterhouse and Ribeyes (which we sell for $12.99/pound) Keep in mind the same cuts of meat, raised the same way (grass fed, organic,) will cost you much more HERE and  HERE and in other similar stores.

So, if you have the freezer space and you're not a vegetarian, this is one good deal for 100% grass fed, certified organic born and raised in Chatsworth, Illinois, beef.

I'm just sayin'

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Saponification Sunday; Saved by Hot Process

Hot Process Soap Colored with Madder Root Powder

So far behind in all things soap. Planning for lots of visitors this weekend kept me away from usual farm stuff. Earlier this week realized I was very low on my supply (Thank you Farm Store and email customers!) and had our Open Farm Day coming up so pulled out the crock pots and starting whipping up some Hot Process Bars. Had a ball making a Zebra bar with black charcoal and scented with Anise EO.

No. There are no pics. My new Nikon is still at the repair store. They said 2-3 weeks. It has been 10 days. Makes me crazy, had no idea how dependent on was on pointing and shooting until the device was ripped from my neck.

I love it when people "distress" their wood projects. Our whole farm is distressed.

After the Zebra thingy, I made HP Patchouli, Calendula and a Lavender of course. Had friend Zan who was staying with us the last couple nights, help me label it all. Made 47 bars in all and sold 40 of them. Zan trying to talk me into the ETSY deal but I'm not ready for that. How about you other soap makers. Do you do ETSY? Has it been a good experience? Would love your input.

Hot Process Bar colored with Alkanet
powder and scented with Lavender EO

Also way way behind on Amy Wardens soap challenge. Made it the first 3 weeks , now two weeks behind or is it three? But the way I figure it all I have to do to catch up is make a frosted beer bar scented with a custom blend of Guinness and Pineapple EO's with a salt block chaser and I'll be in grand shape with the rest of the group!

Oh, special thanks to the group of 5 from Green Grocer who made the two hour trek south from Chicago to see our farm today. Cassie Green and her husband Gary, the owners are so amazing. Not only do they look for good food for a good value to stock their wonderful neighborhood grocery, they take the time and effort to get to know their farmers. Before Cassie would even consider stocking our meat in store freezer she wanted to know how our animals were fed, raised and butchered. Most groceries just want to know how much our meat is going to cost them.

It was great fun showing them the farm, the piglets, the peacock,the donkey, the dog. And even though the day was cool and windy they seemed to have a good time too. Of course no pics to show you, but really they were here!

Until I get my Nikon back, here are some old HP soaps I made awhile back.
Enjoy. Now, here is to a slower week. Please and thank you.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Great Day, Great Crowd, GREAT-FUL!

South Pork Critters Totally Excited about Open Farm Day

You know...I have a hard enough time adjusting to the ridiculous daylight savings time thing we go through in this country (all the clocks in our house, and I mean ALL, are set to different times as I have no desire to synchronize them anymore) without having to deal with Blogger and all their self important mandatory changes. Who do they think they are anyway? Free ? Besides, flexible is no longer my middle names. Befuddled, comes closer.

So, Open Farm Day has come and gone. Although not a single soul registered officially for Zan Asha Queen Bee talks, she still ended up talking to a table for 6, meaning those folks (myself included) knew more about bees after the workshop than before.  The bad thing was I was not able to hear all of Zan's information about why Queen Bees get to live two years and worker bees only get to live for weeks, because the good news is...we had a ton of people show up for the Open Farm Day.

Technically, it was about 80 people, a little short of a "ton" but whos' counting ? and me, that's who. I worried a bit that no one would show, that the weather would crash, that we'd run out of cookies, that no one would eat the cookies, that I should've gotten more of the M&M Cookies like Zan said instead of those all too common Snickerdoodles, that the overly romantic turkey would make the pastor from Farmer City his new lover...

Not to worry. It was cool but sunny, no one tripped and fell in the milk parlor, piglets frolicked in the field, (one even frolicked in the front yard to the great amusement of our bee-teaching from the Bronx) and people...bought things. Soap and meat and lip balms and chicken and someone even bought a 1/2 beef. The 10% discount on all sales generated more sales, funny how that works and giving away a T-shirt for every $50 spend was a BRILLIANT idea. Of course it was Keith's idea, I was still all hung up about getting the right cookies.

Before we knew it, the day was past. Zan, took a nap, (due to PTGD, Post Traumatic Greyhound Disorder) while I geared up for our NEXT event: the staff from Green Grocer in Chicago coming for a farm tour tomorrow.  Then after Zan woke, and got her second wind and began prepping for her next series of bee talks tomorrow at Antiquity Oaks,  I ran out of energy and as soon as I am all ready for tomorrows guests, I am so hitting the hay. where did I put those leftover Snickerdoodles?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Open Farm Day...coming soon !

Your Hosts For This Years Open Farm Day at South Pork Ranch

First of all let me just say how much I admire you bloggers out there who so religiously respond to each and every comment on your blog each and every day. You are AMAZING!

And I am so not.

Oh , I'll do it for awhile. You'll say something, I'll say something back and then I'll get distracted, you know, the toast pops up or something equally important enough to pull me away from your input. It's not that I don't care...I love your comments, I adore your razor sharp wits, I howl at your good natured jabs, I tear up at your sentiment but when it comes to responding to each of you I fall short.

I could blame it on the fact that our Open Farm Day is 36 hrs away and I am totally unprepared, having had to rely on the wisdom of two GK's, age 7 and 4 to tell me what I should serve as refreshments (We decided on lime koolaid and frosted honey buns, I hope no one has a problem with that). Or I could place fault on all you oh so loyal customers who have bought us out of farm and home lately leaving us with far less in the store to sell than we planned on having meaning we are most likely going to have to do some moonlight butchering of our own tonight. Someone should warn Sunset the overly romantic turkey.

Or I could just be truthful and admit that my organizational skills are plummeting faster than my over 50  hormone levels as I spent the day yesterday planting seashell shaped Cosmos seeds by the hundreds instead of mowing the waist high lawn as I should've been doing. (I blame  Miss Effie and her dang flower gardens of most awesomeness ) Whatever the reason, I just want you all to know, I love your comments ! Many thanks.

And for those of you planning to come this Saturday...South Pork Ranch may not look as grand as we'd hoped for this big day but you are all VERY WELCOME!

Saturday April 21st from 10-5.
Bee Keeping classes by the amazing Beyond Vagabond Gal herself; Zan Asha!  (above) $50 each class. Payable at the door. Cash only please
          Beginners Class at 10:30
          Advanced Class at 2:00
Farm Tours and refreshments are FREE. Raw Milk is $5 a gallon. Bring your own container
All day Sales in our Farm Store 10-5

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cold Raw Milk...Still a Hot Business

Just in case you were wondering...all is still quite well on the raw milk front. I just sent off another article to Graze Magazine on the topic, which will be printed soon. (Special thanks to Joel McNair) It focuses on the change in new customer demographic we've been seeing, specifically  the customer who has NEVER had raw milk before but is eager to give it a try.

In fact, the other day we calculated estimated servings of raw milk sold. Based on an 8 oz glass and there being over 16 glasses in one gallon and the fact that we have sold approximately 200 gallons of milk per month for the last 17 years (not so much in the first five years, even more in the last 2 years) we estimated we sold 40,800 gallons or of milk to our raw milk customers or 652, 800  SERVINGS of raw milk.

I'm not bragging, we are a small farm and a larger raw milk dairy would have much bigger numbers...I am just saying, People really do love raw milk. And we, are happy to be producing it for them and their families.

Last month, we decided to discontinue the raw milk ads in the local newspapers, they weren't reaching that many folks or at least when we asked new customers how they found us, it wasn't the news ads they cited.

Number one best source of advertising is still word of it should be. I know I am much more prone to use a restaurant or stop in a shop if someone I trust has reccomended it. After that it is "The Internet" in general. Sometimes folks will be more specific and can list one of the farm sites we love, Eat Wild.Com  (which by the way if you have a farm and sell farm products you will absolutely get your $50 worth to list your farm on this site) or they will state "your blog" and "Facebook."

But, at least 70 % of the time, they come to us because their mother's Aunt Bertha's son, the one she had with her second husband Luther, yeah THAT guy, what was his name ? Yeah, he told them about our farm.

Thank you Luther.

Yeah...nothing to do with milk, but you know how I love to make soap.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Saponification Sunday: Hardly

Yes. I am aware it is no longer Sunday.
It's not my fault.

Since I hit 50 it's like someone has put all the days on high speed. Sunday is Monday. Wednesday is Friday. All rushing towards the end of my life in one big tumble of days merging into one another, as I fruitlessly try to keep up.

Get off? I can't even find the door I came in through.

But still. You have come to expect a post about soap on Sundays and I aim to please. So here we go.
Regarding the fantastic soap challenges of Amy Warden   Fully intended to do those too. The oh-so cute soap piping? Well, I did borrow the tips and bags needed from DIL Tab, the chef in the family. I made two. They were...

Pitiful.  I've never seen icing smoke before, have you? Still, was going to take pics but the new Nikon I was so boastful about ? Yeah, it crashed. Had to return it to the store from WENCH it came. So no pics of the badly piped soap. Lucky you. Then this past week was the alcohol challenge. I wasn't in the mood to waste it in soap and instead put it to use in a gastronomical sense. (Sorry Cro, I'll make more soon)

Yesterday was going to make more soap but instead spent the day with family welcoming home nephew Isaac, gone to Marine Boot Camp the last 4 months, a GOOD decision on my part,  so what dregs does that leave all of you ?

You, my friends get salt.

I am one of those soapers who loves salt bars. Probably because I have the feet of a 20 year old Shetland Pony and need salt bars to keep them filed down enough to fit into my Wellies. I especially love making salt bars with Pink Himalayan Salt, but the dang stuff is expensive ! So I found a place that sells it in Big, and bought a 10 pound chunk. The goal was to shave off a few sections as a gift for DIL as I've seen more restaurants using salt block plates for certain food servings, especially seafood. Leftovers I would grind up for salt soap bars. That indeed, was the plan.

But how does one cut a big block of salt?

With an old table saw and a very willing husband that's how.

Yeah, I know...Nice arm.  One of the benefits of milking cows twice a day.

Excuse the grainy pics. Had to use the old camera. Sheeeesh. At first we thought the salt block would shatter, it was terrifically hard. But surprisingly the table saw went through it well. But not without a little salt dust.

Didn't bother me. I just twirled around in the pink cloud with my tongue out lapping up all the salty goodness.

I'll take salt over sweet any day of the year.

The first few slabs were a little uneven but then hubby got the hang of it. But when we tried to chip off smaller pieces in the hopes of making our own salt granules for the salt soap bars I like to go. Just big hunks.

Oh well, it did make some cool salt serving plates and will continue to make a nice backdrop for some soap pictures. But if I'm going to make more salt bars I'll have to break down and pay the real money for the ground up stuff.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

OPEN FARM DAY next Saturday!

Getting ready for our first Open Farm Day on April 21st. 10 am until 5pm .  Hoping for a beautiful spring day. I've been repeatedly posting on Facebook, sending emails,making flyers and posting them in our town (Chatsworth, Illinois, USA) and neighboring towns such as Forrest, Fairbury, Pontiac. We have posted notices in our farm store and this week several will go in the local newspapers. We should have hundreds show up...

Or none.

Our Milk house and Milking Parlor

You know how these things go. But we are hyped either way. If people come and attend our bee classes being conducted by the original Beyond Vegabond Gal herself, Zan Asha, spend time listening to us yak a little about the Red Wattle hog, and follow us about the farm checking in on little new born piglets, we've be happy. But if not, then I'll spend the whole day working on my secret garden with Zan in tow.

We will also have some great sales in our Farm Store, including 100% Grass Fed steaks and certified organic pork. My chicken supplier will be bringing over extra roasters and my egg farmers will have our frig full of great tasting real farm raised eggs, The kind with  stand-up-tall-and-say-hello-YELLOW yolks, not the vanilla type you get in the stores.

Of course we'll have lots of fresh, creamy organic raw milk for sale for just $5 a gallon.

We'll be giving away T-shirts and have drawings for some cool Midlife Farmwife soap gift baskets which will be bursting with homemade laundry soap, bath salts, all natural soaps among other things.

Mark your calenders!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

And Now For Something Entirely Dull

Oh but my last post was fun wasn't it? And so many of you just jumped right on that "follow me-follow you" bus did you not? The one who benefited most of course was me with seven new followers in just a couple days. So a great big Midlife Farmwife welcome to...oh you know who you are. Just THANKS for joining.

But life can't be a barrel full of junkies all the time can it? (I'm talking blog junkies, relax)
Some of us have to work for a living. Last night for example, at a farmers group meeting we belong to,  I worked myself into a real bind again by opening my mouth and volunteering (why can't I SHUT UP!!?!) to do a list explaining the difference between all the crazy meat labels floating around in the US.

So since I had to do it anyway I am sharing it with you . (Hmmm, I'm working myself right back down that follower number aren't I?)

Still here ? Good. Then after reading would love to know what's going on in your area/county/state/country as far as goofy labels seen on meat products in the store. In fact, maybe later I'll do my own interpretation of these labels. Could be a hoot.     Thanks so much.

Common Meat Label Jargon

Real vs. Hype

All Natural          Applies only to processing and indicates that no artificial or synthetic products have been added. The legal definition does not have anything to do with how the animal was raised. “Natural” feed may or may not have antibiotics or other additives.

Beyond Organic                              A fabricated term that is not substantiated by any certifying group. Farmers who use the term often state they meet the organic standards (as they perceive them) but are not currently certified organic. If used on meat labels may be subject to fine by the NOP (National Organic Program)

Cage Free            Term not substantiated by any certifying agency. Implies animals (often poultry) are raised outside of cages. Animals may or may not still be raised in very crowded indoor conditions just without individual cages.

Free-Range         Another term not substantiated by a certifying agency. Implies animal is outside but does not indicate in what conditions (pasture? Dirt lot?) or for what time frame each day.

Grass Fed            Currently a voluntary situation. Any farmer can call his meat” grass fed” Two agencies do certify grass fed farmers. USDA grass fed is least stringent, requires that beef animal is forage/grass/pasture raised its entire life, no grain but allows antibiotics, hormone and pesticide treatments. The American Grass Fed Association (AGA) is stricter. Same as USDA but in addition: PROHIBITS antibiotics, hormones and pesticides.

Heritage              Animal Considered being a rare and endangered livestock. A purebred animal. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) responsible for majority of Heritage Breed Registrations, Breed identifications and public education.

Humanely Raised             Third parties such as the Animal Welfare Association and Humane Farmed exist to audit or certify farms. The label wars against overcrowding, early weaning, and denying access to pasture to name a few.

Local                    No legal definition. Implies the farm or producer lives within 50 miles of the consumer. Some Chicago area restaurants consider Livingston County products as “local”

Natural                               See All Natural definition above.

No Hormones Added      Generally another marketing scheme as it is illegal to use hormones in the raising of poultry and hogs in the US anyway. Still allowed for beef production.

Non-Confined   Implies animals are not in a feed lot situation however some farmers feel as long as their animal is not in an individual cage they are “non-confined”

Organic                The most controversial and highly regulated agricultural term to date. Through the USDA, the National Organic Program (NOP)  regulates, inspects and certifies farms, businesses and their products. The organic standards number over 200 and must be met during annual inspections in order for a farmer or his meat to be labeled “organic” or “certified organic” Most well-known standards prohibit the use of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, herbicides or anthelmintics (worming agents). Instead, only approved organic treatments may be given to livestock.  All meat products must also be processed in an approved Certified Organic Locker in order to use the organic label. Uncertified farmers who label their products as organic are subject to fines and penalties.

Pasture-Raised                 Again, can be a nebulous term. Not regulated by a certifying agency. Implies the animal is raised outside on grass a large majority of its life. The organic standard for time on pasture is 120 days per year minimum.

Sustainable        Most widely used term in farming today. Not regulated by animal agency and therefore any farmer can use however the legal definition by the USDA for “Sustainable Agriculture” means

An integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long-term:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs.
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends.
  • Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls.
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations.
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.

NOTE: This list was compiled for educational purposes only and should by no means be considered a complete or legally  accurate document. The individual farmer is responsible for contacting their county, state and federal  agencies for specific laws as they relate to the labeling of meat products. The author suggests starting with the USDA department of Agriculture

                                                                                                         Donna O’Shaughnessy    4/12/12

                                                                                                         South Pork Ranch

                                                                                                         Chatsworth, Illinois

                                                                                                         Farmer Member Stewards of The Land

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Goodbye Follower number 171

You try to protect yourself. You take out some low cost blog insurance, you cover yourself with a layer of bubble wrap for those days when follower comments hit you upside the head. You try only to blog when you are in the very best of spirits and you know your words of wisdom will be cherished and shared with others in need of your grand gifts.

But then it happens, and you realize all your preparations were for naught, because how can one really prepare for the loss of a follower.

Yes, it happened to me just three days ago. I wasn't ready to talk about it yet, it was too tender, too raw. One day I had 171 followers and the next day...just 170! Just like that. No note, no card, no opportunity for  a make up blog.  Gone. Just gone.

Was it something I said? (Obviously Sherlock, this isnt' a blog for mimes) Maybe something I didn't say. Something I should've said? Was it a picture I posted ? One I didn't ? A cause I supported ? A cause I didn't ? Perhaps it wasn't my fault at all. Maybe the follower realized they really weren't a follower and more of a leader and their own destiny was best spent being out in front of me instead of following along in my dust.

I know. I'm not making sense. I'm just so distressed. Do I try to contact them ? Or would I just be humiliating myself? Like the time in 1975 when I asked Mark Bernhard if he would go to the Sadie Hawkins dance with me at Joliet East HS and he just mumbled "I don't go to those kind of things" turning away from me and burying himself in his locker. Really. I am just as distressed as I was then.

All the rejections are coming back to me, rushing through my brain. All the old wounds opening wide, I feel so vulnerable, so frightened,

HEY ! Looky there ! I just got a new follower. Back up to 171 again. Thanks so much to the NEW and IMPROVED follower number 171. She with the wonderful name of  Mary Ann. Welcome Mary Ann !

I never liked the old 171 that much anyway.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Saponification Sunday

Still working on making soaps with piping or frosting as per  Amy Warden's weekly soap challenge. In the meantime...

Made with powdered orange peel and charcoal.
Babasuu, olive, castor and sweet almond oils
Scented with lemongrass and eucalyptus essential oils.

Made with French Green Clay and Titanium Dioxide
Coconut, Olive, Red Wattle Lard and Sunflower oils
Scented with Pink Grapefruit, and Lemongrass Essential Oils

A very very special THANK YOU to Martha Witcher, a fellow blogger and beyond talented weaver who dropped by our farm a couple of days ago. Not only did she buy one of my soaps she GIFTED me this gorgeous hand towel. As you can see, a most perfect backdrop for my soaps. I was just gobsmaked to find this in our little farm store, beautifully wrapped and labeled. Sadly, I missed her that day but you can be sure I will think of her each time I run my hands over this piece of art. Please check out her other items in her Etsy Store.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Some Pig Farmers You Should Know

Three years ago I found Walter Jeffries. No, he wasn't lost but we sure were. We wanted to raise hogs outside (oh, the horrors) and we wanted to do it year round. We were, however, surrounded by confinement hog farms which were of little help to us.

So we took our search to the Internet and found Walter and his blog,  Sugar Mountain Farm. We read his blog voraciously. We started asking questions and he graciously, through response to comments we left on his blog as well as past and future blog posts, taught us pretty much all we needed to know.

He did all of this...for free.

A couple of years ago he and his family, faced with the loss of one of the butcher shops they relied on heavily to process their pasture raised hogs, took on a feat of unbelievable proportions. They decided to build their own USDA approved butcher shop, and they did 90% of the work THEMSELVES.

The "themselves"part is the most amazing. With three young children ( two now nearly grown teen boys) and one young daughter they took things in their own hands, things like saws, hammers, drills,  and began building from the ground up . To really grasp what it is they are doing you must go to  Walter's Blog to wrap your arms around the entire picture.

And now my request. Being small farmers ourselves we understand how frustrating it can be to identify projects necessary to our farms survival, yet not having the capital to do so. Two years ago  we had a similar dilemma on a smaller scale. In order for us to sell enough of our meat products to pay our bills we needed to build a small farm store.  Taking on more debt was not an option. One of our milk customers came to us, ASKING if they could invest in our farm, We said yes and all have benefited ever since. All because someone took a chance on a small farmer.

Perhaps you might see it in your abilities to do the same for Walter Jeffries and his family. Through his involvement with the Kickstarter Project the Jeffries now have just $14,452 left to raise of their $25,000 goal set just a few days ago. This $25,000 is the amount they need to finish a project they have already funded through their own savings, pre-sales and hard work.

In today's world of individuals believeing  the government owes them food and shelter and clothing, where folks think work is a task to be avoided, where children insist it is their parents job to support them well into their 20's, 30's and 40's, I think what the Jeffries family is nothing short of amazing.

If you can't help financially (you get some really cool products if you can) then perhaps you could link to their project through your blog, your Facebook, your whatever.

I know Walter, Holly, Will, Ben, Hope in Northern Vermont would appreciate it very much.

And so would I.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Big Fat Mama's Boy

You might recall our Red Wattle Sow Sophie. A medium red, full blooded RW purchased from Kiss My Grass Farm in Indiana, we obtained her as a youngster. Coming from a plain background with folks of simple names like Homer and Gertrude we thought she needed something more beautiful in a calling; thus Sophie.

  Now, just 19 months old herself she has given us two litters. Sort of. The first litter she miscarried, about 1/2 way through her 4 month gestation period (Actually it is 3 months 3 weeks). Babies were well formed but came too early. After a rest period she was re bred and 6 weeks ago delivered what seemed to be 7 healthy babies.

The next am 6 were dead. No signs of fowl play. There were no feathers in the nest and our Turkeys had an ironclad alibi, they are terrified of the pigs. We suspect possible nutritional deficits and adjusted her feed. Maybe she needed a longer recovery time after her miscarried litter. The jury is still out.

We debated. Do we leave the last piglet with her? Do we take him inside? Do we leave him with her with only supervised visitation from  his mother? Do we hire a pig nanny?

We  had other things to do, so we left him with her and the roll of the dice came out well. Sophie has successfully raised one big fat mama's boy. Problem is...he is very spoiled. Sophie doesn't let him go far. Watches his every move. He can hardly run across the driveway to play with the donkey before she's calling him home.

He's not allowed to run with piglets of other litters no matter how often they come to his hutch to ask. Sophie insists they share all their meals together and she allows him to nurse. CONSTANTLY.

She makes him wear short pants and a bow tie.

I have yet to see him do a single chore, or even make up his own nest. I pity the sow who has to put up with him when he is breeding age, because she'll never compare to mama Sophie. The two of them have a very special language. Top secret grunts and groans and whispers.

They are always telling each other secrets. You know, the kind he would be better off sharing with other shoats instead of his mother. He does know how to make it laugh though.

Sure, he's cute but don't get too attached to him. He was sold at just a few days of age to a fine young RW breeder in another state. Soon Mama's Boy will go to his new home to grow big and spread the mighty RW gene.

                      If we can ever pull him off his mothers teat.