Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Our Amazing Bee-hazing Government

My husband smokes bees. But he never inhales.

I try to mind my own business, usually between 7-8 am , and I try not to get overly worked up about the "little stuff" but lately our dear government in its lack of wisdom and common sense, just pushed me to the edge. (Not to worry, I live on the edge, but with only faith and Keith to keep me from tumbling off completely.)

If you're a regular to this broadcast you know how I feel about raw milk. If you are new, you can catch up by reading my views about raw milks sales HERE and HERE. One of the reasons I feel so strongly about the raw milk issues really has very little to do with the cold beverage we put on our cereal and into our grandchildren but much much more to do with our constitutional rights.

They are being stripped from us. One by one by one.

Many of you feel this view is extreme and in fact have been brave enough to tell me so to my face, but usually you take the safe route and just email me, as my own children often choose to do, but the topic of this blog might help you see around those rose colored glasses of yours.

An elderly gentleman, here in River Apple Illinois, has had over $5000 worth of bees and equipment removed from his property by inspectors form the Illinois Department of agriculture and faces fines. The bees were removed in his absence, without his knowledge and without a search warrant. In this attack on his property he also lost 15 years of research related to bees and Roundup use.

The reason?

The Illinois Department of Ag stated that his bees tested positive for Foulbrood, specifically American foulbrood (AFB), caused by the spore- forming Paenibacillus larvae ssp. larvae (formerly classified as Bacillus larvae), which is the most widespread and destructive of the bee brood diseases. Paenibacillus larvae is a rod-shaped bacterium, which is visible only under a high power microscope and is highly contagious.

The problem is this. The bees were not tested in Mr Ingram's presence, they were instead taken from his property and then LOST or so the Dept. claims. The "evidence" disappeared and Mr Ingram was not informed of their whereabouts either before, during or after his trail on April.  Funny isn't it, how the Department of Ag claimed his bees had Foulbrood, a highly contagious disease for which burning of all bees and equipment is considered the only safe treatment, yet they TRANSPORTED the bees to an undisclosed location. Hmmmmm.

His trail and the evidence against him was lengthy but fortunately was extremely well documented by The Prairie Advocate Newspaper. Kudos to this small town publication for the real investigative work they printed.

The articles are in four parts and I will warn you, they take a good amount of time to read and digest. Good journalism is not often brief. Yes, I hear you. "I don't have the time to read four articles about some fellow I don't even know and besides...I don't even like bees and I'm more of a Treacle girl instead of a honey babe, (Don't you HATE it when people call you 'honey-babe'?) so I think I'll go watch that movie The Hunger Games since it's about food anyway"

But, please, and now I am serious. Take the time to read the articles. Because if you don't have the time to read about issues that are affecting your constitutional rights and those of your children and your grandchildren...who will?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fire up those Grills...Its Bratwurst time!

Pastured Organic Pork Steak. Grilled and served
Cranberry Chutney.

All right you Brats.... Chops and Ribs, stand up and be counted because your time is up.

Now ready for the locker are several handsome hogs, all raised on certified organic pastures, grain and raw milk. Two ways to order: by the whole carcass or by the half. Two lockers to choose from: Eureka Illinois on June 5th or Chenoa Illinois on June 6. One great price: $2:75 per pound  Hanging Weight plus processing which averages about 80 cents a pound. This means you will pay less than $4 per pound for all the different cuts of meat from ground pork to baby back ribs to yummy bacon. National average for organic brats are now $8 a pound and organic bacon is $12.00. (as discovered with a Google search). Obviously buying in bulk is the most economical

To order you can call us at 815-635-3414
Email us at
Or leave me a comment on this blog with your contact info

Now you might ask what is the difference between the two lockers? Well, they are both USDA certified lockers but only Eureka is certified organic. This means all organic hogs are processed first and equipment is cleaned only with organic approved cleaners. It also means there will be no MSG or Nitrates in your cured meats (ham, bacon), instead curing is done with organic spices, herbs. Also organic processing is slightly more expensive depending on the amount of cured meats you order.

So before you leave me, think about this. It's Sunday morning. You've worked hard all week and you are ready for a big yummy breakfast. So you walk to your freezer and pick out a big package of antibiotic and hormone free bacon or maybe some sausage patties, or better yet...BOTH.

Yeah, both.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Saponification Sunday...Landscape Challenge

It hit 104 degrees here on South Pork Ranch but Keith and I are no eejits. No sirree Babe, the second  the thermometer hit a balmy 99 we high tailed it into the coolness of the farmhouse, registering at a bone-chilling 85.

You scoff, but 14 degrees is a huge difference. Years ago when we bought this old four square, we did install all the duct work for future airconditioning but we did not purchase the actual AC unit. We figured if we had AC we'd be inside too much instead of working like dogs in the heat.

Obviously our train of logical thought derailed years ago.

In between heat flashes, soap was made, showed and sold. Amy Warden and her Landscape Challenge kept me busy. I've done landscapes before but never intentionally. I just poured different soaps into my mold and then if it comes out looking like another Van Gogh (usually more Picasso like) I'll just pretend that was my intention all along.

But this week I actually PLANNED what I was going to scape and it turned out...pretty average. But, as usual I learned so much by checking out all the other participants entries. Those people are dang good.

The business part of my hobby continues to move ahead. A new store in Pontiac, P.R.O.U.D.S Illinois Marketplace bought several of my soaps and several more regulars reordered bars. I was asked to make soap for my nieces wedding shower recently and my daughter thinks she's ready to try a salt bar.

She seems a little young at 31 but a mother has to know when to let go.

If you'd like to buy one of the yellow bars,  cost is $4 per bar plus postage. You can email me at Send me your address and I'll give you a postage quote. The green and blue bottom bar was a small batch and is already spoken for. So sorry.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Secret Garden Update

Even though we still have tons going on, I have made it a habit to spend at least 15 minutes a day in my secret garden. Started a couple of months ago, it was just a patch of yard under a patch of evergreens.

Then friend Jay added a sidewalk made from recycled brick that came from an old chimney in our 115 year old farm house.

This week, Keith helped me put up these two railings that came off the porch of oldest son's Colton's house. His place is also over a hundred years old.

The railings were very fragile and rotted in some places, unsafe for a porch used by humans, but perfectly acceptable for shabby chic secret garden decor. Our goal was to use only recycled "inventory" in my new garden spot and we were doing pretty well until...

The GK's asked for a bird feeder and a ...

Bird House

And a nest building material storage box.

Because every ornithologist worth their winged tipped shoes and google eyed binoculars knows that birds need turquoise colored merino wool to jazz up their nests.

You put all that together along with an old bird bath and the secret garden is now complete with this:

The Tippi Hendron Village

Run, Tippi, Run !!!!

Friday, May 25, 2012


Pigs are brilliant. Horses are smart enough. Ducks are dumber than a bag of socks.
Ducklings, however, are adorable and cannot be held responsible for their parents indiscretions.

The above mama duck is also a thief.

She hatched out a few ducklings, another mama hatched a few and another mama hatched a few more. The next day we see mama ducks with NO babies and this Harlot with ALL the babies!
Perhaps she is part social worker and felt the need to intervene. Perhaps she is a Day Care Duck and is merely watching the babes while the other mamas go to work.

Last year Allana swears (not really, she doesn't swear) that this same Mother Duck had only one chick and she was so lonely she went after all the other babies this year.

Either way, she is causing trouble on the farm. Feelings of working duck guilt and egg hatching incompetence abound. Some reverse theivery is also occuring. I saw two ducklings under the wing of one of our Red Wattles. An adoption in progress or pre-heating a future meal? Hard to tell.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

All Creatures Great and Tall

This past weekend we attended the Rare Breed Show at Garfield Farm in Campton Illinois. Once again it was hot (like last year) and windy (like last year) and fabulous (like last year). One sad difference, not enough exhibitors.

The Farms volunteers , here is one demonstrating the spinning of raw wool,

told us that folks had a myriad of excuses. Some said they didn't have the gas money to haul their animals while others said silly things like it being too much trouble. Now I understand life throwing us curves but still I was disappointed in the NUMBER of folks who did not come. Farm life is leaving us and our world so rapidly and if we farmers don't take a little time (and gas money) and effort to show young people what some of these really cool animals look like, who will?

But to those who did show up, and dress up (did I mention it was HOT, like 93 degrees HOT?) I want to say thank you. You took the time to show our GK's how to spin wool.

How to make felted animals out of wool

How to coerce your Yaya into buying the kit so you could make aniamls
out of felted wool. Yeah, I did. How could I resist this joyful face?

Wool was very popular at the Rare Breeds Show.

Also popular were teeny tiny chicks called "Frizzles" We bought home two as they seem to appreciate dental hygiene.

Apparently when they are grown their feathers get a little funky looking. How cool is that?

Other furry creatures included something a little bigger than the Frizzle chick, and thus Keith could more easily say NO !

Oh that mane!!

I loved how hands on all the animal owners were and I especially loved that I did not see even ONE bottle of antibacterial gel. After all, they had bathroom in the main house where you could wash your hands before eating, if you were that kind of wussy, I mean, conscientious person.

Keith and I did our part to educate the public about Red Wattles, bringing along one sow and two piglets, specifically Sophie and her big fat mama's boy. The two had been separated for a couple weeks but in about 30 seconds flat he was nursing her again as if he'd never left home. At first you could tell she loved it, but by the end of the day, unable to leave the confines of the livestock trailer , Sophie took to lying on top of her teats so big fat mama's boy couldn't reach them.

Wish I had thought of that when my kids were little.

Allana was as adept at telling visitors about our herd as we were (almost) but was overheard a couple of times telling them how there were only 2000 Red Wattles in the world (true) and how 50% of that number resided at South Pork Ranch ! When I told her it was only 1% she was absolutely sure that I had told her it was 50%. I thought about arguing with her but since there was at least a 50% chance I had indeed mis-spoke I decided against it.

The heat made all of us a bit tense and there was more than one standoff.

Several of the animals, like this magnificent Irish Wolfhound
decided an afternoon nap would be beneficial

As did this Irish Lad and Lassie

We also had a great soap sale day. Many of my bars are made with Red Wattle Lard and not only does it help to promote the breed, it also made our general area smell delightful. I didn't think to take a pic BEFORE we started selling but oh bright one here, did take a photo after my last sale.


It looks sparse as I sold 53 bars, which is nothing for you big timers but a real delight for The Midlife Farmwife. It gave us enough for gas money home! Maybe next year I could do my part and offer to share our trailer/truck/booster seat with a nearby farmer who might want to exhibit their critters. Whose says car pooling is just for humans?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Saponification Sunday...Feeling a bit peaked

"Give me an S!"

The soap is peaked, not me. I'm excellent. A very good, very busy week and as I speak...sort is raining. Glorious, soaking rain that we were in desperate need of. So, I am quite happy even though it is 11:40 and I have to get up at 5am.

Oh well. What else is new?

Last weeks challenge tossed at us by the ever -so-hard-working Amy Warden; Super Saponifier, was to make soap with peaks, or waves or lovely tops. She even gave us training videos to watch. Before I go any further I must thank Amy publically for her endless energy in this endeavor to push us all beyond our lathered up comfort zones. I can only imagine how much time she is spending organizing all of us, posting on her own blog, making it easy to post our photos and links to our websites on that same blog and then provide us with additional educational material.

THEN she runs about commenting on our efforts, our photos, encouraging us. She does all this in between her motherhood responsibilities to name just one of her extracurricular activities.You are super keen Miss Amy and I appreciate you!

So here is my entry for this past week.

The recipe is my Farmtastic bar made with our raw cows milk, buckwheat honey, free range egg and Red Wattle Pig Lard. Oils used in addition to the lard were Olive, Sweet Almond and Castor. No added scents or coloring. It came out smelling like raw bread dough all warm and doughy, (like most of the genetic pool I swim in) I played around with a few more photos just for fun.

I forgot to cover my mold and ended up with a nice coating of soda ash but
decided I liked the way it looked so didn't bother to steam it off.
I also decided I needed a soap mascot.

I had found this wee cloaked Druid in an art shop in Cahirsiveen, County Kerry, Ireland  when I went to my happy place about 6 years ago. Handmade by a potter, I found the fellow charming. Contrary to Irish Lore however, he wasn't all that adept at handling his pints.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Fifth Third Candle

Well, no birthday will EVER be as fab as my 50th (they are still talking about it at Chatsworth's American Legion) but my 53rd birthday today was fine enough. We took the day "off " meaning in between chores we got away for a few hours.

I hauled the man up to Warrenville Illinois where I spent many of my grade school years, at St Irenes' School, after my reign in Chicago, and made him walk up and down the picturesque Ray Street. 28 W 617 Ray Street to be exact.

It was the first house my folks ever owned and after all of us being crammed in a dinky 3rd floor walk up in the city we felt like the Rockefeller's when my folks found this bungalow for a mere $16,000 in 1967.  (It sold in 2009 for $229,000 !!) It had, now get this, a YARD! Not just a concrete pad but real grass. The previous owner also left all her books in the house as part of the sale AND tons of National Geographic Magazines. For months after we moved in, every meal was spent, for those of us old enough to read, with a fork in one hand and a National Geographic in the other. We spent hours pouring over tribes in Sandinista wearing skirts (only) with clashing purple and red flowers all in the name of education of course.

Standing there today, holding my husbands hand and looking at that house where my folks worked hard to raise 6 pea brain was flooded woth many many good memories. My dad, along with several other cool guys in town, started the first volunteer police department in Warrenville. He also made enough money for our mom to be home full time which made her happy.

We bought our first vehicle that year. Before that, in the city, we rode buses everywhere. It was a green Chevy Van. Apparently all the Blue Chevy Vans were already sold out. It was a time of Sunday meals at 2pm made up of pot roast, brown potatoes and glasses of Tang. My mother wore an apron all day to protect the dress she wore to Mass.

Summer evenings were spent catching Fireflies for 1cent each which our neighbor Gloria R. took to some scientist who was researching new lighting for the astronauts. Or perhaps she just set them all free after we went to bed. Didn't matter as long as we got our cash, man. The space program was very big then and I sat with my father on the floor of the living room in that house and watched the very first men walk on the moon. I can still feel his big hand wrapped around mine, smell the smoke from his Pall Malls, see the grainy balck and white picture on "the idiot box."

Miss you dad. Miss you mom.  Thanks so much for giving me my very first birthday!!

Photo taken last week by our daughter
Raven Bowen. No piglets were harmed in the endeavor

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Welcome to Texas, Illinois

About 4 years ago, just before our first organic inspection, we decided to stop frying our calves little heads. It is common practice in the cattle world of the Midwest to either breed for polled (hornless) cattle or de-horn them when they are very young.

I hated de-horning. The calves were frightened and based on their screams, I am assuming they experienced pain. Last but not least, the whole procedure smelled horrific. .Keith would put the calf in a metal crate which secured their bodies while I or hopefully someone else, would hold their heads down.

Then he wielded a large electric de-budding iron and holding it over the little horn buds he applied pressure for several long seconds. A ring of burned tissue resulted and within a few weeks the horn roots died and what was left of the horn fell off.

See those little horn buds?
These are on a four month old calf

We always felt terrible doing it but all the other dairy farmers convinced us it was the only way.

One day we visited another dairy, in Indiana, and surprise of surprises...their cows had horns! So we asked many questions of that farmer and did more research and then we went cold turkey on our bovines. We stopped setting calves heads on fire. We all began sleeping better immediately.

This fine looking guy is about 18 months old.
Folks here think we are nuts...again. No one in this area keeps horned cattle but if those Texans can do it why can't we? At first we were worried they would get their heads stuck in the milk stanchions but after a couple turns, they figure it out.  But like the one kid who always has to put his finger in the light socket there is always one  cow in the crowd though that has to push the envelope or in this case, the plastic drainage pipe. Do you see Bozo?

Look closer.

We also worried they would use the horns like weapons on each other but that too was rare. Usually by the time the horns are really grown in the pecking or stabbing order is well established.

We were fearful of injury to ourselves but again Keith and I, mostly Keith, are with theses cows and or steers every day. We don't keep any bulls and do all our breeding by AI (artificial insemination)They have no reason to fear us or try to hurt us. Of course they are still animals so we watch ourselves. OK, I watch myself, while Keith watches something in the field and the cows watch something on Keith's shoes.

PS Don't worry about the tubular cow. After lifting the lightweight plastic tube way up high like a chimney cleaners top hat , and getting a good laugh from the crowd, they shake it off and move on to their next parlor trick

Monday, May 14, 2012

South Pork Purgatory

Yes. We are in purgatory. Between the devil and the deep blue sea. We are also stuck between a rock and a hard place, sitting on the fence and, lodged somewhere 'between Scylla and Charybdis' (Nope. No idea who those chicks are but I dig the names)

OK, I looked it up. Seems Scylla and Charybdis resided on a
small farm in Greece, Illinois
Our dilemma continues as our situation evolves. A party approached us last week and is seriously interested in buying our farm and business. We are equally as interested in selling it to them. But as it goes with complicated situations like ours, the selling of a home and land and livestock and business contacts, there are many hoops to cross and T's to jump through.

Lets not even go anyway near the red tape, it seems endless right now, a tightrope that will not stop swinging.

While we all do the work that must be done to make this a dream come true for each of us, Keith and I continue to struggle with the day to day stuff. For example the door to our milk tank room needed replacing. The frame is decaying, the hinges are rusted. Do we do it now or will the farm sale be complete and the new owners decide they want a revolving door in its place? (Postscript: Keith replaced the door. It's beautiful)

The Secret Garden, MY secret garden, (selfish, I am so selfish)  is finally a reality but do I plant annuals or perennials ? Or perhaps just stick a bunch of those plastic gravestone flowers in the ground and call it quits?

And of course the big garden. Do we plant all the seeds we ordered , weed and water just to walk away from it in a few weeks? And who gets all the produce? Is it nuts to include tomato poundage at the sale closing?

What about Fannie our Great Pyrenees, farm livestock protector and good friend. Is it better to leave her here with all the cows and hogs she loves and takes care of, but with new owners or do we take her with us to a confusing new place? Seriously, we love her dearly but what is best for HER? (and the livestock we'll be including in the sale, not to mention number one grandson)

So many variables and possibilities. So many hopes for applications to be approved and finaces to be fair on both sides. So much to clog up my brain and keep me from sleep.

I know I know, why worry about the things you cannot control.? Excellent advice. Wise sage you are but you still haven't answered my questions about the Secret Garden Flowers. Do I plant them or just Stick It?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Saponification Sunday and Happy Mothers Day!

I have four children

They all work hard, supporting themselves, living independently, making their own decisions, taking responsibility for their lives. Two of them are married with outstanding wives. One child has gifted me with three rambunctious, healthy, smart grandchildren. I am beyond blessed.

Now, onto big bubbles. I had a good soaping week and thanks to Amy Warden and this weeks soap challenge I was motivated to create some more salt bars. Some soapers and customers don't get salt bars. They are a bit like liver. You either love them or you do not. You either see the beauty or you do not. You either understand the immense amount of iron your body craves and will thank you for after eating a big hunk of salt bar , I mean liver, or you will not.

My salt bar is simple. Coconut, olive and Castor oils. No colorants and only Rosemary Essential Oil to scent. I use a 1.5:2  salt to oil concentration, meaning that in a soap recipe calling for 32 oz of oils, I use 20 oz of salts. Of those 20 oz, 12 are Celtic Sea salt (a very light green grey color), 4 are Epsom Salts and 4 are Himalayan Salts.

The fun and furious thing about salt bars is they get hard FAST. I do not cook mine in the oven as many soapers do, I just pour into the mold and then cut as soon as it cools enough to do so. I still get some crumbling but that happens sometimes. In the end I get bars that suds fair enough, clean your skin well and leave your skin amazingly soft.

I recently sold 50 bars of soap to a wonderful B&B just 5 miles from us in the little town of Forrest. I included 8 salt bars. Two weeks after, I got an order for them for more soap. But not any of my nice looking they wanted the weird looking salt soaps. Yeah for Hampsher Hotel !

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tire Swing Therapy

We have a lot going on here. A veggie garden that is only half planted, new doors to the milk parlor to be finished, grass to be mowed under fence lines, new pastures to be fenced in for a growing hog population etc...etc...

Then the grand kids appear and all they want to do is PLAY.

Thank God for the GK's.