Sunday, March 31, 2013

Saponification Sunday...Easter, Eggs and Tiger Stripes

Well. Amy Warden  has done it again. Challenging soap makers around the world. she drives us all towards being the best we can be.

Once again, I failed.

Not miserably, but enough to feel a little soaping shame.  The first challenge in this round was the "Tiger Stripe" The technique is well demonstrated on Amy's blog and appears simple enough but simple is as simple does. Whatever that means. Sure, it doesn't look too bad from a distance but proof is in the (close-up) pudding.

  I chose two contrasting colors. Alkanet powder infused in olive oil, hoping for purple, and Annatto seed hoping for orange. Hope is not the same as skill. I split my batch in half, colored each and added a combination of Lemon Eucalyptus and Tangerine Essential oils.

I followed Amy's directions and began pouring soap. My "thin trace" lasted all of 15 seconds. I blame the Annetto powder as the soap portion colored with it got thick fast. One thin line became a thick line.

But I was still able to pour one line within another line as she had demonstrated. But they were thicker than I wanted. That is when it dawned on me that large  20 cc syringes would probably work very well for this. I'll use them next time.

By the end of the pour the Alkanet colored soap was thick but still pourable but the Annetto batch was globular, meaning thick as globs. I decided to let the whole batch gel under towels but the top got too hot so threw it in the frig which gave me a very ugly partial gel.

YIKES!  To add insult to incompetence, the bottom began to chip when I cut the soap this am.  Strike three for this soap. Oh wait, the EO's proved too strong and smelled more like Murphy's wood soap than the light and airy forest scent I was aiming for.

Strike four.

But...I did love the blue color I got with the alkanet and I did love learning another technique. I'll try the Tiger Stripe again later this week and share what I hope will be improved results. In the meantime, I am posting this batch on Amy's Blog just to make the others look even better.

Because I'm all about Martyr Soaping, that's why

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lap Dog

At just 5 months of age it is obvious new South Pork Ranch inhabitant, Ashland, has outgrown the possibility of regular lap dog. With his 3/4 German Shepard and 1/4 Husky genetics he runs around the house like TWO bulls in a china shop. His favorite "snack" is the 5 year old GK's lego's. He also chewed off the back of my good Wellies brought back from County Clare in January and THAT almost got him kicked outside for good.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Raw Milk Monday (Tuesday)

Please note: If you are new to my blog you can catch up on the reasons for my raw milk passion and the struggles our own farm have experienced, by reading any of the previous posts on the topic I have written over the last 3 years . To do so, simply enter "Raw Milk" in the search bar under the picture of our house, on the right.

Yes, I am aware it is Tuesday but modems don't care. They crash when they crash. But the new one is up and running and so am I. Two days late and way more than a dollar short.

So, last week I left you with virtually nothing on the raw milk front in Illinois. The WEEK BEFORE I informed you of the Raw Milk Steering Committee put together by IDPH and the proposed rules. This week, prepare to be overwhelmed with information.

The proposed rules are numerous and although Molly Lamb  the Division Chief of The Food Drugs and Dairies Department of The Illinois Department of Public Health told me in one of two extended phone conversations she and I have had, that the rules are not new just a reorganization of older rules...that is indeed not fact.

Previously in Illinois you could sell raw milk as long as the consumer came to the farm with their own container. And you were not supposed to advertise but we know how hard it was to get anyone to verify the existence of THAT law. The new proposed rules are:

1. Raw Milk Sales shall only be obtained physically from the premises of the dairy farm
2. No Person who, as a consumer, obtains raw milk shall be entitled to sell or redistribute the raw milk.
3.Cow share agreements or any other similar contractual agreements or exchanges are prohibited.
4. All dairy farms selling or distributing raw milk shall be required to obtain a Grade A permit from the regulatory agency.
5. Only unsolicited sales are allowed. The sale or distribution of raw milk from the dairy farm shall be limited to no more than 100 gallons, regardless of species, per month.
6. Records of these transactions shall be kept on a department approved log and shall be submitted on a monthly basis by the 15th of the following month. Will include date and volume sold.
7. Advertising, which includes but is not limited to signage, print ads, social media sites and websites, of the sale and distribution of raw milk is prohibited.
8. Individuals shall bring their own milk containers to the dairy farm for dispensing of the raw milk. The dairy farm shall provide a sanitary method for dispensing the raw milk in the consumer’s container.
9. The dairy farm shall provide a label for the container of raw milk. The label shall read “WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and therefore, may contain harmful microorganisms that can cause serious illness in children, women who are pregnant, and in persons with weakened immune systems.
10. At the point of dispensing the dairy farm shall post the Following 8 by 10 sign “NOTICE: Raw milk does not provide the protection of pasteurization”
11. The dairy farm shall have their raw milk tested for
Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, E. Coli , somatic cell counts, bacteria, coliform, temperature, and drug residues, on a monthly basis
12. The Coliform will be less than or equal to 10 and bacteria less than 20,000 and SCC: 750,000
Obviously...IDPH has changed the rules a bit.The argument could be made that the Raw Milk Steering Committee of IDPH created the new proposed rules but since I was not invited to attend the committee until AFTER the first two mtgs, I really have no idea who created which rule.
 But I do know this. The rules are very obviously set forth if not to make raw milk sales in Illinois illegal, to at least make them, impossible. The 3 most stringent are A. The prohibition of Cow Share agreements, B. The Grade A Permit requirement and C. The limit of sales per month at 100 gallons.
I'll tell you why.
Cow share or similar contractual agreements are private, between the farmer and the consumer. It provides a certain safety net between he who produces the milk and he who drinks it. By leasing the cow to the consumer they are merely drinking product from the animal they are renting from the farmer. The milk in essence belongs to the consumer , not the farmer. The farmer is just providing a service by taking care of the animal. Many Chicago area raw milk consumers, but a few in our area as well, participate in cow share agreements. Prohibiting such could eliminate the availability of wholesome raw milk to literally thousands of consumers.
The requirement of a Grade A Permit is another potentially crippling requiremement. For those of us who were Grade A permitted in the past it would take very little for us to be ready to be inspected again, to meet the Grade A standards. We never wanted to give up that Grade A License in the first place, but when we told IDPH three years ago we were only going to sell raw milk direct to the consumer and no longer to the co-ops they said they saw no need to survey us. They took the license from us even though we had no deficiencies. As far as they were concerned we did not exist. .
Suddenly, we exist again.
For raw milk farmers with just a few cows or a few goats, building a Grade A Facility would cost a minimum of $20,000 with the requirement of concrete floors, expensive pipe lines, stainless steel bulk tanks etc...All that for a farmer who milks 3 goats and sells raw milk to 5 customers ?!? Now couple that with the third most disturbing proposed rule..
Limiting the monthly raw milk sales to 100 gallons of milk per month. With raw milk being sold for an average of $8 per gallon per month ( ours is $6, much higher in Chicago area) with the 100 gallon limit I would make $800. Now which bank is going to lend a farmer $20,000 for a Grade A Dairy Construction when his monthly raw milk income is just $800 MINUS EXPENSES.?
The other proposed rules in and of themselves are not entirely out of line but why is the state of Illinois, that has NO MONEY even suggesting adding layers of bureaucracy, increased inspector wages, increased documentation monitoring when they don't have the funds to oversees the current rules they have in place?
And why now? With not a single verified raw milk illness related to raw milk obtained from an Illinois farmer since 1999, why would IDPH want to start "fixing" something that is clearly not broke? In fact the current system of obtaining raw milk in Illinois has been working so well it's not even nicked, or marginall scarred, let alone broke.
So, now what? Well, I got to work. First order was to notify all the raw milk farmers I knew of the proposed rules. Emails, phone calls and FB messages were sent. Then it was time to call in Farm to Consumer Legal Defense. FTCLD notified the farmers they knew and directed me towards other actions such as included the Chapter Leaders of the Westin A Price Foundation.  Conference calls were conducted. On March 15, I organized a meeting of Illinois Raw Milk Farmers in Normal, Il.
THAT was an amazing meeting. Farmers with spouses and small children, farmers with large cow herds and some with just a few, farmers with goats, farmers with cows, farmers who drove 3hours one way after chores and then had to drive 3 hours home before doing shores again.
And we, this small but passionate group made a decision. We had a message for IDPH. The message was "NO"
We did not feel we could negotiate on any of the proposed rules without cutting off the legs of some raw mik farmer somewhere in Illinois. If we said yes to the Grade A Permit who knew how many farmers would be forced to close their barn doors? If we agreed to the 100 gallon limit most of us in the room would go bankrupt. If we said yes to the Cow Share prohibition we'd take raw milk out of the hands of so many in the big cities who had no way to travel to the farm to get their milk.
So we said "NO"
The group asked me to contact Molly Lamb at IDPH with our response and our request to leave the rules for raw milk, as is. No changes. I made that phone call on March 19. The conversation was professional and polite. She listened to what I had to say. I listened too.
But she saw no reason to stop the process. She was, however open to having more raw milk advocates on the committee. Names have been submitted. I hope she contacts them because the process has no validity if indeed both sides of the issue are not well represented.
Next step. IDPH's Raw Milk Steering Committee meets again May 1st. The place, Illinois Agricultural Association Building 1701 Towanda Ave, Bloomington, Il  10am. This is an open meeting. It is crucial that those of us in Illinois who believe  raw milk accessibility should not be restricted, make their views known by attending this meeting.
In the meantime you can write letters to the editor of your local newspaper, contact your Representatives, tell the farmer you buy raw milk from and make sure they are aware of IDPH's actions, write a letter to Molly Lamb. Make it personal. Tell her why limiting access to raw milk in Illinois is not a good idea. Tell her how it would affect you, your family, YOUR farmer. Her address is
Molly Jo Lamb
Division Chief
Department of Food Drugs and Dairies
Illinois Department of Public Health
535 W. Jefferson St. Springfield, Illinois
62761   ph  217-782-4977
Please help us take action NOW before these proposed rules become permanent ones.
To see all the raw milk issues in Illinois as they develop please go to THIS WEB PAGE . Special thanks to our raw milk customer Ernest Rando for developing this all inclusive web page.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday in the Farm Store

Nothing to do with todays post, just one of my favorite pictures. Grandaughter
Allana (7 years ago) with her Papa, my hubby Keith.

Today, like every other Saturday, is Farm Store Day. We're open all week closed on Sundays all traffic can be steady any day. But Saturdays...are Farm Store Days.

Starting early the cars, trucks and vans start cruising up our long driveway. They take their time checking out the Ennis the horse and Doolin the jackass donkey on the left, Mad Max and his harem of fat pig sows on the left.

They stop to let a group of ducks pass and slow awhile a peacock chooses to walk up the lane right in front of their car. When they get to the Y in our drive we can tell all we need to know. If they speed up and Head straight for the barn...they're a regular. They will fill their jugs with milk, rinse the spigot and wash off the rubber mat.

If they head towards the store and promptly get out they are also a regular. They will get their meat and eggs, soap and flour, leave money or checks in the cash box pet the Great Pyrenees on the head and head home.

But if they go right at the Y and curve towards the house, it's a newbie. A customer who heard about us and thought they'd finally make the trip. Sometimes they are from Chicago (2 hours north) or Campaign (1 hour south) or Bloomington (1 hour south west) or Indiana (1 hour East)

They are rarely from our howe town of Chatsworth, just 1 mile away.

No we're not offended. We have a couple regular customers from close by but not many. Folks are weird that way. Always thinking the eggs and meat and flour and milk is better on the other side of the fence.


Thus, the reason for my commitment to shop local for the other stuff I need, even if I pay a little more or get less in the way of variety. Small towns quickly become ghost towns when we think its better to spend more in gas to get less in the way of customer service and product guarantee.

And where else can you get a little parade of 6 week old piglets to run alongside your car as you come up a farmers lane?  So thanks all of customers who came by today wherever you came from. These two farmers are extremely appreciative.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fence off

New fence good fence.

Last summer, in a fit of fealous jage, (if you don't know who Peter Sellers is you're too young for my blog..Get off.) I decided unilaterally to purchase new fencing for my horses.

One of my previous horses had gotten spooked and ran through our old two strand smooth wire electric fence and cut her leg. I was furious. At myself ,because I knew it wasn't the best kind of fencing and I should've done something about it years earlier.

So after taking care of the horse (yes, she came out fine after a few weeks) I did about 10 seconds worth of research, called some guy who came with his guys and put up new fence. Nothing too fancy or expensive but certainly better than what we had. I chose a poly tape, 1/2 wide, white, that is not near as good as a nice wide planked polyurethane board fence  but still a couple steps better than the smooth wire that can't be seen well by man or beast.

Corners are made of steel t-posts while supporting posts up and down the pastures are lightweight fiberglass poles. Simple to use handles make it easy to get in and out of pastures.

Keith was mildly concerned (he voiced his concern after my temper tantrum as he is clearly brilliant in that manner of self protection). He feared the new fence would not hold up to the high winds we get here on the prairie.

But I asked the guy who came with the other guys who said Naaaaaa. This fence does fine in high winds. So I said in my best mafia voice "make it so"  and they did.

And over the winter, the wind blew and the ice fell and the snow swirled and the fence...came tumbling down.

Yeah, I'm aware the pic is sideways. My Kodak software seems to be melting down. Just tip your head to the left OK? 

Here and there, bits and bobs came loose, broke off and fluttered on the breeze and the ground. Seems the man of few words husband was once again in the know. And when the fence broke and broke again and broke still another time he very patiently worked with me as we learned how to fix it.

Turns out it's not so hard. If you can use a pair of scissors and you can tie and knot, you can fix this fence.

And it is easier to see when it is broken as when the smooth wire was down I might not have noticed it until I manged to roll up about ten yards of it in the riding mower. So all in all I am happy with my purchase, except on those occasional windy days, that come about every other day.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Special delivery...Semen

Mad Max. Still not Famous

Let me be honest here. I've had many job titles over the years, some I've even been able to talk about publicly but semen collector will not be one of them this year.

The SVF Foundation  of Rhode Island along with the University of Pennsylvania is offering classes in the collecting of Heritage Hog Semen, storage and transportation so that other heritage hog breeders can have access to the genetic material of these fine creatures. They say the class will teach the "hands on skills" needed. (Lucky Boars) Classes start next month. I was honored that they asked me to attend.

I know, I know, if anyone could do it it would be me. My thoughts exactly. But timing is everything (as I keep saying) and in the midst of all we are involved in on our farm and with raw milk issues, I had to accept the fact that traveling back to the East Coast where the classes are being offered next month, is just not feasible.

But just think about it. Our local post office already gets a big kick out of the soap I've been shipping all over the country. It makes all of us feel so special in our tiny town. Imagine the swelling pride we'd all experience if when at the post while asking the usual questions "is there anything in here that is liquid, flammable, or of a questionable nature?" I could actually say YES!

It is Mad Max Semen, if you must know, and of course it must be insured.

Well, that was my dream, but it's been crushed. Keith says we have work that must be done here, another trip out East will be too expensive, take too much time, ....etc. I think he's just trying to protect his wife's reputation and the inevitable teasing I would have to endure within our upper class social circle.

Midlife Semenwife

That's not so bad, is it?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Raw Milk Monday

At the risk of sounding all Spy Movie of The Week and under the radar stuff, I have to say I have lots to share but the timing is not quite right.

But when it is, it will be worth your wait. And that is a promise.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Saponification Sunday...Shampoo Bar Love

I was 16 and Herbal Essence was all the range, Any hippies worth her Doobie Brother washed her hair in the shampoo allegedly made of all things herbally groovy. Like walking  around with a head full of sage, rosemary and thyme.

Shortly after as I "matured" and took life more seriously (stopped hitchhiking), I became a Breck Girl. But I never shared my shampoo with my sisters who had to deal with mom's Suave shampoo purchases, instead hiding my stash under my mattress. Pathetic.

In my late 20's I landed my first professional nursing management job with just three years of floor nurse experience behind me. Anxious to fit in with the corporate gals, I chopped off my long hair and invested in a $4 bottle of L'Oreal. I also started wearing ugly suits with peplum bottom tops.

My bottom was already "peplumed" out enough as it was. WHAT was I thinking?

After leaving the security of a well paid job it was time to cut out the luxuries. I went back to Suave. Mom wasn't so dumb after all. Far from it. Pretty much the same chemicals as in the other more expensive shampoos just with cheaper packaging.

Then nearly three years ago I made my first shampoo bar. I was suspicious since the only experience I had with using bar soap for shampoo was  when we'd run out of Suave as kids and had to used a ZEST bar. Oh man...not good. But I did some research (snooping on others blogs) and therefore I credit all the other great soapers out there who shared  their shampoo recipes with me.

Since then, I've been hooked.  There is no clinical proof it's better for my hair, everything is indeed subjective, or if my hair is better because I've gotten too old and too cheap to mess with all the products like hairspray, mousse, volumizers , conditioners and I just want it to be better. But I figure a good amount of coconut,olive, castor oils and some shea butter has to better than the list of crud on the average shampoo bottle.

I do know it's just one less complication in my already overly complicated life. Next up ? Think I'll give up facial peels. I need the SOS pads to clean out all my soap making pans.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

St. Patrick, I hardly knew ye

With it being St. Paddy's day tomorrow I thought I'd share a few of my favorite things Irish, mainly the Celtic Cross. I've been to the ol'sod more than once and I am most happy when I am hanging out with the generations of O'Shaughnessy's long gone and buried around the O'Shaughnessy Chapel at Kilmacduagh Castle near Gort in County Galway.

An place of awesome talent these crosses have existed for hundreds of years. Some more elaborate than others, some in pretty decent shape while others have fallen in shambles.

Each year I contemplate taking the risk of trying to haul one home in my suitcase. How grand it would look in my large farmhouse dining room presiding over the St . Patricks meals that have been served there.

But each year common sense prevails and I leave them resting with all the other remains promising to visit next year...and the year after that. In the meantime I am still searching for a decent stonemason state side who would build me my own Celtic Marker when me own  time comes.

If you know of one drop me an email In the meantime enjoy your over cooked corn beef and slimy cabbage tomorrow, I'm walking on the wild side by making a Guinness Stew and authetic Soda Bread as told me by Tom Cannery himself of County Wexford while visiting his bed and breakfast over a decade ago.

Measured out by his hands into my own measuring cups as he'd never made the bread any other way than "by hand" and no written recipe existed until he gave it to me.

The bestest St. Patricks Day gift of all time.

Friday, March 15, 2013


The Red Wattle Association Keith and I belong to have specific standards for the registering of future breeding stock with the belief that you" register the best and eat the rest."  For those hogs who are part of the breed -up program, where generations back a Red Wattle was crossed with a Non Red Wattle hog, pictures of the hog to be registered must be included with the paperwork.

Have you ever tried to take a good clear picture of a pig? Comments about your in-laws do not apply.

We are supposed to send it two side views, one front and one back. Recently we sold a gilt to new Red Wattle hog farmers near Springfield. I took several pics before they arrived to get their hog. They came out horrifically.

After she went home with home, THEY tried taking pics. Better than mine but still not quite there. So a couple of days ago we took the two hour trip to their farm to try AGAIN.

Little Miss Sally Goodin gave us a run for our money a third time. First she tried to out run us

Then she showed us her not so sweet backside
From there we get something icky spotting up my camera
And then she collapses with the sheer exhaustion of it all. Keith rewards her bad behavior with a belly rub
Finally...she stands still. Now was that so hard ?!?!?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pigsylvania Turnpike

Picture taken by Donna and used with permission of
The Western Pennsylvania  Conservancy

We had a blast in Pennsylvania despite the weird turnpike thing that charges you the equivalent of a car payment just for using it. But if some of that money goes towards maintenance of those beautiful state parks, it was worth it.

After months of planning and weeks of gestating, we finally took out 2 and 1/2 year old sow Sophie out to her new home in Pennsylvania. Back in November we had been contacted by the University of Pennsylvania who was looking for a Red Wattle Hog for  their research project on Heritage Hogs. They needed a pregnant sow and offered to pay us for her and our travel expenses if we chose to bring her out East ourselves.

A paid vacation? Hell yes ! Oops, I meant "Of course we'd love to be part of your well thought out research program, is it too much to ask to book us in 5 star hotels?"

So in December we arranged a date for Sophie and Mad Max (but not telling her about the fact that she had to get pregnant, as we didn't want to pile on the pressure)  In January we trucked her 10 miles down the road for an ultrasound and some lab tests. All looked great. In February we repeated the labs. On March 7 we left for the land of Blue Mountain.

Sophie tolerated the trip very well in the lovely condo Keith built for her that fit perfectly in the back of the truck bed. She basically slept the whole way. Oh every once in awhile the truck would suddenly swerve one way or the other as she turned her husky 500 pound self side to side but other than that...We checked on her at every stop, talking to a big plywood box at the gas station, and the restaurant and the turnpike ticket station.

The first night we stayed at Holiday Inn Express in St Clairsville, Ohio and wrestled with the centuries old question, "do we tell the motel maid we are traveling with a big fat pig or not?" We chose to keep Sophie in the truck incognito, even though the tub was plenty big enough for a trough and kept eye on her by parking the truck alongside the other semi's.

I can only imagine what the other truckers thought as they walked past our truck and heard those bear like grunts only a pig (or bear) can make. But then again, I'll bet they've heard worse in a hotel parking lot.

We arrived March 8 and took Sophie to a nice  little farm where  she was greeted by one of the research assistants who would care for her until the university decided it was time to deliver her babies. Saying  goodbye was weird. All the way home I had this feeling I left one of my kids at the sitters and forgot to pick them up.

The highlight of the trip was our stop at Fallingwater House in Mill Run, Pa. One of the homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright we were blown away by it's one of a kind construction.

Picture taken by Donna and used with permission of The
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Erected in the midst of thick woods, OVER a waterfall with multiple balconies and levels, and supported by  a huge boulder in the middle of the home, it was an unbelievable creation. Sadly we were not allowed to take any indoor pics but for a home that was designed in 1936 it was fairly modern with tiny, narrow, dark hallways opening up into rooms filled with light from multiple windows and skylights. We did have their permission to post pics on my blog.

Picture taken by Donna and used with permission of
The Western Pennsylvania

The tour lasted two hours but we could have easily stayed all day . Gave us many ideas for our next home. Have you been to this awesome house? What was your favorite room?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Raw Milk Monday

Please note: If you are new to my blog you can catch up on the reasons for my raw milk passion and the struggles our own farm have experienced, by reading any of the previous posts on the topic I have written over the last 3 years . To do so, simply enter "Raw Milk" in the search bar under the picture of our house, on the right.

Much has happened in the last seven days since my last raw milk update. In between the taking and receiving of numerous phone calls, the organizing of meetings, the compiling of statistics and data, the writing of emails and snail mails ...Keith and I managed to squeeze in a mini-vacation to Pennsylvania. We had a sow to deliver out East, a 1600 mile round trip, and we were DETERMINED to get her there. I'll tell you about that soon.

Today though, it's back to the new proposed rules regarding raw milk sales in Illinois. Since we've chatted last I've also talked with another 30 or so raw milk farmers across this fine state. Farmers who differ widely in practice from selling the milk of one goat every so often adding next to nothing to their income to one who markets his raw milk from a large cow herd to hundreds each month across a very large part of the state. It is his only source of income.

I will be meeting with these farmers soon. If you are a raw milk farmer, you need to know about this meeting. Please call me at 815-635-3414

There is no "typical" raw milk farmer in Illinois. Some are ready to stand up and fight while others are so afraid of losing their farms they are at this point, choosing to remain mum and under the radar. Then there are those in the middle who have shared info with me and made it clear it was to stay with me...and it will. None of this was surprising, nor was I surprised at those who are ready to fight, and ready to organize their customers to do the same. Count us in among that group. This is a fight we have been preparing for, for many years.

This  week we placed handouts in our milk room and our farm store informing our customers of what IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health) is proposing and the impact it would have on small raw milk farmers. Now its time to tell all of you as well since inaccurate rumors have gone viral.

Rumors are such a waste of time.

The Current Rules for raw milk sales are fairly simple when you can get them in one place but they are currently scattered within the  (Grade A Pasteurized Milk and Milk Products Act and have been open to much interpretation over the years. This is my own summary of those rules:

The consumer must come to the farm with their own container.

The milk does not have to be pasteurized if sold or distributed on the premises of the dairy farm

There is nothing in this section of Illinois Statures 410 ILCS 635, that talks about advertising although many of us have been told we cannot advertise our raw milk sales.

So, in all and compared to to other states, these rules are not so bad. So why mess with them? I was told in my first Raw Milk Steering Committee Mtg that the primary reason was to "get all the rules in one place."

OK. Not such a bad goal. Many Illinois farmers have no idea where to look for the rules regarding raw milk sales. Reorganization could be good. Except that when "reorganized" the proposed rules came out looking like this:

All dairy farms selling raw milk shall be required to obtain a Grade A permit.

Only unsolicited sales are permitted and cannot exceed 100 gallons a month regardless of species.

Cowshare agreements or other contractual agreements are prohibited.

Records or raw milk transactions shall be kept on a department approved log and submitted on a monthly basis by the 15th of the month

Individuals shall bring their own containers to the farm for dispensing of the milk and the farmer shall provide a sanitary method for dispensing

The dairy farm shall provide a label for the container of raw milk with this "Warning:This product has not been pasteurized and therefore, may contain harmful microorganisms that can cause serious illness..."

At the point of dispensing the dairy farm shall post an 8" by 10" warning sign "Notice: Raw milk Sold Here. Raw Milk does not provide the protection of pasteurization."

The dairy farm shall have shall have their milk supply analyzed for pathogens on a monthly basis in a certified laboratory...results to be submitted to the agency.

The dairy farm shall assume all liability involved with the sale and distribution of the raw milk.

Now, personally speaking, some of these rules, particularly ones about testing may not be so bad. We already do this at our own expense but its' important that I explain the consequences of some of the other rules. For brevity sake I'll just talk about the first two or "The Worst Two" as I like to think about them. I'll cover the others on future Mondays.

All dairy farms shall be required to obtain a Grade A permit.

For those of us who may have had the permit before, but had it yanked from us by IDPH when we made the decision to sell direct to consumers ONLY, it would take very little to return to these standards. Most have been following them all along but for those farmers with just a few goats or cows who have never been Grade A, it would cost a MINIMUM of $20,000 for a very small very basic Grade A Dairy. We're not just talking about following the rules but also the concrete floors that must be poured, the pipelines that must be installed, the stainless steel bulk milk tanks to be purchased and put in place. Now couple that with the next proposed rule...

Only unsolicited sales are permitted and cannot exceed 100 gallons a month regardless of species.

So, lets assume the average price per gallon of raw milk is $8. If you can only sell 100 gallons, how long would it take you to raise the capital to build your  Grade A Dairy? And if you have to be Grade A before you can sell that milk then you will have to come up with that money long before you could start milking. This means that even if you own just ONE cow or ONE sheep or ONE goat and you sell any part of that milk you have to build a Grade A Dairy. With a limit of 100 gallons a month or roughly a annual revenue of $9600 it would be difficult to call your farm "sustainable."

Are you starting to see the picture here? And I've only barely touched on two of the proposed rules.
My husband laid it out best when he said "It's not that they are going to make raw milk sales illegal, they're just going to make them impossible."

What can you do? If you live in Illinois stay tuned to this blog. Action plans are being written. If you know of a raw milk farmer in Illinois ask him/her if aware of these proposed rules . If not please have them to call me at 815-635-3414. If you are a follower who lives out of state, stay turned anyway. We will need your support.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Saponification Sunday. Swapping of The Soap

Nothing like a good swap to get the blood circulating. I love smelling, buying, using other peoples soap, yes, even though my house is full of my own creations. Using other folks soaps is an educational experience, as well as a sensory one.

Sure, I love my own soap but it's easy to get into a rut. Same pattern, same mold, same colors, same scents so when I purchase or better yet, trade soaps with another, I get to technique snoop.

First I sniff, who doesn't ? Then I check out the label, i.e what did they put in their soaps? Then I check out the shape and size and how it's cut.  Just look at the swirl in the bar above created by Robin Blood of  Kinky Witch Soap  Doesn't it just make you swoon? Well, it did me. To the floor, I swear. She and I swapped soaps last week. THANKS ROBIN!

After all the above snooping, I will actually use the soap created by another, it but not always right away. Sometimes I just move it around the house trying to catch the best light to display it in.

Doesn't everyone do that?

Then, when the moment is right, and not before...I commence with the sudsing.. Not just  on the bod but on the hair as well. Only then can I really judge the soap. We loved the looks of Robins so much we actually took it on vacation with us to Pennsylvania this weekend. (Bet you didn't even know I was gone did you, I'll tell you all about it Tuesday.)

Robins soap was tested in 4 different states in just under 4 days. It was fabulous and silky and bubbly and so dramatic, I love dramatic. On the way home, as recent as early this am, we stopped in a shop in Waynesville, Ohio to find another soaper. This time it was Renee Selby of Miss Selby's soaps.

This lady, way too amazing. Just started soaping a couple of years ago...self taught...and she now owns her own retail store, (So very black and pink cute) A Web Store  and is opening another retail store very soon. She creates soaps, butters, bath balms and much much more. She says she had three youngsters at home who all went to college one right after the other leaving her with "lots of time and energy"

And did she ever put that energy to work! Loved her small, fit perfectly in your hand bars, each and everyone hand cut. Also went nuts over her body butter which is far better than mine, (but I've only made two batches so I deserve a wee break, no?) Renee was gracious enough to share  part of the secret of how she gets it SOOOOO fluffy but held tight to the specifics as any artist should.

She was however, very interested in my Signature Farmtastic Soap bar (made with real organic cream, eggs, honey and Red Wattle Lard) so perhaps I can trade her a bar of that for the REST of her body butter secret.

It's worth a try.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

(Not) Sophies Choice

The choice was ours. When University of Pennsylvannia called a few months ago and asked
"Will you impregnante  one of your Red Wattle Hogs with one of your Red Wattle Boars, then prove the pregnancy, then prove she is free of all other diseases, then keep her safe and healthy the next 15 weeks, then prove she is still pregnant, then find someone willing to do all your chores for a couple days, then transport her nearly 900 miles so we study the difference between heritage hogs raised on pasture and confinement hogs raised...well on confinement?"

We said "Sure"

So now getting closer to the date, Miss Sophie is getting a custom built sow carrier.

Yes, it will have walls and a roof


She looks happy don't you think? She should be since she is the first one in her family for generations to be going to an institute of higher learning. We're very proud of her.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Snow Day!

Our GK's are happy as reported by our daughter. No school yesterday or today and lots of white stuff to play in.

Ah youth...sure is wasted on the young. For us, snow is a different matter. Chores are tougher and take longer. Wagons of feed don't pull through the snow very easily and milk troughs must be emptied before they can be filled.

Not an easy task when you have a slew of fat pigs trying to "help" And I have the hardest job of all. I have to stand there all nice and snug in my lavender Muck Boots (maybe if they see this I'll get a free pair?) with my insulated covermosts and my warm red plaid hunters cap and take pictures! Once I even had to take my hands out of my gloves so as not to drop my equipment. I'm just that selfless.

Once again though, we are amazed at how sturdy our pigs are. These Red Wattles may have come from Texas (the state they were rediscovered in back in the 1970's) but they do well with cold weather. They also thrive on the raw milk they get daily, if we could only get them to be more polite at the trough!

Everyone thinks they have to help. Once the trough is uprighted from it's snowbed, it's every pig for themselves as they wait for the inevitable. Pure, raw, probiotic filled ice milk!

Others here enjoy the white stuff as well. Ennis the Missouri Fox Trotter did more than just trot..

And the dogs with their heavy coats? Play time all day. Must be nice.
Fannie, age 2 on left. Ashland age 4 months (!) on right

Monday, March 4, 2013

Raw Milk Monday

Please note: If you are new to my blog you can catch up on the reasons for my raw milk passion and the struggles our own farm have experienced, by reading any of the previous posts on the topic I have written over the last 3 years . To do so, simply enter "Raw Milk" in the search bar under the picture of our house, on the right.

Raw Milk and the ability to produce and consume it is dear to our hearts here on South Pork Ranch. The sales of such are also the financial foundation of our farm and the basis of a healthy diet for many of our customers. Changes are being proposed and in order to keep you well informed I will post on this topic every Monday.

Three weeks ago I was contacted by The Illinois Department of Public Health,specifically the division director of The Department of Food, Drugs and Dairies. I was asked to serve on a Raw Milk Steering Sub Committee.

The direction they wanted to "steer" raw milk sales became blatantly obvious with the first meeting I attended. To clarify, it was MY first meeting but it was the committees THIRD mtg. And at this third mtg they were discussing the SECOND draft of proposed rule changes. Clearly I was added as an afterthought. I had to ask myself why would they ask me to be on this committee knowing what a strong raw milk advocate I am?

I now believe it was a classic example of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.

Because the rule changes are only proposed I will not yet list them here. There would not be a point in getting raw milk advocates and consumers totally riled if indeed changes can be made before the proposed rules become actual rules. I will tell you though that most of the proposed rules do not in any way favor the raw milk farmer or the raw milk consumer. A couple are positive changes, the rest are detrimental.

The next IDPH raw milk steering committee is May 1st which means we have a large amount of work to do in a short amount of time. So, if YOU are a raw milk farmer, either cow, goat, sheep or squirrel, (IDPH says these new proposed rules are not species specific,) and you want to help me and other raw milk farmers in presenting alternative rules to IDPH please CALL ME and I will fill you in on the very tough road we have ahead of us in Illinois

Donna OShaughnessy  South Pork Ranch LLC
Chatsworth, Il    815-635-3414

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Saponification Sunday...Camera Crazy

I have always envied the soap pictures of other soap makers. Slowly mine have improved but they have along way to go. My daughter gave me a light reflector to play with, that helped. And I made my own photo box, that helped too, but still...something was missing. (Who said "talent"?  Very funny)

Turns out, it was the Macro setting. It wasn't actually missing, seems it was there all the time, hidden under "scenes" just within the "closeup" setting. I found it by reading posts on this wonderful Facebook page I follow for soap makers called Soapers Retreat. I have learned so much from these people!

To get there I had to leave the AUTO setting on my camera and branch out to other settings. Glad I did. I also follow another great blog called Digital Photography School. They offer tons of tips each week, I try to pick ONE and use it. I adore the Internet, yes I do !

So with my camera set on macro I got to work with my new orange soap. At first I was a bit cautious
and took a pic from my usual distance.

Then I moved in. Slowly, so as not to scare the soap.

Opps, the orange is retreating. But look at those soap curls !
Then I moved in for the kill.

So, happy with that, I moved into another area of the house, my dining room and played with the late afternoon sun. The fun thing about this soap (besides the macro thingy) is this is my first batch made with Shea Butter.

It's not that I have anything against Shea, I just hadn't gotten around to using it. But recently, after a soap swap with Robin Blood of Kinky Witch Soaps, and using her soaps made with shea  butter...I was hooked. Her soaps were really much better than mine.  Back to more macro...

Again with the soap curls, cause they're cute. The recipe for the above soap is fairly simple. Coconut Oil 13 oz, Castor Oil 3oz, Sweet Almond Oil 3 oz, Olive oil 10 oz and Shea butter 3 oz. Lye per the MMS lye calculator was 4.48 oz and filtered water was 10 oz. No additional colorant was used, just 5x Orange Essential oil  2oz. I did throw in some soap curls and shavings from another batch of soap.

BAM!! Love that Macro setting. How come none of you ever took the time to tell me about it before? All wrapped up in your lives weren't you? Fine.

I should've stopped there but my OCDivity would not allow such so I kept playing. Bought these little metal birds at my friend Kathy Kupferchmids Antique Shoppe the other day along with these old printer press letters and they were just dying to be macro-ized. Who was I to deny them?

And of course just for fun, birds with soap. Why not?  Yeah I know, I should be the official photographer for the Academy Awards.

Don't forget..tomorrow is the first post of Raw Milk Mondays. You won't want to miss it.