Thursday, May 30, 2013

Delinquent by Choice

Time limitations really slam us up side the head, and in the pocketbook, sometimes.
Seconds ago I completed and emailed all the paperwork required for our Organic Recertification along with $150 late fee. Ouch.

We are delinquent no more.

Every year we get the forms with plenty of time to complete them and every year I get them in on time. Often just hours before the deadline but still on time. This year, faced with all the work required to fight IDPH in regards to the raw milk rules they are trying to pass, we made the very informed decision to put our time and money into that issue.

Still, it was a real kick to get the letter from our organic certifying agency telling us we were officially "delinquent" Not the first time that term has been thrown my way but certainly the first time I've seen it in writing.

But, no worries. We talked to the higher ups, explained we still desired organic certification and promised to get the paperwork done and the late fees paid. And we did. So it's all good. Not only have we earned the Certified Organic label by meeting the hundreds of standards but we've paid for the designation as well.

Frustrating though to think that our late fees will go right back to the government who will then use those monies to pay the salaries of those who are often not on the side of the small farmer. Perhaps a farmer with shared frustration will start their own Organic Certification Program. Right now we have just one choice, the USDA National Organic Program

But other major agricultural certifications have been taken on by individuals before such as with grass fed certification. A farmer can elect the USDA Grass Fed Certification or go with a private party, The American Grass fed Association whose standards by the way are far better than the USDA's. It is a goal of ours to apply for this certification one day. Right now I need a paperwork break.

In the meantime "Certified Organic" can only be done one way in this country, through the USDA. So for now we follow their rules and pay their fees and also that painful late fee.

After all, it is our choice.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Raw Milk Monday. "Happy" ? Memorial Day.

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.

It seems odd and disrespectful to say "Happy Memorial Day"

Especially to those who have lost someone they dearly love to a war, friendly fire, unfriendly fire, military accidents and again more war.

So many sacrifices that get forgotten in the midst of steak grilling, volleyball playing and potato salad consuming and beef slurping. Perhaps it would be more meaningful if we were walking about telling the survivors of our hero's "I'm so sorry, I'm so sad. I'm so grateful. I'm so guilty, I'm so proud"

Anything, I think would be better than telling a survivor to be "Happy"

But then again, I am very happy to be an American (most days)
I am very happy to have the right to speak my mind.
I am very happy to be able to make my living the way I choose.(so far)
I am very happy to be able to own a gun.
I am happy to be able to stand up to a government who wants to take away my choice of food

I am very happy to be free.

Last week I spent two days in Baraboo, Wisconsin lending what support I could to Vernon Hershberger Family. I met with some awesome freedom fighters like  Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute, Mark Baker of Bakers Green Acres, the Michigan farmer fighting hoof and tail to be able to raise the type of hog he chooses and Liz Reitzig the home-schooling mother of five who sacrifices her own family time and finances to organize events like that one.

Vernon's trial  took place those five days last week and I had the opportunity to sit in court and watch a ridiculous judge make an ass of himself as he evicted those from the room who used words like "liberty" Yes. Liberty. or "Raw milk"

But as obviously narrow minded and one sided the judge was, the jury showed substantially  more brains, courage  and common sense. In the end Vernon was found guilty on just 1 of the 4 criminal counts against him and will be allowed to continue to grow and sell his farm raised milk and meat to his private club members.

Which was all he wanted to do in the first place.

Too bad it only cost him and The Farm to Consumer Defense Fund THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of dollars for his defense the last 3 years. Too bad he still had to pay taxes during that time to the state and county who used that same money to pay the salary of the judge who wouldn't know what real food was if it walked up and shook his hand.

Too bad that when a jury finds a defendant not guilty, the courts are not forced to repay him the money& time spent defending himself. Not to mention the sleepless nights of worry about his family should he have to go to jail.

If that were true then morons like those in the Wisconsin DATCP might not be so eager to ruin the life of a God Fearing, Country Loving,  Family Devoted Man like Vernon Hershberger.

Still, even though the system is imperfect it is better than any in the world. And every day I am genuinely thrilled to be an American, eternally grateful for those who have served and are currently serving. But we cannot leave it to them alone. It is no longer enough.

We must stand up for our rights right here on our own land. Enemies of our Constitution do not solely exist in other countries. They walk right here, along side of us in the grocery store, sitting next to us in church, teaching our children in school and of course they have the gall to threaten us on our own farms.

The best way we can thank those who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms is to be brave enough to fight back on the smaller, more intimate scales. Be it the right to consume the food you choose, to grow the livestock that is best for your farm, to sell your milk to those who ask for it we must say "NO!"

For every day we remain passive, for every minute we sit back and let someone else take on the battle for us, we are that much closer to losing what all those beyond brave men and woman fought for. How shameful that would be.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Saponification Sunday...The Gift Of Colostrum

Stunning Swirls by Catherine

Making soap is great. Being gifted other peoples soap...even better.

Last week I was gifted some beautiful soap made by Catherine Gravert of Spring Valley Farm in Fulton Illinois. Made not just with raw cows milk but with the colostrum or "first milk" of the cow which is available only immediately after a cow calves.

Colostrum is so rich and full of vitamins and fat, the perfect food for new babies and the ultimate ingredient in making soap. The end product gives you a soap that is ideal for any skin but especially helpful for dryer skin. Even though I was warned that the bar was very fresh and not fully cured, I cut into anyway as soon as I got home.

Colostrum Soap created by Catherine Gravert
of Spring Valley Farm, Fulton, Illinois

You know how I am about following rules...

As I imagined, even it its not completely cured state, Catherine's soap lathered fantastically and left my skin soft and supple. I can hardly imagine it can get any better as it cures! I left most of the bar on my kitchen windowsill and each week will test another portion. What a treat.

Her design was as wonderful as the quality of her soap. Made with honey as well she made stunning swirls in her soap, not just top but throughout her bar which then was made even more stunning by using a wave cutter. Her soap was the kind you really hate to use because it makes such an artistic statement. But to fully appreciate quality soap you must USE it.

Banner I made from leftover burlap. old buttons, vintage Hymnal Sheet Music
with letters printed on my pc. Slathered with Mod Podge
All good Hippies own bottles of Modge Podge,

Milk soap is not easy to make. It takes time, patience, skill and to be it's very best should be made with real fluid raw milk not powdered milk. Just my opinion. The milk is best used in its partially frozen state to prevent burning of the milk by the lye which will cause it to turn orange and give it a harsher smell.

I soap with frozen milk broken into chunks and placed  into a pitcher which sits in a deep ice bath. I then add the lye crystals very slowly stirring constantly. The process takes me at least 20 minutes for a 2 pound soap batch. I am not yet talented enough to make large batches of milk soap. Would love to hear how other milk soapers keep big batches cold enough when adding large amounts of lye.

Soap made by Catherine Gravert of Spring Valley Farm

To buy some of Catherine's soap yourself  (along with some of their other yummy fresh from the farm products) just go to their Farm Web Site for contact info.

Friday, May 24, 2013


I am home all day.

After being in Wisconsin Wed and Thursday for the Vernon Hershberger Trial  (still not over, will cover it in detail on raw milk Monday) , I am THRILLED to be home all day. The sun is shining, the wind is minimal,I slept great last night,  the GK's come later this afternoon. I am in one happy mood!

Then Keith came bearing bad news.

Yesterday while waiting on a raw milk customer, one of our piglets decided the free range- great food- wonderful time with mommy-life was just too much for him.

He committed suicide via the old bucket of milk trick.

Keith had accidentally left a half filled bucket of grain and milk in the pen with mama pig and her 3 week old babies. One of the males, a greedy little tard, threw himself head first into the bucket and unable to wiggle his fat self back out of the five gallon bucket, he drowned in the quicksand consistency of grain soaked milk. Of course because he told no one where he was going, asked no one to accompany him, we can only assume it was suicide.

The fact that no note was found really means nothing since the brilliant Red Wattle  pigs don't learn to write until they are at least 4 weeks old. But then again no witnesses have come forth so perhaps fowl play was at hand.

The barn is fill of ducks and chickens you know.

Seriously, we feel bad. Very very bad. I never would have guessed that the weight of the piglet was not enough that he couldn't have knocked the bucket on its side with his wriggling around. Hopefully with his snout buried deep in the milk he died a good quick death. Another hard farm lesson learned. And one more piece of advice we can share with all our new homesteading followers.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Time is not on my Side.

Every spring same old thing.

No time. It just gets sucked away from me. One minute I'm looking at the 0600 number on my phone (yup I've given up my alarm clock for my smart phone) and the next minute it's ten pm and I'm wondering what did I really accomplish today?

So lets recap. We woke. While Keith did outside chores I helped one of our egg suppliers find room in our store frig for even more eggs, answered emails, called in beef cutting orders, invoiced pork customers from the week before. Then we drove 4 hours RT to meet with some fine folk who farm for a living, make very little money at it and our now fighting our own government tooth and nail to keep on doing it.

Because we arrived early we took 20 minutes to walk and 5 minutes in a thrift shop so Keith could buy me the coolest old painting of Irish Cottages. I did turn 54 a few days ago. Yeah, yeah, I know I don't look a day over 53.

Stopped on the way home for another errand, which is top secret. Even though I am a world wide public figure I'm allowed a little privacy. Keith then threw me out of the truck while he went to another town 20 minutes south for farm supplies.

And then I...I...oh man this is hard to admit...I watched a little TV. Not much, nothing meaningful and the entire time I swear I was thinking about farm work, and I quickly turned it off as hubbie came up the drive (we didn't put in the alarm drive to just tell us when customers were arriving you know) He doesn't really need to know what kind of sloth he married.

Feeling guilty as sin (is there any other kind of sin?) I hightailed it for the garden and did some serious weeding and transplanting. Distracted by my Mares whinnying I spent a few moments brushing her and promising for the umpteenth time we'd go for a ride soon. At 7pm Keith went out to milk while I did laundry and then ended up here. You will note that supper did not get made. Another Cheerios evening apparently.

So why do I feel like nothing was accomplished?  If any of you have a handle on this life thing let me know.

If you have time that is.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Raw Milk Monday...This One is For Vernon

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.

Unable to make it to Wisconsin, South Pork Ranch Cows can only
chew their cud and wait for the trial results.
Do you know Vernon? Well, neither do I. We have not (yet) met but we are on the same team. Today his trail began in Wisconsin. Charged with four ridiculous counts, intent on ceasing his way of making a living for a family via the sales of raw milk and raw milk products,  he continues to stand strong for his beliefs. His commitment towards the provision of healthy food for his neighbors, his customers, his children has cost him time, money and the ability to provide for his children.

Yet, he stands strong and against those in our government who have so over reached their boundaries that they would threaten a hard working, God-fearing man with fines and jail time all because of raw milk sales.

Although our battles here for raw milk freedom have only just begun we are grateful to the leaders in this country and our neighbor Canada for showing us the way. Please read Vernon's story HERE. Keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers and if you are anywhere near that courthouse please swing by and show your support.

It became clear to us at our May 1 meeting with the Illinois Department  of Public Health that the raw milk farmers and consumers opinions are not at all supported or really welcomed.

Why else would the Dairy Work Group operate without the benefit of Roberts Rules of Order? Not a single motion was made or asked for the entire day regarding the proposed new rules. Not a single rule was removed from the list first generated by IDPH and it's initial committee deeply loaded with FDA, Big Dairy and representatives even though they were opposed by the raw milk farmers and consumers who filled the room that day.

Nor, have we, the Dairy Work Group (or at least not THIS member) of the work group received a single email from the work group's leader Molly Lamb IDPH Division Chair of the Food Drugs and Dairy Division containing the minutes of the May 1 mtg which are supposed to be approved by the Dairy Work Group within 30 days of the last meeting.

This means IDPH has just 7 days to get those minutes to us.

They have also not posted the June 11 Dairy Work Group mtg Conference call or our Face to Face mtg scheduled for July 16 on their IDPH WEB PAGE CALENDER. Seems like old habits, i.e. not following the Open Meeting Act of Illinois, are hard to break.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Saponification Sunday...On the Road Again.

Not the best display since I forgot my table cloth.
Fortunately there were old burlap bags in the truck.

I am fortunate enough that I do not need to haul my soap all over the country selling it at markets and shows. I can only imagine how hard that is for those of you who must do that on a regular basis. You have my deepest respect.

Because we own our own farm store most of my soap is sold there. . But I do attend one farmers market every summer sponsored by the farmers group we belong to, The Stewards of The Land.  I am there most Saturdays.

And then once a year we attend the Rare Breed Animal Show at Garfield Farm in LaFox, Illinois and we sell our soap there. It's a great opportunity to talk to people about the critically endangered Red Wattle Hog we raise as show them how beautiful soap made with lard can be.

The antique box is an old watchmakers tool box,
a Christmas gift from oldest son
Plus we get to see lots of fun Heritage Breed animals and all the products that their owners sell from them like wool and goats milk soap and glass buttons. (Not sure what part of the animal the glass came not to ask.

The weather was perfect, the crowd was good , the sales were very good. Well we think they were good. We forgot to count how much change we brought with us, I forgot to count exactly how many bars of soap I brought with me (somewhere between 125-150) and I have yet to count how many bars we brought home with us. But the soap box was much lighter.

Business Woman of the Year Award here I come!

The best part was the help we got from GK Wesley who while restocking my soap had his picture taken several times by the local news photographer. He also made change (sometimes it was even correct change) and kindly took a piece of soap out of a two year olds mouth who mistook it for a piece of cheese.

Husband to right. GK Wesley next to him.
Future homesteaders on left checking out RW piglets
Fortunately the mother had a great sense of humor. Even more fortunately our farm liability insurance is up to date.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A 3 hour Tour

Any Gilligan Fans out there? Then you are aware of the fun and games that can come about after a three hour tour goes wrong. Ginger was highly over rated. Maryann? The real hero.

Our tour however worked out just fine. The Fairbury Garden Club arrived right on time (as they had scheduled months ago, these ladies are organized) in old shoes like I had advised (these ladies follow directions) and after the meeting provided sugary snacks and fruity drinks (these ladies come prepared)


Per their request, we first toured the farm, several were even brave enough to give Mad Max his yearned for behind the ears scratch, then gathered at the back porch for the speaker of the evening.



Yes, that is correct. My husband stood up in front of a good sized crowd and talked about bees. For those of you who know my guy you know he is great one on one but really does not enjoy crowds, or so he always told me.

It was obvious he's been fibbing.

He must have figured out early on that his big mouth wife was more than willing to have her face out in front so why should he? But Tuesday night he blew it bad by not only talking to folks about bees, and their care and habits but he also seemed to be enjoying it. At one point he even asked the woman if anyone had questions?!?

Of sure, they feigned a mild interest in my wee chat about making your own soap but it was the bearded guy and his queen bee that kept their interest. Oh well, I've had my mug in the paper twice in the last week it was certainly time for Mommy Dearest to get out of the limelight for once.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tab's Terrific Tea Time

It's not unusual to be taken out for a meal on Mothers Day, but to be served Raspberry and Lavender cupcakes with real Orchid Blossom tops and cucumber sandwiches served with pastry puff spinach THAT is something special.

All of course the fine work of Chef Tab who also happens to be our daughter-in-law.

These fine foods were not made available though an upscale restaurant but rather as part of a Mother's Day Tea , Tab organized for the residents of the local nursing home she works for. After weeks of preparation, tea pot smuggling from relatives, menu planning etc...Tab and the rest of the staff at Good Samaritan Home in Pontiac through a Tea Party to end all Tea Parties.

With great food, yummy desserts, lots of bubbly (the kind you make by blowing not by drinking) and mediocre entertainment (I was asked to do a soap making demo) the Mother's Day bash was a success that even made the front page of the local newspaper.

We are so proud of all our kids, daughter-in-laws and grand kids but this week we're especially proud of Tab going the extra mile for those elderly moms who without her hard work, may not have had any other celebration that day to tell them all THANKS for being such great moms. Tomorrow she walks with her class as she officially graduates from Culinary School , a goal she has  worked towards for many years .

We can't wait to see what the future holds for her. Great things for sure.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Raw Milk Monday...Poor Stupid Raw Milk Drinkers

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.

The Dairy Work group of the Illinois Department of Public Health will meet again via phone in June 11. This is, like all the others, an open meeting which means anyone can call in and listen. When I get details about that call in number I will share it with all of you. In the meantime I will continue to use Mondays as the day to focus on Raw Milk in Illinois.

Today's topic...the 3% who drink raw milk.

Playing Knock Knock Jokes with our Herd
Just another service provided here on South Pork Ranch

In the issue of raw milk here in the Land Of Lincoln few statistics can be agreed upon by either side. In fact I can only think of one and that is the number of adults who consume raw milk in the US. For some time, the CDC, The Westin A Price Folks, we the raw milk farmers and IDPH have all been using 3% as the guideline.

Some of the discussions at the May 1 mtg with IDPH's Dairy Work Group used this number when calculating the number of folks who drink raw milk in Illinois. You might recall that there are over 12 million in Illinois so 3% is roughly 400,000 raw milk drinkers.

But, as we proceed with our work to convince IDPH raw milk is safe and rules regarding its production and sales should be lessened if not eliminated, I made a commitment to myself that any stats I referred to had to come from valid sources.

So where did this 3% figure originate? I thought I saw it in an article, I was sure I heard Sally Fallon Morrell of WAP use it in her rebuttal last year to the FDA and I know I heard IDPH Director Molly Lamb refer to it as well on May 1. But what was its origin?

So I did an Internet search.

I found the same 3% quoted in several articles and used on both sides of the argument but no one stated their source either verbally or in writing. So I called CDC (The Center for Disease Control) myself.

The woman who answered the phone had never heard that statistic before so she did a search while I waited but she  found nothing. With my further request she completed a research form and sent the question up the ladder. It took several more days but I did get a response via email and the Link to The Article  recently published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs 2013. It was not exactly what I expected.

The article was written by several people who work for the CDC, US Department of Ag, Department of Public Health (Tennessee and Minnesota) and was titled "Characteristics of Consumers of Unpasteurized Milk in The United States"

The research took place over several years and focused on several questions to the respondents, one of which was "Did you drink any unpasteurized milk in the last 7 days?" The authors also asked questions about income, education, living arrangements, other "risky food" eating behaviors because...big surprise...they were not really interested in the number who consumed raw milk or WHY they consumed it but they wanted to prove that only the poor and ignorant consume raw milk.

I wonder what the THREE attorneys and two PHYSICIANS (one who represented the Chicago Medical Society) who testified in support of raw milk at the May 1 meeting with IDPH ,would say to that conclusion?

In order to get the full impact of this comical and totally one sided research paper you really do have to read the whole thing. Although 14 pages long it is worth the time...and the laughs.  And the next time you hear someone pass around the statistic that 3% of the population drink raw'll know the rest of the story.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Saponification Sunday...Organic Soap true or false?

Simple Non-Organic Rosemary Soap made with Rosemary Essential Oil and
 ground Rosemary Powder. Thus the oh-so-creative-name

Because we are certified organic dairy beef and pork farmers I 've been thinking about having some of our other products certified organic as well, like my soap.

After all how hard could it be ?  I've certainly seen enough bars out there labeled "organic." So I did a bit of research and  turns out there is a bit of fraud going on out there in the soap world. Sadly where there is money involved fraud often follows or in many cases...leads.

First a refresher on the National Organic Program requirements as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture. To have your soap CERTIFIED organic (lots of paperwork, plus fees, plus an inspection) at least 95% of your soap ingredients must be certified organic themselves.

Since all real soap is made with lye and lye cannot be certified organic, (unless you make your own) your lye percentage must be 5% or less of all your other ingredients combined. This can be done but it nearly impossible sine the average soap recipe contains approximately 10% lye.   To use 5% or less lye you need to be adding more base oils than normal which means your soaps runs the risk of being quite soft (or not saponifying at all) and taking extended cure time before ready for use.

But that does not stop a very tiny number of folks from labeling their soaps incorrectly, and you should know...illegally. Most of the soap I've seen labeled as organic have been found on ETSY. If you search for  "organic soap" you'll get 10,052 responses. (As of 2100 hrs tonight) Wow. But with a bit of investigation one quickly realizes that organic means very different things to many different people.

One woman described her soap as having  "certified organic content" but when you read the list of ingredients for her soap (10 total) there was just one base oil that was certified organic.

So, I took it the next step and did a search within ETSY for "Certified organic soap" which narrowed the responses considerable, down to 121. Reading those definitions was even more entertaining. One woman was selling her goat milk soap as organic but in her description she did not have one certified organic ingredient, stating instead that her goats grazed on "certified organic pasture." Well, that's nice but what about the grain they are fed? The base oils in her soap? The colorants? The essential oils for scenting?

The best definition of organic soap came from a woman who described her soap this way " Fairy Soap in preparation for rituals involving psychic powers, visioning, conjuring spirits, hedge crossing, faery magic, protection from bewitchment and hexes. Magically charged with certified organic wormwood." Hmmm, how indeed does one magically charge their soap with wormwood, an herb known for it's positive effects in adding digestion.?

A 5 oz bar was just $9.95. Plus shipping. Quite a good deal if indeed it will help me with crossing hedges. I'm always getting tangled up in those things.

My bottom line, which never really changes, is this...make your soap however you wish. Sprinkle it with ground silver, eyes of newt, ear of Fred, tongue of George. Color it with crayons, mica's, clay powder, last nights beer. Scent it with Glade, Pledge Lemon Oil, or $120 oz Chamomile oil but please don't call it "organic" unless it has 70% organic material, don't call it "certified organic" unless it has 95% of its' ingredients certified and it carries the USDA Organic Label and don't tell me it will protect me from Bewitchment unless your name is Endora and your best buddies are flying monkeys.

On a serious note. If you make genuine Certified Organic Soap I would love to ear from you. Who is your certifying agency? What was the initial inspection like? Annual inspections any easier? Was the process worth it in regards to soap sales? Do you charge more for your soap to compensate for the certification process? Just email me at  Thanks in advance.

Friday, May 10, 2013


My great grandmother owned a wooden-floored country store in southern Indiana back in 1930-1960-s. I remember visiting it once at the age of 8. She was a mean old gal as she gave no special treats from her glass candy jars but she did give me a heavy broom with which to sweep off the front porch.

She had a rocking chair on that porch.

Now, nearly 50 years later it's my turn for a country store complete with rocker. ( a gift from my daughter years ago) I don't sell candy in there yet but I keep a stash for my grand kids in the house. When I give my 8 year old GK the broom to sweep the stores front porch she does it but not without the age old childhood mantra "Why me? Wesley's not doing anything"

Ah. yes, the country store. How I love mine. Measuring just 12 foot by 20 foot inside it could be bigger but it serves our needs well as is. Last week, I got a hair in my grass and decided to rearrange items that had been in the same place since we opened the store 3 years ago.

 So the counter moved from the east side to the west side , the old recycled display cabinet took the counters old place. The little egg frig was defrosted, cleaned and moved closer to the meat freezers. Soaps were moved away from window (great for wonderful smelling breezes but colors fade more quickly)


All items for sale were dusted and moved and spring flowers brought in. The floor was swept and washed and all the little ones hand prints and lip prints were washed off the freezer doors. Price lists were redone and hung closer to the calculator.

And the front porch was swept. Without complaint. Finally time to smell the roses , I mean tulips, I planted behind the store last fall.

Open Monday through Saturday 10-6  Closed on Sundays. No charge for rocker sitting.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Scrap Palace

Back in March when we hauled Sophie's bottom out to PA. Keith built her a nice little cabin that fit on the back of our pickup. That way we did not have to take our whole livestock trailer for just one pig.

Several of you saw pics of that pig palace on my post about the trip and asked for more photos of it. So, being the always agreeable, ask and you shall receive type of giver I you go. The pickup topper for pigs was designed and built by Keith with some help from our teen intern turned part time employee, Aaron.

Every piece of the creation was made with recycled wood from one farm project or another.
You might recall a post I did about another pig shelter (painted black and white like a Holstein, don't ask me why) that got blown apart from the inside out when Max the boar went after yet another girlfriend and the shelter couldn't contain them both. Well we used the remains of that hutch as the sides of this new deal.
The back doors were made of even more found lumber and the hinges were leftovers as well.
We took Sow Sophie on her cross country trip without the box yet being painted but after we got back home we assigned that task to niece Bridget who did the primer coat and Aaron who did the final barn red coat. Gotta love those teenagers in need of pocket cash. !
So there you have it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Raw Milk Monday...Review of the May 1 Meeting

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.

Patra, age 5, Brown Swiss, lifelong resident of
South Pork Ranch and raw milk producer.

Five days ago on May 1, was the Dairy Work Group of The Illinois Department of Public Health(IDPH) met for the fourth time.  This was the meeting raw milk advocates had been preparing for since I first learned of IDPH's plan to restrict raw milk sales back in February.

For the last 9 weeks, raw milk farmers, consumers and those who believe we should be allowed to eat and drink as we choose have been preparing for this meeting. We did our research, we checked our sources, we consulted with those brighter than us and we spread the word across Illinois that IDPH had plans to pass laws that would make raw milk production and sales nearly impossible.

And on May 1 we showed up.

What an amazing day that was! Consumers and farmers from all over the state drove to Bloomington Illinois to listen to the Dairy Work Group discuss the pros and cons (mostly cons) of the proposed rules. Reporters attended from several publications and in the afternoon testimony of raw milk lovers was heard. One of those was Dr. Mark Rosenbloom of the Chicago Medical Society who read his groups proposed resolution in support of raw milk.

Yes, that is correct, physicians in support of raw milk

In addition, testimony supporting raw milk consumption was also heard from attorneys, a minister, young mothers and a retired Indiana Health Department Director of Foodborne Illnesses.


But even with all the very positive actions that took place that day many of us left the meeting frustrated, and with good reason.

Despite our well researched, well prepared stance against the proposed rules, IDPH director Molly Lamb did not remove a single one from the list.

Despite her reassurance to the standing room only group of supporters that 'We are just in the discussion stage" IDPH director Dr LaMar Hasbrouck sent a letter to the General Assembly on April 9th without the knowledge of the Dairy Work Group, telling our Representatives in both the Illinois House and Senate that " unpasteurized milk cannot be considered safe under any circumstances."

Despite the fact that Dr Hasbrouck also said in his April 9th letter "The department and it's Dairy Work Group proposes the following main focal points..." and he goes on to list additional proposed rules that WERE NEVER DISCUSSED by the Dairy Work Group in their last meeting Feb 22. Two additional proposed rules were (1) Institute a maximum sell by date from the time the container was filled and (2) Allow for sale targeting animal consumption.

So while on one hand we are being told by the meetings facilitator Molly Lamb,  that we "must work together" and we need to be "professional in our actions" her own boss is submitting information to the law makers of our state without the knowledge of the group who is supposed to be proving invaluable input.

So much for IDPH's own Mission Statement which lists as a principle

"Partnership and collaboration to achieve coordinated response to community health issues"

Obviously our work has just begun. The Dairy Work Groups next Conference call is scheduled for June 11. These are open meetings that any consumer, farmer or interested citizen can call in and listen to. To get specific information on how to do this please go to IDPH's Web Site where you will also be able to review the minutes of the May 1 mtg which must be posted as well.

 Please continue to contact your representatives, the Illinois Department of Public Health at 217- 782 4977, and your local news paper via letters to the editor. Please complete the comment page also on the IDPH website (click on "calendar" then go to the May 1 Dairy Work Group Paragraph for the link to the comment page) Tell them how restricted access will affect you and your family as well as your farmer. Remind them that Illinois is broke and doesn't have the money to enforce areas that do not need enforcement.

Tell them there is no reason to fix what is not broken.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Saponification Sunday Scraps

We soapers end up with pounds and pounds of scraps. Some of us like to trim the edges of our bars with knives, potato peelers or in a pinch...our teeth, you know, for that "rustic look." Or we have end pieces that aren't big enough to sell as whole bars. Or as is more often in my case, just plain ugly soap.

Fortunately soap is very versatile. I will fill a spray bottle half full with soap scraps then fill it the rest of the way with hot water. I use this concoction for dish soap, to wipe off counters, clean my store, basically whatever needs a good wipe.

I also will take my scraps, add equal amounts of baking soda, washing soda, borax and grind it in my food processor for laundry soap.

Sometimes I will throw all about two pounds worth of scraps into my crock pot, add a half cup of water or a little Castor oil and rebatch it into more bar soap. It's not always that pretty but hubbie is happy taking it to the shower with him.

He's always favored function over form anyway, just check out his bride.

And then there are times when  I'll take some of my prettier scraps, the curly ones from soap trims and just sprinkle them on top of just poured soft and wet soap or even push the bigger soap curls into the soap batter. When I do that I leave part of the curl sticking out of the top.

Sure, if the bar is handled a lot in our little farm store, the soap curls will break off, but no big deal, as enough of the curl is still buried in the soap to give him interest and texture and when I add some water to the soap pieces on the store floor it just makes cleanup that much easier because it is after all...soap.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Lucky Duck Pigs

Sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don't because all the nuts are prepaid. Which was the case with Mrs. Dalloway's litter. More or less.

It's tricky when folks want to buy baby wattles before a litter is born. We take deposits but explain that if piglets born are not up to registration standards (only one head, no third eyes, no big white stripes down their backs) they will not get a piglet. They will of course get their deposit back.

Tis herself doing some pre-op teaching that wasn't needed after all.
Lately we've had a bit of a run on piglet requests. From Mrs. Dalloway's litter alone we had deposits for four little boys.  Fortunately she had a good sized litter but as of today we had not yet counted the sexes. To do so, mama pig is escorted onto the livestock trailer lured by milk soaked grain (this is also how Keith gets me to go to bed at night) , then babies are corralled with straw bales.
We take turns scooping them up, holding them outside down while official body check occurs.

Ears? Tipped. ( can be tipped, lopped or erect)
Wattles? Two  (must have two )
Nipples? 12  (must have 12 or more)
Sex? Boys must have two testicles. Girls must have the ability to multitask
Spots?  NONE! (must be solid color from light red to near black)

Any pig who meets the criteria is eligible for registration application. If they don't meet the minimum they are raised for chops, sausage or sold for $125 as feeder pigs. Those who meet the best of the best guidelines are sold for $300 plus vet fees if they are traveling out of state and need health papers.

In this litter we had 6 males who met registration criteria but they are still too young to send in those papers. We like to wait until they are older to see how those ears and wattles and body shape mature. But since all were looking good none had to lose their little packets. This is very unusual to have so many males look so good. Sometimes we'll have a litter where we don't think any are good enough to register.

 "What a relief!"   I am sure they were muttering to themselves once they realized all would escape going under the knife.

From left, scapels, betadine, more scapels and official wattle documentation form

When the first buyer comes in June he'll have literally the pick of the litter for the two boars he wants since he pre-ordered his piglets almost a year ago...while serving in Afghanistan!

Soon, he'll be discharged and then will travel here to get his pigs and start his new homesteading life.
We're very happy to help him and his family get their start with this very keen breed.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Turkey Love

When she was three she insisted on bringing home a dead caterpillar. It didn't  start out dead it just sorted of ended up that way after being played with all day. A woolly little cutie we thought she'd forget about it on the 30 mile trip home to her mothers house.

She did not.

So I left it in the bathroom and prepared her bath and figured after she wound down and was ready for bed she'd forget about it. She did not. She went to sleep with it close by and I believe she kept it close for a couple days until my daughter, her mother, finally said "enough" and pitched the creepy crawly.

So when a friend of ours gave us a turkey baby last summer and our grand daughter attached herself to it, we were not surprised. Although Allana does love puppies and kitties she is equally happy about baby bugs, tiny snakes, squeeling piglets and a goofy turkey.

The turkey was named Banana and she believes Allana is her mother. When the GK's come to the farm that ridiculous turkey runs across the yard to meet her . They are such chums that Banana even allows Allana to cuddle her, pick her up and carry her around. She has been so tamed she was an easy mark for last years Christmas card. She's the one in my lap.

Now weighing about 30 pounds the turkey is a monster compared to our 8 year old granddaughter  but this fact bothers neither of them. Bing hauled around by a human is a great way for the child to strengthen her upper body and a an even better way to make a bird feel loved.

Have you hugged your turkey today?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Drive By Gifting

In the midst of fighting City Hall, so to speak, there is nothing more encouraging than those who stop by and leave random gifts. Really. I step away from the farm a few hours...again...and come home to a piece of craftsmanship that far exceeds my own artisan abilities.

I don't even sew, let alone weave. If my hems are long I turn to a stapler. If a button need attached, I reach for the superglue. Most buttons are only decorative anyway, right?  Button hole? I use scissors and one of the paper hole protectors. Yeah, you think I'm kidding.

I tried cross stitching in the early 80's and ended up sewing my fingers to my stomach.

You get the picture.

But I am not so dense when it comes to thread not to recognize real skill which is what Martha, my blog buddy has.

Twice now she has dropped by our  farm but we have yet to meet. I'm always running errands. Like organizing raw farmers against governments who have THEIR own best interests at heart, so after a long day of trouble making it is a sheer joy to come home to a gift like this.

To learn more about this amazing woman and what she is capable of doing with a loom please check out Martha Wickerts  ETSY PAGE   page. I shouldn't be the only one enjoying her creations. Just wouldn't be fair.