Tuesday, July 30, 2013

You Are My Sun(flower)shine, My Only Sunshine

I love sunflowers.

Where some find them invasive, I find them strong

Where some find them overpowering, I find them brave.

Where some find them just too tall
I find them protective

Where some find them clumsy, I find them graceful.


And where some find them common, I find them stunning.

I love sunflowers.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Raw Milk Monday...Grass Fed or Not?

Milling around a fresh bale of hay a noise is heard...

And the dairy herd heads out towards that noise. Hmmmm?

Moments ago this bale of hay looked pretty tasty to them.
Why would they suddenly abandon it?

For the REAL thing of course. Farmer Keith is changing pasture and his girls
follow him to the grass that is indeed a little greener on the other side.
Even with a lake of rain the girls will chose fresh over "canned" every time!
Years ago we fed grain to our dairy herd like most dairymen and women we knew. But then we visited another dairy that was 100% grass fed and their cows looked fabulous. So we did some more research and made the leap.

We expected a decrease in productivity...aka less milk, which did occur but not to the degree we worried about. What we did not plan for was the almost instantaneous increase in our herds health.

Less mastitis, less restlessness and aggressiveness in the milking parlor, (grain is like cocaine) less hoof issues, less calving problems, and less Milk Fever a very serious problem. It did not take long for us to be totally convinced that when it comes to cows, NO GRAIN is the route to go.

People like to trick us though. They will call and say

"Are you 100% grass fed?"
"But you finish with grain, right?"
"Well you probably start them with grain when they are young"
"Well maybe you just give them a little as a treat to get them in the barn for milking."
"Nope and Nada"

Then they go in for the kill

"But you feed them grain in the winter, right?"

Finally, satisfied, they will make a visit, smell the cows breath for fermented corn fumes and then and only then will they purchase that certified organic, 100% grass fed T-bone they have been desiring for some time.

They have reason to be suspicious. Some farms advertise they are 100% grass fed but when questioned admit they finish with grain or even more confusing is the new terminology. They will say their animals are "Grass finished" meaning the last 30 or 60 or 90 days before the locker date the animal is fed only grass or hay.

Like the term 100% Grass fed there is little regulation. The USDA allows you to label your meat 100% grass fed even though you may use antibiotics or hormones. And it does not require that the animal be on pasture a particular number of days like the 120 day requirement that the NOP (National Organic Program) requires.  Only the American Grass Fed Association prohibits grain AND antibiotics. What is a consumer to do?

TALK to your farmer. Maybe you don't mind that your beef short ribs have extra fat due to the extra grain the animal received. Maybe you disagree with the Recent Research that continues to point to the health hazards of the milk producing cow/beef animal that has been fed grain throughout its lifetime. But the only way you'll really understand what it is you are putting into YOUR body is to find out for certain what your farmer is putting into his animals body!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Saponification Sunday...How Essential is that oil ?


 Folks get confused.

I am one of those folks.

When I would see the term "essential oil" on a soap label I thought it was an oil like Canola or Sunflower oil. With research I learned that an essential oil is  a volatile oil, usually having the characteristic odor or flavor of the plant from which it is obtained, used to make perfumes and flavorings.

Some essential oils are thick, some are very thin in consistency. Some are removed from its home plant by steam distillation, some by crushing, some by extraction via esthers or an aldehyde. Various plant parts are used. It might be the leaf, the stem, the flower, oo the bark.

All essential are very concentrated and must be handled with caution. Very few are safe to put directly on your skin as they can irritate or burn. Most are flammable at certain temps and the majority of them are expensive. One source lists Chamomile essential oil for $26 for just 1/8 oz. Other EO's are more reasonable. Peppermint EO is only $7.50 for 1/2 oz . A real over the top example is Bulgarian Rose Essential oil which will set you back $132 for that 1/8 oz.

I have no idea what is so special about Bulgaria's roses.

I use about 1 oz of EO for every pound of soap. Less if the EO is very strong like Peppermint can be. Way less if the EO can be irritating to the skin like Cinnamon is known to do. This means that in my average 2 pound soap batch which produces eight bars of soap I might invest anywhere from $15- $25 in EO's only.

Essential oils are wonderful for use in body products of all kinds but take education in order to know how much to use for what purpose. I chose to use the essential oils over fragrance oils which are lab created, synthetic and much less expensive... purely because my nose told me too.

EO's have amazing qualities in addition to just the pleasure factor. Lavender, Clary Sage and Geranium Rose are known for assisting for sleep and relaxation. Tee tree and Rosemary EO have been shown to be naturally antifungal and antibacterial. Sadly due to the FDA and their soap labeling requirements I am not allowed to make medicinal claims on my soap labels but customers often figure out what soap works best for them, on their own.

It's been great fun really experimenting on myself and family with the effects of different EO's. Over time they have replaced most all the other aromatics in my home I used to use like air fresheners, clothes softeners, hair rinses, skin ailments to name a few.

In fact since I started using EO's in my soaps, I have stopped using all commercial brands of Perfume. Instead I mix my own concoctions, add a little carrier oil like sweet almond oil and I'm good to go.

There is something about the scent of a good quality EO that makes my heart sing and for that reason alone it is the only substance I use to scent my soaps. Funny trait of mine really since I'm not a purist in other aspects of my life. I relish an ice cold, chemical laden Diet Coke now and then and I think coloring with fume laden magic markers is a blast but my soap...is of a purer nature. Many soapers prefer the use of fragrance oil over essential oils, because it comes in fun scents like watermelon and something called "Monkey Farts" and I can't blame them really because the cost of fragrance oils are generally much more manageable. (And seriously what child could resist a soap scented with Monkey Farts?)

Over the last couple of years I have become braver with my essential oil blending. I've purchased a couple of books to assist me and I've learned the difference between high, low and middle notes.

My very favorite EO blend, the one I use in my Billy Bob Soap is...

1 part Lavender EO
1 part Geranium Rose EO
2 parts Grapefruit EO
1 part Amyris EO
1 part Lemongrass EO

 Because I love the way my soaps smell after a good day of blending I will not always calculate how much I've spent scenting a particular bar. Maybe not such good business practice since I charge the same for a bar of soap regardless of the cost of ingredients but I doubt that Monet figured in the costs of his higher end blues and purples when he was creating his masterpieces.

Did I just compare my soap creations to Monet's landscapes? Why yes I did. I told you working with volatile essential oils can be dangerous didn't I?

Someone, open a window.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Secret Garden 2013

If you've been following my blog for over a year, you know about the Secret Garden which was created by myself, my husband and friend Jay in 2012. I was originally inspired by Sharon Lovejoy  and her amazing gardens and artwork. After we finished my own space last year, Pics were shared  some perhaps were even liked.

Well, it's that time of year again.

In fact, I meant to show you some at the beginning of summer 2013 but no idea which folder on my pc they are located.

Nothing shows up in my search for "Manila"

So you get current Secret Garden as pictures were just taken a few days ago. It is my very happiest place to be on our farm, and I usually treat myself to a bit of time there with coffee in the early morning while it's still shady.

You might recall that the space is long and narrow, the exact opposite of its owner. It is also cheerful and colorful where I can be melancholy and often black and white. It is filled with rusty metal (ditto) and cracked brick (ditto again, unless that is too redundant for you)

Enough. Can we just get on with the pictures? Absolutely

Looking to the back of the garden and
 my morning coffee chair

Two varieties of Morning Glories planted this year.
The blue eggs are as fake as those of 2012

The Faerie Garden is brand new and created by the GK's
The are planning at least two more additions

The bike was relocated this year from another spot on the farm .Flower Basket
canvas lined with heavy canvas

Rusty metal chair came from my mother-in-law
Gladiolas coming up in front of it

Literally, for many years I have planted Shasta daisies on this farm and they never came back
This year in the Secret Garden they came back and thrived
I think the dead cow skull may have had something to do with it

This cool metal table is 17 years old. Welded for me by (then)
teenage son Colton.  Corkscrew Curly perennial grass grows at its feet

Angels from birthdays past and a wooden mushroom from a neighbor

My sunflower wall on the left came out Taller than last year
And the frothy cosmos in front will sprout flowers soon

Monday, July 22, 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.


In between IDPH meetings, I took time to chat with one of my favorite authors, free lance writer  and farmer, Terra Brockman recently. She is writing an article for a well-known Chicago publication about our raw milk hoopla here in the Land of Lincoln.

Because the article is not yet published I cannot tell you anymore about it but I can tell you I was happy to have been asked not only to provide my opinion (like THAT was hard) but also a relevant photograph of our farm.


Even more fun since I finally got a new camera, A Samsung MV900f with built-in WIFI. 5X zoom and 16 MP. Feisty red I might add. My older Nikon Coolpix point and shoot had bitten the dust (and a fair amount of manure) over the last three years and was in deep need of a replacement..........It literally screamed in pain each time I powered it up.


So a few raw milk pictures for your vote. Camera quality wise which one do you like most? (Please include all the pics in this post) Thanks and come back next Monday I'll have honest to-Goodness Raw Milk news then.

Saponification Sunday...The Super Secret Soapmakers Club


Over the years I have been to more than my share of family picnics, church pot-lucks and grief buffets. Those tables are often filled with the same old green bean casseroles and Italian Beef filled crock pots but on occasion an apple creme pie or a Napa Cabbage Coleslaw will elicit the highest of compliments.

The asking and receiving of The Recipe.

Cooks like to be recognized and they like to share their successes most of the time. Woman will gather up all their snicker and doodle recipes, bind them up tight, plop a generic cover on top and even SELL these recipes for homeless shelter funds of other charities.

Food recipes are in fact gifted without even being asked for. A neighbor drops off a tuna noodle concoction to help you bear the sadness of the garbage man running over your prize rose bush...again and tuck the not so coveted recipe right into the overcooked crusty noodle corner.

But soap makers?  Not so much.

Yes, the ingredients are listed on our labels and if asked we may release the percentages of the oils we used, which is kinda the same thing if you don't mind doing the reverse math on a lye calculator, but to actually give away the recipe is rare.

I stumbled onto that fact the hard way. When I first started making soap I asked for such info and was told "I don't just give out my recipes to anyone" and more vaguely "Oh I'm sure you'll be creating your on recipes soon."

I did find lots of recipes on blogs and websites that SOLD those products which makes sense, since you have to know how much  Babassu Oil  you are going to need before you start making your Hippie Hemp Bars, but very few on other soapers blogs.

I understand that there is a pride factor and a "It took me a long time to perfect this recipe, do you think I'm just going to give it away?!?  But there are so many other secrets, so many other techniques we have developed that will still make our soap unique no matter how many might use the same amount of Rice Bran Oil.

Techniques like trace thickness, gelling or not gelling, length of cure, timing of fragrance and essential oil additions, our mold types (wood, plastic, cardboard, Aunt Betty's old denture box), the list goes on and on.

So I would like to suggest that we break out of this oh so secretive world and start sharing a few more recipes. Sure, someone might rip us off and make a soap similar to ours but it will never be exactly the same and folks who use others recipes for their own selfish benefit are often the same folks who cheat in other areas like using Crisco instead of pure coconut oil or Hawaiian Blue Crayolas instead of Indigo Powder, or lab colors that meet cosmetic standards.

I'll go first and maybe a few of you could share one of your very favorite recipes. Remember too, like with photos and articles it would be great if when we make soap using another soapers recipe we could give them credit on our label.

We'll all come out smelling like roses if we did that!

The Midlife Farmwifes Very Favorite "Basic 13" recipe

     13 oz of Coconut Oil (Extra Virgin, Certified Organic)
     13 oz of Olive Oil  (Pomace)
     3 oz Sweet Amond Oil (refined, cosmetic grade)
     3 ox Castor oil
     Lye 4.5 oz
     Filtered H2O  10 oz

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Honey I'm in the comb!

The Bee Charmers

It is day number four of the heat and this midlife farm life is caving in to the pressures .All you get this am (meant to post last night, fell asleep at the keyboard)  is a couple pictures of bee spit being harvested by are hardworking GK's Allana with husband Keith, because without him none of this would ever happen.

Honey will be bottles and available in our farm store for purchase next week. Or you can come directly into our kitchen (where the bottling is taking place) and lick it off the floor for a reduced price.

Yes, our GK is allowed to smoke.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Oh Hades!


I am so Hot

And I ain't talking about how I look in my Rosie's Coveralls which you could not pay me a $100 to put on right now (But yes, I would do it for $200)

Several days now of middle of July heat with no breezes, no rain and no real relief in sight. When we bought our farm 18 years ago we opted not to install central air. Why? We'd be outside most of the time anyway we rationalized.

And we are, until the waves of heat drive us inside for some relief. And then back outside when the inside temps are higher than the outside temps.

The GKs are with us in one of their 3 day runs and they are coping pretty well. Healthy hearts and smaller body masses are helpful. The local pool would help more but they are closed due to some kinda pump problems, which is code for someone depositing human error in the water.



So we cope with frequent showers, a sprinkler in the shade, lots of water and one window unit AC which we all gather around every night in a pagan ritual. As long as we all get a good nights sleep we're able to get by.

As a child we had just one fan in our old farm house. At night we'd all sleep perpendicular to the fan with the youngest closet to the fan protected by the man eating blades by one of the adults or older kids. After the babies fell asleep the older kids would work their way up closer to the fan eventually pushing each of the younger siblings father and father away from the tropical breezes. by morning the babies were relocated to the far end of the room.

Might be why each and everyone of my four siblings and myself still sleep with a fan even in the dead of winter. Just one of the many 'quirks" an O'Shaughnessy spouse must tolerate.

Miss Debbie our senior Red Wattle Sow, about a week away
from farrowing, staying cool.
Our farm animals are also coping with the help of the Midlife Farmwife and her amazing husband. hogs have water holes that are refilled often. Calves are relocated into the barn and areas of shade. Duckings get mini-pools built for them. Pregnant sows are moved to bigger houses with more shade in the event the heat brings them into early labor.

Baby Red Wattles at 7 weeks, have no problem taking
 a bath in their drinking water

33 years ago this July I was grossly pregnant with my first child. ( A 9 pounder!) It was 110 degrees in the shade in those Black Hills of South Dakota. I spent large portions of my day soaking in a tub full of cool water with a fan blowing on me, all beached whale like.

To this day that child has trouble with cold hands and feet all times of the year.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Raw Milk Mon-Wednesday...Round 3

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.


So yesterday was in many ways our most productive meeting with IDPH. It was the 6th mtg of the Dairy Work Group and the third meeting ( thus "round three") that was well represented by raw milk farmers and consumers.

At our last conference call in June, tempers flared and "progress" came to a grinding halt when the farmers refused to work with the original, biased agenda and proposed new rules initially created many months back before the farmers/consumers were ever included in the process. After nearly an hour of a standoff we ended that mtg with the agreement that we would start over from scratch.

And yesterday we did. Meeting in Bloomington,( face to face, always much better than a conference call)  the attendees included Molly Lamb and Steve Divicenzo from IDPH of course along with one other IDPH employee, One Farm Bureau Rep, 7 raw milk farmers, 5 raw milk consumers, and 2 Prairie Farms employees.

Not without a few very tense moments, mostly due to a consumer questioning the need for Prairie Farm representation, and this blogger suggesting to Molly that her team of inspectors will need additional training on the reality of raw milk production,  the mtg flowed and action steps were taken.

Not as quickly as many of us would have liked though. One of the IDPH employees himself was  heard whispering in not that much of a whisper,  "This is SO Frustrating!"  (us too ...us too) but at the end of the second hour, after a Prairie Farms representative stated he felt responsible for ALL the milk produced , raw or pasteurized, in Illinois and an IDPH rep confessed he was no longer sure what side he was arguing for,  we had agreed on a two tier system for Illinois Raw Milk Farmers.

 The first tier would allow off farm sales only but would not require regular inspection or testing, the second tier would be voluntary for the farmer and would require regular inspection with much higher standards such as those being promoted through the Raw Milk Institute founded by Mark McAfee.

I know there are some of you out there who might believe the farmers are perhaps "selling out" as we are actually involving ourselves in the rule writing rather than sticking to our original guns (and posters)  that blared NO NEW RULES. But through this process we have learned that there were never any raw milk rules in Illinois to begin with, only policy. I'm still blown away by THAT one!

We must remember that  IDPH has been given the directive that they MUST develop raw milk rules. So we have a choice, continue to stand off to the side chanting No Sale ( didn't you just love Jessica Lange in the movie Country?) which would then just encourage IDPH to write the strictest rules they can OR we can get deeply involved and do our very best to help them create reasonable rules that benefit both the consumer and the producer.

Because I am a firm believer that change occurs best from within, I and many of the other raw milk farmers on the dairy work group, choose therefore to continue to work within those limitations. Even though IDPH has the authority to yank the whole raw milk rug out from under us landing us on our manure speckled keisters,  with each meeting I feel the risk of that action, lessons.

Of course once this group is done, and that could be months, the rules will go up the IDPH ladder including through their legal department, followed by two 45 day public comment periods. Whatever the results, the raw milk world of Illinois as we know it, is rapidly changing. Hopefully for the better.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Saponification Sunday...on hold. And now for something entirely Lorna


I have a blog friend in Ireland and her name is Lorna.

Although we have only met in the wired too tightly world (like me she blogs, she teaches, she Facebooks, she writes, she farms, she mothers, and she's been married for over 20 years) I feel we are kindred spirits. In fact we even look alike! Except that she is younger and thinner and way less gray than I am, we could be twins.

And just like me, and so many other really blessed woman in the world, she married a farmer.

For some time now I've enjoyed her blog about being a farmwife in Ireland. Called The Irish Farmerette. Filled not only with day to day farm hilarity (like always being the one to do the majority of the driving while farmer husband sleeps and then wakes and comments about how fast the journey is going!!) she does an amazing job teaching others how to blog and use social networking, WELL.

 I need to re-read those posts I'm afraid.

As if she is not busy enough, she is venturing into the publishing world as she works towards completion of her book "Would You Marry a Farmer, Confessions of an Irish Farmerette", But she could use some help and if there is any hard working farmwife who deserves it, it is she.

Writing a book takes times, perseverance, dedication and courage. Those things although not always easy to come by, are still free. But the actual publication of a book takes real money as does an illustrator, and marketing.

So here I am, the Midlife Farmwife asking all of you to take a few minutes out of YOUR very busy lives to read a little more about Lorna's project here on the Fund It Site. And if you are so inclined help her out with a donation will you.?

And to sweeten this deal just a bit, for every blog follower of mine who donates $10 or more to Lorna, I will send you a free full sized bar of my Midlife Farmwife Soap. To anywhere in the world. Yes, that's what I said. Depending on where you live this is a $6-$100 value. Yes, I'm estimating. I'm not exactly sure how much it will cost to send some soap to Anartica, but I'm willing.

 So you blog stalkers in France, Chicago, Wales, Britain, Ireland , Mohomet, Pontiac, and Cresent City, just leave a comment on my blog telling me you are donating, then make a donation to Lorna and believe me, when her book is published you can take it in the tub with you along with a great big bar of my handcrafted soap for an evening of good clean fun!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Limbo Land Closing

Soon our realtor contract will be coming to an end and we've decided not to renew it. Yet at this moment there is one more interested party we are working with regarding the sale of our farm business.

All told we've shown the farm over the last two years to nearly 20 folks. Not one solid offer. It's too big, or too small or two much work, or whatever. The fellow who is looking at it now is different.

He has already talked to his bank. He has sat with us to discuss farm financials. He has come to do chores with us. And last night he met with our landlord, the one who rents us the other 40 acres around our little 10 acre plot. And they liked him. Because he has no plans to turn our farm into an amusement park or a brothel (just a bed and breakfast with red curtains I was once told) or a confinement farm.

No, if he buys it he will do the same thing we are doing...only better.

Still, with all these positive signs that maybe, just maybe our farm will be sold and our dreams of a little house on a little piece of land with only a little amount of livestock, enough to feed just he and me...will come true.

But if it doesn't, if contestant number 20 changes his mind, or his bank decides no deal, or his wife takes him aside and says "Are you crazy?!?! Did you see the wrinkles on that Midlife Farmwifes's face?! Is that what you want ME to look like in 20 years?" IF any of those things happen and we're still here on South Pork Ranch...

It will be OK.

We have solid plan for simplification, it in fact already in motion. And our 9 year old GK who was just 2 yrs old, a blink ago, reminded us again that SHE would buy the farm when she is grown.

So really, what are we worried about?

In about two weeks time our fate will be decided. And we look forward to the closing of Limbo Land.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Popcorn My Love

When I was a full blown child, me da would fill our tummies with two snacks. Either an entire loaf of white bread heavily drenched in cheap margarine (only the infamous Aunt Bernie could afford real butter in those 1970's days) or he'd make popcorn.

REAL popcorn popped in grease, often leftover sausage and bacon grease and covered with a pound or two of salt to kill whatever might have had the courage to grow in the old grease.

 We are all quite smitten with popcorn, my siblings and I. I have tried to instill this 'value'in my own GK's and they love the tradition of popcorn as a meal so much they have dubbed it "P-P" night. Sounding like a body fluid it gives them the giggles. Every time.

Originally we had pizza too, just the reason for two "P's" but eventually it just became popcorn only. A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by The LA Shop who asked if I would review one of their products on my blog. They offered several quirky items and I of course chose...

Pikachu  does not come with the popcorn maker
but he does come with my granddaughter wherever  she goes I might add.

The popcorn maker.

Cute huh? All circus like it's made of sturdy plastic and it's bright colors keeps me from mixing it up with my Kitchen Aide Mixer. A good thing because I think soft chocolate chip cookie dough might not fair so well in the hot air popper.

Last time the GK's were here we fired up this puppy and reviewed it's performance. On scale of 1-10 meaning 1 is pure crud and #10 is Popcorn lovers delight.

Look ma! Virtually all the kernels popped.

Appearance.   10. Very charming. Eye catching. If it stops working I plan to turn it into a bedside light.

Size.     10  Small for some perhaps but perfect for me. Sits on counter without hogging it.

Sturdiness   8  Not bad for plastic. If made out of metal it would cost ( and weigh) a ton more. Should last an average family for while. My family maybe 6 months

Function.    10 plus WOW. This paper pops fast! And left only two uncooked kernels in the reservoir and it did not burn any kernels at all. And they popped full! None of that half popped junk. Of course I used Orville Redenbachers popcorn cause I'm a popcorn pro.   And with adult supervision  this is an appliance kids can use too.

Taste.    5 and 10  Hated it. Only because I don't like air popped popcorn. But my daughter does and she liked it and the GK's liked it and after I flooded it with real butter and some salt. I ate a bunch too.  So if you like air popped corn....you'll love it.

Price. 6  The company charges 49.99 which seems high for me. But what do I know? I make my popcorn in a decades old heavy metal canning pot Keith found in the junkyard for me. It sat in the barn two years  and then was used for a dog dish for a year before I realized how thick the metal was, how perfect it would be for popcorn and it is. I really have no idea what normal people would pay for a new, non-dog-used-appliance.

My bottom line. Very cute, very easy to use, very well performing. Very good hot air pop corn!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Raw Milk Monday. The Media is paying Attention

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.

A little quiet on the Illinois raw milk front. At least right this moment. Our next meeting with IDPH is not until July 16. I did receive a phone call from Terra Brockman this morning, one amazing woman, who wanted to interview me for an article she was writing for Edible Chicago.

The piece will focus on raw milk in Illinois of course but will also reflect on the power of community, as in Vernon Hershberger's case. If you've not yet read about the brave steps taken by the jury members in Vernon's case please click on Vernon's link to do so.

It will make you proud of those Americans (and even more ashamed of Wisconsin's legal system)
I was also interviewed by a young chap from National Public Radio (along with two other farmers who belong to The Stewards of The Land as we do). That radio spot will be out sometime in the the next few days. on WIII radio out of Champaign

We are thrilled to be getting all this coverage because the more we keep this issue out in front of people the more likely public health will listen to what they have to say. We have become a group to be reckoned with.

The rebel raw milk drinkers.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Saponification Sunday. How much is that Soap in the Window?

I recently completed another special order for my 100% Castile Soap which means it's made with Olive Oil, Lye and Water. Nothing else. It came out lovely. Simple. Easy to make which made me feel, guilty. Because I charge the same price for my 5 plus oz of castile soap as I do my 5 oz bar of soap loaded with fantastic smelling (and very expensive) essential oils, that's why. Just $4 if you travel to my farm store and $5 if I have to mail it to you plus shipping.

But the way I figure it, it all evens out. Some bars with less ingredients leave me with a bigger profit while others a bit less.

I've been noticing though, a trend in the opposite direction. Soapers are not only charging more for their soap but charging different prices based on the ingredients. I'm seeing 4 oz bars going for $6.50 and even $7.

Soaps made with Shea Butter or other luxury butters/oils are now most expensive. I don't blame these soapers, not all all. It takes time and effort to make soap and the base oils, butters, and especially essential oils are all escalating in price.

I'd rather have soap makers keep the same quality ingredients while increasing their price than what I've been seeing occur too often. Soapers keeping the same prices but cutting back on their ingredients, using cheaper oils or using less essential oils. Decreasing both so much their soap quality suffers.

I love buying other peoples soap as it helps me improve my skills, and last week I bought a small bar of soap in Chicago, in a plain wax wrapper that claimed to have been "Farm Fresh" There were no ingredients listed on the label or a contact phone number (two big no-nos in my book) The packaging said it was "Citrus" but it had no scent. It also had virtually no lather and it was tiny. And it left my skin tight and dry. Just 3 oz for $5.99

So I have to encourage you soap consumers out there. If buying at the farmers market or soap shop, ask for a small sample to use first, or if buying through the mail ask the same. Don't expect a full size bar as a "sample" and please, please don't ask for samples of 10 bars, one or two seems fair does it not? The soapmaker can drop it in an envelope and for less than $1.00 she'll probably get another customer and you'll have piece of mind that you are getting a quality product.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Tale of Two Piggies

We own two Red Wattle Boars and although they both meet registration criteria and have all the important papers, they are as different as night and day.

You've often heard me yak about Mad Max and frankly it's unfair that he gets most of my attention but the reason for that is simple; his pasture is closer to the house.

Embarrassing but true. But the days of iniquity are over. Wally as in Wickham Farm Wally has been more than patient. It is his turn to shine.

Wally the Sophisticate

He came to us from Wickham Farm in Iowa over two years ago. Barely a year old at the time. He was unlike our current herd of Red Wattles in that he came from a different line, the long nose line of Red Wattles. I think he looks a little more sophisticated and well groomed covered in short fawn colored bristles whereas Wally is more wild and rustic looking with his curly blackish red hair. Think Robert Redford meets Jack Black.

Their differences go beyond the physical.

Mad Max gets worked up about one thing only...girls. And his "interest" lasts just long enough to get the job done. The he heads home, orders a Casey's Pizza,  curls up with a good cushion of straw and falls asleep until his next date. The earth can rumble, the sky can fall, you can saddle him and practice calf roping off his back but  the only think that gets Mad Max moving is feeding time and breeding time.

Mad Max is such a pig...always eating with his mouth open

Wally, on the other hand not only stays attentive during dinner AND the movie, he watches out for his harem all hours of the day and night. If he hears an odd noise outside his barn door he is the first to investigate, facing any potential danger before he allows his girls to venture out. If you happen to step between him and a sow in heat he snarls at you with a very clear "move it or lose it" growl.

Mad Max will allow you to rub his ears, his back, his belly and let you dress him in drag while Wally tolerates touch only briefly and then opens his mouth WIDE to remind you of the size of his tusks. He never actually tries to bite you but he likes to remind you that your tiny pea-brained head would make a great  Hors d'Ĺ“uvre .

Mad Max is never clean, always covered in mud, dirt, grass or worse. Wally manages to sneak out for professional shave and facial masks on a weekly basis. I think he has convinced our local dog groomer he is just an overgrown blood hound.

They both do their jobs well, siring litters of 10-13, passing on their wattles consistently, gracing their offspring with functioning and numerous teats (its all about the teats you know)  and so they both have permanent positions here on South Pork Ranch. Because it's like they say, variety is the spice of life.

And a well formed wattle is worth it's weight in gold.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Blogger Stalker

The way Fannie is posing with these visitors you would think
THEY were the ones who fed her everyday. Traitor.

Anyone who has blogged for awhile knows the thrill of having a bus load of  tourists pull up your drive, cameras around their necks, blue striped running shorts sliding off their hips, Old Navy canvas boat shoes on their feet,  disembark and swarm all over your property searching out the blogger of their dreams.

Hey, it could happen.

In the meantime, I have to settle for those who trickle onto the farm one at a time. Many are local but some travel a bit , say from Chicago, or Springfield or as in James case, from Afghanistan. He and I started yakking via email over 7 months ago. Seems the fellow had dreams of a homestead on his mind.

So, finally after arriving home and reconnecting with his family, he brought them all to South Pork Ranch to pick out a couple little stud muffins for his place, Harvesting Grace Farm. It's always fun trying to catch the little boogers and then get then in a lineup so the new owner can pick the best of the best.

Food works wonders.

I know you can count on me to line up straight for a good bowl of grub. So with four little boars to choose from and four folks trying to decide, it became clear that selection would be based on pure science.

"Lets take him", the young girl said pointing to the smallest piglet, "He's adorable"
"Lets, take the big guy, the one with the big chest." Suggested Dad
"Lets take the bossy one" said the teen son. Pointing to the one moving his siblings  around the pen with a horse whip.
"Lets just pick two and throw them in the crate, I'm tired and ready to go home" Mom was thinking...I could tell.

Soon enough it was Number 8 and number 11 who won the lottery. With a few squeals they were loaded up into the large dog carrier (One of the best ways to transport a piglet if you ask me. Letting them loose in your back seat...never a good idea, unless you don't mind shredded and defecated upon upholstery.

Just one of four eligible bachelors up for sale.
After a tour of the rest of our place and a practice round of "pig whispering" the hogs new owners  headed back to their own farm with dreams of breeding their already at home RW gilts to some new blood from South Pork Ranch. Just one step closer to getting the Red Wattles removed from the Critically Endangered List .

Young offspring of Mr and Mrs. C getting to know
 some of our tinier RW babies

Thank you Mr. and Mrs. C.!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Raw Milk Monday...Time for a Schedule

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.

Look closely. It's a double header lighting the way


In the 18 years we have been selling raw milk (first goat, then goat and cow, then cow) we've never had to assign pickup days.

Never say never, especially in farming. But thanks to The Illinois Department of Public Health and the State of Wisconsin in their recent (unsuccessful) lawsuit against farmer Vernon Hershberger, our raw milk is on the wanted list.

Our customer base continues to grow every month and last week our tank ran dry...again. So we are putting together our first list of assigned days for milk pickup. We left a sheet in our farm store to note everyones preferred day , as well as their second choice, and tomorrow we'll finalize it and then make the phone calls.

Folks will have to come on their assigned day if they want to be guaranteed milk will be in the bulk tank when they motor up the drive past Mad Max, loose piglets, White Peacocks looking for a date and cows with beautiful deep brown eyes. If they are not willing, then they will have to come AFTER everyone else has gotten their milk, towards the end of the day, and they will have to take the chance of a dry tank.

Part of our dairy herd enjoying lush summer pasture

Something tells me folks will be happy to have a regular day because who wants to take the chance of driving 2 or 3 or more hours and then go home with an empty milk container? Some farms have gone to a cow share agreement where the customer leases the cow and then hires the farmer to care for it. In exchange the customer then is entitled to a certain amount of milk or a "share" of what the cow produces.

A few states in the US have tried to prohibit these private contractual agreements and in fact before we convinced IDPH to start over with the proposed rules thrown at us a few months ago, Illinois wanted to do the same thing, prohibit the herd share or cow share agreement.

Most raw milk farmers here think a contractual agreement between farmer and raw milk consumer is a good thing. It keeps everyone accountable. And assigning days for milk pickup ensures everyone has enough milk for their money bowl of oatmeal.

If you sell raw milk how do you make sure you don't run out of the yummy nectar? Would love to hear from you.