Friday, November 29, 2013

Farm Sale Status

With our current farmhouse in the background, Skylar contemplates her future
Will she be one of the chosen ones to travel north with us...or not?
Well....we're much closer to a final offer or so we've been told by the guy who does indeed plan to buy the farm.

So what's the holdup ? you shout. Or was that me? Well it seems we are not the only fish in this guys ocean. We are, I believe fish number 3 or 4. And when he gets to us, all will be well. In the meantime, we have met with those our buyer plans to hire to run the farm, and we've made our own plans for the conversion.

For now, the plan goes like this. The new owner will buy the farm. Then he will sign contracts with those who will run the farm. We will then start training those folks while we still are living here. Then after Christmas, the new managers will start spending more time overnight here while we start staying overnight at the poor farm. We will also purchase a shipping container (8 x 40? 10 x 80?) to store all the stuff we will begin moving to the new farm. Many other items will be sold or given away.

And where will we sleep?

Don't worry we have that all figured out. Either a mobile home, or a big Yurt, or an RV or Keith's newest idea...we'll buy an old (but sturdy farm) pay to have it moved. Pay for a foundation and build a small living area for ourselves. The animal will live at the other end of the barn.

Hows that for high end accommodations.?

While living there part time we will start building our new earth covered home. We've been getting quotes for materials and labor and plan to do 80% of the work ourselves. First we will have to begin tearing down the unlivable beast of a house sitting at The Poor Farm. Windows will be recycled for the new barn and some of the floors can be recycled into new (old) floors in the new house. Most of it though will go in the bin.

A very LARGE bin.

In the meantime costs begin to add up, as they have a tendency to do with any project.
Property   $44,000  (7 acres and one crumbling abode house)
Survey      $1000
Electrical work  (new pole and wiring) $2000 (estimated)
House Plan Book  $25  (earth home specific)
Gas (back and forth 40 mile RT  $15 a trip

Each day we are closer to our new life. You know, the one with the composting toilet.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Midlife Farmwife Gets Grateful

I'll be too busy tomorrow shoveling food into my trap to even think about blogging for you people so instead this the turkey is swimming in a brine of sea salt, brown sugar and Rosemary and the Italian sausage is simmering (For stuffing of course) I will entertain you with an essay. It is titled

Why I am grateful this Thanksgiving.

1. I am thankful that my son and his wife (one of two grammar Nazi's in the family) is out of state this year. That way it is less likely she will read my blog and correct my poorly written title.

2. Because I did not gain any more weight this year than last year. And because I stopped weighing myself in 2009, it might even be true.

3. For the reason of the farm isn't sold yet so I still don't have to start packing.

4. Due to the red splotches on my arms are slow growing meaning probably not cancer, most likely just ringworm. Yes, you heard me right. I am grateful for ringworm.

5. I am grateful this Turkey day because I am not a turkey, relatively speaking.

6. Therefore for the reason being I have still not finished my novel and thus do not have an editor or an agent or a publisher or a contract.

7. Number 6 continued...thus I am not yet famous and don't have to travel all over the world talking about my novel in quaint little book stores while drinking espresso in a French Villa. What a pain that would be, N'est pa?

8. Mainly because we still sell enough stuff out of our farm store to pay the mortgage which is really good since my sisters and my children do love me but not enough to really have me live with them.

9 Heretofore as I am still healthy enough to walk around on my own, a good thing since rolling me from room to room would be very time consuming.


10. Because tomorrow I get to spend the day with my children and their mates, (minus the one and his lovely wife, who is visiting his father in SD which is OK I suppose since I think he was here the last 5 Turkey days at least) my grandchildren, my sisters and their families, my brother and his wife, and my dear husband when they all invade my house refusing to leave the kitchen even though there is more than enough room in the rest of the stinkin' house.

Thank you God for all of THAT!!!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

When Pigs Skate

I know I'm asking for big trouble here. Some PETA nut will be stalking me and when she/he/it sees this video I'll be reported for putting my piggies in grave danger but it's a risk I'm willing to take.

Each day when Keith feed these weanlings their raw milk they go quite nuts. Running at break neck speed to be first at the trough. They love the stuff.

Last night the big mud puddle in front of the barn when the pigs came out for breakfast there was a good deal of slipping and sliding . Quite hilarious. Thus, I told Keith not to feed the pigs in the evening until I had a chance to video tape it

. I knew audience...would love it.

But, it seems those pigs are once again, smarter than I look. Seeing the camera and not wanting to embarrass themselves in a viral way, they restrained themselves, keeping their (mental) balance better than other ice princesses we have known.

No, I cannot figure out how to slow the video down. Just one more reason my blog remains small potatoes. Any advice would be appreciated. It may not be followed, but it will be appreciated.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Saponification Sunday: Fugly Soap in Freakin' Ugly , soap is on the menu today. And there is no good excuse. No tornadoes this week to distract me. No lack of basic soaping skills (that could be debated), more so just rushing through the process again.

This soap which is fondly called Billy Bob soap is a favorite of one of my customers. Made with 4-5 colors that are to be gently spooned into the mold after scenting the soap with a great combo of Essential Oils, it is a good soap inside and out. Most of the time.

This time however...well, the inside is still good.


The outside failed me or more accurately; I failed it. I did not wait until the lye water was cool which then caused the soap to get thicker too fast. This meant that instead of gently spooning the five different colors into the mold, I ended up THROWING the soap spoonful by spoonful into the mold.

And due the concrete like consistency, I had to slam the mold hard on the counter to get the soap to settle well. The thick soap combined with the hard slams left a few air bubbles in the finished product. Not to mention the evolution of some gentle waves into some big ugly globs.


But the good news was this. The EO's I used, a combination of lavender, lemongrass, pink grape fruit,and  amyris left the fugly soap with the same wonderful scent my Billy Bob soap always ends up with.

You would think after over three years of making soap on a weekly if not more often, basis, I would learn that rushing never results in a well crafted product.

You would think.

So what can one do with Fugly Soap? Here are my top ten
     1. Cut into tiny pieces, throw into crockpot and rebatch. Final result will range from a masterpiece
     soap that looks like expensive granite to just another bunch of fugly soap. If so go to step 2.

     2. Grate it all up. And for every one cup of grated soap, add one cup each of baking soda,
     washing soda and borax. Mix well. You've just made laundry soap

     3. Chop into small pieces and fill a plastic bottle half full with the soap chunks and fill the rest
     of the container with hot water. You have just made dish soap.

     4. Cut the bars into chunky pieces measuring 4 inches long and 1 inch thick. You have just made
     laundry stain remover sticks

     5. Grate up the soap and for every cup of grated soap add one cup Epsom Salts and one cup
     medium grind sea salt , along with a few more drops of essential oil for scent. Mix well. You
     have just made a fabulous foot scrub.

      If those suggestions are too high end for you try one of these solutions

     6. Gift the bars as is to all your blind friends.

     7. Gift the bars to those in your family who always want all your stuff for free. This might stop
     future requests.

     8. Cut the bars into perfect 3 inch squares. Top with Cool Whip and serve as "Individual
     Cheesecakes" to those family members who gave you Bear Claw Slippers for Christmas last year.

     9. Hide the bars in the back of your underwear drawer. Your things will smell great and when
     you finally clean out your dresser five years from now you'll find them, compare them to the
     gorgeous soap you'll be making in the future and feel really good about yourself.

     10. Give them to your husband to use. As long as they don't smell like dead wish, he'll use them
     and tell you how wonderful they are. You know how he is.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bunch of Hayseeds


Oldest GK, now 12. HOW did that happen?!?

 Yeah, we admit it. We're a bunch of nerds who still think the annual hay rack ride is worth the time. We started the tradition when we moved here over 18 years ago. And although there were years when all the kids were not home, instead just goofing off on a ship near Japan or continuing their education in another state, we are now all again, close by.

Allana age 9 demonstrates correct hay rack ride attire; a wild fur hat
so as not to disturb any of the Leopards that roam our wood lands.

The two that live the farthest away are just 30 miles up north, the one nearest us, a mere 4 miles and of course the middle child, lives in the middle just 15 miles from the farm.

As they have grown, as their families have grown, the hay rack...has shrunk!

With spouses and kids and a nephew of our daughter-in-laws who has made it the last three years, we number 14 if all show up. But this year both of the daughter-in-laws had to work and so in their place, a boyfriend and his daughter.

We bring drinks and snacks and take the same route every year because it is a tradition which is just a 3 syllable word for "same old thing." We head north out of the drive with Keith at the tractor wheel and Fannie the Great Pyrenees bringing up the rear.


She follows us the entire route.

We head west a short distance on the road, wrap around the back of the neighbors machine shed counting the number of OUR peacocks hiding out in THEIR rafters. We swing south along the railroad tracks and then east over the tractor patch that runs between two fields.

The art of snacking while riding (and juggling multiple nephew drinks)
is a skill best taught to the youngest generation
by the middle generation.

Out there, we can barely see any other farms and we are surrounded on all four sides by fields.

You'll note everyones attention is to the right but for the life of me
can't remember why. Perhaps I just fell off the wagon?
 On this last ride the sky was bright blue the weather was cool but very tolerable and I was beyond happy. But I try not to gush about these feelings of extreme contentment and familiar joy or I'll be laughed at by the masses.

I don't travel with sentimental types.

We stop at the neighbors woods. Walk around the south side of their large pond and run into her in her gardens where she revels about how much the GK's have grown and can still hardly believe that the 14 year olds she used to hire to help with their landscaping, are all grown men.

With a promise of being allowed to act goofy in the next picture,
they follow my request for normality

But it doesn't last long.

Our oldest son even proposed to his wife 12 years ago out on the neighbors pond after borrowing her canoe for the romantic invite to a lifetime together.

The walk around the pond takes about 30 minutes and we stop for a few annual pictures. One year I'll get my act together enough to print off some of the thousands of pics on my computer and do some comparisons of those past hay rack ride photos. Yes, I will.

We end up back at the hay rack, snuggle back in with pillows and blankets, holding tight to the smaller kids to avoid any tumbles off the straw bales. Keith will usually ask one of the boys, please excuse me, men... to drive the rest of the way home so he can enjoy a few minutes of leisure travel with the rest of us. We finish off the cookies, cake, etc and swallow down the cider, hot chocolate which remains. Some of it actually still housed in thermos but much has been spilled on the floorboards.

We are pulled back up the drive and disembark. Blankets filled with straw are shook out and the food trays, garbage taken inside. A bonfire is started and after letting our bellies rest a full 10 minutes we make S'mores. I am ridiculed by my children who have forgotten...again...that their job is to adore me, when I choose to totally CHARCOAL BLACK my marsh mellow before squeezing it between 2 graham crackers and a hunk of real chocolate.

The wussies in my family prefer to toast their marsh mellows a vague tint of tan, which is acquired by standing at least 10 feet from the fire and just waving the cushy white tweet in the direction of the fire. Hardly worth lighting the wood at all if you ask me, but no one ever does.

The GK's and Fannie making their way around the neighbors pond.
And another fall, comes to an end

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happy Cows

Cows on pasture...our November

It's crazy what is happening out there in the food world. Fights over labeling, growing, feeding, preparing. Government agencies neck deep into peoples personal lives. The organic and sustainable want-to-bees cashing in where they see cash to be made. Farmers struggling to hold out to their land, their future, their children's future. False advertising, false labeling, false farms.

Yes, False farms.

A scary trend of the future. As folks have decided they are tired of spending hard earned money on food that is indeed making them sicker and instead adjusting their budgets in order to buy food with healthy origins...the doors for cheaters has swung wide open.

There have always been a few of them around, those who don't raise their own animals but pretend they have and rake in the benefits of such. We used to see it in 4-H but at the smallest and most innocent level. A child wanted to show a beef steer and would have grandpa raise it on their farm.

Not so bad if indeed the child was actively involved in raising it. But it worsened over time with the kids never laying eyes on "their calf" until it was unloaded at the fair grounds. Then injuries happened as kids who knew nothing about those animals they supposedly raised, got stepped on, drug around at the end of the lead chain or worse.

Now its seen on a bigger scale. The farmer who has decided they want a piece of the sustainable pie, the organic opal, the farm fresh free for all. So sad that a farmer will brag about his pasture raised cows when its a known fact his animals are raised in a feed lot a couple counties over. Or the pig lady who claims organic status at the farmers market but buys her grain from a conventional farmer we know.

10 years ago I was all up in arms about these practices often contemplating whether or not they should be reported to the agencies that regulate such. But sadly the agencies themselves have slid downhill in their ethics, looking the other way when massive dollars are at stake. Like with the huge organically certified poultry farms whose birds meet the "access to outdoors" by sniffing the earth's smell as it wafts through the employee doorway.

THAT is only a slight exaggeration.

So with our government being majorly corrupt in so many areas and our people as a whole looking only for what is best for THEM, not their livestock or their customers, what are a couple of middle aged totally jaded farmers to do?

The same thing as always. Feed the cows, milk the cows, call the cows by name and let the cows into new pasture and repeat. Our animals know we are real and that is all that matters.

PS In the midst of this blog post, Keith brought me a bag left in the farm store. A gift from ??? No signature. Inside some adorable green socks with happy dancing cows. Note how the post it note has the same title as my blog post.

You people are creeping me out!
Thank you for that.

Monday, November 18, 2013

In only seconds...lives change

There will be no silly soap post or raw milk rant this Sunday/Monday instead I'm asking for prayers for those in our area affected by yesterdays tornados.

Around noon Sunday high winds hit our farm and minimal damage occurred to our sons car hit by flying calf hutches (sans calves fortunately) Not too long after as the skies cleared and I went to my pc for nonsense time I saw some blurbs on my Facebook page about the nearby town of Washington, Illinois. (Just 40 miles West of us)

A large tornado had just ripped through their town destroying many blocks, leveling them flat. It took a couple seconds, and why is that? for my brain to register that my sister and her family lived in that very area.

I sent her a text

No response

A phone call

No response

An email

More texts to my other sisters, to my children

They hadn't heard from her either

Another text

Another phone call

My daughter who lives close and is also an RN, and I made plans to meet in another town and then drive over. The Facebook Page was requesting nurses and doctors in the area to respond.

And then as I was shoving my feet into my boots and thinking about what type of clothing I should grab, and whether or not my sister was buried under her house...and where were her children and her husband? Were they all together this Sunday, or were they scattered all over the area running errands, at friends houses?  Would we be able  to  even get to her home? What back roads should we take to avoid Rt 24 which would be congested? Was Raven able to find someone to watch her children while we were gone?

And then my phone rang and my missing sister was on the other end

She and her family were OK. And I was able to take a deep breath.

Just after that, I checked the Washington , Illinois Facebook again (information was flooding in by both reliable and unreliable sources) and a post appeared from the Illinois State Police stating that all help was being turned away at present. Doctors and nurses had responded so quickly that many were now being stopped at the edge of town, waiting for direction. EMS crews needed to continue their immediate rescue attempts and dealing with all the well meaning volunteers

And furthermore...the large number of people coming to help are making it difficult for rescuers to hear "cries for help"  So that cinched it for us. We would stay put, for now at least

The entire time I was trying to reach her took less than a few minutes, hundreds of seconds and yet it seemed like hours. Our family was lucky, spared for whatever reason but so many others were not. The tornado is now being estimated as an F4 at 166 mph. So far one death but all the official reports of course are not completed.

The offers of help, of homes to stay in, gifting of supplies has been amazing so far as I find myself glued to the Washington, Illinois Tornado Recovery Facebook Page  All night I kept thinking of my fellow nurses in the OSF system having to work double and maybe triple shifts to care for all the injured not to mention the patients already in the hospitals there (Peoria) But they are well trained for events like this and they will do, have done, an amazing job.

 During the night I woke with that nagging feeling like I should still go to our neighboring community to help, to do something, anything. But the requests of those in charge have been very clear. If you don't live in the area stay OUT of the area.  Curfews were set and those who broke them are being arrested. Large crowds coming just to look are slowing rescue efforts. They have more help than they can organize. We should wait. Our help will be needed for clean-up soon enough.

So please keep these families in your prayers.
And remember to appreciate your own while you are at it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

For the Love of Finter

For some it is the promise of spring, for others the warmth of summer but for me it is Finter.
I adore Finter.

For your less informed readers, Finter is the very brief sprinkle of time between Fall and Winter. The time where the earth is till warm but the sky is ice cold. The time where the grass is still green but the leaves have crashed to their brittle deaths. The time where all color is washed away but in its place...Texture. It is a time of hours, not weeks or even days.

Finter is for poets, most specifically Irish poets who latch onto sadness and despair with the strength of a mule.

Today while walking with my husband, a good but simple man who believes there are but just four season in a year, I was struck full in the face with the sight of Finter in full bloom. Brown grasses, partially opened milk weed pods, peeling bark of the birch, the aroma of rotting apples under my boots, all in one piece of soon to be inhabited land.

Below you will note a simple Finter bouquet . As fragile as the season it illustrates, this Finter gathering of most nearly dead botanical offerings, will most likely fall apart some time during the night. The leaves will separate from their limbs, the flowers will fall onto the table and the silk of the milkweed will likely be eaten by the cat who will gag it up unceremoniously onto our carpet.


The most wondrous time of the year



Friday, November 15, 2013

Reality TV Comes to Chatsworth

So, here's another small tidbit about the TV Crew who came to visit us 4 days ago. They were from the Steve Harvey show out of Chicago and they had lots of cool equipment. Like lights, and cameras. We the farmers along with a young woman from New York...provided the intense, next Academy Award Worthy...action.

They had contacted us just a couple days before their arrival telling us very little about their plans other than they needed a pig farm. Seems they had called one other farm first (Don't you love being SECOND choice?) and that fellow, having no idea who Steve Harvey was...and suspicious of a scam, said No.

But me? Well I didn't know exactly who Mr. Harvey was either but while talking on the phone to Scott the Scout I was able to do a quick Google search. And HEY! That Harvey fellow looked familiar. Thus when Scott said to me "Do you know who Steve Harvey is? I could honestly say YES. (As of 10 seconds ago I do)

They did not tell us the theme of the show and because it has not yet aired I cannot tell you even now, but they said I could share some photos. Here is one. Two TV guys in the pen with Mad Max who refused to let us powder his nose before filming.

And another. This is the producer Jaque or was it Jock ? Shock? I should've have clarified.
Anyway he liked our turkey Banana. She however was put off by his sunglasses, later telling me
how difficult it is to trust a human who wears sunglasses on a cloudy day.
Now this is the crew interviewing Banana about her feelings  regarding the manner
 in which Jacque? Jock? Shock? was holding her.

While the man whose name I cannot get correct texts his mother about his day on the farm, another crew member demonstrates a gentler, more supportive way to hold Banana. You can tell by the expression on her face that she feels more secure. No sunglasses, I suppose.

Apparently there are not many turkeys in Chicago readily available for cuddling

Meanwhile back at the ranch, some filming of a girl took place. And that is all I can tell you about HER...just yet.

Here is absolute PROOF we had a real live TV Camera crew on our farm. See that? It's a box full of important TV crew equipment. How many of you have ever seen THAT before? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Now here in the next shot,  is what we in the business like to call an OTF.
An OTF means "On the Fly" and refers to taking an actress or actor or turkey off to the side and getting a quick opinion or two on that which is happening. Oh sure it looks easy but to do an OTF one has to be very good at coming up with in depth questions while the "answeree" must be able to think fast on their feet. No script, just fly by the seat of your pants brilliance. And when you do it well, the director/producer/ red hatted guy with the big microphone will say "That's solid"

Like once when I had to talk about how farming is hard work and it only took one take, I was told...and I quote..."That was solid Donna."  I knew then I'd wasted my life in my nursing career followed by my farming career. I was meant to be Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle all along because, did you not pay attention? I am solid.

(one more off handed crack about my weight and you people are banned from my blog.)

After filming outside for hours and hours (this is fact) we came inside to wind down . See the guy in the black hat with his hand outstretched? He's demonstrating the approximate size of my Emmy Award (Best fem fetale  farmer in a TV talk show)

Oh sure, Keith had his roles, his own lines. In fact he was on camera far more than I was but I cannot tell you any more than that. He's kinda the real star. But in what still a secret until the show airs.
Don't worry, you'll be the first to know. Right after we tell Banana.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Call from Keith

We have this partner thing pretty well figured out.
Keith milks the cows, I enter all the sales receipts into Quicken
Keith fixes cow and hog fences. I fix the horse fence.
Keith wrestles with the GK's and winds them up.
I unwind them with stories and bribes and put them to bed
Keith chases all the big animals BACK home while I

Keith and Ashland convincing Mrs Dalloway she should be at
home rather than visiting the neighbors



  ...Deal with the inspectors.

It's a fair division of labor. Physically he handles 80% of this farm while I handle 80% of the consumer/inspector/regulatory stuff.

So when I get a call in the house from Keith who is outside that says "Hey, that lady is here in the store to do that stuff with the thing, do you want to come out? I grab my Wellies and go.

We avoided getting a retail license for as long as we could when we first opened the farm store. It was on our property, not in the middle of a mall and getting a retail license seemed ridiculous. But being as we did report the income to IRS, yes I know, call us foolish, we knew there was a paper trail back to "The Spotted Wattle" (Name of our store)

And because we were already knee deep in arguing with the state Department of Public Health about raw milk rules, we though we might as well play nice with our county Public Health Department.

Page 1 of 2 for grocery store inspections in Livingston County, Illinois

I mean come my peak years, I think that was age 30 to age 33 and 1/2, I could have taken on several regulatory agencies at one time-- and did--but now I do better with one sword fight at a time. I also must admit it's fun to abide by the rules in one area, getting the perfect report with no deficiencies,  while fighting with the bigger IDPH and insisting on no rules for raw milk.

Fills my inner need to be a complex aka a schizophrenic Manurepreneur I guess. Fortunately our inspection went well.

So with the pig and the inspector taken care of, or so he thinks,  Keith leaves to deliver meat to Peoria  Ten minutes later, Mrs. Dalloway hits the road again

What is her deal?!? Plenty of food, nice hutch, cute babies to snuggle up with, gobs of room in her own pasture but Nooooooo. She has to go exploring. So in Keith's absence, Ashland the wonder Shepard and I try heading her back home again. While nipping her in the rump she weaves back

and decides to chase Ashland for awhile and then when I'm not looking she makes a quick right into the machine shed.

Stirring up a few ducks. But I'm smart. Smarter than a pig as I like to put on my resumes and I grab some milk and some grain and convince her to return to her sweet babies
Who pretty much slept through the whole deal. She probably would have settled down but I did not want to take any chances. Somewhere in that fence line she had found an opening and  since Keith was going to be gone a few hours and I had lost  all patience with her highness I take matters, and a big drill, into my own hands

There, THAT should keep her in for awhile. Yeah, I don't even care how longingly she looks back at those wide open pastures. You got responsibilities mama and if you don't like to, too bad, Should have considered that before you went romping in the field with Big Wally.

And just to be sure I'm not chasing her keister around the yard again, I added a little insurance
Now, forgive me, gotta go find a shovel while I dig a big shark filled moat around her cage.
P.S. Don't miss the Illinois Valley Community College Homesteading Conference this spring, April 5, 2014. (Oglesby, Illinois) I'm fortunate enough to be one of the speakers. Guess what I'm yakking about? How to raise hogs on pasture. Yes I am. That gives me just 5 months to learn how to do so.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Raw Milk Monday

I'm taking a break from the IDPH battle today, instead I just want to share some of the fun we had this Monday. Several new visitors arrived this morning in a long white official looking van. No, nobody presidential, Thank God, and I mean Thank God, because if that man responsible for the Affordable Care mess we are in ever showed up here... I'd be forced to give him a pitchfork and point him in the direction of Doolin. One Ass deserves another.

But I digress.

Our visitors had another mission, one I cannot yet share, as if I did, my form and all its farmy loviliness would suddenly disappear from the earth. Gone. Poof. What can I say? South Pork Ranch Mystery Theatre rides again.

I can tell you, that in the midst of that which we were doing that I cannot tell you about, we stopped for some refreshments, the raw milk kind. We continue to introduce more and more people every week to their very first taste of raw milk. We have noticed, they all  possess a similar profile; young (20's and 30's) healthy and well educated.

Most have already done their basic raw milk research via the internet. They know the pros and the cons. Many have been changing their diets over the years from the ridiculous government sponsored food pyramess to the well researched nutritional recommendations of Westin A Price.  Many of them have young children who have responded positively to changes in their meals which now include raw foods like milk and honey.

It's been perhaps the most exciting time of our farm life since we took that deep cleansing breath, three years ago, broke away from Foremost Farms and their threats, and went commando (just an expression folks, we still wear our support garments in the barn.)

Selling raw milk direct to the consumer saved our farm. And each time one of you comes to our farm for your first taste of raw milk, handing us your money directly rather than pushing it through a system of 15 middlemen scattered over an average of 1500 miles,  you help keep us and our cows, afloat. And each time one of our regular customers tells someone else about our farm and the raw milk we have available, you keep us and our bovines, alive and well. It's turned into a vicious cycle.

Job well done.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I Spy With My Little High

Not an official contest, just one for fun, to provide a bit of entertainment to all of you at home watching worthless TV in between stalking blogs.

So tell me, how many peacocks and peahens do you see up high in our machine shed rafters?

Submit your answers wherever you wish, Via a comment, my facebook page, a  long personal letter scented with wild flowers of your homeland. It doesn't matter. The only reason to play this game is personal satisfaction and the knowledge that you, after all these years, can still count.
Scroll down for the correct number. Cheaters will be automatically electrocuted. I wired your computer for a few jolts while you weren't looking.
The winning number is...10. The dark mark on the hay bale lower left is a rooster, NOT a peafowl.

Friday, November 8, 2013

We are not Walmart

This post is not for the 99% of the small farm customers who support their local farmers and the products they raise and sell. It is for the very "select" few who just don't get it. And as we know, this 1% might be a very minute number, but they can be loud, disruptive and oh so frustrating and thus this blog post is for them, not the rest of you.

We are not Walmart

1. No, we are not open 24 hours a day. Our little farm store is open 6 days a week however. Sundays are reserved for us to pray. For patience.

2. No, we do not do layaway. Please do not ask us to set aside 3 of our best Porterhouse Steaks, 4 huge sirloin tip roasts and 10 packages of bacon and then NOT PICK THEM UP.  If you are a regular customer we are happy to set aside a few things for you to pick up in a day or two.

3. Exception to number 2. We will take deposits towards a half hog or part of a beef. But because we've been stuck before (see number 2) this deposit is non-refundable. You can blame the customer who ordered a whole hog but when we tried to collect our money due found out she had moved out of state. She just "forgot" about the 200 pounds of pork she ordered.

4. We do not give rain checks.  If you did not make it to our store before all the ground beef was sold, I cannot set aside 100 pounds for you for next month.

5. We do not have BOGO sales. If we did we'd go broke in less than 30 days. Because we do not buy our sausage in bulk from a sleazy confinement pork farm in another state we are in no rush to unload it before the pink slime starts to crawl out the package on its own 6 legs.

6. We cannot man the counter in our store all day every day. Instead we must feed the pigs, milk the cows, collect the eggs, clean the barn etc. If we hired someone to man the store all day we'd have to dramatically increase our prices to cover that salary. Instead we keep them  reasonable and ask you to fill out your own sales slips and make your own change. We trust you. We really do.

7. We will not be having a BLACK FRIDAY sale. Never have, never will. The flip side of this: you can shop in our store the day after Thanksgiving without risking your life being bashed around by the crowds or losing your child in the toy section.

8. We do not (normally) do exchanges or returns. Please do not buy a roast, feed your family with it and then ask for your money back because "It did not have enough fat on it"  Grass fed beef generally has more muscle than fat, being as they are not fed grain. But, if you get home and notice the vacuum wrapped package isn't intact then by all means bring it back. I'll happily replace it. But don't do like one gal and fed the meat to her dog, brought in the package and asked for a refund. At least DON"T TELL ME you fed it to your dog!

9  Please do not expect mind-numbing Bee-Gee's songs overhead and spotless floors underneath. Our store sits right smack dab in the middle of our farm. Just outside the door will be animals in heat, animals who sleep, animals who cheat and animals who creep. The store floor just might have some...uh...debris on it. Best not to wear your favorite  Purple and Pink Asics when visiting. IF you really like noise when shopping there is a old fashioned boom box in the northeast store corner. It is preset to Rush Limbaugh. Help yourself.

10. The main reason we are not Walmart is because we really do care about the quality of the meat in our store. Humanely raised, with the majority of it certified organic and all of it produced by small local farmers, we care that you have chosen to shop with us and

          we appreciate it very much.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Raw Milk Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday

Two days ago,  the Dairy Work Group, a subcommittee of the Food Safety Advisory Committee, a group that reports to the head of The Illinois Department of Public Health, met again.

Got that?

Layers of confusion is what government does best. Transparency of those layers is where government fails.

In a shocking confession, (not very) IDPH Food Drugs and Dairies Director Steve Divicenzo announced in our meeting Nov. 4, that "We already control all the food in Illinois" when one of our group members stated that the last thing this state needed was more government oversight of food produced on small farms.

What Mr. Divincenzo did not hear, because he so often chooses not to listen to us,  was the muttering of several farmers at the table to the tune of "Oh no you don't" Granted, the meeting started out mired in great frustration on both parties parts. Every time we think we are making progress IDPH slams us with incorrect interpretation of what was said at the last meeting. For example, the minutes we received just ONE business day before this last meeting, reported that we were all in agreement with a two tier system that under Tier 1 would require inspections and a mandatory permit for those farmers who wish only to sell to those customers who come to the farm.

That is NOT what we said. We were very clear, or so we thought until we saw the minutes, that we were opposed to any inspections under the proposed Tier 1.

Tired of this trend, several of us created and signed the following letter which I read at this meeting and then handed to Molly Lamb. Perhaps THIS time what we say and what is recorded in the minutes will actually match up. But I guess we won't know until the next meeting which has not yet been scheduled.

Molly Jo Lamb

Chief, Division of Food, Drugs and Dairies

Illinois Department of Public Health

 525 West Jefferson Street

Springfield, IL  62671



Steve DiVincenzo

Illinois Department of Public Health

 525 West Jefferson Street

Springfield, IL  62671



November 4, 2013



Dear Molly and Steve,


Several of us who are current members of the Dairy Work Group, a subcommittee of the Food Safety Advisory Group of the Illinois Department of Public Health are concerned about the direction this group is taking.


Specifically, since receiving the minutes of the September 10, 2013 meeting emailed to us on Oct 31, 2013, it has become clear that what we are saying at the meetings and what is being heard by yourself and Steve and furthermore, what is being recorded, is very different. For the purposes of this letter we are referring to the most recent example, the proposed criteria for raw milk farms under a further proposed two tier system.


In order to clarify this issue we wish to put into writing our recommendations for a Tier 1 classification of raw milk producers. They are:



1. Voluntary registration by the raw milk farmer with the Illinois Department of Public Health.

2. Posting of informational signs on the farms where raw milk is sold, stating that the milk is not pasteurized.

3. Direct to consumer sales from the premises of the raw milk farm only, with the consumer providing his own container.



Any other suggested requirements for a raw milk farm under a Tier 1 designation such as inspections, limited sales amounts, mandatory testing, required permits, etc...Have not been agreed to by those of us who have signed this letter.


We also request that you attach this letter to the minutes of today’s November 4, 2013 meeting so that there will be no further confusion regarding what we have and have not agreed to in regards to a Tier 1 designation.


Thank you,

The rest of the meeting was fairly tense as we once again asked why there needed to be any rules at all, and why these meetings could not be more better structured as they might be if we utilized Roberts Rules or some other civilized manor of actually voting on ideas presented.

Cue Molly and her repeat speech about how our group has not real power (we know already) and how basically we are so dang lucky to have IDPH even including us in the process. But, they made the mistake of asking us for our opinions and we, rebel farmers that we are, keep doing just that.

Fortunately, Jim Fraley a representative of the Illinois Farm Bureau, showed great initiative by going to the board and bravely waving a dry erase marker, he created two columns. One for "Agree" and one for "Disagree"  Finally, some structure.!  Fairly soon it became obvious that indeed we were making progress and yes, we did agree on several points...but having Tier 1 farms inspected...still not one of them.

Our task this week, is to go through the two full pages of "proposed rules" given to us, not written by us, because in case you haven't heard, we are against any inspections for Tier 1 farms, and tell Molly and Steve our opposition to them.

I guess she thinks if she puts this broken record on the turn table enough times we'll actually play it.

Guess again.