Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas and A Blog Break

“All good things arrive unto them that wait and don’t die in the meantime.”
Mark Twain

It's time.
After 3 years of steady blogging it's time to say goodbye.

Relax, take a deep breath, put down the stiff drink. It's only a short break and its not personal OK? I love you guys and cannot imagine my life without you. (Well I can but it would be bad PR if I said that)

The facts are this. In October 2010 I visited Ireland, alone, and started my novel. A story that has been burning a whole in my head for at least a decade. That week in Oughterard, County  Galway, all alone was amazing. I wrote all day every day. Hours and hours at a makeshift desk in this wee cottage. I took short breaks each afternoon to gather food and drink and enjoy the countryside.

I continued to write when I got home but progress was slow.  I let life get in the way. In the last 6 months though I've gotten serious about my novel and rewritten most of it. I am now finally at the point of near completion. How many times have I uttered those words? I've lost track.

My goal is to have it ready to send out to prospective agents by Feb.1 In addition I will be making changes and updates to this blog which definitely needs a face lift and a tummy tuck or three.

I am also planning a new blog which will focus on my novel, other writings and creative writing in general. I've been so inspired by other writers who have done this including a couple of local Chatsworthian authors, Kelli Lowery Beck  and Erin Beck.

To do all this I must cut out any extraneous distractions which, for now,include this blog and my personal Face book.  In addition there will be no more cooking, cleaning or TV watching for the next five weeks. No, I have not yet informed my husband of this. I figure best to wait until I'm SURE he's completed his Christmas shopping for me. I will continue to make brief posts to our Farm Face book Page.

So long then blog buddies. I'll see you on the other side of 2014, February 1 to be exact.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Birthday Dusty

Thelma Lucille "Dusty" Durham O'Shaughnessy
Approximate age 13

It doesn't matter that she has been gone over 15 years. Not does it matter that my life is uber full of farm responsibilities, family obligations and the joys of GK's to distract me.

Furthermore it matters not that my teen years with her were rough on us both. I was a rotten kid pure and simple. She was a first time parent with poor parental role models. A few run away events, one that took me to South Dakota via hitch hiking and kept me there for over a decade plus I wasn't the best adult child to her after I returned to Illinois in the late 1980's.kept our relationship partially strained.

I was so busy back then don't you know?

Nor does it matter on her part, that her hillbilly ways could be embarrassing. She never left a restaurant without a pocketful of sugar, salt and pepper packets and maybe some silverware if the lighting was bad enough, and her manner of dress was often hysterical. She invented the "mommy jean" and the "boyfriend sweater" always wearing garage sale clothing and hand me downs too large for her, long before they were known as vintage, a trait I have now adopted myself.

What does matter is that every year, on her birthday the 23rd of December, I miss her so much my heart tightens up in my chest like a heavy ball of metal and my eyes flood over with sappy memories.  Memories of her bright blue canvas Kmart shoes, which I have kept,  and how she could never manage to totally mix in the powdered cheese with the rest of the boxed macaroni.

Nothing like a BURST of dry orange powder, mid chew, to perk up ones day.

So, here's to you Ma...happy birthday!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Saponification Sunday...Patchouli Flashback





And Peppermints.
Pink Floyd and his Brick Wall
Inagaddadavida Honey...Don't you know that I lu--uve you?

All that and more flashes through my brain each and every time I sniff one of my Patchouli bars. It is definitely one of those love/hate scents. Customers will take a big sniff and either announce "ewww" and throw it back in the rack or they will swoon as they hold the bar close remembering that two week run-away trip with those 16 year old Molter Twins in their Blue Chevy Montrose Playing van with the shag carpeting that actually covered the floor, walls and ceiling of that vehicle.

The stripe is made with comfrey powder
Chamomile flowers on top

Or is that just me?

Yup, I get all that from one sniff.  I am very smell focused. For those who have no clue: Patchouli is a species of plant from the genus Pogostemon.  (must be a Pok√©mon relative!) It is a bushy herb of the mint family, with erect stems, reaching two or three feet in height and bearing small, pale pink-white flowers. The scent is heady, musty, earthy and so rich it never seems to fade from my soap bars.

But I tend to be a little heavy handed with my essential oils. Yes, they are expensive, especially when you use the premium EO (about $10 an oz) and not the average Patchouli (about $6.50/oz) but I hate when I pick up a hand crafted soap somewhere that brags of their EO scent but when you pick up the bar...no scent, or a very weak one.

For my two pound recipe I use 2 oz of Patchouli oil. Or if using it to "ground" another sweeter EO, I will use 3/4 oz and then 1.25 oz of the other EO be it Lavender, Grapefruit, Geranium Rose or

Granted small amounts of EO's can be added for their non-scent qualities and one needs only small amounts (depending on the EO) to benefit from their anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, mood elevating etc...qualities but for a "scented" bar...you might need to do more than wave the bottle over your soap.

Of course too much of any EO, ones like pure cinnamon, can be very irritating to the skin so READ UP before you use in your soaps. So back to my Patchouli Soap, 2 oz of the EO will run me about $20. I get 7 bars of soap, each weighing about 5 oz each from my 2 pound recipe. Thusly each bar in EO alone costs me $2.85.

This does not even include the cost of all my other ingredients like coconut, avocado and castor oils, lye, plant materials for coloring etc. But other EO's like Sweet Orange are much less expensive running just $3.50 for 2 oz or about 50 cents a bar. I could charge for each bar based on the cost of the ingredients but instead I just let the law of averages settle it.

Besides, we original hippies are a dying breed, if we want to shower with a soap that makes us smell like we spent 5 days in the rain and mud at Woodstock WITHOUT showering then so be it.

Soap being packaged in my dining room
for Christmas gifts.
Shhh, its a secret .

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sew What?

I am a woman of many talents. I can chew gum and walk simultaneously, as long as someone holds my hand.  I can hum the tune to most any 1970's sitcom. I can laugh just like Woody Woodpecker. I can put in my earrings without a mirror.

But, sadly, I cannot sew.

My saintly mother, the coquettish one peeking out from behind the tree, did her best to teach me.  She even left me her coveted finger protection thingy. But to no avail, her lessons did not stick. I have adapted though and over the years, tape and staples have become my best friends.

Recently though I scored a beautiful green wool coat at the resale shop Frugality in Fairbury, Il where everything is 99cents. Or sure, sometimes the size tag has the name of the last owner scribbled on it in permanent marker, but sew what? I always fancied being called Nadeane.

What I did not like was the 1980's style gold presidential (?) buttons. So I bought some silver ones on line with a Celtic design of course. The price was five times what the coat cost but sometimes a girl just has to splurge on herself.

Cutting the old buttons off was no problem but how to attach the new ones? Tape didn't hold and the glue wasn't strong enough either. Staples had no place to attach themselves. Looks like I was going to have to put on my big Yaya panties and actually SEW them on. Yikes.

A needle was located (stuck into a candle buried in my junk drawer) but proved impossible to thread. How does anyone actually see that narrow opening at the end of a needle? Searching though my sewing supplies I ran across this doohickey.

Google-ing the photo and watching a 30 minutes You Tube demo and I was on my way. Needle threaded.

But how to knot the end? A sudden flashback of my mothers strangled finger tip and once again, I was ready to advance.

Several bloody sticks later (the red helped mark the spot for the return of the needle) and I was done. Counting the You-Tube video time, it only took 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Just 5 more buttons to go!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Nothing says Christmas... Like Conceal and Carry

Please excuse me, while I cling to my guns and my religion, and recommend a little special something for those men who have not yet decided on a Christmas gift for the woman they love. Might I suggest the Gibson City Conceal Carry Class ?

Of course jewelry is wonderful* or perhaps a pure silk scarf from a wee shop in Galway, Ireland or a simple black pattered blouse perfect for all non-hog events but nothing says I Love you more than a good self defense class, followed by the best in Conceal Carry Instruction.

Now, I am not suggesting that every woman should carry, it's a decision to be taken seriously. But for those who wish to learn to do so correctly and through the expertise of professionals, rather than fly by night scammers, then this class is for you. 

I met up with the guys teaching this weeks Conceal Carry Class, several months ago when I took their Home Defense Class. I had had some handgun experience thanks to my father who started me off at age 12 and my son Colton who did the much improved teaching several decades later. But I was far from proficient. During the self defense class I was retaught the basics and given solid range time.

But, you know me, never satisfied. So I signed up for the Conceal Carry Class offered by two of the same officers, Steve Cushman and Anthony Row. Although I have spent time in between classes, target shooting with my sons, I knew it wasn't enough and was nervous the night before class.

Did I have enough ammo? Would I remember how to load and unload my pistol? Would they make fun of my crappy cardboard carry box? (I bought a real gun case months ago but can I find it in this pit of a house? No I cannot. Don't worry, nothing is in it. I never opened the box it came in) But as they did with the self defense class, Steve and Tony went out of their way to make the entire class feel comfortable even though we came from a wide range of experience levels.

And they did not make fun of my crappy cardboard gun carry box either. At least not to my face.

The program was well organized , well presented and well executed. What I mean by that is this. What they actually taught in class was exactly what they practiced on the range. Although the atmosphere of the class was casual we knew there would be no deviation from the rules when it came time to use live ammo. Step away from your gun meant STEP AWAY.

The expectations were high and regardless of your skill level, beginner to competition winner, you were expected to follow the same sequence when preparing to fire. We were taught about the various types of guns, and given the opportunity to handle them as well as various holster types. (Surprisingly though, they had not heard of the Flashbang Bra Holster. Always eager to help I did my best to share what I know. What can I say? I'm just generous that way.) We also learned how to clean our guns, how to aim, how to fire, how NOT to write in our instruction books (my bad)  and how to keep ourselves and our range mates safe at all times.

Sure there was dry material that had to be covered including the actual FOID and Conceal Carry Laws but Tony Rowe went through them quickly enough to keep our interest but slow enough for us to understand the material. He also was polite enough to ignore the guy in the back who was snoring.

Actually range time was well organized with individual instruction and guidance available for those who needed it. What I appreciated the most was the attitude of "take your time" that was repeated over and over by both instructors. The class was not intended to be competitive, there were absolutely no dumb questions (well, not they ever let on) and there was plenty of time after class to try other guns or get additional instruction if needed.

Unfortunately in Illinois there are those with very few qualifications being allowed to teach Conceal Carry Classes. The state has specific topics that must be covered in class but they don't tell you HOW to teach the topics. In addition, it is possible for an individual with very little actual experience to meet the instructor requirements whereas the Gibson City Conceal Carry Instructors have a combined 50 years of firearm experience.

Don't forget to read all the fine print before choosing a CC class. Some will charge for the first 8 hours, another fee for the second 8 hours, an application fee, a range fee, a gun use fee, a safety glasses fee and ear protection fee plus a separate "certification completion" fee. When added up this one Chicago Area class came to over $500. The Gibson City Fee is $200 with reduced fees for groups and those with prior experience such as vets. 

To learn more or to register just go here http://gcconcealedcarry.com/  and if you don't think the lady of your life is ready for a Conceal Carry class (or lets just say she's already COMPLETED her class and scored 30 out of 30 ) then let me also recommend a pair of SOMA ultra comfortable PJ's.

Can't you just imagine me (oops, I mean HER) in these?

Another great website specifically for woman who choose to carry a firearm is The Well Armed Woman. Tons of information there. ENJOY!

* The above necklace was made for me by Jody McGill of Galena Illinois. Each piece is original, handmade and gorgeous. She is a very rare jewelry artist in this day and age of made in China cheap crud.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Really...Where is the Dang Beef?

Well we're not holding out that's for sure. Even in the freezer of the farmer there is no beef, or pork. Yes we have chicken, lots of chicken but we want beef and some bacon please.Of course when our freezers were overflowing with beef and pork we wanted chicken.

Fickle Farmers

You see the beef just failed to met the demand and the demand in 2013 was great. Last week we did take in one, that's right just one, beef to the Eureka locker. It will most likely result in about 400 pounds of frozen beef packages ready to be picked up just after Christmas.

Now the grocery stores want all of it and our store customers want all of it and Keith and I want...don't worry we only want a little. But no worries we've got it figured out. The four grocery stores get "heads" and our regular farm store customers, those who travel here, will get "tails"

Now all we have to do is find some big brute who can toss a 1000 pound frozen animal up high in the air. Spining it of course. It's more fair that way.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cup Of Snow

Like everyone else in Central Illinois we were gifted with a bit of snow last night. Second time in a week. I, of course, deem it "beautiful" while Keith proclaims it "a big pain in the ..." Guess which of us does more of the outside chores?

Wrong, it is definitely NOT me. Oh I get out there, piddle around with chickens and horses, the farm store, some customers,  and of course all summer I am out there often, but fact of the matter is...Keith is the winter hero. He does the majority of outside chores. Here is below feeding one of our two Red Wattle Boars. This one is Wally weighing in at about 900 pounds now.

Not bad for a  three year old.
I often feel guilty about the arrangement but he swears it suits him. He admits he prefers my cooking to his own and he has no real desire to do housework but he does do all his own laundry. Yes, I know, one in a million. While I handle the majority of the office work, the customer relations, the marketing, the emails.
One thing we both agree on, its not so much "his work" or "my work" it is "our work"  It all needs to be done and so we do it. In my early 30's I fought tooth and screechy nail with anyone who suggested that woman were best suited for one job over men. I was a flaming aka annoying liberal.
Now, I love my husband even more when he does those dirty jobs, those cold jobs, those physically demanding jobs. And he is very happy that I do all the family stuff, the shopping, the Christmas gift organizing, the get those grandkids to bed etc...
Like my mom would always say "it all comes out in the wash"
Today we took 10 seconds and walked around our farm together and enjoyed the beauty of the snow. The way our new mama pig kept her babies all snuggled up warm in her little shed with deep bedding.
Mama Skyler outside in her limited pen (only for a few more days until the babes can be trusted to follow her home once she gets her big pasture back)
All of our Red Wattles take well to the cold and snow as long as they have dry and well bedded shelters to hang out in. Pretty amazing since the herd, thought to be extinct, was rediscovered in TEXAS in the 1970"s!
While Keith went back to plowing out the drive I continued my walkabout...The stillness of the secret garden under its thick white comforter. Once again I forgot to dig up the gladiola bulbs. Oh well.

I love all the textures under the snow. The evergreens on the left and the dead but still standing tall, sunflowers on the right. The vintage bicycle just left of center in the lower third of the pic above and the sad lawn chairs in the way back.
The gate to the Secret Garden and the angels within, all looking dreamy in the grey blue sky this morning. And look! A bunch of red onions I hung on the fence to dry before bringing inside.

We were lucky with this storm, no real wind or I would not be grinning like an eejit. Wind here up on the hill means big drifts even with only an inch or two of snow. With the 6 inches that landed last evening we would have had more troubles getting around and the one swipe up and down the drive to clear the snow would have been more like 4 or 5.
So really, after all, it was a good day to enjoy the gift of white. And with my family (4 siblings, 4 children and all THEIR families) coming for our annual OShaughnessy Christmas Fest tomorrow, the timing could not have been more perfect.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Everything you always wanted to know about dead pigs but were afraid to ask

Folks often ask us...many things. Today's post will focus solely on questions of a bacon nature, i.e inquisitions related to buying pork by the half or whole.

Is there a waiting list ?

Yes, there is, Bad news for you as you have to wait but good news for us. People like our pork. We do take them to the locker every other month generally and on average our waiting list is about 3-6 months out. Right now our next group of unsold hogs will go to the locker in June. Your name does not go on the waiting list until we get your deposit (see below).

How Much is it?

The simple answer: $3.75/pound HANGING WEIGHT (be sure to read the hanging weight post)
The deeper answer: Far less than buying it by the piece

Here is the math. A whole hog weighs about 250 pounds. After all the bits and bobs are removed like intestines, bones and head, the hanging weight will be about 200 pounds and you will take home approximately 160 pounds of meat but you are charged for the hanging weight.

Processing is approximately 90 cents per pound or $162
Plus the amount due us or 200 x $3.75 =$750
Thus your total is $930

Now divide that $930 by the meat you will take home $930 divided by 160 =$5.81 a pound
Therefore you can see that you are paying far less than you would if you bought bacon for our going price of $10.49 or pork chops at $8.99  or Italian sausage for $7.99 etc...

How do I Pay?

We require $100 non refundable deposit due at the time you order your meat. This will of course be deducted from your total amount due but if you change your mind or forgot your ordered it, or remembered you had your rent to pay and cannot afford it because you are going on vacation ,we still keep your deposit. It costs us time and money to raise our piggies and if you pull out after ordering we are left scrambling to find another buyer.

You pay for the processing when YOU pick up your meat at the locker which averages about 90 cents per pound but Please call the Eureka Locker for exact processing fees at 309-467-2731

You pay us when you get our bill for the pork which we send out when the hog goes to the locker. Even though you might not pick up your meat right away please pay us as soon as you get our bill. The other piggies still need grain, or hay, or a nice slice of apple pie. We take checks, MO's or cash (Pay with cash in person please, can't prove you sent cash if lost in the mail)

Can I Pick My Own Cuts?

You Betcha! When the animal goes to the locker we will notify you and remind you to call them. They will walk you through a list of choices. Remember, THE MORE YOU TAKE HOME THE BETTER VALUE FOR YOUR MONEY. So you should ask for all the fat (make lard) the feet (soups and gelatin) the ears (dog treats) the bones (soups, broths) etc. Your processing costs will vary based on how much curing you have done and the type of wrap you desire. Most have it wrapped in plastic and then white freezer wrap but you can have it vacuum packed for an additional fee.

What is Organic Processing?

Since all of our meat is certified organic we recommend you ask the locker to process it organically as well. This means your meat will be processed first that day before non-organic hogs are processed. All cleaning components for the cutting table etc must be approved organic and all curing of meat is done with organic ingredients. NO MSG or Nitrates! And Eureka Locker does not use Celery salt for its organic processing.

What ingredients are used for organic curing?

Bacon and hams are cured with the following certified organic ingredients. Brown Sugar, Sea Salt, Pepper, Cumin, Sage, Cane Juice.

How Much room do I need in My Freezer?

We estimate for every 50 pounds of meat you will need one large cooler to carry it home. So with half hog you'll need 2 large coolers and a whole hog you'll need 4 large coolers.  In your freezer you'll need one cubic foot for every 30 pounds. So a half hog would need about 3-4 cubic feet.

Can I order 1/4 of a hog?

No. Sorry. Its too little meat, about 40-50 pounds, for us to deal with in this manner. So our hogs are only sold by the half the whole or in our farm store by the piece. If you don't need that much just put the half hog in your name and let a friend pay you for their share

Can I have my whole hog made into just bacon?

No you cannot. There is only so much bacon per whole hog, on average about 16 pounds . The rest of the cuts will come out like this (Approximately)
     25 pounds of pork chops
     8 pounds spare ribs
     8 pounds ham roast
     12 pounds bones
     23 pounds of sausage
     18 pounds of fat
     20 pounds of shoulder roast
     30 pounds fresh ham

 Remember, some hogs have more fat than others. While others never watch TV and take frequent walks around the pasture.

To Summarize the cuts and their locations I've attached this wonderful chart from Walter Jeffries at
Sugar Mountain Farm. I am not aware of any one other pig farmer who has done more to educate and promote pastured pork than he has. Please drop by his blog, you'll be very glad you did, and tell him I sent you. He knows me. I'm his number one stalker, I mean commenter.

                  Click on photo above for full size view

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Back Beauty

Below average cold and snow have befallen South Pork Ranch and yet our animals are unfazed. They have shelter. Usually three sided barns, hutches and run-ins. Each and every animal on our farm be it chickens, ducks, horses, donkey, cow or pig can be "indoors" whenever they like.

But usually what they like is outside. Case in point; Ennis the horse. She has the not one but TWO shelters she can lounge within. One is three side with the south side open to the best sun shine. The other smaller stall is right next to that one and has 4 sides with a small open doorway for coming and going.

It is rare for me to find either her or her annoying little pasture mate Doolin the donkey, in either of these abodes. Like last night, with the snow coming down so wonderfully, I had to call them in from the furthest part of their pasture, to eat dinner.

You can see by her back that Ennis has been outside for some time. I was always told that houses which have unmelted snow on the roof are those that are best insulated. If so it is apparent that Ennis must not be losing much heat and is probably warm and comfy inside. Her hair coat is thick this year, a sign of tons of snow?

Nosey Equine
I love watching her lately. Using any excuse to run it seems. She loves this cool (cool?!?!) weather of about 10 degrees and kicks up her heels at the dog, the donkey, the snowflakes. Oh how joyful a creature she is, how delighted she is in just being alive, having lots of run to run and the occasionally pile of dead grass to eat.

If only I could be so easily satisfied.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Saponification Sunday. Whampoo You

Like many woman I went through the whole, the more hair products the better phase. Growing up with cheap shampoo that would be watered down repeatedly to get all the kids hairs done, one of the first things I did as an adult is buy the expensive stuff. Then I graduated to expensive conditioners, hot oil treatments, colorants, hair spray, hair gel, hair cement.

Status can be measured in a variety of superficial ways, the number of hair products being just one.

Three years ago, when a series of events converged; I retired from nursing (less money) I started making my own soap (more available oils) I grew older (and lazier) I began to experiment with shampoo bars.

Basically just a body soap, hand crafted of course, that you use on your hair, there are mixed reviews on its effectiveness. I have completely given up all shampoos and other hair products using only one specially formulated bar I call my WHAMPOO Bar. In my delusional head I imagine my all natural hair looks like this:

It's easy for me to preach about its wonderful results because as my mind has grown more simple over the last three years so has my hair coif. I have no boss to please, no budget meetings to attend, no professional look to obtain. I generally just wash it, air dry it and then pile it on top of my head except for very important events such as a Selfie.

Natural colors of grey, some brunette, more grey,
some white and a big splash of grey

In the summer my WHAMPOO washed hair is a strange concoction of colors. The shades depend on the amount of sun I get. Using the bar is different from liquid commercial shampoo in that it feels quite coarse after washing and comb out can be a little slower. But it dries very full and easy to manage without any additional products.

In the winter my hair darkens and I can easily go three days without washing meaning one bar of WHAMPOO will last me all season. Shaggy is as shaggy does.

I stopped coloring my hair 8 years ago and have it trimmed only every 6 months. Therefore a simple shampoo bar works just grand for me. I make mine from Coconut, Olive. Avocado, Castor and Red Palm oils plus Shea butter. I scent it with orange, grapefruit, lemongrass essential oils with smaller amounts of peppermint EO for improved scalp circulation and Rosemary EO for dandruff control. If I really feel like it's getting too dry I'll warm up some plain Avocado, Olive or Sunflower oil, rub it in all over my scalp. Cover with a towel for 30 mins and wash out with my WHAMPOO bar of course.

My sunflower. Sunflower oil from Rosenquist Farm, Dwight.

It works well for me because as I said, my public appearance are limited. I don't need any deep swoops, banana curls or straight up spikes to keep me in business. I have asked my family though to please be kind enough to let me know when the long gray hair look is not working for me.  I've given them this photo as a reference point

So tell me. Do you make/use shampoo bars?
Care to share your recipe, thoughts and opinions?
Many thanks.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Peeping Donna

I love it when my blog  peeps will take a photo of their inside digs. Why? Cause I'm a big snoop that's why. I love to see these little glances into their lives. Like when John in Wales shows us his dogs on the couch or Tom shows off his new electronic light sticks or Terri shows a snippet of her busy homeschooling table or Walter lest me peek into his very tiny 252 sq foot cabin (for FIVE PEOPLE!)

Yeah, I love all that. So here for you today is a peek into my chaotic life. Please welcome...tummy roll please....The Midlife Farmwife's Desk (s)!!

No, I did not add a single thing as a "prop" this really is my desk as it generally looks. It accurately reflects the state of my head, dazed and bemused. But keep in mind...I run a business, I'm writing a novel, I have a blog to maintain (millions count on me) I have chronic start- one- project- before -finishing -another -syndrome and the sun was in my eyes.

So go ahead, analyze me. I know I would if I was looking at your desk. I would be ruthless. For example if it were too neat I'd say you had control issues. If it were covered with snack cakes and pop cans, I'd say you had food issues.

Yes, I know. I should've been a psychiatrist I'm so brilliant. But as messy as it looks there is a 50/50 chance that if I need something I can find it.  Better odds than at the horse races.

So now its your turn. Have at it. What does my desk say about me? But remember...I know where at least 3 or 4 of you live.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Rudolph is Real

Our 9 year old GK has figured out Santa just may be fictitious. I have not admitted such but she is on her own quest for truth. Her 6 year old brother knows for certain that Santa is real and fortunately the older GK is committed to protecting him and covers his ears when anyone might be letting the fat man  of the red velvet bag.

For a girl who is generally irritated by her brother 99% of the time, this endearing side of her is a trait we are encouraging.


Perhaps it is because in her own head she is not quite ready to give up the dream and keeping it alive for her brother is her excuse to dapple in fantasy. Thus the same reason I spent 15 minutes last night jamming a teddy bear into one of the GK's old Christmas sweaters, a penguin on a sled across the top.

I too can't quite give up that which I know is false. And so each year I still put a few gifts under the tree that say "From Santa" wrapped in paper that does not match any of the other wrappings.

Life is too full of harsh realities as it is.

This past weekend we took the kids to the Reindeer park to further prove Santa was real as were his little slave critters. Reindeer running around a very Midwestern Farm sans any snow on a very warm day, does seem odd but we paid our $4 for one tiny cookie and fed the spoiled critters.


Each year I am amazed that a child does not lose an eye to one of those antler clad fellows but so far so good. The beasts seem to have a good idea of where their head horns end, moving them about very gracefully. We are told they are very sensitive to touch so maybe that is why they tend to keep their antlers in the clear...relatively speaking.

This one obviously saw me as a potential mate
But Reindeer Kisses? Not really my thing.

After petting the noses of Santa's own we paid a horrific price to tramp through the grounds and cut down our own tree. In years past I always choose as Keith is happy as long as it not White House Sized but lately Allana has decided that her opinion is what matters. She and I often flip coins to see who gets their way or I wrestle her for the win, while our gentle men folk just wait to be told which one to carry home.

Keith cuts while Allana gives directions.
She comes from along line of direction givers

Wesley leads, Keith takes middle, Allana brings up the rear.
Where am I? Taking the all important photo of course.
It's generally how I get out of most work.

30 minutes later after checking out all the possibilities, we agreed on a fine but too short for me tree. Afterwards it was hot chocolate and marsh mellows followed by a trip into the overpriced gift shop. Each GK was given a limit for purchase of some Christmas gifts for others and they did a fine shop of value shopping. Even the 6 year old knows that $20 for a mass produced paper 6 inch angel from Taiwan is ridiculous and announced "You can make that can't you Yaya?"

Yes, I can. It will look like a wicked angel of darkness, cause I'll create it from used coffee filters but yeah I can make one.

Enjoy the season everyone. It only comes once a year.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Raw Milk Monday/Tuesday...we've been Fired!

I always said...IDPH could pull this whole thing out from under us at any time.
I hate it when I'm right.

On Nov. 21 Molly Lamb and Steve Divencenzo of the Illinois Department of Public Health disbanded the Dairy Work Group telling us our input was no longer needed.

In other words, we've been fired!

At our last meeting on November 4th, the members of the Dairy Work Group managed to identify areas of agreement and disagreement as well as drafting what we thought were reasonable rules for the Tier 1 portion of a proposed two tier raw milk dairy program in Illinois. The main area os disagreement under Tier 1? Most of us at the table and I do mean a MAJORITY as I asked for hands to be raised, felt that voluntary registration for Tier 1 would be best.

The very small minority at the table wanted Mandatory registration and permit with required inspections.

We agreed when we left that day to continue communications via email.

We DID NOT discuss any requirements for Tier 2, as we had said many many times we would not move forward until Tier 1 rules were agreed. At no time during the meeting did Molly or Steve tell us that it was our last meeting.

Because they prefer to do things behind the farmers/consumers back, that's why. Open and direct communication, transparency, is not within their skillset.

So that brings us to Molly's email of Nov. 21 telling us Ba Bye and thanks for your input but we don't intend to use any of it. OK, that's not exactly true. We did realize some gains. They (so far) have left out the limit on how much milk we can sell and they have eliminated the prohibition on advertising.

Very generous of them don't you think since both of those rules would not likely have made it past their legal department anyway. Limiting the amount of milk sold would get them in hot water everywhere and telling us we cannot advertise when all other products a farmer produces can be advertised? They also knew with Facebook, web sites, Twitter, they was NO WAY they could ever monitor the advertising done, let alone enforce it.

Molly gave us just until yesterday, Dec. 2 to get our final comments (like I will ever be done commenting!) on the proposed rules that we the raw milk farmers and consumers did not agree to, back to her and or Steve Divencenzo.  Yes, 6 business days to respond.

But, we did of course, respond. My email was detailed and repeated what we in the group had been saying for over 9 months. It is copied and reprinted for you at the end of this post. It is my hope that Molly will do the honorable and professional thing and attach my comments as well as all the other comments sent to her by our work group members, to the packet she gives to the Food Safety Advisory Committee  which meets TODAY. .

From there it will go to their  other department offices (Office of Director, Legal, Office of Health Protection, Communicable Disease Section, and Division of Food, Drugs and Dairies) to draft the rulemaking for the sale and distribution of raw milk in Illinois.  That draft will be sent to Legal for approval through the Director to the Governor’s Office.  The goal remains to place the rulemaking on the March 2014 State Board of Health agenda for approval to go to the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules (which will include two 45-day public comment periods). 

Obviously all the work we've done the last few months is just the beginning. We have so much more to do which I'll be asking your help with very soon. Please follow this link to see the to see the excellent coverage done by Tom Kocal of The Prairie Advocate News. No one investigative reporter has covered this raw milk issue in Illinois with the detailed, well researched facts the way he has.

The following is my response to the Illinois Department of Public Health regarding the proposed rules being sent up the channels after Molly ended our Dairy Work Group

Dear Molly, Steve , members of the Food Safety Advisory Committee, members of the legal department of The Illinois Department of Public Health as well as members of The Illinois State Board of Health,
                As per Molly Lambs email request of November 21, and as a member of the Dairy Work Group since February 2013, I have compiled my comments related to the draft summary of comprehensive recommendations (which will then serve as a framework to draft the rulemaking for raw milk sales in Illinois.)  None of my comments are new and were stated many times at several of the past Dairy Work Group Meetings.
Please take the time to read and seriously consider each of my concerns keeping in mind these crucial points of fact:
1.       Since 1999 there has not been a single outbreak in which it was verified that the illness was caused by an Illinois Raw Milk Producer* The CDC itself reports From 1998 through 2011, there were 148 outbreaks due to consumption of raw milk or raw milk products that were reported to them.  This means approximately 11 outbreaks per year in all 50 states combined. The Dairy Work Group only briefly evaluated Raw Milk related illnesses in Illinois but statistics have proven the numbers to be very low.
2.       For over 30 years small farmers in Illinois have been safely and successfully producing and selling raw milk under the “policies” of the Illinois Department of Public Health, in the absence of any enforceable rules, thus begging the question ‘why are extensive, costly and difficult to enforce rules being drafted now?’
3.       If these proposed rules are passed as currently written, many  small farmers will be forced out of business and the barn doors of a thriving “meet your famer, buy local” rural trade will close forever.  Meeting the Grade A requirements alone will cost farmers who have never been permitted before, thousands and thousands of dollars which cannot be easily recouped with just a few cows producing raw milk for sale.
4.       In addition, the small farmers who decide to stay in business will feel forced to produce “underground” and less ethical producers will thrive recognizing the income which can be made illegally. Prohibition in the 1920’s was a huge government controlled failure. Raw milk will not disappear but will instead flow rapidly across state lines from possibly unscrupulous dealers in the back of trucks and cars, the sellers concerned more with making cash than with the distribution of a healthy, wholesome, natural product.
5.       Finally, the Dairy Work Group was disbanded and told their services were not needed BEFORE there was any discussion by the farmers and consumers regarding what Level 2 might look like. We felt strongly agreement had to be in place under Level 1 before proceeding to Level 2. That request was ignored.
I therefore am respectfully requesting all of those in our Illinois Department of Public Health who will be involved in this decision making regarding raw milk sales, to closely review my concerns outlined below in the table. I can be reached by email opies99@gmail.com or by phone 815-419-5692
Thank you
Donna OShaughnessy
South Pork Ranch  Chatsworth, Illinois
 *This statistic comes from  Ted Beals, MS, MD, a physician and board certified pathologist, who served on the faculty of University of Michigan Medical School. He is now retired after 31 years of clinical and administrative service in the Veterans Health Administration. A pathologist with personal interest in dairy testing and safety of milk, he has been presenting testimony on dairy safety in North America for the last several years. 
 Summary of Concern regarding Recommendations from
Dairy Regulatory and Communicable Disease Representatives

Proposed rule  
Proposed Rule Language
Reason for Concern
Suggested Action
Mandatory Permit under both levels
Required for those with more than 1 cow. What about farms with 2-3 cows?
Make registration VOLUNTARY. Farmers will seek as source of pride.
#3 a
Inspection Standards
Extensive standards for farmer with just 2 cows.
Make registration Voluntary. Keep inspection simple.
# 3 b
TB and Brucellosis Free
Illinois is already free of these. Who pays for testing?
Eliminate requirement
# 3 c
Lab testing
Extensive testing for farmer with two cows Who will pay? What are the minimum levels? What is action for those above minimums?
Eliminate requirement. Let farmer assume responsibility if her chooses. Many already do.
#3 d
Not needed. State over budget now. Who will teach inspectors?
Make permit voluntary. Those who chose to be permitted can be listed on IDPH website as marketing tool for farmer.
#3 e
Herd Share, buyers club and Consumer Supported Agriculture agreements prohibited
State has no right to eliminate private agreement between consumer and farmer. State of Illinois , Governor and Lt. Governor already widely promote CSA’s verbally and in Grant Awards
Eliminate wordage.
#3 f
Advertising is legal
IDPH cannot enforce this anyway. Social Media widely used by farmers
Eliminate wordage
#3  j
Consumer product label info , date of collection, use by date, etc..
Time consuming for farmer. Not needed as milk not being sold in stores. Not required of other fresh products sold by farmer from farm
Eliminate requirement
# 3 l
Farmer education Course
Who will teach? How qualified? At what cost?
Eliminate requirement
# 3 m
Submission of total gallons sold
Why? For what Reason? Not required of farmers who sell produce at farmers markets
Eliminate Requirement
#3 n
Inspection in response to complaint…suspension of sales until testing completed
Any complaint? Consumer complains because cows fed only hay no grain?  Who reimburses farmer for lost revenue if test are negative. ?
Eliminate requirement or make it more illness specific.
#3 o
Consumer complaint shall be reported to department
Any complaint? Cost of milk too high? Who tracks? Who follows up?
Eliminate requirement or make it illness complaint specific
#3 p
Procedure for recalling product.
Recall? This milk is not in stores! Farmer already has means of notifying customers.
Reword. “Farmer demonstrates ability to notify customer …”
#3 q
One cow farm exempt
What if large family and farmer owns two cows? Even farm with 6 cows would have difficult time generating enough income to validate the expenses needed to meet these requirements as written
Do not limit number of animals. Make registration and following permit voluntary.
#3 r
Allowable pet consumption
Farmer does not need states permission to feed milk to pets
#3 s
No re-sale or re-distribution
What about informal milk clubs where individuals take turns picking up milk for others? These are private agreements
Eliminate “re-distribution” wordage
#3 t
Consumers may make milk products …from raw milk…but shall not sell or distribute these products.
What if I make yogurt and give to my friends for Christmas? Exemptions exist for many other farm produce such as poultry, organic products, eggs.
Provide exemption (with application to state like with poultry) such as “farmer may produce and sell up to 500 containers of yogurt per month”
#4 d
Only fluid, raw milk shall be distributed
See above comments for exemptions
See above comments but since Level 2 requires more testing etc… limits for butter, cheese yogurt should be higher.
Recommendations From Dairy Industry or Associations Level 1 and 2
Inspection, sanitation, equipment, quality standards and labels in accordance with the FDA Pasteurized Milk Ordinance
The original “goal” of our group as per Mollys repeated statements were to make the standards for small raw milk farmers “simple” and easy to meet. The Grade A PMO is currently 9 pages long and comprised of 19 detailed statutes which for the small farmer (two cows or more?!?!) are neither cost effective or needed let alone “simple”
Eliminate the requirement for Level 1 farms