Saturday, May 31, 2014

Splitting Hairs...I mean Hives.

This is our resident Bee Charmer, Allana Marie age 9.

You know its her and not an imposter by the XS (extra small) stamp on her glove.
Like most children she was a bit afraid of the buzzing insects and so instead of teaching her to RUN as I've seen adults do when a child is approached by a bee we did the opposite...encouraged her to get right in the middle of them, with the proper outfit of course.
This is her second summer of helping her papa with bee responsibilities. The other day they checked on the hive on our farm and found plenty of bees and honey, enough to support another hive so they "split" this one into two.No saws required.
First step, of course is gearing up in proper attire then we smoke a little grass. 
FOR THE BEES!   It calms them. Bees are funny, seems just the wind blowing the wrong way can agitate them.
I can relate.
Then off with their heads. Removing the tops of the hives is the only way to really see what's been going on lately. Not unlike snooping in your teenage child's dresser drawers. 
Oh Look ! Lots of bees and plenty of honey. as evidenced by the burr comb they built.
 More than enough to split the one hive into two hives.
Looks like raw honey will once again be in our farm store in just a couple weeks.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Udderly Clean



As threatened, I am posting every day for 30 days as part of my all star Blogiversary Celebration!
Today we go underneath it all.

Public health as well as other government officials who believe it is their job to tell you what to eat and drink, insist the cows udder is a dirty filthy mass of teaming bacteria, a cesspool of death. This all milk must be pasteurized to remove the massive debri. The girls and I beg to differ.

A cows udder is not naturally dirty unless they are kept in a dirty and/or crowded environment. As long as they have clean stalls to rest in, (if they choose to go in the barn) and green pastures to roam in and allowed to exhibit their natural behavior...grazing...the bovine udder is a thing of great beauty.


To prove this I walked out the other day into the pasture of the moment and without giving the Raw Milk Herd of South Pork Ranch any warning at all, (no phone calls to tip them off, no warning letters to clean up their act, no hidden basins of warm soapy water for a quick dip) I just started taking pictures. As you can see, their udders passed the test.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

I am 5

Yes, That's me. I am five in blog years and a genuswine blog hog. (I just made my sister and my daughter-in-law hurl with that "genuswine" comment. Word purists those two.) Anyway...

I started spewing forth my opinion, never humble, in May of 2009. If interested you can see that first diatribe Here.

My very first comment was made by The Yeoman Farmer who is still an active blogger himself. He said in his comment to me "One of the all time great introductory comments in a blog!"

So there you have it. It is all Yeomans fault. Perhaps if he had told me something like "Don't ever give up your day job." or "You call this blogging? I'll show you blogging" My enthusiasm would've been quelled and all of you might have been spared.

But no. Yeoman lit the fire that is my blog. To reward him, I have a small gift package from our farm store which he will receive ONLY if he makes a comment on this 5 year anniversary blog. And Yeoman, if you email me at with your mailing address that package may actually arrive.

To reward the rest of my followers I will blog every day for the next 30 days AND I will blog about something farm related each day which I have never blogged about before. For example I've talked about piglet castration (one your favorite posts, I know) but I don't believe I've ever spoken about piglet hernias. And you thought The Midlife Farmwife just couldn't get any better didn't you?

One final request. The news all over the Internet is that blog comments are dead. Prove them wrong will ya? Make a brief comment for my blogiversary , right now before we both forget, and I promise if I get at least 10 comments I will never blog about piglet castration ever again.

Cross my gonads and hope to die.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pretty Boy Floyds AKA The Peacocks


 They are flashy and self centered.
Arrogant and self-promoting.
Competitive and well, a bit promiscuous.

They are...The South Pork Ranch Peacocks.

Please note I do not include the females of this species. Those sweet gentile creatures spend their days basically just looking dazed and confused, searching out fresh garter snakes and mice  to swallow and debating over whether or not they need to tend to their young for two whole days in a row.

When it comes to mothering abilities it's a wonder any of them make it to adulthood. Which might explain why we started with 4 peafowl over 10 years ago and now are only up to 12 as compared to our single breeding hog we started with about the same time and since then hundreds of piglets have made it to the bacon factory.

But still, even with their uppity ways, we do enjoy the male birds especially this time of year when they go all out for the Senior Prom.

Our colored peacocks are amazing with their deep blues, greens and purples even though they will raise their flag to anything with a feather be it another peafowl, a duck, a chicken or myself walking around with a handful of feathers.

Obviously they would date anything with a beak...or lips. Vegas Girls I like to call them, behind their backs of course as these guys have no sense of humor whatsoever.

Our white peacocks "evolved" out of the original 4 colored peafowl Keith brought home as a barter for something.  Was this lack of color a genetic pass faux pas? Or perhaps one of them really did manage to seduce one of our Muscovy ducks. Either way I have to say I prefer the white peacocks.

They are just so darn...what is the word I am looking for? Oh yeah, white. They are so darn white. In the early evening,  sort of as the sun is almost down but not quite, just as dusk hints about its arrival those white screechers (and boy do peacocks SCREEECH) will fly just about one foot above the ground. Very spector like, swooping across the grass, tails floating on the breeze behind them.


Only Liberace put on a better show than these lace covered fellows. Of course as soon as you get anywhere near them they show you their better half and if they sense you are too close and might actually TOUCH then they will drop tail and flee.


In full Hollywood Style.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Saponification Sunday

No, I have not stopped dilly dallying in the amazing world of soap but I have gotten far behind in production. But after being gently encouraged by the masses  "Hey, you slug, make some soap will ya?"  I have returned to the big pots of Babassu, Castor and Olive and created more bars for those lather loving fools.

Colored with Nettle Leaf Powder, Scented with Patchouli

High tech and extremely difficult to make sculptured tops,
one needs a spoon.

I could make soap all day (and write all night and ride horses at dawn) if I independently wealthy but alas it is the pig fat and beef steaks that bring in the most cash and so soaping takes the seat in the way back of the auditorium sometimes.

There are many thousands and thousands of soap makers in the US and it is now rare not to walk into a small craft , specialty or even antique store and not see someone else's homemade soap. Some of it is very nice as can be told by scent, texture and list of ingredients while others are pure crap, with labels being quite vague.

I myself did the wholesale thing for about a year and it was a thrill to see the soap you made for sale in small boutiques but unless you choose to kick out many hundreds of bars per week, it's hard to get a good profit from selling wholesale. Plus I found myself getting stressed about meeting the demand in the midst of other demands I so love placing upon my auto-victimized self.

So I nixed the plans of an online store and decided to sell my soaps in only one other store  (Thank You Miss Effie In Donahue, Iowa) beside our own farm store or via email requests. ( This is working out swell. I now have about 20 regular email customers who just reorder as they run low and I sell to about a hundred regular farm store customers. All have learned I make my soap up as ordered and it will take a few weeks to get their suds.

If I run out in the farm store, folks wait until I make more. I restock that shelf and watch the soaps disappear in about a weeks time. It's a fairly lazy way to make soap and yet very rewarding and I never have to worry about watching large amounts of soap stock (not too mention cash tied up in base oils and essential oils (for scents and health properties) just wasting their time sitting around on a drying rack in my house.

I also have the luxury to be as creative as I like, to mix and match to experiment, to create, to fail. And the fails are not even a big deal because some of the ugliest soap makes the most effective laundry soap.

It's all good.

Friday, May 23, 2014

South Pork Ranch...An Overview

Been getting several emails lately asking about what it is we do here. So to keep the masses happy.

Our Farm. From left is the house, the machine shed and our livestock barn.

Our Farm

Located in Central Illinois in Livingston County in charming Chatsworth, Illinois USA, we are surrounded by fields and pastures. We are certified organic by MOSA (our 5th year) and we follow all the organic standards published by the National Organic Program.  The following products are certified organic on our farm: all the land including the 10 acres we own and the 40 acres we rent, our dairy herd, our hog herd and our beef. We either grow our own feed or purchase it from another certified organic farmer.

Our Farm Store

It is located here on our property at 32796 E 750 N Rd. Chatsworth, Illinois. We are south of Chicago 2 hours, north east of Bloomington 1 hour and north of Champaign 1 hour. You can find directions and map to our farm HERE. We are open 10 am until 6pm every day except Sunday when we are closed to the public. Our store generally has the following in it: eggs, flour, corn meal, handmade soaps (by moi) and laundry soap plus lip balms, healing salves, teas, (6 flavors) jams and jellies, pasture raised chicken, organic beef and pork. We only take cash and checks. No plastic. No debit cards.

Our Farm Store

Handcrafted Soaps in the Farm Store

Inside the Farm Store

Raw Milk

We sell raw milk (never pasteurized or homogenized) direct to the consumer. Our raw milk comes from 100% grass fed cows, they NEVER get grain, and is sold for $7 a gallon. You must contact us for your first appointment at 815-419-5692. You can bring your own container, or we can sell you an empty half gallon canning jar for $3. Our small herd of 12, is very crossbred, extremely healthy, calm and friendly and out on pasture a minimum of 120 days each year. Milk is immediately cooled in a large stainless steel tank after the girls are milked. Calves are born year round.

Dairy Cows lounging about.

Red Wattle Hogs

We raise the rare Red Wattle heritage hog which used to be on the critically endangered list of the The Livestock Conservancy but due to small farmers like us who continue to expand their Red Wattle herds, the breed is now only "threatened." Our RW boars Mad Max and Wally share 7 RW sows between them with more sows to be added this summer. On average we have 50 RW's (including piglets) on the farm at any one time. You will see our hogs all over the farm in breeding groups, within large farrowing yards, in the barn as little ones are trained to electric fence and of course out on God's green earth as animals should be. We also sell feeder hogs (raise your own meat) for $130 each and Registerable Breeding Hogs (the best of the best) for $325 each. Both are in limited supply and we have waiting lists. Call us at 815-419-5692 or email us at for more information.

Red Wattle mama with newborns

Mad Max our Gentle Giant Red Wattle Boar

Pork Products

We sell our pork direct to the consumer only. It can be purchased by the half or whole carcass for $4.00 pound hanging weight plus processing. We are now taking orders for September 2014 processing. We also sell it by the piece (bacon, chops, sausage, ribs etc...) in our farm store. We will not have more pork in the store until end of June, but after that will have supplies all summer.  For a complete list of prices by the piece , please see our WEBSITE.


All our beef is 100% grass fed and is available by the quarter, half or whole. Due to livestock losses this past (very harsh) winter our beef supply is sold out until June 2015. Please call in January 2015 for information, or to be placed on the waiting list. We are also sold out of all beef in our farm store until September 2014. For a complete list of beef by the carcass or piece prices please see our WEBSITE. Even the farmers here at South Pork Ranch are without beef and seeking other farmers for our own personal freezer restocking. (No grocery store beef for us!)


Yes, we can give your group a tour of our farm. They are informal and last approximately 45 minutes but you must call for an appointment first. There is no charge but we will happily accept donations. Other farm animals you will see in addition to our cows, calves, hogs and piglets are: ducks, peacocks, chickens, turkeys, a horse, large livestock dogs, cats, and kittens. Right now we also have many ducklings and baby chicks roaming the farm. We do not have public restrooms and all children under 18 must be accompanied by adults. Please wear old clothes and shoes.

Our Farm Fresh eggs from Free Range Chickens

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Soft Season

O'Shaughnessy Chapel within Kilmacduagh Castle, Gort

 The last few days have been cool and rainy with the occasional  odd warm day thrown in for confusion. The grass is growing wildly but the garden is too wet to work in. Things are quite "soft" here in Central Illinois which makes me miss Ireland all the way down to my mud encrusted Wellies.   Recently a few folks I know including High School buddy Ann and fellow farmer Katie have been asking for tips about where to go as they were traveling to Eire this month.

Telling them best things to see and do and BUY made my heart ache greater as I shared  favorite digs like O'Loclainn's Irish Whiskey Bar in Ballyvaughan, County Clare. Oh how my arse wishes it was once again planted on the red velvet covered bench in the way back of the wee pub by the fire surrounded by my traveling nurse buddies, a glass of Red Breast in our Betadine stained mitts.

I usually visit Ireland, home of my Great Grandfather George J. O'Shaughnessy in the early spring of February-March which is much like April- May here. All the tulips, daffodils and Primroses are up and many of the shoppe doors are open wide during the day. The balmy breeze (HA!) coming up and over the Cliffs of Moher slap me in the kisser and make me quite be bright enough not to climb the fence for a closer look. (My husband sometimes reads my blog so I have to say that. If he knew how close I really get to the edge of the cliffs, he'd hide my passport...again.)

But the biggest reason I visit in the early spring... is the lack or tourists.

Yes, I understand that technically I am one of those but it is easy to pretend I am a local (as long as I don't open my crass American mouth) when I visit during the off season. Rather than do the traditional hotel or B & B thing I will rent an older cottage through Shamrock Cottages and spend my days getting to know the area, the shoppes very well and filling my evenings with writing, or reading or tele watching, or wine drinking or all three or was that four? That African wine I purchase at Keogh's Supermarket gets me every time.

My favorite cottage, to rent is centuries old, completely isolated in the midst of a sheep pasture, has no central heating, requires you to keep the fire burning yourself, has a tiny shower with poor water pressure and decade old furniture.

It is perfect.

But oh so tragically, I won't be back on the mushy soft sod until summer of 2015 when I will be studying abroad at The National University of Ireland, Galway. In the meantime I must console myself with online products to get me over the hump.

In years past when I would visit, starting in 1999, one had to stuff ones suitcase with one than one loaf of brown bread (and digestives and Irish Tea not that ridiculous Lipton stuff Americans drink) if one was to arrive back in the states and into ones siblings homes. Now one can order online and get the real Irish stuff mailed directly.

Some new sites I've discovered for such goodies are Viking, where If you live in the UK you can get Butlers Chocolate (make my taste buds sing!) plus McVities shortbread AND a big box of Barry's Tea. You can also  order many of the office supplies you need and discovered their ink for my HP printer is cheaper than our local Walmart. The Viking Site site is easy to navigate. I am so loving their 99p section where you can order "Pink Gauntlets" which would be perfect for soap making! They do not yet ship to the US but maybe if I ask nicely...

All this talk of food sent me off in a carnivorous direction when I realized for the hundredth time how much I detest Salmon available here in the Midwest. All that is available in the restaurants or grocery stores is frozen and rubbery. Even drenched in real butter it is still, rubber drenched in butter. I blame Kinvara Salmon for my uppity taste in fresh Atlantic Ocean fish.

I stayed in Kinvara, just south of Galway back in 2006. There the salmon was readily available in all the stores and pubs and I ate it three, no maybe eighteen times a day. What can I say? Everyone knows that the "O" in O'Shaughnessy stands for "Obsessive" I had salmon and eggs, salmon and salad, salmon and purdies, salmon dipped in Butlers Chocolate. (Yeah, you think I'm kidding)  Sadly Kinvarra Salmon's on-line store is out of commission but no worries, I'll just leave for my summer 2015 study abroad session a bit earlier.

Tomorrow perhaps.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Officially a Senior.


I remember my 5th birthday well. Chicago 1964, a big new red trike, some Golden Books and a cake. I was happy.

I remember my 16th birthday well. Friends down the road (Thank you Becker Family) threw me a surprise party in their parents camper. We could not have  party at my house as my folks had kicked me out (they had good reason) and I was living in my car.  Couldn't do it inside the Becker house either.  We had broken more than one house rule there as well. But still...
I was happy.

I remember my 30th birthday well. Friend Jay rented a limo (totally Jay's style) and we toured all the questionable establishments in all the questionable areas of Chicago.
I was happy.

I remember my 50th birthday well. Daughter Raven threw me a huge surprise party complete with old friends, new friends, an Irish Band, food music and drink. To this day I have not yet looked at the pictures taken that night. Too afraid. But I know...
I was happy.     Maybe too happy.

Yesterday was the big 55. Keith and I were  treated to lunch by my friend Gene, who I have known for half a century (gasp) and his gal Carol. Then I was brought back to The Poor Farm where I was surprised to find my kids and all my sisters doing even more clean up duty. Bags and bags of garbage were removed (it never ends) new paths were cut thorough areas for future secret gardens and the endless littering of old tires were neatly placed in one zone.
I was happy.

Today, our four kids and GK's are coming for dinner.
I AM so happy.

Bring on the senior discounts !

Friday, May 16, 2014

Farrowing Frenzy

Mad Max and his new gal pal
After a rough winter and the loss of two Red Wattle litters due to the extreme cold we have ended up with a shortage of available feeder hogs for sale. This means less pork available in our farm store to sell by the piece to our regular customers, less carcass meat available for those who like to buy in bulk (buy a whole hog and have it cut up the way you want) and many less breeder hogs to sell.

Breeder hogs are the best of the best. They must come from two registered Red Wattle hogs and they must meat specific breeding criteria set by the Red Wattle Hog Association; nice ears, sturdy wattles, good confirmation, 12 or more well placed teats etc.

It's a bit disheartening to realize even I personally could not meet the standards of a Pig Association.

But our two recent gilt (unbred female hog) purchases, Gidget and Gizmo, do. We purchased them a few months ago from a farm up north and recently placed them in with our gentlest boar Mad Max.

Max is a brute size wise but his manner is impeccable. Friendly without being crass, talkative without dominating the conversation, and more than willing to share his sleeping quarters. Although he is a deep brown/black color now he was a beautiful copper red as a piglet.

Paired with the Gidget/Gizmo sisters we are expecting a large group of piggies from the threesome, but not for another 3 months yet. Gestation for these hogs is 3 months 3 weeks give or take 3 days...we generally count to four months on the calender and then place them in private farrowing houses about two weeks before that.

In the meantime those sows (hogs that have given birth before) that lost litters this winter were re bred and our showing signs of impending litters. You know, asking for extra ice cream after meals and furniture rearrangement. We are expecting four litters in the next month.

In the meantime, those litters that did survive over the winter are now reaching market size. The first week of June, 6 fat pigs will go to Bittners Eureka Locker, our favorite "chop shop" All have been pre-sold and 2 of them will go back into our Farm Store Freezers.  Finally, even we the lowly pig farmer will have sausage again!

I'm heating up the cast iron skillet as we speak.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Privy Party at The Poor Farm

My Latrine Lads
From left, sons Kyle and Jason, husband Keith and son Colton

Mother's Day is grand. Over the years I have given and been given many an aromatic item. Perfume, flowers, bubble bath, candy (nothing smells as lovely as rich dark chocolate unless it is the brisk sea tripping the skin off your cheeks on The Cliffs of Moher) to name a few.

But the aroma of fresh, rich DIRT being shoveled out of a deep dark hole by the four grown men in your that is a lovely Mother's Day aroma.

Yes, indeed.

Add caption

While many a son might be tempted to merely take a mama out for lunch my three most willingly agreed to dig me a hole for our Poor Farm Privy. I know, I know, but seriously you cannot all be me, no matter how much you wish it.

You might recall that the elder son built us an outhouse for our new place this past Christmas. It has been hibernating at The Poor Farm until two days ago when after careful consideration of placement (downwind from the future house) drainage ( slight slope backwards) aroma control (in the shade) and asthetics (near a flowering fruit tree with the outhouse window facing east for the morning sun)  we commenced the digging of the hole.

Keep in mind we are latrine virgins. Yes, we've used a few over the years, most were bad, but we have never owned one outright. Seriously, no mortgage or lien on this little outhouse. And when you own something you take pride in it do you not?  Renting an outhouse just isn't the same. So therefore we did our research about outhouse hole size, location and construction.

Amazing really, the number of websites totally designated to this topic. There were indeed several steps involved in the process of securing a semi-permanent home for our new outdoor throne.

Measuring from the well to the new outhouse site

First: the location. Common sense tells you it should be AWAY from the house, ours is located over 160 feet away from our proposed new home site, and FAR AWAY from your well. Ours is over 200 foot from the current well. Pick a private spot but not so far away that if you must use it in the winter you have to rent a snowmobile. We also chose a spot about halfway across our property which will make it handy when you don't want to use the inside toilet or you have a yard full of company. We only plan one composting toilet inside the house so having two places on the property to "go" will be most convienent.

Second:  the hole. Four feet was the average depth suggested. Width varies on the size and construction of your outhouse. Our sons had great fun digging the first 12 inches. One would swing the pick ax to break up the soil while another would dig and another would direct. The ground was soft due to hevy rain the night before. Several pieces of old metal were uncovered.

The next 12 inches were a bit more difficult as the dirt becam more clay like, heavier and the sun heated up. But still they took turns and made progress.

In the 3rd foot of digging, fatigue set in as did thirst and increased sweat production. Also the clay soil mix evolved into thick heavy wet clay. If one of us had had a potters wheel (and skill) we could have made of new set of dishware.

In the 4th foot of digging despair set it. Would it ever be deep enough? Was someone messing with the tape measure because after digging for 30 minutes only another inch of cay had been removed. Could that be right?

Eventually the hole became so difficult to maneuver in that only one son, the youngest wiry one, could stand in the pit and comfortably use the shovel.

His brothers provided essential emotional support.

They also wheeled away heavy wheel barrow loads of clay. Please note: I myself did not lift one shovel full of dirt, not wanting to get in the way of my gift from my sons. I did of course give advice, lecture and warn (If you behead yourself with that pickax don't come crying to me!) and fetch cold drinks including homemade-fresh-squeezed-lemonade. As blog follower Carolyn alwasy says,I rock. Moving on...

Third: The inner hole frame. While my three sons slaved away and truly they worked HARD, their father constructed the inner frame of the  hole, a wooden box made of old pallets and recycled wood. Meant to keep the earth walls from caving in it required some extra shaving off of the holes dirt walls to make it fit.




 When they didn't work my four guys did what all men do when something won't fit; they used brute force. A couple of times. A couple of times more.

Finally the 30 by 40 inch box fit into the somewhat 30 by 40 inch hole.

Thank you sister Mary for the pallets!
Yes, the pallets will eventually rot, over several years but that wood will just add material to the newly formed "compost" pile. If the hole fills too quickly and we have to move the latrine we can just add some dirt over the old hole and plant a tree. For a $1000 donation to The Poor Farm I'll even put a tag on the tree with YOUR name on it :)

Fourth: Drag the outhouse over to it's new home. Try hard not to tip the outhouse over onto ones youngest son. A huge heavy chain attached to the bottom of building which had large skids underneath, made the process easy. Well, it was easy for me, the woman behind the lens.


Fifth: Cut a hole in the bottom of the outhouse. So glad we remembered that little step! We plan to install a small round metal barrel leading from the outhouse seat into the dug hole in order to decrease waste splashback, directing it right where we want it.

Sixth: Position the latrine over it's hole and back fill around the bottom of it to lesson small critter invasion. The clay dug from the hole will certainly harden and secure the outhouse in place.

Seventh: ENJOY!!!