Sunday, June 29, 2014

Quacker Oats We Are Not


We recently grew some.

And then we harvested it and stored it in a plastic bag.

A really big plastic bag.

No, not the oat kernel as that would be grain and we don't feed grain to our bovines. I'm speaking of oat forage or the actual oat plant before it goes to seed. The process of harvesting our oat plants and making oatlage was not quick and fast, and it involved several other people, as we do not intend to "feed the world" with our crop, only our own cows.

The process went something like this.

Oat plants after being cut, chopped and collected.

First we ran hogs on this strip of pasture for over a year, one Red Wattle boar and various girlfriends who came and went as they got themselves in the family way and needed to be shipped to appropriate maternity homes. (Just across the lane, we are in fact supportive of unwed pigs on this farm.)

Then that naturally fertilized plot was planted with organic oat seed and through the wonderful extra rains we got this spring, it grew. A man was hired to cut the oats and another to come back the next day to chop it. Another man was hired to collect the cut up hay from the wagons and bring it to yet another man in another tractor who would blow it into the big glad bag.

Which to my nursing brain looks just like a huge anemic large colon lounging in our yard.

But that's just me.

The end of the bag is rolled up and sealed by weighing it down with a couple tractor bucket loads of limestone. Then the magic begins. The moisture in the plants coupled with the internal heat and the naturally occurring bacteria causes fermentation of the oats. It can be fed to cattle within two weeks of harvest, and provides an additional energy source and variety for our 100% grass aka forage fed cattle. Cows really love the taste as it's not as dry as hay which can get a little dull in the winter.

If the bag is not disrupted the oatlage can keep up to two years but once opened you have to dig out 6-10 inches a day x 6 foot tall (or about 1000 pounds at a time) to keep ahead of the spoilage that can occur once the oatlage is exposed to oxygen. The warmer it is when you are feeding it the quicker it can spoil which is why we have no plans to dip into our own bag o'oats until October.

Special thanks to Duane Dassow and the Schaffer men for all their help!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Petting Zoo Part C

Lets wind up this petting zoo thing shall we?

In addition to the cow who was milked dry and the piglets who basically slept the whole afternoon in the back of the livestock trailer...we brought Banana the wonder turkey and her sidekick Rufus the rooster.



Who, even though both are extremely well mannered, were basically ignored. But then again who can really compete with the awesomeness of feeding a young calf...

the holding a plump yellow (or yellow and black) duckling...

Or best of all, cuddling a furry farm kitten.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Petting Zoo Part Deux

Puppette, a Class Act

So as I mentioned yesterday, we participated in the Chatsworth, Il Heritage Days last weekend (Thank you JD for asking us!)

Located in our towns park, under some great shade trees we brought a truckload of critters and GK's to help with the critters. I'll dedicate this post to Puppette, the cow.

Puppette is out of Puppy one of the gentlest bovines we have ever owned and named Puppy for the way she would follow Keith anywhere. Back in the days of 4-H involvement we would participate in June Dairy Days and we had brought Puppy to the same park. Circa 1999. She is no longer with us but her daughter Puppette, now 14 years young herself, not quite as big but just as calm, would've made her mama proud.

But before we could take her in public there was a hygiene issue. Manure happens you know. So Keith kept her in the milk parlor and gave her the spa treatment.


 Then we loaded up calves who went in with the piglets but someone forgot to leave Puppette in the milk parlor and sure enough, she headed back to pasture. And got dirty...again
So shower number two took place.

But we made it to the park on time and in fact before we had all the other animals unloaded the que for Puppette was growing. Not only did we let folks come up, say hello, watch the amazing cud chewing process up close and personal...we also let them milk Puppette by hand.

And they did. Over and over and over. Not just kids but several adults took a hand at it as well.

That's our oldest GK Nicole below, now 12 showing the others how its done. Ms. Puppette stood for over 3 hours having her nether regions, poked, prodded and pulled and kept her cool the entire time. She enjoyed more attention that any of our other farm animals, except maybe the ducks or was it the kittens? Which I'll post on next. All I know for certain is that Banana the turkey was virtually ignored. Go figure.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Petting zoo Prep


That's a picture of our barn up above. Just in case you're one of the lucky people in this world who wasn't born in one.

Last weekend we put together a small petting zoo for out towns Heritage Days, a celebration that happens every year in June. We promised to bring a peacock.

We pretty much brought everything BUT the peacock. Dang things are hard to catch.

Instead we brought piglets, calves, a cow, ducklings, kittens, a rooster and a really dumb but pleasant turkey. Gathering up the piglets for the event was one of the easier tasks. We bring them in from their outside pen attached to their inside barn stall. Then we block off the barn aisle exits with extra boards, set up the livestock trailer at the other end of the barn, and use a couple large plastic hog panels to convince the pigs which direction they should head.

Here they come!

Tomorrow I'll show you more pics of our petting zoo. You all come back now hear?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Farm Sale/Poor Farm Update





See that group of trees on the horizon?
That's The Poor Farm

Once again, The Poor Farm, a little closer view.
Seven acres of wild land surrounded by totally
controlled acres of corn on three sides.

It's taken us a couple years but we have finally figured out why our farm hasn't yet sold.

It costs money.

If we had just listed it for free back in 2012, just given it away,when we first decided to put it on the market I'm pretty sure someone else would be living here and we'd be on the streets, I mean living somewhere else. But no. We got greedy and asked for money.

Ah, if only we knew then what we know now.

But, once again there is great hope. Another couple has come forward in the last few weeks, a couple with years of livestock experience and enough children to be great future farm hands. A couple who is ready to work hard.

We really like this couple and we hope the bankers like them too. In fact we've liked most of the couples who has shown interest and if we had been millionaires or at least thousandaires we'd have financed them ourselves. But alas we will need money from our farm sale to put us up in the style we have grown accustomed.

Which at this point will include a house made of tires. More on that in an upcoming post.

In the meantime we go out to the poor farm every weekend and play house. Two of our sons have turned the 7 acres into a great motocross site with well worn paths and we've mowed even more paths through the densely growing future pastures, for the GK''s and us to frolic upon. We even stepped out and mowed the perimeter of the new house, all 1000 Sq ft of it.

A man and his dirt bike.
We know secretly our sons hope our farm
never sells.
They love their new playground

We've mowed paths to the outhouse and down to the trees where we are planning gardens and we've mowed spots for cooking out over an open fire. It sounds like a lot of mowing but really it is just about 10 minutes of time twice a month to keep paths open. The rest of the property is WILD AND FREE! Just like the tons of ticks that bombard us each time we visit.

The overgrown and underdeveloped property has become our own wild life preserve. We are now looking for a very cheap camper, broken down RV, vintage mobile home or hobit house to park out there as a place to store our camping goods or take an afternoon nap. Perhaps we'll even live in it if this place sells and we have a little money to build that dream Earthship we have in mind.

On the other hand we may be 95 and still using the place as a family campsite. Of course it is hardly handicapped accessible but at least the outhouse is slightly downhill from the upper drive, I can always roll myself down to it.

Oh well, only time will tell.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Non-Air-Conditioned Farm House

Freshly mowed oat field north side of our farm.

It's hot.

How hot is it?

It's so hot that I spend as much time hosing off myself as I do the pigs. It's so hot that I no longer care who sees my bat wing arms, I'm wearing tank tops. (Small children beware, flapping skin may cause head injuries) It's so hot that my husband and I lay on the couch in a very dark room and a lazy ceiling fan whirring above us all Casablanca like but there isn't a single romantic thought between us.

Yeah, it's hot. Steamy hot after all the rains we've had. If we had any sense we'd go inside our air conditioned home like the rest of America.

But then again, we don't have much sense. Back in 1995 when we bought this old farm house built circa 1895, it had no AC, in fact it had no working furnace. So we paid to get a new one and we made sure the house had all the duct work needed for AC just in case. But since I worked in cool, temperature controlled offices all day, it wasn't that big of deal...Keith said he didn't need it, so I did not see it being a problem for me, at least it wasn't until I came home at night and felt terribly ill. Going from way cool to way hot was way awful.

But then I'd sleep with a small window air conditioner and get in my car with AC and work in my AC office and all was well, until I got home again. But still central AC is expensive to run and so we (I) struggled through the summers. I could never really understand why Keith seemed to tolerate the heat so much better than I. Well sure he was thinner and healthier but STILL.

Then I left nursing and came home full time. The first summer I noticed a big difference. Apparently if one's body is allowed to adjust slowly to heat increases rather than have to endure huge temperature variations, the body (and this midlife farmwife's general mood) adjusts. And so we cope.

The routine goes like this. In the am our windows let in cool air. We do morning chores and then around 9am we shut up the house. Close doors, pull drapes and keep a couple ceiling fans going. We continue to come and go outside as our chores require. On very bad days (over 95) we will generally hide out inside and do office work. Our rooms are a good 10-15 degrees cooler than the outside. Around 4 pm the house heats up and we'll have to open windows again but by 8 pm it's cooler and with fans in the bedroom and maybe some ice snuggled under our armpits we can sleep.

If we have a kind of night that stays very warm we might run the window AC but that is becoming more rare. The noise alone is annoying (the window AC is about 15 years old )and  coupled with someones snoring it's akin to sleeping in a jet engine. Plus we find a closed up room very stifling.

So there you have it or don't have it. No Central Air at South Pork Ranch. Just giving you fair warning in case you come home to visit, strut into the  kitchen without knocking, plop yourself down at the table and then get the shock of your life when your mother flounces in (unaware of your presence) wearing only her birthday suit.

Yes, it happened. No, he is no longer in therapy.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Beef...Finally an End in Sight

After losing 7 calves this past horrible-awful-bad-and-sad-terrible winter, our beef production and consequently beef income, suffered a major setback. But finally we are seeing an end to our and our customers troubles.

The boys (and a few heifers) are back and growing fast and in September we'll have one big enough to fill up the freezer in our farm store. After that all up and coming T-bones are spoken for (via deposits) up through next June. That's correct... June 2015.

In the meantime we ourselves the beef farmers, ran out of beef a few weeks ago. So I did what we've been telling all our customers, CALL FRANK! Frank is another grass fed beef farmer in Illinois who we have happily sent some of our customers to, as he does not raise pork and refers customers to us.

Turnabout is indeed fair play when you are hankering for some real farm raised, out on pasture beef.
Thus we too had to order a quarter beef from Frank just because I am not personally waiting until September for a good steak.

I'm much too spoiled for that. I refuse to buy supermarket meat and a midlife farmwife cannot live on bacon alone! (But I can eat it three times a day for about a week ) But even waiting until end of June was looking tough so we bought ground beef for ourselves from yet ANOTHER farmer. (Thank you Emma and Kyoshi)

Then in the midst of cleaning out a freezer in our basement aka moving things around looking for an earring I dropped in there, I found 6 pounds of our own ground beef! Eureka!!

Really, that's what it said on the package. We get all our beef processed at the Eureka Locker.
So Keith got our ground beef burgers as a surprise for his Father's Day cookout. Now if I can just get me one of those steak shaped molds to shove Emma's ground beef into, I think we'll be OK until Franks beef is ready.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Internetus Interruptus

Oh man.

You'd like to think you are above all the other geeks out there who spend hours each day twittering, facebooking, blogging (those folks are the WORST), instagraming and then it happens to get kicked off  the keyboard without due warning. No tapering off, no Methadone to make the withdrawal a tad easier...just cold turkey, no Cyberworld Connection.

A week ago today the horror started. I'd try to upload a picture and before I knew it I had spent the entire day watching this blue beach ball just spin and spin.

It's good to maintain hope you know.

The GK's were with us for a week and our routine is an hour of computer in the am. Needless to say they harbored some disappointment with the crash of mankind as we knew it. But they covered it well overall.  There were after all seven new kittens to play with.

So while the rest of the family went about their business, I called our Internet Provide who stated that yes indeed we had a problem and they understood my frustration and a technician would out the next day. So the GK's honed their pig herding skills.


Next day comes and no technician. I call our Internet Who Pretends To Be  A Provider and they say...A technician will be out the NEXT day. But guess what? You guessed it, I learned to make strawberry jam from scratch. It wasn't near as hard as I thought it would be. It got thick real fast and man did it taste great.

And oh yeah, no technician showed up, but the GK's improved their cow sorting skills.

As well as their equine snack feeding techniques.

So I again called our Internet Who Has No Business Calling Itself a Provider and said "HEY! You people are like...bad news." And they say, "we are so sorry and we take this so seriously and we are going to file an emergency work order and I promise you will get a call first thing in the morning."

Note: There is nothing I hate more than being "validated."

Of course I am mildly suspicious being as the next day is Fathers Day but guess what? I was correct. No phone call and no technician, but the GK's relearned the joy of playing in mud puddles. Well, it's mostly mud.


And they decided to help more with milking. We're all for that since the boogers drink about 5 gallons a day of the stuff.

On Monday, no one shows up (I know...I was shocked as well) but late evening we discover the Internet actually works. Will miracles ever cease? We thought, "Hmmm, do we really need to tell the GK's ? I mean they seem to have taken it all in stride and the extra chore help around here has been fab.


But finally our guilt intervenes and we casually mention to them that Netflix is once again available. And now here it is Wednesday and I'm blogging again. But don't expect much in the way of Twitter. I stopped that about a year ago. Me? Limit my thoughts to just 140 characters? You wish!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Baby Boomers

Yes, I am aware I have failed you.

Back in May on my 5th Blogiversary I stated (please note it was not a promise) that I planned to post daily for thirty days.

I was doing pretty well at that, well I missed one or two days but knowing how very busy and important lives you lead I figured you wouldn't notice, but then our Internet service abandoned us, sometime early this morning.

In fact it took over an hour for me to load this one photo. I finally gave up and just painted it on the screen. Be careful, the paint is most likely, still wet.

Of course that does not explain the lack of posting on Tuesday or Wednesday. I 'm still working on a valid excuse for those days. In the meantime work did continue here as evidenced by the new pig farrowing hutch featured above. I call is "new" but once again Keith created it entirely from recycled materials. I will take credit only for the paint job. Not a dime was spent on this mighty box which will soon house the piglets of our Red Wattle Clarissa.

After a very awful winter, the loss of two RW litters and much delayed breeding (who is in a romantic mood when the temps are minus 20?) we are now expecting 6 litters this month and next. Even more in late summer/early fall. The boars and girls of South Pork are definitely making up for lost time.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Raw Milk Monday...IDPH Moves Forward in Their Goal to Eliminate Small Raw Milk Farmers

It's been awhile since I've posted an update on raw milk issues but now it's time to make you once again aware of the unethical and backhanded actions of The Illinois Department of Public Health. Very soon you'll have the opportunity to comment so now is the time to be aware of the facts.

First, a very brief overview. For decades raw milk sales were allowable in Illinois. There were no rules only "unenforceable policy." That is a direct quote from Molly Lamb of IDPH. She was given the task by her higher ups, of revising these policies so that could be enforced. A committee was formed ( Fall 2012) without raw milk farmer or consumer input but with representatives from the FDA, Illinois Farm Bureau and Large Dairy Co-ops like Prairie Farms and two pages of rules were drafted. After that draft evolved, I was asked to join the committee by Steve Diviencenzo of IDPH and when I discovered there were no other raw milk farmers or consumers on the committee I made noise. Ms. Lamb agreed to invite those others. The Dairy work group evolved into one equally divided between those supportive of raw milk production and consumption in Illinois and those against.

The group met monthly for 10 months and raw milk farmers were very clear that additional rules were not needed in light of the facts there were no reports of increasing raw milk related illnesses in our state. We very clearly put our objections into writing. IDPH pretended to listen but just as we thought we were making meaningful progress, he group was disbanded by Molly Lamb via an email in Nov. 2013. without warning.

Since then...

IDPH released in February 2014, NINE PAGES of proposed rules specific to raw milk production in Illinois. Yes, your math is correct. They started with no rules, drafted two pages of  proposed rules without consumer or raw milk farmer input and then AFTER we gave them the benefit of our time and expertise they fired us and then expanded their rules from two to nine pages.

Next month, July 2014, these proposed rules will become part of Illinois's Federal Register. From there YOU and I, the public, will have a 45 day comment period. If you care about the availability of raw milk in Illinois, if you are concerned about the inevitable closure of many small farms, if you feel strongly that YOU should be the one who decides what you and your family should consume then you must get ready to comment. The day is approaching with terrible speed. Please watch this blog and Illinois Alliance For Raw Milk Facebook Page. We will notify you when the official comment period begins and tell you how to make your opinion heard.

To help you prepare here are just a few of the most insane proposed rules concerning farmers who wish to sell raw milk directly from their farm premises.

   Any farmer with just one cow, sheep or goat who sells their raw milk must possess a permit
      from IDPH to do so. The permit would then require the farmer to submit to regular inspections
      and milk testing.
   Donating, bartering, distributing or even gifting of raw milk will be prohibited.
   Distribution agreements, herd shares or other contractual agreements will be prohibited.
   The farmer must maintain a log of all sales including the consumers name address and phone.
   The Farmer must report the annual amount of raw milk sold whenever IDPH requests such
   Warning signs about the dangers of raw milk must be posted and IDPH even states the font type
      (Arial) ink color (black) and letter size (at least two inches)
   No swine or poultry can be housed with lactating dairy cows.
   The flanks, udders, bellies and tails of cows must be free from all visible dirt.
   For every day that raw milk is sold the farmer must keep a sample a minimum of five days in
      a sanitary container at 32-40 degrees.

The proposed rules go on and on to include requirements for the milking parlor, the equipment used, extensive milk testing requirements and further mandatory reporting to IDPH. If you would like to see the entire listing please email me at and I will be happy to send them to you.

I predict the consequences of such rules, if passed will be this...

For those small farmers who might be able to meet these rules, (and my opinion based on the numerous farmers I've spoken to,  is that less than 1/3 of current raw milk farmers in Illinois will even be able to come close) the expense in upgrading milk parlors alone will cause raw milk prices to raise dramatically and raw milk supply to just as dramatically plummet.

Consumers will become frustrated with the hoops they have to jump through (giving their names, addresses and phone numbers for tracking purposes) that they will either buy raw milk from farmers not permitted by IDPH or lie about their contact info or cross state lines to get their raw milk with less hassle.

Decent hard working farmers who have healthy herds and clean enough environments (I mean come on, any farmer who keeps his herd on pasture as they should be, will never have cows that are "free of all visible dirt") will close their dairy doors, or sell their raw milk illegally risking the chance of what? Jail time? Expensive fines?  Public flogging? IDPH has yet to announce any consequences for farmers who choose not to follow the rules if passed.

Individuals who will recognize an opportunity to make big bucks from one or two cows will come out of the woodwork. Folks who have no business raising cows will buy a couple, sell the milk for exorbitant amounts without any regard for consumer safety or animal welfare. Think I am being dramatic? Think prohibition.

Or those who would rather make big bucks while touring the Midwest will start up black market raw milk transporting it in from other states. IDPH says they are worried about public health? Wait until desperate consumers start swallowing raw milk that has been on the back of a truck for the last 8 hours, has not been properly chilled, or poured into clean containers, or obtained from a suspicious source.

My bottom line is this. Illinois raw milk farmers have been selling large amounts of raw milk to thousands and thousands of raw milk consumers for many decades WITHOUT any significant raw milk related illnesses being reported.( In fact IDPH does not even consider a raw milk illness REPORTABLE, the risk being so minute.) Most of these farms are small and the majority are managed by experienced farmers with healthy pasture raised herds who are frequented by well educated consumers. These consumers have held us, the farmer, accountable without any prior help from IDPH. Granted no food is 100% safe and life is never risk free but the last thing we need in this state of great budget deficits and red-nose-wearing-bureaucratical- more rules.

The level of nutritional risk I choose to take for myself and my family should be my choice and mine alone.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Saponification Sunday...Fat Soap

Red Wattle Fat Fresh from The Locker



 Our Red Wattle hogs are good for more than just chops, sausage and bacon...they make excellent soap. Let me clarify. I make the soap, they provide the fat. When we take our hogs to the locker we get as much back as we can.

Such as your basic meat cuts, PLUS we take back all the fat, generally packaged in 2-3# bags. That fat is like white gold as far as we are concerned. For years we've been told that animal fat is bad. But what we've learned is the opposite, that animal fat from those raised outside, on pasture and grass is some of the best fat you can consume.

Or lather up with.

I love making lard soap as not only does it make a terrifically hard bar of soap, it also honors that creature even more. Seems such a waste to throw away large portions of butchered animals such as the "offal's" like brains and livers, feet, ears and hearts. But over the decades we Americans have become pretty picky about what we eat, and not in a good way and consequently we toss out some very nutritious parts of the farm animals we raise for consumption.

Pig fat is rich in minerals and vitamins which are not only good for your nerve conduction and skin elasticity (taken internally) but quite moisturizing as well.(used externally via a good lard based soap.) In fact lard consumption is once again on the rise. More good reasons to consume lard can be found HERE

To make it just cut up small large pig fat chunks into smaller ones and toss into a crock pot on low.

Don't worry about the small pieces of meat stuck to the fat as those heavier particles will drop to the bottom of the crock pot.

Let it simmer all day. After several hours the hard fat becomes liquid fat or lard.

Eventually you'll be left with melted fat that is a very pale yellow. You can dip out the melted fat and place it into a sturdy heat resistant glass bowl. I do not strain my liquid fat, (but you can if you want to using cheesecloth) I just avoid dipping too deeply into the crock pot with my ladle. The fat at the bottom of the crock pot can be scooped out and saved for cooking, all those little meat bits just add flavor to your eggs and potatoes! Any fat that does not dissolve completely gets fed to the dogs. Great for their coats!

And no, it does not give them "the taste" for live Red Wattle piglets. Why would they go to all the trouble of killing a screaming, wiggling piglet when they can get a nice little bowl of warm lard with bacon bits right on the front porch?

Liquid pig fat on the left. Pig fat that was melted and then cooled, (Lard) on the right

I then will use the lard in a couple of different ways in my soaps. Either I will substitute it for the coconut oil I use, adding olive, castor and avocado oils OR I will make 100% lard oil soap which is fantastic to then later grate up and use for your laundry soap.

My recipe to make 8 bars of lard soap, approximately 5 oz each is this:

     32 oz of melted lard (from a pasture raised hog, not the grocery store)
     10 oz water
     4.10 oz lye

Just like any other cold process soap recipe you should always double check any soap recipe with a Lye Calculator. Then add your lye to the water, NEVER add water to the lye, let cool to room temp and then add to your melted lard which should also be relatively cool but still in liquid form. At this point you can add any essential oils or colorants but I generally keep my lard soaps without either as they are used for laundry soap most often. Use your hand mixer and mix until trace and then pour into your molds.

Remember if you have never made soap before YOU MUST read the basics about soap making first. Safety guidelines, dos an don't about lye usage etc. The Soap Queen has some of the best tutorials on the Internet.

Pure lard soap hardens quickly and can easily be unmolded and cut about 12 hours after pouring in your molds.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Shade hogs

Shade can be a bit limited here as the sun hits high noon. But pigs being the smart critters they are have learned to adapt.

Trust me. Their relationship is truly platonic.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Single Again

Relax, not talking about me. Talking about Ennis.

I started with one rangy pony, Lightning, bought for $25 without my parents knowledge. After a few months of near death experiences (the poor thing was never really trained and just basically RAN until you or he dropped) he put me in the hospital at age 12. My mother promptly sold him or had him ground into burger, the facts are to this day...blurred.

But, I wasn't down for long. I saved up more money and this time at 16 brought home another horse. Diamonds Cherokee Lady, a short and stubby Appaloossa. I had no money left over after paying the outrageous price of $200 for her so I rode her bareback with a homemade bridle made of hay twine, my 6 year sister clinging to life as she rode behind me.

We fell off a few times.

Then, another "friend" gave me her horse. Redfawn. A mustang obtained through the wild horse and burro program no less. But my the time I got Red she had settled. She only bucked every other day, and only if the day was either sunny or overcast. She also had a tendency to run me under low hanging trees which was fine as it was well known I was quite hard headed.

Helmet Smelmet. I still couldn't afford a real saddle let alone head gear.

Then I was off to college and sold the mare. Or my mother had her made into Thanksgiving roasts, the facts are to this day...blurred.

Thus became the equine dry spell. I went 17 years without another horse. Marriage, kids, nursing school, divorce, management jobs, travel filled the gap but oh how I missed the smell of a sweaty old horse on my hands.

Then along came my Prince Farming who had among other fine attributes, a livestock barn. Married just seconds, I found the best horse of my life, Johnny Walker. A 10 year old Morgan who had been used mostly at riding stables I bought him for a song. Seems he had a well honed  habit of getting out of fences, all kinds of fences.

The first night home he did just that. I woke and no horse. We found him five miles away and to my new husbands great fear I rode him bareback all the way home. It gave us the opportunity to talk, compare goals and expectations. We reached an agreement and he never left home again. I learned to ride again. older son took him to 4-H fairs, younger boys rode him often, nieces and nephews all spent time on his wide back. He went slow for the wee ones and picked up speed nicely for the bigger kids like me.

Many of us bawled when we finally had to put him down at age 27. At that time I also had 3 other horses.

Then I had two.

Then none.

But I could not stand it and then came, Ennis. Or I should say, I went to her via the classifieds. She's different than all the rest, a gaited horse, a bit of style. And a heck of a lot smoother for this Irish Crone to ride than those choppy quarter horse type characters I was so stricken with.

I've owned her two years now and at first the relationship was a bit distant. She was very well trained and did as asked but I knew her heart was not in it. I could tell. Her eye contact was poor and she kept her arms crossed a lot. She did love our miniature Donkey Doolin and did not try to hide the fact that it was him she carried the torch for.

But you might recall that Doolin headed for the big pasture in the sky this past winter.
And so, it was...just Ennis and I, or is it Ennis and me? Just one single horse and one single horse-owner. Over the last couple of months with no other choice for companionship except the very lowly pigs on the other side of her pasture, (a dilemma not unknown to myself) Ennis has finally warmed to her mistress. How do I know?

She watches me, she has been known to follow me about, she even...winnies when she sees me.  And she has uncrossed her arms.  She has even proven herself to be very kind and gentle with the GK's. She's no Johnny for sure, but then again...he was no Ennis.

I think we're gong to be fine.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Vacationing Farmer

Virgil gets Lacy ready

Vacations are rare here.

Usually what happens is we combine a farm related task with a trip thus "justifying" the time away and the hiring of someone to do the chores. Last month for example we went to Missouri to buy more Red Wattle feeder hogs. We combined that trip with a visit to see Keith's older brother, Virgil who lives another 100 miles father south of Nutty Pig farm where we were purchasing the new pigs. Keith, by the way, is the youngest of seven.

And thus a "vacation" was born!

Granted the stay was brief, just overnight, but not only did we get to catch up with Virgil and his girlfriend Janet, we were also treated to a buggy ride.

Well, it was a treat for me as I love all things horse. Keith's treat was making it back to Virgil's house in one piece. He doesn't exactly enjoy being so close to a horse hide end for some reason and yet he'll stick his head under numerous cows twice a day, something I avoid at all costs. Thus the reason he milks and I ride. To each his own. Different strokes for different folks. A match made in heaven. Etc...etc...

Fortunately we both enjoy pig tending.

Virgil and Janets horse was just recently trained to drive by an Amish farmer who kept her for several weeks. She had the basics down but did spook a bit at larger traffic. As does Keith. Older brother had his steed well controlled and I knew we'd make it home safe even though there was a bit of prancing exhibited as the semi's roared past on a nearby highway, and when the neighbors mower got a bit close. I could've stayed in that sturdy homemade cart rushing past the countryside all day.

Virgil and Janet in front of their home.

Keith however was relieved to get back to the ranch, mumbling something about how only slow moving oxen should be allowed to pull carts.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

In the Iris of the Beholder

I am terrible about the hear and now.
I am always moving towards the next thing.
The next event, the next chore, the next assignment.

Even though I was a hospice nurse for years.
Even though my four children grew up overnight.
Even though my parents died at the infantile ages of 63 and 67.

But there are times.
Really brief moments when I
Actually take a breath and notice something

Right there in front of my face

Of course I had to trip in a hole in the yard and fall on my knees , my kisser landing in the blossoms before I realized the Iris's were finally in bloom. But still...