Thursday, May 27, 2010


Here are three of the Buckeye chicks from my first hatch. Right now they are in a dog crate in the breezeway. Sometime this week after I move the larger chicks to the chickhouse, they will move to the outdoor brooder.
Time to clean out the incubator. Not one of my favorite jobs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Climate change

We've gone from what seems like months of cool rainy  weather to a tropical heat wave complete with humidity that could rival August all in less than 24 hours.... This Ziggy I found in the Sunday paper says it all!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

South Pork comes to visit

Thursday our friends Donna and Keith from South Pork Ranch and Dairy made the long trip from Chatsworth, Illinois to our place to pick up our extra rake. I'd been looking forward to this visit. Donna and I are sisters from different mothers - really! She's a night RN and so am I. Her husband, Keith is a farmer /dairyman and my Brian is a farmer/ milks our cow.  I love to read her blog and she reads mine. We all encourage each other in this madness we call farming. See the parallel universes we live in!

AND Donna forgets about time differences and so do I. LOL! About the time we started wondering if we should call and check on them, Donna called to say they had forgotten the time difference. Good thing I'd made chicken pot pie for dinner. It needs to rest a bit after coming out of the oven. If you serve it hot fresh from the oven all the goodies ooze out. The guys loaded up the rake using lots of chains, the front end loader and luck. Meanwhile Donna took pics and we decided these loading adventures make both of us nervous.

As always this visit was too short. Brian had to take off in the middle of dinner to pick up Kacie. So the rest of us lingered a bit around the table and took a quicky tour of the 99% finished barn. Then it was time for Donna and Keith to wave goodbye as they backed causiously out our driveway with their new rake in tow.

Hmmm.... I wander when their peacocks will hatch their babies? Then we'll have an excuse to go visiting!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

When did people start being afraid of real food?

As I do most every night that I work, I took a quart of our nice fresh, unpasteurized skimmed milk to work to drink. I was getting it out of the fridge as another nurse was looking for non-dairy creamer. I offered her a little real milk for her coffee.
"Eeyew I can't drink that. I looks like breast milk."
"Technically all milk is breast milk," I replied.
Another nurse heard our exchange looked at my milk bottle in abject horror and asked, "That came from your cow." Well duh! Where did she think milk came from a laboratory somewhere? Or maybe it just appears on store shelves late at night like magic?
I took a swig of deliciously cold fresh milk and went on with my day, but it's really been bothering me all evening. When did we start believing that the more processed, the more removed from the source, the more depersonalized our food was that it made us somehow better off?
I was fortunate to have been raised largely on rich fresh unpasteurized milk from our family cow and pork and beef and vegetables we raised ourselves. And I know this is anecdotal, but my siblings and I were healthier than our friends growing up. My sister and I didn't "blossom" while we were in grade school like girls do now. It distresses me when I see 8-9 year old girls with developed breasts. They are ill prepared for the changes in their bodies and the change in the way that people regard them. This early puberty has been linked to hormones in our food. Why is it that when people talk about contaminated foods they think only of bacteria? They don't think about hormones and antibiotics passed along and concentrated in our commercial food chain.
Another of my friends asked me how I could eat animals that I had raised myself. It never occurred to me that you shouldn't name your food. Each animal on our farm has a name. A personality. And a purpose. We are kind to our animals while they are with us and grateful for the food they provide us. We take responsibility for their welfare and we take responsibility for what we eat.
Come on! Food doesn't start out  dismembered, depersonalized, plastic wrapped and sealed. We had a European couple stop by the farm for a tour last summer. They thought it was weird that in the U.S. you can't tell what animal the meat at the market comes from unless you read the signs. In European markets, they said, you an tell what the animal because you can recognize the parts.

All beef starts out as a living breathing calf in the spring and if it's lucky it grows on pasture until it's two years old. Then it is humanely processed into delicious grassfed beef. If it's not lucky it is raised in an overcrowded CAFO with a lot of other unfortunate animals. It's fed on grain it was never meant to eat and kept alive and growing on antibiotics and hormones. All pork starts out as a cute little piglet not a whole lot bigger than a man's hand. On our farm they are fed on excess cows milk, grain and all the pasture they can eat. They have lovely mud holes to play in  and a large pasture to root around. Less fortunate pigs are raised on slatted floors in crowded conditions and fed sub therapeutic antibiotics and growth hormones. They cut the pigs tails off so that when the pigs become stressed from the overcrowding they can't bite one another's tails.

Which would you rather eat: food from stressed animals grown in crowded conditions? or food lovingly raised by a caring farmer?

Think about it. Know your farmer, know your food.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Today after chores we moved my 5 baby blueberry bushes from where they were in the soon to be a cow pasture part of the field to the soon to be an orchard part of the field. Good thing blueberries don't have deep roots. It took a bit of hauling and a lot of shoveling but I have them all tucked in. I planted them a little less deep as our ground is clay and stays wet. Then I mulched with a layer of old horse manure. I topped that with cardboard to suppress the weeds and then added a layer of aged bark mulch. The mulch gives it a nice finished appearance and it keeps the cardboard from blowing away before it kills all the weeds and grass.
While I was coddling my blueberries (Brian doesn't like blueberries so he refused to participate in the move) Brian  pounded in T-posts and set insulators for the new pasture area. Brian and pulled the fence together it's easier that way. We thread the fence wire spool in a piece of  rebar and take it for a walk as it unrolls. It goes pretty fast this way. Just as we were finishing up it started to pour!
Good time for a break and a quick run to Rural King for more insulators and wire. We lucked out today they were having a 10% off  "Bucket Sale". You know 10% everything you can fit in a five gallon bucket. You'd be amazed at how many insulators will fit and how big a roll of electric fence wire you can fit in a bucket. :)
It stopped raining by the time we got home, so Brian went up to work on the horse paddock fence while I put some homemade mac and cheese in the oven. Anders and Emily were over and Anders made a reasonable attempt at making one of our traditional family foods - wilted lettuce salad. He'll need to practice some more before he's as good at it as grandma!
The kids ate with my mom while I went out to help Brian. Thursdays are always rush rush rush because I go back to work tomorrow.
We got the horse paddock electrified just in time to start chores. We fed and watered the Red Wattles together then I went to the house to get the milking supplies. Meanwhile Brian put up the hens and got the eggs. Then he milked and I picked a treat of clover for Hazel and Gaia.
Then back to the house, strain the milk, wash the milker, wash the eggs and put it all away. Supper time! Mac & Cheese and a huge glass of cold milk here in front of the computer for me. And an after dinner soak in the tub for Brian.
Now I'm going to try to dig my desk out from under the stacks of things I meant to take care of "yesterday".

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The day after...

we have all sheep present and accouted for.


Tomorrow we reintroduce the fluffy white dog to her job.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Outwitting Mrs. Wylie Coyote

Yesterday in the middle of the afternoon there was a coyote in sheep pasture. A brazen Mrs. Wylie out looking for a lamb lunch. Brian ran in and got his rifle. He missed. Then she actually circled around and tried to get back to the lambs. Brian shot again - missed. She gave up and headed into the neighbor's woods. We set about doing a head count. We knew we'd already lost one lamb. There was another missing.

We haven't had any  trouble with coyotes up to this point so we hadn't really been worrying about them. Our Pyrennees has been confined to a cable since she broke her leg and she likes to roam. So she was no help at all. We quickly hot wire fenced a good area up close to the house and tried in vain for hours to convince the sheep that they should go in for their own protection.... and besides the grass really is greener on that side of the fence.The sheep have gotten half wild and skittish with being free on pasture so long. Finally at dark, we gave up, said a prayer for lamb safety and went off to bed.

During the night Mrs. Wylie  must have been back and brought friends. This morning we were down 4 more lambs. We spent the better part of the day working to corral the sheep inside the new electric fenced pasture inside hog panels, inside corral panels. Tonite Mrs. Wylie should not be able to find a tasty lamb snack.

We'll see what the morning brings.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Great Red Wattle Pork Tasting event

So it was really a family pitchin dinner at my house, but we did do a taste test on all the new flavors of Red Wattle sausage we had made. The folks at This Old Farm Processing did a great job with the five RW's we took to them.

I cooked a package of each kind of sausage: Maple, Low Sodium Sage, Hot Italian and Mild Italian and Brats. The Maple was the hands down winner with the kiddy crowd. While everyone loved the brats. Opinions on the other sausages were as varied as the people tasting them. I'm looking forward to making some homemade pizza this week with the Italian sausage.

I grilled a couple of ham steaks so we could try them as well. The unanimous decision was - delicious! Earlier in the day we had sampled some of the bacon for lunch. It was so good I just couldn't stop eating it!

And the best part of all - the processing is All Natural. No MSG. No nitrates except for those that occur naturally in celery juice powder.

We have lots of RW pork in the freezer. Call Brian to place your order: 812-521-1063 I can't wait to hear how you like it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Of Dairy Maids and Dairy men

It is my considered opinion that the advent of the milking machine was when the family dairy moved from the domain of women to the realm of man.

When I was younger I milked a cow by hand. Resting my head against the warm side of Bossie the cow as streams of steaming milk splashed rhythmically into the pail was ... a Zen experience. When the cow was dry I'd turn her out and carried the bucket of warm frothy milk to the house. Simple, uncomplicated, relaxing.
 Now my husband uses a milking machine to milk our cow, Hazel. The machine involves a vacuum pump and its idiosyncrasies, lots of mechanical parts, enough hoses to confuse an octopus and a stainless steel tank. Brian finds the whole contraption fascinating. He actually enjoys fine tuning the connections and settings. He talks constantly of finding the perfect length for the hoses and whether or not the sling is really necessary. When he starts talking mechanics and physics my brain turns off and I find myself "Uh Huh" ing him. You know - nodding and making little noises of agreement while not really paying much attention to what he said. I tried using the milking the machine once. By the time I was done I was a frustrated, nervous wreck.
To add  insult to injury, when the surge is full of milk I can barely lift it. Even Brian uses the little trailer pulled by the lawn tractor to haul the milker to and from the barn, but he can at least lift the stainless steel surge up into the wagon.

So there you go... when milking started involving machines it became man's work. Because men, in my experience, like machines and those doggone milk cans are HEAVY!

Friday, May 7, 2010

There is nothing like real butter!

Today I made butter from the cream I've been skimming off of Hazel's milk. It is yummy!

I was in a hurry so I used the food processor to "churn". It worked pretty well, though the butter didn't clump like I expected it to. I had to strain the butter out of the butter milk. Then I put it in a bowl of cold water and gathered it together into a ball. After I had all of the cream churned, I worked the butter to remove any water or butter milk. I ended up with about a pound of beautiful yellow butter.
Now I need to make some fresh bread to go under it!

Sunday, May 2, 2010


It's time for tough decisions. Brian will start pre-vet classes full time in the fall. There will be less time for him to do things around the farm. I will still be working full time. So we are downsizing.

We'll be cutting back to 4 Red Wattle sows and 1 boar. We will offer the available animals to the folks that are currently on our waiting list. It's not been easy deciding who gets to stay. All of the hogs have personalities and traits that we have grown to love. With the smaller herd, we will continue to have RW pork for sale from the farm.

I'm planning to keep 4 Shetland ewe lambs and 1 ram lamb from this years crop of babies. The balance of the flock will be sold or sent to the processor. If you know of anyone who would like some very hardy Shetland sheep -  I've got them. We have been breeding for worm load resistance and great mothering ability on pasture. We will be selling brown, black, gray, and white Shetlands. These animals would make a great foundation flock for handspinning or a homestead flock for both wool and meat.

This flock reduction means we won't have any lamb for sale in 2011 but lamb will return for sale in 2012.

We will continue to have free-range eggs available at the farm. As soon as I can build up my flock of Buckeye chickens we will also have dressed birds for sale. And garden produce will be available at the farm stand.