Monday, May 18, 2015

Walk this Way...To My New Blog

So, this is goodbye to my old friend The Midlife Farmwife. I've had this blog over 5 years and she has been berry berry good to me but the times they are a changin' , oh bla dee oh blah da...(what next a "blowing in the wind" reference?!?!)  I'll get to the point.

We've moved. We don't live here anymore. I'm not The Midlife Farmwife anymore, yes I'm still happily married and we still farm but it's all very  different and I haven't figured out my new CB handle yet. We live on The Poor Farm now and I of course am blogging all about it. Follow me won't you? The Kool Aide is very sweet and cold over here.  The drinking water though is still lukewarm. See you on the other side.

       The Poor Farm

Saturday, April 25, 2015

48 Hour Countdown to the Poor Farm

Last piece of farm equipment for sale.
With just 48 hrs to go before we have to up and out I have no business blogging but if I pack one more thing tonight (it's nearly midnight) I will hurl. There is no way we have only lived in this farmhouse only 20 years because we have removed at least a century's worth of crap in the last week. I blame...everyone else. The kids who made such adorable pottery items (which I saved, which none of them wanted when I suggested THEY take them home last week, which is why they are all in the dumpster now, the handmade vases not the kids) the auctions Keith and I frequented and the wicked auctioneers who made me buy Wizard of Oz plates (for what ?!? serving cookies to scarecrow next time he drops by?) the garage sales I stalked in order to buy yet another Evening in Paris bottle or compact, (because my mother wore that perfume and she's dead and I miss her that's why) and well, that's enough blame for tonight.

Tomorrow my grand group of sisters and my lovely daughter will be here to help me clean this wasteland, I mean lovely four square farm abode; so new owner lady can arrive Monday and realize windows were never actually blacked out per se, they just hadn't been washed since 1963.

Although we are very excited about our new life just right there on the horizon we know the adjustment will be huge. Going from a 2000 square foot home with basement, barns, machine shed, and farm store to a small camper for the summer (think tiny and cramped and tiny) property with no barns yet, no electric fence yet and that other minor utilities will be a real shock to our spoiled butts. That's is correct, no electricity, no water, no internet, nada, nothing.

We are so nuts.

The electric should come soon, power company says another 1-10 days, the water will be later as our new well needed some repair first and the internet; I need for school primarily, will be another week as well. In the meantime we'll be camping, cooking over outdoor fires, and going to bed early if we don't get power soon. Fortunately the new owners are very flexible about our keeping the few animals we are taking with us, here, until we are ready for them up there.

More soon. Gotta get a couple hours sleep before those sisters arrive. When it comes to cleaning those three mean business. Wait till they see what I left for them under the beds, and the couches, and the rugs, and the chairs...I'm all about the giving.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Well, you've heard it here first. Unless you are a Facebook friend , or listened to the rumors in town or talked to our mail lady or saw the notice in our farm store; other than all that, you are first to know.

We've sold the farm!

Yes, after four years of listings, showings, near sales, planning, plan ditching, planning again it is really happening this time. New owners are moving in on Monday. JUST 5 DAYS FROM NOW! Life is manic crazy with packing, school, selling equipment, school, selling livestock, school, pitching decades of crap, school, and oh yeah, I am still in school full time at UIUC.

Although we have wanted this for a very long time, now that it is here...we are even more desirous to be living our new tiny life which is taking BIG efforts to make happen.  I am scant on time to share details but I will very soon. Stay tuned as we make the move to The Poor Farm. Finally.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kissing Organic Certification Goodby

Really? Almost two months since I last posted? What a sloth. Life has consumed me but for a brief moment (spring break at UIUC) I have been spit out long enough to catch up with that handful of blog followers who might yet remain.

In 2009 we completed our first organic certification inspection. We had literally been preparing for it for years as fields must be chemical free for three years before you can be certified. Transition is not easy as the farmer must pay for certified organic feed/seed prior to the point that they can label their products organic and thus receive fair pay, but; we believed in the concept and the practice and so we moved forward.

From 2009-2015 we have proudly labeled our dairy herd, pork and beef as "certified organic", completing the annual inspection paperwork, maintaining the everyday record keeping, following the hundreds of standards, and paying the fees that came to thousands of dollars over the last 6 years. We did all that because the practice, the label, the animals meant that much to us.

But over the last two years we have noticed a trend that is both disheartening and damaging, the lying trend. Practiced by both farmers who want all the glory (aka money) of organic without doing any of the work as well as the USDA themselves who increasingly look the other way when the factory farms they have certified as organic, care for their animals, well like a factory. Sadly both practices are increasing. A walk around an average farmers market will reveal signage stating "Organically Raised Beef" and yet the owner cannot tell you the minimum standard for cattle to be on pasture each year, (the answer is 120 days) and a neighbor of that farmer who supplies grain for those cattle tells us quite openly his grain is your standard GMO corn. 

We've also been well aware of the large industrial farms that have sought and gained organic certification for their thousands of animals yet still keep a large portion uncertified. This allows them to treat one of their organic animals with unapproved antibiotics and merely shift them into the uncertified group for sale. Sadly this is legal but clearly points out that the philosophy of organic, holistic, natural treatment of animals is by far NOT the priority of these so called "farmers."

To clarify, we have felt for many years that organic methods are good, decent, logical manner in which to raise livestock and we sought the label, followed the rules because we believed in what we were doing.  Which is why our chickens are truly free range (not just able to roam free within a 20 x 20 pen) why our hogs have closer to 200 days on pasture (even though no such requirement by USDA's organic program as "organic hogs" can be kept on a concrete lot as long as they are fed organic) and why our dairy herd is often seen in the winter months resting quite happily on snow covered fields in between feedings of certified organic 100% grass hay.  We didn't just preach organic animal care, we lived it.

But, we no longer can ignore the corruption of the organic industry and we no longer want to be associated with it. What might have been a pure intent years ago has become, just like anything else that involves large amounts of money, grossly tainted. During those years when we sold large amounts of packaged meat to natural food stores in Bloomington and Chicago, our non-farm-visiting customers relied on the label to ensure them of a decent product. Now though, all our customers come here to our farm and actually SEE our animals, our practices. Thus, we are choosing to continue everything as we have done it before: feeding only certified organic feed, never using antibiotics except in the event to save an animals life, keeping animals on pasture throughout late spring, summer and fall, etc...etc...etc...but we will discontinue the biased governmental process of organic certification.

Instead, our only surveyors will be our customers.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Big Fat Belly Dancers

Big Fat Belly Dancer from Summer 2014

Last winter here was horrific. I love using that term because it drives my oldest son nuts, thinks it's a bit overdramatic. But when you lose 20 piglets and 4 calves due to cold weather alone, when you have never lost livestock in those numbers due to frigid weather in the 2 decades you've been farming; I think "horrific" is justified.

Besides, I'm the mom and I say so.

When you're a small farm that type of loss recovery does not happen overnight. In 2014 we raised and sold half the number of hogs we did the year before. Now, a year later things are looking up as pig bellies are going down. It's been a bit of a rocky ride as when one of our two big Red Wattle Boars, Mad Max, self retired and proving less than productive with our sows; was made into brats (for Keith) and dog food for our Great Pyrenees and German Shepard. All of them, except maybe Mad Max, are very happy with the results.

But, this put our breeding schedule behind. To add more challenges, our remaining boar Wally, always a fine virile fellow just a tad younger than Mad Max who was 5, decided that HE was getting bored with his boar duties. We put all our sows in with him thinking, silly us, what a hoot of a time he would have. Yet, the girls were just not getting bigger and bellies were remaining too slim. Some visits to the vet for ultrasound pregnancy checks end of December showed only 2 of 7 were pregnant.

At the advice of our vet we put Wally in seclusion. Seems boars, if life is made too easy for them, i.e. easy access to a harem, will get lazy. It all just becomes too familiar to them, too easy, not unlike those unemployed in our society who have all their benefits just automatically deposited into their banks, never seeing the need to seek work. Hmmmm. I sense a new short story; A Boar Speaks out on Public Aide. Anyway...a couple weeks alone and reintroduction of females should cause Wally, theoretically, to be put back "on alert."  Much of this hoopla has worked in our favor as  we told ourselves last winter we would never breed sows to have litters in the dead of winter again.  Seems they took care of that themselves.

Last week more sows went back for preg testing and the results were so much better. Five of seven have dancing bellies!  This validated Wally as new king, apparently he was getting the job done after all. The other two un bred females have been moved back to Wally in his new bachelor digs and man did he get busy, obviously forgetting he had shared a home with these two in the past. So, in the end, we'll have litters in the next two weeks, and throughout March, April, and May . This is excellent news since we have four customers waiting for feeder pigs as more folk have tired of the bad meat quality in stores and our ready to raise their own bacon, chops and hams.

In addition, we have selected a fine young boar, now 6 months old, as Max's replacement and soon, after new babies arrive we'll be back to our routine of moving sows back and forth between two boars thus giving credence to that old saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt."

Grow, mama sows, grow!

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Prodical Student Returns...Again.

I started my second semester at UIUC on Tuesday (it's actually my third semester at UIUC if you count those weeks I attended back in the Triassic period of 1976 and my 11th semester of college overall if you count my pre-nursing and nursing days of upper learning) and STILL I find myself unable to sleep well the night before classes because, you know, I might be late.

You would think after over 50 years in school systems I would learn that being late for class does not mean immediate line up for a firing squad. I of course, because it is just plain fun, I blame the nuns; specifically I fault Sister Mary Gerard with the Unibrow.

Yes, that was her confirmed Pope approved name, Sister Mary Gerard Unibrow.

Once, when I was just a tiny, vulnerable 7 year old in first grade, I was told by an upperclassman: I believe he was a worldy third grader, that the cafeteria had a fire and there would be no classes after lunch. Since we lived in the apartment house next door to my school, Our Lady Of Mispent Youth, and I always went home for lunch, this information seemed plausible.

The Innocent and trusting Donna Marie
in kindergarten, just one year before her faith
in humanity was crushed.

My mother may have been suspicious since there were no fire trucks at the school that morning, but straddled with 4 children under the age of 7, I am sure it was just easier to believe me than it was to fact check; besides she needed more milk at the store and I was the only one old enough to cross four lanes of Ashland Avenue traffic to get it.

Thrilled to be out of school on that sunny May day, (I have no idea what the weather was that day  but being a creative writer I am allowed to embellish; in fact it is required) I was skipping past the school towards the corner grocery when from the third floor above me I heard Sister Mary Gerard Unibrow beckon to me.

"DONNA MARIE O'SHAUGHNESSY WHY AREN"T YOU IN SCHOOL?!?!" Now seriously, how did those black capped women manage to memorize every single child's middle name?

I responded the only way I knew how...I ran like the wind to my mother. Her immediate and empathetic response was to get my little can back to school. Apparently I had been a victim of the all too well known The Cafeteria Has Burned Up Scheme. Humiliated, I returned to class and after being chastised in front of everybody about not believing everything I was told; unless of course it was told to me by a nun or priest or talking statue saint, I vowed never again to believe anyone who told me class was cancelled.

Consequently, I find myself at times sitting in empty class rooms because I did not believe the weatherman, the school emails, the large saw horse barriers or the big signs on the door that state class has been cancelled. There is no room for the phrase "better late than never"  in my life.

I'll show YOU Sister Mary Gerard Unibrow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Lets Give it Up For...Hoary Frost!!

 How can you not LOVE that name? Hoary Frost. I mean, I can't even say it silently in my head without smiling. When I finally get around to chucking this lets-do-chores-in-the-middle-of-hell-freezing-over lifestyle and return to my first love of Vaudeville; I am so going to make that my stage name. I might even add something to it like Mademoiselle Hoary Frost. So many options, so few costumes.

Our Illinois weather continues to be winter like which makes sense since it is mid-January. Variety has ruled. Some 40 degree days two weeks ago with lots of mud to trudge through , then last week below zero cold snap with wind chills of -30, then an ice storm and some snow and last night Miss Hoary Frost visited.


Some folks mistake her for actual snow fall but they are just, you know, wrong. Others refer to it as plain old Hoar Frost but we south of I-80 folk prefer the Hoary Frost term. It's just more fun. Technically it is just one type of frost that includes crystal formations created from the deposition of water vapor from air of low humidity. You didn't know I was a Rocket Scientist did you?


 Non-technically it's a beautiful coating of shimmering white, transforming ordinary items into something spectacular. Hmmmm. Perhaps I'll sleep outside tonight.