Here we are close to the end of October 2021. A lot has happened and we just get up each day and put one foot in front of the other.
We have started our corn harvest, but we are getting our hay in. The cooler days are just not drying it down, so we are planning on just wrapping it. So Johnny is combining and Henry is working on the hay. Our soybeans are about ready, and when they are we will stop and get those done.
My father-in-law passed away on the 2nd of October, and farming stopped for a week, while we mourned his passing. He was born in the front room of the farm house on January 1st 1935. Coal was the only source of heat in the house. We had no electric, phone, or indoor plumbing. It stayed that way until he was in his mid teens. John Henry grew up on the farm, raised his family on the farm, and got to see his grandkids grow up on the same farm.
So many Memories to share, but the most touching was Buck. Buck was John Henrys Hunting buddy. Buck is a 14 year old lab. His best days are long gone. He is mostly white, but on the way to the church before the funeral, we asked if they could drive up the farm lane. Our reason was for Buck. Johnny lifted him up to the coffin. Buck smelled the coffin and knew. He laid his head against the coffin. When Johnny put Buck down all he wanted to do is stay by the hearse. Buck got to say goodbye.
Now October brings fall, and at least for me its my favorite time of year. I will probably do the giant pumpkin again, but I got theses skeleton the other day, and I’ll arranged them, only to come home to my husband who has rearranged them. So now its a game.
Stay well, Stay safe, and enjoy today. Just like the skeletons, changing them up when My spouse isn’t around is our game. A simple game, but one that lightens our day.
Its that time again that I start putting up food for this winter. Its crazy to think about this winter when it is 90 plus degrees out, but now is the time. Jars have been handed down over the years, so I have all sorts of shapes and sizes. This year the hardest thing to find are the lids. Jars and the rings can be reused, but not the lids. I’ll do what I can, with what I have.
Last weekend I had enough beans to run a batch through the pressure canner. Green Beans are one thing I like to reach for when putting a meal together. I always to a few pint jars, for my mom or the boys to take, or even a soup. But for us a quart jar seems to be the right amount for most meals.
Tomatoes were my choice this weekend. I really wanted to make ketchup, but I didn’t have the correct ingredients, so pasta sauce, and whole tomatoes it was. Hard to imagine that I used almost two boxes of tomatoes for the two batches. I can do tomatoes in a hot water bath, so it is a little easier the the pressure canner. I use tomatoes for so may things. I pulled the towel off of these this morning. When I get home, I’ll check the seals, label and put them in the cupboard.
Strawberry Jam is usually the first thing I make. I probably did 3 batches this spring, but I noticed the other day there is like 3 jars left. My youngest son loves homemade strawberry jam, and I do believe he is the one that has been enjoying it.
I have also done a little asparagus and plan to do some corn, but those have and will go in the freezer. Its always nice to have a touch of summer with our meal in the winter. I know all the ingredients, and even where the produce came from. Its make me feel good as a mom and wife to be serving local foods in the winter, as the ground freezes and those plants are long gone.
I guess time is the only thing I need to find so I can accomplish all canning I want to do. For now I’ll do it when ever I can. A little here and a little there, will add up in the end.
Stay well, stay safe and enjoy all the local foods while they are in season, and don’t forget to follow the journey.
The other morning I was driving to the store and I was thinking about a Facebook post. It was totally random. A friend posted a question. When was the first time you flew in an airplane? It was really neat to see all of the responses. I usually don’t respond to these, and honestly I didn’t this time either. However it got me thinking about all the places I have been, and even where I grew up. I do believe in my heart I am where I want to be.
I was born in Philadelphia Pa., and raised in a Philadelphia suburb. Spent many years going in and out of the city to visit aging family. Then we upon my fathers retirement, we moved to Kent County Maryland. I was about 19. When we first moved here my thought was wow they are 10 years behind the times. I thought of all the changes needed to bring this county up to date. Then I realized what I love about Kent County is that it was 10 years behind the time. People waved at each other when they passed in a car. Said hello and held doors for one another. Stores were closed on Sundays. All such simple things. Over the years I realized it’s the simple things that sometimes mean the most.
The purple Lilac bush that was planted 3 generations ago, the bell that hangs on and old cedar post reminding us of a different time of communication. The dogwood tree that flowers in the shape of a cross, 26 years to the day my mother-in-law past away. The sun rises and sets around all these events every day, its the same but always different. All are beautiful.
Our house isn’t new, in fact its over 150 plus years old, our equipment breaks, nasty storms roll through, and new born calves find their way into our home on the coldest of mornings. We made the choice to live the life we do. It’s defiantly not fancy. The choice to farm isn’t taken lightly. We are at the mercy of mother nature, however at the end of the day we supply society with food. And in a nut shell, that is why we do it. Our goal is to be a shepherd for the animals and stewards of the land and environment, but also provide a food source for society.
I think back to that question of my first plane ride. Yeah I remember it. I was three and flew to Sweden. We were also in London, as I remember Big Ben, and the red double decker busses. I remember the Sistine Chapel. I have done my share of traveling, and by the time I graduated high school I had a passport that had seen its best days years before. In fact when I graduated my parents gave me a choice for my graduation gift. A trip to Australia or a horse trailer. I made my choice and never looked back.
We all have choices in our lives. No one choice fits everyone, but our choice is to farm. As long as we are able we will be farming in Kent County until our finial days.
Until then we will be a shepherd for the animals and stewards of the land and environment, and continue provide a food source for society.
Stay well, stay safe and follow the journey from farm to table.
The past week feels like summer for sure. HOT, HOT, HOT! However we still plug away at the chores. The heat is always a big worry because we push while the sun is shinning. Kind of like the old saying, “making hay while the sun is shinning”. We need to be careful. With my MS, shouldn’t be out in the heat above 85 degrees. It’s hard living on a farm, but I try to find a balance. Nice days are as much our friend as they are also not so friendly. On another farm close by a friend had a stroke. Typical farmer, “hay needs to be done, I don’t have time to go to the ER.” I will Note he did go, and he will be home soon from the hospital. And doing well, and I’m sure he will be back at it again.
Life doesn’t stop chores are always there. We choose a life that doesn’t have weekends off, holidays, or over time, and its our choice and wouldn’t change it. Finding a balance is very hard. I would think we sleep well at night. Very rarely do we sleep threw the night. For example last night, our milk was picked up at 3:30 am to go out to be made into cheese. So my husband gets up and goes down to the barn and gets a pitcher of milk for the house from the tank before he loads the trailer. Back up to the house. What am I doing….yeah on my phone reading different news sites, the weather, and emails. I look over he is doing the same thing.
As soon as the sun hits the horizon our 14 Year old Lab gets up and wants to go out, and is in by the time the guys are up and going out to start chores. Out to the barn they go, and I get a text message. 135 Reba had a heifer last night. Mom and little girl are doing well. She has had her first milk, and is doing great.
By the end on the day if pop storms haven’t come thru there’s more. The men are planting soy-beans, mowing grass. Or as this night in particular bring in a load of straw. Only a few more loads to go. This will serve as bedding for the upcoming winter. We will also use corn stalks, and soybean vines, but those will be put up in the fall.
Me with my MS, well guess who gets to label the cheese and butter??? Yep! The guys do help but the ware house is temperature controlled, and better for my health. This week we were running low on Smoke Cheddar, and Chesapeake Cheeses. So I started there.
The new fence is keeping the boys in, and looks great. They love being down by the road in the am while they graze. They must have an internal clock, because they will head up to the barn about 8 am to see what Paul is bringing them.
Some mornings have been damp and a little foggy, but they keep the same pattern. Its nice to finally have fresh grass growing. Those kelly green shoots of green grass are always a blessing. We know when the onion grass is beginning to grow. They will come and say hi, as their onion breath covers us.
The next big thing we did was purchase a Delivery Van. With the farmers markets, wholesale, home delivery, and product pick up, it was time. Don’t worry I still have my truck. This gets better fuel mileage, and helps me stay a little more organized. I do miss driving my truck, but I guess with my MS it is easier to get in and out of.
This will be the logo that will eventually go on the van, but for the moment We have one that is similar to our cheese label.
Our store is still up and running 6 days a week. From our website customers will be able to order on line, and pick up in the store on Thursdays.
Other than these few things, we are almost finished our early planting. We still have a lot to plant, but the rest will have to wait until we harvest from what we planted in the fall. Most of this is wheat, and barley. We plan to chop and put it up in the silo for feed. We plant regular and cover crops to help the soil over the winter. The regular crops we will let it mature and harvest the grain and bail the stalk for bedding. The cover crop, we are in agreement with our county and can not allow it to mature out. We have two options. One to spray it and kill it, then plant, or chop for feed. Spraying it down just hurts the environment with needless chemicals, when we can use it to feed or animals.
So as the spring days pass enjoy them. I have been planting asparagus crowns, grapes, and tomatoes. My evening walks are full of company, and we all enjoy the sunsets. Here’s to the closing of one day and the prospects of a new day on the horizon.
Nothing like thinking you are in for the night, only to hear something that just isn’t right outside. As odd as it may sound, there are normal farm noises. It is a jolt to the system when we hear something that isn’t normal. The boys quietly mooing in the back yard is one of them. Yeah they were getting comfy and I guess they thought the would visit the ladies. They have plenty of pasture, but I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.
No matter what time it is out we go with flashlights in hand. Sometime the truck makes for a great buffer, but there is always one that doesn’t go back out in his field. Around and around the buildings we go. Usually yelling at and blinding each other with our flash lights. Then its how did they get out, and a quick fence repair.
The last month or two, (ok really longer), we have been moving the fence over haul closer and closer to the top of the list. Rain, frozen ground, and the shear cost of redoing the fence has put it off until now. The boys took over my old horse lots. It was all split rail. We added electric to the fence to help deter the boys from just rubbing and pushing on the posts.
This past week we started on this project. New posts were in, and new wire was added. The fence was hot, but the old posts needed to come out. As the day was closing, and more rain forecasted to come in that night, We pushed to get the posts out. The old posts were in line with the new fence, but they also touched the wire grounding out the electric in the new fence.
By the end of the evening our farm looked like someone played pick up Sticks, The new fence is in. As soon as they were done milking, they got out and finished it up while I got dinner ready.
It feels like we have had so much rain this winter, but I know come summer we will probably be praying for rain. When I was little mom use to say March will roll in like a lion and leave like a lamb or roll in like a lamb and leave like a lion. It of course refers to the winds. It seems this year it has rolled in like a lion. I am not a fan of the March winds. The feel sharp cold air and even though the sun is warm, that March wind sucks the warmth away. However I do believe this is the first year ever I have looked forward for those March Winds.
Strong winds and soft ground blows fences down and the boys figured it out last night. Of course 6 of the boys decided that our back yard was a great place to spend the night. Guess it was a good thing I would have never herd them or known they were out. The wind also blows weak trees down. When I was young my mom always said it was mother natures way of pruning the older trees, making way for the healthier younger trees. Well that was a nice way of trying to put it in prospective for me, but I still couldn’t sleep at night.
Now that the boys are back in their field and we had a little sleep, we wake to another windy day. But the blessing of the discomforting sharp March wind is that the ground is drying out. The wind helps to dry the fields so hopefully we can start spring work. We have so much to do, but are just waiting. It makes more work if we tear up the fields in the spring, and then will have to ride those ruts and bumps all year until we can plow them down.
Until then I’ll just keep dreaming of spring. The smallest grass shoots appear, the daffodils and crocuses beginning to bloom. Followed by the dogwood tress that line the lane. The sun is warm, the wind become a gentle breeze, and the color of a new year returns from the winter’s dormant nap.
Don’t look back, look forward, adjust if needed. We can do this, and improve on years past.
We finished field work late last fall, and worked through Thanksgiving, and almost right up to Christmas. We remembered the family before us, decorated the house, bought gifts, made special meals, held those close to us, and prayed for all those around us we couldn’t visit due to Covid-19. We still milked, made butter, and made sure the day to day chores were done.
Now what? The decorations are down, and lights are put away. I herd our water table is 16 inches over normal. Its wet! so many things we can be doing but its just to wet. Now we are getting more snow. It’s sure beautiful, but its a lot of extra work. Yeah our cows are pasture kept, and are out, but in this weather they don’t want to go out. So, we bed the sheds with the straw we baled from last summer. Three in the big shed, one in the heifer shed and probably 2 in the dry cow/ older heifer shed. And can’t for get the boys. This will go on for days. It seems like a lot when we bale and put it up, but it goes fast. We never really know exactly how much we need so we just put up all we can. The weather drives our needs for sure.
Usually by March 1, we are back in the tractors and running again. This year it may take a little longer to dry out. So, we are making plans, sorting different ideas around. We have already done some maintenance work on the equipment, but We can also always tweak, an improve on what we are doing. Make a plan. We may trash it later, but it’s nice to have a plan. So what are we planning. Everything from replacing fencing to new flavors of cheese. Adding Farmers markets, random renovations, and finishing the creamery. Even the crops and what we are plant and where. For the most part we will plant corn, and soy beans. However, maybe a little sweet corn, Indian corn, tomatoes, or flowers. Who knows.
What have we done. Well, a big thing is we have been working on doing some renovations on one of our houses. The children are grown, and they need their space. Honestly we are looking at retirement one day, so we have been planning and shifting. The one old farm house was built prior 1860’s. Not sure when, but the land grant was in 1685. We pulled all the rugs up last fall. Then a gift in getting the floors refinished was a great start and motivated us forward. Is it perfect, not but its a work in progress. This will actually be the 4th time we have re-worked on this house. Past tenants have been less than caring, however the last one took care of thing the best he could. I will never understand why people trash the homes they live in. Here are some before and some after. We will never be done, but its a start.
It is amazing what we have stored away. This one area rug, I had bought for my apartment way back before I started dating my husband. I’m clueless where he had it, but he pulled it out and steamed cleaned it. This house gives a whole new meaning to renew-reuse. Almost everything (except the curtains, and a couple rugs, a pillow or two), are all recycled from past generations, and were not purchased. We have spent very little money but it has kept us busy this past winter.
Farm work never takes a day off, but there are times of the years that are slower that others. We can’t make hay when the grass is dormant, can’t round bale bedding when there is nothing to round bale. Cover crops are planted, as is wheat, and barley. These will begin to grow again as the warmer weather moves in. Fields not planted will planted with corn or soy beans (once they dry out). Soon when the weather has dried the fields, we will be back at it. Did we end up planting sweet corn, Indian corn, flowers, oats, Lespedeza, maybe some tomatoes? That will just have to be another day, and another farm update.
Somedays we are hurt with what people have done to us or our property, but new life will emerge from it if we allow it. Sometimes we need a push from something out of our control, to move us forward. The last 3 years for us have been just that. Looking back I’m blessed for all these things. We have had the choice to be a passenger or be the driver.
The story of our butter is simple, but what makes it so good? Why is it so yellow? How is it made? Why is it different?
Lets start with our cows. We milk a 100% registered Guernsey herd. Why? Well John Christian started his herd in the 1920’s with guernseys, and we never changed. We love the Guernsey breed. Many of our cows are decedents from the original cows. They also have great attitudes, and I believe can tolerate our climate better than other breeds. The Guernsey breed was started by French Monks on the Island of Guernsey, in the English Channel. Golden Guernsey milk was the premium milk of the days gone before us, when it was delivered to our front door.
If you see the Golden Guernsey logo then you know the product you are using has been produced using guernsey milk. The use of the logo is authorized from the American Guernsey Association. If you ever see our banner at the farmers market, you will notice the the Golden Guernsey Milk Product Label.
Why is the butter so yellow? Well when Guernseys graze on grass the beta carotene from the grass doesn’t pass through their system, but passes on into their milk. This creates the golden hue. You can find more at www.guernsey-butter.com. Our Guernseys are pasture kept, and this means they live out in the pasture 24/7. They do have shelter with a deep straw bedding pack, but it is up to them to use it. In the winter when the grass is dormant we feed hay, and silage. Feeds that we have put up during the prior years harvest. They have a choice of what to eat. Some like hay, some like silage, and others go right to grass. It’s their choice. With this said our milk has a great golden hue to it.
As the milk goes into the milk tank, it is cooled to 38 degrees. From here we truck it to the butter maker. We are still building our creamery, so we have someone nice enough to help us make the butter. Otherwise it would stay on the farm. From the time the cow is milked, to when the butter is packaged, it is completely incased in a sterile environment.
Once it gets to the butter makers, the milk is pasteurized and then passes into the butter churn. From the butter churn the buttermilk is drained, the butter is rinsed, and packaged. We have the choice of unsalted, salted, and three different packaging options. We let him know ahead of time so he is prepared.
Our milk usually leaves in the middle of the night and is ready by noon the next day. I like to pick it up as soon as possible. He is kind enough to do this for us, so I will figure a way to pick it up as soon as it is ready. When we arrive to pick it up there are no labels on it. We take care of that once we get it home.
Such a beautiful color, and all it is, is our guernsey cream, and salt. Why say Sweet Cream on the label. Well there isn’t any sugar or sweeteners added, but the natural taste is creamy and sweeter to me than regular store bought butter. So, I named it Sweet Cream Butter. Once labeled its available to the consumer.
Its different from the second our cows graze our pastures, and its taste is premier. However there is another great thing about our butter that sets it apart. The guernsey breed is said to be 93% or better A2A2. What does that mean? Its all about the beta casein proteins. A1 and A2 milk have different beta casein proteins. The two proteins digest differently in our bodies. Some have a sensitivity to milk causing digestion problems. It may simply be the proteins in the milk. The Guernsey breed and its milk is a source for naturally occurring A2A2 protein. For more information check out www.usguernsey.com.
So there you have it, the story of our butter. Butter that is made from 100% Guernsey milk.
In a time of uncertainty, when last year our community was turned upside down, we have tried to keep it simple and it local. This is one of many products available to the consumer. Look around, ask questions, follow the journey, stay local, and buy local.
Well It has been a cold, damp, and cloudy winter so far. I wish I could say its all roses and sunny perfect days, but it seems to be staying the course. As the day closes and we come in to eat and get warm, it becomes so hard to go back out. So one thing I have done is revamp our butter label. I have never been satisfied with the ones we had, so I have kept playing with them. Finally I have one I like. Mince has been on all our butter labels, and she is a special cow. So I was determined to keep her as a part of the butter label. We have the labels is stock, but they will slowly make their way on to the tubs as we use the other ones down.
What is the story of Mince. Her registered name is Pine Grove YB Mince. She was born in Ohio. As a young heifer she was offered for sale. This sale was a special one. The Pa Guernsey Association holds a breed sale every year. However there are a few chosen heifers to be sold to just youth, and Mince was one of them. We purchased Mince for our oldest son Henry. She started going to 4-H events with him. Henry had a few other show animals, and White Hall Neon Paige was one them. Paige was a young cow. Paige went with him to All American Dairy Show. They did well. It was always a part of the deal, that if one of his animals finished first or second, we would move on to the next show. Paige was second in Pa. Our next show was in Kentucky. The night before we left Paige just wasn’t right (in the end nothing was wrong with her). I just couldn’t make Paige travel, when my gut didn’t agree. So here is where Mince came in. I wasn’t sure I could get all the paperwork done, but it all fell into place. Mince went to KY. She was 5th. From that point on she and Henry clicked. The rest of his 4-h career involved Mince in some way. Mince has several offspring and all are A2A2. Paige was and is still with us, don’t worry she and Mince are and will always be his queens of the farm.
Mince has a special bond with Henry, and always will. Like all our Guernseys Mince is family. She is one of the many reasons Henry wants to stay in the dairy industry.
Mince is a blessing to Henry and our farm. Things come into ours lives for many reasons. Some longer than others, and not always as what we expect, but usually is what we need.