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.
It has been a while since our last post. We have just been so busy. So many blessings, have come our way this year. A year when Covid 19 has in some way affected us all. From shortages to illness and so much more, this year has been a year to really test our ability to change and adopt. We are so eager to put up decorations to consider the year is done. In our minds this has been a bad dream. Maybe a dream that we think we will awake from in 2021. For us I think this year, is just a a little of what to come. If Covid 19 has done anything it has changed our way of how we shop and eat. Personally we put up more food than normal this year. Our freezers are full (well were full) as we went into fall. Farmers markets have been a great place to find fresh local foods. As a farmer we thank you. I have been the first one to say the consumer is half the equation. 2020 has been a year that the consumer has stepped up and has come through for the local farmer.
Farmers Markets has been one way to get our product to the customer. It may be cold out, but I always have to chuckle. My biggest worry is keeping our cheeses, butter, and beef, at the proper temperature. These cooler days I’m not so worried. Our family is always eager to help you pick out a cheese or butter, and talk about their flavors. We all have our favorites, and parings. If you have never been to a Farmers Market and give it a try. I think you may be surprised to see what is available.
This year we began selling these Cheese Boxes. They have been a hit and I hope all who received them are enjoying them as much a I enjoyed putting them together. The oyster shells were all collected from the Chesapeake bay. They have been scrubbed and hand painted by our family. A little addition I thought would be nice as a way to remember 2020, in down home way. The cheese boxes will return for the 2021 season, but we can always put a box together during the year. The only difference will be, there will not be an ornament.
What is in store for 2021 is yet to be seen. We have so many ideas and stokes in the fire, that sometimes I’m not sure what is next. We are just going with the flow. So stay tuned.
Thank you to all who have believed in us, and our Guernseys. Thank you to our customers, and consumers. The journey from farm to table is just not an education, but a path to understanding where our food comes from, and how many hands touch it in transit. A path that helps us all find a clean, and healthy food source.
Merry Christmas everyone. Enjoy your friends and family, remember those unable to be with us, and stay safe and healthy this holiday season.
Well it is October and my husband usually tries to set out a white wrapped round bale for me to decorate. Some years we haven’t done this just because the time seems to disappear, and boom its December. My pumpkin still needs a stem, but at least its out. This year we switched the farm we are setting it at. The house is up off the road, so the pumpkin looks tiny.
So on with the farm. One of the fields that had been chopped for silage, is slowly getting the next crop on it. The first thing will be to spread stored manure from our animals. Because of regulations, we can only spread manure certain times of year. I know some people dislike this practice, because of the smell, but it is short lived and comes with the chore. However as we recycle by spreading manure from the sheds, and barn yard, we are replacing nutrients into the soil. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are replaced back into the soil. If we didn’t do this than we would need to purchase and spray a chemical fertilizer. I would rather recycle, than purchase a chemical.
One we have finished spreading manure, we plan to work it in to the soil by working the soil several times. This also will help deter any weeds from growing, and level out the ground.
It will be worked once again to break the larger clots of dirt up, and smooth it out. Actually we were able to do that before the rains set in. Once the field dries out we plant it with Wheat, and the field will rest until spring. We wont do this with all the fields, but this was one that we needed to do. There were lots of ruts left from the previous equipment running when the ground was to soft.
Stay safe and enjoy the rain as well as the sun. As much as I love the nice weather, it’s the rainy days that bring the fresh growth from the earth.
As the last wagon went into the silo as the sun was setting. Corn silage has been completed. The next few days have been oiling, greasing and any maintenance needed on the chopper and wagons before they were put away for the winter. We still have a lot of harvest ahead of us, but personally this is the most stressful. We were able to fill one silo, and partially fill the second. Both silos have been checked over and have been running feed to the cows, heifers, bulls and steers ever since. As this last wagon was unloading, we were already mowing down our last cutting of hay.
As we finished up with hay, we had a little burp. As we were bring in the hay, from the field, one wagon decided it was nice out in the field. Well actually, it was moving fairly slow, so it just drifted to a gentle stop when the hitch broke. This was some of the last few bales to be brought in and wrapped, so the wagon is in line to be fixed over the winter. So what is next? Well- There were a few days of rain, and it benefited our store.
Yes we had a few days to shift gears, and restock the store. I love fall, and Indian corn. Of course I’m just getting started as I have plans on our farm and our fall decorations. We sit a bit off the road, so what ever I do has to be kind of big. So, stay tuned for that.
So as the sun set last night I finished my last 100 years corn corn for the freezer, and started making apple sauce. The apples this year are so good, and our family loves homemade apple sauce. I will use the juice from cooking the apples down to make apple jelly, but that is for another day. I already made several batches of zucchini bread for the freezer, but I noticed it already gone. So maybe a day of bread and jelly is on my list.
Every day we take little steps, and before we know it our goal is accomplished. Sometimes it takes longer, and sometimes it easier that we thought. When the list is big and we are full of anxiety like we had ahead of us in August, just take little steps.
Remember to watch the sun come up and go down. The world as it awakes and as it falls asleep, is full of choices. keep an eye out for them so they don’t pass you by.
There comes a time when the farm has the chance to pass on to the next generation. Our case is no different. Back in the 1920 John Christian Myers started milking Guernseys on our farm. It wasn’t called Dogwood Lane Farm back then and in fact we didn’t even own it. John Christian was renting it. There had been cows on the farm, but the owner was killed by a bull, and his widow moved off and back with family about 8-10 years prior. The farm was eventually purchased into our family and horses were used to plow and harvest the fields. We also raised turkeys, ducks and chickens. These things were sold by direct market to customers both local and as far as Baltimore.
John Henry Myers Sr. was the next generation. Into the 1950’s our neighbors were selling out their Guernseys and replacing them with Holsteins. We stayed true to the Guernseys, and still do today. Over time the horses were replaced with tractors. They were not sold, but just retired. I do believe the last one was named Earl, and passed on about 1960.
John H Myers Jr. while in high school help to buy out the aunts, and the farm went into its 3rd generation. Numbers of cows increased, and goose hunting became a second source of income. We no longer raised turkeys, ducks, or chickens. The ever changing times and ideas changed the direction of the farm. John Henry Jr. named the farm Dogwood Lane Farm and lined the lane with Dogwood trees. He brought the Guernsey herd back threw genetic recovery, so it became a registered Guernsey herd. Dogwood Lane became our prefix.
The next generationare becoming adults. The dairy industry is struggling and there is a need to diversify. We find ourselves direct marketing again as we sell our cheese and butter made from the milk off our farm. We have almost come full circle to the first generation. We also have chickens, but for the eggs, adding them to the direct market.
The video above was the last time John Henry Sr. got up in a tractor and worked ground. He out lived two wives many childhood friends and family and had battled cancer. He spoke about this day for weeks. My husband made this possible. We worried about him and thought of all the things that could happen. We said a prayer. Its hard to let go and pass things on, but I think it is just as hard to know this was probably going to be his last ride. It was. He doesn’t drive any more, and has passed his share on to his grandsons. However John Henry did more than that, he also passed on the love of Guernseys, farming and love for the earth. Respect of Mother Nature, and how to adapt quickly, quietly while saying a prayer. We owe a lot to the generation before us. We may not agree with the things they did or how they did it, but they didn’t just pass on the farm, they passed on a way of life.
Make time and love those around you, tomorrow isn’t promised.
I have added pictures before, but I had this video, and finally figured out how to upload it into a blog. It isn’t the best video, but it shows the process of how the chopped corn gets into the the silo. I have spoken about all the moving parts that make it dangerous, and this shows how dangerous it can be.
The video is a little loud, but when working around this equipment it is loud. I always say this is why my husband is hard of hearing. Some people wear ear protection. Either way it only adds to the danger. I will say even with all the noise, there is a pattern.
Its raining today so I’m sure the men at home are finding something to do, but as soon as it is fit, they will be back at it. I think we are a little more than half done. Enjoy today, even the rain is beautiful in its own way.