Category Archives: Gardening

Saying Goodbye to Ring in Hello

2013 is now gone and in the record books. As the old saying goes,  today is a new day! A new day to the start of a brand new year full of hopes and dreams. I’d like to take a minute though to review our year of 2013 on the farm.

We have so many things to be thankful for that happened in 2013 but it didn’t come without heartache, stress and tragedy. We have suffered through the stress of planning, budgeting and financial woes. We have had our hearts broken over the loss of Belle, the rescue cow and favorite “mother” within the herd. We’ve had bad times through illnesses, aches and pains but we still keep pushing and we still keep going.

Farming isn’t for everyone. It’s a lot of hard work and dedication. It’s dealing with the tough times and take the good along with the bad. We did have some absolutely amazing things happen in 2013 that completely out weigh the bad.

After much personal discussion about financial woes and our own morals and ethics, we filed for a grant in November of 2012. In March, we finalized the paperwork on an EQIP grant that helped us reseed a field back into pasture, relieved financial stress of fence building and will even assist with a water project in 2014. The grant didn’t come without it’s own stress issues though. Budgets and monitoring, differences in opinions, and even clashing mentalities on timelines came with it. Yes, it’s been stressful but it’s also been a very rewarding adventure. Now that it’s past, we have a newly established 24 acre pasture planted with a wide variety of plants (18 or so were seeded) for grazing. We ended up with about 110 acres of perimeter fencing that was 5 strand instead of the USDA-NRCS recommended 4 strand. There are nice gates and hot wires to keep cattle in line and under control so they aren’t wandering the neighborhood anymore! These are major accomplishments!

We had five calves born on the farm in 2013 and brought in three more! Our total herd has expanded to 20 today with eight calves expected to be born in 2014!!!! It’s so hard to believe that in 2009, we had just one steer! My, oh my, how things have changed!

We held the first annual party in the pasture in May. I (Doreen) was so overwhelmed to have people I haven’t seen in a decade come to spend time on the farm with their children, letting them get to know what a cow is. We’ve had folks come visit for just the cattle kisses that are often shared on the farm. We’ve had visitors come from both near and far, made new friends, hosted a video crew and learned so much about what you enjoy about what we do.

We raised our first animals for meat to cater a wedding. Granted it was Rich’s sons wedding but who cares…well, maybe the bank account but hey, it’s all for a good cause right? We bbq’ed 200 quarters for that wedding! We raised them, butchered them and then the fun began around the bbq pit. It was a whole lot of hard work to make it all happen but the response from the guests was what made it all worth while.

Through all the stress and hard work, we managed to make some big changes in 2013. All of those changes will be allowing us to do even more in 2014! We are now preparing to work with another local farm to pasture their heifers in the grazing months. We are planning for more meat bird production, more eggs to be produced and even more Rose Veal to be raised! 2014 will also be a big transition in our marketing and we are expecting to start setting up stands once the markets open around May! We are also planning a second annual Party in the Pasture too! The water system will be started in April/May and will be completed during the summer of 2014 too.

All of these changes are because we are dedicated to our passions in life. Yes, it takes a lot of money and a lot of hard work. Yes, we suffer through heartache and stress. But…in the end and looking at everything big picture, we know that through all the struggles and trials we are doing just what God meant for us to do! Expect to read more about us as times goes on. Now that things have “slowed down” to a more regular pace, we will have the time to share more often.

In closing, our wish for you on this day of new dreams and hopes. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson and  “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” ~Minnie Louise Haskins

Happy New Year to you all!

A new day, a new year...new hopes and new dreams. Follow your own star!
A new day, a new year…new hopes and new dreams. Follow your own star!
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13 Questions

13 questions that were posted on another blog called An Irish Male in America asked recently for people in Agriculture, inspired a couple other people I follow to write their own responses. It got me thinking about the answers. As I read through several other blogs linked below, it got me thinking about what my answers would be and wondering if they would be different. Considering all of us in farming do different things for different reasons, I decided that I would take the time to put my own answers together.

Megan Brown writes her blog The Beef Jar. Even though her operation is in California, I agree with many of her answers. Ahnna writes her own blog Ahnna On About Anything and also answers the questions with much different answers that I would come up with. And Jenny Dewey writes her blog j.l.d. photograph and answers the questions from her perspective of being a butcher’s daughter.  Her blog gives a great insight into what it feels like being behind the scenes at her parent’s butchering business.

I’m sure by now, there are more blogs than these out there but these are the ones that made me think about doing one myself to answer these 13 questions.

13 Thursday Presents…

13 Questions I want farmers/ranchers/AG people to answer (or even blog about!) (Update, I’m now editing this for content…… mainly because there was a real lack of content before… !)

1: What is the worst time of year for you?

I would have to say the worst for me is winter. Not because of the snow we get here on the East Coast in Central NY because I actually like the snow. I just don’t take the cold well. I don’t like getting bundled up in layer upon layer of clothes to go hang out in the barn. It limits my time in the barn too because I can’t take the cold. I manage but it makes me wish for the warm spring days.

2: What is your favorite farm job?

I love all of my jobs on the farm but the one I like the most is caring for the babies. It doesn’t matter what kind…cattle or poultry, doesn’t matter. I’m just a mother at heart.

I even share kisses with the cattle! I love them THAT much!
I even share kisses with the cattle! I love them THAT much!

3: What is your least favorite farm job?

Without a doubt, it’s cleaning out the bedding pack in the spring. It stinks to high heaven and takes days for the smell to come out of my hair. It’s a pain to get it all scooped out and you can’t do it by hand (packed too tight). I hate using the tractor for this job. It’s seriously the one job I really wish someone else would do!
4: What type of truck do you drive (on the job) and why did you choose it? (this one is a must know, not only do I find American trucks awesome to look at, but with all the truck companies trying to advertise themselves as the “biggest toughest” truck out there, I think it’s about time we round out the truth from the people that put them to use!)

I drive a 2004 Dodge 1500 Extended cab 4×4. I absolutely love this truck! I probably use it harder than I should but I haven’t had any issues with it to date. It’s a tough truck to beat down. Not only that I LOVE the dual exhaust rumble!! I’ve hauled two big ol’ round bales in the back more times than I can count and more animals inside than I have people. I’ve towed wagons loaded down with 10 round bales during hay season. It gets me through wet fields and slings a little mud. Hands down this is the best truck I have ever been fortunately enough to drive. Even overtop of those Chevy’s I used to swear by.
5: What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned in your line of work?

This might be lengthy! One of the hardest lesson I have learned is that farming is still a man’s world. Women might be nurturers by nature but men still seem to control the destiny of what happens. I can’t tell you how many times I have called for parts or in search of equipment to have a man tell me he will get back to me and never return the call. I can’t tell you how many times I have stood on a tractor dealers lot to have them tell me what I wanted and didn’t want. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have almost been over charged for a good/product/service because I am a female. Being in this man’s world takes BRAINS AND GUTS…enough so that you know what you are doing, what you want, why you want it and know what to expect. It’s tough for an independent woman to learn that not everyone will see anything but the exterior.
The second hardest lesson I have learned is that sometimes you need to check your emotions at the door…this is one that I am still working on because I get emotionally attached to EVERYTHING! Emotions also tend to take over my conversations because most of the time I lead with my heart, not my head. It gets me into some tight spots sometimes too. Of course, if I was male I probably wouldn’t have this issue. Just sayin’
6: What do you think is the most valuable tool you have, the one you probably couldn’t live without?

As Megan Brown put it on her page, THE INTERNET! I honestly don’t know how I would educate myself to have the brains to stay on top of things happening in the world. Without the internet, I wouldn’t have met all these great women out there across the world that are struggling to fit in, education consumers and agvocate. I also wouldn’t have kindred spirits out there that I could talk to about the struggles, trials and tribulations of life either. I wouldn’t have a great network of advisors who have helped me set goals, learn different methods of production and give me some encouragement along the way.
7: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your business/what you do?

Personally, I think too many people lump all of agriculture into a tiny little box when in reality every farm is different from the next. Neighboring farms operate differently. I also think that people tend to think that micro and small farms are inherently better when in reality, many of them are worse than some of the biggest operations in the country.
8: If you could invest in a new piece of farm equipment tomorrow, what would it be?(and I mean it, just one!  let’s not get greedy!)

This one is simple! A new tractor that I would be comfortable with. I even have it all picked out. Massey is her name! She’s a red-head too…just like me!

 
9: What was the most serious injury you ever suffered in the line of work?

Hmmm, probably the most painful was the time a steer dislocated three bones in my hand. Hurt like hell when they had to reset the bones back in place.
10: Least favorite animal to deal with?

YEARLING BULL CALVES! They are still playful like calves and don’t realize their size. They are also the only brats they escape the fence…in turn demonstrating to the whole herd how to get out~GRRRR
11: (excluding all of the above) What’s the dumbest question you’ve ever been asked?

Hmmm….I guess it would have to be about the cattle horns. Most visitors think that only bulls have horns. It usually goes something like this….”What are those calves doing under that bull?” Which is actually a cow…but I’m sure you get the point.
12: Favorite beer? (come on, out with it!)(I’ve seen people take their beer pretty seriously, and it’s time to know what a real working persons beer of choice is!)

I, personally, love LaBatt’s. Honey Brown used to be another favorite. But, that being said….I haven’t had a beer in about four years and I think that was a Corona on a very hot summer day after working out in the sunshine all day.
13: Thing you’d most like the public to know about what you do! (I admit you do this every day on your blogs no doubt, but was looking for something addressing maybe a misconception you hear the most about your business!)

I wish people could understand that I am not just an animal care giver. I’m also an agronomist, soil specialist, mechanic, book-keeper, accountant, marketing specialist, graphic designer, writer, photographer, housekeeper, landscaper, consultant and much more. I wish people could understand that being in farming doesn’t mean that life is simple…it’s actually very complicated and complex. Many of us don’t only work on the farm but do other things outside the farm. It’s hectic. It’s chaotic. But we still love it! But just because we love it doesn’t mean that we are sitting back enjoy a 9 to 5 job. It doesn’t mean we get paid every Friday either. It means we go without to do the things we love the most. THAT said, I wish the public would also realize that all I would like to do is get paid (in a timely manner) what it costs to produce our goods with a little bit left over for me…to buy a pair of boots that I would probably wear to the barn. 90% of the time, 100% goes back to the farm in one way or another. We aren’t rich. We don’t have loads of money but we are building memories to last a lifetime and property to pass down through the generations.

A Growing Christmas Tree

I have to say…it isn’t gifts or spending time around my crazy family this holiday season that has me all excited like a kid on Christmas morning!

IT’S MY GROWING FRESH CUT CHRISTMAS TREE!

I have looked all over online to see if this is something normal…with ZERO results.

We cut our tree down on December 1st. It’s one of the trees that Mr. Farmer and his two children planted about twenty years ago…or maybe the offspring from one of them anyway. On the first, we had a couple of visitors from the NYC area come up to pick out a couple of trees to take back. While we were assisting them, we figured…hey, might as well cut our own. Makes sense right?

Mr. Farmer did the hard work (sarcastic) and cut the tree down. We loaded in the back of the pickup and drove down of the hill. I trimmed it up within an hour or so and got it standing in our living room. It was a little too tall (aren’t they always?) so I trimmed the top spire down to fit my angel, strung the lights and gave it some cold water.

I have to admit…it sat here for almost two weeks with nothing but a couple strings of lights and some additional pine cones wired on. I check the water daily and when it calls for a drink, I have been adding a little warm water. I finally rolled around to getting some ornaments on it last Friday. Not many of them but just enough to make it look like a Christmas tree.

Everything has been going just fine, typical and normal until last night. I came out of the bedroom door (the tree is straight ahead and maybe six foot away) I noticed these white looking “bumps”. After turning on the lights, I thought I was seeing things. At first, I thought we had some type of bug growing all over on the branches. After getting the flashlight and my glasses….to my astonished surprise here’s what I see.

Not a bug afterall
Not a bug afterall

Can you believe that? The tree is LOADED with them. Nearly every branch looks like this:

Look at all those!
Look at all those!

In all my years, not on my tree or others I have seen, have grown pine cones once cut! If anyone has any idea on how I did this…PLEASE comment and let me know. I have done several internet searches to try to debunk this fluke of nature…with no results.

One awesome thing….I think I have the coolest Christmas tree EVER!

Chive Vinegar Follow Up

Since many have been asking….”how’s the chive vinegar doing?”

Here’s the answer!

Two weeks brewing…

We still have one more week to go. I will be posting another update sometime around the 20th of the process of straining and making of the actual salad dressing. I am excited to try it! I have been tempted to pop open a jar now, just to see how flavorful it really is…but I am TRYING to be patient! 🙂

Herbs

So far today I have spent time weeding out the small chive and onion raised bed right outside the from door, harvested some of both items and transplanted some of the herbs.

I guess I will start with the onions…they are green onions. To harvest them, I just take a sharp knife or a pair of scissors and snip the tops off. I then bring them inside and wash them up with cold water. I shake the water off and then snip or chop them into pieces. After that, I pack them into either a food saver bag or a canning jar. Once they are packed, into the freezer they go. For ease of use, I prefer the canning jar. And yes, I do put them in the freezer. If I want green onions, I just twist the top off, shake a few out and add to whatever I am cooking. If you thaw them prior to use, they will lose a little bit of the flavor.

For the chives, I snipped about half of the plants off. After cleaning them up and setting the  flowers aside, I start packaging them. Some of them get chopped in the food processor and then froze. Others just get cut into three inch long strips and the remainder I dice. All of these go into the food saver bags in portion sized packages. When I need them, I pull out what I need and use them. You can air dry these too but I prefer the strong flavor that I associate with fresh chives, so I freeze them. You can also chop them up fine and freeze them in an ice cube tray, removing them once they are solid and storing them in a ziplock bag or container.

Now, back to the chive flowers. I read online last night about this guy that takes his flowers and soaks them in vinegar to use for salad dressing. It sounded really interesting so I stole his recipe…..

Take 10-15 flowers for each 1/2 cup of white vinegar. He recommended white wine varieties but I don’t care for them, so plain ol’ distilled it is! And besides…it’s what I had available! I trimmed and cleaned about 30 flowers for every pint (oh yes…there are those mason jars!). After stuffing the flowers into the pint jar, I covered them with vinegar, place on the seal and set them on my porch railing.

Why my porch railing? The key to this recipe is the sun. The natural sunlight will brew the cocktail much like sun tea! You can leave the mixture for up to two weeks. The longer it “brews” the richer the flavor. As you can see in the photo below, some of the pinkish color is already starting to blend into mine…and it’s been about two hours!

First stage of chive vinegar

After completing my chives, onions and vinegar brew, I decided it was time to start transplanting some of my herbs that I plan on keeping inside for every day use. I designed a little basket with some rosemary and majorium, used old pots for mint and rosemary and then mason jars (I think I just have a thing for clear glass!) with one each of sage, oregano and basil. My house smells so good right now…it makes me want to disrupt the leaves every time the wind blows so it stays like this!!!

The array of herbs

Now I need to get off my butt and back outside so that I can start building my new herb garden for the dill, the rest of the basil, oregano, and sage along with the parsley. I found an awesome idea on Pinterest that I have got to make…especially considering all of these shale stones we have around here. I will update with photos once it is complete. But again…if I don’t get moving, I won’t get it started!

Have a great afternoon! God Bless!

Long Weekends

After listening to people question us part of the weekend about us not celebrating Memorial Day with a barbecue or picnic, I figured it was time to get out the full explanation of why we don’t have the extra time or energy to have a party.

First of all, animals don’t know the difference between holidays or any other day…other than maybe Christmas Day when we lavish them with extra “treats”. To them, it’s another morning they need milking, feeding and usually, it’s the day they get really dirty or break loose from a fence. Holidays are just that…days.

Second, since Mr. Farmer also works a full-time job off the farm any extra days we have are spent doing things that need to get done around the farm or house. Like this weekend, Mr. Farmer took Friday off and the morning was spent on chores and moving compost from one location to the garden. Then some time was spent tilling it into the soil. Of course, then we needed to plant. We spent a couple of hours Saturday evening planting tomatoes and peppers after we moved the landscape fabric we use under them into the new location.  Then we spent another couple of hours planting seeds and watering them all down.

Yes, on Saturday, we did spend some time at the annual Horse Pulls at our local fire station but that wasn’t a pure pleasure event. I had to work taking photos, talking with pullers and  the staff for the event so that I could put together an article for next weeks edition of Lancaster Farming Newspaper. It was hot too, with temperatures hovering around the 80+ degree mark and ZERO shade to be found anywhere! All of this after running to the local feed and tack store in the morning to pick up new bedding for the chickens and dog food! By the time evening chores and gardening were done, we were both wiped!

On Sunday, it was much the same. I wrote up my article after I finished up morning chores, went through the 150+ photos of the horse pulls and read through emails all before 10am. Then I started working on a new rug for in front of our front door until about 11. After spending the day bouncing between driving kids and their stuff from the cabin by the pond, having farm visitors with lots of questions about the animals and how/why we raise animals the way we do and evening chores, we finished up the day by picking up stones out of the field of new seeding. It was about 9 pm by the time we rolled in the door and someone still needed to fix dinner if we were going to eat! By 10 pm, I was ready to collapse after spending so much time in the sun!

Then on Monday, it was off and running to pick up more plants and seeds for the gardens. When we got back, we planted the transplants and worked up some rows of seeds for the carrots, radishes, peas and beans. We dug holes, buried some chicken manure compost, hilled and planted watermelon, squash, eggplant and cucumbers. Then we came home, grabbed drinks, filled our 100 gallon water container that is now on the back of my truck and headed back down to water everything. After watering plants with about 50 gallons of water, we sat down with Mr. Farmer’s parents and sisters in the shade for about an hour before heading back up the hill to come home. I will admit, we did sit down and watch TV about an hour or so. It seems like every time we just start to relax, there is something that needed to get done…so off we went to do our nightly chores. Then it was back to the garden to plant potatoes, do a little more watering (it’s really hot and dry here this spring!) in our garden and in Mr. Farmer’s dad’s garden.

After gathering eggs, I heard one of the Dexters and her calf bellering…after walking down to see what was going on, I found the calf was one the wrong side of the fence and was separated from his mother. After walking nearly back to the barn, I got him on the right side of the fence and reunited with his momma. By this time, it was dark and again, I was ready to fall into bed. Too bad it was 88 degrees in the house and our air conditioner is a piece of crap! It was so hot and muggy that all you had to do was lay there on top of the blankets and you were start sweating up a storm! I hate hot humid weather. I think I would really rather deal with the cold. At least then, we can dress accordingly. I have yet to figure out a way to get cool enough in this heat. I don’t think I could ever live in a state like Texas where it’s so hot ALL the time!

I am glad that today things should return to normal. I could actually use that normal pace to relax, since it doesn’t seem like I have for the whole long weekend! I think a LONG pasture visit with my camera is in order for today!!!! Before it gets to the hot, muggy, humid 90+ degrees they are calling for today……

I am off to the barn to milk, feed and probably a good brushing. Today is also fly treatment day for the cattle too, so I will be doing that this morning too. If you are all interested in following more about what happens at our farm…please visit and like our Facebook page which can be found at Barrows Farm. We also have some likes for other farms, farming information and suppliers located there as well. Hope to see you all there soon!

Thanks for stopping in. God bless!

Time to Garden

I am excited to say that now it’s time for us to shift into the gardening mode! We are running about a week or so behind but we will still be good for the stuff we plant on growing days.

Yesterday we picked up about 1/2 of our tomato plants. Typically, we plant 36-42 Roma tomato plants. When they bear fruit, we make sauce and more sauce. There is nothing like a huge pot of sauce simmering on the stove! The smell is one of the best in the world!!! Then we plant plum tomatoes for using fresh in salads but the majority of them will be peeled and make into stewed tomatoes!

We also plant peppers to freeze and to use in our sauce. We upgraded from just three plants last time to six this time. I might even attempt to get some additional ones that aren’t just the green ones this year too. I think I need some yellows and reds in the freezers too!

Last time we did tomatoes, we ended up with 32 quart jars of sauce and 21 quart jars of stewed tomatoes! For the two of us, that’s enough to last about a year and a half! Oh, I do love to can! Every time I walk to the pantry, it gives me such a sense of pride knowing that we planted, grew and harvested that delicious portion of our food!

We will also be planting cucumbers for pickles, squash, watermelon, peas, carrots, radishes, potatoes, lettuce, spinach, beets, hot peppers, eggplant, cauliflower, pumpkins, two types of squash, and probably a few I have forgotten.

I have my herb garden started. The chives in the raised bed outside my front door are HUGE! The green onions that are in the same bed are also growing well and have been since February…which is unheard of in NY! I picked up my parsley, rosemary, mint and thyme yesterday. Now I just need to get my basil seeds planted and see what else I can find! 🙂 I am actually thinking of planting a bunch of lavender to place in all of the house windows…wouldn’t that smell great as the breeze comes through during the summer! Then we can’t forget the dill, cilantro, coriander, fennel, majoram, oregano and sage!!! I am slowly working on building up an herb garden. I really want to be able to supply ALL of my own! I will get there, at some point!

Any way, I am off now to go in search of more plants and then to work getting the garden all planted today! BTW…did I tell you our garden measures about 50 feet long by about 25 feet wide! Our composted manure is all tilled in and sits there waiting for us to get moving!!! Photos to follow soon!