Can You See What is Going On?

Blogging and summer just do not seem to get along together.  Most especially after this wet, rainy Spring we have had here in our part of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  This PFO (Primary Farm Operator) has been in constant battle with the flourishing, well-watered weeds in the gardens.

As soon as one bed is looking like someone cares for it, the ‘make-you-loose-your-religion’ Crabgrass has moved happily back in!  Grrrrrrrr……

 

This short post though is about something all together different.   At the end of this post is a video of the steers in the pond.  Watch the two steers standing close together.  Watch carefully and to the very end of the video.  Something very interesting is going on.  Can you see it?

 

The fish are jumping out of the water and eating the flies that are annoying and biting the cattle.  Can you see them?  How cool is that?  God’s World is amazing and never ceases to amaze this old PFO.  Yeah!

 

Happy Summer!

Homemade is Best!

Don’t say ‘Small’, say ‘Intimate’

Father Harry and I raised five children in an eighteen-hundred square foot home.  Four of these busy little critters were boys and one sister, who is the youngest.  Twenty plus years of busyness filled that simple, happy home.  I was describing our ‘small’ house one day to a dear friend.  She sweetly reprimanded me and said this paradigm shifting comment,  “Don’t say ‘small’, say ‘intimate’ “.

 

What a different frame it put around my thoughts of our smaller-than-everyone else’s place.  We had suddenly become a family that was no longer crowed together,  but rather characterized by “close personal relations;  warm friendship;  warm, cozy.”  How strong and wonderful words are!

 

This was the exact word I used when we packed the pick-up truck full of one grown son (our main driver),  his sister-in-law, her three adorable children  (with one still in a car seat), and this Primary Farm Operator.  On the road for a 1,300+ mile trip out West to attend a family wedding.  It was the first time for my sweet DIL and children to be away from their dad/husband, who could not get time off work.  Uncle Gordon would have to do for the nine days.

Leaving their dad/husband was a bit rough, but we were all packed and ready to go.  I have always believed everyone should make a road trip across our mighty country at least once.  It is stunning, fun, and tiresome (I don’t know why Dorothy ever wanted to go  back to Kansas!)  Just the same, it is beautiful to drive through.

 

It took about 27-28 hours to drive from our farm here in Virginia to the Gordon’s, Longtime Ranch, in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado.  We stopped for a quick nights rest on the west side of St. Louis.  Snacks, fruit, sandwiches, books, i-pads, toys, blankets, pillows and of course a good atlas had all found a traveling space.  The luggage carrier strapped in the truck bed was full.

 

 

The joy of traveling with little ones, and a momma that have not experienced a cross-country trip made it all the more fun.  Crossing the Ohio, Mighty Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers were thrilling.  Passing through towns that look so different in form and feature from our own filled us with wonder.  How amazingly different our country is!

 

My twinster and her family went beyond the call to make us feel comfortable and welcomed.  Even with the amount of work at their ranch for their daughter’s wedding, they had time for us.  It was truly a blessing from start to finish.

 

Perhaps this little blog post will give you the notion that traveling with family can be done.  It surely was well worth it!

 

Happy Family Travels! 

 

 

 

 

Spud, Ben and Larry

“Just look at that!”

Whatever was in my hands and lap was thrown onto the floorboards of the van.  “Stop, please!!”, came the over-excited request from me, ” Let me out!”

Fanatic, passionate, over-excited or just plain crazy.  That adjective I will leave to you.  All the same, I was out of the van and quietly jogging up beside a jolly-looking fellow driving a team of gorgeous Belgian horses on a country dirt road in Vermont.

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There in the road was a jolly fellow and his beautiful team of Belgian horses.

“Excuse me,” I said quietly, not wanting to startle the driver or the 3,500 lbs or more of the team of horses he was driving.  They had blinders on, so I knew to move slowly and quietly.

 

Sitting comfortably on an old school bus seat (he told me that what it was), attached to an iron sled, he quietly pulled the horses to a stop.  The one nearest me turned his big head towards my voice.  When he saw me, I was confident they would not startle.

“May I pet them?”

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My older twins and I so happy to meet these magnificent horses.

“Yep,” came the reply of the jolly man whose name was Larry.

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The jolly man, Larry, said we could have a ride!

They were happy for a stop, and delighted to be admired and petted.  Spud, the ‘old’ man, is thirteen years old.  He is the teacher to Ben, the three year old youngster.  Facing the team from the wagon, the experienced/teacher horse is usually on the left, the young/student horse on the right.  Larry kindly answered all our questions, and then I just had to ask,  ” Is it possible you could give us a ride on the sled?”

To our utmost joy, Larry said, “Yes!”  I sat beside him on the seat, my older twin sisters stood behind and took photos, and asked more questions.  Our friends stood in the road and took more photos.

 

Larry drove the team up a hill and down another road.  He stopped at one point to let the horses have a rest.  We switched riding so all could have a turn.

Larry said he was training the team for pulling contests, that is why they were pulling the iron sled.  He has been driving horses since he was a small kid.  His father worked his entire farm with horses, they had no tractors. Driving on the road requires great attention in case the horses get spooked and watching for cars around corners in the middle of the road.  Great care is given in training the horses so they behave in public.  Just like little kids they learn quickly what they can get away with.  If allowed to get away with bad behavior they will try again, and sometimes grow even worse in bad habits.  Spud and Ben were perfect gentlemen.

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Spud, the teacher, is happily having, Ben, the youngster scratch his ear!

It seems every work horse I have ever met has a one-syllable name.  I have to quote the answer because it made me smile,  “I think all the horses we have ever had had short names…guess you don’t want to be hollering long names.”  Well, that settles that.

 

Larry and his wife, Betsy, own Sugarbush Farm Maple & Cheese Farm in Woodstock, Vermont.   They have farm fresh cheese and maple syrup.   Call them at 802-457-1757, find them on facebook, or

click here to find their link

 

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Thank you, thank you, Spud, Ben and Larry for the grand ride!

 

 

 

 

No Guts, No Glory

Note This blog was written on Saturday, May 12, 2018.  In my haste to get it out, I failed to press the ‘Publish’ button.  I was out of town and was not able to get it out.  So, I send it now with belated Happy Mother’s Day wishes.  Though late, the wishes are still heartfelt for mother’s everywhere.

 

Motherhood.  Not the popular, most celebrated occupation; pay is not great; hours are long, and many times lonely;  no gossip magazines producing glamorous photos of it; or waiting in line to interview those working diligently in this occupation.  Yes,  it seems to be a rather unpopular profession.  It takes guts to be a mother.

 

Yet for those that want to embrace it to the fullest, it is an occupation of joy, riches, and times never to be had again.  Life is ephemeral.  Childhood is too.  It is an exciting way to go into a time one will never see.  That is through our children.  So as you celebrate being a mommy or grandmother today, enjoy!  Give this not-so-popular profession a thank you for all it has offered to you through your momma and to all it offers to your children because of you!

 

Happy Mother’s Day!  Here are flowers from our farm sent specially for YOU!  Happy Mother’s Day!!

 

 

 

You are a What? A PFO? What is That?

PFO, Primary Farm Operator. That is what I am, and is what I do. This title was given to me by my twin sister several years ago. Actually, she is a PFO as well. Are you?

We are the main care personal or Primary Farm Operator on our farms, or ranches as my twinster, who lives in Colorado says. It is a growing movement in the rural parts of our country. Where woman are the mainstay, while husbands have full-time, away-from-the-farm jobs.  Indeed, we have a small farm because our husbands do work an outside job.

Making ‘livable’ money from farming alone is pretty much non-existent. Most especially for small farms. Father Harry (aka my husband, Bill) has worked away from home for all our married years.  This PFO has considered the home and farm her business. It is true we have had our little farm for only thirteen years, and we have been married nearly forty years!  Those years before our farm, I considered myself the PHO, or Primary Home Operator.

I have always looked at our home as my ‘business’.  The way I saw and still do is;  no one–NO ONE has the interest in the prosperity and success of this business as I do.  The work has been lonely and long, as Father Harry travels far, wide, and often.  It has been a choice, an agreed upon choice by the two of us, and it has worked well.

Thirty years ago, the house was full of five active children and pets.  Now it is full both inside and outside of pets and animals.  Some would say the animals are better than the children.  Some would say children are better because “they grow up and go to college!”

I say they are similar in many ways.  For instance:  to leave the farm for any amount of time requires finding farm hands to do the work;  having healthy kids or animals is the product of attentive care and attention;  the work is never-ending;  the rewards are far greater than the back-breaking labor;  they all are more fun than television; they keep me young-at-heart;  they all make me smile.

Different tools and skills are required, of course, between home and farm.  There are excellent books on small-scale farming.  A good place to find them is Tractor Supply stores.  Tractor Supply also has great tools you will need.

Enjoy our blogs on something every PFO needs: A Tool Purse.  A Chain Saw.  A Tractor.  Click on links to read blog posts on these important farm tools.

Happy farming gals!

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Read about tools you will be sure to need in our link below:  The Tool Purse

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This tool is necessary.  A small one is very manageable for a PFO.

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Every PFO needs to be able to operate one of these wonderful tools!

Continue reading

Easter Tradition reminder from fellow Blogger

Easter supper was celebrated this past Saturday here at the farm.  It was a better day for all family members to get together before starting a new week,  however it knocked this PFO off her groove.

Though it was a thought in the mind of some of the grown children not a word was mentioned.  Nancy’s post on her blog, Two Trails One Road, was a reminder that something important had been forgotten.

 

Posted Easter day, April 1, 2018, her blog jogged the foggy memory of this farm gal.  That was only after reading it today, April 4, 2018.  Just the same, Easter morning found no freshly made Danish Pastry waiting for the hungry crowd.  Truth is, it was totally forgotten.  Never even thought of.  Sometimes cliches hit the nail right on the head—  making the pastry fell right threw the cracks of this farmers’ plans.

 

No sooner had Nancy’s post been happily read did it hit home.  In a hurried rush were things flying about the kitchen to make the “We have had it every year for forever,” tradition danish.  What a blessing the recipe is straightforward and turns out very well every time.

 

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The recipe is straightforward and turns out very well.

The almond flavoring gives this pastry a surprisingly nice and different flavor.  Toasted almonds are used also for they have a nice full flavor, and look very pretty as the topping on this family Easter Tradition Danish Pastry.

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He is Risen!  He is Risen, indeed!

Now life can move onto the next exciting moment.  Thank you, Nancy, for your reminder.

 

Know the farmer.  Know the farm.

Homemade is best.

 

Nancy’s blog site:     twotrailsoneroad.com

You eat Meat? Why?

There is much in vogue these days.  One arena that certainly is not, however, is Biblical knowledge.  It is a well documented fact that we current Americans are the most Biblically illiterate generations ever in our history.

Whether one believes the Bible is the inspired Word of God or not is a mute point.  It is still the best selling book in the world.  More civilizations have been influenced by it than any other writing.  Spend some time reading it, and try to deny it does not see into the ‘heart’ of man better than anything else written—ever.  Want a starter?  Here are a few quotes from the book of Proverbs:

  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.  Prov. 1:7
  • For the Lord gives wisdom.  Prov. 2:6
  • From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.  Prov. 2:6
  • Happy is the man who finds wisdom.  Prov. 3:13
  • The Lord by wisdom founded the earth.  Prov. 3:19
  • Put perverse lips far from you.  Prov. 4:24
  • Ponder the path of your feet.  Prov. 4:26
  • He who  walks with integrity walks securely. Prov. 10:9
  • The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor.  Prov. 11:9
  • …he who hates correction is stupid. Prov. 12:1
  • The righteous man regards the life of his animal.  But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.  Prov. 12:10

 

These keen human insights go straight to the heart of man, like it or not, and they were gleaned from just the first twelve Proverbs!  A man, or woman, cannot hide themselves when reading from this book.  The words shine straight through us as if we were a little piece of glass from front to back.  It is sobering, and beautiful.

So what does all this have to do with eating meat?  Just this, it is our own sin that caused the killing and eating of animals.  Our ‘original sin.’  That is, the very first sin committed in the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve.  When they disobeyed God and ate “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, God said,”…for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Adam and Eve were forced to leave the Garden.  It was because of God’s love for us they had to leave.  They were not to be trusted again, and God did not want mankind to be eternally dead by eating from the Tree of Life.  This would have kept mankind forever in our sin.  So, because of love, He sent us away.  Yet, He clothed us before we left (another act of His great love for us).  How did He clothe us?  “…the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.”

That was the first shedding of blood—for our sake, for our benefit.  Blood represents life.  Animals were killed for our sake;   Jesus Christ died for our sake.  This is all accepted by faith for those that believe.  The same faith that is exercised every time we drive a car, sit on a chair, eat at a restaurant, put money in the bank, get married…and on, and on.   We do all these things out of faith.  Think about it.

Ever since that fateful day meat has been a regular diet of mankind, and their skins were our clothing.

Here at the farm,  steers are raised for beef.  These animals are very well kept. This takes much time, effort and money.  They have a good life.  All except for one day.  It is very hard on us when that day arrives.  The quiet of the woods offer sweet consolation to a sad heart when the cattle are hauled off.  It is the hardest part of this work.  Reread the last quote in the above list again, for it is our guiding light.

Here is a thought to those who question why we eat meat.  Who would be willing to keep the loads of animals that sustain us just to feed and clean up after them all the twenty to thirty years they live?

This is why this farming family says grace every night.  We are very well aware of the sacrifice the steers have to make for our good.  And we are especially thankful for the sacrifice our Lord Jesus made for us on the Cross.

Happy Blessed Easter.

 

Know the farmer.  Know the farm.

Homemade is best!

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The righteous man regards the life of his animal.  Proverbs 12:10

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The animals are well-cared for.  This takes time, effort and money.

 

 

 

 

 

You are not a Cow-Poke! What do you know about raising Beef?

It was apparent there was some reason family members were not purchasing the good beef that has been raised here on the farm.  A Bible verse came to mind that helped explain it, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”  Mark 6:4.

 

That explained it.  Really, it was a good question though.  Growing up on a cow/calf operation on a farm as a youth did not teach much about growing good beef cows.  Or did it?  The training of our minds has been such that if one does not have a degree in a subject, or years of work in it, how could anything be known on any subject?  Years ago that learning was called the ‘school of hard knocks’.  Learn by doing, by asking good questions, and reading good material.  Learning from those who have walked the long path we newbies have just started on.  Learning from trial and error.

 

Reading, asking questions, visiting other farmers, going to feed stores and touring a processing plant  was begun months before the steers arrived.  We toured Joel Salatin’s farm, Polyface Farm,  in Swoope, Virginia.  Purchased several of his books:  Folks, this ain’t normal ,  Salad Bar Beef; and The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs  to name a few.  We toured T & E Meats in Harrisonburg, VA.  We visited farms and spoke with beef farmers.  We spoke with feed store owners about types of feed and how much to give.  Finally, we purchased quality miniature beef from a reputable farm and breeder, Bryan Hill Farm in Broadway, VA.  That maiden year then became trial and error as the first steers were unloaded onto our green pastures.

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The steers were quality miniature Herefords purchased from a reputable breeder.

There were buyers for all the beef, and it was exciting hearing the feed back come in.  We knew it was good, and now so did our customers!  We are now finishing our second round of hand-raised beef.  These, we feel, will finish out as nicely as the first ones.  It is satisfying work.

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These steers are finishing out very nicely.

 

So it was exciting when the inquiry came from a family member for a roast.  The freezer is cooling a lot of empty space right now because thirteen months have passed since those first beef cows were processed.  Yet, there was a nice-looking bone-in roast remaining, weighing around three pounds.

 

With bated breath we awaited the remarks from this tough family customer.  A text came through with this photo and remarks:

 

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The flavor not only was good.  It was the meat, it was tender, creamy, almost buttery.

We consider this compliment better than one that could be given from the Queen of England herself!  (No offense to the Queen, please.)

Some of our previous blog posts you are sure to enjoy about the cows:  “Meet the Farmer & the Farm”, Aug 14, 2016;  “The Steers are Gone”, Jan 4, 2017;  “Feedback has Come”, Mar 5, 2017.

We all have begun as a newbie at some point or another.  Keep on keeping on, do the due diligence, follow your gut and heart, and love what you do!  Happy farming to you!

 

 

 

Know the farm, know the farmer.

Homemade is best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are Horses Safe?

This good question is worthy of thought.  Horses are beautiful, graceful, and powerful…but are they safe?  Blue Rock Horses and Farms’ motto is:  Safety First, Beauty Second.  This is taught to students here at the farm because:

A horse can kill intentionally.  A horse can kill unintentionally. 

It is hard to think in those terms, after all, they are so pretty!  So are Polar Bears…

“Put your horse brain on,” is probably heard from this instructor second only to, “Keep your heels down!”  For good reason.  Horses do not think like humans.  To be safe and stay safe around them, humans must learn the horse.  Reading good horse books is a wonderful way to learn, however,  observation is the best way to know horses.  Watching them interact with one another is an education in itself.    There is an obvious hierarchy and language among them that can be learned by careful observation.  They ‘speak’ to each other in many different ways, and indeed ‘speak’ to we humans as well.  So, pay close attention.  And remember, it takes time to learn another “language!”

 

Horses are not like dogs.  This must never be forgotten!  Dogs are prey animals, horses are preyed animals.   This is a huge and many, many times overlooked difference, and is a large factor in safety around horses.  Startle a dog,  it will jump, and we laugh.  Startle a horse, and we may be spitting out our own broken teeth!  Is this the fault of the horse?  Absolutely not!  Always make your presence known around the horse.

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Always make your presence known around the horse.

When frightened, horses run away.  That is their first natural defense.  Often before fleeing they will look at what is causing the fear, then take flight.  For this reason, horses need to be tied loosely so they may keep an eye out for danger (or the boogie-man, as this instructor calls it!).   After-all, who wouldn’t keep an eye-out if you were someones potential lunch?

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Tie and lead horses so they are able to look around and keep an eye on their surroundings.

Horses are as accurate in striking with their forelegs and with their hind ones.  The safest position is either right up next to them or way out of striking distance.  They have excellent aim!

 

So, are horses safe?  Yes!  Though a safe, knowledgable horseman is the best way to insure a safe horse.

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Though sign was found on an old manufacturing plant, it rings true for horseman (or woman as well!).

These are minimum basics of safety around horses.  Hope it helps!