In Focus?

Sometimes it is hard to tell. Most especially through the tiny viewfinder on the camera. I have taken photographs all my life. Which is now turning into a long time. I thought getting old would take longer.

The camera has no opinion of my age, though it does have a way of telling me my eyes are not what they used to be. Lighting can be manipulated, color, tone, etc as well. But not focus. On days I am feeling especially smarty, I tell folks I meant for that photo to be out of focus!

I took a photography class not long ago. The instructor said if our photos are not shared, but most especially not printed, our photography is incomplete. So I have decided to regularly post some of the photos that folks seem to like.

It would be a great joy if you would comment and share some of your photos as well. Include stories associated with photograph, if you like. Which one do you like, and why? I appreciate the feedback.

This one was meant to be out-of-focus. Seriously.

Only in Winter

Only in winter, and even then, it does not happen often nor stay too long. However, this past Monday through Wednesday was a different story. An ice storm that kept our part of the world heavily clothed in its command for two full days, and one night.

There was a frightfully, intriguing appeal to being out in that winter storm. Venturing out several times with camera in hand and hoping to capture an image of this beautiful, powerful storm kept me busy looking and watching. It seemed to want an audience. As if it wanted to remind us of just how helpless and small we truly are. Breaking, falling limbs, and trees crashing all around. First a small, creaking sort of sound, followed by a mighty rip of wood falling without knowing from where or to where. Best not to get too close. And the air. It was filled with the sweet smell of fresh split pine. How full the atmosphere was of that woodsy, comforting smell.

This magnificent storm captured my attention and imagination. Perhaps my images will convey part of its mighty story to you.

By the breath of God ice is given,

and the broad waters are frozen.  Job 37:10

What in the World are you Doing?

This is a legitimate question to one who is not familiar with this procedure. It seems so awful, and cruel towards the horse at first glance. Sometimes not everything is as it seems. In the horse world it is called “floating a horses’ teeth.” It can be a life saver for neglected horses because these painful, sharp tooth points interfere with eating and drinking.

At first glance this procedure looks so cruel.


Horses teeth do not stop growing over their life. The expression “long in the tooth”, comes from the horse world. An old horse is described as being ‘long in the tooth’ because their teeth grow longer as they age. Because of this growth, horses need regular dental care. This procedure is called ‘floating the teeth’. In simple terms it is like filing one’s fingernails. Floating grinds down the sharp, uneven surfaces of the teeth. Many times sharp, painful points are formed on the teeth. In the above photo, Dr. Rhode is feeling around Duke’s mouth to find the sharp points. These points are what need grinding down. They can cause pain in the mouth when eating, and could cause problems with digestion as well.

Tracy is an amazing assistant to Dr. Rhode. Duke was in very good hands with her.

Horses are sedated before the procedure is started. In the above photo Duke is obviously not feeling too much pain. A bright light is attached to the mouthpiece that holds his jaw open. In the below photo, it has been circled in a green marker.

The flashlight is that square in the middle of the green circle. It is very bright, as is seen in photo.

His heavy, sedated head is resting on a sling. A close look in the above photo shows Tracy’s gloved hand holding the pole steady. Tracy said Duke was very good because he did not shake his head from side to side, which makes for a very difficult job. I was very thankful.

The sling Duke’s head is resting on can be seen in this photo also. Dr. Rhode’s power drill is loud and big, but it has big teeth to grind down.

After the points had been ground down, tarter was removed from his canines. This was the last thing to do. Duke’s dental appointment was over. Good, good horse. Great vet and assistant.

Tarter is being removed from his canines.

I am not able to post the video for some reason. It can been seen on my Instagram account @primaryfarmoperator.

History Note: Before hand tools were available for this job, it had to be done by the vet with big heavy files by hand! 

  

#chickensmakeuschuckle

‘A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones’, so advises The Book of all books. This comes from the book of Proverbs 17:22, which happens to be one of my favorite books of the Bible. It has been said that this book of Proverbs is our guide for person-to-person relationships.

This timely advise forms the foundation of why I created this hashtag #chickensmakeuschuckle. I like to laugh, and it is even greater fun when others join in! So, this is my mission, to spread lots of chuckles to all that love the good medicine of a joyful heart.

Chickens, it seems to me, are some of the most industrious, busy, noisy, funny, sweet and beautiful of all farm animals. They are never ‘off-duty’. How could they be? When one is literally everyones potential lunch? Even when in the coop at night, they all have something to say before finally getting quiet! They fill this farm with laughter every single day. There is not a chicken owner alive that I have met that does not have a funny chicken story and/or photograph.

#chickensmakeuschuckle is THE hashtag to spread the fun, joy and chuckles of life with chickens intertwined with we all-too-serious-humans. Since starting the hashtag last fall, we have nearly 500 delightful chicken photos shared. It was SO difficult picking out these ten. So to have a real fun time follow #chickensmakeuschuckle to be sure to get a daily dose of laughter. Remember, it is good medicine!

Top Row L-R: @poultry’nmotion; @whimsyofwillowsfarm; @lakefronthomestead

Bottom Row: @chickenchikita; @melton_homestead

Top row L-R: @honeycreek_farm; @farmgirllizzy; @my_backyard_paradise

Bottom two: @shortgirlfarm; @glaistighomestead

These accounts are on Instagram. I am very grateful for everyone that shares their chicken fun with us. Go check them out and follow them. They are full of lots of chicken chuckles. You too are welcome to join the fun and laughs. On your Instagram account tag me @primaryfarmoperator, or better yet ‘follow’ #chickensmakeuschuckle. The winning photo is posted every Monday morning. The best way to start the week is with a good laugh, so join the fun with #chickensmakeuschuckle.

Always a Winner- Chili

Happy New Year! Real winter has yet to start here in our part of Virginia, the Northern Shenandoah Valley. We have had snow and ice already, but typically we get blasted in January and February. Which makes this recipe a winner all the time.

It is easy to put together, and by the time your family storms through the door at the end of another busy day, they will be asking when will it be time to eat. Perhaps they are running in only to run back out, then you may catch them eating straight from the crock-pot!

In your frying pan:

Heat: 2T oil of your choice (olive, safflower, sunflower, avocado).

Add : 2 cups chopped onion, and 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

Add: 2 lbs ground beef (Our homegrown beef of course!). Brown beef with onion and garlic well, drain off fat (will not be much with our beef. :))

If the beef is still a bit frozen, place a piece of aluminum foil over pan to help cook meat faster. Set pan on edge of burner to help drain fat.

Rinse and drain:  4 1-pound cans of red kidney beans. Place in crock pot.

Add:  2 28-ounce can tomatoes, 1/2 cup beef stock (I use Better Than Beef bouillon)

The goodies that make it yummy: Remember: T=tablespoon,t=teaspoon

4 T chili powder

1.5 t salt

1.5 t paprika

1.5 t oregano

1.5 t ground cumin

1/2 t cayenne pepper (or a bit more if you are daring)

Add beef mixture, mix well. All ready! Cook on LOW 8-10 hours, or high 5 hours, or on automatic 6 hours.

This chili will take the most wonderful additions. Try any or all of the following:

Shredded cheese; sour cream, greek yogurt, jalapenos, tortilla chips or fritos. Let me know if there is something special you put on yours!

Kitchen Tips

I always season beef when browning. Use your favorite brand.

An excellent way to get iron in one’s diet is cooking with a cast iron skillet. Remember, they are heavy. I would recommend an 8″ skillet. The weight and size are great!

If you noticed in the photo of beans, there was a can of black beans. That is because I did not have enough kidney beans. They worked very well!

Do not be intimidated by recipes. By trying something different you may just discover something wonderful!

Homemade is always best

  

Cowboy Stew

Who would not enjoy a big, steamy bowl of this fun-sounding stew?

Most of the ingredients are canned. 



Ingredients:

1 lb hamburger

1  medium onion chopped (or 2 onions if you like lots of them!  They are great for fighting colds!)

4-6 medium potatoes

Can of:  green beans, corn, and beans  (your favorite type of bean, any type will work).

Large can of diced tomatoes (if all you have is tomatoe sauce, that is fine).

Slice onion, not too thin.
Chop potatoes in a good-size bite!
Brown onion and potatoes while browning hamburger.

It saves time, and makes for great taste to brown onion, potatoes, and hamburger together.  Should they get sticky in the bottom of your dutch oven, add a small amount of water to loosen the goodness.  Also, turn your burner temperature down.  We tend to cook too hot!  Do not know what a dutch oven is?  Check out blog:  https://bluerockhorses.com/2018/10/05/the-million-dollar-question/

You must know your tools and how to make them work for you!

After the meat is browned, add the tomatoes, corn, beans, and green beans.  Season with 1 tsp salt and pepper.  If more broth is needed, add 1-2 cups of tepid water.  For extra fullness in flavor, stir in a teaspoon of beef bouillon into the water.  Better Than Beef is the bouillon of choice for me.

Remember, this is a stew, not a soup.  Which means it should not have as much broth as a soup.

  

Mix everything gently. 

Please do not boil your stew! It only needs to simmer gently.  There will surely be left-overs, and the best part?  They will taste even better the second and third night (or in a lunchbox!).

  This recipe will serve 4-6 with leftovers, which we always strive for! It can easily be doubled as well.  Simply double everything.

Kitchen Tips

Keep your pantry in a good supply of canned green beans, corn, diced (or crushed) tomatoes.  There are usually 5-6 cans of each in my pantry. 

Onion and potatoes should also have a permanent place in your pantry.  Take them out of the plastic bags (this causes them to rot faster), put them in pretty baskets!  Should the potatoes start growing ‘eyes’, break them off and toss out in your flower bed.  This will extent their shelf life (if you do not, the ‘eyes’ will cause potatoes to shrivel up). 

Enjoy!  

Thoughts and ideas are always welcome!

Homemade is healthiest and best!

Calming the Grass-Fed Steers?

The steers have gone to a cool place.  Any reader  familiar with this blog knows what that means.  It is the hardest day for this PFO.  There is little hope this day will ever get easy.  They have been processed and delivered to the buyers.  Buyers who have an interest in the quality of food they eat.  They know the farmer.  They know the farm.

 

“Are they grass-fed only?”  The most asked question heard from interested buyers.  “No, they are not.”

IMG_E6131

Are they grass-fed only?

What many folks do not realize is that cattle have a natural fear of man.  Unlike dogs, cats, and other household pets, cattle have to be taught to feel comfortable around humans.  The way this works for us is with feed.  As I heard a cattleman say once, “Feed keeps the cattle humble.”

img_4311

Cattle have to learn to feel comfortable around humans.

What does that mean?  Here it means getting close to the cattle.  This is of utmost importance to this PFO.  They are visually checked daily for injuries, pests, and vital signs.  Is their breathing normal, eyes bright, coat healthy looking and coming on nicely for cold weather?  Do they have a good appetite?  Are they interested in their surroundings?

img_4414

Feed allows us to get close to them.

When they are trained to come to the feed call and beating of the feed bucket, they are willing to hang around we humans.  If these steers were totally grass fed, I suppose we would need re-training on how to properly care for them.  Until our steers are comfortable with us, they spend all their time in the woods and graze at the farthest points in the pasture.  They bolt away should we get too close.

 

After learning to come in when called for feeding time there is a peacefulness to the day here with all the animals.  They will hang around with the horses and chickens and feel far more at ease.  This is the goal for us.  Is there a more bucolic scene than cattle resting in grass chewing their cud?  Well, do not answer that.  Suppose we are cattle folks at heart!

Training does not take too long.  A couple weeks going out into the field to bring them in quickly gives way to them coming when they hear our voices calling.

IMG_4760

Our steers get plenty of fresh air and all the grass they can eat.

IMG_E6124

It does not take them long to learn the sound of the feed bucket.

 

Our goal here at the farm with our hand-raised steers is to give them plenty of fresh air, a place to run, and all the green grass they can eat, along with a little feed to keep them near us for the best of the best care for them.  Right now, as I write this, the steers are out lying in the wet, wet grass peacefully chewing their cud…

 

IMG_4450

Feed allows us to give the steers the best of best care.

 

 

Know the farmer.   Know the farm.

Homemade is best.

Run Between the Raindrops!

We Virginians that live here in the northern Shenandoah Valley should all be a little lighter in body weight this summer.  The spring rains have yet to end in our part of the world.  Looks like rain again today as well.

IMG_5316

Looks like rain again today.

Our summer has been spent running between the raindrops, mowing and weeding the gardens between storms.  And storms they have been!  Torrential rains, thunder, magnificent lighting all across the skies.  Flash floods, roads washed out, downed trees, broken fences from fallen limbs, and piles of cut grass have kept us occupied all summer.  One would think a few pounds would surely be lost in the busyness of this yard work!

 

A few of we hardy gardeners have thrown in the towel on our gardens.  Tomatoes are plentiful—just green, green.  The crabgrass seems to be the main item happily taking over every space not even previously known to us,  where does it come from?  Though the field corn has faired well.  There may be some fall planting, though no commitments as yet.  Given the choice though, this wet weather seems better than drought.  Sure wish we could give some to California.

IMG_5200

We have had rain all summer.

We Shenandoah Valley folk take what we get as far as weather goes.  Try to see the best in it, and smile at the start of another fine day, rain or not.  There is always something worthy of our attention and good to do everyday.

 

There have been few summers that have stayed this wet with grass so lush and beautiful into August.  Well, this too shall pass, as the old adage says.  So, in the meantime, keep your mower blades sharp, fuel tanks full and good humor running full blast.  Oh, and do not forget a good, tall glass of lemonade!

IMG_5572

The field corn has faired well.

The old-timers say, “Make hay while the sun shines!”  Well, guess what?  The sun is shining right now.  Time for this PFO to get out there with the weed eater!

IMG_5213

As we old-timers say, “Make hay while the sun shines.”

Know the farmer.  Know the farm.

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.

IMG_4756

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?”

IMG_4692

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

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

IMG_4757

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.

IMG_4690

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

 

IMG_E4689

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