Who is going to Feed the Pigs?

Our discussion revolved around pigs. A family member that is vegetarian expressed an interest in ‘saving’ all animals from slaughter. It sounds very noble to not want to kill farm animals for food. It is a hard, dirty business to be sure. The problem is it is not practical.

Twice a day, everyday of the year regardless of weather or personal inclination, livestock needs tending to. These are the realities of having animals be them house pets or farm animals.

But consider these ideas. Our society is transient. How many of us live in the same home our parents lived in, or even the one we grew up in ourselves? How many hours are you away from home everyday? How often do you travel? How long are you gone when you do travel? Do you have a summer home separate from your winter home? How about a summer cabin? Summer vacation?

So, who is going to feed the pigs? Day after day, year after year for all their long lives? And that is just pigs.

Yes, it is hard sending our cattle off to slaughter. I was thanked by a man recently for raising cattle for beef. He said that because he recognizes the fact that if cattle are not used for beef, they would be extinct! Because—who is going to feed the ‘pigs’?

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.

#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.

Because I cannot Paint It!

“Are you a photographer?”  Dreaded question.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I tell folks I like to take photographs.  That is about as far as I dare myself to go.  To call myself a photographer is just too big.  To be a photographer one must know what one is doing, know their camera inside and out (not!), and  how to get just the right image.

It is a big title—a photographer.  Same as calling oneself a painter—oh my!  It is true some of my photos have won prizes, in small shows.  I do sell note cards with images I thought would look pretty on cards, and a couple photos hang in the homes of kind folks.

So the main reason I take photographs is because I cannot paint it!  This post is to share with you photos I have taken.    It will be a joy should they bring a smile to your face or recall a pleasant memory.  Please let me know the ones you like!  It is always fun seeing which ones ‘speak’ to folks.  They all tell a story of some sort, yes?  Share your thoughts with this amateur you-know-what.

Happy Friday to you! 

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.

 

 

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!

IMG_8597

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

img_7142

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

IMG_8698

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

Continue reading

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.

IMG_4513

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.

IMG_3247.jpg

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:

 

IMG_3478.JPG

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Good Old Senior who turned 30 Today

He was a keeper.  That was easy to see from the first.  He was the right color, good temperament, but best of all he showed signs of being the perfect height and build.  Yes, indeed, he was a keeper.

IMG_0764
He was put together very well.

Foaled February 12, 1988 at Mom’s  Tag-Along Farm located, at that time, in Gaithersburg, MD.  She had big plans from the start for him.  She, and my step-father, Carl, bred, raised and showed Miniature horses for 20 years.  It was their retirement ‘fun’.  And fun they had.  His registered name is Tag-Alongs Boomerang,  which was quickly shortened to BR.  It has held ever-since.

IMG_1458
Mom and BR had many fun outings at miniature horse shows.

He was just a baby when Tag-Along Farm moved to Clifton Forge, Va.  Days were full for this miniature horse who was sure he stood 16 hands tall!  He was one of  two breeding stallions for the 26 head of broodmares on the farm.  He was a show stallion, an entertainer (see above photo), and a perfect show-off host to farm visitors.

Time marches on, and upon Carl’s death, the horses were sold.  All except five.  BR was one of the five.  They were pals, he and Mom, and she could not let him go.  So, she gelded him and the five lived out their later years at the farm until Mom passed away.  And now, he, and his stablemates are here at Blue Rock Horses & Farm.

And today he turned 30!

IMG_5226
He still entertains farm visitors.

Today BR is 30 years old!

He got lots of treats at feeding time tonight!

IMG_1264

Good ‘ole BR, even with all his white, still looks real fine in his blue halter.