Five Minute Friday Writing Prompt—Story

Attending the Highland County Maple Sugar Festival this past weekend has become a fun, yearly family outing.

Maple sugar camps are open for tours. Maple doughnuts, candies, and cotton candy are delicious! We buy our supply of good Virginia maple syrup there at the local sugar camps.

While waiting in a long line for lunch, my daughter-in-love and I decided to look into a recently restored lovely, old home now a destination for over-night guests.

While heading up the stairs, the young girl told us a most interesting story. “Be careful, the top of this newel post is loose.” Our puzzled look brought the answer. “It was the hidey-hole for their illegal liqueur during Prohibition.”

We had never seen that nor heard a story like that before!

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.”


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.”


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?


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.


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


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…



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.


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.


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!


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!


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

Know the farmer.  Know the farm.

Homemade is best.



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.


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.


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:



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.









Apples ‘n Bits 4-H Horse & Service Club

Jean Marie Vogler loves children, horses and her community in Winchester, Virginia.  She has successfully corralled all three under her Apples ‘n Bits 4-H Horse & Service Club.  Started in 2001 with eight members, the club now has membership of eighteen.  The club was designed for members that loves horses but do not own any.


Club time is devoted to community service projects, public speaking events, performance at talent shows, general interest activities, and learning about horses.  They put on talent shows at local nursing homes where the members dance, sing, or play instruments to the joy of the residents.

The club members and mini's bring much joy to veteran's hospitals and nursing homes.

The club members and mini’s bring much joy to veteran’s hospitals and nursing homes.

  General interest activities are chosen by the members.  They enjoy hula-hooping, cider pressing, fund raising for their club, potluck dinners and scavenger hunts.  Guest speakers teach on a variety of topics, such as, trees, and history of the guitar. Blue Rock Horses has been a guest speaker as well on History and Appreciation of the Horse.

Jean  Marie has four miniature Shetland ponies and three full-size Quarter horses on her farm in Winchester, Virginia.  She believes the mini’s are “a nice size to introduce the kids to big horses.”  She and her club visit nursing homes and veteran’s hospitals with the mini’s.  They are warmly welcomed and are the most cordial of guests.  She begins with her “little teachers” and as her kids grow in knowledge and comfort, she moves on to her “big teachers”—the Quarter horses.

Educational exhibits at Frederick and Clarke County Fairs

Educational exhibits at Frederick and Clarke County Fairs

A very unique part of her club is the twelve week summer horse camp offered to club members.  This summer, 2013, marked the second year of her successful camp.  The camp meets once a week for 2-1/2 hours.  Each year has a central theme to teach and grow her horse enthusiasts.  The first year theme was “Observing your horse” where members learned much about horse health and horse language.  This year’s camp theme was “Groundwork First.”     Jean Marie knows well  “a good relationship with any horse begins on the ground.”  Blue Rock Horses were honored to be guest speakers one morning there with our horses.  Infused in every activity of this club is lots of fun, laughter, and fresh air.

Summer horse camps are a unique part of the Apples 'n Bits club.

Summer horse camps are a unique part of the Apples ‘n Bits club.

Infused in every activity is lots of fun, laughter, and fresh air.

Infused in every activity is lots of fun, laughter, and fresh air.



The 4-H motto is “Make the Best Better.”  One cannot spend time with Jean Marie and her club without noticing the many, many awards they have won.  Here are but a few:

4-H Club of the Year

4-H Outstanding  Jr., Sr., and First Year Awards

4-H Family of the Year Award

All-Stars—the top State Award given at Virginia Tech

Blue ribbons won at Educational Exhibits at Frederick and Clarke County fairs


Apples ‘n Bits 4-H Horse & Service Club is an exceptional 4-H club in Winchester, Virginia.  Their many awards are proof of their devotion and hard work to their club and of the excellent leadership of Jean Marie Vogler.  Next time they are fundraising at Tractor Supply in Winchester this author sure hopes you will stop by and support this fine group of young people who represent the hope of the future for us all.

Apple 'n Bits 4-H Horse & Service Club is an exceptional club.

Apple ‘n Bits 4-H Horse & Service Club is an exceptional club.


For more information call:

Jean Marie Vogler 540-662-8302 or

for all 4-H Club programs call Frederick County Extension Office 540-665-5699