Near and Dear

It’s been a bit since I last wrote to you and I’ve had a few blog ideas mulling about in my head for a while now.  Now it’s time for pen to hit the paper – so to speak.

Pete was reading in one of his Grazing Magazines  “Evangelical Christians purchase substantially less organic food that their less religious peers” .  That struck me so hard.  As many of you – well all of you probably- know we are a Christian family.  A farming Christian family.  Being a Christian is what compels us to do what we do the way we do it.  I believe that farming/agriculture are quite near and dear to our Lord’s heart.  I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say it again – God cares about what you’re eating.  Let me tell you my thoughts on why:

  1. He created you and wants you to be well. Did God create something with flaws?  No, sin corrupts our world around us and things in their natural state can be as close to what God intended them to be like.  So why do we fill our bodies with things and chemicals that are far from what God originally designed and created?  Was Eden a feedlot where the cows were stuffed with grain to get them fat for eating?  No, it was a garden – where animals whose bodies were designed to eat and ruminate on grasses could eat that. When a Cow is fed grass and hay – like their bodies were designed to process- the fats in the meat have the PERFECT omega 6’s to Omega3’s ratio!  Imagine that – when something is done the way God intended, it is perfect.  Our bodies need these fats, and the amino acids, and congregated linoleic acids that is created by this food.  So do your body a favor and respect your body that God gave you and feed it good things.
    1. A subset to this point would be that God created your body to be the temple of His Holy Spirit. So why on earth are you not caring about the foods you put in it? Why are we feeding it all this processed items that aren’t even food.  You are tarnishing the gift that was given to you in your body.  Care for it – give it good food.  Food from a farm.  From a farm that farms in a way that is reminiscent and honoring of God’s original design.
  2. He cares about the animals. Animals are all through the Scriptures.  From horses in Revalation, to Balaam’s donkey, to instructing the Isrealites not to muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.  He cares how they are treated and what happens to them.  Whether we like the thought or not, we may have to give an account for how the foods we chose to eat were treated.  We are called to care about what our King cares about.  He cares about lost souls, He cares about our tears, and He cares about the animals He created.  So feed your family food from a farm where you can know that the animals are treated in the most God honoring humane way possible.  We would do no less because we are also accountable for how we treat these creatures entrusted to us.
  3. He cares about our planet. God didn’t just create this earth and then leave it to it’s own devices.  No, we can see time and time again in His word that He cares about the planet that He created.  From the intricacies of how each and every cell in a tree is so perfect, to how He instructed the ancient Isrealites to not cut down the trees of the territories they conquered – for they were to be a food source.  When Christ returned after His resurrection who did he look like?  A gardener.  He had just returned from Glory and comes back looking like a farmer.  Interesting…. So honor your King in choosing to eat foods that aren’t harming the lands around them.  Genetic modification of His original design not only can hurt our bodies, it hurts His land.  Buy your food from a farmer you can go and visit and ask them good deep probing questions about how they are raising that food for you.  Don’t be lazy.  Be proactive about caring about what God cares about.

It hurts me to know that I know about 10 total Christians who buy their food from us or any other farm.  Why oh WHY are Christians not caring about this?  We of all people should be the most enthusiastic about this because we know who made it!  He entrusted this to us.  How we have squandered it.  And yet many Christians look down on those who do care about the animals, the way they eat, and the health of the planet as crazy people.  Yet sadly these people are doing what Christians ought to.  Stewardship is something that all Christians are commanded to do.  Stewarding of your own body, your finances, your time and the earth.  We all will be accountable before the Lord for what we’ve done in these areas.  I want to hear – “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  I want to steward well all that He has given me and get as close to His original design as I can.  I wish oh I wish more Christians would join me.  Care about your food, care about your body, care about this earth!  Honor the Lord while you do it.  This is the root of why we farm the way we do.

Menu Planning 101

Tara’s Newest Blog Post!

Menu Planning 101

Hello friends,

Let’s talk wifey work.  Now my definition of this is different than your definition of this and each probably has their own definition of what this looks like for them.  As many of you know I am a stay at home, homeschooling, marketing, refereeing, baking, IT running, wife and mommy.  My day in day out routine is probably different than yours. My days consist of teaching Micah, caring for Casey, playing with Patrick, making all our meals from scratch, running the marketing of our farm and a County Farmers market. God gives me the ability to do all of this and more.  I know it’s all Him.

I wanted to let you in on a facet that makes this routine work smoothly: Meal Planning.  This is a buzz word in the circles I run in now-a-days.  So many moms seem to get so stressed out over this and I honestly don’t understand why.

How to Month Meal Plan:

  1. Fill in the calendar.

About two days before the end of the month I sit down on the couch while my boys are all napping with all my cook books, a notebook, and my computer by my side.  (Note – boys are napping and I have a moment to do this and focus on this)  I print off a blank calendar from Word for the upcoming month.  I take a pen and write in all the things I know are happening that month.  Let’s look at February for my example:  For us I knew that the first weekend we wouldn’t be home we’d be away at a conference but I had to pack lunches for 6 adults for that conference,  I know that two Mondays a month I have a homeschool Co-op all day, so I write that on those days.  I knew that we’d be away the weekend of the 17th-20th. Finally I always write PIZZA on Fridays because that’s what we eat every Friday.  Remember to put in when you know you’re having guests over, or someone not being home.

  1. Make a list

Take your handy dandy notebook and write the types of meats your family eats.  Us, having a farm we eat lots of chicken and pork, some beef and rarely ever seafood. Under each heading of meat type I write some of my favorite things to make with that dish. Example:  Chicken- Whole baked chicken, Chicken Marsala, Orange Chicken, Chicken Cordon Blue Roll Ups, BBQ Legs and Thighs, Chicken Nuggets, White Chicken Enchiladas, Chicken Milanese, Chicken Pot Pie, Baked Chicken Legs, Chicken Noodle Soup etc.  This is where your cook books and computer come in handy.  I love the Pioneer Woman and how she cooks and portions.  Her blog and cookbooks are staples for me.  That and my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook as well as Kay Robertson’s Cookbook are my go-to’s.  I make a list for all sorts of things I like to eat of those types of meats and get it all laid out by meat type.  Don’t forget simple non recipe things like:  Pork Shoulder Steaks, Pork Chops, Steaks, Sausage Dogs, Burgers etc.  Those are quick and painless! Also, don’t forget soups!!

Plug ‘n’ Chug

Fill in the dates on your calendar.  In our house Sundays are easy days for mommy.  I usually plan that to be breakfast-for-dinner night.  The rest of the days that are open on your calendar plug in the meal ideas you just listed on your grand list.  Don’t forget to do a leftover night every once in a while!

  1. Make your grocery list.

Take your filled in calendar and your notebook.  Go through each day and write what ingredients you need to purchase for that dish that you don’t have on hand.  Remembering to check the stock of your basics like: milk, eggs, Flour, salt, seasonings, onions, garlic, potatoes, BUTTER etc. I then go through my house really fast and write down things we’re low on.  Toilet paper, paper towels, garlic salt, shampoo, baby wipes, sugar etc.  Write it all down.

  1. Go shopping!

For us this is nearly an all day affair.  We live 45 minutes from an Aldi and major grocery store, plus having the 3 kids makes for a looong  day.  Plus, we pick up Raw Milk for our house and my in laws on this trip usually so that’s an extra stop.  Tips:  Buy blocks of cheese, there’s no added ingredients that you don’t want and it takes seconds to grate it yourself.  Melts soo much better too.  They’re cheaper and more versatile.  (Slices for sandwiches or grated in mac n cheese)

  1. What about out Lunches/Breakfasts.

In our house things are pretty straight forward here.  Breakfast is usually eggs in some fashion and a bread entity with some breakfast meat if we have it on hand.  My Micah likes granola over eggs so 2x a month I make a 20+cup batch of granola from scratch and that’s his breakfast and emergency lunches.  I like to make a “special” breakfast of waffles, pancakes, French toast, biscuits and gravy…. Etc. On Saturdays if I can, I make my own bread 1-2x a week (3 loaves at a time) and that’s usually breakfast.    We don’t eat store bought cereal for a few reasons:  1. I don’t like the ingredients I can’t pronounce/don’t want those in our bodies. 2. Doesn’t last as long in your stomach 3. More expensive.

Lunches:  My boys love PB&J’s for lunch every day.  That’s what they ask for so they get it!  My mother in law makes the jam for our business so it’s always around and I get a good natural peanut butter from Aldi.  For my hubs and I it’s usually leftovers from the dinner prior, a sandwich with a ham slice from the farm, or granola!  I use up my leftovers at lunches and keeping my fridge available for more real ingredients like Cheese and butter.

  1. What about sides?

Make a list of what you like for sides.  I have the benefit of a full freezer of all of last season’s produce frozen at my fingertips.  I “shop” for items like this at my in-laws house.  She keeps the frozen veggies, potatoes in the root cellar and carrots and onions stored up.  Basic meal for us is:  meat, a starch and a green/colored veggie.  I keep a steady supply of potatoes at my house, and a stock of at least 5 frozen veggies from my in-laws freezer in my freezer per week.  List should be simple:  green beans, broccoli, mac n cheese, (cheaper to make from scratch!), pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, carrots etc.  Then shop for these items at the store.  In the winter I get some organic lettuce package for us to have a salad for the first few dinners.  (Menu planning for the month = lettuce won’t last till the end of the month!)  I make mac n cheese, butter parsley noodles, butter parsley potatoes, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, baked fries, and other things regularly to pair with our other veggies.

What does it look like when it’s all done:

Here’s my month of February:

  1. Sausage burgers
  2. Steak
  3. PASA (conference)  Lunches- sandwiches, chips, fruit, cookies
  4. PASA
  5. Come home from PASA – pancakes
  6. Homeschool Co-op – Boneless pork loin
  7. Chicken Nuggets
  8. Spaghetti
  9. Pork Chops
  10. PIZZA- Peperoni
  11. Business Meeting Here – Orange Chicken
  12. Pancakes
  13. White Chicken Enchiladas
  14. Tacos
  15. Soup – Bean
  16. Left overs
  17. Iowa
  18. Iowa
  19. Iowa
  20. Homeschool Co-op – Sausage and Mac n Cheee
  21. BBQ Chicken
  22. Pulled Pork
  23. Chicken Marsala
  24. PIZZA – Black Olive
  25. Business Meeting Away
  26. French Toast
  27. Chicken Milanese
  28. Left Overs

–          Sides :  Mashed potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Corn, Mac N Cheese, butter parsley taters, crash hot potatoes, boiled potatoes, baked fries, butter parsley noodles,

From this I’d make up my grocery list.  We have all the meats and eggs on our farm, as well as flours, oil, olive oil, yeast and other dry ingredients in bulk.  {We also sell these items in bulk just letting you know! } I get Raw Milk as well from a dairy 40 min away.

Butter – 8 boxes

Cane Sugar – 2 4lb packages

Lunch supplies:  cheese, chips and apples

Apples for the house

Bananas

Clementines

Maple Syrup (2 12oz bottles)

Organic Spaghetti noodles

Organic Spaghetti Sauce (3jars)

Pepperoni (packaged from Aldi)

Mozzarella Cheese (5 blocks)

Cheddar cheese blocks (3)

Colby Cheese block (1)

Orange juice

Organic Black Beans

Organic Kidney Beans

Organic Pinto beans

Lemon juice

Parmesan Cheese

3lb box of Elbow Macaroni

Ketchup (2 ) (Hunts because it doesn’t have High Fructose Corn Syrup)

Mayo (2)

Half & Half

Cottage Cheese

BBQ Sauce (I like Stubbs brand)

3 bags Nestle Chocolate Chips

1package Br Sugar

1 package Powdered Sugar (I tend to make treats pretty often in the month)

Marsala Wine

Black Olives (2)

Green Peppers

Dish Soap

Toilet Paper

Tissues

Napkins

Garlic Salt

Baby diapers

Baby wipes

This is about what my list looks like for the month of February.

{For the Purists out there reading this who are chastising me for my groceries choices – I never claim to be a purist in the food realm.  We eat as naturally as we can within our budget.  I make all our meals from scratch.  I bake my own bread, rolls, biscuits and tortillas.  I know the ingredients in just about every item I buy and I am very brand specific because I don’t want unknown chemicals in my families bodies. So say what you will but this is how we work in our house.}

{For those who want to know how they can do that – make your own breads, tortillas, granola and watch ingredients – another blog post will be coming for you!}

Having this calendar made and posted squarely on my refrigerator in the kitchen keeps me calm as I know that I have all the supplies on hand for all the meals I want to make this month.  I hope that this helps someone get a better handle on how to make household work smoother.  If anyone wants ideas for recipes or tips please shoot me an email!

I’ll have another post about baking for the household!

 

Catch you later friends. May the Lord be with you.

Excited for building our team

This is a fun time of year on our farm.  It’s our planning and preparing time.  It is also when we get our applications for new apprentices on our farm.  These young men are more than just our employees for a season, they become apart of our family in a sense.  My boys know no different of having them around for the entire summer/fall.  After their time is up on our farm, the kids ask where they went for months.

They work hard on our farm, and they learn loads of stuff they can apply to their life- wherever they go.  From basic planning and responsibility of caring for animals, managing a business, marketing, cutting wood, field maintenance/fertility, and the big one- cutting their own meat and knowing where it comes from!  They’ll know their way around an animal and how to handle a knife with precision!

Know a young man who has an interest in farming?  Have him apply to work with us for a season.  Paid a stipend and fed well he’ll thank you for the nudge!

visit our add to apply at  http://www.eagerfarmer.com/farming-jobs/view/former-polyface-apprentice-seeking-an-eager-apprentice-4/

 

How Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other Healthfood Stores are Killing My Farm

I posted this blog on my personal blogsite.

http://grassfarmerswife.blogspot.com/

This post has been a long time in coming.  I hope you enjoy my candidness.  Buckle your seatbelt.

Whole Foods, Trader Joes and other health food chains are whittling away at the movement we created.  When I say we, I mean pasture raising farmers.  Farmers who are raising foods that not only taste great, are healthier for you; all the while, they are healing the land that has been irradiated by feedlots, pesticides and confinement house farms.  The movement that was pioneered by people like the Burlingame’s, Joel Salatin and others, now carried out by people like my husband, Galen Bontrager, Graham Donahue and many others, is being hijacked by the mainstream.

What do I mean you say?  How are they killing your farm you ask.  I will tell you.  They are now starting to offer what looks like our food but isn’t.  These health food giants are catching on that people are starting to care about how their food is treated, what it is pumped with and how it’s raised. They will tell you that they now have Organic, GMO free meats, and you can pick them up with your bag of Brussel sprouts and a bouquet of roses at the checkout.  They have the convenience factor we farmers are trying to create with our deliveries.  What they don’t have is transparency, localness, financial reality and family.

Transparency.  What mainstream health food stores (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Martins etc.) can tell you with full confidence where that Organic, Free Range, GMO Free chicken came from?  Can they tell you its total diet?  Do you know that all the “Organic, Free Range GMO Free” label means is that the chicken was probably in a sunless building on a concrete pad with some “litter on it for their natural foraging instincts”, fed a certified organic feed.  Organic requirements state that chickens must have access to pasture; that is a 1×1 foot square opening that is usually closed and the chickens don’t know how to use.   That chicken that you’re getting for $2.75/lb was never allowed to scratch in the dirt for bugs and clean the grass of insects that could harm other animals. {That’s what chickens do.  They eat the maggots of flies that are in the dung piles from the other animals, thus reducing the fly amount that annoy the cattle/other animals and promote disease.}  Being fed a vegetarian diet confirms what I have just stated.  There is not bug eating, natural scratching allowed in the Mainstream Health Food store world.  They can’t tell you about the breed of the beef you’re purchasing.  Was it Herford, some Highland, and a bit of Black Baldie?  A farmer can.  You ask any farmer who raises animals on pasture about the quality of the grass for their chickens, the breeds of cattle they have, or the types of grass they are growing for specific types of hay for the winter and they will have an answer for you.  A farmer can tell you that the chicken you are buying is a Cornish cross or a Freedom Ranger.  They’ll tell you how that chicken is fresher than any chicken you’d find in a store.  Sometimes within a day of being processed.  That’s fresh.  That’s transparency.  You won’t find that anywhere else

Localness ties into transparency in that you can know where your food comes from.  Can you go to the farm that the “Grass-fed Ground Beef” you buy from Whole Foods or even Aldi comes from?  Most likely not.  Why?  First off to be a supplier for those big chains you have to supply a very large watershed of stores (like the entire eastern seaboard) and for beef specifically most of it comes from New Zealand because – THEY GET IT!  {New Zealand is the hub of grassfed beef and lamb.  They understand that that’s how those ruminant animals were designed to be raised.}  I personally know more farms than I can count who are raising animals on pasture who openly welcome visitors.  Come see them move the cows to a new grass paddock, feed the chickens and turkeys, or even come on processing day and really know where your food comes from.

Financial reality.  This one hits home.  This is by far the biggest issue I/we have.  People ask “Why is your food so expensive?  I can get it _____ place for cheaper.  And it’s Organic.”  Or worse yet, they never ask you – they just never buy your food.  I’ve already explained that the title “Organic” means very little.  Yes, it is free from genetically modified material and not sprayed with pesticides.  But it doesn’t mean that the animal ever saw a blade of grass, a bug, or a ray of sunlight.  So don’t tell me that because it bears the title ‘Organic’ that it’s any better than mine.  My meat will outshine that meat 10times out of10. I know that my practices are all organic and the reason I don’t have that pretty little label on my food is because of all the hoops and buckets of money it costs to get that little certification.  So I don’t plan on getting it.  I want you to get to know me, know my farm, know your food.  Don’t just be fooled by a little label.  I have more faith in you than that, though maybe my faith is ill placed.

Have you ever ordered a baby chick and raised it out to full size and then killed and ate it?  Did you know that each chick costs about $1.  The deathrate on those little chicks can be as high as 20%.  So out of 100 chicks, there’s $20 down the toilet, and the other 80 chicks need to pay for..  Now let’s feed that little critter.  The first 3 weeks it lives in a brooder, an enclosed shelter away from predators.  Then the last 5 weeks it lives in a floorless shelter that is moved each day so that each chick has ample exposure to grass, and bugs as well as the GMO Free Feed that you have available to it.  {Poultry and Swine are Omnivores – they need both meat and veggies in their diet.  The bugs and critters give the meat element and the grain and grass provide the veggies/carbs} Each chicken consumes about $4.50 of feed in its 8weeks of life.  The electricity in the brooders to keep them warm, the water to keep them hydrated, the bedding in the brooders all boils out to about $2/chicken.  And then you have to package your chicken.  Each vacuum seal bag is 25cents and you’ll use 3 of them per chicken and a bag for the backs (10 cents)  Let’s add up that cost:  It will cost you $8.35 cents to raise that chicken; that is NOT including labor, paying yourself anything, and any help you get, processing that chicken, the propane used on processing day, the water used on that processing day, refrigeration, and the gas to deliver it to your desired location)  So, when whole chickens are priced at $1.00lb in stores the financial reality is just not there.  It is impossible to raise food at that price.  The big companies get away with it because they sell more volume so they can recoup that cost and they don’t care about the fine details like sunshine, moving the animals, fresh bedding etc.  It is expensive to raise food, and when you see food priced that cheaply ask yourself why?

How are they able to get it that cheap?  Or better yet – ask a pasture raising farmer how much it costs to raise an animal.  A heifer calf cost $700-800 each – then you have to raise it out and move it daily and provide it with minerals necessary until it’s big enough for your customers.  Piglets are $75 each.  Please realize that the costs to get good food to you are great.  Our Heritage Farm paid over $60,000 in feed last year.  Feed for the pigs to supplement them being in the wooded pasture, feed for the chickens in the field, feed for the laying hens in the field.  Gasoline:  making hay, traveling to markets, traveling to Pittsburgh, traveling all over… $12,000 last year.  Insurance prices are on the rise for us and then the taxes too! The other things: marketing materials, canopies, tables, brochures, coolers, freezers, maintenance on all these items, vehicle repairs, hiring help… it is a huge undertaking.  All this to say:  that the mainstream Healthfood Giants (Whole foods, Trader Joes, etc.- their prices don’t reflect financial reality for a farmer.  They reflect financial reality for a confinement house owner and mega market.

My final point is family.  Family is one of the biggest reasons we do what we do.  We know our customers.  They know us.  We get Christmas cards from them.  We keep updated via emails here and there on what’s going on with them.  Some I’ve never met in person (namely because I have to keep my 3 crazy boys maintained at home!) but I feel like I know them personally.  When you buy from a farm and not a corporate store you are helping a family.  Because of your purchase I can go and get my boys a new pair of boots so they can go help daddy on the farm.  My boys want to raise animals like daddy does when they get big.  If you were a fly on the wall in my house on any given day you’d hear my boys use play cell phones to call Ed (our current apprentice) and tell him their imaginary sheep are out and they need to get them back in, or hear them tell you they’re going to go butcher chickens today.  They can grow up and be a farmer like their daddy because of customers supporting our farm.  However, we have seen a major decline in purchase quantity and quality in the past few years since the Health food Giants have come into our market areas.  It hurts us so badly.  Our email list is over 300 people, but orders are in the teen some weeks.  We don’t want to have to move to where folks care about their foods but that’s what will happen if folks don’t start waking up.   If folks choose convenience over quality, they will kill the farms they “say” they are supporting.   We started this movement and it’s being stripped away from us… one customer at a time.

 

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Epilogue

What can I do?

If you’re reading this and you want to know how you can help farms from dying, I can help you with that answer.  Buy Local.  Support farmers.  Get to know a farmer, build a relationship with them.  Don’t be afraid to touch meat, it’s cheaper to buy a whole chicken and cut it up yourself instead of buying it pre-cut or just the pieces.  Alter your priorities.  If family is a priority to you – which is commendable for sure- don’t just settle to get food it their bellies.  Make it the best food you can get for them.  Do your homework about benefits of pasture raised meats, and learn about the Omega6’ vs Omega 3 balance, CLA, and Vitamin D and E.  If it means that things may have to change up a bit for you… maybe it’s worth it.  Your families’ health and well-being will be impacted by choosing good food over crap.  That could lead to less doctor visits, which leads to more money in your account, which can help you be able to get more good food for you family.  Seek out the best.  If you can’t afford it, then get what you can afford.  Talk to your farmer, let them know that you support them and what your situation is.  They can lead you in the best method of getting foods that you can afford.  Communication is a wonderful thing.  It takes a commitment and possibly a change in schedule, but the pay offs are immeasurable.  Also, if schedule changing isn’t working, find a friend who can pick up for you or best yet talk to the farmer.  We deliver directly to some people’s homes because they have a situation and they’ve asked us to.  Communication.  I hope that you come away from this reading more informed than you were when you started and with a greater understanding of what the life of a farmer is like.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I love my life; being married to a GrassFarmer is a great thing and I have the best life.  That said, it is tough, and people don’t understand it nor do they try to understand it. I hope now you do and you will.  Find a grass-farmer and you’ll find a friend.

Start of Summer 2015

Hi there friends,

It has been quite a long time since I’ve updated all of you.  Spring came and Summer has just about kicked into full gear.  God is so good, and I can’t begin to tell you all the great things He has done.  May all the Glory go to Him.  In the past few months since we last talked some new things have happened:

  1. We got a Jersey Dairy Cow named Princess Buttercup. Yes, it is from the movie Princess Bride.  We really enjoy that movie.
  2. Our Cow Share program is flowing smoothly!
  3. We got another intern for the 2015 season! Peter (PJ) is 19 and from West Virginia. He’s only been here a week but seems like he’ll fit in nicely here.  I’m excited.
  4. The animals are all doing very well. Our Flerd (flock/herd) loves being out in the pasture and make for some great pictures!
  5. I had the opportunity to run our booth at the Market Square Farmers Market in May. It was a great market and nice to see some familiar faces and tell others about Heritage Farm
  6. We are delivering over 200 chickens each week all over the state of Pennsylvania!
  7. I had the privilege of hosting a Bridal Shower for my future Sister in Law Julia last weekend and it was so fun!
  8. Micah is almost ready to ride his tricycle.
  9. Patrick is contemplating cruising along furniture. He prefers crawling J

 

Those are the main points of discussions today.

Farmers Markets in Clarion have been in full swing since Mother’s Day weekend and that means lots of baking and travel.  Markets are one of my favorite places to go each week.  I love seeing the people, talking to them and sharing the Heritage Farm story.  When I step back and hear myself talking about the difference between our food and other foods it’s amazing how far I’ve come.  It is so fun to get to talk to people about how where your food comes from matters.  It matters nutritionally, economically, and morally.  The conversations I get to have are so fun. The perceptions that people have are crazy sometimes, but I get to tell them about good food that they will never want to go back.    God uses it all to advance His Kingdom.

 

Always feel free to comment, email or just come on by and visit for a bit.

Snow in April

Hi friends,

I told you I’d be back soon, and here I am. Day 2 of the potty training saga.  Day 1, yesterday, was mostly unsuccessful till night time.  We got 2 pee’s in the potty in the evening. We shall try again today!

I was telling you last time about how spring was here and things greening up and such… well I woke up to snow this morning. S-N-O-W!!!  It won’t get out of the 40’s today!  I thought we were done with this kind of weather! It is days like this that it can be hard to be thankful in all things.  Why on earth would I want to thank God for snow in April? Because I’m not God.  God doesn’t say I have to like these things He is doing, but to thank Him for doing them because all have a part to play in His Master plan.  To me, snow in April is a nuisance and causes for trouble.  To Him maybe it will delay the fruit in the orchard so we’re sure to get a good crop this year, maybe it’s killing off something icky that would have otherwise lived.  Maybe to teach me to find the joy in the cold weather.  😉  Who knows?  I don’t, but He does and that’s all that matters.  I am figuring out as I grow in my walk with Him, that focusing on making Him known and His glory shown is all that matters.  And today He is choosing to do that with snow.  I praise Him for the snow.  I praise Him for the heaters that are keeping my house warm.  I praise Him for the wood fire that kept the house cozy last night.  I praise Him for my family, especially my husband in all he does to lead our family in the Lord, works hard to provide for us, and is the best dad to my little men.

Praise Him in all things. Even in the snow.

Springing into action!

New Season finally getting under way!

Hello friends.  I have been meaning to write to you all but time has just been flying by.  Things get moving so fast up here.  Syrup season ended early for us because we ran out of cut wood for my fire.  We made about 3 gallons worth and won’t be able to sell it because that’s all we have for the season.  (Sorry folks!)  With syrup season ending, spring started springing!  The snow finally melted away and we were able to see green grass growing again!  We got our first 4 batches of chicks in and will be moving the 4 week old ones to the field this week!  We also got our spring batch of 500 laying hens!  We have about 1,000 of them in total right now.  Lots and lots of eggs!  We interviewed and hired an apprentice for the 2015 season; Graham arrived yesterday.  Our dairy cow is coming very soon and we’re doing some major remodeling of the Sales Building and the Processing area.  So much happening!

Micah loves these nice warm days when he can go outside and run.  He especially loves it when I tell him we’re going to the farm.  He loves to “help” Pete with the animals.  Especially the cows and donkeys.  They are some of his favorites.

It is hard to believe that April is already half over and that May is just around the corner.  This is when things kick into a high gear for us.  In a matter of 3 weeks we’ll have Clarion Farmers Market starting, Pittsburgh’s Market Square farmers market starts soon after that, then the Upper St. Clair Farmers Market, and our other markets.  Plus chicken processing and all other farm stuff!  I love this time of year. So much fun to do all this stuff!

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I’ll catch you all up on more details in my next post!

Have a great day!

Spring is coming!

The cold wind whips my hair across my face as I load the logs into my crate.  The frigidness of the early morning is a stark contrast to the raging fire I feed every 20 minutes.  Pouring more of the clear water like liquid into the pans keeping them as full as I can.  Watching for the boil to return.  Stoking the flames with more and more wood to keep it as hot as I can.  Back to the house I return to reset the timer for another 20 minutes.  Making maple syrup is a long tedious process.  About 50 gallons of sap will get us about 1 gallon of finished syrup.  Each gallon is hauled by hand out of our woods and up to the storage bin.  It is very labor intensive and time consuming.  It cooks down all day till Pete brings it inside for me to finish on my stove.  I know what to look for, what temp it must reach and how to strain it the last and final time to get the right results we want.  March is really late for us to be usually doing syrup, but with it being as cold as it has been lately that’s when we were able to get to the maple trees and drill into them.

 

Making maple syrup is a true sign that spring is coming.  Our first chicks will be arriving in about 2 more weeks and our first turkeys come next week!  We now have about 27 baby lambs in the barn.  They run and jump on each other and are just so cute.  The entire farm is getting a huge case of cabin fever.  Micah asks regularly to go to the farm with his daddy, I yearn for sitting outside with my family, and the animals all are longing for green grass!  Soon all of our dreams will come true – we hope!

 

Who else is longing for spring?  What plans do you have in the works for this summer?  I know I have lots to do this summer, and I can’t wait to get started! Please feel free to comment and share what you’re excited to do this summer!

Lambs are here!

Hey there friends,

Thanks for catching up with me on this fine Monday afternoon.  I can’t believe its March and we still have feet of snow!  NO FAIR!  I want to move someplace warm!  A friend of mine lives in Hawaii with her husband and little baby boy.  I am so jealous right now of her! DSCN2879

As you may have seen on our facebook page, our Ewe’s started lambing!  Pete wasn’t expecting them to lamb until March and the first lambs was born last Wednesday! The first two we have named Clover and Ruby as per an idea from a Buying Club member.  Saturday Pete came home and said that there were 2 more lambs born.  A female and a male.  The female was big and was nursing well with her mom.  The male however was up walking but didn’t seem to have a mama with him.  No one seemed to care for this little guy.  Pete tried to graft him onto another mother overnight.  That didn’t work.  He brought the little weak lamb home to our house Sunday morning and tried to get it to drink from a bottle.  I named the little guy Champ.  Micah loved having the baby lamb in the house.  He would check on him in his little box.  Sadly Champ passed away Sunday night.  We had another lamb born on Sunday too.  So we have Clover, Ruby, Starlight, and Pip.  They are all doing well and are so gosh darn cute and cuddly.

Having these lambs that some reject their offspring, some reject one twin but bond with the other, and some bond right away like they should, gives a whole new view of Scripture.  In the Bible Jesus is referred to as our Shepherd who cares for His sheep.  We are referred to as sheep.  And let me tell you, from first hand experiences – sheep are really dumb.  Like really dumb.  They have their moments of seeming smartness, but on the whole they are very moldable.  I have had more people tell me “How could a ewe just reject her child?” Do we not see this in our own culture today?  How many babies are abandoned by their mothers?  We are no different.  Sheep need a shepherd who can lead them to where they need to go.  They can’t do it by themselves.  They stay in a group and all flow as one.  Rarely you’ll find one off by itself.  The group is almost always led by the ram. He is the first to head to the new pasture when the shepherd opens the gate and everyone else just follows along.  We too are like this.  We tend to follow the leader don’t we?  If it’s a good leader like a grounded Pastor then we will be following in the right manner and following the Supreme Shepherd; however, many times we follow others because they seem like the know what they’re doing. And when the shepherd opens the gate, the leader will decide to run the other way, taking his flock with him.  Again, we can see this with ourselves too.  But our Supreme Shepherd is oh so gracious and will come and find that sheep that wanders away and will tend to the lost abandoned ones too.  He will give them a bottle and become their caretaker.  How beautiful isn’t it?  One of the things I love about raising sheep particularly is how it has opened my eyes to new facets of God’s character. DSCN2884

I’m glad I got to share that story with you.  If you’d like to come and see our new baby lambs feel free to stop by anytime. We’ll show you all around and cook you a meal before you go!  We have about 10 more ewes left to lamb this month so there will be lots of naming and activity fun on our facebook page and probably on the blog here too!

Stay tuned for more fun.

Until we chat again.  Stay with the Shepherd.

Food from our Farm to you!