Started a decade ago to introduce our farm to friends and family as well as to provide a resource to others by sharing the things we learned, this blog has evolved into an eclectic mix of farming tutorials, family recipes, photos, personal journals, personal essays, and a glimpse into the struggles of dealing with unexpected loss and grief. We are a couple of farmers in transition between a couple of farms, learning to balance our lives with intentional living. We invite you to join us.
My poor husband always wants to know if I have to take pictures of everything we eat. The answer, of course, is mostly yes. ;-)
We had fried Mozzarella last night and I thought I would share my method here with you all. I absolutely love fried Mozzarella. I believe I could eat it every day and never tire of it. I do limit myself, however, to every once in a while instead of daily!
First you must start with homemade Mozzarella. If you need a recipe for homemade Mozzarella, I highly recommend this one.
After slicing your pre-made Mozzarella, then you want to dip it in some slightly beaten eggs. Eggs that come from free range or pastured hens are the very best.
The next step is to roll the egg coated cheese in Italian bread crumbs. You can use the store bought variety, or you can make your own bread crumbs and season with Italian seasonings. I used the store bought kind.
If you like, you can repeat by rolling the cheese in the eggs and then the bread crumbs again.
It is best if you take your Mozzarella, at this point, and put it in the freezer. By freezing the coated cheese, you will have more success in keeping more crumbs on the cheese and less in the bottom of your pan.
When you get ready to cook your Mozzarella, heat your grease and then drop the cheese in the pan. I like to use coconut oil for frying my Mozzarella. Cook on one side and then turn over and cook on the other side. When the cheese starts melting out of the sides, you know that it is ready!
You can also bake the breaded Mozzarella.
It is very messy and leaves a pan that can be hard to clean but so worth it!
Friday's Featured Farmer is conspicuously missing from my blog today. That is because I have no more volunteers to write a guest post for me. If you have been intending to do so and have not, you can still send me your entry and I will be happy to post it on a future Friday. For all of those who have taken the time to contribute, I want to thank you. I have enjoyed reading your stories as I know others have as well.
It's also very evident that I have completely dropped the ball on keeping up with my blog on a daily basis. Dare I strive to do weekly updates? It's a thought, but I don't know that I will even keep up with that commitment. I am a writer, nonecessarily a good one, but a writer at heart. To fully express myself, I need to write it out. Writing is a release for me and a way that I can express myself. I do not speak half as well as I write because the thoughts and words get jumbled in my head. But when I write, they just flow. However, as much as I want to have the time to contribute to my blog, I am finding that the increasing demands of my ever growing farming commitments is taking most of my time. So, I am afraid posts will be "hit and miss" for a while.
I do try to keep my facebook page updated throughout the day. It's easy for me to post a sentence or two from my phone if nothing else. But, for those who don't have a facebook account and don't follow my farm page, I will try to recap the last week or two.
Little Rosie was born on February 3rd. She is an AMJA registered Mini. The birth itself went very well. In fact, I had gone out to check on her dam, Edy, and knew she would calve soon but thought she would wait until morning. I went to bed and the next morning I glanced in the barn and saw Edy lying down next to Princess in the stall. I started to leave and noticed that Edy's udder looked full and I thought to myself that she would calve soon. Again, I started to leave the barn only to see a little, red head peeking out between Edy and Princess. The morning was a cold one and Little Rose was tucked between the two adult bovines and warm and safe. She was completely dried off and had already been on her feet.
On Saturday, February 5th, Sugar calved. I blogged about that here.
On Sunday, February 6th, we had a downed cow in the beef herd. It was an old Hereford cow, Doris, who is somewhat of a pet. Mike was able to get the hip lift and get her up. We think she is getting close to 20 years old. She is 18 or 19 at least.
On the 16th, Princess calved. Princess was the first Jersey heifer born on our farm over two years ago and her birth was a particular blessing to me. She broke the "bull curse" that we had for several years and she brought me a lot of joy after my son's death. The birth of Princess' calf went well. She calved without assistance. However, all of the drama began shortly after. Princess did not finish cleaning her little guy off. I found him a couple hours later when we went out to milk and he was cold and had not nursed. We tried to get him to nurse but momma was having no part of it and baby was too weak and did not have the agressive nature to get up and get it. We worked and worked and got a little bit of hand-milked colostrum down him. At one point, I had to drip the clostrum in his mouth slowly. I could feel his strength returning as he began to try to suck and then the sucking got stronger. Eventually we were able to get him to nurse but momma still was not a willing participant. We had to tie her up and restrain her every time he needed to eat. Finally after four days of this, Princess got the picture and started allowing him to nurse.
The very same day that Princess calved, Tori aborted her calf. She was seven months along and aborted a perfect little bull calf. Tori did come into milk and so we began milking her as well. It was so sad listening to her cry over her aborted baby.
So, within a week's time we had three heifers to train to milk. Tori is the only one who has been particularly sweet. Princess and Sugar have given us a fit with kicking and being stubborn. Things are starting to settle down now, although we are still dealing with some kicking.
We have had a total of nine calves born in the beef herd and we did have one that did not make it at birth. We have several heifers give birth in the beef herd and they have been a bit reluctant to take their babies, but with time and persistence, they have all accepted their babies.
Mike and I are both getting over colds/virus/illness that has been plaguing us since Christmas. Always healthy and not needing to resort to antibiotics in the last four or five years, I kept resisting going to the doctor, but finally gave in. We are much better now and I am looking forward to another five or more years without being sick! (Hopefully)
ButterCupp was found to be open (not bred) and we had to make the decision to cull her. I did not want to take her to the stock yards and wanted a humane ending for her life. So, we loaded her onto the trailer which she did sweetly and willingly and took her to the butcher. The meat is being donated to the local Food Bank so that even in death, she will provide nourishment for those in need. It was a sad day and the first time I have had to cull one of my Jersey girls. Sweet ButterCupp will always be remembered and loved.
Elsie, is going back to her original home. Elsie came to us not quite two months ago. Her former owners missed her so much and decided that they would take her back and use her for breeding purposes rather than milk her. While we will miss her, it will free up some much needed space for us here and we are happy that she will be reunited with those who love her and raised her.
The saddest and most difficult part of the last week has been the death of a friend's wife. The friend is a dairy farmer and the wife was helping her own farming father hitch up a plow to a tractor at the family farm. In a terrible accident in which the tractor rolled backwards, she was run over and killed. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with this family who has suffered this loss.
So, as you can see, the last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs.
For years I have struggled against calling myself a 'farmer.' I'm sure if I went down to the local cafe and told one of the old seed-capped gentlemen that I was a farmer, he would crinkle his brows and frown at me and my claim. In this day and age in Minnesota, being a 'farmer' means growing corn, beans or wheat. If not crops, then being a 'farmer' means hundreds if not thousands of holsteins, angus, leghorns or chester whites. 'Farmer' means tractors, semis, grain bins and elevators. Lots of dollars and lots of land.
I have none of these things. Actually, I do have three white leghorns in my chicken coop. But I don't think the ten-eggs-a-day that they (and our other mixed-breed hens) provide qualify as a major egg-producing operation. Particularly in the fall when it drops down to three-eggs-a-day if we're lucky. So how, then, can I call myself a farmer?
I think farming is more about the 'why' than the 'how many.' It's more than how many acres you till, or how many rumens you feed, or how many engines you run. Farming is about how your heart leaps into your throat in the spring when the snow melts and the dark, cool earth bares itself to the sun. It's how you rejoice in the slime and blood covering your arms when you welcome a newly born calf, lamb or kid into the world. It's how you measure the passage of time by sunlight and temperature and gestations, rather than by months or weeks or holidays.
I do all of these things. So, that's how I can call myself a farmer.
Of course, I still wouldn't go into the local cafe and say all this outloud to the crowd of old-timers gathered there. I may be a farmer, but I'm not crazy. Not that kind of crazy, at least.
Our family lives on fourteen acres in the prairie of western Minnesota. We moved out here eight years ago from St. Paul, where my husband and I had been raised in very non-farming suburbia. Our house and farm were built in 1912. The original big red barn collapsed around 1980; we have built a modest pole shed in its place. The original hog barn, chicken coop and granary still stand.
We have five angora goats in our pole shed, and thirty chickens in our coop. We have a large garden, growing larger by the year as I get a handle on the weed problems that plague us. We try to use organic methods and local, organic feed as much as we can. We eat the eggs ourselves and so far have kept all the mohair from the goats. This summer we will start selling veges and homemade soaps at the farmers market, our first branching into the world of official farm revenue.
Our three sons help us out, as well as a ten- and seven- and five-year old can. Owen is mastering the techniques of pushing a heavily laden wheel barrow. Graham is learning the difference between weeds and seedlings in the garden. And Benjamin is learning how best to scoop grain from the storage bin into the chicken feeder. I don't force them to help--I want them to learn to love the farm on their own, not because I told them they had to. Farming is hard work, and learning to love hard work is a skill that comes later in life. Resentment is something you can learn at any age. They all love harvest time, though -- pulling tomatoes from the fine, digging potato from the soil, collecting eggs from the nest. Who wouldn't love that?
I do a lot of food preservation--canning, freezing, and a bit of dehydrating. We probably have five years' worth of jams and jellies and applesauce in our basement pantry. I am still learning how to eat more locally and seasonally, though. It is an ongoing process, like most things on this farm. And I am still learning how to juggle all of this, all of this farming stuff, while maintaining an off-farm job and putting three boys through school and balancing a tight budget. Every year we try new things; some of them work, and some of them don't. We are learning. We are farming.
And it's people like Tammy, the lovely host of this blog, who make farming so joyful -- she has such a wonderful heart, so willing to share her experiences and her love. Thank you Tammy! And thanks to all of the other farmers who have told their tale here on Fridays. Thank the heavens for the internet, where we are all neighbors and help eachother as needed. I have enjoyed reading about all of you, you are all inspirations to me. Happy farming!
Thank you so much for your delightful post, Joanne!
Without repeating the story of Sugar ( you can read the post, I Am A Gambler, at this link), let me just say that it was a joy and a blessing to welcome her new little bull calf into the world yesterday. He was sired by an Angus bull and is quite a big boy. He has a white tip on his tail, a white spot on his belly and a white ring around one ankle paying tribute to the tiny bit of Dutch Belted blood in his pedigree.
We milked Sugar by hand yesterday evening and she did very well coming into the stanchion. She never hesitated. She is a great mother, seems very relaxed, has been very calm around us and other than kicking a bit while being milked, seems to be doing great. It's great when stories have a happy ending and for Sugar, and for us, this is just the beginning instead of what could have very well been the end for her. I am glad we gave her a chance. I am glad I followed my gut.
Marion and I became friends almost instantly when we met the first time. We just had a connection through our animals and through our similar beliefs on different levels. When I received a copy of Marion's sermon for last Sunday, I asked her if I could use it for my Friday's Featured Farmer post and she graciously allowed me to do so. Read it, and I think you will see why.
The Rev. Marion E. Kanour; Trinity Episcopal Church, Boonsboro
“Jesus said, ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.’” --an excerpt from Matthew 5:13-20
There is a long-standing debate about the use of this salt metaphor. It appears in both Matthew and Luke. Some scholars say the authors know salt can’t lose its saltiness—so the metaphor is actually saying, “Remember who you are! You follow Christ. You’re baptized—marked as Christ’s own forever. That’s part of you now, so be the person you’re called to be.” But other scholars say that’s a post-modern perspective that doesn’t take into account the reality of Jesus’ day. Yes, sodium chloride is a stable compound that, in pure form, doesn’t lose its saltiness. But the salt of Jesus’ day wasn’t, for the most part, pure. It was harvested from salt marshes and salt seas and was often sold without being cleaned. As the organic matter containing the salt was removed, that matter was “thrown underfoot”, since it had “lost its saltiness”, since literally the salt had been taken from it. In that case, the metaphor could be saying, “Don’t stray from the essence of what it means to follow Christ. You’ll be of no value to the movement. How can we change the world, if you lose your faith?” Or to quote the other metaphor in today’s gospel reading, “How can we change the world, if you hide your light so no one can see it?” So, one interpretation says, “It’s within you, part of you, can never be separated from you, so act congruently!” The other perspective says, “It’s your choice: follow him or not; but if you don’t follow him you’re wasting your life. Be salty and let your light shine!”
So, does it matter which interpretation you choose? Who cares whether it’s nature or nurture? Does it matter whether the soul incarnates hard-wired to love or is it enough to be able to choose love? Do you believe a mystical transformation takes place at baptism, changing the nature of the baptized so that they are truly Christ’s own forever? Or is baptism simply an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace that we’re free to leave behind without damage to our souls? In others words: are we really free to choose our destiny or does it only seem that way? Does it matter? Aren’t we just going to try to live our lives the best way we can regardless of whether salt can lose its saltiness? Probably. And so, what’s the best way to live our lives? Salty, with our lights shining so all can see, says today’s gospel. Is that true?
Elizabeth VanDeventer of Davis Creek Farm in Nelson County believes it is. She showed me that to me again this past Thursday, as together we took our steer, Elmer, to the meat processing facility in Monroe. He was a companion cow for his cousin, Elsie and was a wonderful protector for Elsie’s calf, Beau. Elsie and Beau are now both at a small, caring dairy farm in Staunton, Virginia. We get milk from there each week, so know first-hand, the loving attention that herd receives. We’re at peace with the destinies of Elsie and Beau. But, then came the hard reality—the destiny for which Elmer, as a steer, had always been headed.
They say never name anything you intend to eat. I say they’re wrong. We loved Elmer for 3 ½ years as fully as we love any of our animals. We really knew Elmer and found joy in his being. But, as a result of letting ourselves love him, it was hard to load him on the trailer. Hard to drive to Monroe. Hard to leave him there with his water and hay, knowing that in the morning, though his end would be quick, he would nonetheless be gone from us. It was because of Elizabeth VanDeventer that the experience, though difficult, will stand as one of the most transformative experiences of my life.
Elizabeth has a large farm in Nelson County where she has a herd of beef cattle. They’re grass-fed, humanely-treated and loved by Elizabeth, her husband, Tim, and their three small boys. Each cow in their large herd has a name. And, in time, each steer will go to the meat processing facility to provide income for their family and food for their grateful customers. Elizabeth has a Ph.D. in Anthropology from UNC, Chapel Hill. She has observed farming practices in this country, in France and in Africa and in the process of observing, she was, herself, transformed. She came to realize what native Americans have long known: show care and gratitude to the animal who gives its life for you and you and the animal will both be blessed. No feed lots. No emotional distancing to save yourself from pain. But a willingness to love as fully and openly as possible.
I’d tried to prepare myself for Thursday evening’s event. I talked with Elmer during the day and he let me scratch him behind his ears, nudging me for more attention as I turned to fill his water trough and give him more hay. But when Elizabeth pulled up in her truck and we stood together in the pasture hitching our trailer to her Ford 350, I could feel my anxiety building. Elizabeth noticed and said with calm reassurance, “We’re going to do this together. Put yourself into the work. Don’t think about what you’re doing. Instead, put your heart into it. It’ll help you and it’ll help Elmer.”
It took two hours to load him into the trailer. Each time I grew frustrated or impatient, Elizabeth would say, “We have all night to do this. Let Elmer take his time. You’ve loved him all his life; don’t stop loving him now.” And so, we’d re-group and try a different approach to help Elmer decide to take that step up into the trailer. When at last I truly relaxed and connected with Elmer, instead of connecting with my impatience to be done with it, I suddenly felt a deep gratitude for the animal and gently touched him saying, “Thank you, Elmer.” And then the gentle giant calmly stepped into the trailer. Elizabeth smiled knowingly. I wept.
The drive to the facility was long and by the time we arrived it was very late and cold. There were no other animals present. Late night arrivals simply load the animal into a holding area and early the next morning the animal meets its fate. Elmer wouldn’t leave the trailer. The holding pen was clean, the area well-lighted and there were smells of hay and a nearby cow herd to comfort him. But Elmer was taking his time. Again my impatience surfaced. Again Elizabeth cautioned me saying, “Don’t stop loving him. Honor him even now.” And as I relaxed and spoke gently to him, Elmer lumbered from the trailer into the pen. I thought my heart would break, because now had come the moment I most dreaded—the goodbye. We gave Elmer water and hay. Then Elizabeth took me aside and said, “Give me some time with him and then you come and give him your blessing.” She stood with him for about 20 minutes and then nodded for me to come. I blessed him as I bless all animals on St. Francis Day…and then said goodbye.
I realize not everyone will insist on buying food from farms that treat their animals in the way Elizabeth does. But we will never buy feedlot beef again. I know, first-hand, the difference humane treatment makes in the life of the cow and in the souls of those caring for the cows. It is, I believe, part of what it means to keep your salt salty and to let your light shine. It ‘s how we change the world from a place where animals are viewed as commodities to a place where all God’s creatures are honored.
It can be hard to love, hard to stay salty, hard to let our lights shine when in so doing we make ourselves vulnerable to pain. But without love, all is lost…and we but clanging cymbals. Jesus knew that. So do we. May we choose love as often as we are able. Amen.
Edy (Riverview Rhonda) had a heifer calf on February 3rd. I have owned Edy for five years and this is the first heifer calf she has given me. From what I can tell from her past history, this is the first heifer she has ever given birth to. Momm and baby are doing well.
I want to first thank Tammy for allowing us to be a featured guest farm on her blog. I appreciate all her time and energy and she has been a great resource in my many times of need.
Our farm is called East River Farm. We are located in beautiful Bluefield, VA. Our farm is on the East River Mountain and we are at an elevation of about 3000 feet. The Mountain continues to ascend behind our house another 1500 feet. My husband, Harry, and I were married on March 21, 2008 right here on the East River Mountain. We rode our horses back up to the spot that he had presented me with a beautiful engagement ring and had our immediate family and friends around us. The wedding was very beautiful, simple, and a moment in my life I will never forget.
Here on our farm we have tried to branch out from fresh eggs, produce, and plants. We now have five Miniature Jersey cows and make several herd shares available to clients from our raw milk. We both come from farming families and it seemed only natural and right to put our time and energy into something we loved so much. My mother's family came from the Shenandoah National Park area and Harry's from Burkes Garden. Our jersey girls took me a little by surprise when I discovered just how smart, loving, and truly a joy they are to be around. I look forward to going out to be with them in the early morning and then again in the evening after a long day at work. It is just a super way to start and end my day. Harry does all the milking. He has a gentle nature and the cows are happy and chew their cud while he is busy filling the bucket with beautiful, white, liquid nourishment. I think my kids get tired of hearing how "raw milk" does the body good. They have deiced that I have empty nest syndrome and that is why I have gotten so into our cows. I send them pictures all the time!
Our little farm is never dull and there is always something to do. At the end of the day even the dogs are tired and can not wait to go to bed. It is filled with love though and we share it all, the work, the rewards, the ups and the downs. My life is blessed and I appreciate all that the far has given me in simple rewards and pleasures.
Thank you so much for this wonderful post, Tammy! My apologies for not getting it on here sooner!