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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cottage Cheese Revisited ~ Recipe


When I first began making cottage cheese, I really couldn't find a recipe that explained how to make it the "old fashioned way" that I had heard described to me. I had a couple of "Seniors" in my life who looked forward with great anticipation to my learning how to make the cottage cheese they remembered from their childhood.  My father-in-law told me how his mother made cottage cheese on the back of the old wood cookstove, and then hung it on the clothes line to drip.  His cousin, Dennis, also had similar memories of his mother making cottage cheese.  It also didn't take me long to find out that those of German descent here on the east coast, referred to it as Schmierkase , which in German literally means "smear cheese".  I began my journey by talking to as many people I could who remembered cottage cheese being made "the old fashioned way".  I searched for instructions online and in books on how to make it, and I began experimenting.  I am sure not everyone educates themselves the same way that I do, but I have to read "how to" do something and then follow through with my own experimentation.  Sometimes it's a process that brings me full circle, but in the end, I have a better understanding of what I am doing.  Such is the case with making cottage cheese.

Originally, I found a recipe somewhere that explained taking raw milk clabber and heating it on the stove, carefully monitoring the temperature, until the curd had reached a particular stage.  At that point, the curd was then drained and rinsed.  While this method worked, it seemed that I frequently had over cooked curds and the whole process seemed contingent upon my carefully watching the temperature of the curds that were cooking.

Later, I found a method I liked better (details here).  I thought it was original but later found that "my" method had been previously recorded in the book Stillroom Cookery under instructions on how to make Schmierkase.  The author writes:

Start with milk clabber.  Pour off the excess whey and then pour into a pan of warm water, 120 degrees, which is hot to the touch but not unbearable.  Break curds gently.  Allow to set for ten minutes.  Drain curds in cheesecloth set in a colander  Pour a teakettle of warm water (120) over it.  Do this twice.  You may wash your cheese curds in cool water for a less acidic taste.  Let drip for one hour.  Refrigerate.  

As life got busier for me, and as I started making larger batches of cheese to share with others, I started modifying my "recipe" once again.  I found that the easiest way for me to make my cottage cheese was the method with the fewest steps (and the least amount of clean up).  I began clabbering my milk directly in the four gallon, stainless steel pot that I use to make cheese.  Once the milk was clabbered, I then took that pot and sat it on my stove top and began to heat it.  It does take a while to heat four gallons of clabber.  I can do other things in the kitchen while I am waiting for it to reach the desired temperature because I have found with experience that I don't have to just stand over the pot and micro manage it.  (There are types of cheese that require constant attention, but cottage cheese is not one of them.)  When explaining what temperature one wants to achieve (one doesn't have to always be checking with a thermometer), I tell people they want the water to feel like a very hot bath. (You know, the kind you have to inch yourself into but once fully submerged, the heat soaks all the day's stress right out of you?)  The next step is to learn at what stage to drain the curds.  This is what takes some time and practice.  Cottage cheese curds should not be hard and dry.  Neither should they be slimy.  You want them to be cooked but on the soft side.  Take into consideration that the heat from the hot curds will continue cooking them once they are drained.  With this in mind, I always strain my curds on the soft side and allow the heat to continue "cooking them" until they look just right.  Then, I rinse with cold water.  The cold water rinse does two things.  First, it stops the curds from cooking further and getting too dry.  Second, it gives the cheese a milder flavor.  At this point, one wants to drain the cheese for at least 30 minutes to an hour.  You can do this right in a strainer or by hanging it in a cheese cloth/flour sack and letting it drip.  The last step before storing your cottage cheese in containers and refrigerating is to salt.  Cottage cheese that has not been salted adequately is very bland.  The salt literally makes all the difference in the taste.

This one pot method for clabbering and cooking on the stove top makes creating cottage cheese so simple, I can do it without much thought and with little clean up.

Note:  If your clabber sets up and you don't have time to "cook" it to make cottage cheese right then, refrigerate it.  It will slow down the clabber and keep it from getting too acidic for a mild tasting cottage cheese. 

Additional Information on Clabber:

More About Clabber, Cultured Buttermilk, Curds and Whey

Clabber and Buttermilk



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hey! Hay!

The greener hay farthest away in the photo is an alfalfa mix hay that we grew.  The browner looking hay is a grass hay made at another farm.  Both are good hay but the alfalfa mix has more vitamins and protein. 

We take the old adage "don't keep all your eggs in one basket" very seriously around here.  We are very diversified in our farming efforts.  We have beef cattle, dairy cattle, backyard chickens, a handful of turkeys, feeder pigs, and the hay burners we keep just for pets (example: mini horses and pet goats).  We also grow and sell garden produce, small grains and corn for animal consumption, and hay.  Being diversified keeps our lives interesting and also helps us through lean times when a specific area of our farming ventures fails to thrive.  When asked what constitutes our main source of income, the answer comes down to the sale of calves from our beef herd and the hay we produce and sell.  There are farmers who make hay, and then there are farmers who KNOW HOW to make hay.  The quality of the hay will speak for itself when you find someone who pays attention to detail and knows what they are doing.  At the Cupp Farm, we attempt to produce quality hay for our own use as well as to sell to our customers.

Hay made here on our farm.


*What exactly is hay?

Let's start with the basics.  In the summer, assuming one has enough pasture that meets the nutritional requirements for their plant eating herbivores, the animal's needs are being met through grazing said pastures.  In the winter (or any time that the pasture is not adequate to meet the nutritional needs of the animals grazing due to drought, over grazing, or a poor stand of grass), one must feed hay.  Hay is simply grass, legumes or sometimes cereal grains that have been cut, dried, and stock piled for feed.

*What are the types of hay?

Hay basically falls into three categories grass, cereal grains (also technically grass hay) and legumes.

 Most commonly we think about grass hay.  Grass hay can then be subdivided into (A)  wild growing field grasses or (B) Grasses that have been specifically cultivated for the purpose of harvesting.  (Note:  wild growing field grasses, if not infested with a large number of weeds, CAN have the potential of being adequate feed for mature, non lactating beef cattle.  Most of the time pregnant and lactating cows as well as growing calves need something with higher nutritional value to supplement wild growing field grass hay.)  Cultivated grasses include but aren't limited to:  Timothy, Orchard Grass, Fescue, Bermuda, Brome.  The grasses that grow better in a cooler climate, such as Timothy, Orchard Grass and Fescue have a higher sugar content and are more preferred by animals.  Bermuda and Brome grasses are grown in hotter and more drought stricken climates. Grass hays have a medium to low protein value and are typically higher in fiber than the second type of hay we will mention, legumes.

The second type of plant used to make hay is legumes. Lugumes used to make hay includes:   alfalfa, lespedeza, cow peas, vetch, soybeans and clover.  Legumes are higher in protein content, vitamin A and calcium than grass hay.  Many times, hay is made from planting and harvesting a "mixture" of grasses and legumes.

The third type of plant used for hay (and not as popular) is cereal grains:  barley, oat, wheat or rye.  Cereal grains cut during the "dough" stage before the plant is mature is more desirable and palatable for animals.   (Cereal grain hay can be high in nitrates  This is especially true if the hay has been cut after a growth spurt following a drought.  Hay can be tested for nitrate content.  Cereal grains are more suited to cattle but some people do use cereal grains for horses.   Caution is advised when feeding cereal grains to horses as it can cause problems such as obesity, colic, metabolic issues and even laminitis. )

Round bales made at the Cupp Farm


*What is the size and dimensions on a bale of hay?

Hay comes in various sizes, weights and shapes.  The following is a brief overview:

The "small, square" bales have two strings and weigh from 40 to 75 pounds.  This size is the easiest to handle because of the lesser weight and no need for additional equipment.  (Approximately 19" x 16" x 36".)

The next size up is also a square bale that has three strings and weighs 100 to 140 pounds.  (Approximately 22" x 15" x 44")

Then you have the larger bales that require a tractor to move and feed:

The 2,000 pound "one ton" bale is 4' x 4' x 8'.

The 1,000 pound "half ton" bale is 3' x 4' x 6'.

(There are other sizes available depending on what type of bailer is used.  These are given for examples.)

The round bales come in six sizes ranging from 4' x 4' to 4' x 6' and typically weighs 700 to 1400 pounds.

Additional information on round bale sizes and weights can be found at this link.  

Large squares made by the farmer who rents one of our farms.  This is a good example of quality hay that is green and nutritious.  The top bale was bleached out a bit by the sun on the one side but is still green and pretty like the bottom bale on the inside and is top quality hay. 


*What do I look for when searching for quality hay?

When looking for quality hay, one should utilize their senses (sight, smell and touch).  The hay should smell good (not musty or have a bad odor of any kind).  The hay should look appealing and be baled uniform and tight.  (A dark green color means the hay has not been bleached by the sun, soaked by rain, and has been cut at the best time to preserve the nutrients. The green color is actually carotene/Vitamin A.  Hay can be bleached on the outside of the bale and still be green on the inside.  The outside of the bale does not necessarily indicate the quality of the hay.  One must look at the hay in the middle of the bale to get a true indication of content.)    In addition, one should look to make sure the hay doesn't contain any mold.  (Mold can cause health concerns including abortion in pregnant animals as well as decrease the nutritional value of the hay).  Look for large amounts of weeds baled in with the hay.  (Weeds decrease nutritional value and some weeds are toxic.)  Hay that is softer to the touch is more desirable and palatable to the animals. Nutritional value means nothing if the hay is wasted.  Buying quality hay typically is more economical in the long run.  In addition, you want to look for hay that has been stored properly and protected from the elements. 

"Nutritional value of hay is related to leaf content. Leaves of grass hay have more nutrients and are more digestible when the plant is immature and growing, and more fiber when the plant has reached full growth. Legume leaves, by contrast, do not have the same structural function and don't change that much as the plant grows. But the stems become coarser and more fibrous. Alfalfa stems, for example, are woody, serving as structural support for the plant. Leaf to stem ratio is the most important criteria in judging nutrient quality in an alfalfa plant. The digestibility, palatability and nutrient value is highest when the plant is young--with more leaves and less stems. About 2/3 of the energy and 3/4 of the protein and other nutrients are in the leaves of a forage plant (whether grass or legume). Coarse, thick-stemmed hay (overly mature) has more fiber and less nutrition than immature, leafy hay with finer stems. "  (Quote Source here)

*How do I determine what type of hay to feed my animals?

Cattle have a different digestive system than horses, and can break down fibrous material with greater efficiency, so they can utilize lower quality or more fibrous sources of hay. Horses consuming poor quality hay cannot digest it well enough to maintain body weight and are at greater risk for impaction colic.  (Quote Source Here)

There are a lot of variables regarding what type of hay to feed specific animals.  To simplify, horses do require better hay than mature cattle.  High performance horses and pregnant mares require a higher protein hay than one who is simply a yard ornament.  Mature, beef cattle can get by on grass hay but growing calves and pregnant or lactating cows need a better source of protein to do well.  Lactating dairy cows typically do better on a higher protein hay because they are bred to produce more milk than what their calf can drink on it's own.  Being high producers, their body requires additional nutrients. A dry dairy cow will do better on hay with less protein. By researching and educating one's self, a farmer can tailor the hay fed so that it meets the individual requirements of their herd.   


Additional Resources:

Selecting Hay for Cattle


Dimensions and Weight


Selecting Hay for Horses


All About Hay


Types of Grass


All Hay is not Equal


Types of Grass Used for Hay


How to Stack Hay

Hay for Dairy Cows:  Alfalfa


Quality of Hay Affects Milk Production in Dairy Cows


Selecting Hay for Livestock




Monday, February 23, 2015

Meet The Farmer ~ Guest Post by Jimmy Holbrook

I am excited to share the following guest post with you all today.  My paternal family is full of really good "story tellers". My brother, Jimmy, is no exception.  Jimmy wrote this and posted it to his Facebook page.  When I read it, it brought back a flood of memories and a few tears as well.  The story told here by my brother takes place during the same time period that I wrote about last week and is a great addendum to that post, giving the reader even more insight into our lives during that period of time.  In addition, I think there are some really great lessons to be learned from this story.  A big thank you to my brother for giving me permission to share some of his memories.

(Please try to excuse the format.  When I copied and pasted from Facebook, it created the abnormal presentation.  Hopefully, it will not distract the reader from the story.)

Jimmy around the time of this story.  



Keeping chickens can teach a child responsibility and is a great way to introduce children to agriculture. I've kept chickens since I was about six years old. There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from a flock of chickens, but one chicken that I had came close to making me a juvenile delinquent.


Growing up, we lived on a farm with a large commercial chicken house that raised chicks from three days old up until the time they started laying eggs. These chickens had been sexed before they came and were supposed to be all females. Now for those that don’t care to read the details, skip down a little to get back to the story, but for inquiring minds this is how it is done. On the backside of that little fuzzy yellow chick there is a hole. Yes it’s that hole, but it’s called a “vent” in chicken terminology. A person sexing the chick removes what you can imagine might be in the vent blocking the view, and then inserts a finger to feel for a little bump. If it has a little bump it’s a male if it doesn't then it’s a female. Not the most glamorous job, but it actually takes a good bit of skill and a lot of experience and is very meticulous. Every time I hear someone derisively say that someone is “anal” about anything I think of sexing chicks.

Anyway, the chickens had already been sexed and came in on a box truck with a heated cargo bed. My parents would let my sister and I stay out of school to help when the baby chicks arrived. Actually there was a good bit of work that went on before the chicks got there. You had to go through the chicken house and lay down newspapers in the hundreds of cages so that the baby chick’s legs wouldn't fall through the wire. When the chicks came in it took a lot of manpower to get all those chicks off the warm truck and into the warm house as fast as possible and not lose any to the cold. I always remember the chicks that came into the farm we lived on were from Mississippi. More than once they were delivered by three black men. One of these guys was very jovial and the other two were quiet with not much too say. Their job was to get the chicks out of the truck but they didn't help you put them in the cages. I asked the jovial man if he liked his job one time. He kind of rolled his eyes and said, “in Mississippi a job is a job and I’m proud to do it.” The two quiet men kind of laughed, and I’m pretty sure it was at my question and not his answer.

So there were over thirty-two thousand chicks that were all supposed to be hens, but invariably a hundred or so roosters would wind up in the batch. Anyone who has been around chickens can tell if a chicken is a rooster or a hen within about four to six weeks. Now the policy of the chicken company that had the contract on these birds was that the males were all supposed to be “destroyed.” Yep, just take them out and kill them. That seemed awful wasteful to me so I talked to the man whose farm we lived on and he agreed to sell me the male birds for a dime a piece. He could have just given them to me since he was supposed to kill them anyway, but I guess he wanted to “learn” me something; plus he liked a dollar. I had my business plan in place as a seven year old kid. I had the ten dollars to purchase a hundred roosters, and I’d already figured out how to get the feed. The large commercial house had cages built over manure pits with concrete aisles between each row of cages. When the automated feeders came on there was always some feed that spilled over onto the concrete aisles that had to be swept. I had swept those aisles before and we took the feed to my dad’s hogs, so I could sweep more often and get feed for my roosters.

So I talked to my dad about my plans. He asked me where I was going to keep a hundred cockerels and I said I would build a pen. Dad then asked me where I was going to get the money to buy the chicken wire and build a shelter. The cost for materials and construction of my small chicken house and pen hadn't been factored into my business plan, so dad agreed to loan me the money for the wire and he would help me build the house. We took four posts and put them in the ground with plywood all around the outside and then sat an old camper shell on top of that for a roof and made a large chicken run by running the wire around a grove of cedar trees to save the expense of posts. My entire bill was now a little over $30. I calculated the $30 I would have to pay my dad back and the $10 I was spending on the male chicks. It became pretty clear, even in my seven year old mind that I wasn't going to make a fortune off this first batch of chicks.

Everything worked out pretty good on that first batch. I raised those one hundred or so roosters and then sold them to three of my dad’s friends. They all came over one Saturday morning early and we started plucking chickens. It never once crossed my mind at the time that I should have just sold the chickens to them and let them take them home and butcher them. It was a long day but at the end of the day I had $55. I had made $15 on my first batch and the next batch would be all profit. Of course I never factored in the hours I spent sweeping feed in the commercial house and chasing roosters that escaped from time to time and the long day of butchering. If a farmer ever factored in his time we would all starve; that was the first lesson learned in my first poultry operation.

I raised several batches of roosters and would clear $40-$70 each time. A kid could purchase a good bit in the late 70's on that kind of money. I thought I was getting rich. I had expanded my poultry operation to include some hens and was selling eggs as well. A friend of my dad’s gave me a young banty hen. Just a small little game bird but I became very attached to her. She would follow me around in the pen, so I got to where I would let her out from time to time. That little hen would follow me all over the yard making those maternal clucking sounds that a good mother hen makes. One time I was shooting old bottles out of the junk pile with my .22 and was reaching down to pull an old pickle jar out when she went into a fit. On further inspection there was a big king snake curled up in that junk pile. I was convinced that hen loved me, and I knew I loved her. She hatched out several batches of chicks.

Someone gave me some fertilized duck eggs that I put under her and she hatched out three baby ducks. She mothered those ducks like they were her own flesh and blood. It was funny to watch these ducks, who within just a few weeks had grown larger than their surrogate mother, follow this little banty hen and obey her motherly clucks. Even funnier was seeing these big ole’ ducks try to get under her wings. They would wind up with just their heads stuck under her wings with their tails up in the air sleeping away. To this day I don’t know how that hen knew that those ducks would want to swim, but she would take them down to the pond in front of our house and let them get their swimming time in. She would abide by their natural instinct for water for a while and then start making that “calling” sound a hen makes when it’s time for the chicks to be close to momma. Obediently these three large ducks would come out of the pond and follow the little hen back up the hill to the chicken pen.

All went well for a year or two with my chicken operation. I was selling those meat birds and selling eggs, but then everything changed. One day I came home from school and dad told me that the chicken company that contracted for the chickens in the commercial chicken house had found out about my operation. They weren't happy. They said that my chickens could give those chickens down there in that big house diseased. I’m not sure about the science in 1978 regarding avian sicknesses, but I know today there are lots of strict rules about commercial poultry producers and contamination because of avian bird flu. Regardless of the science, it didn't make much sense to me then. Dad said that the guy from the poultry company was going to take some blood from my chickens and see if they were infected with anything.

The next day I came home from school and went to my chicken pen like I always did. There next to the fence was the lifeless body of my little hen. They had come and taken blood samples from my chickens and undoubtedly drew the same amount of blood out of that little hen as they did the large breed birds in the pen. At first I was sad. I ran across the field behind the chicken house to “my spot.” It was the place in the edge of the woods where I always went when I didn't want to be found. My sadness turned into anger. I was furious that these guys who had tens of thousands of birds would come and kill my little banty hen. There was no way anyone should get by with such a senseless killing of an innocent little mother hen. I was convinced justice must be served. I went back to the house and went and got my .22 rifle assuring myself that I must avenge my little hen’s death.

Now I know today most folks wouldn't dream of letting their eight or nine year old out of the house unsupervised with a rifle. Times were different then I suppose. I wasn't allowed to have my gun if friends came over and my dad drilled gun safety into me to the point that I would unload my gun totally if I had to cross a fence. I shot snakes and rats, not only in my chicken pen, but also in the barn and in the hog house. I never once thought about being irresponsible with a gun. It was just part of life and a tool that we used.

There was also that Scots-Irish sense of avenging a wrong that was, and to an extent still is, part of my DNA. I had heard stories, and even seen a time or two, folks in my family get riled up about a wrong that needed to be righted. There’s a sense of honor and justice in folks that come from a Appalachian background that some people just don’t understand. Sometimes those confrontations could get pretty confrontational.

So here was my plan: the guy with the chicken company had to come down the long gravel driveway at the foot of the hill our house was on to get to the commercial chicken house. There was a ditch behind some trees and I was going to get in that ditch with my rifle. When he drove his truck by I was going to shoot at least one tire out, two or three if I could get the shots in before I got caught. In my eight year old mind that was justice. My hen – this corporate chicken man’s tires; it sounded like just retribution to me. After all, I didn’t like this guy anyway. He wore a lot of Vasoline VO5 in his slicked back hair and never wore a cap. He had a gold chain necklace and had rings on more than just his wedding band finger. He always smelled like a bottle of after-shave. In my mind that was no way for a chicken man to look or smell. Plus, he always winked at my older sister and flirted with the teenage daughter of the guy who owned the farm we lived on. Tammy was my sister and Cherie was….well, I had a crush on her and even though she was a good bit older than me and there was never any chance of her even noticing a little guy like me -still she was my Cherie; not the good-smelling, Elvis-haired, jewelry-wearing “chicken” man’s. He had no business flirting with either one of them. I didn’t like him one little bit and now he had taken the life of my best hen.

As I was headed to the door with my plan in my head and my gun in my hand, my dad came home early from work and caught me headed out. He could see my tear-stained face and undoubtedly the Holbrook anger in my blood-shot eyes. Now back in the day, my dad could get pretty excitable. He had a bad temper and responded to most every emotional situation with an “outside” voice. This time was different. He calmly said, “What’s wrong son?” I didn’t say a word just walked up to the chicken pen and he followed with his lunch bucket and thermos still in his hands and his jacket thrown across one arm. He saw the lifeless body of my little hen. Neither of us said a word. The tears were in my eyes again and I didn’t want him to see me cry so I stared at the ground. Dad kneeled down on one knee and picked up my little hen. I glanced up and he was very emotional. Now I’m sure that dad was upset about my hen, but even more he was upset because I was, as we say in my family, “tore up.” Finally he spoke and calmly said, “What were you going to do with that gun son?” 

I snotted and stammered and tried to speak. I managed to get across that my hen was dead and that chicken man was going to pay. Dad reached and got my rifle and walked down the hill to the house, never saying another word. He took the rifle in the house. I went and got a shovel to bury my hen. I was burying her next to our dog “Lady” up on the hill behind the house at the edge of the woods near “my spot.”

I couldn’t see the driveway from where I was burying my hen, but I heard a vehicle coming down it. I just knew it was that chicken man. I ran to a crest on the hill to see. Sure enough his little white Ford truck with the name of the poultry company was headed down the driveway. I saw the door fly open from the house and dad run to his truck and fire it up. He had seen the chicken man as well. He slung gravel as he backed up and headed down the hill. The rifle was still in the house, but I knew my dad was going to serve justice on that cheap after shave –wearing chicken man.

A few days later I had to shut down my poultry operation. The chicken company had decreed that my birds were a hazard. Dad arranged a meeting between the corporate-chicken man and the little guy- chicken farmer. I could tell the chicken man didn't want to have this conversation. I have no idea what my dad said to him on the day my hen died, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if there weren't some threats made, but here we were - the big corporate man with the little guy, having a discussion about how it had been “scientifically proven” that my birds “could” give his birds diseases. He talked about bio-hazards and contamination. I was getting tired of his big-word ramblings and finally he said it. The chicken man admitted that they had killed my little hen. He admitted that they took more blood than they should have out of her. I could feel my blood boiling and my mountain, feuding roots were showing. Then he offered to pay me for my hen. I’m quite sure that wasn't the fancy-pants chicken man’s idea, but undoubtedly my dad had made it quite clear that this was how it was going to be. The chicken man asked what I thought she was worth. I thought for a minute and said “Ten dollars.” That was a lot of money for a hen in 1978. The chicken man started to protest the price and looked at my dad. I think he saw that mountain-raised sense of justice and retribution in my dad’s eyes and reached for his wallet; deciding it was worth the exorbitant price to end this feud.

I didn’t get chickens again until we moved off that farm. My .22 rifle disappeared from my room and I had to ask to get it out of my dad’s closet until I reached my teen-aged years. I took the $10 and put it in the missionary offering at church. That was blood money and I couldn't justify spending it. I gave the money to the Lord just knowing that “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, sayeth the Lord.” He would make that chicken man really pay someday.

As I said at the beginning, a lot of lessons can be learned from raising chickens. That early experience influenced my thinking on politics and how the little guy needs some protection from corporate greed. Yes, I've been a Democrat for a long time. It taught me some theological truths about vengeance and justice and leaving things to the Lord. In retrospect it shows me how close I came to being a felon. It also showed me the sense of protection and love that a daddy will show his son, even if he can’t put it into words.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rivel Soup

When a Midwestern gal raised by Georgia born parents marries a Virginia man with a German-Brethren background, there are some cultural lessons to be learned. This is especially true with specific North Eastern Amish/Pennsylvania Dutch/Brethren family heirloom recipes. My family with their southern roots (North Georgia Mountains) is familiar with dumplings.  However,  I had never heard of Rivel Soup until I married into the Cupp family.   Mike remembers eating Rivel Soup made by both his grandmother as well as his mother.  It is truly a comfort food to him.  I took the opportunity today to ask Mike's mother how she makes her Rivel Soup.  I made it this evening for him,  was thrilled to hear him express his delight, and confirm that my first attempt tasted really good. ( I consider that high praise since he is an expert on how it SHOULD taste.) 

If you research Rivel Soup, there are a number of recipes that include various ingredients.  The recipe handed down to me by Mike's family lends itself to being the most basic and frugal of any Rivel Soup recipe available.  I am sure this is because the recipe originated with those who had to make the most of what they had,  as they needed the food to stretch as far as possible with the least number of ingredients.  The recipe can be made with broth from chicken or beef, but Mike's family has always made it with beef broth. 

Mike's mother always makes roast beef and then uses the broth from the roast to make the Rivel Soup.  (One could also make beef bone broth and use it for the base for the soup.)  Once you have your broth, the next step is to make your "rivels".  The best way I can explain rivels is to say they are the fast and easy method of making what is very similar to egg noodles.  You only need two ingredients to make the rivels:  flour and eggs.

Take your egg and break it into a bowl.  I happened to break open a double yolked egg.




Then begin working flour into the egg.


You want to keep working in the flour until the "rivels" form.  Basically these are tiny egg noodles.  Evidently, according to my mother in law, the sign of one who is an expert at making rivel soup is that the little "noodles" are extremely small (think rice size).  My rivels were not as small as they should have been, but when I looked at other recipes on line, I think mine were comparable to most.



 Once the product is finished, it should look something like this (perhaps smaller if you are a perfectionist):



The next step is to slowly drop the rivels into boiling broth.  You don't want to dump them all at once and you want to stir continuously.  If you dump them all at once or do not stir, you will just have one big clump of dough in the bottom of your pot.  The finished product produces a broth with tiny egg noodles and is quite tasty.



I admit, I still like my dumplings better than rivel soup BUT the joy on my husband's face when I served up rivel soup means I will be making it many times over to please him.  Besides, it's super easy to make! 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

Meet The Farmers: The Next Five Years (Tammy)



In our Monday "Meet the Farmers" series that I began last week, I wrote of the "ideal" childhood in which I grew up for the first seven years of my life.  Although those first seven years were in actuality filled with struggles for my parents, they never let my brother and I know of how hard things were, and we knew only a home filled with love and gentle care.  Those years were cut short when my mom was killed in a tragic horse riding accident.

My parents were actually in the process of moving from our little homestead house on Mt. Olive Road to a friend's farm in the same town when the accident occurred that took our mother's life.  The recession of the 1970's had hit our family hard and my dad was laid off for two years from the automobile plant where he worked.  To make ends meet, we moved into a very small trailer on the farm.  Perhaps this is where my love of cows began in earnest. The trailer set right in the middle of a cow pasture. There was nothing to keep the mixed herd of beef cattle from walking right up to our trailer where they would rub their head on the corners.  The first sounds I heard most every morning were those of the cattle outside my bedroom window.

We worked a lot.  Even though we were young, my brother and I were expected to do our part to lighten the work load.  We had our household chores and then there was the "farm" work.  We had calves to bottle feed at times and when my dad's 12 sows had babies, we bottle fed the weak piglets and helped with vaccinations.  We were frequently in the hay fields and we helped with getting the wood in for winter. My dad taught me to drive a tractor when I was about nine years old and I was often seen driving up and down our long, gravel driveway by myself in the car when I was ten to eleven years of age.   We had a huge garden and spent many hours in the hot sun weeding, hoeing, and gathering produce.  We helped with the food preservation as well.   On this farm, was a commercial chicken house where thirty three thousand birds were brought in as peeps and raised up to laying age.  When I was eleven, I began helping to stock the peeps.  Then when the birds were starting to lay, I worked with a crew to de-beak and vaccinate the birds and then ship them out.  The latter was extremely hot, back breaking work and I was paid a half a penny a chicken for each one I caught and vaccinated. It was also during these years that I was introduced to dairy cattle and raw milk, when my dad began helping a neighboring farmer milk his commercial herd.

When my work was caught up, I was given the freedom to roam the land freely.  I took solace in the woods and pastures. I had some favorite spots to frequent.  One was a small "seasonal" water fall where the moss grew thick.  There was something magical about that spot, and I often thought surely the woodland fairies must be hiding and observing my intrusion.  I also spent many hours in the creek catching craw dads, and minnows, and staying just out of reach of the snapping turtles.  Long walks through the fields; skipping rocks on the pond; playing in an old abandoned cabin; jumping off the elevated, abandoned railroad and sliding down it's sandy banks; searching for the antique railroad spikes on the abandoned tracks; sliding down the leaf covered hills in cardboard boxes in the fall; and sledding in the winter were some of the ways we entertained ourselves on the farm when we were not working.

 These were years filled with struggle for me personally as I tried to begin accepting my mother's death as well as the introduction of a step mother into my life when my dad remarried.   I also became aware of how "poor" we were compared to most  of my friends as well as the differences between their life in the suburbs and city and my life on the farm.  I loved living on the farm and the lessons I learned there have stayed with me all my life.  I learned that work is fun as well as rewarding, and I learned to find solace in nature. I learned that being different is good and that time alone can be a treasure. The years on the farm reinforced my interest in livestock and agriculture, shaping who I would become as an adult, and preparing me for a life on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia as the wife of a third generation farmer.



Friday, February 13, 2015

How Do Farmers Say I Love You?



I looked out the window yesterday afternoon and witnessed my farmer husband's red Ford truck sitting in front of the barn where he had unloaded the hay I had requested for my growing calves, mini horses, and spoiled rotten pet goats.  Then I saw him leaned against the end of the pitch fork for a brief moment, taking a break, his eyes looking out over the land.  Shortly he returned to shoveling the manure that MY animals had made and that I consider MY responsibility,  and my heart just melted.  The grandchildren had gone home, so I put on my insulated coveralls and a warm coat. Instead of taking my evening walk, I went to the barnyard and there my man and I had a heart to heart talk.  The serious conversation was interspersed with teasing and laughter while he shoveled MY manure (which I thought was the perfect metaphor as I sorted out some negative feelings that needed to be transformed into "fertilizer" and character growth).  When he finished, I opened the gates for him while he put round bales in the feeders for the rest of the cattle.  Because it's winter, we were able to have an "early" supper and continued conversation across the table as we ate our homegrown baked potatoes and creamed lima beans along with our farm raised beef.  We finished the evening off by sitting side by side watching a few game shows on television.  Everything about our evening when I looked at it through open eyes, was a testament to our love.

This farmer's wife doesn't need (or even want) expensive flower arrangements, fine dining, expensive  (or any) gifts, or exotic vacations to know my man loves me (although he does do those things on occasion).  It's the faithfulness he exhibits daily to our love, our life, our family. It's the joy we find together in the midst of a sometimes difficult profession and  while living in an often hostile world.  It's the daily dedication that melts my heart and keeps me hopeful even when life deals out it's worst.

Real love is a whole lot like farming with a lot of messy crap to shovel,  disheartening circumstances to overcome, emotions that sometimes run too hot or too cold, long days, short night's, and heartbreaking losses.   The messiness is counter balanced by new life, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and the rewards of  the honest labor we put towards our ever growing love.

On this Valentine's Day, if I had to choose all over again, I would choose THIS life with my farmer who knows exactly how to show me how much he loves me.  After all, he DOES shovel my cow's poop.

Happy Valentine's Day from a couple of farmers!

Friday Farm Scenes