Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What's In a Name...

For some, choosing a name is simple. ..Perhaps you like to use a family name, to make a special connection to a loved one…Perhaps you choose a name that has a specific meaning…Perhaps you simply like the way it sounds when you yell out the back door about 15 times…
When we named our children, their middle names were chosen because of a connection with someone in the family.  Their first names had to be simple…my name has been misspelled and mispronounced most of my life, and I didn’t want that for our kids…
When it comes to the cows…our calves are each given a numbered ear tag at birth…this tells us at a glance their sequence in age, and takes us directly to their spot in the heifer identification book where their birthday and genealogy is listed.  If one of the cows also has a name, they’ve earned it! 

Recently, we had fun looking back through our heifer books, reminiscing about some of the names we’ve used in the past.  Here is a sampling…
Mary – there’s always a Mary in the barn.  She’s usually a cow with a very nice personality.
Attitude – hmmm…I wonder what her personality was like?
Perdita – was speckled and reminded us of a Dalmatian…remember the movie 101 Dalmatians?
Houdini – could escape from her stall with ease at the most inopportune times.
Tipsy – couldn’t walk in a straight line.
Jackson – at least one person had fun riding her like a horse…like General Stonewall Jackson
Patti – named after the wanna- be girlfriend of a young man who was living with us.
Flicka – looked like a race horse …from the book My Friend Flicka.
Goliath – was a giant calf.
Tongueless – as an ever curious first calf heifer, she managed to stick her tongue through a guard on a fan, and sliced off 2”-3” of her tongue.  We hand fed her grass for several weeks while her tongue healed.  She made a full recovery and lived a long, productive life.  She always had to be in a stall where she could push against the edge of the feed trough to get the feed into her mouth, since her tongue was so short!
Bartlette – had a pear shaped spot on her forehead.
Job – she had some rough times in her life!
Stumpy -  was short and stumpy.
Belle – she was named after her sire, Belltone, a well known bull In his time.  She just turned twelve this month... the oldest cow in the barn, and the leader of the pack.
Ringley – one of the first cows that had a ring in her nose.  She will be twelve in October!
Light bulb Lily – this one was from way back, before my time.  Someone apparently thought that her teats were shaped like light bulbs (what a way to be remembered!)
Willard and Arlene – were twins, and we named them after my aunt and uncle.  Willard was rather short and stocky like my uncle…Arlene was a tremendous cow who milked well over 100 lbs. per day! (and no, my aunt and uncle were not offended…they thought it was amusing!)  We named their heifer calves using my cousins’ nicknames… Sissie and Weasie.
Sampson – was a big, strong cow who liked to throw her weight around.
Lazarus – almost died from pneumonia as a calf, and had some other close calls.  You can read her story here
Dirty Pig – self explanatory J
Nameless – I guess we were out of ideas on this one!
This is just a small sampling...as we remember more, I'll pass them on to you!
How do you come up with names for your animals?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Refrigerator Pickles ...

My family loves pickles...so I planted lots of cucumbers in the garden this spring. 

The plants have taken off, and to my surprise, this morning when I checked I had a bunch of mature cucumbers ready to be picked.  Cucumbers have a way of sneaking up on you like that, don't they?!

In the past, I've not had a lot of luck with keeping cucumbers nice in the refrigerator until I have a quantity large enough to make a batch of pickles.  So...what do you do when you have just a few...more than enough to eat fresh, but not enough to can?

Try these Refrigerator Pickles...

Refrigerator Pickles

Prepare 3 quart jars for pickles. 

Slice 1 medium onion into the bottom of each jar

Fill the remainder of the jar with cucumbers, sliced 1/8"- 1/4" thick

Stir the following ingredients together to make syrup.  Do NOT heat...syrup is used cold

4 cups sugar
3 cups vinegar * if vinegar is mild, use 4 cups and omit water
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
1 1/4 tsp tumeric
1 1/4 tsp celery seed
1 1/4 tsp mustard seed

Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Pour over cucumbers in jars just enough to cover.  Screw on lids.

Refrigerate at least 5 days before using.  These pickles will keep in the refrigerator for as long as 10 months!

My sister told me about this recipe a number of years ago, and I remember that we loved them!  It's a quick, easy way to make delicious pickles without making the kitchen a hot, sticky mess...just what I needed today, especially since I just mopped my kitchen floor!  :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Meadow Tea Recipe...

What is better on a hot, humid summer day, after working outside, than a cool, refreshing drink of Meadow Tea...or maybe you call it Garden Tea, or something else entirely! 

Almost every summer, there is a friendly debate on facebook among some of my friends over the name for this summertime drink!  Apparently, according to what part of Pennsylvania you hail from, the name is different! 

We call it Meadow Tea, I guess, because it is often found growing wild along the edge of the meadow.   While I do have some "wild" tea, the leaves that I use come from plants that I purchased at a local greenhouse and planted where I wanted it.  There are lots of varieties available to choose from.  ( I think mine was actually called Chocolate Mint)  I now have enough tea to feed the entire neighborhood...it spreads that quickly.  But my family loves it, and I'm hesitant to say just how quickly a gallon is consumed!

This is the recipe that I use most often...

Fresh Meadow Tea
(makes 1 gallon)

Bring to a boil:

     2 cups sugar ( I skimp on the sugar! )
     4 cups water

Pour over:
     2 cups mint leaves, packed (and thoroughly washed!)
     2 sliced lemons

Let stand overnight.  Strain off concentrate and store in the refrigerator.  When ready to serve, pour into a gallon container and fill with water and ice.

*This freezes well!  I usually cut all of my tea at once, and make several batches.  I store the concentrate in quart sized containers, and they each make one gallon of delicious Meadow Tea!

So...what do you call this delicious drink?

Just and update to the recipe...I learned another way to make this from a friend, which I personally like even better!  Here it is...

*Bring 6 cups of water to a boil 
*Add a large handful of tea leaves, rinsed
*Let them steep for about 30 minutes
*Remove leaves and drain the "tea"
*Add 1/2 cup sugar and stir until dissolved
*This makes enough concentrate for 1 gallon of tea

This recipe is much quicker to make, the tea is much lighter in color, and it's not nearly so sweet!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Goat Shenanigans...

It was inevitable...The goats have become troublemakers TROUBLEMAKERS! 

We've been learning a lot about these goats lately.  Jenna and I have been to several 4-H meetings, where we've learned about goat health, feeding, training, trimming, etc.  It's been fun, mostly.  They're growing well, getting used to wearing their halters, and are learning to walk on a lead.  Last night we gave them pedicures.  By the time the fair rolls around in late September, they should weigh anywhere between 60 - 110 pounds.  These two are going to be heavyweights, I think.

When we first got the goats, we put them into their new pen, and realized that the pen was not going to contain them...they escaped almost immediately.  So Eric reinforced it, and we had no more problems.  Until this weekend.

Troublemaker # 1...  What is a fence for, but to go under...

So we put them in the pen with the chickens until we can decided what's best to do tomorrow.

And what is a tree for, but to eat...

Troublemaker #2...

Might as well join in the fun, destroying the wire mesh around the base of the tree that was meant to keep the chickens from scratching away the dirt...

And it looks like the Chicken Porch is now being taken over temporarily by the goats...

And... Jenna's away at camp this week, so guess who gets to corral them!  It's a good thing they're so cute!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Chicken Porch...

The other day while the barley was being combined, something else was happening elsewhere on the farm…

You see, although our chickens have quite a large fenced in area to freely roam, it’s mostly in the direct sun.  We put an old garden shed from our neighbors in the pen for their shelter, and two years ago we planted a couple of shade trees.  The trees aren't big enough to provide much shade yet, so we took pity on the ladies and improved their living conditions by building them a porch.  Not only will it provide them with more shade, but it will give them another place to hide from hawks...

To say that my Dad, a retired farmer/pastor/cabinetmaker is “handy” is an understatement!  I truly think he could make just about anything!  He has the equipment and space to do it, and now he has the time as well. So…we enlisted his help...

Actually, he did all the work, and we helped. A little. We helped with some lifting and Eric pounded some nails, but it was mostly Grandpa!

Now the girls have a lovely porch on which to have hen parties!

Next, I’m just waiting to see them roosting on top of it!

*Linking to Farmgirl Friday 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Every fall, Jim seeds cover crops of rye and either barley or wheat on some of our fields. 

The rye fields are usually grazed or baled and then "burnt off" before planting, and the barley or wheat fields are harvested for the grain.  After harvesting the grain, the remaining straw is baled for bedding.

This week the barley tested at an acceptable moisture level for harvesting.  So...today the combine arrived. 

The cows, curious as usual, are looking to see what has invaded "their" field.  That's the barley field right on the other side of the combine...

The combine starts through the field...Murphy trotting along behind.  The grain goes into a bin inside the combine, while the straw is discharged out the back. The combine is set to leave the straw in two windrows, which will be just right for our baler to pick up and bale later this evening...

Watching the combine coming across the field towards me...

Beautiful heads of barley up close, just before harvesting...

I rode once around the field in the combine...this is the view from inside.  Several areas of the field were "lodged", or knocked down from the heavy rains we had over the weekend.  When the barley lodges like this, it is difficult, if not impossible for the combine to pick it up, and some of the grain is left on the ground, wasted... 

The combine driver works in comfort in a roomy, air-conditioned cab, with the latest in technology at his fingertips.  This combine is equipped with a computer that has a GPS, which maps the fields as he works.   It tells him exactly how big the field is, the moisture level and yield of the grain, as well as which sections of the field yielded the highest, etc...

All in all, it was a good barley day.  The yield was good, although it would have been even better had it not lodged, and the straw has all been baled and stacked in the barn for beddingNext on the agenda for this field will be spreading manure from the heifer pens, and then a short season corn will be planted as a double crop.  And oh yes...there's more hay to bale tomorrow!

It looks like we won't be bored for the next week or so!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Hmmm...maybe sentimentality isn't really a word...but it's what I've been feeling this weekend.

This has nothing to do with farming...but it has every thing to do with the farm kids, so therefore it qualifies as a valid post!

On Friday, our oldest finished Middle School, and will be moving on to High School in August.  And...will be getting his driver's permit in less than a year.  And...is taller than both of us.  Yikes!

Our youngest "graduated" from sixth grade, and we said goodbye to elementary school forever.  You know, that familiar, "safe" place where you know all the teachers, and they all know you by name...where your kids have spent more time than they have at home (or so it it seems) for the past nine years...

So I decided to reminisce a bit...about when they were little.  I didn't ask their permission, so I might be in the dog house for these pictures, but I just had to post a few of them ...

Helping to feed calves...

He loved riding around on the scooter and wearing the straw hat that belonged to our Amish helper...

This is still her job...but now she's bigger than the broom...

One year we planted some Mycogen brand corn for silage, and it grew and grew and grew some more.  It sure dwarfed him...

I could have posted a lot more pictures, but these were some of my favorites. 

It just goes to show how time flies...They are now fifteen and twelve, and we are getting old older too.  

But would we really have it any other way?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In Search of Pickle Vine...

Well it's only Wednesday, and I'm out of hibernation!  In fact, hibernation never happened...it was just a thought, really.  There's just too much to do for that right now.  The heat is here, but today there's actually a nice breeze, which makes the higher temps tolerable.

This morning we scouted the corn fields for Wild Pickle, (Pickle Vine) and thistles.  There's time yet to spray before the corn gets too high for the regular spraying rig...so we hit the fields this morning.

The search begins...

Jim took one of the dirtbikes through this field...

This was my field...and this is one of the best looking cornfields!  Last year it was planted in soybeans, and the corn just loves the nitrogen that they put into the soil!  This field was clear...

I found several of these...one more reason that farmers detest groundhogs!  Holes like this can be disastrous for a tractor axle or a wagon load of hay or corn...

...and I found one of these... 

...and I found one of these...one reason we're very particular about who we allow to hunt in our fields.  If one of these would get chopped up in the silage, we'd possibly find ourselves with a case of Hardware...

Here's what I was looking for (and hoping not to find).  This is a small Pickle Vine plant.  See how it looks just like a small cucumber?  If left to grow, this will grow (quickly) into a large vine that literally covers the corn.  It can take over a corn field to the point that the chopper can't get through it in the fall. 

It looks like only two of the fields will need to be sprayed...most of them were clear of Pickle Vine and thistles, and in general looked good!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


In light of the forecast for the next couple of days...all I can say is that I hope the weather man is WRONG!  I don't do well in Hazy Hot and Humid conditions!

I think it's also officialy time to wash and store all those barn sweatshirts and flannels...  

They've been hanging in the barn for long enough now, and I think it's safe to put them away until fall.

We've been running our cistern the past few days...to try and get it empty, and to give the well pump a break.  After many loads of laundry and several pipeline washes, the water level has dropped significantly.  That's a good thing...now it can fill up with "fresh" water the next time it rains!

As for the heat and humidity coming our way...this fair weather fan just might go into hibernation in the air-conditioned bedroom. 

See you on Friday if it's cooler!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ultimate Kittlets...

There's not much that comes sweeter than a baby...

It's been a very long time since we've had any kitties on our farm.  To our delight, a month or so ago, we noticed that Slinky, the Ultimate Kitty , appeared to be expecting!  One morning, she appeared in the cow stable, clearly no longer pregnant.  However, there was no sign of her babies, and she didn't appear to be nursing.  So...we sadly assumed that her babies had come to an unfortunate end...Until a few weeks ago, when one morning she came down around the barn carrying a clone of herself in her mouth! 

Apparently it was time to introduce her babies to us! 

These three have to be the cutest, healthiest kitties we've ever had!  Would you dare to argue?!

And Slinky has proven herself not only to be the "Ultimate Kitty", but now she's the "Ultimate Mommy"!  I don't think I've ever seen a mother cat that is so protective and so smart...the dogs would not even dare to think of coming near!  This week she's trying to teach them to hunt.

We've been getting a lot of enjoyment out of these babies... I guess we'll call them the "Ultimate Kittlets"!

*Linking up with Farm Girl Friday and Farm Friend Friday...