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Monday, May 2, 2016

The Realities of Farming and Why We've Chosen This Life

This post probably won't have pictures, but it's a sounding board for some things that have been on my mind. In January we made the decision for me to stay at home and leave my job as a full-time educator in the public school system. Since then, we've had a few people remark that "oh, the farm must be doing really well" or people have commented to our family members that "the farm must be doing great for Katie to be able to quit her job." While I can understand why people might make those assumptions, I wanted to write a post about the realities of our situation and about small scale, all-natural, grass / non-GMO farming...

#1. I didn't quit my job because the farm is doing well. I quit so that we can focus more on the farm and help it grow and be successful. I was pulling 40+ hours at school, trying to stay on top of making jam and soap, helping Kevin feed, doing all the farm accounting and marketing, AND trying to be the kind of mom I want John to have. It just wasn't working... something had to give. This farm is our dream and the life we want for our family... I've never been that tied to an occupation that I would even dream of putting it before my husband, my child, or our dream for our family. It was a great job and one that I put a lot of effort into, but at the end of the day, I needed to be here more than I needed to be there. Staying at home with my kids is something I've always dreamt of and I'm blessed enough to have a husband who agrees with that belief. When we were making the decision to resign I distinctly remember telling Kevin that "I'd rather be poor and happy than have more money and be stressed out." And that 100% remains true. We're bringing home a LOT less money (bus drivers aren't on the path to being rich), but I've never been happier.

#2. Some of you may be thinking "okay but your farm income helped offset your decision to quit, right?" Nope. This may come as a surprise, but we don't make anything from our farm. The farm is, after over 4 years, finally beginning to support itself. We still pay out of our personal money for some things, but overall it's finally starting to hold its own. However, it's taken 4 years, untold amounts of money/time/sweat/tears/prayer to get here. Just holding its own though doesn't leave anything to pay ourselves. We do this because we love it, not because we're going to get rich. Sure, we'd love to get to the point some day where we can pay ourselves something, but our ultimate motivation is this: we feel that God has called us to this life, we want to provide quality products for people, and we want people to know where their food is coming from. Period.

#3. How we make it work: Living on one income (that's not a whole lot) isn't easy, especially when we still need to pick up some of the farm bills on our personal tab. I'm doing some substitute teaching to give us a little flex money but the majority of our income is from Kevin's income. Someday I'd like to do a little seminar/class for interested people on how we pinch pennies, but here's some of the things we do / don't do to help save and make it on less so that we can live the farm life we so love...

  • We don't eat out often (when we do we have an Enjoy coupon book that we use or we splurge and get $25 gift cards when they're 4x the fuel points at Kroger and save them for a "rainy day."). 
  • We don't drink and we don't smoke. 
  • We make and raise most of our own food. 
    • Obviously we have our own meat 
    • We also raise a large garden (this year it's an acre and I'm so excited!) and some of our own fruit
    • We CAN (LOTS of canning... as in like 65 quarts per year each of green beans, tomato juice, various fruits, pickles, applesauce, grape and apple juice, and more) so that we can enjoy these treats all year long. 
    • We buy in bulk and freeze or can things for later 
    • I make our organic bread (this week's batch is baking as I type this) 
  • We don't buy a lot of "extras" at the grocery store... Usually just some organic produce (mainly in the winter), organic canned basics, organic butter, shredded cheese, and organic cereal
  • I buy things in bulk to get better prices... I have food-grade 5 gallon buckets of organic flour and sugar for my baking and jam making. I buy my flour in 25 pound bags and sugar in 50 pound bags from a store near my hometown in PA. 
  • We don't take a "traditional" family vacation each year... We visit my grandma in Lancaster, PA in the summer (and stock up on some farm supplies while there) and we visit again in January when we go to the PA Farm Show each year. We usually try to spend a night in Amish Country, Ohio once or twice a year (usually when there on farm business). Otherwise, that's about it! 
  • We don't have cable - we pay roughly $16 a month for Netflix and Hulu subscriptions and especially in the summer we don't even watch them much.
  • We buy a lot of things from consignment stores (my favorite is online, and I've found lots of great things for John from here) and discount/daily deals websites ( 
  • We don't use over the counter medicines and (thank the Lord) none of us have prescriptions... I know that's not an option for everyone in regards to prescriptions, but for OTC things - check out essential oils. You can message us on Facebook if interested... while there's more of an investment up front in oils, they last (literally) forever if properly stored and can be used in so many ways to boost and support your body's systems. 
  • We don't own anything "designer" or fancy.... I felt it was a splurge to pay $30.00 for a purse last fall when I needed a new one and found one I liked. 
  • Most of our furniture is hand-me-down and because of that we have some sentimental attachments to it ... this has saved us money because new furniture is expensive!
  • We live a simple life in general... we try to not run around more than we absolutely have to, we love being home, and there's ALWAYS something to do here for our family. 
I'm not saying all of the things mentioned above equal a recipe that will work for every family... this is just what we do and I love our life. 

#4. Harsh realities of farming aren't usually what I try to post on our page. Sure, we share some of the tough moments with you, our customers and our support network, but often we struggle through by ourselves because there's not-so-glamorous parts of farming you may not need or want to be part of. These are the realities that hurt and have made us grow and educate ourselves more. A few moments that come to mind were when we were brand new and bought cattle that were supposedly 800 pounds...We were excited to find some that were raised on grass and we didn't know what a 800 lb steer should look like yet so we bought them, finished raising them... and they hung at 240 pounds - we were devastated and literally lost money on them. Another moment was going out to the field and finding a mama Beltie cow dead for no reason... Yet another was only having 2 chicks hatch out of 70+ EXPENSIVE rare-breed eggs, and maybe one of the hardest was discovering that meat was being skimmed off what we brought home to sell by a butcher we were working with... Then there have been the times when we've literally thought the farm was going to go under, when we didn't know how we could keep pouring money in and not see a significant return for all our work. That's happened more than once. Those are tough nights and not much sleep is had. The hours and hours and hours of research, education, reading, searching and more to find answers for questions, to find butchers who are certified properly, to find non-GMO grain that's within 6 hours of drive-time, to find a truck that will be reliable and affordable for a small farm like us. The reality for Howard Family Farms is that we drive a 1995 GMC truck because that's what we can afford. The reality is that we put over 40,000 miles on that truck last year for farm use to search out and go get supplies that allow us to offer grass-fed, non-GMO products for your family. The reality for Howard Family Farms is that we love our customers and it's our pleasure to do all this. Truly!

SO, this whole post is to show you that small-scale, all-natural farming, while it may appear "idyllic" or "beautiful" is not always that. It has some really hard days (and years). Days that make us wonder if we've chosen the right path... But we know it is. And we're ever so thankful for our customers who allow us to live our dream every day, even if it's not paying us to do it (for now). :) 

Know your farmer; know your food. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Fast Forward....

Wow! I can't believe it's been 2.5 YEARS since I wrote anything here! I'm back and hoping to do much better at this blogging thing. Since my last post our farm has grown and changed quite a bit, so I thought maybe I'd better re-enter the world of blogging with a post on who exactly we are at Howard Family Farms. After that, well, I've made myself a list so that when I don't have a genius idea to blog about I can pull from some ideas I've already brainstormed in advance.

Who we are...
We are a family of three: Kevin, Katie, and John. John wasn't even a thought in our minds when I last wrote on the blog. He's 14 months old and LOVES farming. which certainly makes us (but his daddy in particular) happy. Kevin is a full-time school bus driver for Marshall County Schools which leaves the middle of his day free for farming (which benefits all of you, our customers)! I just recently resigned my position as a music teacher with Marshall County Schools and am staying home with John, managing the farm, making jam and soap, and doing a bit of substitute teaching. Needless to say, with all the things going on, we're busy! Kevin's parents are our "hired help" as we like to joke and we're ever grateful for all the help they give us, whether it be pitching in to do projects, load cows, re-vamp the chicken coop, feed so we can leave for a day, have us for supper on busy farming days, or just watch John so I can help Kevin sometimes. We'd be in a sorry state without them!

Our farm began in the spring of 2012, just a few months before Kevin and I got married. We knew we wanted to farm and with the help of Kevin's parents were able to purchase our first cattle to raise and butcher. From there things have grown... In 2013 we outgrew our  capabilities at the times and spread ourselves too thin by trying to breed pigs, raise and breed sheep, dairy goats, and meat goats, breed and raise cattle, raise chickens, and raise hogs for butcher, so at the end of the year we made some hard decisions and cut-backs occurred to ensure that the enterprises WELL that we chose to keep.

We're gradually adding things back in and currently are raising and breeding cattle, raising meat and layer chickens, raising and breeding dairy goats, raising pigs, and we're anticipating breeding chickens and pigs later this year along with adding sheep back in to our plan. Each year we feel a touch more prepared and as we continue to learn we feel that we can slowly and strategically add things to our farm to allow it to grow but not to the point that we're overextended.

Many of you may know us as the people with the meat. When we started in 2012 we weren't 100% sure of the direction our farm would take. We sold our first cattle to mostly family and close friends and were happy to have them all spoken for. When we initially began this business we wanted to do so because we were transitioning to eating organic foods and wanted to know where our meat was coming from. There are so many scary things in the news today about meat, whether it be labeling laws, what they've been fed/shot up with, contamination, awful feedlot conditions, etc. and we wanted clean food.... what better than to raise it ourselves?! That has evolved into selling our meat both in bulk and by the cut. It's also led to other products being offered as more and more people look to local farmers to provide food and products they can use. The transparency and knowledge of buying from a farmer with a face you recognize vs buying from a store where you don't know where the products came from is becoming increasingly important as people begin to place more value on what they feed themselves and the products they use in their homes.

We raise our cattle on grass - good, green grass. That's it! (A few end up having just a little bit of non-gmo grain before butcher to help them "finish" or put on fat.) Our pigs are raised in a deep bedded hoop house with access to as much hay as they want, fresh produce from the garden, excess milk from our goats, and non-gmo grains. Our chickens are free-range and love to eat all kinds of bugs, grubs, and weeds (sorry, Barb, that they also enjoy your flower beds when they get in the yard...). They return to a coop or chicken tractor each day to lay an egg and then again at night to be protected from predators. Otherwise they enjoy dust baths, running around, pecking at whatever suits their fancy, and preening their feathers in the sunshine. Our goats live a life of leisure as they eat grass, frolic up and down the hills, and are permitted to raise their own kids. We milk them by hand once  a day after weaning their kids.

We do things differently here than lots of places, but we raise our animals in a way that we believe is best for their well-being and in a way that we feel pleases God as we are stewards of His creation. We are constantly educating ourselves and seeking to better our practices as farmers and we spend every day thanking God that He's given us this life to live.

Stay tuned as I (try to) bring you along and show you what we do and share why we've chosen this life for our family!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mister's Great Adventure

Once upon a time, farm-wife Katie said "We can have cattle, but I NEVER want us to have a bull. Ever."

Famous last words, right?

Kevin and I purchased three Belted Galloway heifers about a month ago that were to be bred when we picked them up. However, about a week before we got them their owner very apologetically had to tell us his bull had become impotent. Therefore, we purchased open (unbred) heifers.

One of our main goals is to become self-sustaining, meaning that we are able to supply our own animals right here on the farm instead of having to purchase steers elsewhere every year to feed out to fill orders. So, since our heifers weren't bred, we needed to come up with another method of getting them bred ASAP so that we can have a calf crop next spring and make progress toward that goal.

Our first option we pursued was to AI (artificially inseminate) the heifers, but after a little research, we realized it's a pretty costly endeavor since all the semen has to be kept in liquid nitrogen to keep it frozen at the appropriate temperatures to maintain potency.

About a week ago I saw a posting for a Beltie bull someone was selling. I told Kevin we could potentially buy him, let him breed our girls, and then butcher him in December. Well, that particular bull didn't work out because the owner knew nothing about his background and couldn't even tell us his age, so we didn't feel comfortable with that scenario.

[Enter] Cindy and Larry to the rescue! On Craigslist, Kevin found people who were selling several Beltie bulls about 2 hours from us. He contacted them, and the rest is history. They raise Belties and primarily their business is in raising tame Beltie bulls. After seeing pictures, we decided (Kevin kind of had to drag me along on this part) to purchase one. We set it up to go buy after church on Sunday.

Sunday morning came and we needed to separate the heifers before church. We had 4 to breed (3 that were supposed to be bred and we're going to try to breed another who is a twin which supposedly makes her infertile - but she's so pretty we're going to try) and we have 4 feeder heifers, so we don't want them bred since they're getting butchered. Our best attempts that morning were not met with success. So much so that we never made it to church because it was about 10:30 before we got in from the field, sweaty, smelly, and far from ready for church services.

I decided to let Kevin go alone to pick the bull because the creatures terrify me. He came home with "Mister," a bull who comes from Cindy and Larry. Kevin was thoroughly impressed with the temperament of all the bulls he saw. They're worked with, loved on, and touched daily by this family and his former owners get so attached to them that they teared up when Kevin left with Mister. 1 point for Mister - he's used to people and likes to have interaction with them.

1 point for Mister - he calmly lumbered off the trailer when Kevin got him home.
1 point for Mister - he shyly offered his head for scratching when Kevin took water into his pen for him Sunday evening.

Monday morning - Kevin left to go do some morning feeding while I finished a couple house chores. He was gone a long time and I tried calling him, sure that my worst fears (a bull gone crazy) must've come true. I eventually found his phone on the dryer...okay, so maybe he hadn't been mauled by Mister haha.

About 11:15 or so Kevin came into the house panting and said "we have a serious problem. Mister is gone."

I was confused and said "what do you mean, gone??"

"Gone gone. I can't find him. He's gone."

This prompted a flurry of events that lasted about 3 hours. I ran to Kevin's parents' to let his mom know, we called his dad at work to give him a heads-up, calls were made to the insurance to find out about farm liability, and then we split to find him. My job was to drive up and down the ridge and let people know that he was out but tame and that if they saw him to call us.

The neighbors were somewhat amused, as most of them have owned cattle at some point or another. They were all very amicable and agreed to call if they saw him. One even said "oh, okay, I'll just grab a bucket of feed and put him in there with the steers until you can come get him!"

Barb was tracking Mister in our third pasture. Kevin was searching for him in the second pasture (where there's a pond, lots of shade, and HELLO - 8 heifers [I assumed he'd head straight for the ladies, but I was wrong...]).

As I finished talking to people on the ridge, Barb was tracking Mister through the woods and Kevin had joined her. I figured they were headed away from the ridge, so I started down our lane letting people know.

(Sidenote: we utilize our neighbor's farm and Kevin had already told Alfie what was going on before he even came in to tell me.)

I got to our one neighbor's house, got out, and said "Kevin bought a bull yesterday..." - "I know! I saw him!" was Chuck's immediate response.

I'm pretty sure my jaw fell open at this point. "What? You saw him??"

"Yeah, he was standing by Alfie's machine shed looking over the fence at the goats."

"A black and white bull??? When?!" - I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

"2, maybe 3 hours ago, right guys?" All of the guys at Chuck's agreed. I thanked them and *promptly* hit the road. We were going in the opposite direction! I just hoped that Mister hadn't crossed Fork Ridge!

I excitedly called Kevin to tell him what Chuck said. He said they were going to leave the woods and meet me by the barn to regroup. Since I was in our car, I beat them to the barnyard, where I pulled in, saw that the loafer gate was open, and then I saw....


Yep - he looked at me as if to say, "what took you people so long?"

I called Kevin again and was told to hurry up and shut the gate! I told him I was too scared, but then I bolstered the courage to do it. I shouldn't have been worried. Mister never moved other than to turn his head and look at me lazily.

As soon as the gate was secure I called Kevin's dad, who was stuck at work during this whole fiasco. He said "it's sure hard to be stuck in here when I know there's stuff going on outside!"

Kevin and Barb arrived moments later on the Ranger both wearing huge smiles of relief.

Turns out - Mister has always had access to a large loafer barn (very similar to Alfie's) with hay and water and that's where he and his buddies spend their afternoons when it's hot. Well, when he kicked over his water sometime Sunday night/early yesterday morning, Mister must've decided he'd just wander around exploring until he found some. He didn't find water, but he found what he believes to be "home."

We all figure that Alfie probably walked right past him when he fed two buck goats also in the loafer, but since it's pretty dark in there, he just didn't see Mister.

As soon as Kevin went in to check on Mister, he drank 4 gallons of water in one slurp, and then hung his head for Kevin to run the hose on him (which he apparently loves). He didn't seem any worse for the wear and is perfectly content now that he's in his barn.

Alfie says he's like a big puppy dog, and so far, that's proving to be right. Mister loves for Kevin to scratch his head and neck and to hose him off. He never moves at a pace faster than what could be considered "moseying." I'm still very wary of him and probably will be for a long time to come, but I guess if we have to have a bull, this is a good kind to have.

After all the excitement I returned to our neighbors to let them know the search was over. Boy did I feel silly telling everyone that he'd been in the barn all morning. Ha! Oh well. It's a lesson well learned - consider an animal's upbringing when you bring them home.

It ended well (MUCH better than it could have) and we were praising God the rest of the day for His protection and provision.

So, that's Mister's great adventure. Well, I guess it was more OUR adventure since he was just hanging out in the barn all day while we were in chaos around him. But we'll call it his adventure.

To quote Kevin's dad, George, it was "just another day in paradise."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lessons Learned

Earlier this week I introduced you to our first five cows... This post is to share with you some of the best moments we shared with them. As you recall, I said that we started with six cows... Ernie, Piggy, Dean, Molly, Curly, and Shorty. 

Well, Ernie went down the road rather quickly last summer because, as you can see, he has horns... Having horns isn't a problem. Using horns is. And he knew how to use them! In particular, he knew how to use them to bully all five of the others into doing whatever he wanted. When we purchased them, he cornered all five others into a corner of the pen they were in. I thought it would improve in the field. Nope - especially not at the feed trough! 

The other five stayed with us throughout the summer, fall, and most of the winter. It was our first try with raising cattle to sell for meat, and we learned a lot from the experience!

Things like:
  • Don't try to walk your usually calm cattle down the road and put them in a corral to haul to the butcher. They don't like it. 
  • Oh, and don't leave one in the field while you do it because he will find out how to escape and find his friends. 
  • And - just as a by the way - the two cattle who are supposed to go calmly back into the field after saying goodbye to their buddies will not want to... they prefer running through the woods like wild beasts. (What happened to our friendly little buddies?!)
  • Cows are like fly magnets in the midst of summer... and those gigantic horseflies will not care if you're not a cow, they just want to bite something... so wear substantial amounts of clothing to cover as much of yourself as possible! 
  • Feeding is okay by yourself if your husband is at work, but farming is much more fun together to share in the memories.
  • Learn to gauge by eye approximately how much your cattle weigh... (we definitely learned this the hard way...they were about 300 less than we thought!)
  • Try not to winter feeder cattle -- they get grouchy and eat a lot!
  • Taking your cattle to the butcher isn't fun...but is a part of this whole gig.

But hard lessons aside, we also learned and experienced great things such as: 
  • How incredible it feels to stand in a field in late summer hanging out with your new spouse and just enjoy God's creation and the animals you're stewards over. 

  • How great it feels to hug your cow.
  • How much cows love eating pumpkins!

  • How happy cattle are when they're given room to graze and grow in an all-natural environment. 
  • How pleasurable it is to give your cow a drink from the hose
  • How good it feels to see your cattle line up when they see you coming because they know you're bringing them a treat
  • How much cows love fresh cornstalks... (Molly especially loved these!) (yes, that's supposed to be big because it was a HUGE thing for us last summer :-) )
  • How cows make hilarious faces on a regular basis... and enjoy licking their own nostrils! (See the progressive pictures of Piggy at the end of this post...)
  • How good it feels to sell people meat that we can explain where it came from, what it was fed, and how it was treated. 

We thoroughly enjoyed our "trial run" cattle and they will forever hold a little place in my heart because we learned so much from them.

Piggy with his tongue out...and again, and, oh! There's a camera! And a yawn/tongue out/this is what you get (cow breath) if you're going to stick that camera in my face!

 Below are pictures of our cows enjoying ear corn, pumpkins, oats, and hay. The final picture is of the cows doing their daily ritual - forming a single file line behind Kevin to follow him to the trough for their "treat." Life is good.

I hope you enjoy all the pictures in this post that show you just how much fun we had while raising them, and if you're enjoying some of their meat, we hope you like seeing how content they were! 

Monday, April 1, 2013

What's in a Name?

Chosen carefully before the arrival of a baby, name books being pored over, 
trying the "ring" of different ones. 

Even naming a pet can be a difficult process. I helped a friend look over dog names not long ago when she and her husband purchased a puppy.

Livestock naming... well, there are a few schools of thought on it. Here are a few:

1. They shouldn't be named. Period. Don't name your food.
2. They should be named after the cuts we will get... Sirloin, Bacon, Drumstick, etc.

3. They can have names (but you will be warned by everyone AND their brother that you'll become hopelessly attached and will NEVER be able to sell them...)

Here is my take on it... it's hard to differentiate between animals you're talking about if you're constantly saying "you should've seen what that black steer... the one that's taller... no, the one that likes to be petted... no, no, the other one!" 

I really don't like the thought of naming them cuts... it just doesn't seem very friendly...

So I name our animals. Yep - even though I know they're going to be butchered.

Last spring, we bought a package deal of feeder cattle - 6 of them, and I named them all. I caught a lot of grief for it, but I wanted my cows to have names. 

So they did: Ernie, Shorty, Curly, Piggy, Dean, and Molly! 

I knew from before we bought them that they would be turned into delicious cuts of meat to sell to hungry customers, but I wanted to enjoy them while I had them and avoid the whole description game when talking about them. 

When Kevin was working long hours, I'd often call him to tell him what shenanigans I encountered during feeding. It was a lot easier to say that "Dean kept moo-ing and really wanted more grain and then Piggy was licking me" instead of "The black/white face steer kept moo-ing ... and then the all-black, polled steer..." 

So, as you can imagine, I was pretty attached to our beef. That would have happened regardless of whether they had names or not. It's hard to work day in and day out with a small herd of livestock and not become attached. 

However, when the day came to take them to the butcher, I was not so attached that I couldn't do it. I helped load and deliver them and didn't shed a tear! (Honestly, I kind of surprised myself!) Knowing that they would be sold and the money used to expand our dream of farming helped a lot. 

What's my take on naming now? Well, I haven't had to name our Beltie steers because they have eartags, so I call them by number. We've got 1001, 1104, 1102 (yellow), and 1102 (white). It's kind of a mouthful, but it works! If they didn't have tags, I'd name them, but because they do, I'll use the more generic way of referring to them. 

I'm very excitedly awaiting the arrival of our bred heifers because guess what! They can be more pet-like for me because they will (Lord-willing) be sticking around for a long time!! YAY! - You can bet they will have "real" names though!

We have some incredible memories with those first six cattle - Ernie, Shorty, Curly, Dean, Piggy, and Molly! (Be watching later this week for a post that talks more about them.) But now we've moved forward and are looking forward to growing our herd of Belted Galloways to produce a superior beef product for our customers! (And let's be honest - they look SO cool and are very even tempered! Two HUGE pluses in our book!)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Progress and Patience...

Well, already our Belties have (apparently) gained a small following. As we were grocery shopping yesterday we had a few people stop us to ask about them and we also were met with questions at church!

On Friday I went to water the cows because I knew their water was low... well, it was a little lower than I thought and they were having trouble reaching it. As soon as I showed up, so did they! They were close... closer than they've ever been! RIGHT on the other side of the fence. It took a lot of self-control to not try to pet them, but I knew I still needed to bide my time on that.

Saturday when my sister was here to see the PBR with us, the cows wanted little to do with us and kept a "safe" distance.

But yesterday... ah-ha! We had a breakthrough! We knew that these cattle had been raised grass-fed and weren't familiar with grain. We've been trying to bribe them with sweet feed, which obviously isn't working out so well. So Kevin suggested we try giving them some of our good second cutting hay in the feed trough. I was a little skeptical, but it was snowing like crazy, we had to go get hay anyway, and I was having fun spending time in the snow with my husband, so I agreed we should try it.

We showed up at the field with an armload of second cutting hay and 1104 immediately trotted for the trough. He was interested!!

The other three cattle were at the other end of the field, but their ears perked right up when they saw 1104 headed for us and the trough. It didn't take long before two more had joined him.
(As you can see, 1001 is pretty happy with his treat...)

They didn't like for us to be RIGHT beside them, so we backed up about 10 feet and they were satisfied with that distance.

While everyone else was excited about their hay and didn't mind us being there too much, 1102 is pretty wary of us still, and he decided he wasn't quite sure about this ploy on the humans' part, so you can see his progress in the pictures below... pretty comical. He wanted that hay so badly but just wasn't sure if we were safe...

"I don't really know about this..."

"But I really want some of that hay..."

"Okay...I got a little.. this is good... but those people are still standing there..."

"Alright...I'm not going to miss out just because of the people...I guess I'll just keep an eye on them and eat up!"

Anyway, we were pretty excited! It seems that after having been a week since we dumped them off the "tin can," as Kevin calls the trailer, they're finally settling in to their surroundings and to us!

(After 1102 finally settled in... that's the look of contentment we were hoping to see!)

(You can see the crazy March 24 snow in this one! We were getting pelted out there!)

The lesson Kevin says we learned yesterday is: When trying to befriend grass fed cattle, don't try to bribe them with grain they've never seen before! Huh! True! Wish we'd have thought of that about 5 days ago... Oh well! Just one of the adventurous lessons we're learning as we go!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New Faces on the Farm!

We have new faces on our farm as of Saturday! They're very furry and look like Oreos... 
but they're cows! 
Oreo cows! 
Belted Galloways! 
Whatever name you prefer. 

Friday evening we left right as Kevin got home and trucked across the state of PA to spend the night in Mechanicsburg. Then it was up at 5:30 Saturday morning to hit the road for our cows! Being that close, we of course stopped and had breakfast with my grandma. After a quick visit we stopped by the cemetery and then were back on the road to get to the farm and pick our cows. We were both filled with nerves and anticipation! We were finally going to purchase the first of our chosen breed!! 

We chose our heifers first and left them there to be bred. Then we chose our steers and the farm owner and his helper loaded them into the trailer. If you look at the picture of them being loaded, you'll count 5 belts, but only see 4 in the pictures below... 5 of these boys wouldn't fit in our trailer! Oops! Lesson learned... so we left one behind. 

These are our boys... well, technically, they are 3 steers and 1 heifer... but we're calling the heifer a steer for our purposes. She was a twin and apparently twins are sterile, so she will be a feeder for us! Aren't they cute? 

These guys have only been grass-fed. We like to do primarily grass fed as well with just a grain finish, so it works great for us! The only problem is that they don't know that we're bringing them "candy" (as my father in law calls it :) ) when we show up at the trough since they're just used to grass and hay. That's alright... They're learning quickly! See that hay hanging out of 1102's mouth? Well, he's eating it only because he just scarfed down the grain that we hid underneath. In less than 48 hours they figured it out! (Yes, I know we're pathetic for bribing them to like us by using grain... but we had to do something.)

However, even those they've improved vastly in their disdain for us since Saturday night, look at this picture... This was their typical response to us showing up on Sunday. Every time we got near the pasture they would turn around and high tail it out of there in an Oreo line!

With a little bit of patience and a while standing in the cold of Sunday afternoon, we were able to (sort of) convince them that we're not the enemy and Kevin was able to get this close to them. Yep - that's all the close we could manage! I keep saying that all I want to do is pet their fuzzy ears, but Kevin laughs and (rightly so) tells me that will probably be a week or two down the road. Until then, I guess I should be satisfied with the progress I saw last night - I was able to stand at their water tank while they were at the trough. Instead of running away, they looked at me with a lot of curiosity! (Personally, I think 1102 wanted to come check me out, but peer pressure kept him where he was!) I just know that they're going to come around and I'll be petting their fuzzy ears soon... I just know it!

As a parting photo, here is Kevin, visiting his new steers before we began the long journey back home on Saturday... He's so excited (as am I) about a new beginning on our farm with a breed we've both fallen in love with! Look them up - they're so unique and special! 

Stay tuned for a post about King, our royal bottle-baby goat later this week! 

*As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord*