Saturday, February 13, 2016

Cherry Valentine Tarts

This is a simple yet fun twist on Cherry Pie.

Make your pie crust or buy pie crust -shudder to think! If you want to make your own delish flakey pie crust my recipe is at the end. Your family will thank you for it.

Roll out your pie dough and cut out hearts with a cookie cutter.

I cut a smaller heart in the middle so the steam would be released while baking.

Place the solid heart on a parchment lined cookie sheet - easier clean up. Drop a small teaspoonful of cherry pie filling in the center. Don't use too much or it will ooze out the sides. Place the other heart with the cut out on top.

Carefully crimp the edges with a fork.

Bake at 375 just until the crust browns slightly and gets flakey.

My family's treat for Sunday dinner. Oh, also a Red Velvet Cake which you can find on this site.

Pie Crust recipe - one again I'll try to figure out the measurements since I normally scoop and dump.

For a single crust use about 1 1/2 C flour.

1/2 C Crisco - has to be Crisco if you want flakey crusts.

1 t salt

Cut together with a pie cutter.

Cut together until crumbly.

Add just enough water that the ingredients stick together

Form into a ball - try not to handle the dough any more than you have to. 

And there's your pie crust - way better than store bought and you get 
extra points for making it yourself.

Valentine Butter Cookies

This is the same rolled butter cookie recipe I use to make Christmas cookies. I changed this from a single recipe to 1 1/2 times recipe. So, I guess you can do the math to bring it down for one batch but they are so good you're gonna want to make more.

Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees.

Soften 1 1/2 C butter or 3 sticks.

Mix into butter 1 1/2 C powered sugar, 2 t. vanilla, 3 3/4 C flour and 3 T milk.
You need to alternate the items as you add them and make sure you mix it slow enough that it stays together and not become dry crumbles. No one wants dry crumble cookies!

This is what your batter should look like.

I always line my cookie sheets with parchment paper - I'm lazy. Most of the time I don't need to wash the pan after baking.

Flour your counter.

This is the tricky part. You want to form your dough into a ball but don't over handle it. I usually take 1/2 of the batter at a time.

Flour your rolling pin and gently roll out the dough to a little more than 1/4 inch thick.

Use your cookie cutter in a way to get as many as you can. Someone stole my good cookie cutter but this plastic one worked just fine. You can scrape together the leftover dough and roll it out again. The more you gather the leftover dough and roll it out the less tender the cookie will be. So, use your organizational skills and fit them together.

Bake at 325 for about 10 - 12 minutes just before the cookie browns. Cool and frost.

I use a simple powered sugar frosting that I throw together. Probably about 2 C powdered sugar, 3/4 of a stick of softened butter, 1 t. vanilla and just enough water to mix together. Remember add the water a tablespoon or so at a time - it doesn't take much water to mix it.

Watch for another blog to follow on how to make the cherry heart tarts.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Meet Katniss

This is Katniss.

She was born 40 days early. The guys found her mama in the dry cow pen presenting and moved her to the maternity pen. When she was born she was so small they expected her to be born dead. She was moved to the warming pen and taken care of.

She was so tiny. Here’s a picture of her in the warming pen with the bottle we use to feed calves next to her to show her size proportion.

Knowing she would need extra care, Son #2 and daughter-in-law, Holly, brought her home the next morning and settled her into their laundry room. They made a pallet of blankets and wrapped the calf in large towels, blankets and had a heat lamp that was on periodically.

Katniss was extremely weak. She was too weak to suck on a bottle. My daughter-in-law used a syringe with milk replacer to feed her.

I stopped in after work the first evening and helped. She was all tucked in towels and blankets. Holly prepared the milk replacer and I rubbed the calf, petted and talked to her trying to stimulate her as her mother would have. The towel was thrown into the dryer to warm up while we fed her. Holly would dribble the milk into her mouth and I rubbed her throat. She started to swallow it and then she actually started to act like she wanted to suck. So, Holly got a lamb’s bottle and fed her. We were so excited because she was drinking on her own. She didn’t last long and became exhausted and quit. She went completely limp and we feared she had died. Apparently she had done that before during the day. Holly said the first time it happened it scared her silly. We moved her around, turned her over to her other side and arranged her little legs. The hot towel from the dryer was wrapped around her and blankets were added. We sat, petted, prayed over her and talked to her for a bit and then left her to sleep.

Holly had been doing this all day long every couple of hours and I have to say she looked beat.

A little later in the evening my Wiggliette – granddaughter - settled into the corner and read out loud to her to keep her company. The Wiggliette named her Katniss – from the Hunger Games because she thought the calf was a strong fighter just like the character Katniss.

Every few hours – through the night too, Holly and Son# 2 kept vigilant in taking care of Katniss.

I stopped in early in the morning and Holly who hadn’t had much sleep had just finished feeding her.  The previous evening Son #2 and she had switched to bagging – or feeding her with a tube because Katniss was too exhausted. I loved on the calf a little but didn’t unwrap or disturb her too much.
All through the day she was fed, stroked, petted, talked to, read to, prayed over every few hours.

When I was there later that afternoon we were all very hopeful. The vet had said if she made it the first night she had a fair chance of making it.

Around 10:00 PM Son#2 sent me a picture of Katniss with this text. “She didn’t make it. We did absolutely everything we could have done.”

It sounds stupid but my heart constricted and I burst into tears. I knew they would be torn up and an emotional mess. A lot of tears were shed over a calf that had only been in our lives 2 days. But it was heartbreaking.

I hope you see the effort, the love given this calf and ultimately the sorrow and pain.

I hope my words have painted the picture as strong and as emotional as this event became.

Why do I want you to see and feel? Because there is another message here to be told.

We are a CAFO farm – what some people call a Factory Farm and have been painted as evil, money grubbing, corporate farms.

There are groups of people who ignorantly believe that to be true and there are groups who purpose to lie and fabricate events to support their lies.

A CAFO farm simply and basically is a farm of a certain size that chooses to shelter their animals instead of turning them out to pasture.

Our CAFO is 4th generation family farm that supports 15 other families and other part time employees. We put the health and well-being of our animals at the fore front. Abuse of any kind is never a part of our business. And, yes, this is a business. Dairy farming is a business that bleeds into our daily life and becomes part of who we are.

Like I previously mentioned there are a lot of lies around and my goal is to bring truth to light. I hope the next time you see a video or read a horror story about farming you remember little Katniss and all the love and care that went into her two days here with us. And, realize this happens over and over again at this farm and many many other farms.

Have any questions? Ask me. Or ask other farmers. A great place to ask questions is at or Ask The Farmers facebook page. There are over 150 of us farmers from different sizes and kinds of farms to answer questions. The more you know about us and how your food is produced the better it is for you and us. We’re in this together and we pledge to do the best we can for you and for our animals.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What I Learned Yesterday

Yesterday I felt snippy. My low level of patience was even lower and the little burr under the saddle or the pea under the mattress felt like a boulder or watermelon.

Coming home from a great work vacation I was filled up and had plans to improve our dairy operation and change a few things.

Then it happened.

I had to go into the office and take care of business. I had a week’s worth of bills to enter and a sad, pathetic milk check to add to the balance.

While checking off the vendors that had to be paid I had a quarterly land payment and then the farm property taxes. Ughhhh. Double Ughhhh!

For those who don’t know or realize the dairy farmers have been surviving – some just barely with 1/3 of their income cut for over a year. Our milk prices suck!

While our income has been slashed the rest of our costs stay the same. The cows have to eat we use the tractors everyday which needs fuel and maintenance – funny how things continue to break. All of our wonderful employees count on us to provide for their families.  The list could continue.

So, sitting there with the massive amount we need to come up with this pay period sunk in. And, it’s not just us. It’s every dairy farmer. Plus some have lost everything due to weather. And, it’s not from bad choices we’ve made.

Then, add to it the frustrations of the media, special groups and celebrities that sway the general public with their mistruths and blatant lies.

Farmer and I discussed the situation and talked about how or what to do.

I had to leave to run some errands and the whole ball of “crap” we’re dealing with came with me.

Am I lying awake at night worried about this? Losing sleep? No – and solely because God has seen us through hard times and he will continue to. This low spot of the roller coasters is just lower and is lasting longer than usual and I’m basically sick of it. I felt irritated, tired and downright angry.

As I had to interact with others – at the bank, even some email, etc. I just wanted to bite their heads off. Little things said or tone of voice ratcheted up my annoyance.

This morning as I was doing my devotions the revelation came.

I was the person I didn’t want to be. I was reminded that the rude person waiting for me may have dire problems they were dealing with. When all I saw was the shortness and rudeness I didn’t see what was behind it.

So, I am purposing to not allow their rudeness to effect the way I think about a person. In fact, I will try to find a way to encourage that person.

I’m sharing my ugly side in hopes we all see our ugly sides and make room for others to work through their ugliness.

Even if we are the ones in the line of fire.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Farm Mom - Tough Job

There is this romantic view of what it’s like to be a farm wife and farm mom. We make huge luscious breakfasts and send our husband and sons out the door to work the land. Meanwhile we stay behind and can tomatoes, make jam and sew those curtains for the kitchen windows.

Not so much anymore.

Many of us farm women are just as much farmers as the men are – imagine that!

We jump into the combine, tractors, choppers and travel over the fields just like the men do. We milk the cows, haul the poop, deliver calves and fix machinery.

On top of all those “farm like” jobs we generally are the ones who cook the meals, clean the house, wash the clothes and cart the kids.

All that is manageable and we sort of expect that, deal with it and move on.

The part that gets tough is when we get stuck. We get stuck between the sons and fathers - between the daughters and fathers - between the sons and sons – between daughters and sons and so on and so on. When you love every player on the board and one comes up against another for whatever reason it’s difficult to be the calm voice. It’s extremely hard when you disagree with the dad and he’s the boss. You then are accused of being a mom and not a rational player. I’m just going to say it here and now. Some men are just plain clueless. They have no idea how their words, tone of voice or reasoning (or lack of) comes across. Part of the problem is this is a whole new generation and the sons don’t view things the way their father does. And, the father forgets the tug and pull they had with their own father years ago.

Also in the dance to keep harmony we are usually blamed by both sides. We are accused of taking sides when all we are trying to do is blend the lines so there are no sides. At times we feel like we can never win and we are a casualty left lying alongside the road. We can’t please anyone and we disappoint everyone.

I also think it is harder for a mother to separate family and work. We have a habit of blending it all together where some of the guys can make a distinct division. Us women – not so much.

We are concerned the fall-out from a blow up at the farm will carry enough weight that it will damage the core of the family. And for most of us there is nothing more important than the family staying a family.

So while there are times that farming together as a family is a divinely, cohesive, lovely, wonderful experience it can also be hell on earth trying to keep the peace and people loving each other. As the mother on a family farm I have been on the roller coaster way too long and would love to figure out a way to jump off.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas from A Farm Wife - Repost

Merry Christmas from West Michigan.

A day makes no difference to the farm.

Cows still need to be milked, fed and bedded.

Calves will be born.

Barns will be scraped.

If necessary, snow will be plowed to get the milk truck and employees in and out.

And it goes without saying - frozen pipes will be thawed, the broken will be fixed and whatever goes wrong will be righted.

The cows have no clue that today should be a day with family and friends.

As a farmer, we don't "do" holidays. We don't always get to punch out on Christmas Eve day and think "It's so nice to be off for a couple of days." 

There will be some parties, concerts and gatherings we will have to miss because the cows don't milk, feed or take care of themselves.

On the flip side – we get to watch God at work.

Watching a calf being born is nothing short of a miracle.

Seeing him decorate the barnyard and trees with the beautiful snow is awe inspiring.

When I walk through the farm I am calmed and a feeling of content floods over me.

And, at this time of year I sit a moment in the maternity pen. A new calf is “toasting” under the heat lamp, still wet and her hair is curled and swirled. It’s quiet with muffled sounds of the cows moving about, the sounds of a tractor dumping off feed in another barn, a chicken struts by. 

There’s a group of barn cats huddled together waiting for something exciting to lure them away from the warmth of each other. I can see my breath as I breathe but I am warm all the way through to my soul.

As I am contemplating life I let my imagination take me back to that first Christmas and what it might have been like.

For Mary, no smiling nurses, bright lights, or reassuring words were spoken. A manger would be her son’s bed. It wasn't a glittered covered manger. It was smelly, full of animals. Mary shared the straw with mice and spiders. Lantern light, the sound of animals shuffling in the manure filled bedding was the ambiance.

No running water to clean up, no heated blankets to comfort a worn out body. No baby blue hand knitted cap was placed on the child's head.

Even though - the hand of God was there. Sacrifice was there. Mercy was there. Grace was there. Salvation was there. 

And I believe Mary was filled with joy.

We, here on the farm, feel blessed to be the caretakers of the land and critters that God gave us.

I would not trade my spot in this world for anything.

At this time of year I want to wish every single person a very Merry Christmas filled with joy, family, love, peace and goodness.

My hope is that we spread our blessings as this New Year begins.

Farmer made this Star of David for me.

Celebrate the ordinary

Today is the only day you have. Don't wish it away, worry it away or plan it away. Your ordinary days add up to life.

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