School of Hard Knocks

Our farm is more than just a farm. It is a school where each member of our family is learning important lessons in life. The phrase “school of hard knocks” is an old saying used to describe lessons learned from life’s experiences as opposed to academic or college education. It is the hard knocks or difficult times in life that teach a person important lessons if the person is willing to learn.

We encourage each of our children to develop their own farming enterprise as they get old enough to do so. Our second oldest son, Nathan, is a true shepherd at heart and at 17 years old owns about 70 sheep. He also owns most of our breeding rams.

Several years ago he bought a purebred Texel ram for $400. The Texel breed is an old breed that does very well at finishing on grass, unlike many of the popular breeds that have been selected for their finishing on grain. The ram was an impressive, muscular animal. We divided the sheep into two flocks and separated them so that they could not see each other. The one flock had Nathan’s big Dorset breed ram. I once saw him ram one of our 700 lb steers and make him go on his knees! The other flock had the new Texel ram. The rams were with the ewes and bred the ewes for several weeks.

Then one day while we were away, a totally unexpected thing happened. Both flocks broke out of their fences and got together. The two rams battled it out, as male rams do, to see who would be the head animal. When we arrived home, the new Texel ram lay dead. Four hundred dollars gone! What a loss for a 15 year old. It was not only the loss of money, but the loss of valuable genetics for improving his flock. It was a lesson in the school of hard knocks. A hard knock from another ram can kill another ram. My grandfather used to say that it seemed like if something out of the ordinary happened, it often happened to one of his best cows.

To recover his losses, Nathan purchased some Texel ewes and another Texel ram who was the son of the one who was killed. However, the new ram was not as good a ram as the first one was. This spring Nathan’s Texel ewes gave him several nice ram lambs. The nicest ram lamb was Big Burr. His mother was nicknamed Mrs. Burr because she had found a burr patch and went into it, getting herself covered with burrs. Big Burr was the biggest ram lamb and he showed promise of taking the place of his grandfather who was killed.

At the beginning of July, Nathan noticed that Big Burr was missing. He had seen him two days before, but we couldn’t find him anywhere. There was no trace. We suspected that he had been stolen and reported him to the police and animal control. We also found out that a month before a 1200 lb cow and a calf had been stolen on Park Mills Road, several miles from our farm. Another place had 35 chickens stolen, and another two pigs stolen.

About a month later, one of the boys found a two pound sledge hammer in the front pasture where Big Burr was when he disappeared. The sledge hammer was a confirmation that he had been stolen. Another hard knock and another ram gone. Another hard knock in the School of Hard Knocks for a 17 year old. Not just the loss of a ram, but the loss of the genetics as well.

When Cathy heard about the hammer being found, she stated confidently that she was praying that Big Burr would return. I was surprised. We had found the murder weapon and she was still praying for his return. Nathan had also been praying for his return.

Several days later we got a call from Animal Control and they said that they had found a ram lamb with an ear tag that said Nathan Horst on it. They had picked him up on Bill Moxley Road near Mount Airy, about a half hour from our farm. The neighbors said he had been wandering around there for about a month. We picked Big Burr up from Animal Control that evening. He was in good health, although considerably thinner and very dirty. It was amazing that he was still alive. We wish he could talk and tell us his story. Did he escape from his captors? Did they dump him alongside the road? How did he escape from being killed by a dog or coyote in the month that he was wandering around? Where did he get water?

Nathan and Big Burr the night we brought him home. Note how dirty he was.

This was the second theft we had this year where the item was amazingly returned. The other time, Cathy left her purse in a shopping cart one evening and did not realize it until she got home. She immediately went back, but the purse was gone. It had not been turned in to anyone at the store. We prayed that it would be returned. It did not have much money in it.

About a week later, a man called one evening and said that he had her purse! His daughter’s friend had picked it up and given it to his daughter, and she had given it to him. Cathy met the man and got her purse back. Everything of importance was there except for a few items that a young girl might take: the pens, TicTacs, change, finger nail clippers, and an almost expired TracFone with only a few minutes left on it.

The lesson for us in these events in our School of Hard Knocks is that we have correctly named our farm. The literal meaning of the Hebrew words Jehovah-Jireh is “the God Who sees”. God saw what happened and returned the items. What a wonderful way to live. The School of Hard Knocks helps keep life interesting.

If I Had a Million Bucks

By Nathan Horst, age 11

If I’d have a million bucks,
I’d spend it all on sheep.
You wouldn’t catch me spending it
To buy a silly Jeep.

Of course I’d have to buy some land
And put in water tanks,
And then my sheep would smile at me
And baa their humble thanks.

My ewes would then have woolly lambs
That bounce and run all day,
While their mothers ate green grass nearby
And I would watch them play.

There is no other animal
That I like more than sheep.
That’s why I’d spend a million bucks
To get some sheep to keep.

An Incredible Substance – Raw Milk

Raw milk is a much more valuable substance than what most people realize. Everything that we have fed it to has become more healthy. Our family consumes about 7 to 10 gallons of the stuff a week. The yogurt that we make with it is usually mild and not very tart. We noticed a difference in our children’s health one winter when our cow was not producing milk. The children had more sickness, colds, etc. than they had other years when our cows were producing milk.

We feed the baby chicks raw milk and it has made a significant difference in their health. The chickens grow much better and we have very few die. The milk also seems to make the chicken meat more tender. We have found that calves and lambs that we bottle feed do much better on raw milk than on milk replacer. Raw milk is one of the best protein sources for laying hens. We don’t give the hens milk very often because we do not have enough extra milk, but we have used it when a flock was not doing as well as it should, and they improved with the raw milk added to their feed.

Last summer we discovered another valuable use for raw milk. In our garden, there were a number of different types of vegetables that were low brix. We tried different types of foliar sprays that should have raised the brix. Instead, they lowered the brix. The Brix Talk discussion board did not have any solutions. I couldn’t find a solution anywhere. So I asked God to show me what to do. He brought to my mind that in the Bible the Land of Canaan (what is now Israel) was called a land flowing with milk and honey. I always assumed it meant that it was a very productive area that produced a lot of milk and honey. This time the thought that came to me was, "What if milk and honey put on the plants would make them more productive?" I did a test and sprayed some milk and honey on various plants in the garden. About an hour later I tested the brix. To my surprise and joy the brix had risen 3 brix on most of the plants. The brix of clover raised from 8 brix to 13 brix. We have used the milk and honey spray on our garden this year with excellent results.

When the brix (sugar and mineral content) of the leaf of a plant is above 12 brix, insects will leave the plant alone. The high sugar content of the plant causes alcohol to be produced in an insect when it eats the high brix plant. It gives the bug diarrhea which results in dehydration and death. We had heard that when the vegetables in a garden are high brix, the insects will leave the vegetables alone and start attacking the weeds. We found it to be true. Insects attack plants that are low quality. In poor soil the weeds are higher brix and the vegetables are low brix. When the plants have the right amount of calcium and phosphates the opposite occurs. The weeds are low brix and are attacked by the bugs and the vegetables are high brix and the bugs leave them alone. Conventional agriculture mindset is to spray anti-life chemicals on the plant to kill the bugs, and then feed the poor nutritional quality vegetables to us. The following pictures show some weeds that the insects were eating.

The bugs attacked the weeds in the corn patch. The brix of the corn leaves was 15 brix.

Japanese beetles were eating on the weed in the center of this picture which was in the potatoes. We did not have any problem with potato beetles eating the potato plants. The brix of the potato leaves was about 12 brix.

We had a problem with the Japanese beetles eating our grapevines. After we sprayed the grapevines twice with milk and honey about a week apart, the beetles left. The milk and honey mix that we use is:
3 1/2 gallons of water
1/2 gallon of raw skim milk
1 cup of honey

I put the milk and honey spray in a pump up bug sprayer and sprayed the plants. It might be possible to get the same results without using the honey. I have not experimented with that yet.

Recently I read an article in a farming magazine, The Stockman Grass Farmer, about a dairy farm in Nebraska that had raw skim milk that was a waste product from making butter and cheese. To get rid of the milk, the farmer applied it to his pastures. He found that where he applied milk it made a significant improvement. It significantly increased the microbes in the soil and the growth of the grass. Further test plots showed that the raw milk applied once, at the rate of three gallons per acre, increased the yield of the hay by 1200 pounds per acre! Their conclusion was that raw milk could be worth two to three more times more money as fertilizer!

Several weeks ago we bought another cow – a Guernsey. Why a Guernsey?

One reason is that my grandfather had a purebred Guernsey dairy herd and sold "Golden Guernsey" raw milk. My father talked about how good the golden Guernsey milk was. We found that we like it better than our Jersey milk. But the real reason that we wanted a Guernsey is that some recent research has found that there are two different types of milk protein – A1 beta casein milk protein, and A2 beta casein milk protein. The A1 beta casein is what most people who have casein intolerance are allergic to. Goat and sheep milk are A2 beta casein. There is a "controversial" claim, based on 16 years research, that the A1 beta casein which is drunk by most people in the US could be a cause of diabetes, heart disease, autism, and schizophrenia in people with immune deficiencies. It is also claimed that the A2 beta casein does not cause these problems. Research has showed that 96% of the Guernsey breed of cows have the A2 beta casein, while the Holstein (black and white) breed from which most of the milk in the US is produced, has the A1 milk protein. Obviously this is very damaging information for the dairy industry and there has been considerable attempt to suppress the information about A2 milk.

For more information read or the
book Devil in the Milk by Keith Woodford.

Another use for milk is to help a person refuse what is bad and choose what is good. In the Bible, Isaiah 7:15 says that Jesus would eat butter and honey so that He would know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. That is one of the benefits of adequate calcium in the diet. I have heard that the proper type of calcium, according to a person’s body’s need, can help an alcoholic give up alcohol, or a smoker give up cigarettes. The proper calciums can also help children calm down and be well behaved without the use of mood altering drugs.

Raw milk can also be used to cure a number of chronic diseases. The Weston A Price Foundation has a very interesting article about raw milk being used to cure a number of different diseases. Recently we purchased the book Milk Diet as a Remedy for Chronic Disease, by Dr. Charles Sanford Porter. It is a reprint of a book that was originally printed in 1905. This book goes into great detail about how to conduct a milk fast to cure sickness.

Raw milk can also be an important survival food. It is a food that can be produced fresh every day year round and consumed without further cooking or processing. This idea came from the Bible, Isaiah 7:21-22: "And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep; And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land."

Raw milk is a valuable substance. It is unfortunate that it is illegal to buy or sell raw milk here in Maryland. Perhaps some day…

Update, August 9th:

One thing I failed to mention in last month’s article is that the milk and honey foliar spray did not work for us on green beans. It actually decreased the brix. The foliar spray that we use on our beans is:
4 gallons of water
12 tbsp molasses – we use feed grade
16 oz. Cola soda – a source of phosphoric acid
4 tsp hydrated lime
10 tbsp liquid fish
4tbsp seaweed powder
8 oz. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt

We also alternate the above foliar spray with milk and honey on our sweet corn. Our sweet corn was 26 brix this year. 24 brix or higher is in the excellent range.

We Were on Fox News Last Week

Fox News did a special report on the Maryland State Park Curatorship program last week. Our house was one of the featured houses. The state park system has about 200 houses that were acquired as part of land acquisitions. Many of these houses are historic and the park system does not have the finances to restore and maintain all of these houses. Historic houses tend to be more expensive to maintain, and it does not cash flow for them to spend the money to restore the houses and maintain them with the rental income they would receive. The curatorship program was started in which private individuals, such as ourselves, agree to restore and maintain the house. In exchange we receive a lifetime lease. It is our retirement property. It is a win-win situation for all parties. The state park system gets the houses restored and maintained for free, there is no cost to the tax payers, and the curators get the privilege to restore and live in a historic house in a state park without having to pay rent or property taxes.

We do pay rent in that we have to pay for the restoration and maintenance on the house. However, most of the work in restoration is labor with low material costs.

The right section of our house is a log cabin, built around 1850. The section on the left was built around 1900.

This is the girl’s bedroom in the upstairs of the log cabin section of the house. We removed the old plaster and exposed the log walls.

The kitchen is in the log cabin section of the house. We are looking forward to the next stage of the renovation when we remove the plaster and expose the log walls. The ceiling has nice beams that were covered with plaster. There is a stone fireplace hidden behind the wall where the stove is.

The link to the Fox News story:

Link to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Curatorship program and a list of the houses available for curatorships:

Little House On the Prairie

Cathy and the children just returned from visiting Grandma in Kansas. A highlight of their trip was visiting Little House on the Prairie.

The children were surprised how small the house was.

Melody has enjoyed reading the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She drew a diagram of the cabin and what was in it so that she could remember it.

The inside of a school house that dates from the 1800’s. The school was located several miles away and moved to the site of Little House on the Prairie so that visitors could see it.

Farm Pictures

Our son, Joel, grinding organic corn for the chickens. The corn is ground fresh each morning. About 50% of the vitamins are lost in the first 10 hours after a grain is cracked, and almost all of the vitamins are lost within 72 hours. The corn is mixed with a protein, mineral, and vitamin concentrate mix that we get from Organic Unlimited in Pennsylvania.

These are the potatoes in our garden. We saved large potatoes from what we grew last year and used them for seed potatoes this year. The plants on the right are Yukon Gold and are about 2 feet tall. The four rows on the left are Kennebecs and they are about half the height. Last year we purchased seed potatoes and the Kennebec plants were the largest and the Yukon Gold’s were smaller with smaller yields. The 3-D electric deer fence around the garden worked well last year and so far this year.

A Snowy Winter

We survived a very snowy winter. All the snow added a lot of extra work here on the farm and it prevented us from getting a lot of other work done outside that we had hoped to get done this winter. However, in spite of all the cold and snow, the hens and the animals did real well. The hens actually increased egg production.

The name of our farm means "the Lord will provide" and it happened again. The Lord provided two snow blowers for the big snows when there were no snow blowers to be found. One was free. It was sitting on the sidewalk in downtown Gaithersburg all weekend during the first big snow storm in February with a big cardboard sign saying ‘free’, and no one took it! It didn’t run, so we put a new ignition coil on it and it ran well. It was our lifesaver in clearing the drifting snow during the second snow storm.

Cathy’s kitchen garden resting under a blanket of snow. Two beds of spinach, planted in the fall, survived the winter and are growing nicely now that it is warming up. The spinach was covered with clear plastic on hoops all winter.

The snow created a beautiful wonderland here on the farm. Here we were plowing snow so that we could gather eggs and feed the hens.

Two of our children, Melody and Luke, posing with their snow chicken. The snow hen even laid a snow egg!

The hens loved to eat the snow. You can see the snow sticking to their beaks.

Our power went out during the first snow storm in February. Our son, Joel, hooked up the milker to the lawn tractor with a long v-belt and milked Daisy, our family cow.

The Flood of March 14 & 15, 2010

This year was the first time that our road was flooded by the Monocacy River since we moved here three and a half years ago. The road flooded slightly once earlier this year during the night and receded again in time for people to go to work the next morning. This time, we were flooded in for two days – Sunday and Monday.

This picture is taken from the lawn of the little white church on Ed Sears Rd looking toward Park Mills Rd. The water is almost covering the guardrail on our road. The Monocacy River normally flows on the other side of the trees to the left. Sunday afternoon we had a good time meeting neighbors who had come down to the river to see the flooding.

The new "boat ramp" on our road. No mail today!