Eating Local All Year

Over the past number of years we have changed the type of foods that we eat as a family. We used to try to buy the cheapest food, thinking that nutritionally, all food was basically the same. That is probably more true than what most realize if you are talking about grocery store food. However, as we have learned about nutritious, nutrient dense foods, we realized that if we want to eat nutrient dense food, we have to grow it ourselves. It also means preserving the harvest so that we have it to eat all year, not just in the summer months.

It is hardly worth gardening if you are just trying to save money at the grocery store. For all the time, equipment, and work involved, it is probably cheaper and definitely easier to just buy it at the grocery store. However, like most things, the cost of grocery store food is much greater than what you pay at the register. The fact that health care is the number one industry in America is proof of the poor quality of foods in the grocery stores. I find it interesting watching the people purchasing cheap food at Walmart – observing what they are buying and looking at the people to see if they look healthy. A large percentage of the people do not have the picture of health.  The government’s idea of fixing health care does not address the real problem. True health care reform needs to start with the soil and adding in the nutrients and minerals that are necessary for human health (not just what is necessary to make a plant grow). The food that we eat is a big contributor to our health or lack thereof. We are what we eat.

There is something satisfying about improving the quality of the soil, producing nutrient dense vegetables for our family, and storing up all that good food for the months ahead. It puts gardening in a totally different perspective. For us it is no longer about saving money. It is not about keeping a weed free garden – a few weeds won’t change the nutrient density of the food. It is about giving my family the health care they need from the ground up.

I looked at our calendar and saw what Cathy had written down over the past month of what she and the girls had harvested and stored away for us to eat until the garden produce comes in again next summer. I thought you might be interested in peeking over my shoulder at what she had written there. This, of course, does not include the other varieties of vegetables that are yet to be harvested as they ripen over the next several months.

Everything, except for the peaches, was raised here on our farm.

July  1   Made 6 pints of butter
        4   Picked and froze 42 1/2 quarts of green beans
        6   Froze 30 quarts of green beans and 5 pints of sugar peas
        8   Made 45 pints of wineberry jam(wild red raspberry) plus 12 pints
             frozen raspberries
        10 Froze 20 quarts of green beans
        13 Froze 12 quarts of green beans
        14 Canned 92 quarts of dill pickles
        15 Made 13 1/2 pints of butter (Put in the freezer)
        18 Froze 18 quarts of green beans
        21 Made 6 gallons of cucumber juice and froze to later make into V8
            juice when the tomatoes are ripe
        22 Processed and froze 21 quarts of corn. The corn was husked, silked,
            blanched, and cut off the cob.
        23 Made 9 pints of butter and froze
        25 Froze 11 quarts of green beans
        27 Froze 17 quarts of corn.
        28 Froze 14 1/2 quarts of beans
        29 Made 2 gallons of cucumber juice
             Canned 20 pints of zucchini relish
             Canned 36 pints of dill pickle slices
Aug  1  Froze 10 quarts of peaches and 18 quarts of corn
         3  Froze 17 quarts of beans
         4  Canned 70 quarts of  peaches, 5 quarts of peach nectar, and 22
             pints of zucchini relish
         6  Canned 40 pints of cucumber relish

Pictures of Processing Corn For Freezing

Cutting Corn
Cathy and Joel trimming the corn after it was husked.

Silking Corn
Daniel and Nathan taking the silk off of the corn. The spinning brush on the motor takes the silk off.

Creaming Corn
Cathy, Kara, and Daniel cutting the corn off the cob to get it ready for the freezer.
The corn was 28 brix, and the best corn we have ever eaten!

Making Hay – the (Sort Of) Old-Fashioned Way

One unique thing at our farm is the size of our equipment. Our largest "tractor" is a 14 horsepower Wheel Horse garden tractor, currently sporting dual wheels. We have about 35 acres of pasture, and in the spring, the grass grows like crazy, more than what the sheep and cattle can eat. Eventually, this grass gets more mature and tough than what the animals want to eat and must be mowed off to allow new, tender growth. Obviously, we would prefer to make this grass into hay and feed it in the wintertime when the pasture stops growing. But you certainly cannot run a hay baler with a garden tractor.

Last summer, I (Joel) bought an old-fashioned horse-drawn hay rake at a farm auction. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 80-100 years old. One wheel was frozen with rust, and it needed some other work to make it usable, but after a couple days’ work, the hay rake was ready to go. I welded up a hitch so that we can pull it behind the (appropriately named) Wheel Horse.

In the meantime, we also had purchased an old sicklebar mower, originally designed to be pulled behind a tractor. We modified it and mounted an engine on it to run the sicklebar so that we could pull it behind the Wheel Horse as well. After much trial, error and repairs, the mower was ready to cut hay.

After cutting the hay, the next step was raking it together into piles, then dragging the piles together and making haystacks. We were making hay just like they did before the advent of the hay baler.

After starting a stack, one team used the tractor and hay rake to drag hay to the stack, while the rest pitched the hay onto the stack. The younger ones got the job of stomping down the hay to compact it so that we could get more on the stack.

Forking hay by hand is a lot of work. However, it is actually simpler than if we made square hay bales. In that case, we would first bale the hay and the baler would shoot the bales into the haywagon. We would stack the bales in the wagon until it was full. Then we would have to unload the bales into the haymow of a barn – by hand. At feeding time, someone would have to throw down the hay bales, then take them to wherever we fed it. This adds up to handling the hay four times or more.

By contrast, we drag the hay to the stack by machine. All we have to do is pitch the hay onto the stack. We should only have to handle it one more time – when we feed it to the animals, right there in the pasture.

You have probably heard the old nursery rhyme:

Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn,
The sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn.
Where’s the little boy who looks after the sheep?
He’s under the haystack, fast asleep.

Every picture that I’ve ever seen of Little Boy Blue shows him snoozing beside the haystack. After all, isn’t that the closest you can get to being under the haystack?

We discovered otherwise. One old method of making loose hay was to pile the hay on a tripod that held it off the ground. This allowed the farmer to stack up the hay before it had fully dried, because the tripod allowed air to flow underneath the stack and cure the hay. Another method was to have a slanted rack, similar to a fence leaning over, on which the hay was stacked, again allowing air to circulate around the stack and finish curing it so that the hay didn’t spoil and rot.


We tried a similar method with the last cutting of hay that we made. Some previous farmer had left behind a large, long metal hay feeder that had been sitting in our front pasture since we moved to this farm. It was made of heavy steel and was still quite rugged, so we dragged it on out into the pasture where we had cut hay, turned the feeder upside down and stacked hay on it. Turned upside down, with hay piled on top, the feeder made a nice tunnel through the middle of the stack.

If you crawl inside this tunnel, you understand why Little Boy Blue would go to sleep under the haystack. On a hot summer day, the haystack offers a cool, highly insulated retreat from the sun, with maybe a bit of a breeze to stir the air and keep things pleasant. It would be a nice place to take a nap.

Jehovah Jireh Farm – "The Lord Will Provide"

Many of you know the story of how God provided this farm for us, but the story and God’s provision doesn’t end there.

This spring God provided this 2000 Chevy Astro van for our egg delivery van for free! Our old delivery van had 275,000 miles on it and the transmission went out. It was not worth fixing. We are very grateful for this provision.

Our neighbor, who is a contractor, tore down a deck and brought the wood to us rather than taking it to the dump. We recycled some of the wood by making it into a picket fence for around Cathy’s kitchen garden. Our only cost was for nails and paint. 

Some of the wood we recycled to make a grape trellis and quiet spot around our camp fire ring. Here again our only costs were: one post, a 2×12 for stairs (which has not been made yet) and nails. We plan to weather it by using a special homemade weathering stain. You can make it by taking equal parts of white vinegar and regular iced tea. Add a steel wool pad or some rusty nails and let sit for a week or so. Then apply to the wood. It will look like dirty water, but within a short period of time it will chemically weather the wood with an authentic weathered look. You can then apply a clear wood preservative if you desire. 

At the end of last year God provided these three bikes in excellent condition for only $15 dollars each! The two on the right sold for around $500 new. We use bikes a lot here on the farm. You can travel 3 to 4 times faster with a bike than by walking and it is much easier. Bikes don’t require any fossil fuels, nor do they emit pollution. They also provide the benefit of exercise over a four wheeler. I (Myron) have put 100 miles on the middle bike in the last four months here on the farm as I went about my work. That would have been a lot of additional walking.

Floating Lights in the Pasture

The next Saturday evening after Blondie’s escapade, our son Nathan and I (Myron) rode our bikes out the lane just as it was getting dark. We enjoy going out the lane at dusk and taking in the peacefulness of the evening. We saw some people in our front pasture near the road and some white lights and red lights floating across the pasture. What was going on?! The parking lot out at the road was full of vehicles. We stopped and talked with a few of the people who were in the parking lot. They were members of Mid-Atlantic Search and Rescue. It is a volunteer organization based in Rockville that searches for missing people. They were using the front pasture and surrounding woods for a training exercise for their search dogs. Several people would hide in the pasture or woods and the dogs would search for them. The dogs had a light attached to their backs so that their trainers could see the dog’s location in the dark. The effect was that the lights appeared to float above the ground as the dogs ran looking for the "missing" people. It was pretty neat. It is interesting living on park property and having a part in worthwhile organizations like Search and Rescue and the American Chestnut Foundation.  If you would like to find out more about Search and Rescue, you can check out their website at

Looking for Action on a Saturday Night

What do you do for excitement on a Saturday night if you are a cow living on a farm in what seems like the middle of nowhere? Your only companions are one other cow and a bunch of sleeping turkeys. Not very exciting! If you are like our milk cow "Blondie", you jump the electric fence and go looking for some excitement.

Sunday morning, several weeks ago, when we went out to take care of the chickens, turkeys, and other animals, we discovered that Blondie had vanished. Daisy, our other milk cow, was contentedly eating in the pasture, but Blondie was gone without a trace. Where do you find a cow when you are surrounded with uninhabited forest for a mile in almost every direction? We drove out the road looking for Blondie. It was a great opportunity to meet some of our neighbors for the first time. It was also interesting having the opportunity to drive in long lanes and see the houses that were hidden behind the trees. No one had seen Blondie. Sunday evening, on a whim, we decided to drive over to Dickerson and check with the dairy farms over there. When we asked one of the farmers if he had seen a Jersey cow, he got a funny look on his face. He said, "So that is who that cow belongs to". That morning he had received a call from Sugarloaf Mountain personnel saying that there was a cow near the entrance to Sugarloaf Mountain. He had no idea where the cow had come from. He did not know anyone else that had a Jersey milk cow in the area. The farmer had put Blondie in the pasture behind the Sugarloaf Mountain offices, and that is where we found her. She was enjoying the company of the farmer’s cows.

Blondie had hiked through the woods and over the ridge behind our house. She had hiked about a mile and a half, most of it through woods. Her udder was scratched up from going through sticker bushes, but otherwise she was fine. What a cow!