What do farm kids do all summer?

I grew up on a small dairy farm in the era when we still had to physically walk beans to cut weeds. While I loved summer break because that meant county fair, it also meant work. And today I find myself in conversations with friends and parents of my children’s friends about what the kids will be doing over the summer. Then it hit me one day when I was texting with a group of friends who are also all farming, how different our lives are from the majority but yet how my kids will look back with a grateful spirit for being raised working hard and playing hard. So, here my friends is a glimpse into our farm kids’ summer.

Planted Sweet Corn and Watched It Grow

Planted Sweet Corn and Watched It Grow

Played with the Pigs

Played with the Pigs

Summer swim meet

Summer swim meet

Wrote a Pen Pal and Mailed the Letter

Wrote a Pen Pal and Mailed the Letter

Biking During the Columbus Triathlon

Biking During the Columbus Triathlon

Placing in the top 3 of the Columbus Youth Triathlon

Placing in the top 3 of the Columbus Youth Triathlon

Another Swim Meet

Another Swim Meet

Did I Mention Sister LOVES Swim Meets?

Did I Mention Sister LOVES Swim Meets?

Watching Corn Grow

Watching Corn Grow

Walking 4-H Pigs

Walking 4-H Pigs

Finding Wild Bunnies In the Yard

Finding Wild Bunnies In the Yard

 

4-H Project Work

4-H Project Work

The Girl and Her Dairy Calf

The Girl and Her Dairy Calf

 

Showing Dairy in His White Clothes

Showing Dairy in His White Clothes

Showing His York Barrow Pig

Showing His York Barrow Pig

Excitement After Winning

Excitement After Winning

 

Fun In The Greased Pig Contest

Fun In The Greased Pig Contest

And that gets us till mid-July. So, what do they do? Head to more fairs…

Off to Illinois to Watch Cousins Show

Off to Illinois to Watch Cousins Show

She Loves the Fair

She Loves the Fair

No, Really She Does

No, Really She Does

Country Walks Near Our House

Country Walks Near Our House

And then my boy had a big weekend…

 

Another Swim Meet... The STATE Meet

Another Swim Meet… The STATE Meet

The Brickyard NASCAR series

The Brickyard NASCAR series

What are your kids doing this summer?

Is Food From Small Farmers Better? Why #FarmSizeDoesntMatter

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, someone you really respect and value their opinions, but you can’t for the life of you figure out why they believe something that could not be any farther from the truth? As a mother I have experienced this with vaccinating your kids to drinking raw milk to breast feeding. We all have our beliefs and views and have done our research. And boy do we like to push our beliefs on others and even shame others who don’t agree with our train of thought. As a mother, I want to make the best possible decision for my family. I don’t want a decision I make to impact my kid’s ability to grow, learn and develop.

Kids sitting on a tractor

Which is why I think sometimes food becomes such an emotional choice for moms like me. Every single day we are putting food in our kids mouths. Every morsel can ultimately impact their growth, their health, their wellness. I get it. However, I think the fear of not doing the best for our kids has spurred a movement of scaring people from eating certain types of food that are hard to imagine.

But here is the thing when it comes to food, it all starts on a farm. Big farms. Small farms. Local farms. Foreign farms. The culture of being a farmer has evolved just like being a teacher has evolved. There are farmers who still raise heirloom tomatoes just like there are places kids learn in one room schools with multiple grades all together. In the same way there are farmers who raise hybrid tomatoes and just like there are schools that now never meet in a formal classroom but learn through online platforms. Does one situation mean it is superior to the other? I would argue that these types of farming and educational formats are what works and fits for that community and people working on those farms and in those schools.

stand for farmers

This year on our farm we aren’t just growing our regular corn and soybeans on the less than 250 acres we are farming, we are also growing pigs, a dairy calf and chickens and sweet corn. And let me be honest, the latter part of our operation is a losing operation. Losing money, that is. We hope to make some money from the sweet corn but that is if we sell the 25,000 ears of corn that come from the 25,000 seeds we are planting on one acre.

Beyer Beware's small farm #FarmSizeDoesntMatter That’s the thing with farm size, they didn’t grow larger because anyone forced it to happen. For generations farming has evolved and changed. My hens pecking around in the grass outside of my red barn is romantic. But let me tell you what isn’t romantic. Picking up 12 of the 32 chickens that have been killed in the middle of the night. Because that is a reality. Putting the chickens outside is almost more for our psyche than theirs. We literally have to to push them out the door to get them to go out. And a crazy fox or weasel and they are all goners. Hard to make money off of dead chickens. Hence why most egg laying chickens are raised in safe, secure buildings. Farmers have to have birds to pay the light bill.

We have older equipment. The equipment we are using to plant our sweet corn is 10 years older than I am. Yet, we have some the best genetics and technology packed into the seed. Equipment is expensive today. You have to have a lot of land to spread the fixed cost of equipment over. Seed however is a variable cost. We can buy more expensive seed that will require less chemicals and be more hardy to deliver a crop to us. Thus we use older equipment and newer seed technology.

old equipment new seed technology #FarmSizeDoesntMatterSo, does that mean our sweet corn is from “Big Ag” even though it is being grown on our one acre field? Or does that mean it should be better because it is from people who picked by hand by someone in our family. My point is this, regardless, of size or method of production, all farmers go home to families. These families may have incorporated their farms and the IRS may look at them as corporations, but first and foremost they are families. Buying food in your box store or at your local farmers market shouldn’t matter. The farmers grew the whole foods that went into your food. While we can debate on processing, additives and what not, that has nothing to do with farm size. Continue to ask questions and push all of us to explore the best options for all people not just your community. And when you are trying to decide what type of farm you want your food to come from, remember #FarmSizeDoesntMatter.

 

Buttery Three Cheese Ham Sandwiches

It is not a secret. I have a butter problem. And don’t let that be confused with margarine. Or oleo. Or butter-flavored tub of spread. I love butter.

buttering cast iron skilletLet me be honest, once you have made homemade butter you never go back. Having grown up with full access to Jersey milk from our cows, cream was always readily available. Abundant supply. Because butter is simply the result of whipping cream past the stage of whipped cream. Period. You need one ingredient to get butter. I add a little salt to butter whenever I have made it, even if just by accident.It takes the cream from about two gallons of milk to get one pound of butter.

I tend to stock up on salted butter. I have sweet butter in my fridge too. Confused? Sweet butter. Salted butter. Clarified butter. Whipped Butter. Garlic and Herb Butter. Well, that last one is a special one.

Garlic and Parsley Butter

The folks who are in the butter promotion business have a little information to help you know what kind of butter you want for your go-to sticks of choice in the kitchen.

Know Your Butter

And one of my most popular recipes exemplifies why butter is one of the most addicting things for any food lover. And then I raised the stakes by two cheeses. If one cheese was good, three cheeses on the ham sandwiches make it better.

Buttery Three Cheese Ham Sandwiches

Start with the buttery sauce. Simple ingredients go into this addicting sauce.

Buttery Three Cheese Sauce ingredientsStart by melting a stick of butter, mincing onion and garlic and stirring in Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Then it occurred to me as I stirred these ingredients together…add Parmesan.

Buttery Parmesan Cheese SauceKill the heat and add the poppy seeds. And then it is time to create the most amazing ham sliders on a package of Hawaiian Rolls. Cut the whole package in half making tops and bottoms. Place the bottoms in a foil lined 13 x 9 pan. And then begin building your sandwiches.

Buttery Three Cheese Ham SandwichesCover the sandwiches with foil and bake for 20 minutes on 350 or till sandwiches are heated through and cheese is melted and bubbly.

Buttery Three Cheese Ham SandwichesNow, run out and go buy a few pounds of butter and make some ham sandwiches. Grilled Cheese. Cookies. Mac and Cheese or just a top of some of your favorite sweet bread. Enjoy your butter and remember, dairy #FarmsMatter!

Buttery Three Cheese Ham Sandwiches

Buttery Three Cheese Ham Sandwiches

A cheesy, buttery sandwich that is a perfect match to soup on a chilly night.

Ingredients

  • 1 package of 12 Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
  • 1 onion minced or grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced or pressed
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 Tablespoons of Dijon Mustard
  • 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
  • 3 teaspoons of poppy seeds
  • 1/2 pound shaved ham
  • 1 cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 6 large slices of Swiss cheese

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in saute pan and add onion, garlic, mustard, Worcestershire sauce. mix together till onions begin to soften. Add the Parmesan cheese. Stir. Remove from heat and add poppy seeds
  2. Slice rolls as a group length wise and place the roll bottoms atop of foil lining a 13 X 9.
  3. Spread a third of the butter sauce on the roll bottoms. Then lay ham out on the top of the rolls followed by the shredded cheese and then the sliced cheese.
  4. Spread half of the remaining sauce on the inside of the roll tops and place on top of the cheese. Spread remaining sauce on top of the rolls. Cover and bake for 20 minutes on 350 degrees.
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Indiana Dairy Ambassador

This post is part of the 30 days series over on Prairie Farmer. Be sure to check out the five things Holly will be talking about all month long while you are there! Be sure to see all my 30 Days of #FarmsMatter posts.

This post was sponsored by the fine folks at Indiana Dairy. Opinions on butter are all mine.

How growing up on a farm teaches survival skills #FarmsMatte

I have taken for granted what you learn growing up living in the country where power outages happen on a regular basis. As storms ransacked both Illinois and Indiana, I sat in the dark scrolling through my Facebook page reading about how a college friend had lost her house in Illinois.

I read about a town near my sister trying to recognize their town that had been destroyed. I got a text from a friend asking for prayers as several of their hog barns had been destroyed and one too near their home for comfort.

When you live in the country, it is inevitable. A strong storm means a pole or two must likely will snap and which is what causes the power to go out. So, when your devices all die, you can go drive around charging and checking out broken power poles.

20131118-232650.jpg
And as my kids got a lesson on just how long their idevices will last, they were reminded of the small things. Small things like full the bathtub.

20131118-232252.jpg
After all, you never know when nature will call. With no power we have no water pump working on the well to bring water into the toilet. You must dump to flush. Which is also why they don’t dare open the fridge. Keep the cold in and if you drink and eat too much, you will have another visit to the bathroom and the tub only holds so much water!

And when you are on the brink of boredom, pull out an origami fortune teller. I can remember growing up loving these things. And I now know I will grow up to drive a van. Be rich and then poor because I spent my money buying a van and finally ate by a shark.

20131118-232946.jpg

Basements matter. Even if they are dirty or cramped. Basements matter. And they keep your wine at the perfect resting place for your enjoyment!

And if the power doesn’t come back in, you can just beg your husband to get the generator that is at the farm!

But when the storm passes and the power comes back on, the biggest and best promises remind us that through it all, we are never alone and that never again will we all be harmed by the storm.

20131118-233316.jpg

Butternut Squash Souffle – Day 6 #FarmsMatter

In the fall all the local farm markets are full of pumpkins and squash. Where I live I am lucky enough to have two farm families who raise produce and multitudes of squash. Every year I think this will be the year I raise my own squash, but by early fall, I am over keeping plants alive and just go to the farm markets. Once again, I am thankful for farm families that can A. keep the squash vines alive and B. do the manual labor it takes to grow and pick all of the squash. During growing seasons, these families don’t get days off or time away from the farm. If they aren’t in the field they are at the community farmer’s markets or manning their own markets.

Hackman's marketWhile they make beautiful decorations, I have had the introduction to a more motivating reason to fill my house with squash. This sweet butternut squash souffle will change the way you look at squash. No longer will my squash wined up in the compost pile.

Butternut squash souffleNot sure you can make a souffle? Think again. This souffle is worth trying, and I promise you won’t have to worry about it falling! Start by either roasting or steaming the squash once you have peeled and chunked the squash. I normally steam it for 10-15 minutes in the microwave. I have a microwave steamer. If you don’t, just put it in a flat dish and cover with saran wrap with a small portion vented. Then it is just a matter of pureeing with a stick blender, standard blender or food processor.

Butternut squash souffleThe squash is cooked when it is fork tender. Add a couple table spoons of butter and puree. In the same bowl add brown sugar, milk, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla. Once it is all mixed together and smooth, pour into a greased casserole pan and bake on 350 degrees for an 50-60 minutes. Then enjoy right with your dinner. Yes, it is sweet, but next to a spicy smoked beef sandwich it will leave you with an empty pan. Your friends will ask for the recipe while men and children are shocked this is squash. Little do they know that this is just a crustless pumpkin pie sans the whip cream.

butternut squash souffleNow, hurry out and by some butternut squash before they are all gone till next fall!

Butternut Squash Souffle

Butternut Squash Souffle

The flavors of fall explode in this butternut squash souffle. A sweet casserole that will surely become a staple in your fall meals.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pureed butternut squash
  • 1 cup brown sugar or 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

  1. Steam or roast peeled squash and puree. Measure out two cups.
  2. Blend or puree all the ingredients together till smooth. Pour into greased 1.5 quart casserole dish.
  3. Bake on 350 for 50-60 minutes or till the souffle is set much like a pumpkin pie.
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This post is part of the 30 days series over on Prairie Farmer. Be sure to check out the five things Holly will be talking about all month long while you are there! Be sure to see all my 30 Days of #FarmsMatter posts.

Hunk of Meat Monday: Spicy Garlic Baked Chicken Legs

On Day 4 of the 30 days of #FarmsMatter, I am reminded why chicken farms are a gift from God. You see, I grew up gathering eggs at my grandparent’s house. And then butchering said chickens. When the chicken raising ended, I was sure I would never have to butcher a chicken again. WrONg! My dad then thought it would be a good idea to get a flock of chickens. That would require butchering. Let’s just say, I am grateful for Perdue and Tyson and all the other chicken farms for raising and processing the chickens that I can just buy at Kroger.

Chicen DrumsticksDrumsticks are the go-to chicken choice in our house when we eat chicken. I prefer dark meat any day of the week and of course the kids prefer eating legs over thighs! So, these packages literally can disappear quickly. The quickest recipe I have for baked chicken legs of course involves a few of my favorite things: garlic, butter, hot salt, and pasta sprinkle.

Spicy Garlic Chicken Leg seasoningOnce you have the butter melted, garlic added, follow up with hot salt and pasta sprinkle or some Italian herbs you have on hand. Then dip your legs in the butter. Dredge it through the butter and place on a jelly roll pan lined in foil. Then pour any extra over top of the legs.

Spicy Garlic Baked Chicken Legs on Baking SheetThen, because I am obsessed with garlic, I hit the chicken with some roasted garlic and herbs seasoning.

Spicy Garlic Chicken Legs Roasted Garlic HerbThen roast the legs on 425 degrees for 25 minutes or till the juices run clear.

Spicy Garlic Baked Chicken Legs seasonedThe legs are juicy, spicy and with a crunchy outer shell. There is something about crispy skin that makes it totally irresistible.

Spicy Garlic Baked Chicken LegsNothing pairs with chicken legs like macaroni and cheese, so go ahead and go make some of the microwavable pasta in the last 12 minutes the chicken is cooking.

Spicy Garlic Chicken Legs

Spicy Garlic Baked Chicken Legs

Spicy Garlic Baked Chicken Legs

Chicken legs are kids approved meal at our house. These spicy garlic baked chicken legs are fun to eat and full of flavor. And yes, very garlicky!

Ingredients

  • 12 chicken legs
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Hot Salt
  • Pasta Sprinkle
  • Roasted Garlic and Herb Seasoning

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a saute pan. Add garlic and saute for a minute or two.
  2. Once garlic and butter have infused, add hot salt and pasta sprinkle to combination and remove from heat. I added two teaspoons of each. Adjust to your flavor palette.
  3. Dredge chicken legs through butter mixture and place in foil lined jelly roll pan. Pour any extra butter over top of the chicken legs.
  4. Sprinkle roasted garlic and herb over the chicken legs and roast in 425 degree over for 25 minutes or till juices run clear.
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30 days #farmsmatter

This post is part of the 30 days series over on Prairie Farmer. Be sure to check out the five things Holly will be talking about all month long while you are there! Be sure to see all my 30 Days of #FarmsMatter posts.

Day 2 of #FarmsMatter: Farmers ate local before local was cool

Sometimes when I am alone driving with 800 pounds of beef like I was today after picking up the beef we bought from my brother, I think about how I have bought beef at the grocery store less than five times in my life. Just in case 800 pounds of beef is hard to imagine, it is 12 banana boxes of beef like seen here in the back of the Odyssey.

800 pounds of beef in banana boxes
So, when people suddenly have this new found interest in buying local and direct from the farm and rave about how great the meat is, farmers are sort of dumbfounded. Because we have always ate this beef. Or pork. Or lamb. Or chicken. And this is the same meat we also sell to companies and stores that sell the meat to you in Wal-Mart or Kroger or Piggy Wiggly.

grocery store meat sectionThere is something romantic about white butcher paper wrapped around meat. But besides the packaging, the other big difference is the customization of buying direct. You can have your beef cut to your liking. Steaks an inch and half thick hamburger 93% lean and cube steaks 4, 6, or 8 to a package. But, you need to talk butcher language.

butcher cut sheetSo, while the customization is awesome and the flavor is superior there is a downside. It requires freezer space if you want to capitalize on the better price as well.

freezer full of beef and cornThe space in the refrigerator freezer isn’t going to cut it my friends. And it is rare to get the meat not frozen. Fresh meat direct from farmers is a rarity. Some farmers in some markets can ale it fast enough but most cannot. And frozen meat is another normal, everyday thing for farm people. While thawing meat is pain, it is just part of cooking for a lot of us. But, if you don’t have freezer space, don’t want to deal with thawing out meat, be confident the meat at the grocery store also came from a farmer that is eating the same beef that is on the grocery store shelf.

30 days #farmsmatterThis post is part of the 30 days series over on Prairie Farmer. Be sure to check out the five things Holly will be talking about all month long while you are there! Be sure to see all my 30 Days of #FarmsMatter posts.

30 Days of #FarmsMatter

So, my friend, Holly Spangler, is hosting the 30 Days blogging event again this year. Hoping that this year I am a little more successful in hitting publish 30 times in November. This November I am going to go with the #FarmsMatter theme for my post. I am excited to highlight the many reasons why farms of all shapes, sizes, crop, produce, animal, and method are critical to our everyday lives.

30 days #farmsmatterTo kick things off here is a glimpse into our lives as small corn and soybean farmers, watch this video that was recently done for the USFRA Food Dialogues.

Interested in learning who else will be participating in the 30 days blog-a-thon or the five things Holly will be talking about all month long? Head on over to Prairie Farmer to find out!

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