Knolltop Farm Wife

Welcome to my blog! I'm a wife, mother of four and a self-employed freelance writer. I live on a dairy farm with my family and I enjoy sharing our life with family, friends and anyone else who wants to visit the farm. There's no telling what the I will write about from day to day, but hopefully you'll be enriched when you stop by! Have a wonderfully blessed day!

Monday, December 17, 2018

It's More than a Perfect Tree and Great Vacation

By Melissa Hart
It’s Monday and you have exactly one week to get all of your Christmas shopping done.  Aren’t you glad I reminded you?  Some of you are in a panic, and others are thinking you have all the time in the world to get it all done.  Either way –one week, y’all!

Over the weekend, we went to my parents and put up their Christmas tree.  At 85, my mom still insists on a real Christmas tree, and I can’t blame her.  There’s nothing quite like the stories that are re-told about the failed Christmas tree hunts that we seem to go on every year.  I was just reminiscing with our second oldest son, Luke about that the other day.

Luke is nothing if he’s not practical. He’s a no-nonsense kind of kid but Luke also has a very soft, sentimental side. This is the kid at twelve years old wanted to bring his friends to the fair with him because their parents couldn’t afford the price of admission.  This is the young man who comes to the rescue of any family member when their car breaks down, no matter if it’s day or night. He is the boy who helped me put down a new kitchen floor, fixed by KitchenAid mixer and when he was an adolescent I enjoyed taking him to run errands because he never asked for anything and we enjoyed great conversations. 

This is the tree JW went and cut down and on the way home, it fell out of JW's truck and broke in half.  Luke and JW tried to make it presentable before they brought it into me. It was hopeless, but we used it and it made for a great story.  

Luke and his high school sweet heart, Jessie. 

While he doesn’t remember those early years when we pulled the kids on the sled through the snow in search of the perfect tree, he does remember the year just he and I went and cut one down. We talked about the practicality of an artificial tree and that maybe we should all get one and stop this silly tradition of cutting one down. And then he said something I didn’t expect out of this practical young man, “It’s the whole experience of going and getting one that makes it fun.”

That served as a reminder that maybe there were some great moments that came out of their childhood. You see, there are days when I feast on mom-guilt.  I can spend a lot of time mulling over all of the wrong things I did as a mom. So when Luke said this, a little moment of relief swept over me.  Maybe our busy days as parents and dairy farmers weren’t all spent on work and no play.  And just maybe all the time we spent working side by side served as an opportunity to deepen the bonds of family. 

If you find yourself wondering if you’re doing the right thing by having your kids work on the farm with you this Christmas holiday instead of providing a week-long trip to Disney, rest assured that time spent together is time well spent.  Use your errand running as a time to talk with your kids about their dreams sprinkled with a little encouragement about their strong points.  Instead of loathing the thought of sitting in the bleachers for another game where they will go 2 for 10, know that your mere presence gives them confidence.  And if you’re eating pizza on paper plates instead of that Pinterest worthy meal, remember it’s better to sit down to a meal of vegetables where there is love than a a fattened calf with hatred. (Prov. 15:17)

When you settle down and remember that less is more, it will always pay off in the long run.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Turkeys and Two More Followers!

Such a beautiful day out there today.  As I look through my window at this noon hour, the sun is beaming through and melting the snow! This afternoon, I will have to move my work station to a different location, the sun will come through my unshaded window and I won't be able to see my laptop.  But, that's okay with me.  I love the sun!

Tom Turkey is being harvested today.  We bought a homegrown turkey from Ezra Yoder and Bobby will go pick it up today.  My mom always loved fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving, so I had the chance to follow in her footsteps and went right to the source.  Hopefully it will be as good as last year.  Everyone enjoyed it, but honestly, I can't remember what I did to make it so great.  Did I brine it?  Or not?  Did I put it in the oven? Or in the roaster?  What seasonings did I use?  I have no idea. So, I will pull up Pioneer Woman and find out what she does and then I'll copy it.

My nephew, his wife and new baby will venture to Michigan from Iowa for the holiday! We rarely get to see them, so I'm excited especially since I haven't seen this new little great neice! The house will be overflowing with family and I can't wait!  And of course I had to count my Fiestaware to make sure I had enough plates and...I DO!

It's time to get back to the real work that is waiting for me.  The Ohio Holstein News is going out in a week and then the Michigan Dairy Cattle News.  And in between those, we are working on the Brown Swiss Bulletin and The Angle. This is making my head spin, I better quit now.

Oh...and I'm almost celebrating an Instagram milestone of having 998 followers.  Just two more and I'm up to 1K!  Yeah, I know, that's not very many compared to all of those influencers out there....but hey, it's a round number, we might as well celebrate....when it actually happens.

Have a great Tuesday!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Learning from the Young Ones

If you follow some of the young bloggers out there on Instagram, you know, those chic moms who have beautiful homes, perfect wardrobes and more on the ball than I ever thought of having at age 30, then you've seen how they are all revealing their Christmas decor. 

I just want to say....I'm not ready yet!  I just took down the dead ferns that were hanging on my front porch with the fourth of July swag.  I just turned the calendar from summer to fall and they are already on Christmas! They have young children, I don't.  They are on Instagram filming a zillion stories in a day, I'm not.  Their wardrobes are complete from A to Z in their huge walk-in closets and I'm over here with my old Farmhouse closet that I'm constantly shoving clothes into because I don't have enough room. 

While I may sound just a little jealous of their closets, which I am, I will admit, I have learned a ton from them!  They know more about hair, make-up and shopping hacks than I ever thought about knowing at that age.  With four young kids I was just happy to take a shower twice a week without the house burning down, much less dress up in a cool fall outfit and stroll through a perfect looking park in Savannah with someone taking a photo of me! How do they do that?

Anyway, today I celebrate the fact that I now have fall decorations on one of my porches.  I need to work on the other porch.....after I finish a few writing pieces that are waiting to be written!

By the way, if you're interested in following some of these great young women who have taught me a ton you can find them on Insta here:

@celesteharned - She's one of the aggie moms out her practical take on life!
@courtney_sheilds - Fashion and decorating and transparent!
@nestingwithgrace - decorates in small spaces, love her look!
@alyson_hayley - I watch her for fashion and hair.  And she's just so cute!
@k8_smallthings - She is my favorite and has taught me bunches about hair and she's REAL! 
@fresh_coast_farmgirl - I love her farmhouse that she is transforming, plus I know this sweetie personally and she's awesome!
@seejessfarm - This dairy girl is awesome! It's all about dairy farming, all the time. I love her total transparency!

Have a great Tuesday!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A Day at Plainfield Farm

It's a chilly Saturday morning at Plainfield Farms in Belmont, Ohio where they are hosting the Ohio Holstein Fall Tour! The Simpson Family has been preparing for Holstein enthusiasts to come and enjoy some great food, fellowship and take a gander at some beautiful Holsteins.
This is where it's all happening today at 11 am in Belmont, Ohio!

The younger generation made the Fall Tour pre-party fun. Allie Bourne, Ben Simpson
and Hannah Dye keep things lively!

We came down last night and had a great meal at the Simpsons all graciously prepared by Marty Dye. It doesn't get any better than homemade lasagna with a choice of Chocolate or Pumpkin pie for dessert.  And yes, I had a small slice of both. You can't eat just one piece of's only proper to sample each kind.

Oh...there must be a Spartan Fan down here in Ohio!

The Simpson crew was gettin' after it this morning. 

Have a great Saturday!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Snow! Before Thanksgiving!

It's a snowy Friday morning in my neck of the woods! I wasn't expecting snow this early, I guess I haven't been watching the weather very closely.

Snow before Thanksgiving is honestly unacceptable.

I just finished a phone call with the local Salvation Army Church as part of a story I'm working on for the MMPA Milk Messenger about the 10 Gallon Milk Challenge that has become popular this year.  I explained what it was and the Captain said that milk was in huge demand. She said someone came in just last week with crates of half gallons of milk and she couldn't believe how quickly they went.

It's time people.  The price of milk in the store is at an all time low.  Why not go buy 10 gallons of milk and take it to your local food pantry or Salvation Army.  It helps the demand for milk and puts the best food we produce in the bellies of hungry people.  It's honestly a match made in heaven.....well, maybe that's too far, but it's definitely one of the best ideas out there!

Later today we will make our way to Belmont, Ohio for the Ohio Holstein Fall Tour that is set for tomorrow at 11 am, at Plainfield Farms. The Plainfield Farms Hotel has a vacancy and I hear they are bringing in a top-notch cook for dinner tonight! Can't wait to spend some time with those Ohio Holstein breeders!

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Where my Inspiration Comes From

I heard last week that people need to be inspired. It’s easy to be negative but it takes energy and effort to be positive, optimistic and yes, it takes a whole lot more than mediocrity to be inspired.
I have my bouts with negativity.  There are days when inspiration is easy and others when I’m praying for it because every fiber in my body is saying, “Blah, blah, blah.”

My latest inspiration came a week ago when on a dreary, cold, fall day I picked up a 15-year-old boy who needed a ride to the school to catch the bus that was going to the FFA Broiler contest. This young man had every reason to stay in his warm bed that morning until the school bus came. But instead he was peeking out the window at 5:45 a.m., waiting for me to drive up so he could hop in, with a bright, sunny attitude and start the conversation with, “How are you this morning Mrs. Hart?” That’s where I get my inspiration.

 I was standing behind Munsell’s Poultry Processing in Fowlerville, Michigan, where FFA students were lined up with crates full of broiler chickens.  These teenagers were cold, but enthusiastic as they waited for their turn to hang their broilers and wait for the reveal of their hard work from the last five weeks of raising chickens.  These were youth absent of any farm experience and some were going to watch a broiler be harvested for the very first time. Teenagers just standing there, in the cold, waiting, wondering and absolutely willing to step up to the plate for whatever was ahead of them.  That’s where I find my inspiration.

For four days I was assisted by five college students and together we covered ten cow shows in Louisville, Kentucky.  They were expected to work without complaint, provide good show coverage and I told them to bring a good work ethic and a sense of humor. 

The Dairy Agenda Today staff.....working hard!
This group works well together! From left: Hannah Dye, Allie Bourne
Kyle Schafer, Sarah Hart and Sabra Jackson.

We worked, we laughed, and I did not hear one complaint. When you have the privilege of working with young adults like these, inspiration is easy to find and I’m extremely grateful to have the opportunity to simply be around them.  Their enthusiasm is infectious and the hope in humanity is boundless.   

The future looks bright for our youth in agriculture. I encourage anyone to take advantage of every opportunity to interact with these youngsters and spur them on to greatness.  I guarantee that you will end up being the one inspired!

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Predesigned Path I Never Saw Coming

I met him when his father, Mike, became the pastor at our church. He was the same age as our oldest son and just as mischievous. When they were together on the farm, I never knew whether to be thankful they were outside and occupied or worried that they might burn the barn down. Let’s just say there were some broken barn windows because some young boys were having a rock throwing contest.
Our families were close and I loved serving under his father’s leadership. His mom, Debbie and I spent countless hours in prayer over ministry and our families.  And when his father was called to shepherd a flock in Kentucky it was one of the most difficult losses I’ve endured outside of my family. Over the next few years they came back and pastored our church and then left yet again for Tennessee to serve a church and be closer to their family.
Only this time Branden didn’t go with them.
He stayed in Michigan, finished college, married and settled down. Today, he still attends the church where his father took a courageous step to revolutionized corporate worship and bring Believers out of religiosity and into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
While Pastor Mike’s gift was preaching, he couldn’t carry a tune in a bushel basket, bless his heart. But Branden can do that and more as he serves on the worship arts team at Grace Church. He straps on his guitar, stands up to the mic and ushers people into the Throne room as he humbly leads worship. And on occasion, when I’m not out of town, I have the privilege to stand next to Branden and sing with him.
I’ve been singing longer than Branden has been alive. I was singing in church when Branden was in diapers in the nursery with my kids. When I was younger I could memorize all the lyrics to the songs we sang, today, my foggy memory is lucky to remember my own name. I stumble over words, and when asked to lead a song, there are times when I totally mess it up. When these moments happen the feelings of incompetence flood my soul and negative self-talk takes over.
“Why am I still up here singing with these young people?”
“I can’t even remember the words!”
“I’m too old for this.”
“They only let you sing because they are being nice.”
A couple of months ago, this happened again in rehearsal. As the song continued, I looked over at Branden to offer an expression of apology. He met me with a reassuring nod and I could hear Pastor Mike’s voice softly saying, “Keep going, you’re doing fine.” Suddenly, my mistake didn’t seem so awful and I continued with confidence. In that single moment, I saw that once mischievous little boy transform into a man of God with a leadership style that mimicked his daddy’s.
Branden’s daddy passed away a month ago. He was loved and cherished by every single person who knew him. We cried for our loss but celebrated Heaven’s gain.
And now on the Sunday mornings when I serve on the Worship team beside Branden, I marvel at how God has intertwined our lives together. I have the joy of standing next to the little rock-chunking boy turned praise-singing servant following a path that only God could predesign.
I miss Pastor Mike.
I miss my friend Debbie.
But I am grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside their son Branden, and watch him as he grows in stature, honoring his God in service to Him.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Iowa Wedding

Our family gathered in Decorah, Iowa to witness the marriage of Emily Bicknese and my nephew, Tom Stene. We all stayed at the same hotel, we all ate together and had a great time running around after the great grandkids (my great nieces and nephews). When I wasn't busy making sure toddlers weren't crying, I tried to get a lot of photos. Not everyone is included in these photos....but again....I was running around after toddlers trying to keep them cut me some slack. (wink)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Be Glad

Today I don’t have a voice.  At least I don’t feel like I have one.  I’m not talking about a lack of vocal cords; my children can assure you that my vocal cords are working…just fine.  But as I sit here in front of a blank screen trying to come up with words that make sense and will be impactful to a reader out there, I have told myself at least thirteen times,” You have nothing to say today.”

I know the reason:  I’m over my head in graduation preparation and I don’t want to take the time to think about anything else.  I don’t want to slow my roll. I’m headed into the downhill slide and the progress that I’m making is accelerating this journey and I can see the finish line.  I don’t want to check Facebook, I don’t want to cook dinner, I don’t want to contemplate one more thought about why I should take a stand about the obvious value of a human life over that of a zoo animal.

My laundry room is waiting to be painted and there is a sapling growing in the middle of a bush that is waiting to be yanked out. There is mulch to put down, food to purchase, coolers to borrow and photos to print off. 

Yesterday I got rid of two full bags of old shoes and worn out cleats, enough Walmart bags to put me in recycling jail, four pairs of show whites that were now yellow with holes and several scraps of fabric from various 4-H projects from 13 years ago that I was saving for I don’t know what.
The big question today is: Yellow or white for the laundry room?

The bigger question I’ve been asked is this: Why are you so worried about your laundry room when the open house is going to be held outside in a tent? The answer: Because.  (Can I get a witness?)
I know I’m not the only one in these shoes today.  I’m sure there are women all over  the country getting ready for events in their lives and so today my voice will tell you this: Be glad. 

Last week I made a sign and posted it front and center in my dining room where everyone could see it. It was a necessary revelation that has helped me keep a healthy perspective about this last graduation open house.  It has served as a reminder to me every time the stress tries to choke me and make me tap out.

It reads: “We thank God for Jake’s Open House because that means we have a successful graduate!”
As you roll through your day today and look around to see nothing but trouble or difficulty, take a moment and think about your circumstances.  If you need a perspective change, re-evaluate and look at things through a different lens. 

You see, seventeen years ago, on April 13th, this graduate should have been dead, but in a few short days we will celebrate a milestone in his life. And nothing can separate us from that joy.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dairy Christmas Traditions

It's not Christmas without......

Fill in the blank. Traditions are part of what builds a family and Christmas is full of them.  When you open your gifts, the dinner you create, right down to which ornament goes on what side of the tree. It's all a part of holiday traditions. 

On the Knolltop, I have managed to carry on a tradition that began in my childhood, on my home farm.  Each Christmas was filled with holiday baking.  My mom and sister would begin baking and end with pretty packages filled with home made goodies to give away to friends and relatives.
Among those baked goods were Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls originating from the local church cookbook published in the late 70's.

My sister made those one year and we haven't missed a year since. 

While the recipe originated to us in 1976, the tattered recipe card is from the late 80s when wrote a copy for myself when I moved out on my own. For 39 years Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls have been at every family Christmas celebration.  We don't make them any other time of the year, just Christmas.

The ingredients are simple but specific and important. There can be no substitutes for the butter, only the real thing will do, especially for this dairy farm wife!  And they turn out best if they are made with Jiff brand peanut butter.  The dipping chocolate is a personal preference.  For looks and efficiency, almond bark is best. But for taste, I would only use Hersheys Milk Chocolate Chips. They don't set up quite as well, but I would rather enjoy the taste than see how pretty they are on a platter. You can also mix the two kinds of chocolate, this is what I do. It's a nice compromise.

When I was a teenager, we had a confectionary in our little town called Spagnolos Confectionary.  Mr. Spag, as we called him, had big blocks of Hersheys Chocolate in a glass case. He would hammer the chocolate into big chunks and measure out 10 pounds at a time for me.  I usually ended up going back in and getting more. This was before chocolate chips came in different flavors, back then it was semi-sweet or nothing.

While some people may recognize these delectable treats as buckeyes, they are a little different.  First off you cover the entire peanut butter ball.  Secondly, these contain rice crispy cereal. So they are just a little different than the traditional Buckeye.  Plus any self respecting Michigan State fan would beat a buckeye, not eat a buckeye.

While these are great treats to eat, they are also a great family activity. Bring the kids in and have them help you roll up the balls and dip until their hearts content!


Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

1 Cup Butter
4 Cups Crunchy Peanut Butter
6 Cups of Rice Krispies
6 3/4 Cups Powdered Sugar
6 Bags of Milk Chocolate Chips (Approx)

Mix softened butter, peanut butter, rice krispies and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Roll into small balls, a little smaller than a golf ball. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave and dip each ball in the chocolate and place on parchment paper, foil or wax paper.  Refrigerate or leave out to set up.

Here are a few other dairy good recipes: