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!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Storm's comin'

It's a cold, breezy, kind of sunny day here on the Knolltop. They say we're in for a snow storm tomorrow...I'll believe it when I see it.

JW had a scrimmage last evening and I guess they did well. We didn't get to it simply because it was too early. He loves his new uniform...the warm ups have snaps all down the legs so he can just snap them off and toss them on the sidelines. Kind of reminds me when he was a toddler and all his pants snapped up the inside so I could change his diaper. He used to love to unsnap his pants....I haven't reminded him of that....yet.

I've still got to write my column today...yesterday I had other things I was writing. I just got a new writing contract with Farmworld, it's a weekly paper much like the Farmers' Advance that circulates in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and is now moving into Michigan....hence the demand for Michigan writers. My first story will be in next week.

The Indonesian kids will come tomorrow and spend the night. When they visited before they were begging to stay the night, so we set up this weekend....little do they know they will be washing cow's tails tomorrow. The classifier will be here at 2 pm, so they cows have to look good. I wonder how they will take to standing behind a cow and scrubbing her manure filled tail. Hey...it's all a part of visiting the farm!

Better get to writin'!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Long day away

Good morning, we are blowing off the hill here on the Knolltop. It's windy and cold...well it wouldn't be too cold if it weren't windy...but anyway...it's cold.

Yesterday I spent an interesting day away from the farm at the Michigan Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids. After getting up and doing my calf chores, which was all I had time for, I headed west and 2.5 hours later I was in big G.R. sliding in just in time to drop my coat in the media room and head to the first discussion.

It was held at the Amway Grand Hotel....probably the most impressive part of the day was that I could park in a parking structure a block away from the convention center and I didn't have to walk in the cold to get to the hotel...it was all enclosed in a skywalk. Yes, this country girl is easily impressed! I also love escalators and revolving doors, those are just so much fun!

Anyway...about the meeting...it was a fun day of visiting with people and taking pictures and listening to the discussion meet competition and the most important...eating lunch and dinner that I didn't have to cook! Easily amused...I know.

I was able to spend a few minutes listening to the delegates make policy and that was interesting in itself. I enjoyed watching the big organization discuss the policies and how it all worked.

I also enjoyed listening to young farmers compete as they discussed many hot topics. But my favorite part of the day was listening to Dr. Wes Jamison reveal some facts about animal welfare issues that we really didn't want to hear but needed to listen to.

What made the biggest impact on me was that we as farmers want to stand up to the attacks from PETA and the Humane Society of the United States(which, by the way, has nothing to do with and is completely different from your local human society or animal shelter) with the wrong argument. When animal activists attack us and our animal husbandry practices we fight back with research and economics. When in all reality, their attack has nothing to do with sound science and good economics, but everything to do with emotion and morality. They think we are immoral to raise animals for human consumption. It doesn't matter to them that we do it efficiently and safely, they don't want us doing it at all. Period. End of discussion.

Dr. Jamison made it clear that we need a different approach to our fight. He said we need to stop being ashamed at our husbandry practices and stand up and say, "Yes, we use farrowing crates so the sows don't kill their babies...and yes, I have a free stall barn so our cows are comfortable....and yes, we harvest meat from our steers so we can have protein to eat and not get DEPRESSED!"

There's so much more...I'm going to have to write a column on this topic....it's fun to write about this kind of stuff.

Bacon and pancakes are ready!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Can you hear the cheering?

Yes, that's right, we are still cheering this morning as we celebrate the boys win last night over Jackson Christian and my beloved Pastor Mike.

I know I may sound like I'm a bit overboard...that's because I am! The boys beat the Royals 31-26 in a very sloppy game. Our boys didn't look all that great but they kept chipping away and after the first quarter were never behind again.

It's very strange for me to listen to a wonderful man preach great sermons Sunday after Sunday and then have a burning desire to beat his team on a Monday night. I guess that's because I've never had a pastor who also coached a team...which is really kind of cool in my book.

After the game I took my green North Adams shirt and rubbed it all over Pastor Mike and even offered to get one for him so he could wear it next Sunday to preach in. He declined my offer and we had a great time sparring over the game...all in fun.

But the parents of his team didn't see as much humor in our victory and the fun we were having. I guess they don't realize that our families (the Lee's and us) go a long way back and they are very precious friends to us. They probably also don't realize that our friendship goes so deep that when Jake had his accident, from Kentucky the Lee's gathered people around them to pray for our son while we waited to hear if he would live or die. They also don't know how much we treasure their friendship and what a fine example of Christian servants they've been to us. I could write on and on and on what the Lee family means to us, but I don't want Pastor Mike to read this and then get too proud of himself....he has a tendency to do that...get all puffed up and proud....but this week, we have knocked the wind out of his sails and he will have to find another way to navigate his way to another mark in the win column.

It's chilly this morning on the Knolltop and the snow is still here...we had a nice batch of snow yesterday...it makes things seem more festive.

Well the coffee is perking...better get on the day!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Back among the living

It's been a long weekend around here. Not only because of the holiday, but because I must have eaten too much pie or turkey or cranberry relish or something, but I haven't felt well all weekend. But I'm back among the living and ready to head into another busy week.

It's another chilly morning here on the Knolltop, actually it snowed last night and is kind of foggy now....very strange weather we're having.

Okay, now pardon me while I talk about sports for a few minutes. Tonight Luke's undefeated 8th grade basketball team will take on one of the toughest rivals in the league....Jackson Christian. They are a private school, but then again, you could tell that by the name....anyway....they have a reputation for having a great basketball program.

Last year their Varsity team was in the semi finals and beat Redford Covenant Christian...why is that team important? Because Durell Sommers was on that team and Durell is now playing for Michigan State, he promised himself to Tom Izzo when he was a sophomore, so you get the picture...he was flat out good. And Jackson Christian beat his team...so now you know they were good too.

So with that part of the picture painted, let me go further in telling you that we belong to a church in Jackson called Grace Church and the senior pastor just so happens to be the 8th grade basketball coach at Jackson Christian. So now...do you get the picture? Luke will be playing against his pastor's team.

While Pastor Mike is a great guy and a wonderful preacher, he is also very competitive. His children all played basketball and he has a son on the varsity team at J.C. Mike stood in church a couple of weeks ago and in front of 600 people started talkin' smack to Luke. He told Luke that Jackson Christian was going to take North Adams down. Now "them's fightin' words!" Really, putting this into context he was actually illustrating a point in his sermon, but "them still fightin' words"

So now, we will be headed to Jackson tonight all prayed up, yes I prayed that we would win...and don't think Pastor Mike hasn't been sittin' at the throne of Grace asking for a win too and I hope this one time God has more mercy on us than him because I want Luke's team to win.

And if we do end up beating them we will all sit in the front row of church next Sunday with our green and white North Adams shirts "talkin' smack" without saying a word.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Good Frosty Morning!

It was a chilly 20 degrees this morning when we walked over to milk. My hands stay cold the whole time I milked. That moon was so bright and beautiful this morning, it was amazing how it lit up the whole farm.

While others are out shopping this morning, I'm in my nice warm house fixing blueberry pancakes, sausage and perked coffee. After I enjoy that we will all head back out to the barn to finish up chores and wash the rest of the windows on the east side of the barn. Bobby is on a cleaning kick in the barn, last Saturday he and the boys washed the pipeline and swept down cobwebs. He also washed all the windows on the west side of the barn....I think there are 15. Then tomorrow we will curry the cows off and wash tails....we classify in a week and we want the cows to look nice. Yes they will get dirty in a week, but next week we won't have as much washing to do if we take the first few layers of manure off this week.

I don't think I'll get much shopping done this weekend, instead I think Sarah and I will make some garlands for the porches. We've got some cedar trees and lots of bushes we can cut greenery to decorate with. I also have a grape arbor I think I might trim up and use the vine for something. I also have to put up the lites around the little oil shed across the road....that is the only place I put outdoor lights. The building is small so I can put the lites up easily and I've stored them right there in the shed. I guess I really don't have time to shop even if I wanted to!

JW and Luke have to work today and tomorrow JW and Luke have basketball practice.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's snowcovered here on the Knolltop. When we went across to the barn this morning we were bucking the wind and snow. I had to move fast to keep warm, but once I got in the barn, the girls kept us warm with all their body heat.

A first happened last evening...Jake made his first batch of brownies. He wanted something chocolate and so he decided to make some all by himself. I was looking at all the shopping flyers that came in the mail and I heard SArah and her friend Sidney giving him pointers. When I went out there to check on him, he had all the ingredients dumped in the bowl and was ready to mix. Not your conventional way of making browines...but they were delicious as we enjoyed them at 9:30 pm...not the best time to be partaking in such a treat.

Time to go make the breakfast...this morning we'll have biscuits and gravy and blueberry pancakes and bacon. I hope you all have a great thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Still Rotten


It's a cool, rainy morning here on the Knolltop. A miserable day to be outside, so Bobby said he's going to put the cows back in for the day so they don't have to spend it outside getting wet.

We received our official pictures back of Holly and Hollywood and they are nice. At least I like them, Bobby and Luke say Holly doesn't have enough milk in her udder...and she doesn't....but I still like her.




I have one more comment to post from a reader of the blog...Russell Gammon who is currently on a trip to Haiti with his work for the Liberty School for Women, of which I am now a proud owner of one square foot! Here is his comment:
You really got me going with your comment regarding spoiled Americans in today's posting! Add spoiled Canucks/Canooks too and at least I know I'm in that number!
Today was our first day in Northern Haiti in Cap-Haiti en, a large city. We were once again reminded how grueling life is here and how very, very good so many of us in North America and other developed countries have it. Open sewers and all the stench that comes with them, people begging everywhere, most all regions of town being slums, naked and starving and stunted kids, dust, bad roads-more pothole than road, rickety, beat up cars, little food and few decent jobs, high illiteracy, all manner of diseases, rampant and ingrained corruption, lack of infrastructure, starvation, worship of evil spirits, lack of hope and vision, as you see I could go on and on! It is so good to be reminded of how great life is in North America no matter how tough we sometimes say it is!!! Did I mention environmental degradation and less than 5 percent of the land mass being covered with anything like forest and over 8 million people in a small country and so much top soil being eroded and an average life expectancy of only 49 years!!!??

Despite all this we have encountered so much that could be classed as very inspiring! We stayed at an excellent orphanage/school/church/medical center/feeding depot from Thursday til Sunday morning. Today we visited our PWP office for our adult literacy classes, did video work, visited two classes in progress, visited one of our other teachers, inspected some land she and her hubby have for sale-possible Liberty School for Women site, stopped into see our Haitian administrator and his extended family in their tiny and very primitive home in the slums, bought a cell phone for within Haiti use and talked of so many ways to move our work ahead!

Here again, someone who is willing to put their money and actions where their mouth is...thank you Russell for such a great contibution you are making to their world. The holiday season is on us, it's time to open our wallets and our cupboards and start giving it away!

I've got a couple of errands to run...time to get at it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Spoiled Rotten

This weather is crazy! Yesterday I milked in my long underwear...this morning just a turtleneck and I was warming up fast. It's 54 out and foggy this morning on the Knolltop. I like the fact that we can't change the weather...that's one thing we aren't in control of..although the Al Gore would like us to think we are....with all his global warming rhetoric.

Anyway... I made one mention of spoiled Americans and did I get the email. Boy...you people really want to hear about how spoiled you are!

Here it goes....after visiting with our friends the Tingleys who are home for a visit from Indonesia, we were awakened to their way of life. We had just a small taste of what it must be like down there. The first tidbit was when their ten year old daughter looked a the bowl of grapes on our table and said, "Mom....look..it's grapes!" She was honestly excited about having grapes because they don't have grapes in Indonesia.

As we began to talk, I found out they don't have beef...just water buffalo, which aren't as tasty they say, plus they don't have many dairy products. They have to drink milk that's on the shelf, not refrigerated, they don't have access to cheese, they have to make their own yogurt from a powder mix and I didn't even ask about ice cream.

When we began discussing the safety of their food supply, Marc's response was, "America has the safest food supply and they don't even realize it." He went on to say that when they go back, they will get sick because their bodies will have to readjust to the food there. They will spend a few days being sick, then they will be fine and they will also have to take worm medicine.

When Christy wants to cook a meal she has to make everything from scratch even down to going to the market and buying the live chicken. Actually she sends a native, otherwise she would be taken advantage of and have to spend more than it's actually worth. It will take her at least three hours to cook a meal because everything is so different. No opening a bag of salad and pouring into a bowl, no taking the chicken breast out of the freezer and putting it in the oven to cook. She has an oven but it's very temperamental and small. No opening a can of corn or peas or going to the freezer and taking out what she was able to freeze over the summer. No going to the pantry and getting a jar of applesauce that she made during the fall apple harvest. No ordering pizza on a busy night, no drive through meals, no picking up pot roast with all the fixin's already in the package and baking it up in a snap. And that's just the cooking. I haven't even covered the fact that their mattresses are about 2 inches thick and they are one of the lucky ones who have indoor plumbing.

I wish those who are complaining about the use or rBST, GMO corn, pesticides, fertilizers, bleached white flour and pasteurized milk would just spend a week down in Indonesia or another under developed country and maybe they'd come home more concerned about what they need to get rid of or maybe they'd think about how much money they could give to those who have given up the comforts of their own home and the conveniences of modern America to help others have a better life.

For that matter, do we really need to go south for this? No, we just need to visit our local food pantry, Salvation Army, homeless shelter and we'd realize most of us have our priorities all messed up. So I ask you...what in your life is necessary? What can you live without? How much can you give? And are you willing to forsake your own wants for the need of another?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Milking and resting

Good Monday morning from the Knolltop. It's a windy morning...I was chilly milking this morning in the barn. And I'm back to my long underwear...so it's cold, in my book.

Recently we've had three first calf heifers freshen and they've all been great to get along with. I'm always a little apprehensive about these gals since they are just learning what it's like to be a cow and the rigors of giving milk twice a day. It's tough business eating all you want and laying around as much as you like and not having to go anywhere to use the restroom. Really the toughest job they have is standing still for about five minutes while we milk them....tough life.

One of the heifers is Miranda and she has been a dream. She's giving 90 pounds and she's just two weeks fresh....which is awesome in our book. But she has one problem...she lets her milk down quickly and it doesn't take her long to milk out...BUT when she thinks she's done she just lays down.....with the milker still attached! We have to stand and monitor her cause she will lay down as quick as anything if you don't get that milker off. It's so funny. In the past we've had cows lay down while being milk but it's usually because they have a belly ache or a sore foot...but not because they think they're done!

I told Bobby that if she doesn't stop this I'm going to have to put a nail in my pocket and give her a poke when she decides she's done...a clever trick I learned from the late Holstein enthusiast and the man who never endeared himself to anyone but we loved him in spite of himself....George Robb.

If I had more time...I'd vent a little about another subject...how spoiled we Americans are! But I'll save that rant for another post.

Time to get on the day.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Great fellowship

It's rainy here on the Knolltop...and as I write, Ohio State is beating up on Michigan...this day couldn't get any better!

Last night we had some friends join us at Luke's game and then come over for some fellowship. First of all, Luke's team won, I think the score was 55 - 11 or something like that. Anyway, we all came back here afterward and had chili, hotdogs, chips and homemade salsa, donuts, carmel corn and cookies. One of the couple's was our Pastor and his wife and the other couple are some friends who used to go to church with us but now live in Indonesia, they are just home for a visit. These folks have three kids who are just a real blessing to be around. Of course one of the reasons I like them is because the oldest daughter is the who I have picked out for Luke. And as it turns out, the second oldest daughter now has her first crush on JW. When they were getting ready to leave, she asked if that "Tall Kid" could come live with them in Indonesia.

JW is ready to go...I think it would be a great awakening for all of my children to go somewhere where they have to kill their dinner, it takes three hours to cook a meal and indoor plumbing is a rarity.

We had a great time visiting and catching up....my motto still is: Sit long, talk much!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cleanest pen controversy

Good Morning from the kind of clear, but cool Knolltop.

I'm on an errand frenzy this morning which includes oil filters and groceries...I'm sure you can figure out which stores I'm headed to.

We had a very quiet night last evening..no games...no practices....just sitting at home eating popcorn. Although there was some controversy in the barn. Sarah has created a "Who has the cleanest heifer pen" contest between she and Jake. She has drawn up a chart on the white dry erase board in the barn, complete with a key for what all the symbols mean. I had to spend a day just learning the key and what I was supposed to put where.

At the end of chores I'm supposed to judge who has the best looking heifer pen. Each of the kids has a heifer pen they have to clean which includes scraping out the front of the pen where there is no bedding and then putting clean shavings on the bedding pack in the back of the pen. It doesn't take very long and when it's done each day we don't have to clean calf pens that are 4 feet deep in manure...this way they are always clean.

Well, Jake got to his pen first and because he wanted his pen to look the best, he not only put shavings on the bedding pack in the back of the pen, he put shavings in the front of the pen so he had a nice blanket of clean shavings front to back. He also used up all the shavings so the other kids didn't have any to use for their pens. While he stood around proud as a peacock over his pen, the other kids were screaming "Jake is disqualified! He used all the shavings!" Bobby and I just laughed. You have to laugh at these things....there's no taking sides...we just laugh.

They were wanting to argue about it yet this morning over the breakfast table. I put an end to it when I began reading our morning devotions...which was about servanthood....something they could improve on!

Off to town!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

State Holiday

Okay...who knows what holiday it is in Michigan today? I'll give you a hint...it involves lots of ammunition....a little shack out in the woods....and adult beverages. Yes, it's opening day of firearm deer season!

Rural kids from all over the state have excused absences from school to go deer hunting today...there are probably some school districts up north where everyone takes the day off! When I came across the road to the house this morning at about 7:00 daylight was just breaking and I heard a couple of shots. Honestly, I think some hunters just shoot so they can be the first ones to fire their gun in the morning. In a couple of hours they will all gather back at their deer camp and one at a time they will give every detail of their morning hunt...right down to how many steps they saw a doe take or the exact number of deer they saw and where everyone of them was positioned or exactly what time it was when they heard the first shot...yes, they are very detailed in their story telling.

They will drive around and see if there are any other deer hunters to swap stories with and visit the local buck pole, down copious amounts of beef jerky and oatmeal cream pies and then head back out to the deer blind to sit until nightfall hoping for that big, elusive buck.

On another note, Luke had his first basketball game last night against Burr Oak and they beat them...bad....60-5. Now that was bad...I felt sorry for the other team. Burr Oak didn't score until the last quarter.

Better get going...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Discuss among yourselves

Good Morning...yes, here on the Knolltop we can see the sun for the second day in a row!

Last evening JW, JW's FFA advisor, Mr. Everett and I traveled to Blissfield to a Discussion Meet sponsored by Farm Bureau, specifically for FFA members. JW and I had no idea what he was in for...Mr. E. signed him up and told him he'd pick us up at 5:15 pm. JW got home from basketball practice at 5:10, swapped his basketball clothes for his official FFA outfit and we hopped in the car and headed east. JW's biggest concern was if he was going to get anything to eat before the contest...fitting for a 16 year old boy.

We fed him on the way and arrived at the high school. Upon seeing the other contestants studying their notes, JW looked at me with big eyes and said, "I don't have any notes to study...what are they studying? I have no idea what I'm doing!"

With my reassuring mom look, I said, "It's okay, this is a learning experience for you this year, we'll figure this all out this year and then next year you'll know what you're doing and win it."

He replied in typical boy fashion, "Mom, if I'm not here to win, there's no point in competing."

With that I agreed and I walked up to one of the contestants who had notes and asked if she had ever been in the competition. She replied, "Oh, no, I have no idea what I'm doing, no one else does either. Do you have your introductory speech written? I had no idea what to say, but I've got it memorized now, I'm not sure if it's right, you know, talking about trade issues and agriterroism..is that even a word? Oh my word, this is so hard...you know agriculture plays a big role in trade and then there's the land issues topic, zoning, variances, land preservation, mineral rights, I don't know much about those, but at least I have an introductory sentence...I don't know though....I'm so nervous I hope I don't babble on and on...."

I looked at her with big eyes and said, "I'm sure you will do a great job...after all you have an introductory speech!"

I spun on my heels and JW and I paced the long hallway making up an introductory speech about a topic that we had no idea about. So we came up with the general speech that Oliver Douglas uses on Green Acres, you know when you hear the patriotic music in the background and he talks about how great the American farmer is? You know...working the ground...producing food for the American people....most efficient farming practices...feeding, clothing, fueling the world....etc.

By this time, JW had his confidence up and started to look the part of a winner. He walked in with his head held high, using every bit of charisma God had gifted him with. Each contestant stood up in voluntary order to give their introduction and when JW stood up he did so with confidence. All those oral reasons in dairy judging had done him a world of good as he sounded great even though he might not have had the best facts to back it up.

The discussion had begun and they had 20 minutes to discuss a topic. Discuss is the key word..they weren't supposed to debate, argue, convince anyone of their point...they were just supposed to talk about the issues and look at all sides of it, no one monopolizing the time, covering all the possibilities. Every time JW spoke he started with, "Yes, I agree with that and...OR... You are right and I think....OR....As I'm sure you are well aware....." He was driving this whole cooperative thing home.

He was a finalist in the first go around and I was so proud. Then he was put to the test in the finals competing with five other seniors who all had experience in this event. He held his own and did a great job although the competition was tougher because they all had things to say. He could hardly get a word in edgewise.

I asked Mr. E. who his top three contestants were. He picked JW and two other experienced boys. That was not my pick....I didn't think JW had enough experience and wouldn't be able to hold it with the big boys at the state competition. In the end, I was right, JW didn't make it into the top three....they picked three seniors to go to the State Farm Bureau Annual Meeting to compete against other regional winners.

The good news is that he has two more years to compete in this and when we got done we asked him if he would do it again...his answer was a resounding "YES...that was fun!" I don't supposed his enthusiasm had anything to do with the cute moderator who is also the State FFA President who he happened to be hitting on in between competitions.....:)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Two behinds are better than one!

Good Morning from the Knolltop. Hey...guess what? It's CLEAR! And we can see the sun coming up....and it's beautiful. Having a sister who lives in Montana, I'm reminded that fog and mist are a novelty to them. She has told me she enjoys the few times there is fog out there in that dry, arid country. They're so dry out there, my nephew questions why I hang laundry out on the line because he says it's too humid here for it to dry. Now that's dry country!

Does anyone remember the professional bovine photographer Frank Robinson? Yes, I'm sure you haven't forgotten last week's picturing episode...but did anyone know Frank was a comdedian? The combination of someone with a sense of humor behind a camera can be a dangerous thing as you can see here with the "twin behinds" shot of me trying to get Jake's kitten out from under Holly and Dan Carroll trying to get Holly's feet set. You're too funny Franklin!


As you can see in the next shot...Jake gave up his tail holding to get the cat from me...the cat was immediately taken away!


JW is going to compete in a discussion meet tonight for FFA...he has no idea what he's in for...neither do I, so we'll find out together. JW may be a scatter brain at times, like he forgot his basketball shoes this morning and he has practice right after school, but he is good at thinking on his feet. If nothing else he always seems to sound like he knows what he's talking about even when he doesn't have a clue!


Time to get on the day...we're burnin' daylight!


Monday, November 12, 2007

Water Displacement and pie making

Okay...little did I know my pie making abilities would be brought out to the light when I posted this pie thing. Yes, that's what happens when your college roommate reads your blog!

Julie I do remember my first solo attempt at making a pie in our Cedar Village apt. It was apple and I think Mick, Brit and Jamie were coming over that night for supper and we were going to study for a test in Farm Systems Management...a class that I needed a lot of help in and only one of these guys was from a farm...oh boy....what great study partners they were....NOT!

Anyway...as I remember Brit took a big bite of my wonderful pie and began laboring at chewing this creation...it was like he took a huge spoonful of peanut butter and couldn't get it off the roof of his mouth. It was so funny and I'm laughing as I type this.

You see, you have to measure the lard by the water displacement method....I hadn't mastered that little detail....I just filled the cup up with one cup of water and then put enough lard into the water until the lard reached the two cup line. I didn't press it below the water level the way you are supposed to. So...I had too much lard and it was really greasy and stuck to the roof of your mouth....and the guys let me know.

Thanks for the memory Jules....oh how soon I forgot that one night in Cedar Village in East Lansing, Michigan!

Pies and illnesses

Good Morning from the Knolltop! It's another rainy, overcast day...but it was warm enough that I didn't have to wear my union suit under my barn clothes...that's a good thing.

Yesterday when I mentioned my mom making that unique Shaker Lemon Pie...I left out one minor detail and that is: My mom is the best pie baker in the world! Hands down...don't even tell me about your mom or grandma...they can't compare to the wonderful pies that my mom has made for years. She passed her lard crust recipe down to us girls and we continue to practice and practice to make as good a pie as she can...but to know avail...we come up short every time. So with that said...her making a pie that tasted so bad was not easy to accept and if that same pie were put down in front of me after supper today...I would still take a bite trying to convince myself that it really isn't that bad!

I see from the comment from yesterday that Patty can make a pretty good pie...maybe you should bring one down to me Patty and we'll just see if it's really as good as you claim....:)

In all seriousness Patty...you should really share your wonderful recipe with the rest of us...I would love to try it. I love pumpkin pie!

JW is home sick on the couch today...he's been sick for two days, he was sick on Saturday when he went to chop wood...but his love for money kept him going. Now he misses his first day of basketball practice. We're headed to the doctor this morning...no not because he's sick...because I've waited this long to get a sports physical for him...yes, I'm usually under the wire...I'm a writer for heaven's sake! That's what we do...get as close to the deadline as we can without missing it. And my husband hates that!

Time for breakfast!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pie anyone?

It's raining on the Knolltop this Sunday morning. What a great day to stay inside and bake! Looking through a magazine last evening while Bobby flipped through channels, (boy is that annoying), I found some recipes using pumpkin and lemon. I think I might try the pumpkin lemon pie...I'm not sure how it will turn out, but it's worth a try. It's can't be near as bad as the shaker lemon pie my mom made one time.

It was years ago and Martha Stewart was a new phenomenon on TV. She worked through a recipe for Shaker Lemon Pie and my mom thought it looked good so it must taste just as good. She worked on that pie all afternoon, making sure to follow the recipe just right. It called for so many lemons she thought she might have been reading it wrong. But she forged ahead and when it was all done the pie was beautiful. She brought it to the table with a very accomplished look on her face. We were all looking forward to this new creation and of course we all took a piece. When we began chewing the first bite we all came up with the same bitter look on our faces. It was as if we had all took a big bite of lemon thinking we were all taking a big bite of an apple fritter. We were surprised on both accounts. It tasted like lemon rinds with a whole lot of sugar, which would stand to reason since it had lemon rinds and sugar in it.

Dad and Bobby pushed it aside and quit eating it...my mom and I kept eating it thinking it was going to taste better with the next bite. But to no avail...as good as this pie looked, it tasted awful.

So, now everytime we see or hear of Shaker Lemon Pie, a smile spreads across our faces and we all start to chuckle and begin to reason that mom must have done something wrong or there must be a better recipe out there somewhere.

Well, the coffee is done and church time is approaching!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Young employees

It's still overcast here on the Knolltop. The sun peeked out yesterday for a little while and it was a beautiful morning and afternoon before the clouds moved back in.

Today I've got to run errands. Usually I like to wait until the weekend to go to town, so the kids can go with me if they want to..it's more fun to take the kids...it's lonely grocery shopping by myself. But today, Sarah is the only eligible shopper because the boys all have to work...and not here.

Earlier in the week the neighbor called and said he wanted to reserve JW and Luke for today. They called early because they knew the boys seem to be busy working for someone every weekend and if you don't call early, they're gone. Another guy reserved them for the Friday after Thanksgiving...now that's planning ahead..but this is the same guy that has stopped by at least three different times and couldn't catch a boy at home.

Then last night, the grain farmer up the road called to reserve Jake for today....which is fine with Jake since he gets to ride on big equipment and talk on the CB. With Sarah babysitting three afternoons during the week and the boys working on the weekends I end up not having to say 'no' to everything they want to buy at the store. When they make their own money they can pay for their own silly purchases like airsoft gun BB's, toy tractors and six packs of raspberry-spearment gum!

Friday, November 9, 2007

What a week!

It's been an eventful week...and I'm ready for some slow days. The weather is the same as it's been the last three mornings here on the Knolltop...cool and cloudy. How many different ways can I say that? Several if I sat and thought about it...I guess.

We had a new arrival last night as we finished up milking. Charlene was born! I'm going to call her Charlie. Charlie is out of one of our show heifers, Knolltop Outside Carolyn and she is out of a great cow family so I'm very excited that she had a heifer.

JW is in a musical this week at school. His first performance was last night and they will put it on again tonight. The play is Once Upon a Mattress and it's funny. JW is a knight and has a couple of songs to sing in it. He's very good...yes, I know I'm his mother...but really he is good. Grandma and Gramps came down for it last night and Grandma said he was good too...yeah, I know that doesn't hold any weight either!

I forgot to mention that I was on Rural Route Radio with my buddy Kyle Bauer and adversary Trent Loos. I was on Tuesday and we talked about healthy states...the north is healthier than the south....yes we discussed all that and I gave my biased opinions without solicitation...but isn't that was talk radio is? If you want to hear it go to www.KFRM.com and click on Programming and then you'll see Rural Route Radio...just click and listen.

Today is laundry day...you should see the mess I have of clean laundry that needs to be folded and put away and the dirty laundry that is.....well....dirty. I've still got to write my column too...that is my first priority since it was due yesterday. I need coffee...and lots of it!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fun with the boys


It's the same today as it was yesterday...cool and overcast. I'm now wearing my union suit under my barn clothes in the morning...yes, it's that cold....to me.

Yesterday we had a wonderful time picturing Holly and Hollywood. Frank Robinson the photographer and Dan Carroll from Select Sires got here and Frank started scouting out the place to picture. He found his place and then noticed the front porch of the house. He said he thought some pictures there would be fun to take...I said...YES..I think so too! Bobby rolled his eyes.

I had washed the girls yesterday morning..yes that was a cold job and even colder for the cows, but beauty has it's price. So they were clipped and ready to go when it was time for the pictures. Frank and Dan had a few finishing touches to put on the ladies and they were ready for their glamour shots.

The kids got home just in time to help out. Luke got to hold the cows, Bobby and I were at each shoulder, Jake was at the tail, Dan was the noisemaker, JW was the runner and Sarah took pictures of the whole process for me so I could share them with you.

We had put the dog in the house, but one of Jake's cats kept creeping into the picture. Other, more uptight, cattle, photographers would've had a fit when the cat wondered underneath the cow...but since Frank is more laid back and at ease with his job...he just took pictures of the cat under the cow and me getting the cat out from under the cow and Jake rescuing the cat from my evil clutches. We finally put the cat away!

After the cows were put away we had a cup of coffee and enjoyed a great visit discussing cows and "cow people." Of course I hadn't really cleaned the house before they came...I was too busy washing cows....but a messy house doesn't keep Jake from taking guests in to see his farm set up which is in the messiest room in the house! From now on, I'm going to have to brief Jake on which rooms are off limits to guests!

Now the show is over... the picture taking is over and Holly can just be a cow...until we classify next month!

Need to get my coffee and get on the rest of the day.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Picturing today

It's a cool and cloudy this morning on the Knolltop. The milking is done and the kids are in school but we've got a big day ahead of us.


Yesterday morning Bobby began thinking out loud. He wondered if Frank Robinson...the Bovine Beautician would be around any time soon so we could get Holly pictured again. I emailed Frank and sure enough he said he could be here today at 3 pm. So today at 3 we will be picturing Holly and her daughter Hollywood.



Holly was on her way home from Louisville yesterday and her ride took her to northern Indiana to Heath Penick's farm. So Lori, from Knolltop Morgans and I hopped in the truck and headed down to pick her up. It was perfect timing...we pulled in the driveway and they pulled in right after us. Holly was so glad to get off that trailer...but she had to hop on another one to ride home. When we got home she gladly hopped off again, headed to her stall and dove into the feed that was in the manger.

The good thing about picturing today is that Holly still has her show clothes on...but Hollywood doesn't so she has to be washed and clipped today. Now, if we have enough people to help picture I will be able to take pictures of taking pictures.


Speaking of pictures, Ashley Messing our Michigan Dairy Ambassador was kind enough to take a couple of pictures of Luke and Holly in the ring. She had a ground floor shot because she was in the National Jersey Queen's court. She was second runner up in the Jersey Queen contest...should've been queen in my book....as a matter of fact..she is the Queen in my book!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Big Lesson

SNOW! It's spitting snow here on the Knolltop...we're just not ready for that yet!

Well the boys made it home last night and we're glad of it. I can breath a sigh of relief knowing the whole farm isn't on my shoulders anymore. I can handle the cooking, cleaning, laundry, calf feeding, pen cleaning, milking and writing..but don't give me all the feeding, cleaning, grinding and manure hauling. I just don't like having it all fall on me. I think of Mary Lou Topp in Ohio and when her husband died a premature death, the farm responsiblities fell on her and her boys. She took over that farm because her boys wanted to keep farming and together they've made it work and have been mighty successful at it. I admire her, especially after a three day stint of being alone but I don't want that load!

Another lesson to be learned for anyone involved in showing livestock. When Bobby got home last night and began to describe every detail of the show he said in Holly's class the judge said in his reasons that he really wanted to use her but she wasn't handling well enough to get any higher in the class.

That is a very valuable lesson to us all....make sure you have a pushbutton animal...she may not be the best cow in the class but if she handles better than another animal you might be up a place or two just because of the handling!

And I will take a vow here and now....that cow will not enter another show ring unless she can virtually show herself!

Better get...chores are waiting!

Monday, November 5, 2007

On the right track

Well, it's over....and we did pretty well.

We were all gathered around the computer...me and my mom a little ways down the road was Lori from Knolltop Morgans, Nana in Griffin, GA, Aunt Carole in Flower Mound, TX and Aunt Ginny and Tommy in Joliet, MT. We needed a conference phone line for all the chatting we did while Luke was in the ring with Holly. "Do you see her yet?....yes, she just entered the ring...no, not that one...yes, the big white cow..does Luke have a white shirt on or a blue shirt?....Oh my doesn't he look grown up...oh my isn't he cute....Oh my she looks the best I've seen her look...Oh my well there's no doubt about it, if Holly doesn't win then that judge doesn't know what he's doing.....uh...Holly..don't put your head down....stand still Holly....Oh Luke don't let her do that....that doggone Holly....I bet she hasn't acted like that in a month of Sundays....she's being pulled in...she's in third...no fourth...no third....well...he's looking at her...oh my ....she's in third...that's good...that's really good!....well third place...wait...there's no sound...how are we going to hear the reasons?....does your computer have sound?...no, mine doesn't either...does' Lori's...no her's doesn't either...how are we going to hear the reasons?......that stinks...now we won't hear Lukie's name being called!

All that was said with seven people calling each other during a class that took about 15 minutes. Can you tell there were seven people who love Luke and think he's great? Can you tell there were seven women who thought this was probably the biggest event of the decade? Okay...we are pathetic! But this was a big day for Knolltop Farm and all those who care about us here.

Holly left the ring and Bobby milked her out. When that was done they left and are headed home. When I finally talked with Luke he was disappointed. Yes, that was the exact reaction I expected from my competitive second born child. "Third isn't okay...I wanted to win!"

I'm just happy they are on their way home and I can't wait to hear all the wonderful things that happened on their trip!

Thanks to all of you who watched and "participated" with me and my family.

I'd better stop and head to the barn...after my coffee!

The big day

It's a breezy cool morning here on the Knolltop. The cows are milked and the kids are off to school. I went over and plugged the tractor in this morning on my way in from chores. The other morning it was a bit hard to start so I thought it might need a little warming up this morning.

I just talked with Bobby, he's all ready for the show...and it turns out the cows will show first so Holly will be in a little earlier than I expected. She will be in the ring at about 12:30 or 1:oo pm..we're guessing....if you want to see Holly live and in person...well kind of....go to http://www.livestockexpo.org/index.htm and click on Freedom Hall East Ring, then after a minute or so, it will show up and you can watch too!

Of course those of you who think I'm about as silly as I could be about a cow showing at a national show, you are probably thinking I'm out of my tree about all of this...but this is what breeding purebred cattle is all about. You breed for a good one and when you think you have one then you take her to a show and see how she measures up to the other good ones out there and if she wins you're on the right track, if she stands at the bottom you know what you have to work on and you go home and reevaluate your breeding program. At least that's what I think it's about. Of course, here at the Knolltop, we think Holly is beautiful no matter where she stands and when she stands in her stall and we can look at her every day we think we're blessed as all get out! So when she comes home tomorrow with whatever color ribbon, she will still be our Holly that we enjoy feeding and milking and showing. (But a purple ribbon would be nice!)

Okay, now I have to head back out to the barn to clean gutters, sweep, feed a little more, clean the heifer pens and feed some hay to the outside heifers before I come in and wash dishes and do laundry...boy I wish the maid was coming today.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Perfect Sundays and druggies?

It's been a perfect Sunday here on the Knolltop.

Since we had to set our clocks back last night I don't have a clue what time it really is anymore. When I went to bed, I just left my clock alone and turned the alarm on and got up when it went off and milked the cows when I thought I was supposed to. I hate the time change... I want it to just stay the same all the time.

We were able to get to church...on time....and then afterwards, because a third of us were not here, we stopped and had brunch at Bob Evans and then did a little shopping at TSC...Jake bought a tractor....and then came home to a nice quiet nap! That constitutes a perfect Sunday...church then dinner out then a nap!

JW worked for the neighbor all day today and got home just in time to milk with me.

The report from down south was different. I recieved this email from Russell, I just had to share it with you. Remember, he's in Louisville at the show and it sounds like they are having a whale of a time down there....but here is what he sent...remember-- read this with humor in mind....he's a jokster!

"I ran into Luke and his buddy this evening.....he was not wearing the new hat (the Jersey Canada Hat that Russell brought to us) but said that Bubba was! There are some of us who are mildly concerned about young people of that age being that drunk but one good thing is that while your smoking under pressure trait has been passed on at least it is "only marijuana" and not "real cigarettes" and thus there are no health issues! We also pacified ourselves that the valium the boys are popping like candy MIGHT be able to counteract the alcohol that was being downed like it was koolaid! Other than that it is very quiet and boring and I have to get over to see the Red Hot one although I hear tell she is on the bottle too! So, yes, all is going well down south! Cheers! Russell"

I'm not sure...but I think he was trying to alarm me....but to no avail, I busted out with laughter instead...where does he come up with this stuff?

Tomorrow is the big show...I can't wait!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Aussies and tractors

It's another sunny morning here on the Knolltop. We've had such beautiful weather and it was nice yesterday for the international delegation that stopped in.
We had such a great visit as Patrick Buckley and Jason Hayes from Austrailia and Russell from Canada stopped in for some iced tea, sweetrolls and lots of story telling. Bobby had a captive audience as he spun his stories of his days on the road fitting cattle and they willingly listened to every word. While Russell knew every cow Bobby rattled off, (two peas in a pod--they know pedigrees back to the beginning of time) Jason and Patrick didn't even have the first clue who Charity was...but they knew some of the contemporary cows so they could add to some of the conversation.

We talked, ate, looked at the cows and then of course they demanded that I bring out the "A" to get their picture taken with it. I finally gave in and had Luke go get the little beauty. No, not really, I had Luke go get the tractor so I could show it off...I'm shameful!

The aussie boys were curious about this old tractor, they said they don't have those back in Austraila. They walked around it and gave it a good looking over and then when it came time to snap the picture Jason asked if he could get up on it...well of course I said yes, and then had to help him figure out how to get on....I snickered as I said, "No, not the front, there's a step in the back, just hop up there." It was so cute!

They all piled back in the car and headed south where they are presently working for Budjon this weekend at the show.
Russell couldn't leave without giving us some Jersey propaganda, he left two JerseyCanada hats. I guess those would make nice Christmas presents for someone...or maybe door prizes at our local DHIA banquet....JUST JOKING RUSSELL!

The boys left early this morning and should arrive in Louisville this morning sometime. In the meantime, JW, Sarah, Jake and I are heading back out to the barn to finish chores.

Friday, November 2, 2007

International Guests

Good Morning from the Knolltop! It's a typical clear cool fall morning here with the sun just coming up over the horizon and there is frost on the windshield of the tractor sitting out in the field behind the house hooked up to the grain cart that is full of that gold stuff that is now worth more money than it's been in a long, long time.

Today is an exciting and busy day because we are hosting an international delegation here on the Knolltop. Yes, there will be people from Austrailia and Canada coming to the farm today to see the herd. They are due to arrive after lunch and I will have a buffet of cheese and crackers, apples and apple dip, grapes, fresh, hot sweetrolls and of course milk, iced tea and coffee.

This all sounds so exicting doesn't it? It sounds like something that would happen at Arethusa Farm in Connecticut or Mohrfields in Ohio on a regular basis, but really I have to come clean. Jerseyboy, aka Russell Gammon, the executive secretary of Jersey Canada and two Austrailian fitters who are here to work a couple of shows with Budjon are on their way down to Louisville and they wanted to stop in for a visit.

But, they are international guests...and I will be feeding them all that stuff and they will see the herd...so while I made it sound a big deal, we're really a good half way point for them to stop and stretch their legs and get a free bite to eat. I guess it's all a matter of perspective, isn't it?

Well, I've got lots to do before the international delegation comes, I'd better hop to it! Don't worry, I'll take lots of pictures of them for everyone to see...people get so tired of being in front of my camera!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

She's gone!

It's a cool clear morning on the Knolltop and at 5:30 am, Holly was being milked and then was loaded onto the trailer and was headed to Hardy's to be loaded onto another trailer to head south. By now, she should be somewhere in Indiana and her crew awaits her in Kentucky. I told you before I wouldn't believe she was going to Louisville until I saw her on a trailer headed south and now she is!

For those of you who have never shown a cow, this all sounds like "udder" foolishness, (couldn't resist) I know. But Holly is very special to us here on the Knolltop and wherever she ends up this weekend, on the top(highly doubtful) or on the bottom(I hope not) she will still be the same special cow when she returns home safely.

Bobby, Luke and Brad will head out early Saturday morning and will stay there until after the she shows on Monday. The show starts at 11:30 am and I was told by Lori of Knolltop Morgans that you can watch the show on the North American International Livestock Exposition website.

Of course now you know on Monday the only thing that will get done are chores as I will be glued to my computer screen watching every silly minute of a cow show that has no significant impact on world peace or lower gas prices! But my baby will be there showing at his first big show and that's all that matters in my world.

In the meantime, until I can get Bobby in a vehicle headed south, I have to put up with a sleepless man who spends all his time worrying about his favorite cow, making sure all the cows will be milked and fed properly while he's gone and that Knolltop Farm doesn't fall apart while he enjoys his time in KY. He is a special man...but really...we'll be just fine....really....