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FARM NEWS/BLOG

Here's what we have been up to lately!
Posted 6/12/2020 6:29am by Kinley Coulter.

     As the balmy Dog-days of summer wax long and the summer solstice approaches... it is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that summer weather has arrived.  After some extensive interviews with our milk-cows, we have discovered that the pastures with lots of shade are their 'hooves-down' favorites!  

     During the cool early morning hours our Jerseys fill their stomachs ('Rumens,' actually, they have 4 consecutive 'stomachs'... amazing, but true!) with up to 40 gallons of partially chewed (masticated, actually) pasture clippings.  Then as the sun becomes warmer, they find a cool shady spot to lay down and 'ruminate', coughing up (I know... gross, right?) breakfast over and over to rechew the grass, and swallowing it again to be further broken down by the rumen bacteria in the marvelous fermenting vat we call 'the Rumen.'  Incredibly, there are billions and billions of the little critters in every cow's rumen.  The population of microbes in one cow's rumen outnumbers the human population of planet Earth!  

     The bacteriological activity of all these 'bugs' in their stomach is strongly exothermic... in laymen's terms: they produce major amounts of heat.  This is why cattle are already uncomfortable in the sun when the temperature rises into the 80s.  You wouldn't enjoy summer, either, if you had a propane-heater running in your stomach! Our dairy cattle much prefer (and make much more milk on)  an overcast day in the 40's than in this warm June weather.  While they do graze bits and nibbles during the heat of the day, they strongly prefer to wait until the sun goes down and the temperature drops to fill their rumens again.

 

     The bright, Sun-Golden color of our milk/butter/yogurt/kefir/cheeses/ice-cream gives powerful testimony to its nutrient density.  Massive amounts of beta-carotene (Vitamin A from their 'salad bar' pasture) as well as countless other biological nutrients in our grassfed milk give it the unmistakable 'grassfed milk' color.

    We think of 'bright-white' as the natural color of milk... but it is, actually, an aberration... a hyper-processed result of modern, industrial dairy practices.  Three generations ago, white milk was the watery, cheap stuff that got sent to the prisons to 'feed' the inmates.  Milk and cheese and butter that wasn't 'Sun-Golden' was hardly considered fit to eat...barely recognizable as food.  That is why, today, butter and cheese has coloring added to it to make it look rich and 'Grassfed.' 

 

     Just say NO to over-processed white 'prison' milk!  Come to our DC area Farm Markets and fill up your fridge with Rich, Creamy, Nutrient Dense, Sun-Golden, 100% Grassfed, Certified Organic Milk and gently processed dairy products!

 

 

Posted 5/22/2020 7:56am by Kinley & Rebecca Coulter.

The 'Milk Bottling/Cheese Processing Room' at Coulter Farms has been taken over by the 'Ice-Cream Making Team'.  We have just packed up 75 gallons of farm fresh ice-cream, made from our Certified Organic, 100% Grassfed Jersey Milk.  Actually, call it 74 1/2 gallons... we were forced to do a little product taste-test over lunch, today.

 

Our available flavors are: Coffee, Chocolate, Vanilla AND our newest edition... Peanut Butter!   Meagan's favorite is chocolate... since it absolutely does not stain your dress! :)


 Order Ice Cream here,  for  a tasty and healthy treat... oops!  It turns out Chocolate DOES stain :/  

 

Posted 4/30/2020 9:04am by Kinley Coulter.

Coulter Farms' milk tanks are almost overflowing with rich, creamy, sun-golden 100% Grassfed Organic milk these days.  We call this time of year 'the Spring Flush.'  The pastures are in their explosive growth phase and the cows are working overtime to graze it all.  

We do find a few challenges in the spring.  One challenge is being short on sun and warmth and long on rain.  The lush grass is wet, wet, wet.  In a few months, we will be struggling with too MUCH sun and warmth and too LITTLE rain.


Oh well, C'est la Vie!  The vagaries of the seasons are part of the thrill of being a pasture-centered grazing farm.  

We COULD coop the cows up on concrete, indoors, and put a highly-processed high-octane high-energy grain-based prepared feed in front of them, and life on the farm WOULD be simpler...but not better.


Milk production WOULD be higher... but, milk quality, taste and animal health would drop...


...our customers' health would suffer, too... and our own family's health, as well (We probably drink more of our own milk than most of you!)

So, it seems like when cows are out on organic pastures where they belong... EVERYONE wins!  :)

OK... it's settled... the cows will stay on pasture at Coulter Farms, after all.  

At least some of our farming decisions are really EASY!

 

Posted 4/24/2020 6:37am by Kinley Coulter.

     Spring, ahhh! Finally, SPRING!  Spring, thankfully, appears to be blissfully unaware of the Covid19 situation. It has flagrantly disobeyed Pennsylvania's 'Stay at Home' order... arriving at Coulter Farms right on time... even a few weeks early.  

     'Cows on Grass' has arrived as well.  I would say that no one is happier about that than us.  After a long winter of feeding hay and bedding cows and sheep, our lush organic pastures have become filled with animals.  After watching our cows come roaring out of their winter quarters... kicking up their heels and gorging themselves on spring grass... it occurs to me that the cows may appreciate spring's arrival even more than we do.

     Watching the cows tearing around the pastures in undisguised, unabashed, undiluted joy...I thought about what the end of our current national shutdown will look like when it finally comes.  I imagine we will all burst out of our social isolation with joyful abandon, and with a renewed appreciation for all of the 'little' things in life that turned out to not be so little when we are deprived of them.  Personally, I'm looking forward to getting back to 'good old' NORMAL... I don't think I appreciated it nearly enough. 

 

     When my son took this picture, he could only get one cow to take her muzzle out of the grass long enough to snap a quick picture... then she wheeled around and was back at it... filling her rumen with nutrient dense forage that will fill our milk tank (and your refrigerator) with rich, fresh, sun-golden organic milk...

 Even our young spring calves have dispensed with Social Distancing...

 
     This is a home-made 'milk bar.'  It feeds 16 calves their twice-daily abundance of fresh organic whole milk.  In between milk feedings, they are learning to graze on grass and clover and cavorting around the pasture together.  In two years, these calves should be big and strong and 'socially adjusted' and ready to join our milk herd.
 

 

Order some cheese, made here on our farm, from our Certified Organic, 100% Grassfed Milk here, and have it shipped to your door!

 

Posted 4/1/2020 7:57am by Kinley Coulter.

Perhaps you have been struck by the powerful message of the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue (by Arturo DiModica) on Wall Street in, NYC...   

 

The picture, below, of my granddaughter, reminded me of what fearlessness looks like in the face of an intimidating set of circumstances...
 
 
In contrast, my son’s Border Collie found her way into a pen of young dairy cattle where she didn't belong… generating some amusing and timely images of 'failing courage' when  'stout determination' was what was called for:
 
She started with a brave face...

 

Then, trouble multiplied like a virus…

 

 

By this point, it was too late to ‘flatten the curve’… 

 

Maybe we AND our Border Collie can take a lesson from the two ‘Fearless Girls’ pictured at the top of this blog post...  :)

We wish you a spirit of stout determination as we face an uncertain future.

 
Posted 3/27/2020 8:01am by Kinley Coulter.

Due to the Coronavirus restrictions, our Old Town Alexandria Market is limited to pre-orders only.  Please order in our online store, by 7:00 a.m. Friday, for Saturday pick up.  Thank you for supporting our family's farm, and stay well!

Posted 3/4/2020 9:32am by Kinley Coulter.

The beginning of March at Coulter Farms has brought:

Returning robins,

and rain,

and girls playing in the rain :-) ;

and new calves,

new lambs,

and new life.

 

We hope you are enjoying spring as much as we are!

 

Posted 12/5/2019 2:25pm by Kinley Coulter.

Confession time…

 
In my younger days, before I became so mature and dignified and wise, my wife’s brothers taught me how to do ‘hand-brake turns.’  (Be careful who you hang out with in your impressionable years…)
 
All right, I’m not proud of it… but it helps me illustrate the shocking transition from ‘the green season’ to ‘the white season’ here at the farm.  
 
 
For those of you who were never immature and foolish male teenage drivers, a handbrake turn involves a moderate (or, immoderate) amount of forward momentum in a motor vehicle, accompanied by a sharp yank on the steering wheel, and a simultaneous upward pull on the hand-brake.  (…snow is a very helpful lubricant.)  This maneuver produces a few seconds of thrilling, but terrifying, sidewise sliding until the car whips around to a stop, now pointed 180 degrees opposite from the previous forward momentum… ready to head off in a totally different direction (Unless this whole procedure was (foolishly, don’t try this at home) carried out on a public road, and witnessed by a peace officer… requiring some fast thinking, and faster talking, and superior story-telling skills).  We, mostly,  limit our ‘hand-brake’ turns, these days, to the safety (and legality) of the farm.  
 
 
 
 
After a particularly satisfying turn, there are, occasionally,  silent bovine witnesses.  They would definitely give us 'two thumbs up' for a crisply performed handbrake turn… except they don’t have functional thumbs.  So, they merely display their impressed approval by taking another bite of grass with a knowing smile… yes, they were young and wild, once, too…. dodging around the farmer, running through fences, and generally creating misbegotten havoc.
 
 
Anyway, I feel that December 1st always brings a screeching hand-brake turn to our farming operation.  
 
 
Gone is the warm sun… gone the verdant pastures..... and gone the bulging bulk tanks brimming, almost bursting, with 100% Grassfed, Certified Organic milk.  Sadly, the green season is gone (sniff, sniff.)  
 
 
The livestock move into our bright, open, warm, cozy barns and spend the next five months contentedly ruminating, and lounging on dry, fluffy bedding packs made of organic straw and chopped cornstalks  (and hay that wasn’t high enough quality to feed.)  The animals are very satisfied to watch the wind and rain and sleet and snow blow by, while their servant/farmers make up fresh beds, and carry hay right up to their sniffing muzzles 7 days a week.  What a life!
 
 
Winter milk volume falls off by 40% or more… even the best hay is no match for living green pasture grass.  There is less beta-carotene (Vitamin A) in the hay than there was is the pasture grass… so the milk will lose some of its startling, bright, orange (sun golden) hue.  On the positive side, we are late in the herd’s lactation.  This means the milk and cheese and yogurt and kefir that we make from winter milk is richer and sweeter than summer milk… more Omega 3’s and CLA fatty acids to feed your brain and invigorate your immune system.  
 
 
Even in the spring, our milk puts the pathetic store-bought  organic milk to shame.  Theirs is a paltry 3.5% butterfat… ours starts out, thin in the spring when the cows first start lactating, at over 4% butterfat. By winter, our milk is pushing hard on 6% butterfat…6%!!!   What a phenomenal food this winter milk is!  You should need a doctor’s prescription to get food that is this powerful of a medicine!  Industrial dairies rob their extra cream from you, and still have the nerve to call the depleted milk ‘whole’ milk by ‘standardizing’ it down to 3.5%.  We leave it ALL in your milk.  ENJOY our rich, sweet winter milk!  
 

 
Not only is our winter milk full of precious butterfat, it costs a LOT to produce.  Pasture grass is extremely efficient… it produces a lot of milk, and requires very little work and management from the farmer.  Winter is quite another story.   We have to feed and bed the cattle with hay and fodder that already has a lot of expensive labor in it.  THEN… to add insult to injury… we get a lot less milk for all of the work.  In a perfect world, winter milk, with all of its richness and cost of production, would cost half again what summer milk costs.  People are used to cheap corn and strawberries and tomatoes in the summer… and they expect to pay a premium for good produce in the winter.  For some reason, milk and dairy products are the same price, year round.  Industrial dairy cows are always on bedding and stored feed… so they don’t experience the cost swing that pasture based dairies endure.
 
 
Anyway, we enjoy our work and are happy to pass our exceptional winter milk on to our customers at the summer price.  It feels really good to know that our hard work is producing health and vigor and vitality in, literally, hundreds of families.  It’s also comforting to know that our winter customers will come out in all sorts of miserable weather at farm markets to support our farm.  We are WELL aware that they could abandon us and shop in warm, dry supermarkets… and we greatly appreciate your faithful patronage.  Also, we know that spring is coming, with its high milk volumes and low cost of production.  If we keep our wheels spinning here at the farm all winter, we can take off in a hurry in a better direction when the next ‘hand-brake turn’ launches us back into another ‘green season.’  

 

 

Posted 10/2/2019 1:18pm by Rebecca Coulter.

     Since our farm practices rotational grazing (which is moving the cows to a new section of  pasture every day or two), the herd ends up in the pasture just off our front porch about once a month.  One of the things I enjoy most about farm life is watching the cows wake up and have their breakfast before milking, at sunrise on a misty morning.



     The little girls enjoy visiting with the cows, through the fence.  Here they are, making friends with Rose.

      Because our bull, Dozer,  is in the pasture with the milking herd, the girls are not allowed to go into the pasture without a big brother or sister.  

     When they can get a protective adult to go with them, they like to collect apples from the orchard to feed the cows.  Here they are, trying to lure Miriam over for a treat.

     We all enjoy taking a break for a few minutes to watch Jacob gather up the cows and take them to the barn for morning milking.

     I usually don't agree with Kinley's assertion that fall is the best time of year, but misty autumn mornings, and a cup of coffee on the porch are ard to beat!

 

Posted 7/25/2019 11:31am by Kinley Coulter.

     Here at Coulter Farms we spend a fair amount of family time good-naturedly squabbling about what dairy products we do or don’t want to produce from our precious Sun-Golden Certified Organic 100% Grassfed Jersey milk.  One item we all feel very good about producing is Kefir.  

    A whole day of our milk production goes into making Kefir bi-weekly and we would like to make more… so I will endeavor (through this shameless marketing ploy) to turn you 'non-kefir drinking' folk into 'kefir neophytes'… with the confident expectation that after you try it… you will advance to becoming full-blown kefir addicts, like we are.

 
 
     Our list of FAQ’s from farm-market stretches to many dozens of common questions.  But the single most asked question is: ‘What IS kefir?’ 
 
 
     I’d like to answer that question here, in a little more detail than I have time to do at market.
 
     First, a little background on exactly WHAT Kefir IS.  Then... some practical information about how we make it and what it’s good for:
 
     Kefir (variously pronounced: KEE-fur, KEH-fur, ke-FEER) is a fermented milk beverage that has been enjoyed by hardy, healthy people for thousands of years. The word ‘kefir' is related to the Russian and Turkish words for ‘foam’… referencing the effervescent carbonation foam that results from fermenting the milk’s lactose (milk sugar) into a variety of stomach soothing and 'probiotic nurturing' acids.  Traditionally, sheep, goat and cow milk from the Caucasus, Turkey, Russia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe was inoculated with living kefir ‘grains' that, today, are called SCOBY’s (an Acronym for: a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeasts.)  These ‘grains' produced a robust and vigorous fermentation of the milk that would taper off and stop after several hours.
 
 
     To generate a more complete fermentation, the inoculated milk was put in goatskin bags and hung in a busy doorway.  Anyone that entered or left the house (or tent) was culturally expected to poke an elbow into the squishy bag of nascent kefir to jumpstart the stalled fermentation.
 
 
 
     Unlike yogurt which must be fermented at elevated temperatures, kefir SCOBYs do their amazing work at room temperature.  Here at Coulter Farms, we ferment our whole milk at 75 degrees for about 24 hours.  Sadly, we have yet to find a USDA approved goat-skin bag... so we have to make do with a 100 gallon stainless steel tank.  It’s not very romantic but it saves our dairy inspector from getting apoplectic when he visits us.  
 
 
     ‘Elbowing' this stainless steel tank is not very helpful..(AND  a little painful)... so we keep our fermentation going by mildly stirring the milk in the tank.  We are always careful not to over-stir… the amazing and complex flavor molecules in milk shatter into insipid pieces when milk is handled roughly.  Pumping milk (and worse, yet, homogenizing it…) wrecks the taste of all good milk, cheese, butter and yogurt, and kefir… so we transport almost all of our milk with extreme gentleness, hardly ever exposing it to a mechanical pump.  
 
     So we don’t elbow our kefir but you can rest assured that it is BARELY stirred enough to keep the fermentation on track.  You will taste the difference… I guarantee it! Here is Jess, ready to put our kefir bottler to work.
 
 
      The marvelous kefir that emerges from this fermentation vat has had essentially all of its lactose consumed… so, most people with lactose intolerance will find kefir to be very easy on their stomach.  In cultures where refrigeration is a rich-man's luxury, they appreciate that kefir can be stored for up to 30 days at room temperature.  We date our kefir for 35 days WITH refrigeration but we have experimented with drinking kefir that is several months old, and have not found it to spoil (it does get plenty sour, though.)  
 
     Many people appreciate that yogurt has a profound settling effect on their stomachs.  We have found that effect is multiplied in kefir.  Kefir has a much wider diversity of living bacteria species than yogurt... not to mention a variety of yeasts that are not present in yogurt at all.  If you ever want to eat breakfast, but you’re just not feeling like eating… try a little kefir and your appetite will come ROARING back.  
 
 
     As a Certified Organic farm, we never treat debilitating diarrhea in young calves with antibiotics.  We are glad to replace yucky antibiotics with far more effective probiotic kefir.  We have, many times, found a weak young calf struggling to eat, or even to stand up, hampered by diarrhea.  After gobbling down a quart of kefir, these calves have had remarkable, almost instant, recovery.  By the way, kefir works wonders on most varieties of gastro-intestinal distress in 2 legged creatures as well.
 
 
     Most of our kefir ends up just getting poured and drinken (drinked? drank?  drunk?) out of a glass.  But drinking kefir is just the proverbial ’tip of the iceberg’...  
 
     It really shines when used as a base in salad dressings, as a meat tenderizer, as a replacement for buttermilk in baking (kefir pancakes and waffles are out of this world!)  There is no end to the possibilities... kefir can be made into ice cream, used as a starter for sour-dough..... or just dump in some fresh fruit and enjoy a smoothie.  
 
     We add our honey and some vanilla to kefir, to make a bottled flavored kefir... but that's for the 'faint of heart'.  The true kefir aficionado tolerates nothing that dulls the glorious tang of unadulterated kefir... the first sip sets your teeth on edge... but from then on... YUM!  
 
 
     I hesitate to use the term 'life-changing' but if there is one of our products that I could say that about, with a straight face, it would be kefir.  We have added it to our store so we can ship it to 50 states.  It will ship out of here frozen... but if it arrives thawed, or even warm... we recommend that you just stick it in your goat-skin bag and give it a few bumps with your elbow!  Bon Apetit!