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Posted 9/1/2017 5:30am by Kinley Coulter.

truck trÉ™k/ (noun) - a large, heavy motor vehicle used for transporting goods, materials, or troops.

     If someone told me that they were going to confiscate all but three of my earthly possessions and I was still expected to farm with only those three items… I wouldn’t hesitate about what to choose to keep: my tractor, my skid-loader and… last but not least… my faithful, trusty pickup truck. These three, indispensable tools are the 'Atlas’ shoulders' that support all of the rest of our farming operation. When Rebecca asked what I was going to write about in this week’s essay, the eyes of my mind wandered out of the dining room to the somewhat motley row of pickup trucks parked in a neat row outside of the farm house here at Coulter Farms. When we were new to farming, I used to wonder how a farm could need more than one pickup. Now, I know. Having 5 pickups guarantees that one is always running and available for service.

 'The Gray Truck'


     The first truck that would like to acquaint you with is really the only one fit to take out in public. Popularly known as ’The Gray Truck’, (for reasons that should be intuitively obvious to the most casual observer), this mighty pickup is a 2016 Ford F-350 Crew Cab XL with a honkin’ big 6.7L Powerstroke Diesel engine. Doesn’t that sound impressive? Direct Injection? Oh, yeah! Twin intercooled turbos you say? Brrrr...I get goosebumps just thinking about it. This 3 1/2 ton work horse hauls our farm market staff and a 32’ gooseneck trailer loaded with our farm’s produce about 1,000 miles per week to our three farm markets in the DC area. Most of our fellow farm market vendors have a dedicated truck for market. We have decided to use this truck 3 days per week at the farm as a pickup and three days as a farm market truck. It makes us feel a little better about tying up so much money in sheet metal that it gets used every day but Sunday. The trip to DC has to be made with a highly reliable truck, because if we break down on the way to market… we lose a market, which is an unthinkable catastrophe. Breaking down on the way home is a little less painful but it’s no picnic. Stranded on the side of the road, in the dark, as six lanes of traffic roar past, in the sweltering 95 degree heat, with a trailer full of perishable milk, cheese, meat and ice cream? No, Thanks! The rest of our trucks have a variety of jobs that are important but not nearly as ‘mission critical’ as the gray truck’s work.

 'The Green Truck'


     Moving down the truck line from ‘the presentable’ to ‘the, frankly, disgraceful’… the next truck in the line is a well worn 2012 F-250. This truck is pushing 140,000 miles and was retired from the DC run last year after 500 round trips to market. Designated: 'The Green Truck,’ it has well earned its retirement work here at the farm. It might be pulling a 13’ wide hay mower or a gooseneck trailer full of firewood one day and then have 4 heifer calves and some 5 gallon buckets of calf milk in the back of it the next. The family would occasionally like to use this vehicle for personal purposes but the back seat and the bed of the truck are usually chock full of tools and supplies and a variety of debris that might come in handy for farm work but which leave no room for car-seats or groceries.

 'The Blue Truck'
   

     The next truck of note is a 2005 Chevy pickup with 240,000 miles. Known, affectionately as ’The Blue Truck’… this is the nicest truck that is allowed to be driven in pastures. Driving in pastures is a messy and lowly job because the truck will, for sure, come out of the pasture spattered with brown ‘fertility.’ Our rule of thumb is that any truck worth more than $1,000 will not be asked to muck around out with the bovine deposits. Unfortunately, the blue truck is on the wrong side of that thin brown line and is often invited to volunteer for hazardous ‘pasture work.’

 'The New Ranger'

     The last two pickups are both Ford Rangers. 'The New Ranger’ is a 1994 model… older than all of my children, but newer than the ‘old ranger’. 'The Old Ranger' is a 1991. It was wrecked once and later wrecked again… then, it was finally rolled over by a young married man in the Church. He traded it to us, with no title, in exchange for a little bit of backhoe work we did at his house. The windshield is half smashed out of it; the doors mostly close, but not really, because of the twisted frame; and you can see the grass passing by under your feet through the holes in the floorboards. After 10 years of service on the farm, to its credit, the ‘old ranger’ still has 3 of its original 5 transmission gears and mostly ambles around the farm at a modest 10 mph. It’s not much, especially when rain pours in through the vacant half of the windshield… but, it totally beats walking and it can haul a surprising load of fence posts for such a tiny truck.

 'The Old Ranger'

     My son thought it would be only fitting to pay my written respects to those trucks that paid the ultimate price in service to our farm. Every farm has a pickup graveyard. ‘The Black Truck’ was our first farm truck and bravely endured the battle blast of our early farming years. Today, when a tractor is stuck (and why did you need to get that close to the mudhole?), we pull it out with another tractor. Back in the day, we only had one tractor and when it got stuck, we were stuck.  So we got out a heavy chain and asked the black truck to march into the fray… and asked to perform many other life threatening jobs, as well. ‘The Gold Truck’ was our first diesel truck. It died a long, expensive death… after an anguishing year of $10,000 in repairs, we finally abandoned all hope and pushed it into the woods. ’The Nissan Truck’ served a short tenure here… Its frame rusted through, and on the way to the shop to have the frame welded, the engine blew up. Oh well, at least we didn’t waste any money fixing the frame.’The old dump truck’ and ’Tom’s old Truck’ are quietly watching the farm's seasons come and go from their own, protected, quiet vantage point in the woods. It’s hard to walk past these old friends, in their humble, neglected resting place and not stealthily pat them on the fender as I go past… fondly remembering their long, faithful service to me. 

Posted 8/15/2017 4:31pm by Kinley Coulter.

     After 17 years of adventures on the farm, we are, at long last, rejoicing in our first cool, wet July and August. Pastures and hayfields are growing explosively and our barns are full of hay, already. The dog days of summer are usually a brown, crispy, roasting, depressing time for man and beast… this year has been blessedly different.


     Thinking about rain and water blessings and challenges, as well as a question I received in an email, motivated me to write a little bit about water and how essential it is at our farm. In a pasture based farm like ours, getting water to any and all animal groups spread out across 90 acres here at home, 50 acres where we graze our beef and 80 acres where our sheep and dairy heifers graze requires a lot of infrastructure. We are still burying water lines to carry water to the far reaches of all of these pastures. This year alone we buried 3,000 feet of black 1” plastic pipe to a depth of 30 inches. At this depth, the bitter cold of winter is powerless to freeze our precious water supply to the animals.  In the photo above, Jason is backfilling the trench after the pipe is laid.

     We make use of 'freeze proof hydrants', like this shiny new one the boys just installed, to get the water above ground and into water troughs. When we shut off these hydrants, they drain themselves empty to keep from freezing. Overall, we have buried almost 3 miles of water line in our pastures. We finally broke down and bought a trencher attachment for our skid loader, which gouges out a 6” trench as deep as we need… up to 48”. Surface water lines are highly vulnerable to being damaged by farm equipment and animals, not to mention exposing us to bone-chilling frozen pipe repairs in bitter cold weather.  While the animals drink less in the winter, they still need fresh water every day.

     Significantly, during the summer the animals are much happier drinking cool, 55 degree water from underground pipes... compared to yucky, 110 degree bath water out of a long surface hose… animals appreciate many of the same things people do.

     One major problem we face, especially with cattle, is ‘crowd drinking.’ When Rebecca was homeschooling our 3 boys… if one decided to use the restroom, you can imagine what the other two immediately (desperately) needed to do. When it’s 95 degrees and one cow decides she needs 10 gallons of nice cool water… no problem. When the herd sees one animal ambling off towards the water trough… all of a sudden all 40 cows are instantly about to drop over dead from their life-threatening thirst. So, ‘crowd drinking’ is set off as the whole herd starts at a slow, meandering walk to the distant water trough. It only takes one cow to decide she would be glad to be first at the trough… (after all, who wants the other cows’ slobber in your nice clean water?)...so she starts trotting. Suddenly, 50,000 pounds of bovines are mooing, bawling, thundering and hurtling at warp speed towards the pathetic, trembling, 150 gallon plastic water trough. The first 15 cows get their 10 gallon drink. The next several get theirs as the beleaguered hydrant struggles to refill the trough. Then the remaining 22 incite an angry riot to be the next in line to drink. You would be impressed to see how effectively cows can climb on top of each other to get to a water trough before they succumb to (perceived) deadly dehydration. At some point, without fail, the doomed trough is upended, trampled and crushed and the water supply creates an extensive, sloppy mud puddle in the midst of the pandemonium. An experienced farmer can identify the bawling of cows in a water dispute from a mile away. Sigh….. ‘crowd drinking’ is highly annoying. We have learned, the hard way, that the closer we can have the trough to where the animals are grazing, the less of an issue ‘crowd drinking’ becomes. So, you see why we want to have buried water lines available in all of our far-flung pastures. 

     We have 5 wells on our 3 farms, supplying precious, life giving water to our animals. Actually 6, if you count the 500 foot deep 6” hole we drilled, and finally abandoned, after $4,000 worth of drilling produced nothing but dry dust out of the hole. It is baffling to me that we could move the drilling rig 100 feet to the south-east and hit water… go figure! The rest of our wells are all prolific… plenty of water for animals and the farmer’s family. But, sadly, not enough to do any irrigation… leaving us to the vagaries of natural rainfall. So, the next time you bend over at a water fountain for a refreshing drink, look around you and imagine having to elbow your way through dozens of people to get to the water… Thankfully, this is not a common occurrence… neither at the water fountain nor at the water trough.

Posted 7/25/2017 4:06pm by Kinley Coulter.

     Sweltering, humid weather descended on our farm with a vengeance this past few weeks.  July and August are always a challenge here at Coulter Farms.  Our pastures are a diverse mix of 40-50 species of grasses and legumes but they are nearly all ‘cool season’ herbs.  This means that they thrive in cool/wet weather (spring and fall) and desperately want to go dormant (sleep) in hot dry weather.  We do our best to keep the pastures awake and productive in the summer with carefully timed rotational grazing and fertility applications… but despite our best efforts… pasture quality declines precipitously in hot weather.  The Hereford beef animals, the Jersey dairy cows, the Katahdin sheep, and even the farmer and his family get kind of grumpy and tired when the long days get hot and dry, and the flies move in to pester us mercilessly.   Ragweed and thistles thrive and the rest of the pastures get crispy and brown.  Meat animals stop gaining weight and the milk cows’ milk volume drops off 20-40%… no one feels like eating in the heat.  

     Another challenge on the farm in scorching hot weather is refrigeration.  We have a 700 gallon chilled milk tank,  two reefer trucks, a walk-in cooler, a walk-in freezer and two chilled cheese aging ‘caves’ (actually converted semi reefer trailers).  One of those caves had me grumbling last week.  

     If we ever have a refrigeration failure… there is a 99% chance it will happen when we are sleeping.  There is no sound more depressing than that of our ‘high temperature alarm’ blaring at 2am at 130 dB.  

     The alarm sounds quite a bit like two chainsaws in locked in desperate, mortal combat…. jolting a poor, hapless farmer out of a comfortable but sticky bed.  Somehow, my boys sleep soundly enough to insist, the next morning, that they never heard the alarm.  So, dad stumbles out of the house into the humid pitch blackness, 130 long paces to the walk-in cooler and finds... 36 degrees… normal.  OK.  So he feels his way, in the dark, into the shop to reach the walk-in freezer… tripping over a floor jack and kicking over a pail full of gravel ("what in the world are those girls doing with a pail full of gravel in the middle of my shop floor?"…. he grumbles).  The walk-in freezer is humming contentedly at 5 below zero.  That’s the good news.  The bad news?  The cheese cave is,  obviously,  too warm.  Sure enough… 58 degrees when it should be 50 degrees.  

     This is a problem but not a crisis.  I spend a little time fiddling around with the controls, wishing I had brought a flashlight.  Squinting at the circuit breaker box to disable the alarm, I realize that my bleary eyes can’t read the writing on the breakers.  (Mental note to self:  next time, bring a flashlight AND glasses)  So, I’m reduced to blindly flipping breakers until the accursed alarm is finally, mercifully, silent.  Peace reigns again in the night!   I decide that the problem can wait until morning and stumble back to bed.  It could have been worse.  The next morning we found a defective temperature probe caused the problem.  People wonder why summer is not my favorite season…

     Oh well, the nights are getting longer and cooler… the animals and the farmer will survive August… September, and its cool nights, is coming. :

Posted 7/11/2017 8:54am by Rebecca Coulter.

     Yesterday the boys put the cows into a fresh pasture of Sorghum Sudangrass, which is a drought tolerant, heat loving annual grass that Jason seeded this spring.  In the morning it looked like this:

     This multi-purpose grass suppresses weeds and adds organic matter to the soil, and the roots loosen the subsoil.  It is also a delicious treat for cows.  By this morning the pasture looked like this:


     The next step is for the cows to convert it all to wonderful, healthy 100% Grassfed Organic milk.  Here they go to the milking parlor!

  

Posted 6/28/2017 9:36am by Kinley Coulter.

     Before we ever started milking cows, we began work on the ice cream recipe that we use today for our farm’s 100% Grassfed Ice Cream. I have a Chemistry background and am deeply suspicious of so-called ‘food'- with processing, additives, preservatives, stabilizers, emulsifiers, dyes and sweeteners that remind me of my Industrial Chemistry courses from back in the ’80’s. Back in the day, we made our family’s ice cream the old fashioned way, in an electric ice cream freezer that we bought for $2 at a garage sale. It made 4 quarts of ice cream in a long, noisy hour that required a lot of diligence to keep children from extending the process and reducing our yield with endless ‘tasting’.


     Today we use a much more elaborate batch freezer that, unfortunately, was not bought at a garage sale. On the positive side, it can make 24 quarts of ice cream in 10 minutes. We make the base for the ice cream right on the farm with our own milk, cream and eggs. We add organic cane sugar, gelatin, and vanilla/cocoa/coffee flavorings and end up with a truly old-fashioned, farmstead ice cream. We were told that we could not match commercial ice cream for mouth feel and flavor without a bunch of additives. While that may be true, we feel like ours is as close to a ‘healthy, no-guilt’ ice cream as you can get… It’s the only ice cream I’ll eat.

     We sell 90% of our ice cream in June, July and August. We don’t need to do a marketing study to figure out why… sultry hot summer days fairly ‘scream for ice cream'. It’s a bit of a challenge to keep it cold and hard at farm market when temperatures get into the 90’s. We have had very good success with a ‘cold plate’ ice cream cart that can hold ten below zero temperatures without electric for 12 hours. We are experimenting with dipping waffle cones this summer out of this cart. Dipping 100 cones makes market a little hectic but it’s very gratifying to see the entire farm market (or so it seems) walking around with ice cream cones in their hands and broad smiles on their faces. We also now have a small freezer that can run in our van off the cigarette lighter. (Isn’t it amazing that something designed to make heat can keep ice cream cold?)

     Ice cream is one of the products that we make just because we want to. It probably doesn’t sell enough volume to justify the effort and expense but we treat ourselves to making it simply for the fun of it. One of the side benefits of being in the ice cream business is having what we think is the best ice cream in the world handy in the freezer to melt over a hot dessert… Yum! You can have this ice cream in your freezer, too. When you are indulging in some Coulter Farms ice cream, you can remember that you are supporting our family and our cows. 

 

Posted 6/13/2017 9:47am by Kinley Coulter.

     The boys spent a long day last week worming our flock of 100 lambs and 80 ewes. It occurred to me that many of our customers have no concept of the difference between conventional and organic lamb. Of all the products we produce on the farm, Lamb is definitely the toughest to manage with Certified Organic practices. ‘100% Grassfed’ is easy. Our lush, nutrient rich pastures can easily produce stout, healthy 100 pound lambs during the green season… from March lambing until November slaughter. The difficulty is in managing parasites… specifically, intestinal worms. Lambs are highly vulnerable to these parasites which cause skinny, sorry looking lambs at best, and dead lambs at worst.

     Non-organic lamb production addresses this difficulty with a wide range of toxic, systemic wormers. These wormers are a veritable ‘witches brew’ of chemicals that end in the letters ‘cide’…. as in ‘pesticide’, ‘herbicide’, ‘homicide’, ’suicide' etc. Our English word ‘cadaver’ comes from the same root as ‘cide’…it means ‘slayer’ or ‘killer’. The nice part of chemical wormers is that they rapidly kill all the worms in a lamb’s gut. The ‘not so nice’ part is that wormers are not ‘specific’, they are ‘systemic’… that means they are ingested and spread through the entire animal. Wormers are given at a dosage that kills worms but (hopefully) stops short of poisoning the animal… much the same as chemo kills cancer but, hopefully, not the patient. A serious problem with worming is that there are only so many different poisons available to use. As flocks are dosed, over and over, with the same ‘little black bag’ of chemical wormers, the worms develop resistance to those poisons and require ever higher dosages. This upward spiral ends when the resistant worms can only be killed by a high enough dosage of wormer that the lamb gets sick (or worse) from the wormer… the supposed ‘medicine’ is worse than the worms. The ‘dirty underside’ of conventional lamb operations is that the lambs have been dosed three to eight times, during their lifetime, with poison that leaves a measurable residual in the meat. So, given a choice, would you rather serve your friends and family a lamb that was chemically wormed or not chemically wormed?



     So, how DO we produce strong, healthy lambs without any chemical wormers? We use a two pronged, natural approach. Several times a year, we feed the lambs a natural dewormer, which is nothing more than garlic, black walnut hull powder and diatomaceous earth (which is just finely ground up sea-shells). This produces a miserable condition for the worms in the gut but causes nothing worse than ‘bad breath’ in the lambs. The other weapon in our deworming arsenal is rigid rotational grazing. The lambs are constantly ‘shedding’ worm eggs in their manure as they graze on pasture. This soils the grass and, after 5 days, the eggs hatch and the little baby worms climb up the grass leaves and are ingested by the grazing lambs. We make sure that lambs are never, ever on the same pasture for 5 days and that they don’t return to soiled pasture for at least 45 days. After 45 days, all of the hatched worms have died and the pasture is safe to be re-grazed.



     When we started raising organic lamb, we were told it could not be done. I took that as a challenge… and, 13 years later, we are here to tell you that, while it is not easy, you can raise Certified Organic lamb on pasture with no grain and no chemical wormers. Try Googling ‘Certified Organic 100% Grassfed Lamb’… you will see how few producers there are and ‘Coulter Farms’ will be very high in the search results. I decided, as a young boy, that lamb was a strong, greasy, overall unpleasant meat. I was pleased to discover that ours is mild, sweet and delicious. I hope you’ll try some. But if not, at least you know a little bit more about what goes in to raising animals at Coulter Farms. I’m not sure I’d want to have been born a lamb… but if I was a lamb, I would want to spend my life here on thick, green, organic pastures with no ‘wormer-chemo’ treatments.

Tags: sheep
Posted 5/30/2017 3:39pm by Kinley Coulter.

   

     Did you ever read the ‘Little House’ series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder? ‘Farmer Boy’, documenting the early life of Almanzo Wilder, Laura’s future husband, describes a traumatic event in his childhood where he threw a stove blacking brush at his sister in his mother’s prized parlor… the pride and joy of his Mother's home… leaving a disgraceful, indelible and awful stain on the wall of that sacred room. I was reminded of that episode the first time the boys let the cows into our spotless, gleaming, new milking parlor in March. The first cow to lift her tail and ‘leave a deposit’ on the perfect, new concrete got a withering look from Jason and Jacob after they had toiled for five months on their prized parlor.

    

     Construction on the farm always and only happens in the winter because, well, that’s the only time we can do it. So they excavated in freezing rain, ran heaters to keep the footer and concrete block from freezing, hung roof trusses and screwed on steel in the snow. They plowed snow off the ground to grade it for a sloped concrete floor until, FINALLY, they were out of the weather in the nascent parlor and could work indoors on plumbing and structural steel and electrical fixtures.

 

     Anyway, the parlor is well ‘broken in’ by now, and is doing the job it was built for, admirably. We can line up 12 cows at a time and get the milking done in an amazingly short time. The cows enjoy a taste treat, while being milked, of half a pound of organic cane sugar each day. They attack their treat with the vigor of a dozen preschoolers, eagerly racing to see who can lick a lollipop down to the stick the fastest. Cows are very contented on lush pasture, but they are downright giddy when they get a few licks of sugar during the morning milking. It makes the job of getting the herd through the parlor a breeze.

 

     The efficiency and cleanliness of the new parlor is a sight to see. Gleaming stainless steel dominates the landscape. We had to suffer through 4 years in our pathetic antique parlor to appreciate this new one. Milk is cooled from ‘cow temperature,’ about 100 degrees, to 35 degrees in seconds. The fragile molecules that give real milk its remarkable flavor are very vulnerable to breaking down under the stress of being pumped. Our milking parlor and processing room were designed to minimize pumping. We make extensive use of gravity to drain milk, and vacuum to lift it gently. The milk we bottle and the milk we use to make our yogurt, ice cream, cheeses, kefir, etc. are all only ever pumped one time between the cow and your refrigerator. This makes the most noticeable difference in cheese, where the remarkable and complex flavor enhancing molecules are concentrated and magnified during the cheesemaking process. The best milk is minimally pumped and the best cheese is only stirred very gently. It’s always wise to handle precious things carefully.


     We built this parlor to last. It wasn’t cheap but if it lasts the 25 years we designed it for, it will only have cost us $10 per day, or 10 cents per gallon of milk on a 100 gallon day. I’ll leave you to do the math on what it costs to build an efficient, modern, milking parlor with farm labor in this day and age… it’s too depressing to talk about big expenses like that… I like little numbers like 10 cents :). So, the next time you pour yourself a tall glass of rich, fresh, sun-golden organic milk from Coulter Farms, you can visualize where it came from a little better… and you’ll know what 10 cents of your purchase went to pay for!

Tags: parlor
Posted 5/17/2017 8:00am by Kinley Coulter.

     Here at the farm, spring is the time for lambs and calves and baby piggies.  It seems that we need to add puppies to that list.  

        

     We have not had a dog at the farm for the last several years and my middle son, Jason, reminded me that when it was ME spending long days on the tractor, I would, invariably, take my trusty dog ‘Fly’ with me.  Jason has inherited most of the tractor work on the farm since Dad is at farm markets so often and he felt he needed a dog to keep him company.  He remembers my stories about Fly shortening my long tractor days for me by patiently listening to my stories and commiserating about my problems as we mowed hay or spread manure.  

     She would tremble with excitement when she saw a rabbit or a ground-hog or a snake from her lofty perch on the tractor.  When I felt particularly magnanimous, I would stop the tractor, open the cab door and enjoy watching her try to catch that pesky bunny (she never caught one) or give the ground-hog or snake a run for his money (she did get a few of those!).  You can imagine the varmint’s surprise when the poor, safely cooped up Border Collie on the tractor came zooming after them… reveling in her new-found freedom.  Some days were so hot that the purportedly air-conditioned cab was hotter than the outside air and my tongue would hang out further than Fly’s.  I would offer her a drink out of my water bottle (I know… a little yucky… I wonder if she thought so, too?).  She invariably accepted the drink but,  never once the offer to ‘Go Home!’… to retreat from the scorching hay field to the precious, familiar, cool, shady spots at the house.  I HAD to be out roasting in the field… she was there of her own free will.  She was nothing if not a faithful tractor friend!

 
 Fly had a long, happy life at the farm… but she met a tragic end that was, at least partly, her own fault.  She had a few character flaws (like most of us)… but the worst one was her ongoing battle with the momma beef cows.  The cows that had new calves were extremely protective of them and Fly would agitate cows just for the pure, wicked joy of it.  The cows saw any dog as just a glorified, 'calf stalking' wolf.  Fly would creep out in the pasture and pretend to be interested in a tiny taste of a calf.  The momma would notice and bellow at her.  Within a fraction of a second, 35 other momma cows were bellowing and thundering after the miscreant ‘wolf.’  One time Fly came ‘flying’ past me, shot around behind me and cowered in mortal fear.  I looked at her, quizzically, until I felt the earth quaking in a most disturbing manner… the ground was, literally,  shaking under the stampede of the entire brood cow herd… 50,000 lbs of angry momma cows blindly pursuing the dog.  The worst part was that I stood between the cows and the object of their wrath.  I nimbly leaped away from Fly and she, even more nimbly, leaped behind me again.  This maneuver repeated itself a time or two...  To make a long story short, I survived the encounter but I charged Fly with putting my life in danger to pay for her ‘fun.’  


     That ‘fun’ ended up costing her her life.  She would annoy cows when we were working in the pasture with our old farm pick-up truck.  She would race away from their ire and hide, triumphantly, under the truck… safely out of the agitated cows’ reach… sometimes even nipping at their noses when them stuck them under the truck.  Perhaps you can see where this sad story is going.  Not once, but twice, Fly was playing her game right in front of a truck tire and got run over when it moved while she was preoccupied with her ‘cow games’.  She recovered twice, but not thrice.  Despite our best efforts to check under the truck and scold her out of the pastures… her misdeeds were her undoing.  Poor Fly.  At least is was a mercifully instant end.   I was devastated to lose my friend and when I started to get over it… in a moment of weakness… we got a new ‘Fly’ puppy so Jason would have his own ‘tractor friend’ during long days of field work.  We hope to exhort her to ‘play nice’ with the cows and sternly admonish her to stay out from under trucks.  With all of the equipment operating on a farm, fear of being squished is an essential life-skill…. not just for dogs, but for people, too!

      So, we find ourselves with not one, but two puppies at the farm.  Fly and Gypsy are enjoying us and each other and making things a little brighter at Coulter Farms this spring.

 

 

 

Tags: dogs
Posted 4/15/2017 12:54pm by Kinley Coulter.

    'Tax Day’… April 15th… Certainly a day of Infamy for beleaguered taxpayers.  April 15th has a different name at Coulter Farms…’Pasture Day’.    This is the date that we schedule our hay supplies to run out, confident that we can turn the ruminants, here, out onto green pastures.  We feed approximately six 1,500 lb. round bales of hay per day to sheep, beef cattle and Jersey dairy cows, from about Thanksgiving through ‘Pasture Day’.   A little quick calculation is sobering… 150 days at six bales per day and $80/bale for Certified Organic hay adds up to $84,000 worth of hay to winter over our ruminants.  And that figure doesn’t include bedding, mineral, feeding labor, equipment and buildings.  Sigh… no wonder 100% Grassfed milk and meat and cheese is costly.  

  

     Industrial agriculture’s answer to this is to ‘save money’ (and make more profit) by feeding grain… turns out you can put cheap weight on animals (and people) by essentially feeding them ‘jelly donuts’ in the form of starch.   It also turns out that in animal husbandry, just as in human nutrition, there’s no such thing as a ‘free lunch’… Things that appear to be cheap often come cloaked with insidious, hidden costs.  How many of today’s ‘mysterious epidemics’ of diabetes, obesity, cancer, dementia, ADHD, autism… not to mention environmental and rural/farm community and family breakdown costs can be traced back to so-called ‘cheap food’.  www.npr.org/.../your-grandparents-spent-more-of-their-money-on-food-than-you-do   I disagree with the conclusion of the article that ‘cheap food’ is a bargain… it matters what your food eats.  The cost of food before ‘industrial agriculture’ represented the true cost of producing ‘real food.’  Before WWII, everyone drank grass fed milk and ate grass fed meat… 

     Anyway, I feel like if you are on this mailing list, I’m probably preaching to the choir about the value of 100% grassfed.  So, I’ll get off my ‘grassfed’ soap box.  Maybe you will indulge me as I climb up on another soap box… 'co-mingling milk',

      'Co-mingling' milk is something that we as a society have accepted as normal, but was unknown to our great-grandparents.  Organic milk from stores comes from dozens or hundreds of farms and is ‘warehoused’ in massive raw milk silos where it is co-mingled.  Most of us learned about ‘Bell’ curves in junior high school.  So, what do Bell curves have to do with co-mingled milk?  Well, if milk from 100 farms is mixed in a silo, the milk from 50 of the farms has come from ‘below average’ farms.  What makes a farm ‘below average?’  Things like cleanliness and sanitation, animal welfare, animal health, integrity regarding organic farming requirements, and many other factors influence milk quality in ways that are not always tangible.  Out of 100 farms… whatever represents the ‘worst’ farm is in that silo, too.    As long as I’m on my soap-box… I’ll put in a plug for ’single source’ milk.

 

 

 

     The milk we use in our dairy products comes from a farm that we consider to be far out on the ‘good’ end of the Bell curve for quality…namely, Coulter Farms.  A farmer who watches several tons of his milk drive away on a tractor trailer, headed for a distant ‘milk factory’ to be mixed with milk from hundreds of other farms can’t help but to have a different attitude towards his milk than we do.  We know that every single gallon we milk out of our cows will be processed by us, and we have to hand that block of cheese, that quart of yogurt, that half gallon of milk, that tub of butter over to our friends at market.  These are people that we know and appreciate, and people we have to face every week.  These are people who literally put food on our dinner table as they purchase our dairy products. This gives us tremendous satisfaction, and is a powerful motivation to produce exceptionally clean, healthy, wholesome, nutrient dense milk.  So, on that next dismal, rainy market day when you’re considering just picking up milk at Whole Foods… get your umbrella and galoshes out and trudge on down to the soggy folks at the Coulter Farms booth for ‘single source’ milk.  The votes you cast with your food dollar make a difference.

     Support 100% Grass Fed!  Resist Co-mingling!  :)

Posted 4/13/2017 6:15pm by Kinley Coulter.

     Our discussion at breakfast this morning reminded me that every April is the same.  The conversation was not about ‘How to get it all done’… rather, it was a more realistic topic… ‘What shall we abandon all hope of getting done?’  The rapid transition from bucolic winter  to supernova-spring at the farm could be likened to revving a Ferrari to red-line and popping the clutch… you had better hang on tight!

 

     Highly productive and biologically dynamic pastures and hay fields are growing explosively…I’m pretty sure that on a still evening we can hear the grass growing!  Lambs are popping up (out?) daily; Jersey dairy cows are freshening and their calves are nosing around wonderingly; the beef cows are starting to calf; even farm markets are reproducing… they have proliferated from one per week to four per week in the last 7 days.  Whew!  

     Unfortunately, the days are not getting any longer.  We seem to be destined to have to manage all of this in a woefully inadequate 24 hour day.  Too much work and too little time?  Prioritizing is the order of the day… it just isn’t all going to get done.  We have manure that needs to be spread, fence that should be fixed, water lines that should get buried, fields that need to be reseeded.  Organic certification paperwork is overdue...Tractors never break except in April...Oh, and next Tuesday is tax day… sigh!   In the midst of all of this, the animals seem to expect to be tended, and fed, and assisted in birthing, and milked… and cheese and yogurt and butter and kefir and milk and curds and chocolate milk all need to be made.  Family and Church responsibilities are pressing...I feel the need to ask for patience from our precious customers as I know that the next three months will be a little ragged.  At least you’ll know why we have dark circles under our eyes and 'pasted on' smiles in April/May/June. :)

     But, all is not doom and despair.  We ARE blessed and need to remember to count our blessings.   The mild winter reduced animal hay consumption and we have precious leftover organic hay this spring.  The dry winter allowed us to treat the animals to a lot of ‘out on pasture’ days, which saves a fortune in organic bedding.  Our winter product drops and winter farm market were very well supported, which has rescued us from the standard ‘flat broke’ cash flow crisis that March usually brings.  We did bump the bottom of our bank account with a loud ‘Thump’ in March, but only after we had updated our market truck and our skid loader… so that was to be expected.  We are now milking in our ‘just in time’  finished milking parlor, and it has eliminated many of the woes of the old parlor.  We were able to invest some time and attention in our family over the winter, which does wonders for relationships that get a little stretched and neglected during the ‘green season’.   Opening a barn gate and letting a herd of animals out onto lush pasture gives a farmer a deep sense of fulfillment after they have been unnaturally confined for much of the winter.  I don’t speak ‘cow’ or ‘sheep’… but I can clearly read the joy on their faces as they stuff their muzzle into a patch of brilliant green grass, soft fluffy clover and magnificent dandelions... that gives even a harried farmer a warm, fuzzy, satisfied feeling inside.  Health, strength and meaningful work to do are often overlooked blessings, as well.  

 

 
     Last week, a customer asked me about why our Certified Organic 100% Grassfed ground beef was substantially tastier than what he could get at Whole Foods.  It occurred to me that something I take for granted might not be known by many of our customers.  Namely, that the majority of organic ground beef is from worn out, old, organic dairy cows.  These cows are bred to produce milk, not meat.  We have two separate herds of cows here, and none of our beef  comes from our dairy herd.   ALL of the beef we sell is from our herd of prime, plump, pampered,  Hereford beef cattle … born and bred on our farm… and never, ever having tasted anything but our organic grass and hay.   Hereford beef cattle are renowned and prized for their ability to thrive on a ‘grain free’ diet and the beef they produce is unparalleled (in my, admittedly biased, opinion).  So if you haven’t tried our beef… you are missing out!  My personal favorites are chuck roast, cheese burgers (I can recommend a good cheese supplier :)  )… and our minute steaks (they make OUTSTANDING cheese steaks and stir fry!)  

         You can pick up some of our 100% Grassfed, Certifed Organic beef, as well as all our other products, at the following farm markets:  Tuesdays - Crystal City Freshfarm Market, 3:00-7:00; Thursdays - Ballston Freshfarm Market, 3:00-7:00; Saturdays - Silver Spring Freshfarm Market, 9:00-1:00 and Old Town Alexandria Market, 7:00-12:00.  Enjoy the beautiful spring weather, and have a cookout this weekend!