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Here's what we have been up to lately!
Posted 4/4/2019 10:01am by Kinley Coulter.

     April at Coulter Farms often arrives cloaked in deception.  Warm sun seems to offer an early spring, but cold nights and blustery days wipe out much of the sun's warmth.  The grass is brilliant green, luring the cattle out from the barns to attempt to graze the luscious, nutritive and healing fruits of photosynthesis... but, alas, all there is in the chilly pastures is green, with no grass.  So, we grass farmers begin a long 4 weeks of waiting for warm sun and green pastures to turn into significant amounts of grass that can support our cattle and sheep's needs.

    We have already bought into this 'April Fools' promise of imminent lush pastures, and put the animals out too soon... it doesn't work well.  After a week of cattle attempting to graze grass that is too short and too immature to produce milk, the green is gone from the pastures, and the animals are sick from trying to eat grass that is too high in protein and moisture, and too low in sugars and fats.  The cattle have no sense of humor about getting put back in the barns after a week out on sunny pastures.  Overall... everyone loses when we jump the gun.  

     We used to run greenhouses here at the farm and our neighbors had the same problem with desperately wanting to plant their gardens too early.  They would come to buy our greenhouse plants, and ask us (4 weeks too early), 'is it too early to plant our garden?'  We would warn them that it's way too early, but they would still buy flats and flats of peppers and tomatoes and annual flowers... only to see them frosted and withered a few days later.  Oh well, at least we got to sell them a bunch more plants!

     One thing we CAN do in early April is get this year's fertility onto the pastures and hay fields.  We spread chicken manure on our fields for its vital and abundant fertility.  It helps us produce lush and nutrient dense grass that our dairy and meat animals need to thrive without any grain in their diet.  It also helps our grasses remain green and vibrantly growing through summer's dry spells that would otherwise turn grass brown and dormant.

     These are pictures of our manure spreading rig in action...

 

       Here, Jason is filling the spreader with 7 tons of manure...

      Sadly, the next photo shows what needs to be done when the apron chain, in the bottom of the spreader, breaks... it takes a lot longer to unload a spreader with shovels than it does to fill it with a skid-loader.  At least Jason found a sympathetic friend (brother Jacob) to help.

      Emptying a spreader with a shovel on a windy day and then pressure washing the broken parts is not a job for the faint of heart... messy, messy, messy... Jason may have to sleep in the barn tonight if his wife won't let him into the house...

 

      If you look closely, you can see the damage we had to repair on the chain just above the hydraulic spinners....

 

 

     Winter winds and snow were the last straw for this decrepit wagon shed on the side of one of our barns... the ancient shed was just about done for, anyway...still, it's part of our farm's history and we were sorry to see it go...

 

      Now it was time to tear it down and haul it away...This is the scene from the skid loader waiting to roar into 'demolition mode.' 

 

      On a brighter note, by April, lambing is almost finished at the farm.  Our younger daughters enjoy feeding the occasional 'bottle lamb' that gets orphaned when its mother abandons it... here, Sabrina is enjoying 'Bathsheba' after filling her with a bottle of warm, fresh, Certified Organic 100% Grassfed milk...

 

      We also welcomed a new granddaughter, Avriel Irene, shown here with proud Daddy Jared, and our 4 year old daughter, Aunt Meagan.

      April is quite the transition time on the farm.  In just a few weeks every animal on the farm will be frisking around the pastures in joyful abandon.  The pastures and hayfields are practically trembling with super-charged growth potential.  The bulk tank in the milk house is fuller with milk every day as more and more Jersey cows freshen (have their calf) and begin producing fresh, sun-golden  organic milk.  Our farm markets are all restarted now after a long, bleak winter...

     The days are longer, the soil is warmer and smiles pop up onto farmers' faces a little quicker in April... even a face covered with chicken manure...

Posted 3/29/2019 10:05am by Kinley Coulter.

    Ahhhh… April at last!  Spring has sprung at Coulter Farms and our new laying hens are swinging into major egg production mode.  The hens' innate drive to lay prolifically  in the spring fits the start of our three spring farm markets very nicely.  Most of our ‘laying ladies’ are brand new to egg laying and are probably grateful to have been designed to lay ‘miniature’  pullet eggs for the first month or so.  Full size eggs coming from under-sized young poults can be an anatomical challenge, to say the least.  These special spring ‘maiden eggs’ are highly sought after for their ‘egg-ceptional’ flavor.  Many restaurants make a big deal of any menu items they can provide that are made with spring pullet eggs… try googling them.  They cannot be bought at grocery stores because they don’t fit the ‘cookie cutter’ industrial egg industry model.  We can only supply them in April… so enjoy the seasonality of small scale egg production… vive le difference!

     We are selling 18 pullet eggs for the dozen price… while they last!  Use three pullet eggs in place of two regular eggs, and expect an abundance of flavor :).    Regular size dozens will be in very short supply for the next month.  

 
     Watch for the transition in our eggs’  yolk color as they move from spacious, but dormant, winter pastures onto lush, green spring grass… and then enjoy the next transition as their diet starts to include various crawling and flying bugs and worms in the warmer weather.  My favorite eggs are July/August when the grasshoppers show up!  Besides, there are few things more entertaining than watching a pasture full of hens frantically pursuing equally frantic grasshoppers… who needs television?  Maybe we need a web-cam???  We start out with mostly fresh, new hens every spring.  One advantage of this for the egg consumer is that a laying hen’s first egg is her most nutrient dense and highly mineralized of her life… as hens keep laying, from one year into the next they are producing so many high quality pastured eggs that their skin and feathers visibly begin to fade and become pale… the  eggs’ yolks start to get pale and pathetic, too.  Anyway, it’s just another cycle you can watch as you purchase real food from a real farm.  We all know that strawberries in February are an aberration… now you know that eggs that are always the same are unnatural, as well.  
 
Posted 3/13/2019 3:41pm by Kinley Coulter.

     Right from the beginning, our stated goal with the 'Hoop Building Project' here at Coulter Farms was to absolutely, positively, ‘no matter what’...finish it in time for our March Lambing Season.  

 
      As usual with most of our big farm projects...it was a ‘nail-biter’ from start to finish! Unfortunately, we had been late starting in the fall and had frustrating construction delays related to the record squishy, soggy, no-good, too-wet year.  If you have been following this gut-wrenching saga in the mainstream national media,  you already know that the trusses and fabric roof were completed before the worst of the snow and wind arrived in January.  That was the GOOD news… now for the LESS good news.
 
     We had one great final challenge related to this building.  With January frost sinking into the ground and temperatures plummeting  towards the single digits and buffeting wind gusts approaching 70 mph… we desperately needed to get an ‘end wall’  built with strong sliding doors to relieve the momma ewes and Jersey heifer calves from the wind-tunnel effect of a hoop building that was facing North and open at both ends.  The south end of the building was designed to remain open to let in fresh air and the toasty-warm, winter sun. But, the open north end was allowing the prevailing winds to intrude, carrying unwelcome snow and rain deep into our marvelous building. 
 
      I’ll leave it for another time to consider the merits of the proposed wall on our nation’s southern border… the need for THIS wall on the northern border of THIS building was undisputed and had broad, bipartisan support… both animals AND farmers were solidly of one mind about it.  This wall MUST be built… and SOON.  Our momma ewes were looking like they could pop at any time.  Twin lambs in a ewe look big… triplets, a few days before lambing give the momma ewe a width that exceeds her length (like the momma in the foreground of the photo below).  The March 1st  lambing season was uncomfortably close at hand.
 

     Challenge accepted!  Bring on the undaunted and intrepid farmers doing their convincing imitation of builders!  
 
 
     The initial challenge was to engineer an end wall that could match the hoop-building’s impressive 90 mph wind rating.  We used an enormous scrap steel I-beam (It had been dragged in here from some auction by the boys… dad asked ‘what will we ever do with that thing?’… turned out we needed it) to be a header over the 24’ wide sliding doors.  
 
 
     The 30 foot tall upright poles for the wall had to be far stronger than 6x6’s so we laminated 2x10’s with hundreds and hundreds of nails to make a rugged support for our wall.
 
 
     The rock hard January frozen ground made digging a challenge but we chipped and hacked our way through the frost and anchored the poles on a solid concrete footer below frost depth.  
 
 
     Our farm shop welder was pressed into service to make ingenious custom brackets to tie the poles to the hoop truss 27’ above the ground.
 
 
     Then it was a simple matter to run lines of 2x4’s to support the steel skin of the wall.
 
 
     After all of this preparatory work, putting the bright red skin on the wall was FUN!
 
 
     Two sliding doors were readied and installed to allow equipment and hay and animals in and out.
 
 
      Then…a disappointing tragedy!  Shortly after the doors were installed we had two days and a night of shrieking wind that was as bad as any we’ve seen here in 20 year at the farm.  By the time the howling wind storm subsided…the sorry situation became evident.  
 
 
     Both big, bright, beautiful new sliding doors (along with one of another barn’s doors) were fallen casualties…torn loose and flipped mercilessly far from their buildings…the giant fallen doors resembled so many playing cards strewn in our pastures.  Here they are, rescued from the snowy pasture and waiting to be re-installed.
 
 
     We were all moping and grousing about having had such a shocking failure so soon after finishing the doors.  Sadly, we had been caught in a gamble.  We had been waiting for warmer weather to pour concrete to properly anchor the doors.  No one expected such traumatic winter wind… but we should have known.  Murphy’s Law (If anything CAN go wrong it WILL) is always hovering nearby when anything meaningful is attempted on the farm.  
 
     On a positive note… the wild, flying doors could have easily become enormous cruise missiles, knifing through the thin hoop building plastic cover or, worse, through equipment, animals or people.  They also could have nimbly flown right up and out of Juniata County and been dropped in the Land of Oz… making their extradition and recovery far more difficult than just dragging them back across the snowy pastures.
 
 
     After much hand-wringing, (and a little finger pointing :)  ) the doors were gathered up and lovingly repaired and remounted with sturdier latches and anchors.  Now, finally, the lambs can arrive, survive and thrive.  
 

      And, ‘arrive’ they did.  As I write this, 100 ewes are having 150 lambs on soft dry bedding while, outside, our advesary,  the despised north wind, howls and thumps, totally impotent, against the glowing, warm, tight, dry building. 
 
 
     The lambs are toasty warm and exploring their newfound world… blissfully out of the wind in our fancy, new hoop building.  Mission Accomplished!   
 
 
     Somehow, if there aren’t big adventures in a project like this, the completion of it isn’t as satisfying.  It feels REALLY good to have the ewes and young calves out of our old bank-barn and into safe and comfortable quarters.  We have found that baby lambs have no trouble with winter’s cold temperatures if they are not exposed to wet and wind.   A damp, dark, drafty barn is a sure-fire recipe for weak or sick lambs.   
 
 
 
     So… what is the next big adventure looming on the horizon at Coulter Farms?  We are expecting 52 Jersey milk cows to have their calves, starting any day now.  As winter fades into spring, there is never a dull moment at the farm.  It won’t be long after the calves come that we’ll be eyeing the hay fields, ripe for the harvest.  Who cares what the weather is…summer is almost here.  Stay tuned!
 
Posted 12/27/2018 2:12pm by Kinley Coulter.

  

     A few weeks ago, you were given an insider's peek into our project to erect a hoop building for lambing our ewe flock of sheep, and storing round bales of dry hay.  We had just finished erecting a foundation with steel hoop trusses, and had pulled over half of the fabric cover for the building.  In the picture above, you see the chilly, foggy morning that greeted us when we sought to pull the second half of the cover fabric over the trusses.

     The first half of the cover weighed almost a ton!  It had to be winched over with four winches...it seemed like we were pulling so hard that it would surely tear the cover.  But, thankfully, it came over without incident (... at least, with no devastating incidents.)

 

 
     Winching over the second half of the cover.  Notice the tension in the first cover.  Over 150 ratchet straps pull the tarp tight... this protects the building from wind damage, providing much of the strength of the building.  I hope it never sees the 90 mph wind that it it supposedly rated for.
 
 
 
     Our 125 year old bank barn is feeling a little pathetic next to these two modern agricultural buildings...you can see our family's home in the background supervising the scene.  It's been said that the house will never pay for the barns... but (hopefully), the barns can pay for the house... time will tell :).
 
 
Shifting the whole fabric cover a couple of feet sideways is a bigger deal than you might think...
 
 
All right boys... time to get back to work...
 
     Success feels REALLY good!  We were all a little stressed about this critical part of the construction... we had heard stories of covers blowing a mile away into the woods, or a gust of wind on the tarp lifting a worker to dizzying heights :O.
 
 
     Oops... minor miscalculation, and we severed an electrical line with the backhoe... sadly, it was one we had just buried a week before... sigh...whose job was it to remember where we had buried it?  No electric meant no way to water the livestock, or run the milking equipment, so the boys worked until well past dark on the repair.
  
 
     The vastness of this 65'x180' building isn't really apparent until we put some big pieces of  hay equipment in and they looked like children's toys...
 
 
 
 
 
     The sheep and the youngest of the Jersey dairy calves got put in the very next day... they BAAAAHED and MOOOED  'thank you' for getting them out of the December weather...
 
 
     Hay isn't as tasty as green pasture... but getting out of the weather is worth a little sacrifice...
  
 
      Feeding one sheep is fun... when 100 of them start crowding around the four year old... she starts getting a little intimidated...
 
 
 
     The sun, low in the sky in the winter, gives plenty of warmth deep into the open south end of the building.  The far end is the north end, and it will get an end wall to break the dreaded winter wind, and to hold out rain and snow.  We hope to engineer the end wall to absorb 90 mph wind... no small feat!
  
     Feeding hay by hand isn't going to work in the long run... in the background, you can see the sheep eating from the Certified Organic fermented green hay bales that weigh 2/3 of a ton each.
  
 
     Many of you may not realize that our farm also raises monkeys...seen above playing in the trusses...
 
 
     Baby monkeys are much cuter...
 
 
     And some monkeys don't seem to have much expectation of a long life ahead of them...
 
     As always, thank you for supporting our family farm!
Posted 11/28/2018 2:50pm by Kinley Coulter.

     One of our most trying challenges here at the farm is making tough decisions.  We find ourselves between a rock and a hard place and end up paralyzed by indecision.  Can’t pull the trigger… but can’t NOT pull the trigger.  

 
     Take, for example, an issue that has been being bandied about here for the last several years… a significant shortage of animal housing and dry hay storage space.  A simple solution would be to build a 10,000 square foot building and put our lamb flock in half of it and put hay in the other half.  Piece of Cake!  Problem Solved!  
 
     Oh… wait… an agricultural building like that is going to cost $10/square foot… it turns out that the $100,000 is both the rock AND the hard place.  
 
     So, the sheep need a warm, comfortable place to have their lambs AND the hay that sits out in the weather gets badly degraded.  Contrary to what some might believe, direct marketing organic dairy products and meat does not produce abundant wheel-barrow loads of pesky cash that we can’t figure out what to do with.  Well, we scratched around for all of the loose change in all of the farm vehicles, and dug around in the nooks and crannies that might accumulate a few crumpled dollar bills, and came up with about $50,000 to spend on a building (not too bad for a little scratching and digging :)  ).  Half the money needed..now what?  I’ve got it!  Just build HALF of a 10,000 square foot building...... and live with precious organic hay rotting in the weather OR live with ewes lambing out in the weather?  Sorry.  Neither option is acceptable!  Hmmm…. think, think, think.
 
     Eureka!  Why pay a bunch of expensive professional builders to put up a building and double the cost of it… we’ll just build it ourselves with free family labor and get a half priced building.  Problem solved.  So, we found a $50,000 hoop building kit and set to work.  
 
     First challenge?  Find a level spot to accommodate a 65’ x 180’ building.  No problem… umm, small problem… Juniata County, PA has a total of, like,  ten level acres and none of them are on our farm.  So the foundation gets dug deep into the ground on one end and towers, precariously, 10’ above ground on the other end.  This was accomplished with our skid loader’s backhoe and nine semi loads of concrete barriers and blocks.  Piece of cake!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
      Another challenge pops up almost immediately.  A big electrical line runs over this proposed building and will need to be moved…how could we have not noticed that!   Sigh, call the electric utility folks.  $6,000… to move a few electrical poles?  
 
 
     Next challenge?  The steel hoop trusses weren’t too hard to assemble… but they needed to be lifted with equipment that could reach 40’ high.
 
 
 
 
 Sigh… $3,000 rental for a telehandler for 6 weeks.  We could have just gotten it for a week, but between rain and mud and chores and farm duties, we spent that long getting the building foundation and frame up.  
 
 
 
 

 
       Fourth challenge?  Now we needed a 40’ man-lift to get the trusses all tied together with a bewildering array of purlins and cables….$2,200 rental bill.  An astute business mind might be perceiving, by now, that our $50,000 building kit is not going to be a $50,000 building when it’s done.  It turns out the concrete barriers weren’t free and farm labor isn’t really free, either.  Oh well… at least we’re having fun!
 
 
 
 
 
      Fifth challenge?  Building in late fall weather.  All through October and November, we contended with rain and mud, wind and cold....Having erected the frame of the building, all we need is two days without wind and rain to put the enormous cover over the hoop building.  How long could you possibly have to wait for that?  Well, 10 days and counting, so far… while the man-lift sits dormant at $70/day.   As I write this, we are in our third day of gusty winds (38 mph, today)… with rain promised for the weekend.  Sigh… I’m starting to consider the possibility that those expensive builders might be earning every one of the big bucks they charge.  
 
 
 
 
     Are any of you like me?  It seems that everyone else’s job is easy and overpaid, except for mine… that is, until I try to DO their job.  So, to all of you offended builders… I’m sorry for questioning the value of your work.  But, if those builders were honest, they would probably think our meat and dairy products are over-priced, too.  It turns out, just about everyone does difficult work, works very hard at it and, at best, gets fairly compensated for it.  The world is not nearly as inequitable as it seems once you’ve walked a mile in other people’s moccasins.  
 
     We are highly resolved to have this building full of sheep and bales by the next email… stay tuned… and whatever you do, keep supporting this escapade with your food dollars.  Things would get pretty grim in a hurry without our faithful customers.
 
Posted 10/8/2018 8:30am by Kinley Coulter.

     Aaaahhhh!   Cool, foggy mornings.  Crisp clear days with warm sun and cool air.  Foliage threatening to explode into color.   


     All we need to complete the perfect fall daydream is a bright orange glass of Coulter Farms’ Pumpkin Spice Drinkable Yogurt.  Back by popular demand, we are planning a limited production run of our world famous (OK, regionally famous…) yogurt drink.

      We would be glad to produce pumpkin yogurt year round, but no-one buys it in September and no one buys it in December… however, in October and November we can’t produce enough of it.  Think 'Pumpkin Pie in a glass'. 

     Please do not try this yogurt if you don’t like pumpkin, because it's loaded chock full of real pumpkin…with a secret blend of pumpkin pie spices, a dash of Certified Organic cane sugar, oodles of live yogurt cultures and, of course, our Certified Organic 100% Grassfed milk, we can’t possibly end up with a bottle of drinkable yogurt that is anything less than spectacular (I want to say that in all humility… :). )


     When the last leaf piles dry up and blow away the pumpkin yogurt will be gone as well… so don’t procrastinate...get some ordered, quick, before the chilly, wet, dreary December weather announces the sad demise of Pumpkin Spice Drinkable Yogurt for 10 more long months.

Posted 9/19/2018 4:58pm by Kinley Coulter.

     A few weeks ago, the family was trying to finish up breakfast and get the day started here at Coulter Farms.  I was gazing, forlornly, into my empty tea mug, knowing that once the tea cup is empty it’s time to get up from the table and fight that day’s alligators.  As fate would have it… the first battle of the day was not with alligators.  

 


     I happened to glance up from the depressingly empty mug, and out the window.  Oh Great, just perfect!  Jersey cows munching contentedly on green grass.  This is not, in itself, an unusual thing… after all, this IS a dairy farm.  What commanded my consternation was that these cows were not in the pasture, but in the yard, and the grass they were munching was my lawn..... not to mention every living thing in our vegetable garden and Rebecca’s flower beds!  

     What started out as several errant cows nosing around the house, quickly turned into an unruly mob of a 20 or more bovine trespassers… bent on mayhem and wanton destruction.  It was just a little comical (to me… Rebecca was NOT impressed and strongly exhorted me to ‘quit taking pictures and DO something’) to be nose to nose with cows slobbering on the living room windows… waiting to be invited in, or so it seemed.  



     I went outside, barefoot… still lugging my empty tea cup.

 It wasn’t as intimidating as a herding stick… but it is a fairly stout mug and it made me feel like a force to contend with to have something, anything, to wave threateningly at the cattle while they nonchalantly devoured our green bean plants… oblivious to my ranting about how despicable their behavior was.   It didn’t take long to realize that I (badly) needed help!  It turned out that the normally docile cows were wound up and were in the mood for some fun (fun for them, not for me).  After briefly chasing the cows and watching them scatter to all four points of the compass, I came back to the house for reinforcements, and boots, and a stick to wave menacingly.  Jessica and Jacob and I got a lot more respect from the frisky escapees than I had gotten when I was alone and barefoot.  In no time we had corralled  the cows into a tight herd and coerced them back into the pasture.

   
     After a brief investigation of the crime scene, we found the culprit... a 12’ gate hanging wide open.  It had, apparently, been open for two days before the cows discovered it.  It occurred to me that it might pay us, in the long run, to raise replacement cows from the ‘law-abiding' half of the dairy herd that chose to not walk out of the pasture into the yard that they knew, full well, was forbidden.  I’ve never heard of selective breeding against trespassing in dairy cows… but I am marking down the miscreants down in my little black book… I won’t soon forget.   On second thought, maybe, instead of a breeding protocol… we could just close our pasture gates.


     Here are the girls, trying to salvage the tattered remnants of the sweet corn patch.  Another day on the farm......

Posted 9/6/2018 9:33am by Kinley Coulter.

     I was casually skimming an article about cheese recently, when a confident assertion by the author caught my eye: ‘Of course,' (she opined) 'no cheese is naturally orange and milk has no orange pigment in it.’   

     With all due respect to the food writer… this dairy farmer begs to differ.   We spend a lot of time answering questions about why our milk has such a distinctive ‘orange’ hue.  People exclaim that they’ve never seen butter so richly colored and the cheese coloring… ‘remarkable!’  Usually the questioner adds another question to the original one by asking… ‘what do you add to your products to get them that color?’  I like to answer that nothing is added to our products but SUNSHINE.
 
 
     Our great-grandparents would have stared in disbelief and disdain at what passes for milk (and cheese) in stores today.  Just to set the record straight… the proper, healthy, natural color of milk (and everything produced from it) is ‘Sun Golden’.   Dairy products from cows that are fed right are the right color.  (Hint, the ‘right color’ is NOT white… white is a very nice color for refrigerators, paper, nurses uniforms, clouds, teeth, kleenexes and swans…. but not milk.)   The bright, sterile, glowing, white (almost blue) dairy product that the dairy industry shamelessly calls ‘milk’  betrays three unhealthful features of industrial dairy:
 
     1) the Destructive Power of homogenization with its massive mechanical maceration of the delicate flavor/color molecules and fragile nutritive enzymes of milk…   handling milk roughly by over-processing produces a very white milk
 
     2) the Deceptive Process of selling ‘whole milk’ that has been disassembled, stripped of some of its butterfat, massively processed and then ‘standardized’ to 3.5%  butterfat… a dairy farmer in our Church calls reduced fat milk ‘Prisoner Milk’… Prisoner milk is very white.
 
        3) the Dilution Principle,  namely that grain fed cows make LOTS of milk volume but the grain produces a thin watery white milk.  I guarantee that if you buy a cheap,  glowing white gallon of milk… you will get what you paid for, and nothing more.  Cheap food often comes with a high cost in the long run.      Feeding grain (which was never meant to be fed to ruminants) to dairy cows produces a very white milk.
 
 
 
     If all of this wasn’t distressing enough… the shameful, ubiquitous practice of feeding grain to dairy cows has the unwelcome, unhealthy, unappetizing effect of flushing the precious liquid sunshine out of your milk…countless vital phyto-nutrients that your body desperately needs to thrive in good health.  Beta Carotene, commonly known as Vitamin A is only the most visible of these nutrients… giving Real Milk it’s normal, characteristic, defining, Sun-Golden Color.  Literally hundreds of micronutrients are missing from grainfed milk but are flourishing in the ‘living food’ that is 100% grassfed milk.
 
 
 
      Coulter Farms' Certified Organic 100% Grassfed milk is comes to us the old-fashioned way... from purebred, heritage breed, Jersey cows that would promptly spit out grain if we ever tried to feed it to them.  Why? Simply because they wouldn’t confess it as food… having never had a single mouthful of it in their entire lives.  
 
 
     Just as you cannot be a healthy person if you are not eating healthily… Dairy cows that are fed unhealthily to boost milk production to a profitable but unnatural level… cannot be healthy.  The corollary to this is that here is no way to get healthy milk from unhealthy cows.  Much of big 'Industrial Dairy' farming is feeding so much grain that its cows (packed into factories, not barns, by the 1,000’s), are wolfing down shocking amounts of grain that are as damaging to the animals’ health (and comfort) as a twice daily box of jelly donuts would be to a preschooler.  Did you ever get a belly-ache from too many sweets?  These poor animals spend their lives with a belly ache...stuffed into concentrated housing, they are fed the absolute most high-energy grain that their rumens can tolerate without becoming ‘acidotic’… a potentially deadly belly imbalance in the cow.  The process of pushing dairy animals to their genetic and biological limit of milk production has the costly effect of shortening dairy animals’ productive life-span.  Before World War II, dairy cattle would typically enjoy 10-15, sometimes up to 20 years of life on family dairy farms.  Factory farming has reduced that lifespan to less than five years, and that number is still dropping as cows are pushed harder and harder to produce more and more (and cheaper and cheaper) so-called ‘milk.’ 
 
     Farming wrongly is more than bad business and bad milk… I believe it is a moral issue.  King David, in the Old Testament is described as having been a sheep herder in his youth.  His son, Solomon, was never a farmer… but he addressed farming in his contributions to the Bible… one, in the Book of Proverbs, stands out to me and offers a guiding principle in our family farming operation:
 
Proverbs 12:10   A righteous man regards the life of his beast
 
     It would be my settled opinion that we, as farmers (and, by extension, you, as consumers) have a responsibility to be good stewards (and not exploiters) of our animals and the things they produce.  I’ve said it before… I might not choose to be a cow, but if I was a cow, I would want to live and eat and work at Coulter Farms.  
 
 
     Did you ever wonder why so many people can’t digest milk and why, nationally, average, per capita, milk consumption is dropping so alarmingly.   After, reluctantly, tasting some ‘milk’ that came with my daughters’ meals at a family restaurant… I could hardly swallow it.  I find myself wondering why ANYONE drinks ANY milk… I certainly wouldn’t drink that stuff.  
 
     I watch, with keen interest, the purchasing habits of discerning customers at our Farmer’s Markets.  I’ve noticed that, invariably,  when they buy produce, lettuce and salad greens, they are not the buying the pale, insipid 'iceberg lettuce' type vegetables that populate the super-markets, but startlingly dark greens and vibrant yellows and shocking purples… everyone seems to instinctively understand that brightly colored vegetables and fruits are the powerfully healthy ones.  I would love to see consumers apply the same logic to their dairy purchases.  If you are buying dairy products… turn your nose up at ‘insipid white’ dairy… demand vibrant, exciting, tasty, satisfying, healthy, sustainably produced, 100% grassfed, Sun-golden, dairy from happy, healthy, responsibly managed cows.   No more human belly aches from milk produced by cows with belly aches.  
 
     Someday, someone will ruin my 5 year perfect record.  I have been telling people who think they can’t drink milk, to try our dairy products and return the unfinished product for a refund, if it gives them stomach trouble, .  So far, I’ve never bought anything back… ever!  Recently a customer, who was happily returning for his second dairy purchase,  joyfully told me that he had not had milk for 20 years.  I don’t know who was happier, me or him… but we were both glad that we had found each other and our lives were better for it.
 
 
      Everyone appreciates family farms.  Who is not in favor of 'Certified Organic’ products if they are raised right?  If you are reading this blog posting, I am probably preaching to the choir… I will just put in my final shameless plug for our products…Consider supporting our approach to farming with your food dollar, and don’t be shy about signing your friends up for our newsletter.  Even better, how about a birthday gift for them of 100% Grassfed, Certified Organic cheese shipped to their door from Coulter Farms?  We have added a $5 off coupon to our online shipping store to help make this work… spend $30 in our store and get a $5 kickback.  This way, we all win… you, us, your friend, and our cows.  There is a slogan on the employees’ T-shirts at a sandwich shop by one of our Farm Markets… ‘Get in here before we both starve!’   So, support our family farm as we farm with your food dollars and neither one of us needs to starve :).

 

Posted 8/10/2018 2:31pm by Kinley Coulter.

     The Summer of 2018 seems to have its mind set on making it into the record books.  In nineteen years that we have been farming here in Juniata County, PA,  we had never once made it through an entire summer without seeing the dog-day summer pastures get dry and dormant... until last year.  We grazed verdant green grass from mid-April through Thanksgiving.  I didn't expect to see a summer like that again soon... but, this summer surpassed even that one.  Everything, including the weeds and thorns, is growing....and growing!

 
 
     We have had epic, phenomenal, almost Noahic rains.  It has almost made a confirmed 'summer-phobe' like myself re-consider my bias against summertime. Even as I write this blog post, the sunny, sultry summer day is being marvelously interrupted and tempered by yet another soaking downpour.  The pastures are literally bursting at the seams.  The happy cows are producing milk like never before, which is helping us keep up with the strong demand for our Certified Organic, 100% Grassfed Milk, Yogurts, Cheeses, Kefirs, Butter and Ice Cream.  It has been a real blessing to have enough milk to keep almost all of our products in inventory even through the heat of summer.  
  
 
     Along with plenty of grass, plenty of milk and plenty of cheese, there has been plenty of some 'less welcome' critters, as well.  We work hard to control the innate wander-lust of our purebred Jersey cows (Hereford beef cows and Katahdin Lambs as well) with electric fence.  It turns out that the grass really IS greener on the forbidden side of the electric fence.   
 
 
     Wet foliage growing up onto the electric wires has the shocking effect of dumping all of our fence voltage into the soil... promptly releasing the erstwhile captive ruminants to kick up their hooves and indulge in destructive mayhem in the neighbor's perfect garden.  What is a farmer to do after chasing the animals back into the pasture for the umpteenth time?  Deploy the mighty fence-line clearing arsenal, of course.
 
 
     At Coulter Farms, we clear over 10 miles (!) of fence-lines with nothing more than a Humble 'weed-whacker', a Hungry brush-hog, a Handy chainsaw on a twelve foot pole and a High-revving sickle bar mower (pictured above).  The picture below is of a fence line before the fence-clearing battalion attacks.  If you can't actually see the fence, it must be long overdue to be cleared :).
 
 
      Like all farm equipment... using any of these tools  is bound to lead to some noteworthy experiences that are worth recounting.  
 
  
     What kind of trouble can you get into with a Humble weed-whacker?  We have a lot of snakes here in hot weather.  Most of them go quietly about their business under the unwritten expectation that if we leave them alone, they will leave us alone.  I was weed-whacking around what seemed like the millionth fence-post when the heavy foliage fell in a pile on the hot fence wire.
 
 
     I knelt down and gingerly lifted it off the wire and found myself nose to nose with a big, angry, coiled, poisonous copperhead snake.  I wish I could say that he was as afraid of me as I was of him... but such was not the case.  My blood ran cold and my feet ran fast... in my dreams, that snake is still chasing me.
 
     
    Jared had a similar experience last week when he stepped into a ground wasp nest while weed-whacking.  He described running from the fiendish cloud of wasps at an impressive speed while the weed-whacker was bouncing wildly on the chest harness, doing its best to thwart his escape.  He was a couple of hundred yards away when he quit running, and still managed to take a final sting from a lone wasp.
 
 
     The Handy pole saw is brandished from the roof of our trusty (but pathetic) Ford Ranger.  From the five foot high roof, a six foot  tall operator can cut branches eighteen feet away.  I'm not totally sure that this apparatus would be OSHA approved (please don't tell them about it).
 
 
     Recently, while cutting down overhanging branches that were shorting out our fence wires, Jason and Jacob learned an important lesson about wasps.  Jason had lost the coin-flip and had to take the saw onto the roof of the ranger while Jacob got to drive along the fence in (relative) comfort.  
 
 
     Unbeknownst to Jason, a large wasp nest was hanging from a branch that he had set his sights on cutting down.  The cut branch landed on the hood of the ranger and rolled off... leaving the broken remains of the wasp nest.  The sun was then blotted out by the angry cloud of wasps.  Both Jason and Jacob stared for a long moment in horror... Jacob, as driver, reacted first.  Slamming the truck into reverse and gunning the engine, he popped the clutch and roared backwards to dump the fractured wasp nest off the front of the ranger hood.  He was highly motivated to do this, do it fast and do it well,  because our poor ranger only has half of a windshield and he felt rather exposed.  In the reverse rocketing ranger, Jacob escaped unscathed.  He even had a front row seat to witness the unfolding catastrophe.  
 
 
     Poor Jason did not fare well.   As the truck disappeared from under him, his memory of events became hazy.  He thinks he might have glanced off the hood on the way down.  Regardless, he found himself tangled in the pole saw and harness and laying squarely on top of wasp 'ground zero.'   He recalls hearing a strangled scream that was probably his... likely, the sound was distorted by the fact that he was departing the scene at something close to the speed of sound.  Mercifully, he only received a half dozen or so stings.
 

 
       Our final wildlife adventure this week was (of all places) in our cheese aging cave.  I would have never guessed that a snake would bother trying to live in a 50 degree artificial cave... I was always taught that snakes were cold-blooded and liked warm places.  I had reached up overhead to pull down 40 lbs. of cheese in two boxes when... horror of horrors... off the top of the boxes, in the semi darkness, slithered a big ugly black snake!  He (she?) wriggled all the way down the outside of my shirt, down my pant-leg and came to rest on my shoe.  I think I heard a scream... it must have been me because the snake looked angry, not afraid, in the dim light of the cheese cave.  He seemed to be pondering whether to devour me whole or just bite me really hard.  Well, to make a long story short, I was faster than he was and... cumbered as I was with cheese boxes... I stomped him to death..... actually, quite a ways beyond death.  Sorry, animal lovers, it was him or me.  When I finally got my wits about me and put down the cheese boxes, I went back to inspect the corpse and identify the snake.  It turned out to be, after all, a long black zip tie that some joker had left where it didn't belong.  The only redemptive thing about the whole episode is that no-one witnessed it, and my fragile male ego was left relatively intact.
Posted 7/4/2018 9:50am by Kinley Coulter.

     The recent hot weather, while bringing summer fun for dogs and children here at the farm, also brings some challenges for farmers, equipment, animals and even for the lowly grass that our whole farming operation is built on.  


     The difficulties that come with the ‘dog days’ of summer for the farmer are fairly obvious.  There is a special kind of tiredness that comes from exerting yourself, day after day, in the hot sun during some of the longest days of the year.  Dehydration and heat stroke are never far away, as heavy farm work takes its toll.  We rely on lots of water and even Gatorade to get through a heat wave. Lunchtime is quiet, as we gulp our ice water and stare at plates of healthy farm food that, somehow, just don’t look appetizing.
 

 
     It seems that equipment has its own struggles in the summer heat, as well.  Hardworking trucks and tractors are boiling over their scorching radiators.  Even a farm tractor profits from a break under a shade tree once in a while.  Tires are blowing out… most recently in the middle of 7 lanes of speeding vehicles on I-270 on a market day.  It’s a terribly forlorn feeling to be broken down on the shoulder in 96 degree heat, with a trailer load of frozen meat and dairy products slowly cooking behind you!  To make matters worse, as the doomed tire beat itself to an ignominious death at 65 mph, a brilliant computer sensor on the truck decided the vehicle had experienced a major collision and disabled the fuel pump … requiring a tow.  (if this is 'Artificial Intelligence'… I would prefer an old-fashioned ‘Dumb’ truck)   Sigh... People wonder why I like fall and winter so much!  
 
     Walk-in coolers and freezers are bumping up against their alarm temperatures.  We have found that calling the refrigeration repair-man during a heat wave is pretty much an exercise in futility  (…he thinks he can get out here by November!)... so we have become our own repairmen… forced to troubleshoot electrical problems, and change out refrigeration units with spares we keep in our overstuffed basement.  Here at the farm, we are very much ‘jacks of all trades and masters of none.’   
 
     With July comes peak ice usage at farm market.  Ice tables sagging under the load of bottled milk, yogurt, kefir, butter and cheese are consuming up to 1,000 lbs of ice during a 4 hour market.  It seems we hardly get to enjoy our precious customers in the busyness of dumping fresh ice on the tables and hauling away the melted water.
 
     As you might surmise… the animals at Coulter Farms are not immune to heat stresses.  But, like the farmer, animals have a job to do… in all weather.  Dairy cows generate significant heat in their stomachs as their 55 gallon rumen ferments grass into blood sugar energy.  They can hardly be blamed for reducing their feed intake in hot weather…. cattle are not any more hungry on a hot day than people are.  So, at peak market season, when we need every precious gallon of milk we can produce, milk production invariably heads the wrong direction.  One saving grace this time of year is that we are weaning about 25 heifer calves off  40 gallons per day of whole milk, and onto lush green Certified Organic pasture.  Each calf has consumed well over two 55 gallon drums' worth of rich, organic, whole milk in their first three months of life.  They are looking robust, strong and healthy, but it is high time for them to get busy grazing and give our farm 280 gallons more milk to bottle each week.  
 
 
     Those of you who are gardeners know what happens to lettuce in your garden in hot weather.  It stops growing and gets bitter, right?  Well, our perennial grass pastures are cool weather plants just like lettuce.  The farmer tries to persuade the grass to continue growing and to stay sweet, when every fiber of the grass plant’s being wants to do the opposite.  Never fear… the grass farmer has some tricks up his sleeve that the grass plants almost always fall for.  By managing our grazing and soil fertility, and soil organic matter correctly, we can briefly prop up grass growth during a heat wave.  Inevitably, though, hot and dry weather will shut the pastures down enough that we, reluctantly, bring out the dreaded hay feeders for several weeks to let the pasture grass catch up.  Once the grass plants go dormant and brown in summer heat, the biggest favor we can do for them is to keep the cattle from grinding them into dust.  The challenge is to get the cows off of the pastures (free grass) and onto hay (expensive grass) soon enough to avoid damaging the pastures.  It’s always tempting to graze a few weeks too long when summer sets in with a vengeance.  Two weeks of abusing pasture in the summer will always cost us twice that much lost grazing when it finally cools down and rains.
 
 
     Surely, every cloud has a silver lining.  Hot weather does bring some positive things to the farm.   Like watching the cows graze in a misty morning meadow.... Fireflies!  We love to watch them on a summer evening.....  Even a poor farmer can make dry hay in this heat.....  The firewood we burn in our wood boiler to heat milk for cheese and yogurt and pasteurization is bone dry and burns plenty hot......  Ice cream is selling like CRAZY… $4.00 for a cone doesn’t sound so outrageous in 100 degree heat.....  And the children are having a ball playing in the sprinkler!  Ummm… what else?  Not much… unless you missed breakfast and want to fry an egg on the hood of the tractor… Oh well, fall is coming and then you might just get to hear about cold weather adventures on the farm :-).