Blog & Mailing List Sign-up

FARM NEWS/BLOG

Here's what we have been up to lately!
Posted 6/20/2018 5:34pm by Kinley Coulter.

     Spring is winding up, and summer officially begins tomorrow... the soil here at Coulter Farms is still gulping down vast quantities of 'April Showers.'  The cold wet spring has stretched itself into the bottom half of June, and we are trying to adjust.  'April Showers' make for a tremendous hay crop in May... but the showers lasted right through May and into June.  We need to make a total of 200 acres of first cutting hay, and we desperately need three sunny days in a row (four would be nice) to do a 50 acre chunk of it.  In case you haven't noticed... stretches of sunny weather have been hard to come by.  We rushed and scrimped and pushed and cheated and finagled and managed to just barely get 150 acres of hay made. 

 

     One problem with having wet weather (that pushes the May haymaking into June) is that the grass matures out of its valuable, sweet, leafy stage into tall, stemmy grass, producing hay that milk cows just stare at an bawl... moo... Moo...MOO!... MOOOOOO!!!   40 Jersey cows refusing to eat.  Just like a herd of petulant 3 year olds loudly declaring their anger at the despicable farmer who had enough nerve to put such pathetic grass in front of them and call it 'dairy cattle feed'... what a distressing sight... especially when the farmer is hard up for some high milk production to satisfy hungry customers.  
 
 
If you want to experience what dairy cows experience trying to eat stemmy, over-mature hay, try eating nothing but old, tough, dried out celery for a whole week... spitting out the 95% of it that is too tough to swallow, grimacing and gagging on the trickle of bitter celery juice that runs down the back of your throat... and then try to do heavy, hard work with the energy you gain from that celery.  No wonder over-mature grass cuts milk production and sours the mood of the dairy herd!  (Disclaimer... I don't even like 'good' celery... if there ever was such a thing... Yuck!  The best part about growing up and moving out of my parents' home was never, ever, for the past 38 years,  having to eat even a single bite of the stuff.  YAY!) 

 

     The weatherman had forecast a precious five days of sun in a row this past weekend so we confidently mowed the last 50 acres.  It could have been baled Saturday, but we were busy rejoicing at my son's wedding that day (although I did do some baling and raking Saturday after the wedding :).  

 

     Anyway, all should have been well through Monday, and we were happily baling hay Monday afternoon in the cheery sunshine with a soaring confidence inspired by that morning's '0% Chance of Rain' forecast...
 
 
     We were down to the last 100, or so, round bales when... disaster!  'Oh the humanity!'  Out of nowhere comes a 30 minute downpour... all of that beautiful, crispy, fragrant, precious, dry,  green hay was saturated with rain.   Not to be outdone by a little rain, we gave it a few hours in the returning sunshine, fluffed and raked hay again and started baling... but we were snake bitten again... this time by darkness.  The dew settled and the sweet crispiness of the hay was gone, again.  That was a disappointing Monday, to say the least.  Tuesday?  Heavy Rain!  Wednesday?  Heavy Rain!  Tomorrow (Thursday) is forecast to have some sun.  
 
 
     We may be able to just barely get the hay baled up before the next 3 days of forecast rain.  It won't be dried enough which means the bales will heat and spoil.  It's not any great loss at this point... the rain has already washed the precious sugars and other soluble nutrients out of the hay and the decomposition process (mold) has begun its ugly work.  Success, now, will be getting the slimy, musty hay out of the field so the second cutting can start growing. 

 

     Oh well, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.   We can still chop up the bales for fluffy, warm, organic bedding for the cows when the depressing, incessant rain of June turns into the howling wind, and bitter cold of January.  There's no great loss without some small gain.  We usually have to spend a lot of money for bedding in the winter... now the rain has created 50 tons of 'free' bedding for us.  It's enough to make a disgruntled farmer feel rich!

Posted 5/9/2018 12:01pm by Rebecca Coulter.
Among the blessings and new beginnings spring brings on our farm are new lambs;
 
 
new piggies;
 
 
new seedings for fresh pastures;
 
 
and new blossoms against bright blue skies.


Another spring blessing is an upcoming wedding!  Lord willing, Jason and Katrina will be beginning their new life together on June 16th :).
 
Posted 4/25/2018 1:03pm by Kinley Coulter.

     Confession time...Cheesemaking at Coulter Farms has evolved into more of an exercise in  ‘art-full chaos' than ‘ high-brow food-science.'

     Our typical response to the common request that we make a new variety of cheese is ‘why not?’  This care-free mentality has brought us to the terrifying verge of the abyss… in that our cheese aging cave now has 18 (18!) distinct varieties of cheese… all made by hand, on our farm, from our own 100% Grassfed, Certified Organic Jersey milk.  
 
     Managing milk production, cheesemaking, cheese inventory, cheese sales at farm markets, and cheese shipping, is most of what swirls around in my head at 3 am when I wake up and can’t get back to sleep…’How long will 97 wheels of Gruyere last?  If we’re short milk next week should we skip making Camembert or Cheese Curds?  Which variety of cheese can we run out of that will produce the fewest complaints?  The cows are on spring pastures that have strong flavored chives growing in them… we should get that ‘onion-flavored’ milk made into ‘Garlic and Herb Jack’… but we need 200 gallons to bottle fresh for market Saturday… OK, move the cows onto the pasture with no chives…’  This business planning swirls on and on at 3 am… unfortunately I don’t remember any of it when I wake up in the morning.   

     If we could just choose a few varieties of cheese and focus on them we would be more organized, more efficient and (probably) more profitable.   The only reason we don’t simplify our cheesemaking is that we actually enjoy the challenge and excitement of keeping up with all of the varieties of cheese… not to mention we get to sample them!  I have a feeling that we would enjoy efficiency and profitability too… although we would have to experience it someday to know for sure.  
 
     As we fill our cheese vat, over and over again, with precious (priceless, really), sun-golden organic milk … our primary objective is to ‘do no harm.’  The big idea with cheesemaking is to ADD value to milk… not to REDUCE its value… a very real danger when warming milk to body temperature and adding live cultures of bacteria to the existing ones in the milk.     Outside the walls of our cheese room, our entire passel of selfish pigs is single-mindedly  ‘rooting’ for us to fail… snorting and drooling at the prospect of a failed batch of cheese… since ‘flop cheese' is their ultimate, bestest, most favorite kind of food  (no wonder our pork is so good).  In one sense… cheesemaking is an ongoing battle between cheesemaker and swine… one or the other will be happy with the outcome of the cheesemaking.
 
 
    
 
   One cheese that has been enough of a challenge that we abandoned all hope of making it is mozzarella.  If I did my research correctly (thanks, Google), the name ‘Mozzarella’ comes from the Italian verb Mozzare… ’to cut off’… originally from the  vulgar Latin ‘Mutius’… which English has adopted as ‘Mutilate’.  This is a fairly apt description of our early (and vulgar) attempts at making mozzarella several years ago.  After some depressing pig feasts, having ‘mutilated’ valuable milk, we finally hung our heads in shame, and discarded Mozzarella as yet another good idea that, sadly, didn’t work.  Meanwhile, our customers have bombarded us with requests… almost demands, that we make mozzarella.  Mozzarella cheese edges out cheddar, in the US, as the most consumed cheese, per capita.  We sell a LOT of cheddar and would be glad to have a good mozzarella to add to our stable of products.  
 
 
     One problem was the whole ‘hand made’ cheese thing.  I've spoken to quite a few ‘cheese people' about how they made mozzarella and most of them asked what we had for 'stretching equipment.’   I told them we had the two most valuable pieces of equipment… ‘left hand and right hand.’  Ahhh!  That’s the problem, they say!  We need a $45,000 curd stretcher or we can never make mozzarella efficiently.  Well!  Never say ‘never’ to a determined (but, sadly, cash poor) farmer. 
 My oldest son, Jared, our Master Cheesemaker had come to the end of his patience with stretching scorching hot curd by hand (I think the elbow to finger-tip first degree burns were the major cause of his discontent)... he was rebelling (even revolting) and demanding a better system.  Well, the big news is that after three years of snooping around for innovative ideas about making mozzarella by hand on a farmstead scale, we are back in the hand stretched Mozzarella business… at least for the time being. The big question now, is how will it do once we put it out at market.  
 
     If only one customer buys our mozzarella for every 10 that has asked for it… we are going to need to buy some HUGE wheelbarrows to get all of our sales dollars to the bank!  Maybe we'll even be able to afford that mechanical curd stretcher :).  So, we are proudly announcing our 19th variety of cheese… 'Coulter Farms’ Mozzarella’  (How's that for a catchy name… we didn’t even have to pay our marketing firm a million dollars to come up with it!)  
 
     Our raw mozzarella curd has been stretched in 180 degree water (or whey), so it doesn’t qualify as a ‘raw milk’ cheese.  After our milk has been curdled, had the whey drained off and been pressed… the curd is heated and stretched.  This heat causes the milk sugar (lactose)  to be converted to a ‘carmelized’ sugar called ‘galactose’ giving the mozzarella a subtle sweetness and making it brown nicely (think: carmel color)  when it is baked in a pizza oven… YUMMY!.  
 
 
     The protein in the cheese is denatured by the heat and stretching… producing the signature stringy/rubbery texture of mozzarella.  This gives the cheese its fantastic melting properties.   So far, the pigs have had to satisfy themselves with just greedily gobbling up the whey from our mozzarella making… no flop cheese for you, Miss Piggy!  HA!!!   This recent batch of precious mozzarella is reserved for our customers’ lasagna, pizza and, in just a few weeks…mozzarella melted on Asparagus!  Then, in a few months…mozzarella melted on Tomatoes!  Oh Joy!  
     
         
 
 
   Viva la Mozzarella!  Down with feeding flop Mozzarella to pigs!
 
 
Posted 4/11/2018 1:04pm by Kinley Coulter.

     As I drank my precious morning cup of joe with my wife this morning, I got treated to not one, but TWO ‘rites of spring’ unfolding right outside of our living-room window.  

      The first half of my coffee was consumed while observing a mating pair of sparrows vigorously negotiating with a pair of blue-birds for possession of a blue-bird house that they were all coveting with  their beady little bird eyes.  All four were calmly dragging in string and twigs and straw and twine from all over the farm to build a nest in the house ...as though there was going to be no problem converting this ‘single family’ dwelling into a duplex.  As this drama unfolded, I sipped my way into the second half of my coffee and watched my three year old daughter carefully wiggle under the bottom electric wire of the pasture fence to get to the newest 'bottle lamb’  pen.  She didn’t used to be so careful and fastidious about keeping her backside way down while going under the wire… but she is much more motivated after a few ‘close encounters' with the hot fence wire.  (I’m just glad it’s her and not me crawling under that 10” high wire).
 
       Anyway, this little girl was pulling along a baby bottle full of freshly warmed organic cow milk, destined to be lamb breakfast for a frantically bawling lamb, that after fasting all night, was quite sure it was about to perish from starvation.   The two ring circus of four birds wrangling over a birdhouse on a fencepost, above a little girl carefully wriggling on her belly through freshly green April grass, on a sunny morning that promised to be warm, was quite entertaining.  I often say that spring is not my favorite season at the farm with all of its wind, rain and mud… but this WAS a very nice spring morning.  
 
 
     Bottle lambs are great fun to watch, and the girls love feeding them 5 times a day… but, they are an undesired indicator of a social breakdown in our sheep society.  Every bottle lamb represents a broken ewe/lamb relationship.  The worst offenders are the ‘first time lambers’… young ewes that have never lambed before.   They have a highly annoying habit of dropping their first, precious, long awaited lamb and calmly walking away from it without ever looking back.  We try to pen these negligent ewes up with their lamb but, if 24 hours go by with no attention from momma… the lamb is labeled an ‘orphan’ and becomes the little girls’ responsibility (a joyful duty!) to raise on milk for 90 days until it can live on pasture.
 
     Twins lambs are the most common (and most desired) pregnancy outcome in our flock.  We used to cheer for triplet lambs but now we are wiser.  Triplets often result in a bottle lamb, as the mother ignores the smallest or slowest of the three.  When there are only two teats… being small and slow puts you at a decided disadvantage.  We had one famous ewe that had quadruplets in July and triplets in February!  An amazing feat never repeated before or since!   She actually raised 6 of the 7 herself.  Another problem with triplet lambs is that they are born smallish and never really catch up with twins in size.  Single lambs are very common with first time mothers… they are born larger than twins and get a double share of milk from momma so they get HUGE!  Anyway, now we cheer for twin lambs.
 
     Almost all of the ewes have lambed by now and the whole flock is hungrily eyeing the lush, green, organic, April pasture…mere feet away, but it might as well be on the moon because of that pesky barnyard gate.   Any day now, the eagerly anticipated 'barnyard exodus' will begin with the opening of the pasture gate, and the sheep tsunami pouring out… lambs climbing over each other, two and three deep, in their rush to be the first one on grass.  If you have never had 100% Grassfed lamb… you should treat yourself.  I grew up with a decidedly negative view of lamb as a greasy, strongly flavored meat.  We had leg of lamb on Good Friday, and I could only eat it if a small piece of it was swimming deep in mint jelly.  No-one ever told me that grainfed lamb is greasy and strong flavored and grassfed lamb is mild and sweet.  I also never knew how much chemical wormer got fed to conventional lambs… making Certified Organic lamb a special treat.  I was reading recently about the ‘ dirty dozen’ of highly pesticided fruits and vegetables.  Conventional lamb is undoubtedly the most chemically wormed meat of all livestock species.  We hardly ever get to eat our own ‘chemical free’ lamb here at the farm because it’s always selling out and it’s kind of a ‘budget-busting’ meat.  But why not treat yourself when it's a special occasion!
 
 
Posted 3/28/2018 10:54am by Kinley Coulter.

     Spring time brings many blessings here at the farm.... warm sunshine and gentle rain, bursting buds, and lots of cute, fuzzy, wide-eyed additions to sheep flocks and cattle herds.



     Our herd of Certified Organic, 100% Grassfed Jersey cows started having their calves at the beginning of the month, so we now have lots of little ones to feed and care for.  Twice a day they get a stretching belly-full of rich, warm, organic milk that is healthful and nutrient dense food for calves as well as people.  No synthetic 'milk-replacer' with dozens of 'unrecognizable' ingredients gets fed to our precious calves here.  

 

     The three little girls especially enjoy helping 'bottle feed' since the calves are much closer to their size, and less intimidating than the mama cows.

     Through the spring season, as everything bursts into new life, our cows will be producing lots more rich, creamy milk than their calves can drink.  We'll be bottling milk, chocolate milk, kefir and yogurt, and making any extra into delicious raw milk cheeses, for our 'much appreciated'  customers.  

 

Posted 3/13/2018 2:41pm by Kinley Coulter.

     What is the one bright spot when the shrieking cold wind thumps mercilessly against the farm house in mid-March?  Well, at least the unwelcome snow is traveling horizontally instead of vertically and it’s having a hard time accumulating on our farm fields here at Coulter Farms.  

 
 
     March has, indeed, 'come in like a lion'… but it has also brought with it a barn teeming with lambs.  It is peak lambing season right now.  We have tried to schedule all of our spring birthing on the farm to make it manageable… it seems that all of the farm animals appreciate lots of TLC at calving/lambing time.  I learned about how much 'mothers giving birth' appreciate attention, during the birth of my second son.  It was a particularly short but difficult labor and, afterwards, I (Dad) was feeling a little light-headed (two things I don’t handle very well are stress and blood and there had been an abundance of both). I had decided it would be better to be closer to the floor than standing.  So, I sat down rather abruptly in a chair.   The two nurses in the delivery room noticed this and in no time everybody was clustered around me catering to my every need...asking me ‘Are you OK?… and did I need some orange juice… how about a cookie, or some ice cream?… are you feeling overheated, dizzy, nauseous?… maybe I should put my feet up in the recliner?'  My poor, neglected, suffering wife observed this, somewhat impatiently, and blurted out a reproof for the rest of us… ‘HEY!  By the way, I’m the one that just had the baby… How about some attention for ME!   Well, I learned my lesson and the new mommas at our farm get the ‘Royal Treatment’...
 
     March works well for lambing in our farm operation. We have about 100 certified organic ewes bred, and they have birthed about half of the 150 lambs we are expecting, so far.  The frisking and ‘baah-ing’ in the lambing barn is quite the circus show.  Mother ewes are ‘chuckling’ at their lambs; and the lambs, after a few timid days getting started, are as spunky and full of energy as human teenagers full of iced coffee.  Our two favorite lamb ‘tricks’ are related.  The first cute trick is 'the vertical jump'.  Unable to contain their overflowing joy… just to be alive... the lambs will literally spring, vertically, (yes, straight up in the air), for no good reason.  When one does that, it’s cute.  When a barn full of lambs does it… well, it looks like a pan of fuzzy white popcorn kernels popping up out of hot oil.   The other common lamb trick builds on the 'vertical jump.'  The lambs will literally jump up onto their mother’s backs when the mommas are eating hay out of the feeders.  The mothers will patiently endure this, and the ewe and the lamb will  continue eating hay in ‘bunk-bed’ formation.   I went to get a picture of it, but of course, none of them will do it when you want them to.  
 
 
     The timing of March lambing dovetails perfectly with mid-April green pastures.  The lambs are just being involuntarily weaned by their impatient mommas.  The momma sheep are about disgusted with their oversized lambs head-butting momma’s  back legs off the ground to get a little more milk.  The disillusioned and famished lambs can then turn their attention to the vibrant, high energy, certified organic pasture that is literally bursting with new growth… just in time for a tsunami of hungry, fluffy, white lambs.
 
 
     Just as lambing is letting up by the end of March, the dairy herd of Jersey milk cows is ready to let loose their April calves.  The milk flow starts in earnest just as our farm market business is ramping up with the first warm days in April.  
 
     Last, but not least on our farm’s neo-natal calendar… the momma beef cows start dropping their adorable red and white, purebred Hereford, organic beef calves.  We are very glad to wait until May for our beef calves after all of the chaos of March lambs, and April Jersey calves.  No sooner does the beef herd get its calves going during May… then it’s hay season… but that’s for another article.  :).
      
Posted 2/7/2018 4:50pm by Kinley Coulter.

      It was a bit of a shock, this past Friday, to fly out of San Salvador, in El Salvador, in the heat of the afternoon... 

      After a week of 90 degree temperatures, 6 hours of travel time delivered me to the Baltimore-Washington Airport at a bone-numbing 19 degrees… Brrrr!  I had spent the week driving around El Salvador (I have a whole new appreciation for the term ‘defensive driving’)  as part of an organization called ‘Anabaptist Financial’ that is investigating the possibility of financing new dairy/processing operations.  The vision for the first of these proposed dairies is that it would help to support a deaf children’s school near San Salvador.  Currently, 14-20 poor deaf children get language training at the school. 
 
 
     The group that operates the school has a dream of providing work for the older students as well as for the community.  Their board presented a request to Anabaptist Financial for a loan of about $200,000 for a building, 40 dairy cows, and equipment to milk them and process the milk for direct marketing.  Eventually, they envision processing their own milk into yogurt, cheese, bottled milk and ice cream, and direct marketing all their products.  My experience of putting together this type of a farm at Coulter Farms got me drafted into exploring the possibilities of this venture.  
  
 
      Anabaptist Financial, an organization that funnels funds to worthy groups,  sees this kind of an investment as ‘seed money’ to allow ministries such as orphanages and handicapped children’s schools to kill two birds with one stone.  First, an operation such as this would provide work for teenage and young adult students that have grown up in these communities, and struggle to find employment.  Secondly, if these ministries were not dependent on outside charity for their operating expenses, they would have the satisfaction of ‘paying their own way’, so to speak.  Additionally, the funds that are freed up from supporting existing ministries could be used to establish new ones.  
 
 
     We visited ‘Strong Tower Children’s Home’ which operates a coffee business on a similar premise.  They house 20 orphans of the country’s Civil War and gang violence, and are moving towards being self supporting by using some of their land to produce coffee that they export to the US. (Coulter Farms is going to offer their coffee at our Saturday market, and on our website store, if you want to do some good with the money you spend on coffee.)
 
 
     We spent much of the week visiting existing Salvadoran dairies in the area, as well as learning about how dairy processing is done in El Salvador.  I was surprised at how well the dairy cows seemed to manage in the heat of an equatorial climate.  The cows have acclimated to weather that would shut down our Pennsylvania cows’ milk production.  Also, the Salvadoran farmers have carefully introduced some ‘tropical’ cow genetics into our typical, European dairy breeds.  The result are some rather odd-looking ‘Holsteins’ and ‘Jerseys’ that can not only survive, but even thrive with year round temperatures in the high 80’s.  
 
 
     We determined right away that we would need to work with local animals, and include some local milking methods, because to transplant a Pennsylvania operation to El Salvador would probably be a disaster.  A lot of our highly efficient (expensive) systems and equipment are unnecessary in a place where wages are 10% of US farm wages.  For example, using a $2,000 milking cart might take four men a couple of hours to milk 40 cows.  A $100,000 milking parlor in the US allows two people to milk 80 cows in an hour… but parts and service technicians for specialized milking equipment are not sitting on every corner in El Salvador.  Also, the community would much rather have the additional employment that less efficiency provides.  Five ‘local style’  $200,000 dairy operations can support more schools and orphanages than a single million dollar facility that is so efficient that it hardly employs anyone, and has to sit idle when something breaks.
 
 
     At Coulter Farms, we produce 18 types of cheese, and I was shocked to visit several corner ‘cheese stores’ and not recognize a single type of cheese.  Butter is almost unheard of.  Fluid milk is not a popular product.  Cream, yogurt and skim milk cheeses are abundant.  I watched a clunking and sputtering ‘rattle trap’ pick-up truck back up to the off-loading dock at a good sized dairy processing operation with an open top 55 gallon drum half full of warm milk sloshing round in the plastic barrel.  Absent refrigeration (or even a lid) a worker stuck a hose in the drum, and sucked the milk from somebody’s little 6 cow, hand milking farm up into the big tank of milk waiting for processing.  I think that my USDA dairy inspector would have keeled over from a heart attack.  I’m not a huge fan of government regulation of small farms, but I have to admit that my mouth was hanging open a little bit... that was the end of my milk drinking for the trip. 
 
     We barely made our flight out of El Salvador when the only road to the airport was closed after a gang stopped a bus, and killed six people and wounded four police when the bus driver refused to pay the demanded extortion money.  We take a lot of our blessings and security for granted here in the US.    
 
     Anyway… I just thought it might interest the customers and supporters of our little family farm to know that part of the proceeds of what you invest in our products are playing a role in trying to establish safe, healthy dairies among some of this hemisphere’s most underprivileged communities.  We’ll keep you informed as things progress with this project.
Posted 1/10/2018 10:36am by Rebecca Coulter.

The recent cold snap brought some difficulties, including ice everywhere;

frozen water troughs;

and frozen equipment,

including trucks, tractors, skidloaders and milking equipment that wouldn't start; cheese caves that needed extra heaters to stay at the proper temperature; and little girls that couldn't play outside for long.

But it also brought smiles to our boys faces, since the redneck hockey rink they built on our farm froze solid, 

providing lots of ice time for big skaters

and even time for little skaters and dogs :).

We hope you all stayed warm, and are now enjoying more temperate weather.

 

Posted 12/27/2017 5:26pm by Kinley Coulter.

     I just got finished checking out the forecast for Farm Market this Saturday. They are expecting a balmy seventeen degrees when we leave at 3 am for the market.  Ummm… Brrrr!!!  Farm market on the nicest days is just, well, nice.  Everyone is in a good mood… customers?  Happy!  Farmers?  Happy!.  Even the cash register is humming a happy tune as it steadily fills up with 20 dollar bills.  The birds are singing, joyfully, in the trees, there is a gentle breeze caressing the puffy white clouds in the brilliant, clear blue sky...and while we might sweat a little setting up, market itself is comfortable.  



     Farm market in hot weather presents some challenges.  The chief challenge?... keeping meat frozen, cheeses and eggs cool, and milk cold.  We tax our farm's big ice machine pretty hard to make enough ice to keep 5 ice tables heaped with ice on a sultry 100 degree day.  The two meat freezers on the trailer are set to -20 degrees so that the meat in the market coolers will stay hard frozen in picnic coolers at the market booth.  I don’t mind getting disgusting sweaty setting up (not much, anyway), but on the hottest days we’re dripping wet all day long.  Our poor customers need a lot of patience to put up with buying food from a perspiring farmer and trying to not lose their appetites.  



     Rain at market is mostly a drag because it’s an absolutely, positively, guaranteed money losing day.  We can stay fairly dry under our EZ-Up tents in even the hardest rain.  The big problem is that none but the most desperately hungry customers are at market on a wet day.  We are able to generate some ‘sympathy sales’ from people who walk by and feel sorry for us in our bedraggled condition and buy something they probably didn’t want or need… just to encourage us (or to be sure we have gas money to get home!)  To our shame…we do cultivate the sympathy thing, just a tiny bit,  by gazing forlornly at people’s wallets or purses as they hurry past in the rain.  We should probably put out a ‘donations’ pot on ‘monsoon' days.   :). 



     When the gentle breeze turns into howling winds… farm market becomes a real battlefield.  Other vendors' tents have been known to come rocketing down the sidewalk like angry cruise missiles… testing our resolve, courage and agility.  We watched in horror one gusty day as our own twin 10x10 tents, supposedly anchored down with heavy, steel dumb-bells, flipped over a shiny red, late-model Acura parked behind us and into the busy city street.  Miraculously, no-one… not even the Acura, received a scratch.  Dad always said, ’sometimes the bear gets you and sometimes you get the bear.’   That day… we got the bear!


     Cold January days test our resolve as well.  The alarm clock goes off at 2:25 am for our sole winter market.  I know… that is SO early!  I feel like I’m getting up before I ever got to bed.  What kinds of issues do farmers encounter at market in January?   Our milk and yogurt and cheeses try to freeze… believe it or not, we bury them in ice to keep them from freezing (it works!).  Eggs have to be kept warm in the truck or they freeze and crack.  If anyone figures out a use for 100 dozen frozen/cracked eggs other than feeding them to pigs, let me know!  


     The girls that faithfully show up all year long for market with bright smiles on their faces?  Even their steadfast smiles start to stiffen and their mouths curl downward as their visages freeze… We do run a propane heater and put nylon sides up on our tents in cold weather.  On the worst days (11 degrees is our record cold day at market) we run two heaters.  The heaters leave very little space for customers in the booth… that’s the bad news.  On the bright side… we don’t need room for many customers when it’s that cold.  Someone sharper than me at the business side of farming might ask what in the world we’re doing at market on a day like that?  That is actually an astute question.  But, if we didn’t go to market we’d be stuck in a warm bed until daylight… Hmmm, perhaps I should give this topic some more thought.  


     Oh well, we have committed to our faithful ‘foul weather’ customers that we will come in wind, wet, cold… the only thing that beats us is snow.  We only have one market truck, and if it is in a ditch with the greasy bottom side pointing upwards… Coulter Farms is out of commission for a while.  I haven’t figured up how many quarts of milk or dozens of eggs it takes to replace a diesel pickup… but it’s more than a few!

Posted 12/13/2017 3:57pm by Kinley Coulter.

     December!  Winter has arrived at Coulter Farms with a vengeance.  The next two nights are forecast to have low temperatures in the teens… Brrrr!  Who doesn’t appreciate a warm soft bed on a cold winter’s night?  Here at the farm, nothing feels quite as nice as tumbling, exhausted,  into a soft, warm, cozy bed after a long day’s work… Aaaahhhh… what could be better?!  

 
     Would it surprise you to know that animals appreciate a soft, warm, dry bed too?  Maybe you never thought about how to make a bed 'fit for a cow.'
 
     It all starts in a Certified Organic corn field where the ear-corn has been picked and removed and nothing remains but the corn stalks and leaves.  We are required to use only Certified organic bedding for our dairy cows, beef cows and sheep because bored animals can occasionally eat bedding (I know, ‘Yuck!’ Right?  But bored animals, like bored people, can do all kinds of senseless things… ).
 
     We won’t  (and according to organic protocols, mayn’t) use bedding that has been grown from GMO laden seed, or sprayed with toxic herbicides,  or soaked with poisonous pesticides to bed our animals.  As an aside...did you know that the Google says that the suffix ‘cide’ means ‘something that promotes or causes death'…. from the same root word as ‘cadaver’ (or corpse)… why would farmers need things that are engineered to end life to grow food that is meant to preserve life? Just asking…   
 
     Anyway, If it ever made you grumpy to pay a premium for organic food… even I, the organic farmer feel your pain.  The organic bedding we use for our ruminants costs double what conventional bedding costs.  We can live with it...it’s a small price to pay for a clean, healthy animal bed.  How would you like it if your sheets and pillow were sprayed with toxic poison?  Sweet dreams?!
 
     The corn stalks are chopped up with a brush-hog, dried in the bright, fall sunshine and raked into long puffy, fluffy rows with a hay rake… then, along comes the hay baler.  The sleepy round-baler thought its work was done at the end of the hay season; but, Surprise, wake up Mr. Baler!  It gets rousted back to ‘active duty’ even as the occasional snow-flakes are dancing wildly in the stiff November wind.
 
     In no time at all, a half ton of soft dry corn stalks and leaves are rolled into a tight, compact round bale and neatly tied up like a Christmas gift with a thin plastic webbing called ’net wrap.'  Now you know our recipe to transform corn-field refuse into valuable corn-fodder bedding (don’t tell anyone our secret).
 
      The fodder bales don’t get to hang-out in the field long… a chilly fall rain is always threatening.  So, out comes the skid loader and the clunky (but mighty) bale truck and trailer.  In no time at 150 fodder bales have been gathered… 
 
and loaded…
 
and transported to the barn...
 
and unloaded…
 
 and tucked into the anxiously waiting hay barn.
 
     Our amazing story of ‘a bed fit for a cow’ continues in the dairy cows’ loafing pen.  We use a highly advanced but sublimely primitive system of bedding our animals that is known as a ‘bedding pack’.  To make a long story short, carbonaceous fiber (read: corn fodder) is continuously composting underneath the cows’ hooves as the nitrogen and moisture in the manure reacts with the bedding, to both produce heat (cozy warm bed) and consume moisture (cozy dry bed) AND… that’s not even the whole story. That’s right… there’s even more marvels happening beneath our cows as they sleep…
  
     This bedding pack is fantastically ALIVE!  Microbial composting produces the most incredible, biologically active, symbiotic community of bacteria and yeasts deep  within the bedding pack.... Nothing less than priceless and precious organic ‘rocket fuel’ for the Organic Farmer’s fields.   Compost will powerfully activate our soils as we spread it next spring to produce next year’s hay and pasture crop.
 
     I sometimes feel a little sorry for conventional farmers that have to rely on pathetic, synthetic, chemical fertilizers.  But... I'm not sorry enough to share any compost with them.  I wouldn’t sell a single  scoop of my super duper ultra-miracle compost for a million dollars!  (Well, all right… you can have just one tiny scoop for a million dollars, just this once.  :) )  
 
     Here is what it looks like when approximately five trillion dollars worth of compost have been spread on 10 acres of Certified Organic pasture.  When the first gentle rain soaks the compost into the hungry soil…compost microbes ignite the soil fertility to produce vast oceans of resplendent green pasture. 
 
 
 
 
     So, today we see Jason and Jacob carefully unrolling corn fodder to refresh the Jersey cow bedding pack, while the little girls supervise.  Later, they will head over to the beef cows and the sheep to make their fresh beds as well.  You can witness the transformation the bedding pack from soiled…
 
 
 to spotless…
 
 
     The first thing the cows do when we finish bedding them is…. lay down.  After a long day of producing 100% Grassfed Certified Organic Milk, nothing feels better than stretching out on the warm fluffy fodder… Aaaahhh!  
 
 
     Sometimes the cheerfulness of the cows on clean bedding is palpable… even visible… Here we caught the cow on the right nuzzling her sleeping herd-mate…Cows don’t have ‘smile’ muscles in their muzzles, but this is how they smile...
 
 
     I’m thankful for the many blessings in my life.  Not the least among those is that I get to sleep in a 'people bed' at the farm house instead of a 'cow bed' in the barn.   But!  If I had to sleep in a cow bed, I would pick to sleep in a cow bed at Coulter Farms on a warm, cozy, dry, organic fodder bedding pack.  We feel, strongly, that our milk, beef and lamb are far more than just the product of stuffing animal food in the mouth end of an animal and harvesting milk and meat.  We believe that the nutrient density and healthiness of what our animals produce is impacted by a vast array of seemingly ‘insignificant’ details in the farming process… that turn out to be significant, after all...even reaching down to what they sleep on at night.  Truly, a bedding pack is a ‘bed fit for a cow.'