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Here's what we have been up to lately!
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.'  
 
Posted 11/28/2017 7:39pm by Kinley Coulter.

     We Americans have become fairly immune to what used to be an innovative and disturbing approach to government… namely, our elected officials acting as surrogate parents to citizens whom they do not trust to make proper decisions about their own lives.  Since we, as citizens, are so prone to making unwise, even dangerous decisions about how to live, federal and state authorities feel duty bound to protect us from ourselves.   We make what they feel to be ill-informed and childish judgements about, for example, the food we eat.  

     Now, let me be clear; I am not opposed to the government putting itself between me and a murderer by incarcerating him (or her.)  I can even tolerate a peace officer pulling me over for driving without a properly fastened seat belt.  But… when a government that I pay for, and which supposedly works for me… starts telling me what I may and may not purchase to eat, I feel they have crossed a line from annoying nosiness into nutritional tyranny.   This same government that promotes gambling through a state operated lottery, and allows wine and liquor to be sold through their monopolistic ‘state stores’,  is asking me to believe that they are honestly concerned about my health when they legislate dairy products to the point that small farmers and their customers cannot carry out private commerce with each other… I’m sorry, I don’t believe it.
 
     I was thinking along this line over the past year, as I’ve witnessed our state and federal government enacting legislation against raw milk sales and raw milk cheese making.  We are not permitted to transport raw milk across state lines… even for animal consumption… It is literally a ‘federal offense!’  Supposedly, this is because milk that hasn’t been run through a state approved factory is so dangerous to our health.  I wonder if whiskey, assault weapons, fireworks, pornography, cigarettes and lottery tickets have any tendency to be dangerous to anyone’s health?  They are all not only legal… the state encourages and jealously guards the buying and selling of them, and richly pads its own coffers in the process.  
 
     Anyway,  we as a family farm have celebrated one tiny bit of liberty in the oppressive system of laws related to dairy products.   Namely, we are currently permitted to make cheese from our raw, organic, 100% grassfed milk,  and to sell it in 50 states, as long as we age it for a minimum of 60 days.  During that time, any pathogens that might be present in the raw milk (like e-coli, for example) would be destroyed by the acidic nature of the cheese.  In addition to the acid, the teeming population of beneficial bacteria in a living food like raw milk cheese tends to massively dilute the influence of any ‘bad hombre bacteria.’  Unfortunately, 60 day aged raw milk cheeses are receiving a lot of governmental scrutiny, lately.  Not because they have made anyone sick, but because the big, industrial dairy industry doesn't appreciate the competition.  Healthy, nutrient dense, farmstead, raw milk cheese has a limited shelf life and cannot be mass produced in mega-quantities like the sterile ‘cheeses' at the grocery store.  Here at Coulter Farms, it was mandated, by both the FDA and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, that we set up a certified and inspected laboratory at the farm, to test every batch of milk we process for antibiotic residue.  Never mind that we are an organic farm, and don’t even have a single dose of antibiotic on the entire farm… and haven’t since 2005.  Never mind that the government allows livestock producers to put ‘therapeutic’ antibiotics in the feed of healthy animals, just as a precaution against the devastating diseases that plague high-density, industrial, factory livestock production.  We spend countless hours, and an obscene number of dollars, testing and testing and testing our milk for antibiotic residue that will not (and cannot) ever be there… running up our cost of production, for absolutely no reason - other than to impoverish us and our customers, and to, ultimately, I believe, drive us out of the dairy processing business, and make us slaves, again, to shipping our milk, in enormous tractor trailers, off to giant industrial plants that do ‘who knows what’ to it. Taking our precious, living, sun-golden, nutrient dense milk apart and then reassembling it after exposing the pieces to massive abuses of temperature, pressure and mechanical maceration.  It’s no wonder no one likes ‘milk’ anymore.  I tell anyone that says that they don’t like milk that they’ve never tasted milk.      
 
     Anyway… my wife says I need to guard against spending a whole blog posting ranting against the government… lest I get lumped in with the rabid anarchists and flaming ‘flat earthers.’  :) I imagine that using the word ‘government’  too many times in a blog posting is inviting a visit from a black suburban full of scary looking men with mirror sunglasses and bulges under their coats… Yikes!
 
     I would like to take this opportunity to make a shameless plug for the raw milk cheeses our family makes here on our farm.  Until these cheeses are legislated out of existence, you have a unique opportunity to accomplish three important tasks with a purchase of our cheese.  First… you can speak powerfully with your grocery dollar to the powers that be… putting them on notice that you trust your farmer and want to eat real, whole, living food produced by farmers, not factories.  Second… you can do your body and its immune system, your heart, and your brain (and that of your family) a big favor by consuming real cheese made from real milk by real people on a real farm, and profiting from its amazing taste, its biological activity, its dense mineral and enzymatic riches, and its massive quantities of precious omega 3 fatty acids and CLA.  Thirdly… you can partner with us in preserving, promoting and prospering a family farm (and its irreplaceable heritage) that can be a beacon of food sanity in the midst of a tsunami of processed, factory food. Who knows… we may just be the virus that infects and brings down the whole ‘Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)’ colossus.

 
     Since we started shipping our cheeses with online ordering from our Home Delivery department, we are getting more and more orders every week.  Would you consider voting for what we are doing with your food dollar?  Why not order some of our cheese for your family?  Cheese makes a great Christmas present :).  We'll put in a card when we ship the cheese, notifying the recipient of your gift.    As an incentive, we have added a $10 off coupon to the ‘Home Delivery’ section of our website.   Baby Swiss, Monterrey Jack, Dill and Chive Jack, Garlic and Herb Jack, Hot Pepper Jack, five varieties of Cheddar, Tomme, Gruyere, Gouda and more are just a click (or three) away.  
 
     Perhaps, if enough people get on to eating real raw milk cheese... we won’t have to hang our head in shame and admit to foreign visitors that ‘American Cheese’ is actually made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and food coloring… Yuck!
   
 
Posted 10/29/2017 12:51pm by Kinley Coulter.
Genesis 8:22...While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
 
 
     Someone with too much time on their hands has gone to the trouble of calculating how many blades of grass there are in an acre of pasture or hayfield.  Using the shockingly small amount of schooling that has stuck with me through the three or four decades since I graced a classroom, I determined that there are precisely 100 billion blades of grass frolicking in the October breeze on this bright fall afternoon, on the 300 Certified Organic acres that we farm in perennial grass.  October 31st is effectively the end of our grazing season here on the farm.  After a few hard freezes and the long nights that accompany them, these blades have given up and gone dormant, and all growth above ground has stopped.  Underground, however, frenzied preparation for winter is going on in earnest.  Our cool season grasses and legumes are busily developing their root systems in the still-warm soil… thumbing their vegetative noses at the cold air, and its threats of winter weather on the way.  When spring comes, these pastures will ‘spring’ to life with a vengeance… ready to richly feed another batch of lambs, beef cattle and milk cows with nutrient dense grasses.  
 

 
     This innate motivation to to prepare for winter is not limited to perennial grasses.   We farmers have been storing away what we need for winter as well.  Our barns are bursting… full to the rafters with the equivalent of 15 tractor trailer loads of sweet, crunchy, dry hay bales.
 
 
 Outdoors, safely wrapped in plastic, are another 30 tractor trailer loads of moist, sweet-smelling fermented hay, called 'baleage.’  
 
 
     Many tons of organic straw and corn fodder are waiting to be used to create warm, soft, dry, clean bedding packs for all of the animals.  The bedding from last winter has been carefully piled, composted, turned over and patiently composted again, throughout the spring and summer, until it has broken down into a dry, crumbly, pleasant, farmy smelling pile of about 1/3 its original volume.  This residual compost is no longer ‘raw manure’ but rather an almost magical, and exceedingly precious blend of humates,  soil nutrients, probiotics and enzymes  that we are currently spreading on our fields to restore their fertility, and activate their powerful biology in this critical, underground phase of the grass growing season.  
 
     We have also been replenishing our stores of firewood for the winter.  Our home is heated by the same firewood fired boiler that gently pasteurizes our bottled milk, and slightly warms our raw milk to body temperature for cheesemaking.  A lot of hot water is used for dishwashing in the processing room, and the eight of us still living here at the farm appreciate our hot showers when we come in at the end of a long day with a little too much ‘farm’ sticking to us.    Rebecca uses a lot of wood fired hot water doing (she says) loads of laundry that (unlike blades of grass) are beyond numbering.  So, the monstrous firewood pile is never quite monstrous enough, and by this time of year it's looking downright puny.  We mostly harvest trees that are ‘standing dead’ for firewood.  This opens up the canopy and forest floor for the next generation of woods.  
 
 
    With the end of grazing season, unfortunately, we need to face the end of farm market season as well.  Over the winter, we lean, heavily, on the meager finances we have stockpiled during the warm months.  Many times during the peak season - with four markets going and flush bank accounts - the temptation to make farm improvements or upgrade aging equipment has to be tempered with the sobering reality that bills and family expenses keep coming over the long winter, when the flurry of market sales is only a fond (and distant) memory.  We have been appreciating the one farm market that runs all winter.  It’s remarkable how much difference there is between 'a little income' and 'none' for 5 months :)
 
      Our animals are storing up for the winter, as well.  Their coats of hair have lost their summer sleekness, and they are starting to look shaggy and 'bundled up' to face the inevitable bitter cold of January and February.  The milk cows, beef cows and ewes are all pregnant (or supposed to be) so they are eating heavily and putting on ‘back fat’ for the winter.  Long winter evenings and less field and farm work can serve to put a little ‘back fat’ on a farmer, as well.  Never fear, he always manages to work most of it off in the spring :).
 
 
Posted 10/3/2017 11:19am by Kinley Coulter.

    

     About 6 years ago, we were raising turkeys outdoors in a fenced enclosure that we considered to be a ‘Free Range’ environment.  To be sure, they had lots of green pasture, bugs and sunshine.  This would be a pretty good life for a chicken, but we’ve learned that turkeys aren’t chickens.  A free range chicken is satisfied to fill his crop at the feeder and then go peck around at grass and bugs a little… then he is happy to settle down and take a nap in the sunshine.  Turkeys require a lot more ‘stomping grounds’ to satisfy their ‘turkeyness.’   A friend who raises his own turkeys saw my poor, penned up turkeys, and asked me why I bothered penning them up.  He exhorted me to ‘let them out.’  I had never heard anything so ridiculous, but I knew that his own turkeys ran wild.  So, we threw caution (and, perhaps, wisdom) to the wind and opened the fence, then watched in horror as the whole precious flock took off at a sprint for the woods.  Sigh… one more farming debacle to figure out how to pay for.  But… Wait!  When the exhilarated escapees got to the woods, they stopped.  ‘Hmmm…’ (Their itty bitty turkey brains did a little thinking)  'These woods are very dark...These woods are a little scary… These woods are probably full of ‘turkey eating’ monsters.  So, the whole flock stepped back from the abyss and set to happily chasing grasshoppers and gobbling up dandelions in the pastures where they belonged.  This was how our ‘Radical Free Range’  turkey flock came to be.  

 
 
     Every year we allow the turkeys to go farther in expressing their natural desire to forage 'far and wide.'  Last year I was operating a tractor and saw the flock had traveled almost a MILE from their ‘home’ feeding area… crossing our lane, and a township road, and ducking under four of our cattle fences.  I’m sorry… a mile is a LONG ways from home when you are only 18 inches tall… that would be the equivalent of you and I walking four miles to eat lunch!  I figured ‘this free range thing has finally gotten out of hand’… and I was brainstorming about how to get a livestock trailer out there and get these crazy birds loaded up and dragged home.  Anyway, I didn’t have time to mess with them, so I just mentally wrote them off as ‘hopelessly lost.’  Guess what!  That evening they were back, and we pulled their nighttime enclosure closed and all was well again.  The nice part about all of this is that the birds could have gone even further and still been on our Certified Organic Pastures… maybe this year they will go further.  I’m not going to waste any energy worrying about it until the first night they don’t come home.
 
 
      Did you know that Benjamin Franklin despised the Bald Eagle as a ‘scavenger’ that ate rotted, dead things?  He lobbied energetically for the nascent United States to name the Wild Turkey as our national bird.  While I admire our turkeys for their ability to consume up to 2/3 of their feed intake by foraging… the turkeys we raise are a ‘domesticated’ breed.  Although tremendously meaty birds, they seem to have most of the intelligence bred out of them.  I’ve not seen a turkey drown by looking up at a rain storm and forgetting  to close his mouth… but I have seen some other, impossibly foolish, turkey antics.  They seem to start their day with three goals:  1.  Stuff my gullet with bugs, grass and turkey food   2.  Digest the food.  3.  Use all of the energy from that food to cause trouble or make a mess for the poor farmer.   Our biggest problem with free ranging turkeys is that they like to come up on the porch at the house to hang out, and carpet it with a liberal coating of turkey manure.  Grrrr!  We have tried setting the Border Collies after them (bad idea...feathers fly), and shooting them with marshmallow guns (bad idea… they recover from the initial fright and then feast on the marshmallows).  We’ve thrown pillows, boxes, sneakers, magazines and even brooms and dustpans… but there is really no foolproof way to get them to abandon the porch.  The big boys have tried using a toy slingshot loaded with acorns.  Turkeys will gobble up the acorns, but it must hurt just enough that they wander off when the acorns are gone.  We also sic the little girls on them, armed with dish towels and looking as fierce as a 3 and 5 year old can look.   Anyway… if anyone has a better turkey repellent, we’re all ears.
 
      This year we have about 80 turkeys running around getting plump on our pastures.  We intend to process them on the Monday before Thanksgiving and have them ready for Tuesday, November 21.  They will be the freshest Thanksgiving turkeys available for your Thanksgiving meal.  If you’ve never had a ‘radically free range’ fresh turkey… you should try one.  You’ll be amazed at how good a fresh turkey, raised right, can taste… and I’ll have won a turkey customer for life.  We both win!  Pre-order yours at www.CoulterFarms.net, in our online store.
 

 

Tags: turkeys