About Me

Kentucky, United States
Fourth generation beef producer, wife, mother, 4-H & FFA supporter, agriculture advocate, Christian, WKU alum, love livestock shows, basketball, college football, Dallas Cowboys. All things agriculture.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011, A Year of Growth and Changes

     This is my favorite time of the year and I seem to enjoy it more and more as I get older. The fun and excitement of opening my gifts has been replaced with the joy of seeing others enjoy their gifts. We have cut back on spending over the last few years and we have so much fun with gag gifts and giving what you know someone really needs. We open gifts with my family on Christmas Eve and we always have a spectacular meal and fun with gifts, then a night of cards or board games. For a small family of my parents, my brother and his family and my family, we can make a lot of noise. This year however, my husband began getting sick with a horrible case of bronchitis on Christmas Eve, so he stayed home to keep others from getting sick and we missed him terribly.

Desserts made by my daughter, mother, sister-in-law and myself. Included are chocolate  fudge, peppermint-white chocolate bark, apple cake with buttermilk icing, chocolate dipped pretzels, chocolate dipped marshmallows, pecan turtles, and Italian cream cake. Also, not pictured, a chocolate caramel dream cake.
     What a way to celebrate Christmas and the end of a great year!! Lots of delicious homemade treats!! On top of that my mother makes the best homemade custard, which we love much better than eggnog.   
      A few years ago we enjoyed a wonderful white Christmas and I remember taking the kids outside around 11:00 pm and enjoying the peace and stillness of the night as the snow fell in huge flakes. It was a great experience to be out in the country and hear the quiet but steady fall of the snow and all I could think about was how lucky I was to live in the beautiful country, knowing no one in a city was enjoying the snow like us.  It's such a blessing to live on the farm and be able to enjoy God's gifts of nature. No snow yet this year but I'm still hoping!!!
     As the new year approaches and I look back on this very blessed year, I see that we have gone through many changes with the family. Ashley graduated from Western Kentucky University in May and is now an  AgEd graduate student at Texas Tech, over a thousand miles away. I'm just so proud of her strength and ability to accomplish all her goals, and I'm learning to accept the distance.   Blake, as a young teenager, has matured and taken on more of the farm work and responsibilities at the barn. He has learned the rewards of hard work and it amazes me that he goes to the barn each morning before school to feed, rinse, and work hair on his show calves. He had an exceptional year with his market heifer, market hog, and market goat. Tim and I began a new project, a livestock show and sale barn, which is now in the building phase. As we near completion I will include more information about this new and exciting project in our life.

Blake with his market doe at the Kentucky State Fair. She stood second in class.
     I first published BarnScoop on October 26, and my second post "KY Agriculture Commissioner" received the most views, which makes me very happy. The Commissioner of Agriculture race was one of the most important in the 2011 Kentucky election and I'm proud that James Comer won in a landslide victory. I plan to begin 2012 with tips on choosing 4-H and FFA livestock projects, feeds, and preparing an animal for the show ring. I will also have feature articles on breeders and youth involved in the livestock industry.
     God blessed our farm with a very productive year of a healthy herd of beef cattle, strong calves, and the joy of watching those planned matings grow into the bulls and heifers we had hoped for. We definitely had our share of bad luck, but that's just part of life in agriculture.
     I wish for everyone in the year 2012, a year blessed with good health, steady jobs, friends, family, and success on the farm. I am Scotch-Irish and I would like to share this Irish blessing with you:  May God give you...for every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Uncommon for Rural Kentucky

 A concrete Walrus mailbox, in rural central Kentucky.

     This is not a regular blogpost, but I  had to share this unusual mailbox we passed on our way to visit my husband's parents for Christmas. Definitely not commonly seen in Kentucky.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I love my crazy life on the farm!

     This morning I want to tell you a little about my hectic but most wonderful  life on a Kentucky beef cattle farm. I am very fortunate to have been raised on a farm by typical hard-working Christians in South Central Kentucky. My Daddy worked off the farm but still managed a small herd of Horned Herefords and we raised tobacco. I still believe that I had the best childhood anyone could have with the family working together in the tobacco patch, baling hay, or working cattle. I'm thankful for being taught to work hard and enjoy the rewards of my labors even if it was only the satisfaction of a job well done at the end of the day.
      Today, I'm happily married to a man who shares many of my dreams and so many of my interests in agriculture, livestock, and the blessed country life. He's a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, and I spend my days managing a college bookstore. We have two children, one in graduate school in Texas and another in middle school, both blessed with a passion for agriculture, primarily livestock, and enjoying the life of agriculture.

One of the few photographs I have of our family because I'm usually taking the pictures. This is our son's Champion Market Hog  and Kentucky State Fair Board member Bill Tolle presenting the banner. From left to right, Ashley, Tim, Wanda, Bill Tolle, and Blake.

      A normal day for us begins between 4:30 and 5:00 am with feeding the livestock. We usually have beef show calves to get into the barn, halter, feed, and brush. When time, weather, and temperature allow, these show animals will be rinsed before taken into the barn. Just part of the normal routine for anyone exhibiting beef cattle. Our oldest child can no longer participate in the youth livestock shows due to her age, but our youngest is taking up the slack where she left off. Both kids have shown beef heifers, market goats, market lambs, and market hogs. This takes a lot of time feeding the animals their individual rations, so the work would not be completed if the kids didn't do the work because my husband and I just don't have the time. My husband and I will always feed if the kids have a conflict but that's as far as the help goes...the extra work is up to them, and I'm proud to say that they work hard and have been rewarded a few times in the show ring for their extra efforts. In the middle of the summer and livestock show season when the show barn is full, it can sometimes take 1 1/2 hours each morning and night, just to get everything fed, stalls cleaned, and animals groomed.

Some of our cows enjoying the shade this summer.

     After the morning chores are complete it's time to get ready for school and work. That's when we spend the day much like our non-farming friends, but as soon as we get back home, the remainder of the day's farm work begins. This includes checking on all the cows and calves in the pastures, filling calf feeders and mineral feeders, and taking out hay when needed in the winter months.  We have a herd of Chiangus, Chiamaine, and Angus cows along with a small commercial herd. We have cows calving in both Spring and Fall so we stay busy with both synchronizing and catching cows in natural estrus and planning which bulls to use and ordering bull semen. We also have a very small herd of Boer goats, so there's the management of them with their hooves, vaccinations, breeding, and kidding. Rinsing the show cattle at night before turning them out is a daily routine, especially during the warmer months.
      Working on a farm and taking care of the daily chores is not for everyone. You must have a passion and love for the industry and the wonderful way of life including the knowledge of the hard work and tough times that accompany farm life. It's not all beautiful sunrises, crops in a perfect non-weedy row, and animals born alive and well. It takes a lot of daily work and dedication to see any crop from planting to harvest, with many moments of worry over uncontrollable weather, temperature, and rainfall. Most animals enter this world with no help but there are those that may need our assistance or even encouragement to live and be persistent in getting that first milk, or the rescue from a rainy, snowy, or icy pasture on that first day or two in this world.

Our beef stalls at the 2011 Kentucky State Fair
     We spend much of our time at livestock shows across Kentucky and we travel each year to a few shows outside our state. We are very fortunate to have an outstanding facility like the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, which hosts our Kentucky State Fair and the prestigious North American International Livestock Exposition. We have a very successful Shows and Fairs division with our Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the program is excellent for encouraging our youth to remain active in the livestock and agriculture industry.
      I'm a very typical Mom and housewife in that I do most of the cooking and housework and I'm my kids biggest cheerleader. I may be a little different when it comes to the barn work and helping with the chores and care of our livestock, but I am a product of the agriculture industry. I love the work, the animals, and the people in this business. I would rather spend my spare time at the barn than cleaning house, much to the dismay and probably disappointment of my dear late grandmother, but I am who I am.
     My goal is to include more of our daily life as I work hard to include this in my daily routine. I have failed miserably of late for I had planned to publish a post at least once a week but would rather publish three per week. My job as manager of a college bookstore required longer hours during the first weeks of December, and with the added activities of  our son's basketball games and Christmas programs, I just didn't have the time to write.
     My wish is for all to have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful happy new year! I have several friends dealing with serious illnesses in their families and I pray for their speedy recovery and for their life to return to a more normal pace for all. God has blessed me with the most wonderful family and friends and I'm proud to be a part of the agriculture community in the USA.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kentucky Proud

     The Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Kentucky Proud program is designed to market and promote Kentucky grown or processed products. The logo, below, should be a very common symbol to Kentucky consumers on anything grown or produced in Kentucky, by Kentuckians.
     It is a symbol of quality to both consumers and producers and can be found on products at farmer's markets, roadside markets, and major retailers including Walmart and Kroger. Fruits and vegetables are commonly grown and sold across the state throughout the growing season, but there are a variety of foods produced in the state including meats, milk, cheese, honey, nuts, fish, and shrimp.

    The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has a Kentucky Proud website, http://www.kyproud.com/ listing products, producers, and retail locations for products ranging from certified organic coffee, honey, maple syrup, wine, bourbon, livestock, nuts, crafts, soaps, and Christmas trees. This site is a one-stop shopping center and offers many unique gift ideas. Keep in mind that many of the roadside and farmer's markets are closed during this season but most products can be purchased directly from the producer.
    With Christmas here and many serving country ham, I would like to suggest Penn's Country Ham, of Mannsville, Kentucky. Donald Penn began curing and selling aged country hams in 1957 at the farm, using the same traditions and recipes of his family. Today, Penn's products can be found in retail stores across the state from small family-owned businesses to larger retail outlets. Some of their most popular products include Whole Country Hams, Cooked Country Hams, Sliced Country Hams (in vacuum packs), Sausage, Bacon, and Jowl.Their products can be shipped. Penn's is located at the farm, 8 miles outside of Campbellsville, Kentucky, on Hwy 70 East. Email address: pennshams@aol.com, phone: 270-465-5065 or 1-800-883-6984, fax: 270-789-3344. I can assure you that after many years of consuming Penn's products, they are delicious!!

     Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese is another Kentucky success story. Kenny Mattingly began looking for new ideas in the early 1990's when he became concerned with the future of the commercial milk industry. This led to a trip to Europe and studying the handmade cheese industry. In 1998, Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese began in Austin, Kentucky, with the family making Gouda cheese from milk produced on their 120-cow dairy farm. The business has grown substantially from the first year when 4,000 pounds of Gouda was made, to the 70,000 pounds of a variety of cheeses produced last year. I know some members of the Mattingly family and they work hard to produce the quality products that I purchase often at our local grocery store. Contact Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese by calling 888-571-4029  or visit  their website at http://www.kennyscountrycheese.com/.

     I have included a very small amount of information about the many products and producer information that can be found at the Kentucky Proud website. Have fun looking at the variety of products and watch for me to spotlight many more of Kentucky's producers and business owners.



Monday, December 5, 2011

Cowboy Fire, Inc., A Unique Kentucky Business.

     With less than three weeks until Christmas Day, many are still searching for that special unique gift and Cowboy Fire, Inc., has many gift options for livestock producers and agricultural enthusiasts. Tim Prather is the owner/operator of this custom laser engraving company and he's been very busy this year filling orders for livestock shows and events.

Framed, laser engraved hair on hide. Lower item approximately 3' wide.
      Prather is able to laser engrave on glass, leather, hair on hide, wood and plexiglass, practically anything other than metal. If you, or your child, is involved in Kentucky Department of Agriculture livestock shows, chances are you received a Cowboy Fire award at the recent banquet. Many of those awards were made of hair on hide, mirrors, and plexiglass. Prather has also engraved awards for many national shows and events including the Chianina and Maine-Anjou national junior heifer shows.

Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Youth Shows and Fairs Points Program Award.

Kentucky Proud Points Program youth exhibitor award.

Laser engraved hair on hide.
      Leather brief cases with hair on hide inserts and mirrors framed with hair on hide are some of Prather's most popular gift items. Other unique items include stools, chairs, benches, and tables, with engraved hair on hide inserts. Of course time is a factor now in determining what may be available for Christmas gifts but if you've been searching for that special gift you may not have to look further than Cowboy Fire, Inc., of Nancy, Kentucky. You can find Cowboy Fire on Facebook, email at timprather@windstream.net or call 606-219-7740.

Leather briefcase with hair on hide engraved inserts.

Award at Maine-Anjou National Junior Heifer Show.

5"x7" Photo Frame with hair on hide laser engraved at the bottom. Total size is 22" T x 15"W.