Dec 13, 2011

Support agriculture and celebrate the real reason for CHRISTmas

The Reese family is known for many things: orneriness, entertainment and "dazzling good looks"….. (direct quote from Matt Reese)

But perhaps the Christmas tree is what we are most known for, at least in northwest Ohio. My in-laws Dave and Jan Reese started Kaleidoscope Farms when their four young boys were small. They wanted to create a business that would teach their boys a good work ethic, religious values and make a little money to help put for college.

So now those four little boys are grown and there is a new generation of helpers in town. Our two Campbell and Parker love to help on the farm. This year the kids are getting old enough to learn what Christmas is all about. We talk about why we celebrate and how fortunate we are to be able to have a home, the freedoms to worship the one true God and even put some nice gifts under the tree. While we do sell Christmas Trees, we hope that you will remember the true meaning of Christmas while picking out that perfect tree this year and remember why we celebrate.

The appearance of the bright star or angel reminds us that God is still actively involved in revealing Himself to mankind.

The night Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the archangel Gabriel appeared to the shepherds announcing the wonderful birth of the Savior into the world. And then there was the star that moved across the sky while the three wise men from the East followed it. They knew, that at a certain time, a child would be born that would rule as King of a kingdom that would never end. They went and worshiped Him, presenting him with precious gifts.

The colorful decorations and beautiful lights, pictures of loved ones, lovely ornaments, more angels and stars, sparkling trinkets along with some glittering tinsel adorning the tree remind us of the magnificent gift that our Heavenly Father presented to all humankind that night.

The gifts that are so lovingly wrapped and placed under the tree were originally intended as reminders of God’s gift of love and our response to his gift. People were giving to show their love and belief in Christ, for everything He did and the love that was shown toward them when He died on the cross.

This gift from God is with us throughout the year but we memorialize it by putting up a tree during the Christmas season. The decorated tree is a visual reminder that on that night long ago God sent us the greatest gift that has ever been given, His Son Jesus Christ. He is still with us today.

John 3:16 says:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Dec 5, 2011

A Brown Christmas?

This is a blog topic that you will not see me writing about often, or maybe ever again. I had to attempt to tackle this because it was so funny and gross. At our tree farm we did a beautiful new expansion of our gift shop. We are moving into the new age with our technology and of course our growing practices. While we have come a long way, we still use a Porta-John , a nice one but still a Porta -John. We have discussed adding on an actual bathroom with a toilet and even running water.

As any business owners know, you take it one major expense at a time. While, as workers on the farm, it would be wonderful to have a traditional bathroom but you do what you need to do.

This year my sister-in-law had to brave the elements. She came back to the tree barn and was half laughing half crying. She started to explain what she had encountered.

It is an unfortunate sight but we have all done it….looked into the dark hole before going to the bathroom. It just happens, even if you try not to. What my sister in law saw was a shock and a very laughable moment for our entire family and staff. There was pair a of men’s underwear that had been adorned with…well let’s just say a substance you expect to find in a pre potty-trained child’s pants.

The Reese family is known for their very active imaginations. We all had to think what this poor man was going through. We are sure he had a brief moment of panic when this all went down… the moment could not have been brief actually, in fact it was boxers! It could not have been pretty and it had to be a very memorable moment at Kaleidoscope Farms. While this is certainly not our fondest family memory at the farm, it is a definite number 2!

Nov 24, 2011

Harvest Time: Corn Harvest in Ohio 2011

Ohio Corn Harvest 2011 Video

As the 2011 harvest comes to a close I want to thank all the grain farmers who work so hard to feed our country and even our world. They not only work hard to feed people but the animals that I and many others raise.
I put this documentary style video together to showcase how corn is harvested. It will take you out into the corn field and end  at the grain bin. Even if you are around fields of corn,  I think you may take something away with this shoot. I even learned a thing or two. Farmers work hard and use  technology more than you may think. They have many new tools that can keep them even more efficient. Farmers are naturally resourceful and value technology.
Did you  know while in the combine or on the go they can use an App on their phone or tablet computer  to control their grain dryer? I am excited to see what will be developed in the next 5-10 years to help even more.
Thanks so much to a few of my favorite farmers for taking time to help  me make this video possible. The corn harvest is still underway in Ohio, it has not been a typical year due to all the rain. Many farmers still have corn out in those fields. The joke was some may be harvesting into December and I laughed, it just may be true for some farmers in my area.

This field corn will be used to make ethanol here in Ohio or possibly be shipped
out to N.C. to be used to feed chickens and hogs. Fields are averaging around 200 bushels per acre.
Around 1,000 bushels of corn will fill a semi trailer.

Nov 8, 2011

Who has time to blog?

Our lives have been very full this past month. Looking back they have been very full this past year. Where does time go? Someone asked me if I got an extra hour every day to get everything done. I only wish that was the case. We fill our lives with things that will hopefully enrich our children’s lives and make a difference for their future. Raising animals is something that I enjoy and can teach our children almost every life lesson. A few weeks back we took the last batch of meat chickens for the year to get processed. Campbell and Parker are very aware that we raise the chickens for meat and they know that to have the best meat, we need to provide the best care. They help feed water and clean out the chicken pen. They are learning that animals are hard work, fun and tasty too.
I grew up in the country but we had a neighborhood of kids. Not an in-town neighborhood, but a neighborhood in the sense that we could get to each other by walking through fields. We would play all day, come in for food and head back out to play some more. I recently ran into one of my old neighborhood friends. We got to talking about food and what we do on our farm. She told me she was a vegetarian. I, of course, had to inquire more and ask why. We talked and I learned that she no longer ate meat because, while living on the East Coast she could not afford to buy meat that was organic, all natural or antibiotic free. She feels very strongly about keeping her body free of as many unnatural substances as possible. I saw this as an opportunity to talk about how we raise our meat chickens. She agreed to try our chicken and add some meat back into her diet. I was so excited and felt that we may have made a difference. She loved the chicken and it sounded like she had a really fun time preparing it for her family. I am not sure I will get her back to eating meat from the grocery store in the near future, but I hope to have given her a little more insight on how farmers raise food.

I am indeed a busy person, but these are the little things that make me even more excited about how I can contribute to agriculture. These are the types of stories that make me find time to blog.

Oct 24, 2011

Food Day 2011: Facts to Share and Remember

Every day is food day. We should each be free to buy the food that best fits our values.

Access to abundant and affordable food, which comes from many different production methods, is necessary to ensure that millions of American families do not go to bed hungry.

Today’s food system works to address hunger and food insecurity, and to meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population.

Whether we choose food that is organic or vegan, prepackaged or fresh, locally grown or conventionally raised, from the supermarket or from the farmer’s market, we all want food that is safe, wholesome, raised in a responsible way, and meets our family's needs.

The best food choices for one family may not be right for another. We should support the right to choose the food that fits our lifestyle and our family budget.

Supporting a diverse food supply, raised using a variety of farming methods, is vital to ensuring that we all have access to affordable food. If we limit our ability to produce the food we need, we will increase hunger and food insecurity.

We cannot save family farms or feed a rapidly expanding global population by limiting farming methods or returning to outdated technology.

Placing restrictions on the U.S. food system that limit the ability to produce the food we need will increase the cost of food and limit healthy, affordable food choices for all of us, including those who can least afford it.

Supporting today’s food system in order to produce the food we need using fewer resources is the ethical choice for people, animals and the planet.

Today, one farmer produces enough food in one year to feed 156 people.

If we relied on the food production systems of 1950, as some are suggesting, approximately 150 million people living in the U.S. today would be without food. That’s everyone in the 13 largest U.S. states, hungry.

Oct 17, 2011

Large Scale vs. Me

I am currently in the AgriPower IV class through the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. This is a program that selects 20 individuals each year to participate and hone their leadership skills, learn more about the organization and politics. Over the next year I will spend 17 days with my classmates and staff from the Ohio Farm Bureau. At the end of September in Columbus, we met with many elected officials including state Auditor, Secretary of State, state legislators, Director of Agriculture and Governor Kasich. I am sure I have left someone out but it was an excellent opportunity to learn how our government works and how everything fits together.

After our formal meetings, we left Columbus and headed toward Raymond, OH to visit New Day Farms. This is a farm that houses laying hens and also has a processing facility for broken out eggs. It was a very large poultry facility to the eyes of most.

This farm was truly amazing. It had been nearly 10 years since I had toured a farm like this and I must say it was fascinating. We live in a society where people are very removed from the origins of their food. Children think their milk comes from the grocery store, eggs come from the refrigerator case and when you open the door it moos and clucks as an effort to help bridge the gap. When I was growing up I never realized how lucky I was to be raised on a farm. I often thought it was hard work and sometimes got tired of missing out on fun things with my friends because I was doing chores or working with animals.

After living in town for a few years after getting married, Matt and I realized just how lucky we were to grow up in rural America. While the town life was easier we knew we wanted to raise a family in the country. Our neighbors thought we were a bit strange when we would pull up in front of our house with a livestock trailer full of sheep. Our old neighbors who are now very dear friends asked us what we were doing with those sheep in town. We told them they were going in the backyard to mow and fertilize. We were clearly joking but they had concern in their eyes.

We raise layers on our farm and invite all of our friends to come see the hens that produce the eggs they purchase from us. Their children like to collect the eggs in a pretty basket. Our egg production is old fashioned and fun but not nearly as sophisticated, clean or efficient as New Day Farms and most poultry farms across the country.

Most uninformed consumers think big is bad! I as a small rural Ohio farmer am here to say Bigger is Better. My customers pay a premium for our natural antibiotic-free farm fresh eggs. New Day Farms feeds no antibiotics to their hens either. The hens have fresh water and food all the time on demand. I was most fascinated that the farm works with a poultry nutritionist who changes the hens’ diets to adjust for what their nutritional needs are week by week. When the hen lays an egg, is rolls onto a mini conveyor belt which heads straight to the processing end of the farm. All the manure is automatically dropped onto another belt system which dries and is discarded multiple times per week. Can you guess how many flies were in the barn? I did not see one fly the entire time I was there. It smelled a little like a chicken but no odor or smells of manure. The barn is temperature controlled for comfort and is on automatic light timers to ensure proper day and night schedules. Another fun fact about this large farm is that everything on the farm is composted. Even the egg shells are composted into lime which is sold locally. I would have loved to take photos but due to liability, which I understand, we were not allowed to take photos.

I would like to add that this farm takes great care to ensure a safe healthy animal and end product. I had to stay out of my own chicken barn for 72 hours prior to visiting and was in a full plastic coverall and hair net. After seeing this farm, I feel 100% safe buying eggs from the store and so glad we live in a country that values animal safety and consumer health.

The buy local movement is huge and I am fortunate to be a part of it. I love to buy local and I appreciate having this option. Do I always buy local? No, it is not always easy and frankly it sometimes costs more. Larger farms allow for a more cost effective food. Just because something is produced on a larger scale does not make it bad or change the nutritional content. Good, safe food, comes from well cared for birds whether they are on a large, or small, farm. Did you know that we are only 9 meals away from going hungry? Keep reading later this week as I will share more about hunger, food supply and Food Day coming up in one week. Every Day is Food Day to a Farmer.

Oct 16, 2011

Papa's Paw Paws

The Christmas tree farm is an environmentalist's dream. Not only do we have over 30,000 Christmas Trees we also have many acres of wetlands, CREP conservation areas and even a paw paw patch. We sell paw paws to a restaurant when in season and several private individuals. The going rate for paw paws is $10 per pound. The paw paw is a native fruit to Ohio. It is full of nutrients and even more nutritious than a banana. It is said that this fruit can help with stomach indigestion and digestion. It is a fleshy fruit and is only ripe for a very short period of time. It has lots of seeds inside.

Our natural paw paw patch is along our creek bed and is very wet most of the time. They spread through their root system and take over very easily. The tricky part of raising paw paws is that the animals love them just as much as people. When ripe, they fall from the trees, this is what the animals count on. We go out and shake the tree, when fruit falls it is almost ripe. The skin will be soft and turn a darker color as it ripens.

The taste is similar to a banana or a mango. Most either love it or could leave it. There are many recipes out there that are good and most say the less you heat or cook a paw paw the better. This is a delicate fruit that needs to be used within a short window or you will not like the results.

The Reese grandkids call Matt's Dad "PaPa" and he takes great joy in harvesting the native crop with his grandchildren and even daughter-in-laws like me. We think the name PaPa’s Paw Paws is here to stay.

Oct 1, 2011

A Trip to Remember

It has been tradition that around our wedding anniversary I ride along with Matt to do his fall themed stories for Ohio’s Country Journal. This usually entails an apple orchard or an agri tourism story finished by visiting one of Ohio’s wineries. This last stop has become a favorite. Those of you who know Matt know that he is very conservative in his spending. It did not take me long to realize that he was looking for a cheap anniversary gift.

This year it seemed our schedules were jammed packed and the children needed to ride along with us. We knew it would be an adventure, maybe more of one than we expected.

Our day began early to get the chores finished and making sure the animals were able to make it through the day with us gone. On a typical day Matt or I, whoever is around, is in the barn several times to make sure everything is OK. We still have bottle lambs so my grandparents agreed to come around noon to feed the lambs and check the animals’ water. Of course, we had to make arrangements for my family to take care of all the animals while we were gone for a few days working at the tree farm. Having livestock really ties you close to home most of the time.

We packed up the car and headed north to The Pine Tree Barn. This was a story about Roger Dush and his family who operate a Christmas tree farm and an extraordinary furniture and gift shop. It is always fun to see how other tree farmers operate their businesses and get ideas we can use on our farm. This gift shop has heirloom furniture, kid’s gifts, home d├ęcor, Christmas and even some women’s apparel. It was not exactly the perfect place for our children, but the kiddy train corner entertained them most of the time. The weather was not great, rain and cold temperatures were not ideal but, the kids did not seem to mind. They sat on the tractors and rode on the farm caboose. They also have a restaurant, The Granary, which looked a little too nice for my now dirty children. Roger assured us it would be fine so we decided to dine.

We sat down and Parker opened up his menu and he spilled the water all over the table. I thought I had it cleaned up without any of the patrons or employees noticing, but they did and came right over to help me with the clean up. This spill was not too bad. They even brought gold fish for the kids while we were waiting on Matt to join us. We ordered our food which was delish and almost escaped the restaurant without another scene. The check had been paid and we were about to leave. Parker was standing on the bench beside me giving me a big hug. I picked him up and his foot brushed the Hot Chocolate s on the table. One cup hit the other and we had dueling cups of spilling hot cocoa. There was nothing I could do to cover up this mess and it was a mess. All I could do was gracefully flag down the waitress, leave a hefty tip and exit the restaurant as fast as we could. Our waitress was so kind and politely said she had it under control.

The next spot on the tour of NE Ohio was Moreland Fruit farm. The weather was still rainy and chilly but we decided to brave the elements and hit the apple orchard. What damage could my children do out there? We picked apples and they said that whatever you eat in the orchard is FREE. The kids each enjoyed an apple they picked for dessert. They had fun and were running all over getting out all that extra energy. While Matt was still talking and taking photos, we decided to see if there was anything we could do to be of help. There were two Amish girls working in the back filling orders. They gave us jobs and the kids had so much fun. One of the girls was particularly beautiful and Parker must have taken notice. He went outside plucked a flower from the garden and gave it to her. After I explained we do not pick peoples’ flowers, I reassured him that it was a very kind act and pretty darn cute. This was the only cute thing he did on this trip. After a cider tasting, we hopped back in the car with hopes of the children taking naps on the hour drive up to Canton.

We were headed to Gervasi Vineyard and this was the stop I was most looking forward to. We pull in the drive and the wrought iron detailed sign was a preview of what we were to see. It was like we pulled into Italy and the infrastructure was more than impressive. Parker was just drifting off and Campbell was wide awake. We drove past at least 4 buildings including the carriage house and the market place and then were told to drive around the large body of water to meet the owner. At this point I told Matt we would wait in the car until the weather got better and he is ready to tour the grounds.

This is the part when my cute little son turned into some other child I have never met before. He cried and was blatantly defiant for a good 15 minutes. If I asked him to not put the keys in the car 10 times it was 20. He pushed all the buttons, bit his sister, hit and was just plain B-A-D. Of course at this point Campbell had to go to the bathroom. There was no place to go, the building was under construction and I did not think letting her go outside was the proper Winery etiquette. I told her she was going to have to go in one of Parker’s diapers. She was obviously concerned, but she really had to go. I was just mortified and praying that Matt would hurry up this visit so we could leave. With the flashers blinking and screaming that could be heard outside the car doors, I was at my wit’s end. I just wanted to put in ear plugs and take a nap. Matt comes out to find me frazzled and exhausted. He asked me if I wanted to go check out the buildings and I said NO let’s get of out here. We left and I never got to experience the inside of Gervasi, but I saw pictures and it looks incredible.

I wish I could tell you our journey was over but we still had a 2.5 hour car ride to the tree farm in Findlay. It was a long ride full of Parker unbuckling his car seat every 30 seconds and terrorizing his sister. As soon as we arrived at Cracker Barrel to meet Matt’s parents (Mama and Papa) Parker turned on his Reese charm and acted as if he had been a perfect little man all day. Campbell behaved excellent and I was so proud of her for being a big girl. This was a wedding anniversary trip I will soon not forget. Next time I think we may leave the children at home.

Sep 28, 2011

Horse/Cowgirl Party to celebrate her 4th Birthday

This year Campbell picked a Horse and Cowgirl themed party. Although only 4 she was quite specific as to what she wanted at her party. She wanted "Chipper" Aunt Jessie's horse to give rides to all her friends, a hay house and hay rides. Living in the country none of these were out of the question. While it may have seemed extreme to some of our more urban friends this was a very cost effective party.
This balloon wreath was easy to make
and can be reused.

 Chipper was the more difficult piece to the party. We do not have a horse and we probably never will. Matt is not a horse lover in fact really does not like them. My sister, aka Aunt Jessie had to trailer Chipper over to our house from the farm he lives on about 5 miles away. Campbell and Parker love Chipper and usually ride him once a week. They are both developing a love for horses which I do not think Matt is very fond of. He did a wonderful job and truly loves kids. Campbell was excited to let her friends ride and some of them even trotted. 
This is Parker riding on Chipper. He does a good job for being
two.  He likes to go fast.

From horse rides we moved on to feed the bottle lamb and our guests loved feeding Lily the bottle lamb. We of course hand sanitized and then moved on to dinner. It was a very specific dinner per the birthday girl. She wanted hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, homemade apple sauce, beans and chips. I almost forgot to mention that the drink of choice was apple cider. We served Hirsch cider, one of my favorites. It can be purchased at Schacht's Farm Market if you do not want to drive to Chillicothe.  It would not be dinner at our house without dinning in the pasture. The sheep and donkey were happy to pay our guests a visit while they were eating around the fire.

The old water trough is not used as a
serving table for our pasture dinners
and parties, very useful!

The kids are getting ready to eat dinner.
This table was made by my grandpa and I
out of old wood from our barn.

What party would be complete without a cake? I have traditionally made my children’s cakes because I enjoy baking not decorating. I was out of town for a few days so I decided to order the cake from a friend who has a cake business. Queen Anne's Cakes are tasty and look AMAZING. This cake sparkled, twirled and had cookies and candy on it.
Campbell is getting a taste of the frosting. She said it was good!

Looks like these ladies had a fun hayride.
After cake we went on a great hayride through the corn and into the woods. We played in the hay house and used florescent necklaces to light the way through the tunnels.
It was such a fun party for us to host. It was a great chance to provide some fun experiences for our friends children and bring back some simple fun. This is our kid’s everyday life and the party made me realize just how lucky my children are to live the way we have chosen. We shared food, fellowship and a little about agriculture. We talked about the difference between sweet corn and field corn, how to make homemade apple sauce and many comments on my alternative use to an old water trough.

Anna climbs out of the hay house army style.

This is most of the group. This is us taking off.
I hope they all made it back.

Campbell during dinner...serious I
am sure she is reflecting on her party.

We had a boot pinata. This was a hit!

The ice cream cone made quite a mess but we
had to make sure all the kids went home
as sticky as possible.
We served cake pops and we used them in a
pair of old boots to serve as the center piece.
My aunt took this fun photo of the hayride through the barn door.

Sep 13, 2011

CommonGround Lets start talking about Food and where it comes from!

This is a great read that was published in the Buckeye Farm News.

Three Ohio farm women who are Farm Bureau members are working to bridge the disconnect between consumers and their food by sharing their personal experiences through a new program called CommonGround.

“As a mother myself, I understand their concerns,” said Rachel Heimerl, a CommonGround volunteer from Licking County. “CommonGround is all about trying to rebuild the confidence in our food system. To do that, we are working to show the commonalities between real farm families and consumers who benefit from all that farmers grow – to show there is, in fact, CommonGround.”
While it started as a national program, CommonGround is coordinated state-by-state. Ohio has now joined this movement and recently held a kickoff dinner Aug. 11 at the historic Amelita Mirolo Barn in Upper Arlington.
“The best thing about the CommonGround program is that it involves real farm women connecting with other women to talk about any questions and concerns that they may have about food,” said Kristin Reese, a CommonGround volunteer from Fairfield County.Local business and community women leaders were invited to the dinner to have conversations about food and farming while enjoying a delicious meal of locally-produced foods. Topics discussed during the event included everything from when crops are harvested in Ohio and the importance of healthy eating to the size of farms and food safety.
“This was an excellent opportunity to link these wonderful farm women with suburban consumers,” said Mary Ann Krauss, Upper Arlington City Council vice president. “I really enjoyed the evening and look forward to hearing more about the ladies’ activities throughout the state.”
All CommonGround spokeswomen are volunteers who are passionate about agriculture and want to set the record straight about the facts about farming and food. In every state, including Ohio, there is a diverse mix of farmers represented. The program was developed by the United Soybean Board (USB) and National Corn Growers Association.
“Throughout all of the CommonGround states, we have volunteers that have thousands of acres and some that have less than one hundred acres,” said Gretchen Mossbarger, a CommonGround volunteer from Ross County. “We have volunteers who raise animals, some that grow vegetables and others that grow corn and soybeans. We have volunteers that grow organic crops and those that do not. CommonGround is a program that seeks to bridge the gap between the farmers and the people that buy food. To do this effectively, we have to be open and real with the people we meet. We just tell them our own stories.”
The CommonGround program has been launched in five states and is moving forward in six others. Those states include Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota and Ohio. The movement will continue to grow and expand nationwide.
“The best thing about the CommonGround program is that it involves real farm women connecting with other women to talk about any questions and concerns that they may have about food,” said Kristin Reese, a CommonGround volunteer from Fairfield County. “We are not advocating that people buy a certain kind of product. Our purpose is to introduce people to farmers and make sure they have good, straightforward answers to their food questions so that they can make informed decisions about their food choices and feel good about those choices.”

Learn more at

Sep 10, 2011

Pre School Rocks!

We made if through week one of Pre-School. This was a huge deal to send our oldest child off to school even if it is only for 2.5 hours 3 days a week. The word school seems so formal and makes me think my baby is growing up way too fast and our lives will never be the same.

We had mixed feelings about sending her off. I never attended pre-school. My mom (a teacher) had us constantly learning things and turned everything we did into a learning exercise. Times have changed and I think Pre-School is the new norm. They expect so much out of our little ones these days.

Due to my job, I have a very nontraditional schedule that is never the same two days in a row. I have tried my best to be with my children as much as possible call me crazy but I do not want to miss out on anything. I am so fortunate to be able to be arrange things to be with them most days for at least part or all of the day. This means I work a lot of weekend and evenings but to me it is worth it. It made me sad to think Campbell is old enough to go to her class, listen and behave like a little lady, or at least I hope that is how she acts.

I think going to Pre-School was more of a big deal for mom and dad than it was for Campbell. She is independent and I think she really enjoys a change of scenery and meeting new people. She has been telling us about her little classmates and has enjoyed all this chocolate milk she has been getting at snack time. Apparently they give them a white milk or chocolate milk option and what 3 year old would not pick chocolate. We do not drink much chocolate milk in our house. This prompted our first talk about making wise healthful decisions when it comes to food and drinks. She told me she will go for the white milk this week.

Sep 8, 2011

The Real story about where your food (or at least your chicken) may come from

Matt and I just celebrated 9 years of marriage yesterday. Nothing says Happy Anniversary like a batch of new baby chicks. Last evening we were preparing for the chicks arrival, hooking up heat lamps disinfecting water and feeders and the kids of course were there to lend a helping hand. We were supposed to have soccer practice but it rained so we took advantage of some extra time at home. We had chili, cornbread and miscellaneous leftovers. Then, we finished preparing for the chicks. This is the real story about where your food (or at least your chicken) may come from.
The phone rang about 7am with a call from the post office, "We have a box full of LOUD chicks come and get them. Campbell and I drove about 4 miles to the post office to pick up the loud package. Campbell still get excited for the drive to pick up the new arrivals.

We ordered our chicks from Eagle’s Nest Poultry in Oceola, Ohio. The chicks hatched on a Wednesday and they packaged them in boxes with air holes soon after. They take them to the post office to be shipped to their customers like us. We are close enough that we get them the next morning. They are not given food or water before transport because they are so young they do not need it right away. It would be worse to give them food and water and then take it away to ship them. It is very important that they get fresh food and water as soon as we get them home.

They are packed into compartments dividing the box into four parts. Their body heat keeps them warm enough while being shipped and the compartments keep them from all piling up on top of each other.

We bring them back to their pen, which looks small because they do not need much space when they are this little. We have two heat lamps on them and we have them surrounded with straw to avoid wind or any drafts. They have water and full feed from now until they are ready to be processed.

These chickens are a cornish rock cross and are all cockerels (males under 1 year of age). The sex of the birds is determined at birth and while they are usually very good at sending what we order, there may be a few pullets (females under 1 year of age) in the mix. Why do we get cockerels? I have found after raising thousands of chickens that these mature at a faster rate and have more muscle and meat than a pullet. I have raised just pullets and, while it is a very nice product, it takes a little longer to get them the size my customer and I like. These chickens will be with us for 5-6 weeks and then we will have them processed for our freezer and our customers.

We keep our chickens in our barn in an open air cage with natural light and airflow. We do not keep our chickens outside due to predator and health issues and this allows us to raise birds almost all year round. They are fed an antibiotic-free all natural ground feed made from corn and soybeans. We use saw dust shavings for their bedding and change it on a very regular basis to eliminate any possible diseases and keep our birds looking happy and healthy.

These birds are raised for meat. They have a conversion ratio of 1:1 so 1 pound of food to 1 pound of weight gain. These birds have a more heavy body build than a layer (breeding chicken that lays eggs) so they will not run around fast, jump or roost after week 5. They are very happy to sit by the food and water, walk around a bit and then eat and drink more.
Right now, the chicks weigh a few ounces and are cute little fluffy chicks. In about 1 week this will all begin to change. We will keep you posted on their growth, but soon they will begin to lose their cute fluff and get their white adult feathers. Once they are fully feathered we will not have to worry so much about keeping them warm as their feathers will do the job. We will keep a light on them at night to make sure they can see to eat and drink all through the night.
Are these chickens any different than what you find in your grocery store? Our customers will tell you they are very tasty, but we raise a very small amount of birds and make very little money doing so. Volume is the only way to run a viable, profitable business and Ohio is home to many larger family farms that raise thousands of chickens. We are all following the same standards of care and a very similar process. In fact, larger farms have to follow much more stringent inspections and safety standards.
We have a much smaller set up and obviously do not have the facility to raise near the quantity of birds as the larger farmers. Just because some family farms do this on a much grander scale does not make them bad. In fact the way they raise their animals actually makes our food very affordable and extremely safe. The bottom line is that we need farms of all sizes and we consumers should be allowed a choice of where our food comes from.

Sep 4, 2011

"God and Granny sure are making it HOT down here"

"One week ago today I got a call from my mom who said Granny Root has passed away. Grandma Root was born on October 2, 1922. She grew up in Pickerington, on a farm and was raised with rural roots. Granny was a suborn, simple, hard working and a very detail oriented woman. She was one who could lay you out if she thought you were not acting as you should, or could make you feel like the most special person in the world and then remind you that you better behave.  I was not as close with Granny Root in my early years as I was once I had children. I can remember her having several surgeries and she stayed at our house while she was recooperating. My mom  would take care of her and she would tell all of us kids what to do and how to do it. If I remember correctly she told my mom how to do things too. It was this one of a kind attitude we will all remember.
Granny had a love of children and especially babies. When we told her we were expecting our first child she told us we had made a big mistake and we should "send it back". I of course let it slide right off my back because I knew that was how Granny was. Once Campbell arrived I think Granny was at our house everyday telling me how to do things the correct way. Campbell was so loved by Granny Root it was ridiculous. She told everyone that that baby girl needed her and she had to make sure she was OK. Granny was so helpful with Campbell and never minded holding that baby while we got work done. When we told her we were having child two I really do not remember what she said, but of course she loved Parker as much as Campbell. Granny told all her friends she had to "babysit" all the time and once the kids got a little older she played hard with those kids. Campbell and Parker love her so much it was part of our routine that she would come to visit or ride along with us.
A few months after Parker was born Granny's health began to decline. We started to see her everyday and this continued on for a good part of the next year. We would get Granny for play dates and took great care of her while we noticed her mental and physical health was not at her best. Even though Granny was not physically able to do what she used to, she never lost her Granny touch. She would tell me how to fold my laundry, tell me when my mini  blinds needed to be cleaned, tell me when to cut the kids nails and tell me my children needed more of this or that. She sure was bossy but was always looking out for me and making sure her GREAT Grand kids were taken care of. She could drive you nuts at times but one thing was for sure she loved my children.
At the end Granny moved into a nursing home after breaking her hip. Campbell and Parker wanted to visit her everyday. Granny was not only their Great Grandma but one of their best friends. Before Granny declined I had her record one of those Hallmark books, it is an amazing treasure we will have forever.
I am not an emotional person normally, I have a pretty good outlook on life. Granny loved the Lord and I have no doubts she is in heaven celebrating with Grandpa. This past week has generated many questions from Campbell about where you go when you die. Although Granny will be missed it has allowed Campbell to begin to see the big picture in life. I hope that through Granny Root Campbell and Parker will begin to see how precious life is and although death is sad there is much more to life than this physical earth.
When were were having the calling hours at the funeral home, Campbell, Parker and Aunt Jessie went outside so the kids could let loose a little. They were not outside long when Campell told Aunt Jessie "God and Granny sure are making it hot down here".  This is Campell's take on the big picture, kids will make you laugh no matter what is going on.
We love you Granny Root!

Aug 25, 2011

The Good things in Life

Enjoy these photos of some of the every day happenings in our family. These are the good things in life! We try to keep it simple but when you combine two children, animals and day to day operating activities it often  seems the opposite. We are gearing up for lambing so all things fly out the window. These are some of my favorite photos taken of our family. 

Aug 10, 2011

Ohio State Fair: Another year in the books

The Ohio State Fair is a top notch fair. From the food, entertainment to the livestock it is hard to beat our state fair. I am a little partial but I still think we Ohioans are lucky to have the support of our Governor.
The Reese Family frequents the fair and I must say the fair was a bit more fun when I was younger, it is exhausting when you try to cram in all the usual activities plus two children 3 and under.
This year Campbell and Parker both took in the sites and enjoyed every aspect of the fair. They love the animals but they are children so who could not love the GIANT slide and the Ferris wheel. All four of us did both and Matt and I had a very fun time going back to our youth for a few moments.Our family was sure to complete the Ag is Cool tour sponsored in part by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. We made some new urban friends along our barn tour and earned our FREE Velvet Ice Cream when our passport was complete.
Matt of course is at the fair almost every day for Ohio's Country Journal and I help with several events there plus we show sheep.I think our children will be able to give fair tours before they enter elementary school. Enjoy these photos of our family and what we participated in at the fair. If you did not make it to the State Fair this year you still have a chance to make it to the county fairs that are coming up and of course the 2012 Ohio State Fair.

Guys and Gals Lead. Campbell and Jane did wonderful.

Campbell and Caroline scoping out the show ring. Campbell  of course was sporting her Muck boots.
Campbell got an award from The Ohio Dorset Breeder's Association for being the highest placing person to lead a Horned Dorset!
What a cute showman.

I think there are a few queen in training in this photo. Queen Morgan is so good with the kids.
 The Ag is Cool tour was really "Cool" and we learned some new facts along the way. Even for those of us who are well connected to Agriculture this was a very educational program. Last I heard mid way through the fair over 4,500 students completed the tour and earned a Free Velvet Ice Cream cone. I have a feeling this number will be a lot higher once all those passports are tabulated. 
 The Land and Living Exhibit is ever changing. The one constant is the CORN WALL. I used to work the corn wall and now I have a child climbing it. She did a great job and made it half way up at age 3.
 We may have been the most regular customers for Ice Cream at the Fair. The Ohio Dairy Association sells good ice cream. Have you tried the new Honey Caramel Farm Bureau Flavor? It sure is rich and tasty.
 We had to get a picture with the new Ohio Fair's Queen.
 Family tradition to ride the slide.
 Thanks to Sandy Kuhn for letting Parker get up close and personal with the little lab puppy. Too bad Matt would not let the kids get the puppy we wanted to take home...
 Another day at the fair another cup of ice cream.
 Campbell showing Jane.
 I LOVE LAMB! The first ever Ohio Lamb Jam was a hit for everyone from the chefs to the kids.
Parker milked Buckeye Bessie in the Nationwide Land and Living Exhibit.