Corn Sheller and Mill at the Fairgrounds

I took the kids to an antique tractor show at the fairgrounds last month. The air was filled with the spits and sputters and little puffs of smoke from hit-and-miss engines. Crowds gathering and dispersing among the many historical displays.

As we strolled past a corn sheller, the gentleman operating it pointed to Nathaniel and said, “Young man, your mom wants to make corn bread!!”  Nathaniel looked up, quizzingly, as the man repeated, “she needs your help—go on out and gather a bushel of corn.”

He reached down and pulled up a handful of ears and handed them to Natalie. “Shell ’em,” he directed.

You can imagine they were both smiling by now as Natalie cranked the wheel and Nathaniel added the corn. Once the mill chewed the kernels off, they began spilling out the chute.

“You’re not done yet!  Mom can’t make cornbread out of this!  You need to mill it—grind it up!”

So they gathered the kernels and put them down the mill chute and began to crank. The bowl caught the light, yellow, cracked and milled corn.

“Good job,” he said, “now take this in to mom. She’s in the kitchen waiting for it!”

We thanked him for such an interesting and fun demonstration. Other children had now gathered to give it a go and we slowly made our way to the next display.

I glanced back as I remembered shelling corn with my grandfather to give to the wild geese that gathered on his pond every year around this time making their way south. I loved that corn sheller.

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Blog Post About Our “Knitting 101” Webisode

It’s November, 1941.

The newest issue of Life magazine is on the newsstands. On the cover is a woman knitting; the caption reads “How to Knit.” Now, this wasn’t your ordinary housewife-tutorial…something you’d pick up to do in your spare time…maybe something to try. In this issue, there was a simple pattern for a vest. There were simple instructions. There was an agenda. The objective?  Knit a million sweaters for soldiers by Christmas. Christmas, 1941. No kidding.

A movement was born. Sweaters, socks, mufflers, mittens—all were being knitted for soldiers abroad. And, until Pearl Harbor, many of these American-made warmers were bound for Britain in the “Bundles for Britain” campaign to assist displaced Londoners. Other committees soon formed to send the same handmade knitwear to other countries: Finland, Poland, Belgium.

“Knit for Victory” it was called (once America was fully engaged, knitting for American soldiers took precedence). Many knitters who’d picked up their needles to knit for World War I soldiers, immediately did so during WWII and the American Red Cross played the part of organizing this massive movement. If you worked in a factory, like many women did, it was a way to use your down time. If you had a loved one overseas, like many women did, it was a way to connect…to contribute…to actively participate on the Home Front. Besides, they say, the hand-knit socks lasted longer than the machined ones and knitting kept your mind occupied! 

So, you see, knitting, most definitely, has a special place in our history. Whether you knit for fun or for  “a purpose,” it’s a skill well worth pursuing.

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Knitting 101 – A ‘How-to’ Webisode

Nicole Freed, a self-taught knitting enthusiast, visits Tracy Toth to share some tips on how to get started in this time-honored needlework tradition. Be sure to share this webisode with anyone you know who wants to learn the craft of knitting. It’s not as difficult as it may seem.

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One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other….

Baw Blue, our devilishly handsome Navajo-Churro ram will return to his home farm in a few days. We heeded his owner’s warning and gave him full and free access to the girls. (Translation: we did not venture into the pasture while he was here except for feeding and watering. Blue’s known to be quite territorial when it comes to his “girlfriends.”)

I’ve missed my ewes! Reese will hear my voice from across the yard and call out – at least, I’m thinking she’s calling out to me. She’s probably just making her random matriarchal “baaa-aa.” Yesterday morning, however, I left the pasture after changing out the water buckets and when I was back at the spigot, I heard her trademark “baaa.” I was shocked to see her standing at the open gate that I had forgotten to latch!  Everyone else was too busy chomping at the hay I’d left in the rack to notice the gateway but there she was just standing and alerting me of something “different.”

So, Blue will make his return journey this weekend having spread his maleness (we hope) amongst 11 ewes and we’ll go back to coddling our sheep. It was nice having him around these last few weeks. He added a certain “something” to the landscape.

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Blog Post About Our Wholesome Dairy Webisode

If there’s one common element that links all of the folks I’ve met on the series, it’s passion. And Mark Lopez is a prime example.

The number of registered Ayrshires in North America has declined significantly over the past 30 years. See the ALBC website for more.

Mark is a husband, father, veterinarian, and dairy farmer—but not just any dairy farmer. He harvests raw milk from his heritage breed Ayrshire dairy cows. His time, energy, years of education, and love for his herd come to focus upon ensuring the quality of his dairy products. The herd grazes naturally on grass and enters the barn for milking twice a day, every day. Each individual in the herd is known by her name and sweet, subtle quirks.

Mark’s passion is not only for his beloved Ayrshire but also for the dairy operation itself. Harvesting and public sale of raw milk require the maintenance of strict standards in the collection process as well as throughout the collection areas.

Wholesome Dairy Farms is a special place; I’m glad it’s part of the ag community in this valley.

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A Visit to Wholesome Dairy Farms

Come along with Tracy Toth, our host, as we visit Wholesome Dairy Farms to learn about raw milk production and the Ayrshire heritage breed of dairy cattle.

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Visiting a Community Fair – Webisode 2

Tracy Toth, our host, continues our day at the fair. We learn more of “all things Ag” at the Oley Valley Community Fair in part two of our two-part webisode.

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Blog Post About Our ‘Visiting a Community Fair’ Webisode

Six years ago we were hurriedly looking at properties in the area and happened to be with a real estate agent driving right by the Oley Community Fair, which was in full swing.

Parked cars filled every available street spot while large fields and temporary lots accommodated the overflow.

I said something to the agent like, ‘wow, look; a county fair!’  She said that it wasn’t—that it was the “community fair.” That, although it’s open for the public to attend, only residents whose townships join the ag-rich Oley Valley could participate in the contests/judging.

Canning Competition Entries

And, oh, what a level of participation! From the numerous volunteer committee heads and organizers who work year-round for the three-day culmination, to the local fire department, to the thousands who turn out, the excitement and anticipation seems to increase with each year’s festivities.

My friends and I will joke with one another about the “blue ribbons” but, kidding aside, it’s not about that at all. It’s about the celebration of a lifestyle and a heritage that we strive to keep alive. It’s a  three-day celebration of a well-connected community… connected with each other and connected to this valley.

Best Display of Jellies

Best Display of Pickles

This is probably a good time to thank Evelyn (again); she was our real estate agent who suggested we might be happy here.

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Visiting a Community Fair – Webisode 1

Join our host, Tracy Toth, as she introduces us to a communal celebration of “all things Ag” at the Community Fair in part one of this two-part webisode.


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