Friday, September 15, 2017


That word is difficult for me.  Someone I hold in high regard mentioned that education was important to them.  So I am thinking about it.  I guess it depends on what you mean, on what I intend to say with the word education.  The part that turns me away is school, the formal part.  The part that feels good is learning, the experience piece.  I graduated from the University of blah blah blah with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing and stood at the bedside of my sick patients knowing that I understood very little about how to care for them,  to be their nurse.  I had a prestigious school behind my name and it was all smoke and mirrors when it came to blood and pain and real human suffering.  My education had required and included very little hands on experience.  After 12 years I left my education and a successful nursing career and now call myself a farmer, what ever that means.
Informal, that’s what I like.  The informal nature of the education that goes on here at the farm.  Where do I begin?  It starts when people visit here and see that we really do walk around barefoot.  Through mud and gravel, thistle patches, wood piles and dense pastures, our bare feet touch the earth and guide our way.  People come here and learn that female cows have horns.  They are so confused when they see with their own eyes, horns on a beautiful fat cow that also seems to be sporting a full udder in the rear.  How can that be?  The education that goes on here is profound in its simplicity.  It breaks down our societal conventions and unquestioned ideas about the world we live in.  Cats and chickens eat from the same bowl, happily?  Yes.  Curds and whey finally makes sense as they watch miguel turn 25 gallons of milk into 25 pounds of cheese.  Butter milk’s mysterious relationship to butter becomes clear as 3 gallons of it drains out of the churn, leaving behind bright grains of butter waiting to be rinsed.  When people come to visit here, they receive only the education that they are open to seeing.

We have a list of “educational activities” that was created as a retrospective examination of our personal calendars and photos from the last 6 years.  Just reviewing and remembering who came during what time of year allowed a list to form that describes nearly 30 different experiences this farm life offers our friends and family.  Everything from butchering a pig to boiling maple sap into sugar, creating a tight fence line to animal husbandry, all the things we call life here are amazing opportunities for someone who lives a different way.  This place provides the space and the resources for learning things that are rare in our current society.  The teachers are found inside each person as they are able to be open to receive.  We guide them as we are able, mostly just doing what we do to live and trying to answer questions along the way.  This farm is an education center if one wishes to call it that.  We love this way of life and we desire to connect with anyone who shows interest in the activities that sustain and fulfill us.


 A ] Hand milking cows -
Etiquette, cleanliness, technique

 B ] Fresh cow care -
Differences in animal behavior, detect and resolve problem quarters, amount of milk to take on days 1 thru 7, monitoring for postpartum complications

 C ] Newborn calf care - 
monitor for temperature, nursing, stool, umbilical cord

 D ] Care of Milk -
Cleanliness, filtering, cooling, storage, allowing cream to rise, skimming cream  

 E ] Knife sharpening - 
technique, frequency  

 F ] Butcher -
Confine, kill, move, skin, gut, cut in half, hang, proper use of remains    

 G ] Pork processing -
from hanging carcass, identify and harvest various cuts, cure bacon, season and grind sausage, render lard, proper packaging and storage

 H ] Beef processing -
from hanging carcass, identify and harvest steaks, roasts, hamburger, tallow, proper packaging and storage  

 I ] Beef jerky -
Identify proper cut of meat to use, thin slicing meat, marination, dehydration, packaging

 J ] Cheese making -
time, temperature, pH and bacteria management to curds and whey; pressing and rind formation  

 K ] Cheese maintenance -
daily temperature and humidity management, weekly salt wash and oil rub, crack butter plugs  

 L ] Butter - skim cream, set up and clean electric 8 gallon churn, determine correct churn time, drain, rinse, squeeze butter, proper packaging and storage  

 M ] Kefir - Grain function and care, time, temperature and volume adjustments

 N ] Maple Sugar - 
Tap maple trees: Identify maple trees, use of hand drill, correct tap location, homemade Elder wood taps
Boil maple sap:  fire safety and maintenance in the woods, 50 gallon sap pan management, correct sap depth and strength of boil, determine time to stop boiling 
Make maple sugar:  monitor and identify different stages of sugar bubbles, maintain correct heat to stir ratio, determine correct time to remove from heat, maintain stir and determine adequate granulation

 O ] Apple harvest & Cider pressing
use of ladder to pick from tree, collecting from ground, proper storage, wash, chop, press, cider packaging and storing, use of remaining pulp  

 P ] Raw food tasting -  
kefir, milk, cheese, beef, egg yolk  

 Q ] Fruit dehydration -
Harvest and preparation of pears, peaches, apples; dehydration time and packaging

 R ] Cooking on a wood stove -
various heat locations, baking in the oven, adding wood, monitoring fire, water reservoirs  

 S ] Animal husbandry -
cows: approach, distance, reading behaviors, offering assistance and affection, halter training, moving single animals and large herd short and long distances 
lambs: halter training, natural behaviors, offering assistance and affection  
chickens: natural behaviors, dust bath, aggression, egg collection, noticing problems and offering assistance
Pigs: approach, feed and watering, pasture and fence maintenance
horse: approach, maintaining safe boundaries, reading behaviors, offering assistance and affection, moving short distances  

 T ] Fire wood - identify tree type, quality, safety, loading, stacking, splitting  

 U ] Natural material harvest and building project

 V ] Nature walk

 W ] Bird Identification

 X ] Tree identification

 Y ] Fence maintenance

 Z ] Wild herb and wild edible identification, harvest   

 AA ] Gardening  

 BB ] Discussion topics    

Day of the butcher  
Friends sharing contentment after a long day of processing piggy   

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