The Calling

By Katie Morrison

12631105_10208765995806717_1571966499_oI’ve always enjoyed listening to people talk about what they’re passionate about. You can tell when their face lights up, and they suddenly become more animated. With each question you ask, and the more they share, you can tell they could just go on and on. I’ve always loved animals, and I’ve always wanted to farm. But somehow, at some point in my life I developed self doubt, and I think it started with tiny little, seemingly harmless remarks made by some people in my life at that time. I remember being so intrigued about the idea of sustainable farming when I first began learning about it. I never lost the interest, obviously, because here I am now starting my own little farm. However, at one point I stopped telling people about it. I tucked it in my back pocket, and only took it out when I knew it would be well received. It was a horrible feeling to feel so much excitement for something and want to share it, and have someone tell you it would never come to fruition. I’m a firm believer that we all have gifts and talents that are unique to each of us. I eat, sleep, and dream about farming. Its what I think about when I get up and its the last thing on my mind when I go to bed. The idea of farming never left my mind, so I finally decided that in order for that to happen, certain people needed to leave my life. Some changes I made quickly, like ending a long engagement. Some other ones took longer. I had put off answering my calling for long enough. So I stopped dreaming, wondering and thinking and just started doing. Almost immediately things began falling into place. I began meeting like-minded people. If I needed something, suddenly one of those new like-minded friends had it to lend to me without being asked. Now, when someone asks me about my little Farmette the flood gates open and my heart and soul pour out. I’m not shy about it, and why should anyone be? After years of having my dream being wittled away by nay-sayers I’m finally doing what I was called to do. Now, when I see someone light up about something they’re passionate about I listen with an open mind and an open heart. Because I know how much it can hurt when someone shuts you down. I also know the world of difference it can make for just one person to hear you out and tell you how what you’re doing is important, or wonderful, or interesting. Because that may be all it takes for someone to take the leap, and answer their calling.

Its a farm not a circus…

     You would think that I would have learned the last time that we had babies in the garage that they are prone to escape.  Annabelle had her babies almost 2 weeks age meaning that they are getting brave and wiggly.  I came home from herding with Olive and Gus to find all of annabelle’s babies had flew the coop.  Luckily our garage is quite secure.  I had to get Gus to help me first find then round up our 8 little babies.  Annabelle was quite relieved to have her babies back.  I however was not looking forward to moving ALL the rabbits again. I ended up putting all the older babies that are growing out in front of sly since Dixie moved into the maternity space.  I hope everyone sleeps warm and snuggly,  I also hope that they are all where I left them!

Guacamole

Makes 2 cups
1 ripe avocado
2 small ripe tomatoes
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t red pepper
1/2 t garlic salt
​1 t oregano dried
​1 t cilantro dried
     Cut Avocado in half and remove pit.  Slice the avocado halves while still inside the peel.  Use a spoon to remove avocado from peel in to a bowl.  Mash avocado with a fork until smooth.  Chop tomatoes and add to avocado.  Add lemon juice and spices and mix together.  This is the way I like to eat my dip, you can also add 1/4 cup red onion to the mix as well as add more or less of certain spices.  In the summer this recipe is very good with garden fresh cilantro and fresh lemons.

Families

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     You find all kinds of wonderful families in unlikely places.  I was lucky enough to be able to buy a horse about a year and half ago.  I never would have imagined that this horse would lead me to a wonderful family I never knew I could have.  This is my barn family!  Many of us go to the barn for many reasons, including exercise, therapy, stress relief, and companionship.  I go to the barn for all of these reasons.  I can always count of my horse to listen without judging to anything I have to say.  I can let it all out and not hold back and all Ace ever has to say is “Mom that sucks do you have any cookies?”.  I also love that Ace came with unknown blessings.  My barn family is always there to help and support you when you need it.  Last summer I entered Ace and I in our first horse show.  If any of you know how stressful showing horses is you can sympathize with me.  I was a wreck! Ace and I (mostly me) were so stressed out,  one of the barn moms just stepped up and offered to be my barn mom.  She coached me through everything (she was riding in all the same classes that I was) and it was so helpful.  Another family at the barn whose daughter rides Ace for me offered to help me the weekend before with grooming him and getting him show ready.  I felt so blessed to have all these people willing to help me no questions asked or strings attached.  Most of all Im thankful to Theresa she has helped me not only find my relationship with my horse but also find my relationship with myself.  Last winter Ace was still trying to figure out who was in charge in this relationship (as was I) and I really struggled with him.  Theresa was there with me through the freezing cold coaching Ace and I into a working relationship that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  Any time that I come to the barn I can count on encouragement and love from those there with me and never worry about what if I can’t.  I know someone will be there with help or encouragement I need.
​     This christmas I noticed my barn mom had posted that her husband was making signs for stalls.  Ace has a sign but it is a little shabby and falling apart.   I wanted him to match the other horses in our barn, so I asked her if her husband could make one for me.  I asked if it was possible to put a clover on it as I bought Ace on St. Patty’s day.  She said no and I agreed that would be fine.  When I showed up at the barn yesterday I opened my closet to find the most amazing sign with a clover and all.  I am so happy that I have Ace and these wonderful people in my life.  I would love to hear about you and your barn families in the comments below!

Ace

“No hour of life that is spent in the saddle is wasted.”  ~Winston S. Churchill

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     Yesterday I spent some quality time with Ace getting over a large hurtle for me.  In a series of unfortunate events I have not been able to ride Ace consistently this fall and winter.  I spent all of last winter and this past summer working with Ace at least 5 times a week to build our relationship and improve his behavior.  We were finally in a great place with his ground manners being excellent and him staying quiet and collected while riding.  This fall I had a period of time where the muscles in my neck were so tight that they pinched my nerves causing me vertigo.  Being dizzy and light headed is not the best recipe for getting on a 1200 pound beast  I then had an unfortunate accident involving our large orange Maine Coon trying to kill me.  I was walking down the stairs getting ready to put an 18 pound turkey into brine to smoke the next day when I stepped on our cat Jack.  I went flying, Jack went flying, and the turkey went flying.  This ended in me severely spraining my ankle and being unable to ride for weeks.  My Fibromyalgia made this already angry sprain that much worse.  Once my ankle was better and I was cleared to ride Ace went lame.  After waiting for my horse to also be ready to ride I experienced another accident with the stairs.  While walking down the stairs my feet decided that they were done for the day and stopped working.  This ended with me at the bottom of the stairs in a pile.   At the time I did not think that I had done any damage however, the next day when bending down to pet Olive I found my self unable to stand up straight.  I have spent many weeks nursing my back into some resemblance of normalcy.  Yesterday my husband went with me to test my barn abilities.  I needed to know that I could not only saddle Ace myself without help but also ride him without lunging him.  Anyone who knows Ace knows that he has a tendency to be quite spunky and benefits from a good 20 minutes of lunging before being ridden.  I saddled him with a few bad words and tears while Ace danced in the cross ties.  We walked to the indoor arena filled with four others horses.  I walked Ace for at least 10 minutes trying to work up the courage to climb aboard.   Once I had walked him and cinched up my saddle, I walked over to the mounting block and prayed for Ace to remember to be gentle.  Last winter I would never have thought I would ever get on my horse without lunging him first let alone with an injured back.  I got on Ace and asked him to walk.  My horse did everything I asked of him.  He yielded off my leg collected himself when asked and even trotted politely while never once trying to take off.  I had spent all winter trying to get back on my horse that it had become a huge hurtle to overcome.  I remember today reminding myself to breathe and relax while riding even thought I was painful.  At the end of the ride Ace had been wonderful and we both had relaxed.  

My Trip to Hog Heaven: Whitehill Kunekune Breeding Program

Written by Kate Morrison

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​     Nestled in the hills of Pennsylvania is a small farm owned and operated solely by a landscaping, fiddle-playing pig farmer. Dylan Whitehill, like me, is managing his farm by himself. He was drawn to farming at a young age and spent summers at his aunt’s house neighboring his grandfather’s dairy farm. During his time there he rode horses, baled hay, pulled weeds and raised chickens. They even had a petting zoo for some time as well as a nativity scene. Sadly, Dylan lost his aunt to cancer and the farm became overgrown with weeds. Years went by and Dylan never lost the desire to farm. He became involved with 4H and FFA, leasing and showing cattle and horses. After high school he thought he wanted to go to college to study music. But he realized it wasn’t for him so he moved back home from Tennessee.  Dylan began his journey in raising pigs about 3 years ago. After a trial run raising goats in his first year, he decided goats weren’t for him. He now breeds Kunekunes and has two boars and six sows. The Kunekune breed has a very interesting story. According to the New Zealand Kunekune Association; “The general consensus is that the Kunekune were probably brought to New Zealand in the 1800’s by whalers operating in New Zealand waters, and were traded with the Maoris. In the late 1970’s the breed was ‘rediscovered’ and at that time it was estimated that there were only about 50 purebred Kunekunes left in New Zealand. From purebred base stock of only 6 sows and 3 boars in 1978, the Kunekune now numbers in the thousands. It is due to the enthusiasm and dedication of people like Michael Willis and John Simister that the breed was saved from extinction.” The Association also describes the breed and how it got its’ name; “The name Kunekune means ‘fat and round’ in Maori, a rather apt description for this unusual looking pig. The Kunekune is smaller than other breeds of pigs in New Zealand, although a very overweight Kunekune can still be a somewhat large pig. The characteristic Kunekune shape is a short-legged, short-snouted pig with a high fat depth giving very rounded body contours. The tassels, or pire pire, are about 4cm long and hang from the lower jaw. Not all Kunekunes have tassels, as although it is a dominant gene the population contains a proportion of pigs without tassels.”
Dylan and I connected through our mutual affection for this breed. My two pigs were littermates but I wanted to breed my gilt, and Dylan was looking for a boar from a smaller line. Hearing someone like Dylan speak so fondly of his animals and what he’s doing to preserve the breed is a wonderful thing. It’s not every day that you get to see firsthand someone who has found their true calling. So when Dylan offered to trade boars I knew that my boar would be in good hands, and that I’d also be receiving an exceptional pig in return. A few weeks later I found myself on the road with my friend Abby and a pig in the back of my car. After a three hour drive, we arrived at Dylan’s farm. Since he was in the process of moving his farm to another location just down the road, not all of his pigs were there. But I got to meet a few. I was in hog heaven, literally. It was very obvious that Dylan loves these pigs, and that they have a great life.
Dylan likes that these pigs are absolutely enjoyable to work with. They are incredibly docile and friendly, and their size (200 -300 pounds) is manageable as well. He says their best and most unique feature is their snout. “They are brachycephalic, which means that they have a very short, upturned snout.” Dylan says “That makes putting them on pasture a breeze, they can hardly root at all.” Dylan’s plans have always been to use the heritage breed for meat and he plans to incorporate his breeders into a pork meat share, similar to a CSA, but he’s also striving to produce flashy show pigs in his two breeding groups. According to Dylan, “there is so much diversity within the breed that someone ought to preserve the best of the best. With so many imports from the UK and New Zealand I am so privileged to find the best animals possible from relatively local breeders.”
Although the breed is no longer in danger of extinction, Dylan wants to preserve the rare bloodlines which are in need of conservation. For example; the “Kereopa” bloodline, which is known to be short, squatty and whose hair is especially long and curly during the winter months. The “Tapeka” bloodline has been recently imported and is known for a white belt line around the shoulder which isn’t typical of Kunekunes, but resembles a Hampshire pig. Many Kunekune bloodlines carry a story behind their name, because they were the Maori peoples’ pigs. The pigs were passed down from one generation to the next and also traded between families. Dylan tells me that he when he’s considering additions to his farm he “looks for nice, straight legs, healthy weight, clear eyes, short snout, nice level back and short legs” in prospective pigs. He’s breeding for “milk yield, litter size, mothering ability, pasture foraging efficiency, and whether or not they fatten easily.”

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    When Abby and I arrived at the farm, Dylan gave us a tour and introduced me to each and every one, including the parents of my new boar, who I named Hamish. (Hamish is the Scottish Gaelic version of James). There was another resident at his farm that introduced himself to Abby and me. A long-haired, smelly, but charming and registered mini silky fainting billy goat named Cadence. Yes, there is such a thing. Dylan had sent me a few pictures of Cadence about a week before I made the trip, and wanted to know if I wanted to buy him also. In his pictures he looked like some kind of mythical forest creature.  I thought-what on earth am I going to do with a billy goat? I hadn’t had a goat since I was a little girl, and I remember how great his personality was but also that he was an escape artist, even running away into town with our Doberman on ocassion. So I told Dylan that I couldn’t. Money’s tight as I’m starting up The Farmette. Not to mention a billy goat didn’t really serve a purpose for me, and my pasture wasn’t “goat proof” either. Well, let me tell you… Cadence is charming. He followed Abby and me around like a puppy, and he was sweet as pie. Then Dylan said to me “Well, I wanted to get money for him, but you can just take him.” I’m a sucker.  So Dylan gave me a bunch of empty plastic feed sacks and we lined the back seat of the car, walked Cadence on a leash to the car and loaded him up. I’m so glad I decided to take him home. He’s added so much personality to the menagerie and he and Frankie bonded quickly. Cadence now calls for her if Frankie is out of sight. But the ride home from Pennsylvania showed me that Cadence provided comfort to Hamish as well during his transition to my farm. Hamish perched himself on the back seat for most of the ride home, and Cadence would check on him periodically, even nuzzling him a few times. Hamish and Gretta didn’t hit it off at first, but they are now inseparable as well. Hamish has settled in and his personality slowly became obvious- strong and serious most of the time. I call him Mr. Business. But as I was walking the gang out to the pasture the other day, Hamish decided to take a detour around the yard and take his sweet time going to the pasture. I watched with curiosity, wondering what he could possibly think was more important than the bucket of feed in my hand.  Suddenly he began running and bucking and side-stepping through the snow! He wasn’t looking for trouble, or wandering off. He was just being a happy pig enjoying himself. Its moments like those, that happen every day here at The Farmette  that give me so much joy and make me so absolutely grateful to have these animals in my life. Hamish and Cadence have been yet another blessing and I am grateful for having met Dylan; another young person who also shares a deep love for farming.  Dylan told me he’d like to branch out with vegetable and mushroom production, orchard management, and possibly wool and milk production. But there’s only so much one person can do so Dylan is currently looking for people interested in farming. He’s moving to a 90 acre farm and he would like to find others who share his passion for farming. I can’t wait to see what Dylan explores next on his farm because I’m absolutely sure he will pour his heart and soul into like he has with his pigs. Thank you Dylan for sharing your story and I look forward to meeting again! Who knows what the next adventure will entail.

Pad Thai

     This is a great recipe that is easily adapted to your personal taste preferences.  The other thing I love about this recipe is that you can add or take out thing very easily (great for cleaning out the fridge).  Feel free to play with the recipe, if you find something amazing feel free to post it in the comments below.
Ingredients
16 oz package rice noodles
1 T olive oil
4 large eggs
1 T brown sugar
3 T soy sauce
1 T chili sauce
2 T lime juive
2 T minced garlic
1 cup chicken broth
1 carrot grated
1/3 cup scallions cut
2 cups bean sprouts
1 cup chopped cilantro
In a large pot bring water to a boil.  Once water is boiling turn off heat and add noodles, let them cook about 2-3 minutes then drain.  In a large skillet scramble your 4 eggs then set eggs aside.  In a small bowl add together brown sugar, soy sauce, chili sauce, lime juice, minced garlic and chicken broth.  Whisk the ingredients together until mixed well.  In your large skillet on medium heat add oil.  Cook carrots, bean sprouts and scallions for about 1 minute.  Add the eggs and noodle then pour sauce into large skillet coating everything and cooking for an additional minute.  When I serve this I add the chopped cilantro, you can also add chopped peanuts and some scallions to garnish it.  When we cook this we often add whatever leftover protein we have in the fridge.  Tonight we had leftover shredded rabbit in it.