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Posted 12/5/2019 2:25pm by Kinley Coulter.

Confession time…

In my younger days, before I became so mature and dignified and wise, my wife’s brothers taught me how to do ‘hand-brake turns.’  (Be careful who you hang out with in your impressionable years…)
All right, I’m not proud of it… but it helps me illustrate the shocking transition from ‘the green season’ to ‘the white season’ here at the farm.  
For those of you who were never immature and foolish male teenage drivers, a handbrake turn involves a moderate (or, immoderate) amount of forward momentum in a motor vehicle, accompanied by a sharp yank on the steering wheel, and a simultaneous upward pull on the hand-brake.  (…snow is a very helpful lubricant.)  This maneuver produces a few seconds of thrilling, but terrifying, sidewise sliding until the car whips around to a stop, now pointed 180 degrees opposite from the previous forward momentum… ready to head off in a totally different direction (Unless this whole procedure was (foolishly, don’t try this at home) carried out on a public road, and witnessed by a peace officer… requiring some fast thinking, and faster talking, and superior story-telling skills).  We, mostly,  limit our ‘hand-brake’ turns, these days, to the safety (and legality) of the farm.  
After a particularly satisfying turn, there are, occasionally,  silent bovine witnesses.  They would definitely give us 'two thumbs up' for a crisply performed handbrake turn… except they don’t have functional thumbs.  So, they merely display their impressed approval by taking another bite of grass with a knowing smile… yes, they were young and wild, once, too…. dodging around the farmer, running through fences, and generally creating misbegotten havoc.
Anyway, I feel that December 1st always brings a screeching hand-brake turn to our farming operation.  
Gone is the warm sun… gone the verdant pastures..... and gone the bulging bulk tanks brimming, almost bursting, with 100% Grassfed, Certified Organic milk.  Sadly, the green season is gone (sniff, sniff.)  
The livestock move into our bright, open, warm, cozy barns and spend the next five months contentedly ruminating, and lounging on dry, fluffy bedding packs made of organic straw and chopped cornstalks  (and hay that wasn’t high enough quality to feed.)  The animals are very satisfied to watch the wind and rain and sleet and snow blow by, while their servant/farmers make up fresh beds, and carry hay right up to their sniffing muzzles 7 days a week.  What a life!
Winter milk volume falls off by 40% or more… even the best hay is no match for living green pasture grass.  There is less beta-carotene (Vitamin A) in the hay than there was is the pasture grass… so the milk will lose some of its startling, bright, orange (sun golden) hue.  On the positive side, we are late in the herd’s lactation.  This means the milk and cheese and yogurt and kefir that we make from winter milk is richer and sweeter than summer milk… more Omega 3’s and CLA fatty acids to feed your brain and invigorate your immune system.  
Even in the spring, our milk puts the pathetic store-bought  organic milk to shame.  Theirs is a paltry 3.5% butterfat… ours starts out, thin in the spring when the cows first start lactating, at over 4% butterfat. By winter, our milk is pushing hard on 6% butterfat…6%!!!   What a phenomenal food this winter milk is!  You should need a doctor’s prescription to get food that is this powerful of a medicine!  Industrial dairies rob their extra cream from you, and still have the nerve to call the depleted milk ‘whole’ milk by ‘standardizing’ it down to 3.5%.  We leave it ALL in your milk.  ENJOY our rich, sweet winter milk!  

Not only is our winter milk full of precious butterfat, it costs a LOT to produce.  Pasture grass is extremely efficient… it produces a lot of milk, and requires very little work and management from the farmer.  Winter is quite another story.   We have to feed and bed the cattle with hay and fodder that already has a lot of expensive labor in it.  THEN… to add insult to injury… we get a lot less milk for all of the work.  In a perfect world, winter milk, with all of its richness and cost of production, would cost half again what summer milk costs.  People are used to cheap corn and strawberries and tomatoes in the summer… and they expect to pay a premium for good produce in the winter.  For some reason, milk and dairy products are the same price, year round.  Industrial dairy cows are always on bedding and stored feed… so they don’t experience the cost swing that pasture based dairies endure.
Anyway, we enjoy our work and are happy to pass our exceptional winter milk on to our customers at the summer price.  It feels really good to know that our hard work is producing health and vigor and vitality in, literally, hundreds of families.  It’s also comforting to know that our winter customers will come out in all sorts of miserable weather at farm markets to support our farm.  We are WELL aware that they could abandon us and shop in warm, dry supermarkets… and we greatly appreciate your faithful patronage.  Also, we know that spring is coming, with its high milk volumes and low cost of production.  If we keep our wheels spinning here at the farm all winter, we can take off in a hurry in a better direction when the next ‘hand-brake turn’ launches us back into another ‘green season.’  



Posted 10/2/2019 1:18pm by Rebecca Coulter.

     Since our farm practices rotational grazing (which is moving the cows to a new section of  pasture every day or two), the herd ends up in the pasture just off our front porch about once a month.  One of the things I enjoy most about farm life is watching the cows wake up and have their breakfast before milking, at sunrise on a misty morning.

     The little girls enjoy visiting with the cows, through the fence.  Here they are, making friends with Rose.

      Because our bull, Dozer,  is in the pasture with the milking herd, the girls are not allowed to go into the pasture without a big brother or sister.  

     When they can get a protective adult to go with them, they like to collect apples from the orchard to feed the cows.  Here they are, trying to lure Miriam over for a treat.

     We all enjoy taking a break for a few minutes to watch Jacob gather up the cows and take them to the barn for morning milking.

     I usually don't agree with Kinley's assertion that fall is the best time of year, but misty autumn mornings, and a cup of coffee on the porch are ard to beat!


Posted 7/25/2019 11:31am by Kinley Coulter.

     Here at Coulter Farms we spend a fair amount of family time good-naturedly squabbling about what dairy products we do or don’t want to produce from our precious Sun-Golden Certified Organic 100% Grassfed Jersey milk.  One item we all feel very good about producing is Kefir.  

    A whole day of our milk production goes into making Kefir bi-weekly and we would like to make more… so I will endeavor (through this shameless marketing ploy) to turn you 'non-kefir drinking' folk into 'kefir neophytes'… with the confident expectation that after you try it… you will advance to becoming full-blown kefir addicts, like we are.

     Our list of FAQ’s from farm-market stretches to many dozens of common questions.  But the single most asked question is: ‘What IS kefir?’ 
     I’d like to answer that question here, in a little more detail than I have time to do at market.
     First, a little background on exactly WHAT Kefir IS.  Then... some practical information about how we make it and what it’s good for:
     Kefir (variously pronounced: KEE-fur, KEH-fur, ke-FEER) is a fermented milk beverage that has been enjoyed by hardy, healthy people for thousands of years. The word ‘kefir' is related to the Russian and Turkish words for ‘foam’… referencing the effervescent carbonation foam that results from fermenting the milk’s lactose (milk sugar) into a variety of stomach soothing and 'probiotic nurturing' acids.  Traditionally, sheep, goat and cow milk from the Caucasus, Turkey, Russia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe was inoculated with living kefir ‘grains' that, today, are called SCOBY’s (an Acronym for: a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeasts.)  These ‘grains' produced a robust and vigorous fermentation of the milk that would taper off and stop after several hours.
     To generate a more complete fermentation, the inoculated milk was put in goatskin bags and hung in a busy doorway.  Anyone that entered or left the house (or tent) was culturally expected to poke an elbow into the squishy bag of nascent kefir to jumpstart the stalled fermentation.
     Unlike yogurt which must be fermented at elevated temperatures, kefir SCOBYs do their amazing work at room temperature.  Here at Coulter Farms, we ferment our whole milk at 75 degrees for about 24 hours.  Sadly, we have yet to find a USDA approved goat-skin bag... so we have to make do with a 100 gallon stainless steel tank.  It’s not very romantic but it saves our dairy inspector from getting apoplectic when he visits us.  
     ‘Elbowing' this stainless steel tank is not very helpful..(AND  a little painful)... so we keep our fermentation going by mildly stirring the milk in the tank.  We are always careful not to over-stir… the amazing and complex flavor molecules in milk shatter into insipid pieces when milk is handled roughly.  Pumping milk (and worse, yet, homogenizing it…) wrecks the taste of all good milk, cheese, butter and yogurt, and kefir… so we transport almost all of our milk with extreme gentleness, hardly ever exposing it to a mechanical pump.  
     So we don’t elbow our kefir but you can rest assured that it is BARELY stirred enough to keep the fermentation on track.  You will taste the difference… I guarantee it! Here is Jess, ready to put our kefir bottler to work.
      The marvelous kefir that emerges from this fermentation vat has had essentially all of its lactose consumed… so, most people with lactose intolerance will find kefir to be very easy on their stomach.  In cultures where refrigeration is a rich-man's luxury, they appreciate that kefir can be stored for up to 30 days at room temperature.  We date our kefir for 35 days WITH refrigeration but we have experimented with drinking kefir that is several months old, and have not found it to spoil (it does get plenty sour, though.)  
     Many people appreciate that yogurt has a profound settling effect on their stomachs.  We have found that effect is multiplied in kefir.  Kefir has a much wider diversity of living bacteria species than yogurt... not to mention a variety of yeasts that are not present in yogurt at all.  If you ever want to eat breakfast, but you’re just not feeling like eating… try a little kefir and your appetite will come ROARING back.  
     As a Certified Organic farm, we never treat debilitating diarrhea in young calves with antibiotics.  We are glad to replace yucky antibiotics with far more effective probiotic kefir.  We have, many times, found a weak young calf struggling to eat, or even to stand up, hampered by diarrhea.  After gobbling down a quart of kefir, these calves have had remarkable, almost instant, recovery.  By the way, kefir works wonders on most varieties of gastro-intestinal distress in 2 legged creatures as well.
     Most of our kefir ends up just getting poured and drinken (drinked? drank?  drunk?) out of a glass.  But drinking kefir is just the proverbial ’tip of the iceberg’...  
     It really shines when used as a base in salad dressings, as a meat tenderizer, as a replacement for buttermilk in baking (kefir pancakes and waffles are out of this world!)  There is no end to the possibilities... kefir can be made into ice cream, used as a starter for sour-dough..... or just dump in some fresh fruit and enjoy a smoothie.  
     We add our honey and some vanilla to kefir, to make a bottled flavored kefir... but that's for the 'faint of heart'.  The true kefir aficionado tolerates nothing that dulls the glorious tang of unadulterated kefir... the first sip sets your teeth on edge... but from then on... YUM!  
     I hesitate to use the term 'life-changing' but if there is one of our products that I could say that about, with a straight face, it would be kefir.  We have added it to our store so we can ship it to 50 states.  It will ship out of here frozen... but if it arrives thawed, or even warm... we recommend that you just stick it in your goat-skin bag and give it a few bumps with your elbow!  Bon Apetit! 
Posted 7/12/2019 3:22pm by Kinley Coulter.

Ahhhh! July…

      The summer solstice has  come and gone… the fireflies are lighting up the night...and the longest days of the year are now behind us.  Below is Jessie's attempt to catch a few fireflies on film :).
     For some reason, though, the summer’s hottest days are still ahead of us.  Dairy cattle (not to mention beef cattle, sheep, pigs, border collies, farmers, grass, clover, tractors, walk-in coolers and farm markets) function SO much better and have a sunnier and more positive attitude when daytime temperatures peak in the 70s rather than the 90s.  At least the cat found a cool spot.... in the birdbath.
     The Dairy cows have a remarkable ability to locate pasture shade at many different times during a hot summer day.  At midday, though, the only shade available is a tiny circle at the base of the fenceposts.  I have seen as many as 6 cows grumpily trying to stick their heads into the same little spot of shade.  
     We are always glad for our Jersey breed of cattle… but especially during a hot spell.  When most other breeds of cattle have practically given up on grazing and making milk, the Jerseys are still hard at it… converting 100 lbs of nutrient-dense grass into  34 lbs of Sun-golden organic milk… even on the hottest days.  There is a limit to their patience, though.  Our dairy herd will tolerate a week or two of brutal hot weather… but after that, they’re done.  We have had enough 90 degree days that there are rumors of the cattle forming a labor union and threatening to walk off the job.  It’s debatable what dairy cows would do with themselves when they go on strike.  I hope we don’t have to find out.
      The pastures are on the edge of going dormant… soon, they will stop growing, then turn 'depressing-brown’ (does Crayola have that color in its crayon boxes?) instead of dark, lush, beautiful green… the inevitable result of too much sun and heat and too little rain.  We try very hard to put the cows on hay before they start damaging the dry grass with their hooves.  It’s tempting to keep grazing grass because it’s so much easier than feeding hay and we would, very much,  like to save the precious hay for winter. 
In the picture below, the girls are enjoying a game of tag on the bales that are waiting to be stacked in the hoop building.
       Pasture grass also makes more milk and keeps the cows’ bodies in better condition than hay.  The problem is that if we leave the cows on heat stressed pastures for too long, they start crushing the life out of the vulnerable grass and when rain and cool weather does come back… it takes many weeks for the damaged grass to return to a grazeable height.  So, we reluctantly get out the hay feeders and watch the daily milk production drop 30% or more.  Oh well, fall is coming, and with it, cool nights and abundant rains.  
     The vast array of refrigeration equipment on the farm is being taxed by the heat, as well.  Daily, during the heat of the day, we check each of the vital cooling units:  500 Gallon Bulk milk tank in the milking parlor?  Check!  Refrigerated Truck?  Check!  Both 50 degree Cheese aging caves? Check!  Two walk-in coolers? Check!  Walk-in Freezer?  Check!  1,000 lb/day Ice Making Machine?  Check!  Reach-in Cooler?  Check!  8 Chest Freezers?  Check!  Whew!  No refrigeration emergencies today.  All of these units have alarms that emit very unpleasant noise when temperatures rise to an unacceptable level.  For some reason, if the alarms aren’t ringing and clanging and buzzing during the heat of the day, they will bide their time until about 3 am… just to aggravate the soundly sleeping farmer.  Below are 3 of our 14 temperature alarms.   
     One significant benefit of lots of hot, dry, sunny days is that it’s easy to make dry hay.  We have been piling up mountains of sweet-smelling hay bales to pile up in our hoop-building.  It’s hard to believe that 4 weeks ago we were struggling with cool, cloudy, rainy weather that wouldn’t allow us to make any hay at all.
      Another blessing of hot days is that ice cream sells like crazy!  We aren’t the world’s best marketers… but, we CAN sell hot chocolate at market in the winter when it’s 18 degrees;  and we CAN sell ice cream when it’s 95 degrees.  We could probably sell snow to Eskimos, too.  
     Stay tuned!  Fall is, by far, the nicest season of the year and it’s just around the corner.  I can almost guarantee an upbeat update by September :).
Posted 6/13/2019 11:07am by Kinley Coulter.

I have recently read several books about America's food processing industry, and the health issues arising from processed foods,  and got inspired to share a few quotes with you all.




If you are already purchasing some of your food from us, I'm probably preaching to the choir, but I don't think it hurts to be reminded.



If you've been thinking about trying to cut out processed food, and include more whole foods in your diet, why not start this weekend?  Pick up some of our 100% Grassfed, Certified Organic Sun-golden milk; nutrient dense Raw-milk Cheese; Probiotic-laden Kefir; or 100% Grassfed, Certified Organic Beef or Lamb at our drop or Farmers Market.   You can place your order here, and get information about pickup points here, or Farm Market here.   Happy, healthy eating!


Posted 5/29/2019 7:26pm by Kinley Coulter.

     Last week had started out rather well.  But the week that came in like a lamb was destined to go out like a lion.


     We had beaten the rain and gotten all  63 acres of hay safely baled just as the clouds decided to dump their soaking wet cargo.  85 acres done with over 100 remaining to be cut in the next couple of weeks… IF it quits raining.
     Thursday’s farm market was bustling and busy, and the cash register was ringing merrily and steadily filling up with the 20 dollar bills that keep this farm operating.  Suddenly, an eerie stillness settled over the farm market.  Hmmm… this does not look good… no, not good at all!  Blue sky fled and dense, disturbingly dark clouds blotted out the sun.  Moments later, powerful thunderstorms thumped our erstwhile bustling market.  We would find out later that a tornado watch had been issued just before the storms hit us.  Wind gusts in our area were clocked at 68 mph and a tornado did touch down north east of DC. 
     To say that the market was decimated is an serious understatement… it was devastation unlike I had ever seen in 10 years at farm markets.   All but a few of the 30 pop-up tents that vendors sell from were shredded to pieces, or blew off to the Land of Oz.   Here are a few photos of the aftermath…after most of the debris was cleaned up.
   During the storm, the three of us that were working that market were clinging to our tents...hanging on for dear life to our two EZ-ups.  They were tied down to three different 100 pound coolers, and had three massive weights anchoring the front of the tents… all told we had over 800 pounds of down force to battle the wind for possession of our precious tents… it was a very close fight.  Thankfully, the wind departed, empty-handed of Coulter Farms’ market tents.   Jessica declares that the tent lifted off the ground on her side at one point.  I had the presence of mind to tell the two girls to let go if things went airborne.  Anyway… all was well that ended well… although the pile of 20$’s was pretty pathetic by the end of the day.  Thankfully, we didn’t have to dip deep  into the puny pile of bills to buy any $500 replacement tents.  So… that was Thursday.
    Saturday morning we arrived at market in good time, and had nice weather.  It promised to be a good day on the heels of Thursday’s debacle.  Sadly, we opened the door of the walk-in cooler and were greeted by a highly aggravating  mishap.  
     A crate of yogurt quarts in the walk-in cooler on our trailer had decided to take a fatal sabbatical from where it belonged on its shelf, to the uncompromisingly hard floor… smashing most of the 18 plastic quarts of yogurt, and spattering sticky goop both far and wide.   Waking up at 2:30 am to go to market leaves our attitudes a little marginal by the time we arrive at market at 5:30… In spite of that we gamely cleaned up the slimy mess on the floor… grumbled about the loss of $90 worth of yogurt and a precious hour of set up time… pasted market smiles on our faces, and proceeded to have one of the best market days we’ve had all year, with a very satisfying pile of 20$’s… once again, all’s well that ends well.
     As I write this, Jared and his wife are hunkered down at Wednesday farm market getting ready to get hit by a line of ominous thunder storms.  He says they are dry, so far.  We took a pretty good pounding from the storm at the farm… it remains to be seen whether they will dodge a bullet and escape unscathed.  Summer storms do an excellent job of keeping farm market from getting boring.  
     Late update: this is what their market looked like after the drenching downpour :(.
     The encouraging news, in all of this, is that we have reached our peak milk production for the year and our faithful customers are absorbing all of it.  Rich, lush, vibrant, diverse, dark green, nutrient dense organic pastures are filling our cows' udders impressively.  Late May milk production is booming.  Our bottler, cheesemaking equipment, and milk fermentation equipment are humming happily at a pace more than double what it will be by fall.   It’s a very comforting thing to watch the refrigerated bulk tank bursting at the seams with a full load of sun-golden 100% grassfed certified organic milk, and to know that we have customers happy to buy it all.  That makes the mishaps and adventures at market well worth enduring.  Thanks again for your vital and much appreciated support! 
Posted 4/4/2019 10:01am by Kinley Coulter.

     April at Coulter Farms often arrives cloaked in deception.  Warm sun seems to offer an early spring, but cold nights and blustery days wipe out much of the sun's warmth.  The grass is brilliant green, luring the cattle out from the barns to attempt to graze the luscious, nutritive and healing fruits of photosynthesis... but, alas, all there is in the chilly pastures is green, with no grass.  So, we grass farmers begin a long 4 weeks of waiting for warm sun and green pastures to turn into significant amounts of grass that can support our cattle and sheep's needs.

    We have already bought into this 'April Fools' promise of imminent lush pastures, and put the animals out too soon... it doesn't work well.  After a week of cattle attempting to graze grass that is too short and too immature to produce milk, the green is gone from the pastures, and the animals are sick from trying to eat grass that is too high in protein and moisture, and too low in sugars and fats.  The cattle have no sense of humor about getting put back in the barns after a week out on sunny pastures.  Overall... everyone loses when we jump the gun.  

     We used to run greenhouses here at the farm and our neighbors had the same problem with desperately wanting to plant their gardens too early.  They would come to buy our greenhouse plants, and ask us (4 weeks too early), 'is it too early to plant our garden?'  We would warn them that it's way too early, but they would still buy flats and flats of peppers and tomatoes and annual flowers... only to see them frosted and withered a few days later.  Oh well, at least we got to sell them a bunch more plants!

     One thing we CAN do in early April is get this year's fertility onto the pastures and hay fields.  We spread chicken manure on our fields for its vital and abundant fertility.  It helps us produce lush and nutrient dense grass that our dairy and meat animals need to thrive without any grain in their diet.  It also helps our grasses remain green and vibrantly growing through summer's dry spells that would otherwise turn grass brown and dormant.

     These are pictures of our manure spreading rig in action...


       Here, Jason is filling the spreader with 7 tons of manure...

      Sadly, the next photo shows what needs to be done when the apron chain, in the bottom of the spreader, breaks... it takes a lot longer to unload a spreader with shovels than it does to fill it with a skid-loader.  At least Jason found a sympathetic friend (brother Jacob) to help.

      Emptying a spreader with a shovel on a windy day and then pressure washing the broken parts is not a job for the faint of heart... messy, messy, messy... Jason may have to sleep in the barn tonight if his wife won't let him into the house...


      If you look closely, you can see the damage we had to repair on the chain just above the hydraulic spinners....



     Winter winds and snow were the last straw for this decrepit wagon shed on the side of one of our barns... the ancient shed was just about done for, anyway...still, it's part of our farm's history and we were sorry to see it go...


      Now it was time to tear it down and haul it away...This is the scene from the skid loader waiting to roar into 'demolition mode.' 


      On a brighter note, by April, lambing is almost finished at the farm.  Our younger daughters enjoy feeding the occasional 'bottle lamb' that gets orphaned when its mother abandons it... here, Sabrina is enjoying 'Bathsheba' after filling her with a bottle of warm, fresh, Certified Organic 100% Grassfed milk...


      We also welcomed a new granddaughter, Avriel Irene, shown here with proud Daddy Jared, and our 4 year old daughter, Aunt Meagan.

      April is quite the transition time on the farm.  In just a few weeks every animal on the farm will be frisking around the pastures in joyful abandon.  The pastures and hayfields are practically trembling with super-charged growth potential.  The bulk tank in the milk house is fuller with milk every day as more and more Jersey cows freshen (have their calf) and begin producing fresh, sun-golden  organic milk.  Our farm markets are all restarted now after a long, bleak winter...

     The days are longer, the soil is warmer and smiles pop up onto farmers' faces a little quicker in April... even a face covered with chicken manure...

Posted 3/29/2019 10:05am by Kinley Coulter.

    Ahhhh… April at last!  Spring has sprung at Coulter Farms and our new laying hens are swinging into major egg production mode.  The hens' innate drive to lay prolifically  in the spring fits the start of our three spring farm markets very nicely.  Most of our ‘laying ladies’ are brand new to egg laying and are probably grateful to have been designed to lay ‘miniature’  pullet eggs for the first month or so.  Full size eggs coming from under-sized young poults can be an anatomical challenge, to say the least.  These special spring ‘maiden eggs’ are highly sought after for their ‘egg-ceptional’ flavor.  Many restaurants make a big deal of any menu items they can provide that are made with spring pullet eggs… try googling them.  They cannot be bought at grocery stores because they don’t fit the ‘cookie cutter’ industrial egg industry model.  We can only supply them in April… so enjoy the seasonality of small scale egg production… vive le difference!

     We are selling 18 pullet eggs for the dozen price… while they last!  Use three pullet eggs in place of two regular eggs, and expect an abundance of flavor :).    Regular size dozens will be in very short supply for the next month.  

     Watch for the transition in our eggs’  yolk color as they move from spacious, but dormant, winter pastures onto lush, green spring grass… and then enjoy the next transition as their diet starts to include various crawling and flying bugs and worms in the warmer weather.  My favorite eggs are July/August when the grasshoppers show up!  Besides, there are few things more entertaining than watching a pasture full of hens frantically pursuing equally frantic grasshoppers… who needs television?  Maybe we need a web-cam???  We start out with mostly fresh, new hens every spring.  One advantage of this for the egg consumer is that a laying hen’s first egg is her most nutrient dense and highly mineralized of her life… as hens keep laying, from one year into the next they are producing so many high quality pastured eggs that their skin and feathers visibly begin to fade and become pale… the  eggs’ yolks start to get pale and pathetic, too.  Anyway, it’s just another cycle you can watch as you purchase real food from a real farm.  We all know that strawberries in February are an aberration… now you know that eggs that are always the same are unnatural, as well.  
Posted 3/13/2019 3:41pm by Kinley Coulter.

     Right from the beginning, our stated goal with the 'Hoop Building Project' here at Coulter Farms was to absolutely, positively, ‘no matter what’...finish it in time for our March Lambing Season.  

      As usual with most of our big farm was a ‘nail-biter’ from start to finish! Unfortunately, we had been late starting in the fall and had frustrating construction delays related to the record squishy, soggy, no-good, too-wet year.  If you have been following this gut-wrenching saga in the mainstream national media,  you already know that the trusses and fabric roof were completed before the worst of the snow and wind arrived in January.  That was the GOOD news… now for the LESS good news.
     We had one great final challenge related to this building.  With January frost sinking into the ground and temperatures plummeting  towards the single digits and buffeting wind gusts approaching 70 mph… we desperately needed to get an ‘end wall’  built with strong sliding doors to relieve the momma ewes and Jersey heifer calves from the wind-tunnel effect of a hoop building that was facing North and open at both ends.  The south end of the building was designed to remain open to let in fresh air and the toasty-warm, winter sun. But, the open north end was allowing the prevailing winds to intrude, carrying unwelcome snow and rain deep into our marvelous building. 
      I’ll leave it for another time to consider the merits of the proposed wall on our nation’s southern border… the need for THIS wall on the northern border of THIS building was undisputed and had broad, bipartisan support… both animals AND farmers were solidly of one mind about it.  This wall MUST be built… and SOON.  Our momma ewes were looking like they could pop at any time.  Twin lambs in a ewe look big… triplets, a few days before lambing give the momma ewe a width that exceeds her length (like the momma in the foreground of the photo below).  The March 1st  lambing season was uncomfortably close at hand.

     Challenge accepted!  Bring on the undaunted and intrepid farmers doing their convincing imitation of builders!  
     The initial challenge was to engineer an end wall that could match the hoop-building’s impressive 90 mph wind rating.  We used an enormous scrap steel I-beam (It had been dragged in here from some auction by the boys… dad asked ‘what will we ever do with that thing?’… turned out we needed it) to be a header over the 24’ wide sliding doors.  
     The 30 foot tall upright poles for the wall had to be far stronger than 6x6’s so we laminated 2x10’s with hundreds and hundreds of nails to make a rugged support for our wall.
     The rock hard January frozen ground made digging a challenge but we chipped and hacked our way through the frost and anchored the poles on a solid concrete footer below frost depth.  
     Our farm shop welder was pressed into service to make ingenious custom brackets to tie the poles to the hoop truss 27’ above the ground.
     Then it was a simple matter to run lines of 2x4’s to support the steel skin of the wall.
     After all of this preparatory work, putting the bright red skin on the wall was FUN!
     Two sliding doors were readied and installed to allow equipment and hay and animals in and out.
      Then…a disappointing tragedy!  Shortly after the doors were installed we had two days and a night of shrieking wind that was as bad as any we’ve seen here in 20 year at the farm.  By the time the howling wind storm subsided…the sorry situation became evident.  
     Both big, bright, beautiful new sliding doors (along with one of another barn’s doors) were fallen casualties…torn loose and flipped mercilessly far from their buildings…the giant fallen doors resembled so many playing cards strewn in our pastures.  Here they are, rescued from the snowy pasture and waiting to be re-installed.
     We were all moping and grousing about having had such a shocking failure so soon after finishing the doors.  Sadly, we had been caught in a gamble.  We had been waiting for warmer weather to pour concrete to properly anchor the doors.  No one expected such traumatic winter wind… but we should have known.  Murphy’s Law (If anything CAN go wrong it WILL) is always hovering nearby when anything meaningful is attempted on the farm.  
     On a positive note… the wild, flying doors could have easily become enormous cruise missiles, knifing through the thin hoop building plastic cover or, worse, through equipment, animals or people.  They also could have nimbly flown right up and out of Juniata County and been dropped in the Land of Oz… making their extradition and recovery far more difficult than just dragging them back across the snowy pastures.
     After much hand-wringing, (and a little finger pointing :)  ) the doors were gathered up and lovingly repaired and remounted with sturdier latches and anchors.  Now, finally, the lambs can arrive, survive and thrive.  

      And, ‘arrive’ they did.  As I write this, 100 ewes are having 150 lambs on soft dry bedding while, outside, our advesary,  the despised north wind, howls and thumps, totally impotent, against the glowing, warm, tight, dry building. 
     The lambs are toasty warm and exploring their newfound world… blissfully out of the wind in our fancy, new hoop building.  Mission Accomplished!   
     Somehow, if there aren’t big adventures in a project like this, the completion of it isn’t as satisfying.  It feels REALLY good to have the ewes and young calves out of our old bank-barn and into safe and comfortable quarters.  We have found that baby lambs have no trouble with winter’s cold temperatures if they are not exposed to wet and wind.   A damp, dark, drafty barn is a sure-fire recipe for weak or sick lambs.   
     So… what is the next big adventure looming on the horizon at Coulter Farms?  We are expecting 52 Jersey milk cows to have their calves, starting any day now.  As winter fades into spring, there is never a dull moment at the farm.  It won’t be long after the calves come that we’ll be eyeing the hay fields, ripe for the harvest.  Who cares what the weather is…summer is almost here.  Stay tuned!
Posted 12/27/2018 2:12pm by Kinley Coulter.


     A few weeks ago, you were given an insider's peek into our project to erect a hoop building for lambing our ewe flock of sheep, and storing round bales of dry hay.  We had just finished erecting a foundation with steel hoop trusses, and had pulled over half of the fabric cover for the building.  In the picture above, you see the chilly, foggy morning that greeted us when we sought to pull the second half of the cover fabric over the trusses.

     The first half of the cover weighed almost a ton!  It had to be winched over with four seemed like we were pulling so hard that it would surely tear the cover.  But, thankfully, it came over without incident (... at least, with no devastating incidents.)


     Winching over the second half of the cover.  Notice the tension in the first cover.  Over 150 ratchet straps pull the tarp tight... this protects the building from wind damage, providing much of the strength of the building.  I hope it never sees the 90 mph wind that it it supposedly rated for.
     Our 125 year old bank barn is feeling a little pathetic next to these two modern agricultural can see our family's home in the background supervising the scene.  It's been said that the house will never pay for the barns... but (hopefully), the barns can pay for the house... time will tell :).
Shifting the whole fabric cover a couple of feet sideways is a bigger deal than you might think...
All right boys... time to get back to work...
     Success feels REALLY good!  We were all a little stressed about this critical part of the construction... we had heard stories of covers blowing a mile away into the woods, or a gust of wind on the tarp lifting a worker to dizzying heights :O.
     Oops... minor miscalculation, and we severed an electrical line with the backhoe... sadly, it was one we had just buried a week before... sigh...whose job was it to remember where we had buried it?  No electric meant no way to water the livestock, or run the milking equipment, so the boys worked until well past dark on the repair.
     The vastness of this 65'x180' building isn't really apparent until we put some big pieces of  hay equipment in and they looked like children's toys...
     The sheep and the youngest of the Jersey dairy calves got put in the very next day... they BAAAAHED and MOOOED  'thank you' for getting them out of the December weather...
     Hay isn't as tasty as green pasture... but getting out of the weather is worth a little sacrifice...
      Feeding one sheep is fun... when 100 of them start crowding around the four year old... she starts getting a little intimidated...
     The sun, low in the sky in the winter, gives plenty of warmth deep into the open south end of the building.  The far end is the north end, and it will get an end wall to break the dreaded winter wind, and to hold out rain and snow.  We hope to engineer the end wall to absorb 90 mph wind... no small feat!
     Feeding hay by hand isn't going to work in the long run... in the background, you can see the sheep eating from the Certified Organic fermented green hay bales that weigh 2/3 of a ton each.
     Many of you may not realize that our farm also raises monkeys...seen above playing in the trusses...
     Baby monkeys are much cuter...
     And some monkeys don't seem to have much expectation of a long life ahead of them...
     As always, thank you for supporting our family farm!