Thursday, December 20, 2012

Judy's Farmall H Story

When I was a teenager I spent summers on the farm tedding, raking and pulling wagons of hay with the Farmall H. My dad bought “the H”, as she was called, new in 1950 for $1900. When dad retired from making hay, he sold most of his equipment but not the H. She was my dad’s favorite and my inheritance!

The Farmall H, built by International Harvester and produced from 1939 to 1952, is the number two-selling tractor model of all time in North America with over 390,000 sold. Only the Ford 8N, due to its exclusive Ferguson Three Point Hitch system, was a better seller.  We use a Ford 8N and a 9N on St. Brigid’s Farm everyday.

The Farmall H was popular because it is an ideal, all-purpose tractor for diversified farms up to 160 acres and for specialized farms raising such row crops as potatoes or sugar beets. It pulled two 14-inch bottom plows, cultivated up to 35 acres of row crops a day and sped up other farm jobs in proportion.  My dad used the H to run the blower during silage harvest as well as to pull the manure spreader.  I bought him a “cab” for the tractor but I don’t think he ever used it!

The H, along with and two Case tractors that my dad purchased a few years back,  stayed in the barn in Connecticut for several years after Dad died.  This summer Bob’s nephew, Chuck Fry, arranged to have them back hauled to Maryland on an empty nursery truck. We unloaded them at Angelica Nursery and drove them two miles to their new home.

Shortly after they arrived, Alan Hill told us about John Hill, the person who had restored his old tractors.  We contacted John and he agreed to give the H a makeover.  He took her apart, sand blasted everything, ordered authentic replacement parts including a new identification plate, meticulously painted her and the put her back together with the help of Billy Clendaniel.  We visited John’s shop several times during the process and learned more about antique tractors than we could have imagined.  John has a cadre of fans who visit the shop and swap facts and stories.  We brought Ken Overton and his young son Tilden on one visit.  Tilden was quiet while he was in the shop but talked nonstop on the way home!

John was most impressed with the condition of my dad’s H.  He couldn’t believe how well preserved she was! My dad took pride and joy in his tractors and in making high quality hay.  We are sad that dad is not around to see the H as she must have looked when he bought her but we trust somehow he knows his pride and joy is now ours and looks great!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The weather for the 5th Field to Fork Dinner was warm and breezy and while the forecast called for scattered showers, we never considered moving the event inside. By the time guests began to arrive, chance of rain was less than 10% and everything looked lovely. The local Crow Vineyard Chardonnay and the Mark Cascia Vineyard red wines were very popular and paired well with a sampling of Chapel’s Creamery Cheeses. Bill Schindler served up his Teté de Veau (calf head soup) and all the trimmings to those adventurous diners who wanted to taste the rich tasting broth steeped in French cuisine. Jim Stephanson and his band rocked from their perch on the deck. Judy and Roy Crow, Holly and Eric Foster and Trey Hill told those gathered about their farming enterprises and described the Bucket List Auction item they were donating.

At the very long table for 140, Bob welcomed all and took the now traditional show of hands of those who were farmers, who had attended previous dinners, who was from the area and who came from out of town. Jane Shey of Minneapolis, MN was recognized for traveling the furthest to be at the dinner. As guests dined on butternut squash soup, arugula salad and fresh baked bread from Evergrain Bread Company, baker Doug Rae educated us about the difference between Wonder Bread and his wonderful artisan breads. Theresa Mycek from Colchester Farms CSA explained that with Community Supported Agriculture consumers are invested and involved in the farming operation. While the beef stew and grilled vegetables were being served, Laura Phelps, representing Phillips Mushroom Farms, described the new facility in Warwick and how it benefits the local economy.

Just before dessert, Bob’s brother Ken, returned from his car with his umbrella and raincoat. When I asked what was up, he pointed to the very black sky rolling our way. Luckily, everyone had time to enjoy the delicious apple cobbler topped with Lockbriar Farms’ fabulous premium ice cream and listen to Sabine Harvey describe her trials, tribulations and finally success with the Kent County Middle School’s Victory Garden before the skies opened and our dinner abruptly ended. Too bad guests could not enjoy the Cafetin coffee and continue chatting but we were fortunate that the rain did not arrive any earlier.

We are pleased to announce that we will be donating $5,000 to the Victory Garden Project and look forward to watching the garden and students grow. Thanks to all who attended, donated and bid on the Bucket List auction items. Terri Burke, who attended her first Field to Fork Dinner, wrote us that “we weren’t quite sure what to expect at the Field to Fork dinner, but our group was game. What a wonderful cause, fabulous food and people. It was an incredible evening – way beyond our expectations“. That pretty well sums it up!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Field to Fork Preparations

Things are coming together for tomorrow’s Field to Fork Dinner. While the basics for the dinner remain constant – fresh, local ingredients and a fun atmosphere, we tweak the details every year.  This year we have improved on the lighting and PA system.  Bob and Mike put the lights up today for a trial run tonight.  One of my favorite parts of the event is seeing the lights in the field on Friday night.  They look so serene yet are very exciting. 

On Sunday, Judy Crow from Crow Vineyard and Winery dropped off their just released Chardonnay and Cascia Winery’s 2007 Vino Cascia and Zinfandel.  We bought the six cases of Flying Dog Beer at Pip’s Liquor in Chestertown.  Needless to say, they all know me!

On Tuesday, I picked up the squash and apples from Lockbriar Farms and the potatoes, onions, arugula and other vegetables from Colchester Farm.  My car was jam packed and smelled delicious!

Yesterday, I went to a new contributor to the dinner, Phillip’s Mushroom Farms in Warwick.  I was amazed that such an impressive facility was located 10 miles from the farm and I had never seen it!  The staff couldn’t have been nicer and they donated the most beautiful boxes of portabellas, shitake and button mushroom caps I have ever seen.

Bob is on his way to Roos Foods to pick up the sour cream made from our Jersey milk.  We have been shipping milk to Roos Foods for two years and are grateful for their donation and pleased to include their quality product in our menu.

Tomorrow I will pick up 40 loaves of fresh baked bread and Cafetin coffee  from Evergrain Bread Company  , eight gallons of homemade vanilla ice cream and four gallons for freshly pressed apple cider from Lockbriar Farms.  In the meantime, Chef Dave and his staff have been busy prepping the food, hauling tables and chairs and planning the decorations.  The weather is looking good and we can’t wait to great our guest, drink wonderful wine and beer, enjoy fantastic local food and listen Jim Stephanson’s  and his really fun band.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ten Things I Have Learned From Working at St.Brigid's

Hi all, my name is Katie Jones and I am St.Brigid's newest employee. I'm not the first Jones to work here though; my older brother Ethan used to work for Ms.Judy as well. St.Brigid's has been a wonderful place to work and I have learned many things. So here is a list of ten things that I have learned so far:
1. Jerseys are the best breed of cow- I already knew this but I just wanted to emphasize this fact. See, when I used to show cows Jerseys were always my cow of choice.
2. Always hold the cow's tail when you are milking them- The cows are constantly being bit by flies and they use their tails to ward them off. However, their tails sometimes miss their target and end up hitting you instead. 
3. The heat is much worse for cows than it is for you- If you think it is hot then it is a whole lot hotter for the cows. Think of it this way, they always have a leather coat on basically. Not very appropriate for warmer temperatures.
4. Dogs are not always helpful when it comes to herding- Ms.Judy has an adorable dog named Maggie who means well but she sometimes gets a tad too excited and likes to nip at the cow's feet.
5. Everyone should know how to drive stick shift- St.Brigid's has a old tractor to scrape the barns with and it just so happens to be a stick shift. It took me a while to get used to it but I have gotten better with practice. If anything knowing how to drive stick helps you appreciate your automatic car that much more.
6. Be prepared to get dirty when taking a cows temperature- The other day the heat seemed to be affecting one cow more than the others. So Ms.Judy took her temperature and once she saw it was around 106 degrees we hosed her down to cool her off (the normal temperature of a healthy cow is around 101). Then I took her temperature afterwards to see if it helped. To take a cow's temperature you insert the thermometer into the cow's rectum and hold it there for about a minute. The end product: the temperature of the cow and a very dirty hand.
7. The cows do not walk in a single file line on their own- If you have ever driven by St.Brigid's in the evening then you have probably seen her cows walking in a single file line out to their pasture. It is a truly beautiful sight. I always assumed that they chose to walk one behind the other, but really they have a confined path to walk in. Still beautiful though.
8. The actual skin of a cow is not the color I expected- One poor calf has lost patches of hair all over her body due to a strange reaction to something. Her hair is already growing back but not before I saw her bare skin which was a deep gray color. I'm not sure what color I was expecting but definitely not that.
9. Cows have their own personalities unique to themselves- I learned this very quickly. There are the cows who are spunky and might give you a little bit of trouble when you try to milk them and then there are the cows who are as sweet and as calm as can be. Those are my favorite ones. Easier to milk.
10. Milking cows is an effective workout- All of that squating down and getting back up definitely gives you a burn in your thighs and your glutes the next day.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In Memory of Edwin C. Fry

He loved cows, farming, and all people especially Lorraine.

February 8, 1924- June 1, 2012

A Celebration of Life memorial will be held on June 30 at 11AM at the Presbyterian Church of Chestertown. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to The Presbyterian Church of Chestertown, 905 Gateway Drive, Chestertown, MD 21620, or the Maryland 4-H Foundation Edwin C. Fry Memorial, 8020 Greenmead Drive, College Park, MD 20740.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Sweet Smell of Hay

The sweet smell of hay reminds us of Judy’s late father. For six decades, Bob Gifford took immense pride in “putting up” high quality hay.  Good hay has a unique and wonderful aroma.  We checked out why and found that the distinct smell of newly mown hay is the trademark scent of coumarin; sweet, herbaceous, with a spicy fresh top note. Sounds like the description of a fine bottle of wine!!

Coumarin is a chemical compound which is found naturally in some plants, although it can be synthetically produced as well. It has a distinctive odor which has led people to use it as a food additive and ingredient in perfume since 1882. It is among the most popular ingredients in perfumes and is included in almost 90% of them!

“The pliability and versatility of this fragrance note is legendary, accounting for a sweet and fresh facet that rises up from the bottom onto the heart of the fragrance, lingering on the skin for hours and enriching a perfume composition via its scent magic.”

Thanks to the four perfect haymaking days (sunny, breezy and low humidity) last week and the help of the Gary Miller who mowed, tedded and raked the hay as well as Chuck Hocking who baled the hay into the 75 big (755 lbs each!) square bales, we have a barn full of high quality orchard grass hay.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kid's Day at St. Brigid's Farm

We practice relationship marketing which simply means we know the people who buy our meat – the chefs, the regulars at the farmers’ market, the locals who stop by the farm, the subscribers of our Medley of Meats and the members of the Annapolis Buyers Club.  Last weekend, our customers had a chance to get to know us.
On Saturday, about a dozen families came to the farm to see where some of their food is raised.   Kids Day on the Farm was a huge success. The weather was perfect for a picnic lunch on the lawn with singing Purple Martins and cows grazing in the background.  After lunch, the kids climbed under and over Mr. Farmer Bob’s straw fort and had a chance to pet calves Janet and Rosalita.  At the next stop, which was a favorite of many of the dads, we fired up Judy’s antique Case tractor.  Once all the kids had a chance to sit on the tractor and pose for pictures, everyone took a hike though the field where the calves were grazing and saw the muskrat houses and learned how to identify poison ivy. Then it was off to the barn to watch Frolic being milked.  Finally, all the kids helped bottle feed the two calves with the fresh milk.  As you can see from the photos below, a good time was had by all.
picnic on the lawn      

Wylee having fun with Rosalita 

 straw fort and secret tunnel

kids and calves 


Thursday, March 1, 2012

So, How is Calving Season Going?

 We are often asked this question by many people this time of year.  February is our busiest month for calving. How busy?  34 calves were born during the previous 10 days!  For some very large farms that is no big deal but for a Mom & Pop sized dairy we can tell you it was busy!
        So how is it going this year?  Remarkably well for many reasons…

1.  Weather - The weather has been wonderful.  No snow, not cold and relatively dry weather leads to minimal stress on the babies. No risk of frost bite to the cow’s teats, and an easier work load for the caretakers. 
February 2010
February 2012
2.  Male:Female ratio - While we are happy to get a healthy, live calf at St. Brigid’s Farm the girls (heifers) are preferred because they are the future producers of milk that is the mainstay of our operation.  Last year we had 59% bullsL.  This year the heifers are out numbering the bulls 31 to 20!
3.  Nutrition - Last harvest season we stored some very high quality forage.  This coupled with a new feed delivery system enables us to more accurately deliver the prescribed diet to the pre calving cows as well as the milking cows which leads to healthier cows at a very critical time.
4.  Labor – In January we hired a full time worker to replace numerous dedicated part time employees who moved on last year.  Mike Vanhorn has been a welcome addition to our staff and has done a fine job raising over 50 baby calves born so far this season.

5.  Nurse cows - Three cows were designated as nurse cows to each raise 3-4 veal calves.  They are wonderful mothers and have taken to their foster calves quite well.

We are thankful it has been a great calving season but we are not done yet.  Thirty more cows are due in the next three weeks.

Active Labor


Thursday, February 2, 2012

St. Brigid's Day - February 1st

Today as we celebrate the feast of St. Brigid, we reflect on her compassion and love for dairy cows.  In a world full of sound bites and superficial arguments, the thought of St. Brigid, her kindness  and dedication to the dignity of manual work among animals in the dairy and respect for the rural  land gives us pause and a chance to ponder what is truly important. 

To learn more about St. Brigid's Day read below.

February 1st
St. Brigid’s Day

St. Brigid
- was born in A.D. 451 or 452 to a pagan father and a Christian slave mother.  Her impoverished, enslaved mother did her best to raise her well, and a white red-eared cow is said to have provided all the food St. Brigid needed to grow, indicating that she was special indeed as white red-eared cows are rare in IrelandWhile still a child she was put in charge of the dairy by her mother. One day she had given away so much milk and butter to poor people that none remained for the family. She feared her mother's displeasure and so resorted to prayer. When her mother visited the dairy she found such an abundance of milk and butter that she praised the dairy maids for their industry.  Today she remains the patron saint of dairy maids and is the patroness of Ireland.