Children who live on dairy farms much less likely to develop allergies, etc.

Link to the study.

Keeping everything spotless and sanitized isn’t helping your kids, it’s hurting them. Selling Clorox wipes is a big business and it’s sold to parents with a marketing fueled fear of bacteria. Kids need to be grimy and develop their immune systems if they are to be healthy.

I note that they specifically mentioned dairy farms. I wonder if they will see if the kids drink their milk raw or pasteurized. I’ve yet to meet a dairy farmer that pasteurizes their own milk for consumption.

Really cool video by the kids showing a day on the farm

I’ve mentioned before that I really like it when kids do the filming, photography, etc. It’s really neat to see their perspective on things and with our modern electronics it’s pretty surprising how good the quality can be.

We had some friends over Saturday and left the kids with supervision (that’s Bombshell in the video). The kids took it upon themselves to make an entire film all over the farm and we came home so it edited and completed. The only thing I had to do was to cut out their names (they used their actual names in the credits) and add in our normal kids names we use on the site.

I uploaded the video to Youtube but I’m not sure where the kids got the music that is playing in the background so Youtube might yank it. Also the Youtube version doesn’t have credits whereas the one on our site has the credits. Also the version on our site is a high resolution version. Here is the version on our site. Farm kids video


Update to the new name for Bok Bok

Cassia and the girls, including the artist formerly known as Bok Bok.
Cassia and the girls, including the artist formerly known as Bok Bok.

We’ve had a number of submissions on Bok Bok’s new name.

The current front-runners are:

Wildflower (because she’s WILD)

Cowgirl (because she’s a girl, and uh, we have cows)

Wonder Woman (She’s a tiny little thing but she hit’s way above her weight)

Sugar ( we already had this one).

Please keep them coming, these are so much better than what we’ve come up with on our own.

Thanks to Cassia for a huge list of awesome suggestions!

A new name for Bok Bok, we need your help.

So as you’ve likely noticed by now, everyone routinely talked about on our farm has some sort of nick name. A big part of this is SWMBO (my wife) does not like the kids names used in a public domain. I used to think this was overprotective but now it just seems to be common sense. No sense making things easier to bad people. But back to the nicknames. My son is “Spork”, my older daughter is “The Princess”, and my youngest daughter is “Bok Bok”. The issue is that Bok Bok now needs a new name. But before I get into that, let me share some history.

For some reason nobody really questions Spork but for back story, he was named by my neighbor when Spork was doing something somewhat slowly and not quite right. He was a really little kid and was doing the best he could but certainly wasn’t moving at adult pace. Anyway the frustrated quote was, “I don’t know what you’re going to be, you’re not quite a spoon and you’re certainly not a fork. I think you’ll just be a spork the rest of your life.” It was a strange statement but it stuck. Now with men, your nickname is supposed to be not especially flattering. My neighbor, who is a man, was saddled with Alice. If you’re wondering about how all this nickname stuff works, there is an interesting article here at The Art of Manliness website. You’ll note that there is quite a bit in that article about how nicknames are not flattering, and complaining about them only gets you in trouble but since SWMBO nor Bok Bok have or will read the article, they don’t care. They want a new name for Bok Bok.

Now The Princess is easy. My first girl, my little princess. Every father with a girl has his little princess but my girl isn’t a princess with a little p, she’s a princess with a big P. You see I had to do some research for work on my genealogy and in doing so I found that our line goes a LONG ways back, back to Scotland and specifically back to Robert De Bruce. Yes, that Robert De Bruce from Braveheart. So it turns out we are distantly related to Scottish royalty which is pretty cool, and why my little princess is my little Princess.

Bok Bok was given a name because by that time everyone had a name. I really don’t know what made me land on this name but I do know where it came from. That’s a commercial from when I was a kid. No she wasn’t born on Easter and no she doesn’t especially like eggs, or bunnies, or chocolate, no more than any other kid. However, she and SWMBO have decided that they hate Bok Bok and they no longer want her called by that name. The issue is what is her new name. I planned on waiting till she earned her new name by some action but that time frame is apparently not acceptable so I’m turning to you, my friends, to help name this young lady. Per the folkways and mores of traditional man interaction noted in the article above, she should get something horrible as punishment for complaining but she is my little girl and I do love her so, so I’m letting her out of her punishment and hoping to find her a good name. We have some preliminary draft names already, none of which are clearly ahead in the polls. I’ll detail them below along with pictures of Bok Bok.

Farm girl
Sugar (cookie) The Princess has freckles, which we call her chocolate chips. Bok Bok doesn’t have freckles, making her a sugar cookie. Sugar is more of a term of endearment than a name to me.
Wild Woman is a name that was suggested and it does fit. Bok Bok is loud and tough and full of energy. She's solid and if kids are crying it's better than 50/50 that somebody got hurt and Myla did the hurting. Usually not maliciously, just because she bumped into them while playing crazy.
Wild Woman is a name that was suggested and it does fit. Bok Bok is loud and tough and full of energy. She’s solid and if kids are crying it’s better than 50/50 that somebody got hurt and Myla did the hurting. Usually not maliciously, just because she bumped into them while playing crazy.
Bok Bok in her PPE
Bar Fly is one that popped up in conversation. Bok Bok went with us to a local restaurant when she was still a little toddler. We’d shipped the other two off to a babysitter and all we had for date night was what was then the baby. As soon as we got into the loud restaurant with loud music, Bok Bok started going crazy, dancing and doing a jig on the table even though she could barely walk. The music really seemed to energize her and she’s always enjoyed a party ever since.
Bok Bok farm girl
The subject of our attention today.

She’s rough and tumble, sweet towards animals, the baby of our brood, and she needs a new name. Any suggestions? We could sure use them.

Recap of the 4th of July weekend. Lots of pictures!

The Princess bakes a 4th of July cake
The Princess, post cake creation and prior to gobbling it up

Having The Princess bake an independence day cake is becoming a tradition at our house. Fluffy cake, whipped cream, and fruit stars and stripes all put together by her Highness. This is a tradition I can get behind!

Loading watermelons for our cows
Spork taking a well deserved break while Miguel loads the last pallet of watermelons

Every day we go to two farmer’s markets to collect all the fresh produce that they cannot sell due to damage. We collect about 2500 pounds per day by my rough guess. That’s 365 days a year or over 900,000 pounds of produce a year to feed our animals which is pretty much their only feed besides what already grows on the farm. Here we are loading on the 4th. Yes that is three pallets of watermelons. This doesn’t show the heaping full truck bed already loaded with other produce. The next day we put FOUR pallets on the trailer and still had the truck full. That was a personal best for me for one day. Cows LOVE watermelons, as do pigs, and chickens, and kids for that matter. The cows are starting to figure out how to break open watermelons and it’s funny to watch them chase the round melons around the pasture. While all the rest of us (animals both in the house and out) still love watermelon, SWMBO is getting a bit tired of watermelon juice covering her counters. Looks like its time to switch to peaches.

Feeding cows fresh vegetables
Feeding the cows a pallet of food. This is one of three that day.

This pallet was full of sweet corn husks, watermelons, squash, zucchini, and I don’t know what else. By the time the cows were done with it, it was just a pallet and some cardboard. By the end of the weekend, I noted that the cows were looking mighty portly. A few are showing some signs that they may need to be culled but the rest are looking fat and happy with slick coats and not a lot of signs of parasites. Right now #23, #14, and #3 (all brood cows) all look like candidates for culling, along with #28 and #40 (steers) who both had bloat but are doing better now.

Spork shooting a 22 rifle
Spork shooting his sister’s 22. He went through about 30 rounds and never missed!

The beauty of a longer weekend is even on the farm it’s not all work and no play. I took a little while to take SWMBO, The Princess, and Spork down to the shooting range to get in some practice. Spork was phenomenal, knocking down every target with boring regularity. Since he did so well, we decided to put him to work on our squirrel menace. Every year we have squirrels strip our fruit trees of all of our fruit before it has a chance to be harvested. With Spork doing so well in his shooting, it was time to introduce him to hunting. Between Spork, myself, and Alice, we accounted for 4 of the little fluffy tailed rats this weekend, with more to come.

The Princess shooting a 22 rifle
The Princess trying her hand at shooting.

The gun is still just a bit big for the Princess but she stepped up there and took some shots. She was nervous at first but very excited after shooting. I believe we’ll have her back again this fall when the weather is nice. By then the gun should just about fit her.

Father and daughter preparing to process chickens
Dad and The Princess off to process chickens.

This weekend we processed our 25 freedom ranger chickens. We process on farm and despite being able to sell these chickens pretty much anywhere we want with such a high demand, in the end we are simply going to put them in the freezer and eat them ourselves which was the original plan. There is a difference between home raised chickens and store-bought chickens and we have another 50 on the way for another batch. The Princess was everywhere for processing and did every single job on the line.

Catching chickens
The Princess did every job at least once, but this job she did all of the chickens, all by herself.

You never know when catching chickens will be a skill you need to list on your resume.

Killing cone for chickens
Miguel using our new killing cone. Miguel made the cones and they worked perfectly.

A quick bleed and the worst part of the job is over. Nobody likes killing animals but these chickens lived a good life on our farm and never had a bad day till this day. I believe you should know where you food comes from and all chicken ends up on the plate somehow. These chickens went from their home to the cone, with no scary truck ride or meat factory in between.

Whiz bang chicken plucker in use
The chicken plucker in action. This is a home made version of the whiz bang chicken plucker.

Note the blood on the face of The Princess. For a minute that morning she said she didn’t want to be around chicken processing, but then she reverted back to her old blood loving self and was in the middle of the fray. Playing with all the blood is her favorite part, unless you count identifying all the organs, which she is quite good at.

The Princess, killing chickens.
Did I mention she’s quite ok with blood?

She’ll probably grow up to be a vegan, but she’ll know where food comes from and how it gets to the plate.

An overview of the process. Chicken butchering on farm.
An overview of the process.

Concrete floors, bleach for cleaning, and plenty of water to work with. A pretty good setup. We need to switch to food grade water hoses and tweak a few other things but overall the processing setup is working nicely.

Chicken puppet
The Princess’s chicken puppet.

When we couldn’t keep enough work for her to do, she reverted to pulling a whole chicken from the ice bath and plopping it on her hand then proceeding to run around acting out scenes with her “chicken puppet.” It was very cute, and quite twisted which at least for me and Miguel was funny. I’m sure someone would say that she’ll have emotional scars from seeing chickens killed or any of the other things she chooses to do on the farm. Folks, playing with a recently deceased chicken couldn’t be more normal. Scarring comes from having the world hidden from children and then they learn reality when they are adults.

Chicken on the counter, ready to be cooked.
Chicken on the counter, ready to be cooked.

For those of you who were put off by the previous images, this probably looks more familiar. Our chicken, grocery store ready, cut into traditional cuts and ready for SWMBO’s magic act of turning this chicken golden brown and yummy.

Fried chicken, straight off the farm.
Fried chicken, straight off the farm.

This chicken was walking and clucking this morning, now it’s our dinner. Thanks to SWMBO’s efforts in the kitchen we sat down to a healthy and hearty meal. Yes it was as good as it looks.

SWMBO vacuum sealing our chickens, getting them ready for the freezer.
SWMBO vacuum sealing our chickens, getting them ready for the freezer.

And don’t think she’s a one trick pony, just working in the kitchen. Here is SWMBO, still in her workout clothes after having worked out for two hours, bailing us out on the processing line by taking the quality control and packaging station. She saved us because we were getting backed up with not enough hands to do the work. Thanks Honey!

This was just a small part of our weekend. Yesterday evening Spork was excited telling SWMBO about what he and dad were going to do tomorrow. She had to break the news to him that dad had to go to work tomorrow, that he would have to wait for the next weekend to spend the day with dad again. Broke my heart to hear that I was letting him down for today but I guess that means he had a good 4th of July weekend. I know that I did.

Honey harvest from the ninja bees

Honey harvest at Ninja Cow Farm
Crushing the honey comb to release the honey

Today we harvested honey from our bee hives. We got almost 30 pounds of honey and left quite a bit behind. I probably will not harvest any more honey the rest of the year unless they really pack it away the remaining months. My intention is to leave the bees with full honey stores so they go strong into the winter. I really don’t want to feed them all winter like I did this winter. Of course I brought Spork and Bok Bok along to help. Some chores they don’t like, some they tolerate. Honey harvest is one where they beat me to the door.

Honey harvest at Ninja Cow Farm
We use simple tools for harvesting the honey.

I don’t have much in the way of fancy honey harvest gear. A stainless bowl from the kitchen, a large kitchen towel, SWMBOs kitchen strainer (shh, don’t tell her), and a honey bucket. I crush the comb by hand into the strainer, then let heat and gravity do the work to drain the now clear honey into the bucket.

Honey harvest at Ninja Cow Farm
Honey comb straight from the hives

The photographer on this adventure was Spork, who did a marvelous job. It’s really neat to see pictures from a kids perspective. Things are closer, shorter, and parts adults might not even notice receive a lot of attention when a kid had the camera. I really love it when the kids take pictures. Here you can see some of the old comb (the dark wax) and some new comb (the light wax below).

Honey harvest at Ninja Cow Farm
What makes a honey bucket a honey bucket

You don’t have to buy a honey bucket. You can buy this neat little knife valve and mount it to your own bucket. I was clean bucket poor so I bought the ready to go deal. I’m glad I did. I’ve never had the valve like this before. It’s very worth the 9 bucks it costs because it handles the sticky honey beautifully.

Honey harvest at Ninja Cow Farm
Can I have some daddy?

If your kids won’t work with you. Get bees. Kids will be right there when it’s bee time. Also, most kids are afraid of “bees.” Because all wasps, yellow jackets, etc. are “bees.” When they participate in a honey harvest and see no stings on daddy, and sweet sweet honey to eat still warm from the sun, they have a whole new perspective on bees. If you don’t have bees but you do have kids, look into it.

Honey harvest at Ninja Cow Farm
Thank goodness this honey isn’t for sale

Sticky fingers inserted into the honey dripping. It’s not exactly hygienic but it’s my kids and my honey and they only do it a little bit. Well, some of it will go to Angie at Angie’s restaurant but she kisses my kids so I think she’ll be ok. We will take a couple of germs for the experience they are getting.

Here are the kids cleaning up after we put all the comb and honey into the strainer.

Honey harvest at Ninja Cow Farm
Just about done crushing the honey comb.

At this point my hand is dripping with honey up to my wrist. Despite the kids sticking their fingers in occasionally, I’m actually clean. I’ve seen lots of tools for doing this part but the old hand works great and cleans up easy.

Honey harvest at Ninja Cow Farm
Well, maybe not easy, but fun.

Ok, so I’m a kid in a bigger body. I’m covered in yummy goodness, what did you expect me to do?

Grazing update – Last of the big paddocks

Yesterday on the left, today on the right. Gas station in the distance.
Yesterday on the left, today on the right. Gas station in the distance.

Late March we started the cows on paddock shift again at the top of our largest pasture. We’ve been working them steadily towards the other end and today we’ve arrived. When we first started there was just a bit of green, no real grass. We also made our paddocks small, maybe 18 yards wide by the full length of the pasture long. As we arrive at the end, with three weeks more growth on the grass, we are at 39 yard wide paddocks and the cows are still over grazing. About 90% of the grass is grazed and they are still reaching under the wire for more. A good portion of the grass has been second grazed. We have the four pond paddocks coming up, and then the front pasture which Sam and Dottie are sequestered in currently while Dottie dries off, I hope. That means we will be back to the winter paddock in about a week. It’s slowly coming back after all the traffic this winter. Hopefully it will have recovered by the time we get there because I need the cows to stay a while so our first paddock in this pasture will have time to recover. Soon we will be in the spring flush, with more grass than we know what to do with but it seems a long time coming.

The kids helping to feed the cows, Spork is hand feeding one of the cows.
The kids helping to feed the cows, Spork is hand feeding one of the cows.

Sunday after church the kids and I fed the cows their daily ration of veggies. As always the cows and the kids both had fun. I don’t always have the kids to help and I certainly don’t get all of them that often. I was happy to have them all yesterday.

Cooking with your kids

The Princess working with tomatoes
The Princess, after peeling blanched tomatoes and before cutting them up, all on her own. This was the first time she used a knife by herself.

I came across a good article on kids and teaching them to use knives in the kitchen and then *gasp!* actually letting them go at it. There were some pretty interesting statistics about what teaching a kid to cook and to use knives in the kitchen means when the kids gets older, and no it doesn’t mean they can no longer count to 10 without taking their shoes off.

This is the Princess, at 6 years old, helping me can tomatoes. She peeled the tomatoes, then grabbed a razor-sharp chef’s knife and proceeded to quarter the tomatoes and get them ready to can. How did I know she was ready at six to handle a knife? First, she asked. Not the whiny can I have what you have (mom’s you can hear it in your head, right?) No, she asked if she could help me do what I was doing. I spent about 3 minutes showing her how to hold the knife, how to cut with the knife, and how to be safe with the knife. My famous safety lesson on knives is, “This knife is designed to cut meat and it’s really good at it. Do you understand? Yes. Ok, now what are you made out of?” Blank stare. “The answer is meat.” I’ve had children hand me the knife back after that explanation. They weren’t ready yet.

So after that quick demo, I watch her for five minutes and make sure she’s doing it right. Is she taking this serious? Is she playing or working? Is she keeping her mind on her business or getting distracted by her siblings? Any signs she’s not focused and the knife goes on the cutting board till she talks to her sister or smacks her brother. Mom comes in and tells her to do something? Sorry mom, she’s working and can’t, get someone else to do it (that goes a long ways folks, when you’re working your above kid duties and get treated like an adult).

Did The Princess ever cut herself? Yes, not that day but yes. She didn’t even cry (something she’s very proud of and still remembers). Did Bok Bok try cooking later and cut me in the process? Yes. Did either need stitches, a trip to the ER, a blood transfusion? No. If you work in the kitchen enough, you get cuts. You don’t die, and neither will your children.

Three generations in the kitchen
Three generations of cooks. The Princess, SWMBO, and Grand SWMBO. This was late in the day, grinding hamburger of the actual ninja cow.

And of course what could be more long-lasting than cooking not only with mom but with Grandma!

candied apples
Candied apples, home made caramel, and the beginnings of the decorations. All kid made (with dad’s help.)

Of course here at Ninja Cow Farm, we care not only about knives and cooking but also about the kids nutrition and wouldn’t dream of letting them actually plan a meal and then cook it. Who knows what kinds of unhealthy sugary things they’d make if mom wasn’t here to supervise, like say if she went to the beach and left the kids and dad to cook on their own. 🙂

Bok Bok in her PPE
Bok Bok, in my shop wearing all the personal protective equipment (PPE) we could fit on her. I think I was tightening a screw or something equally benign.

So cook with your kids. It’s good for them and good for you. Just remember, safety third!



More snow pics

The kids first foray into the snow. Yes I am inside where its warm. I have no shame. I had already milked the cow, built a fire in the smoke house, built a fire in the boiler, and was busy making breakfast. I did make it out for sledding not long after.

The smoke house, under its load of snow. We don’t see snow very often so this is a cool picture to me.

There is a stream of smoke coming out but its hard to see against the white background.

What dads are for

We are walking back from the barn and it begins to rain. Spork and The Princess seem unaffected but Bok Bok turns and asks for me to get her out of the rain. I smile and reach up and pull my hat off of my head and pop it onto hers. She gives me a big smile as the rain pelts off of her new hat,a smile that melts my heart. She continues forward to the house, now happy and oblivious to the rain. She was so cute I grabbed the phone and snapped a quick picture.

You only get a few years to be the hero to your kids. Thank God I get this time and was able to capitalize. And for you boys out there, you never know when your hat is going to make a lady’s day. You do have a hat, right?