Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Meet the Parents

Our next stop on the Stonyfield Barnstorming Tour was Parent Family Farm, which is located in Highgate, Vermont. It is a non-organic, two-generation family dairy farm which supports three families. Rachel Parent, and her adorable five-year old daughter Grace took us on a tour of their farm, and we were lucky enough to catch a milking in-action! 

The milking room (also known as the parlor) has room for 14 cows at a time. There are almost 600 cows on the farm who are milked three times a day. Once the group of 14 cows is done milking, a gate opens up for them to go back to the barn, and the new group of cows comes in.

At this particular farm, the cows are kept free-roaming in a well-ventilated, clean barn. (Although little Grace told us about an incident involving a broken gate, and the cows got out, but were easily returned to the barn soon after.) The Parents use clean sand, and recycled tires for bedding, which the cows seem to like. The cows are fed corn silage, which is sometimes mixed with grain and haylage. 

There are many non-organic dairy farms which allow the cows to graze on pasture. The Parents' farm does not have the pasture to allow 600 cows to graze. Much like parenting, there are many different farming philosophies and styles.

Rachel's little girl Grace showed us where the calves and cows who are about to give birth are kept. Grace said she loves to help out with chores on the farm like feeding the cows and making hay! I'm going to have to ask Rachel what her secret is, because sometimes I have trouble getting Emily to make her own bed in the morning! 

Next up, a FANTASTIC dinner with some of the farmers, and later I get to milk a cow!!!! Plus, breakfast with Miss Vermont!!! 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Healthy Soil -- I Heart You!

The next stop on the Stonyfield Barnstorming Tour was a visit to Guy and Beth Choinere's organic dairy farm! Guy and Beth have two amazing kids (Hi, Matt and Hannah!), who also help out a great deal on their family farm. We received a very warm welcome!!

Guy explained to us that he views his cows as athletes, and himself as their trainer. A large component of their "training" is made up in the cows diet, and they are grass-fed as much as possible during grazing season.

The minerals found in the soil are taken up by the grass, which the cows then eat, and it helps strengthen their immune systems. In organic farming, the focus is on finding ways to prevent disease, so the health of the soil is vital to the success of the farm. Guy is known for being passionate about soil, and now I can understand why!

One of the major challenges organic farmers face is the treatment of disease without antibiotics. In the rare event that a cow does become sick, Guy is able to recognize the signs of disease in the very early stages because he knows each cow's temperament -- Amazing! He told us that his medicine cabinet for the cows looks exactly like the medicine cabinet he uses to treat his family. Using a blend of cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and echinacea, he has had great success in strengthening the cow's own immune system to fight infection without the use of antibiotics. 

We were treated to a very tasty lunch -- chicken salad sandwiches made with freshly baked organic wheat bread, and potato salad with dill. Seriously, the food on this tour was incredible!!

There is a definite cuteness factor to life on a farm! This kitten made me smile -- adorable!! No matter how cute the animals, they all have to earn their keep. I have no doubt this little guy will make a great mouse hunter.

Along with dairy cows, Guy and Beth's farm has some chickens, pigs, and even a bull named Stanley! I think Emily would have loved to meet this chicken! 

Guy showed us a diagram to help explain how healthy soil is needed for healthy crops. Healthy crops are necessary for healthy animals. At the top of the pyramid is human health because we rely so much on the health of everything else. 

I wish all of you could have come with me to meet Guy, Beth, and their two kids -- what a fantastic, sweet, wonderful family!!

Up next, a visit to a conventional family farm, and then.... I get to milk a cow!! Woo hoo!!!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cows with Personality!

This morning, I woke up to this.....

...and had to remind myself that I was at the fabulous Tabor House Inn enjoying the Stonyfield Barnstorming Tour! Seriously, how lucky am I???

Then it was time for breakfast. An omelet made with local, organic eggs, goat cheese, and basil? AND.... BACON!!!! Umm... yes, please!!!  

Breakfast always tastes so much better when someone else makes it for you, and this was no exception! Thank you, Jennifer!

Then, we had a "Cows 101" session with Nancy from Stonyfield, which helped to answer many of your questions. You can read more on my Twitter page, which I've been updating throughout the tour!

And then it was time to meet some cows!!! The first farm we visited today was Howmars Farm, which is owned by Jon and Karen Gates. What a super-friendly family!

Jon gave us a great tour of the farm, and explained the importance of rotational grazing, which gives the pasture time to recover and replenish the soil with nutrients. These are some VERY happy cows!

I even saw a cow named Emily!! Doesn't the one next to her look like she's smiling?

Jon let the cows out to new pasture, and they ran and leaped like a bunch of little kids!

We visited two more farms, but I'm saving that for another post -- you won't want to miss it! What a fantastic day!! And tomorrow morning - get this - I get to milk a cow!! I KNOW!!

Virtual Postcards from Vermont -- Part I

Today I took my sweet ol' time driving up to Burlington, Vermont for the Stonyfield Blogger Barnstorming Tour! A big thank you to Stonyfield and everyone who voted for me... I still cannot believe I'm really here!!

I stopped several times along the way to admire the views and take lots of photos. It is beautiful here!

I even got to take a ferry across Lake Champlain -- The first time our car has been on a ferry!

I met up with the other bloggers -- Tina, Anne, and Kristina, along with Nancy and Amy from Stonyfield at American Flatbread in downtown Burlington. We were treated to a great dinner! American Flatbread includes lots of local and organic ingredients in the food, and this Evolution salad was so tasty!
We ordered several different kinds of pizzas, but the New Vermont Sausage was the winner hands-down.

And now we're settling down at an Inn (which is amazingly beautiful -- more pics of that tomorrow). What a super-fun day... I'm still pinching myself! I cannot wait to go on the farm tours starting early tomorrow morning and share what I learn about organics with you! Mooooooooooo!!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Packing.... and a Giveaway!

I'm busy packing for my trip to Vermont and New Hampshire for the Stonyfield Blogger Barnstorming Tour! I'll be sending virtual postcards and tweeting from the road (@FamFunBlog), and I thought it would be fun to get answers to some of your questions about organics too!

Just leave a comment on this post with anything you would like me to ask either the farmers, or the wonderful people at Stonyfield. I'll pick three people --  to bring you back a little special surprise from the trip! Won't that be fun??

Giveaway ends June 29th @ 6:30pm EST, and is open to all US and Canadian residents. You can leave as many comments with questions as you like! Good luck!! 

Giveaway is now closed: Winners are Zina, The Girl Who Painted Trees, and Tiff... Congratulations and thanks to everyone who entered!! 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Painting.... with Ice Cubes!

Today was a real scorcher, but the girls still wanted some outside play time (and of course some sort of art is aways a necessary part of our day). I had some very inexpensive "paint with water" books, but we thought it would be more fun to paint with ice cubes instead!!

If you're afraid of messy paint, this is the project for you! 

Since the ice cube melts relatively slowly, Clara was able to paint her picture nicely without dumping so much water on it that the pages tear. 

Next, we brought out the Aqua Doodle mats, but again painted with ice cubes on them. These mats are a wonderful mess-free way to enjoy painting and drawing!

Once the mat is covered in doodles, wait for it to dry, and then start drawing all over again!

Clara thought this was a great way to cool off!

They had so much fun, that I had to bribe them with homemade chewy granola bars to get them to go back in the house.

Stay cool, and have fun!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lemon Rubbings from Yogurt Lids

Do you follow FFFB on Twitter? If not, you should! The Stonyfield Blogger Barnstorming Tour is starting this weekend, and I'll be tweeting and posting virtual postcards from the road. Thank you, thank you, thank you for voting for me! I wish I could give each of you a great big hug!! If it weren't for your votes, I wouldn't be able to go, and this trip means so much to me. In honor of all the upcoming Stonyfield fun, we made super-cute lemon rubbings recycling two foil lids from Stonyfield yogurt!!

First, layer the two lids as shown...

By the way, have you tried the Oikos yogurt with caramel?????? OH. MY. Goodness. Heaven! Now, where was I? Oh, yes....The two lids should form a lemon shape, as shown below.

Place the lids under a piece of white paper, and invite your child to make crayon rubbings with a yellow crayon. I used masking tape to help Clara keep the paper in place.


Persuade your big sister to join you -- this shouldn't be too hard if your big sister is like Emily.

Both of the girls were so happy these drawings looked so much like real lemons!

For a more finished look, outline your lemon with a black crayon.

I love the face Emily added to her lemon! She glued her picture to a piece of yellow construction paper, and made a neat card to mail off to Grandma!

Have fun!!

Have any questions for the farmers while I'm on the tour? Leave a comment on this post, and I'll ask them for you!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Easy Garden Welcome Banner

After having done countless craft projects that involved tissue paper, I had been saving a rather large collection of tissue paper confetti. Since I'm never one to throw stuff away, I saved these bits of colorful goodness to recycle for other projects like this one! Our vegetables are starting to arrive in our garden, and what better way to welcome them than with this garden welcome banner. It's quick, easy, and even the littlest crafters can make it with great results!!

I cut out letter-frames of construction paper to spell out the word "welcome" and placed them right-side down on a sheet of clear contact paper. Then I invited the girls over to decorate the letters with all that fun confetti!

For Clara, this was a great exercise in letter-recognition and fine motor skills. She was so proud of her letters!

Emily thought the bright colors would make the plants feel as though our garden was one big fiesta!!

I added another sheet of clear contact paper sticky side down to sandwich the letters in-between. She used binder clips to attach the letters in the right order to a length of laundry line -- great spelling practice and the binder clips helped challenge her pincher grasp too.

...and now our garden is starting to look a whole lot more colorful!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Vacation 2010 Highlights

We just returned from our favorite frugal vacation spot -- a cabin we rented in beautiful Montebello, Virginia! Here are some of the highlights from our week-long trip!

We enjoyed lots of fishing and swimming (well, more like splashing) in the lake.

We went exploring on several nature hikes together.

We had to visit the local drive-thru zoo and feed the animals. It isn't very frugal, but it was definitely a highlight of our trip! Emily was a bit stingy with the food at first.

This fellow was a bit more friendly!

We spent some time picking the clover flowers.

....and Clara turned 2 right before our very eyes!

We stopped by Big Spy Mountain's Overlook....

....and caught lots of breath-taking sunsets!!

...and every night ended with a special story time of passages from Shel Silverstein's Falling Up.

It was a lovely trip, and now it's great to be back! This week we'll be sharing some fun ideas for the garden, a cute nature craft, tips for frugal picnics, and a super-fun giveaway! You won't want to miss it!!
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