Just another day on the farm

I had a day of farm work this past weekend that many of you can probably relate to. It started about 8 a.m. when I went out and tedded some hay I’d mowed the previous day.

Next, it was off to a different hay field to move round bales into groups of 10 in preparation for hauling them the 5 miles to my dad’s dairy. Thankfully, about 30 minutes into this project, my brother Scott came to help. So, for the next couple hours, he drove the bales to the dairy, while I continued organizing and loading them.

The bales were from two neighbors’ fields that were side-by-side, and since the one only had eight bales in it and our bale wagon, when loaded, couldn’t fit through the gate, I was moving them to the other neighbor’s field two at a time — one bale on the spiked loader in front of the tractor, and the other on the 3-point spike on the back.… Continue reading

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Things are hopping at the Reese House

Now that our barn is red (after three weeks of being pink) the neighbors are happier, but it is always an adventure at the Reese house. It is a wild week with Vacation Bible School at church every night, which keeps our evenings hopping. But things were even hopping in mid-day when the kids discovered this tree frog climbing on our window. It was clinging to the glass with its fascinating frog suction cup toes. I have never seen one quite like it. My wife was less than thrilled with the discovery.

We captured the frog in some Tupperware (again, wife not thrilled) and carried it out to a tree. The frog appeared to change color slightly from a brownish to a greenish color to match the moss on the tree. The children and I were in amphibian heaven and once the frog was away from the house, my wife even liked it a bit more.… Continue reading

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Farming: On A Smaller Scale – July, 2011

We are just about ready to harvest some of the first sweet corn here at The Higgins’ Homestead, but I have not been all that impressed with what we have to work with. Luckily, the kids aren’t quite as disappointed. They simply see corn and they’re happy. About one month after planting, we had several heavy rains and two hail storms. That knock over about 1/4 of the crop and those were pulled. Not enough for silage so I just tossed them aside. Should’ve taken out crop insurance cause I’ll sure miss those 20 ears come August.

I also have a new saying for the sweet corn’s progress around this time of year, “Kid high by the fourth of July”. That was the case this year but if the kids keep growing like they are I won’t be able to use that one very much longer. They are excited about looking out of the window and seeing what we have been able to do with just a little seed.… Continue reading

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“Century farms” are a proud Ohio heritage

Since becoming editor of Ohio’s Country Journal 10 years ago — my first official issue was August 2001 — some of my fondest story assignments have been about Ohio “century farms.” These are farms that have been in the same family continuously for 100 years or more, and Ohio has quite a few.

I enjoy going on these story interviews, because they combine the two things I enjoy most in life, agriculture and history. OK, sports is pretty high on the list too, but you can’t ask for everything at once. Two out of three isn’t bad!

These century farms often have such a rich history of strength, perseverance, optimism and innovation … all the things you would expect in a farm that’s been operated by the same family for so long. And the people are such a joy to talk with. So often they have such interesting family stories that have been passed down through the years about life on the farm.… Continue reading

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Delicious lamb is gaining popularity

I recently got a spectacular new grill (the kind that has charcoal and gas) with a side smoker box. I have seasoned it with bacon grease and is ready to go. The sizzle of the fire, the rich aroma of the cooking meat and the delicious results of summer grilling hold an irresistible appeal for me. Steak is great, pork chops are divine and chicken is delicious, but lamb cooked to perfection on the grill can top them all.

Now, I am a bit biased with regard to my affinity for lamb. I married the Ohio Lamb and Wool Queen whom I met on the job 12 years ago (being an agricultural journalist does have it perks) and we do work extensively with my in-laws’ flock of registered Horned Dorset sheep. We show our sheep at the Ohio State Fair and my daughter is already smitten with having sheep in our barn.… Continue reading

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Parents of new baby girl now accepting donations

My wife, Becky, and I welcomed our new daughter, Kylee, on May 12. We’re now accepting donations.

Why? That’s because last month the Department of Agriculture released its annual report, “Expenditures on Children by Families,” finding that a middle-income family with a child born in 2010 can expect to spend about $226,920 ($286,860 if projected inflation costs are factored in) for food, shelter and other necessities to raise that child over the next 17 years. This represents a 2% increase from 2009. Expenses for transportation, childcare, education and health care saw the largest percentage increases related to child rearing from 2009. There were very small changes in housing, food, clothing and miscellaneous expenses on a child since 2009.

Well, our little girl was born in 2011, so we can expect to pay even more. It really is quite scary when you see it all added up. How is it we afford to have these cute little tikes?… Continue reading

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In the pines…

Earlier this week, I spent my afternoons and evenings helping shear Christmas trees on our family farm. Shearing a tree is a very interesting task that combines science, knowledge of the trees and art. It is both mental and physical, right-brain and left-brain.

Starting after their second year of growth, the trees are trimmed every year until they are sold. We have around 12,000 trees and we shear them all by hand with a serrated knife and a set of hand pruners, though there are all kinds of gadgets you can get for the task.

My dad does the bulk of the shearing, but I have been helping more in recent years and am slowly learning the complexities of this most important part of Christmas tree production.

Here is a quick lesson in the basics of shearing pines. The terminal leader (the branch that serves as the point at the top of the tree) sets the stage for a straight and attractive tree.… Continue reading

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Rain, rain, go away, so my barn won’t look this way

Last week I told you about my pink barn and the extenuating circumstances behind it.  This week, the prolonged pink coat has been the subject of increasing concern and conversation among my neighbors.

As I stated in my previous writing on the subject, my brother-in-law kindly offered to paint our barn but could only put the first coat on before leaving for a week. A week and a half later, the first primer coat continues to adorn my barn with a horrifying pink color that will haunt me for years to come.

While my brother-in-law has returned, we have not had a rain-free day since then to spray on the second coat. And, though it has rained every day, there also has been ample sunshine to highlight the bold pink color that can probably be seen from the next township.

The other night, after the rain, the weather cleared up for a beautiful evening.… Continue reading

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Avoiding the big stink

Living in the country, you never know what you might run into. One such scenario unfolded in front of me earlier this morning.

First, let me provide a little background. I live in a home built on the family farm in 2006. It has a nice, two-car garage. The only catch is, I have no barn or outbuildings. Hence, because I raise replacement dairy heifers for my dad, the garage rarely is used for its intended purpose of housing automobiles. Instead, it holds lawnmowers, spare hay bales, fencing supplies, buckets, tools, feed sacks and other various things you might commonly find in a barn or farm shop.

The garage tends to be rather cluttered most of the time, and the back door leading out to the heifer feeding area is rarely fully closed, because I, and other members of my family, go in and out of it so often. With the addition of two fair steers behind the house earlier this year, it now sees even more traffic.… Continue reading

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Our barn is pretty in pink at the Reese house

I am pretty sure that I am the only guy in the county with a Pepto-Bismol pink barn. Cars drive by really slow now and the neighbors are starting to talk, but that is the price for my policy of NEVER turning down free help.

It all started when we bought our old farmhouse more than two years ago. We were set to close on our home when the economy when down into the dumps. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in crises mode and all lenders panicked.

We had been pre-approved for several months, but when President Bush held a special press conference to address the economic collapse, we suddenly had a number of new requirements from our mortgage lender before we could close on the house. One of those requirements was to paint the barn (with the potential for lead based paint being cited as the reason). It was funny how the possibility of lead-based paint on the barn was not a problem prior to the economic issues that had surfaced in the economy.… Continue reading

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Fire up the grill for juicier pork

By Matt Reese

During the summer grilling season when meats aplenty and fire are united for top-notch seasonal dining, a favorite in the Reese house is slow-cooked pork tenderloin on the grill. While otherwise God-fearing law-abiding folks, the Reese family’s grilling techniques for pork tenderloin, though, have long been a dark secret due to our blatant disregard of federal government recommendations.

Three burners are required on the grill. The outside two burners are left on low and the middle is turned off, with the pork raised up slightly off the grill surface above the middle burner. The low temperature and slow cooking allow for apple wood smoke to penetrate the meat rubbed with ample seasonings.

The key, of course, is not over cooking the meat so it remains moist and tender. After about 45 minutes or so, the pork needs to be checked fairly regularly with a thermometer so it can be promptly removed from the grill when it is just under 145 degrees.… Continue reading

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Prevented planting? Preventative planting? Preventive planting? Which one is it?

Prevented planting? Preventative planting? Preventive planting? Which one is it?

As you may have noticed, we have done quite a bit recently on the OCJ Web site about the hot topic of crop insurance and this question came up numerous times in the last several days. I was unsure about this, so I looked it up. The Ohio State University sources I found use “preventative,” ( so I went with that.

I posted a story on the Web site on this topic and, soon after, got comments from others in the ag community about how this was incorrect. The others said “preventive” was correct. In response, I did a bit more searching and found that the University of Illinois called it “preventive planting” as well (

Now vexed, I decided upon an excellent way to decide which was correct by making a quick visit to the USDA’s Risk Management Agency Web site.… Continue reading

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Opportunity and A Cloud of Dust

Well it is about time! Mother Nature has finally let the Sun shine and that has allows Ohio farmers a chance to get into the field and play catch up on planting duties. It has been very hot and humid, but I will bet you that producers would rather be sweating while getting the crop in the ground than sweating wondering if they ever would.

I have always loved this time of year. Talk about blind faith. Knock down the weeds, get the best seeds money can buy, put them in the ground with the latest technology and then just hope for the best. Farming requires taking a chance every year. Sometimes the risk pays and sometimes it doesn’t. But nothing compares to the start of the planting season.

As tractors and planters are rolling we are travelling all around Ohio with our Ohio Ag Net “Cab Cam”. We wanted to do this for a couple of reasons.… Continue reading

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The tardy martin mystery

They arrive in mid April of each year —

One more reason to celebrate.

Another wonder of spring to cheer,

But the purple martins are one day late.

Maybe they’ll come tomorrow.

Then their throaty cries will resonate,

And bring spring’s joy to winter’s sorrow.

The purple martins are two days late.

The sugar peas in the garden have sprung.

The daffodil bloom is first-rate.

The wheat fields are green beneath the sun.

The purple martins are three days late.

The insects are buzzin’ with no Martins to eat them,

Gnats have begun to congregate.

I just can’t imagine what would keep them,

The purple martins are four days late.

The martins have arrived on the very same day,

For more than 45 years — now this wait.

My old martin house by the pond is crumbling away,

And the purple martins are five days late.

They fly up here from far down south,

From the Amazon to our northern state.… Continue reading

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A Tragic Loss for Ohio Agriculture

Statement from Ohio Agriculture Director James Zehringer

“The World needs more great communicators like Lindsay Hill, Dale Minyo, and Gary Jackson.  The loss today of Lindsay’s passionate and articulate voice is a loss for agriculture and all Ohioans.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Lindsay and her family.”

By Ty Higgins

It seems that the Agriculture industry here in Ohio and around the Country is constantly trying to find a voice to combat naysayers and activist groups that want nothing more than to put Ag out of business. Thursday the Agriculture community’s voice became quite a bit quieter as Lindsay Hill, formerly of The ABN and current National Association of Farm Broadcasting President, was tragically killed in an auto accident.

I had the privilege, and I do mean privilege to work with Lindsay at the ABN.

She took her job as a Farm Broadcaster very seriously, almost as seriously as Buckeye Basketball.… Continue reading

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We all need to work together to feed the world

For a story in the Mid May issue, I had the chance to talk with Dawn Combs who farms a little differently than most farmers in the state. She has a very small herb and honey farm that adheres to the principles of biodynamics that combine old-school herbal knowledge, folklore and science. She admits that some of the components of this type of closed-loop farming system may sound a bit kooky. The phase of the moon, constellations, old wives tales and strange crop inputs all come into play in biodynamics, but there is a sound dose of science and common sense mixed in as well. Companion planting, soil science, chemistry and biology are all part of the farming practices.

The bottom line is that it seems to be working for Combs and, a result, is garnering some attention from local agriculturalists that are likely baffled by some of her practices. But, no matter how conventional they may be, I think any farmer would admit that there are just some things that we still do not quite understand in the annual struggle with Mother Nature on the farm.… Continue reading

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Farming: On A Smaller Scale – Week 2

We are 100% planted! Granted it was only about 6 rows of 10 seeds, but with a 6 and a 3 year old it took a bit longer. If real farmers had to “take turns” planting, we’d only be about 2% done around Ohio. (7% is bad enough). As you might be able to tell in the pictures, we used my size twelves to measure how far about we wanted our seeds to be. It’s a complex system, I know.

We applied some seed treatment of fertilizer. Next year we may get a couple of chickens so I don’t have to buy fertilizer in a bag. I thought about contracting it with the big egg farm next door, but I doubt they would deliver it in a bucket.

We have a vigorous weed management program. The sweet corn isn’t roundup ready, but did I mention I have a 6 and 3 year old?… Continue reading

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Ohio FFA once again inspires

We are fresh off of the Ohio FFA State Convention, which never fails to reinvigorate the spirit and the hope for the future of Ohio agriculture. The event once again highlighted the immense talent, dedication and drive of Ohio’s young people in many ways, from the fantastic retiring address from State President (and national officer candidate) Amy Jo Frost to the ingenuity and work ethic of the many proficiency winners.

Also, the event marked the unofficial kickoff of our new FFA page on the Web ( that serves as a forum for FFA reporters around the state to post their chapter news and a way to highlight and recognize the many great FFA-related events throughout the year. As a part of our massive effort to pack this full of all things FFA, we relied on the help of some FFA students for Convention this year. Stacie Seger (Ft. Loramie), Eileen Gress (Triway), and Devon Alexander (Anna) did a fantastic job of getting interviews, providing their “behind-the-scenes” insights and sharing the students’ perspective of convention.… Continue reading

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April (and May) showers, soccer and planting

By Matt Reese

My daughter has always been energetic and I was excited when we had the chance to harness some of that energy for something constructive when she started playing soccer at three years old. What I have since discovered in her (and her teammates’) exploits on the field of play is somewhat less than constructive, though certainly entertaining.

Last fall and this spring, her team took to the fields in epic battles of post-toddler soccer struggles. More often than not, multiple players from each team are sidelined due to crying, distractions or potty breaks. And, most generally, if the players stay on the field and reasonably engaged in the game, it is a great victory worthy of celebration with a post-game ice cream cone (a favorite for both daddy and daughter).

The season has wrapped up for the spring, and needless to say, this weather has been less than ideal for the mud-covered little kid soccer leagues due to the steady deluge of rain, brisk winds and cool temperatures.… Continue reading

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Is it time to start building an ark?

Several weeks ago, I sarcastically told several people I had started construction of an ark on my property in southern Fairfield County due to all the rain we’d been getting. As the inches from Heaven kept falling, the only way to deal with it without going mad seemed to be humor.

However, as the rains keep coming and humor starts to give way to anger and frustration, I’m starting to wonder if maybe I should start gathering lumber and collecting pairs of animals for my own version of Noah’s Biblical ship.

Yesterday, May 3, I drove all the way to Ashtabula County, in the far northeast corner of the state, for a livestock feature interview with Mardy Townsend. She has an organic, grass-fed beef operation, and her farm is one of the stops for this summer’s Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) farm tour series. I left central Ohio shortly after 7 a.m.… Continue reading

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