Friday, December 23, 2016

I'll Be Home for Christmas

Dear Brianna,
We were spoiled with 40 and even 50 degree weather through Thanksgiving and into December, but the temperatures have dropped considerably in the last several days. A few mornings ago, we hit a whopping 5. We also heard reports of 1 throughout the county that same day.

~ Home at Fair Lawn Farm ~
We’ve had a bit of snow, but nothing much has accumulated. Its nice not having to take care of chickens and sheep in the snow yet. I am very thankful for that.

While the cold sometimes makes it less than encouraging to go outside, I’m glad to see the temperatures are dropping. Like I told your brother, Sean, in my last letter to him: The sugar trees won’t produce as easily without those cold temperatures. These low temps are definitely good for the trees.

The good thing about the cold slowly taking over is that your mom and I are inside baking! And you know what we are baking - our Fair Lawn Farm favorite and yours too - pecan pie! I know what you’re thinking: “I wonder if they will ship me some?” The answer is: No. In order to get it, you must come home and see us! But we are having fun baking and figuring out how to put our maple syrup in recipes to replace the sugar. We put maple syrup in our coffee now, too! (And you will be home very soon to enjoy a slice of pie and cup of coffee with us!)

Speaking of maple syrup, it’s hard to believe the Maple Festival is just a few short months away. The years seem to fly by anymore. (You’ll know what I mean when you get older, although I’m sure you’re starting to experience it now.) We’re already working on getting things ready for the 2017 festival. I took inventory of our maple supplies - all we need is another 25 buckets. We are slowly getting bigger! I think 200 taps is about all Mom and I can handle with our antiquated equipment and technique. The sugarhouse is cleaned, and this year, we have two cords of cut and split, well-seasoned firewood ready to go. That’s the first time ever! This is thanks to Nancy and Ann Marie, Mr. Hevener and Miss Carol's daughters. Richie, their son, God rest him, put it all in the wood house years ago. We'll be thinking of Mr. Hevener, Miss Carol, and Richie all season long. We really miss them since they’ve been gone.

I've got a local contractor coming in over the holidays to give us a quote for the sugarhouse pavilion addition. This will get the guests out of the weather and give them more demonstrations to see during the festival. This will also provide some cover for our disabled folks and Wounded Warriors for their fishing and hunting days. It will be a great place for family picnics, and I'm thinking about building a large fireplace on the end for outdoor cooking. You know us… always a project in the works!

~ Oh, Christmas Tree - In the Sitting Room ~
We’re really looking forward to having you, Sean, and Shannon home for Christmas. We sure love the holidays, especially living in Highland County. Since the cold temperatures have hit, we've had a fire in the fireplace. It makes the house feel very cozy. There’s nothing like a country Christmas especially when you add family coming home for the holidays!

I still can’t believe that you’re an adult and out on your own. It seems like just yesterday you were sitting on my lap listening to me read The Night Before Christmas. No matter how old and busy you get, you’ll always be our little girl. Yes, we all miss you… including Clancey! We are lucky to still have that trusty dog. He keeps an eye on the farm and us, too. And every now and again, he’s gets lucky when we “drop” a piece of pecan pie.

Hurry home, Bri. I can’t wait to give you a hug when you walk through the door!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Not Your Typical Fall Weather

Dear Sean,

Halloween is over, and the first of November has arrived. Fifteen years ago, we would likely already have inches, maybe feet of snow on the ground. Times have changed… It’s cool during the mornings, which makes you pull out your winter coat; however by noon, it’s around 65 to 70 degrees! Definitely not typical November weather. Kids were trick-or-treating without any coats on!
The Current Scene at Fair Lawn Farm

 In a way, it’s nice to have the warm weather last, but it makes me nervous for sugar season. If this warm weather trend continues throughout the winter, our trees may not produce as much. As you know, we need that cold weather and good winter freezes to make the trees produce a lot of sugar water. The warm weather is nice, but I definitely will welcome the cold weather for the trees.

I repaired and sighted in my Dad's flintlock rifle. It was the rifle he used to shoot his last deer - dead on at 50 yards. I'll take a deer or two this year with it to continue his tradition.  As usual, I'll be hunting all fall with only a flintlock - more traditional and more of a challenge. I can't wait until I get the first log cabin completed. I’m planning to have an original 18th century gunsmith shop right here on the farm. That’s something I've dreamed of for years. And there's already people wanting to take classes! Just one more opportunity for visitors to learn when they come to the farm.

In my last letter to Brianna, I told her how I over planted the pumpkin patch just a little. (Whoops!) This year, our pumpkin patch stretched around 90 yards long and 50 yards wide. (I think it grows a little every year…) Most of the pumpkins this year were Conneticut Field pumpkins that grew to around 10 to 12 inches in diameter. We also had white Luminas, Baby Boo gourds, and a variety of miscellaneous striped and poke-a-dotted gourds. Your mom decided to cook some of the left over pumpkins for her famous pumpkin biscuits and pumpkin butter. Yummm…. It tastes like you’re spreading pumpkin pie on a biscuit. We’re enjoying that now!

A portion of the Pumpkin Patch right before the Hands & Harvest Festival

 We also traded pumpkins with Chuck and Louann Neely of Riven Rock Farm for some of their brats. Then, I smoked the brats along with some cheeses. We helped host some active duty military folks during archery season and served them the brats. It was a hit! We may be on to something…

We had a great crowd for Hands & Harvest, which is held the second weekend in October every year. The kids enjoyed picking pumpkins, locals stopped in before the festival to pick out their pumpkins, we had the old tractor out to give hayrides around the farm, apple butter and cider for our guests to enjoy, and of course, our furry, four-legged friend Clancey was there to greet all the visitors. If only Clancey could talk, I think he’d be the perfect farm guide!

We also went to the Huntersville Tradition Days again this fall. It was our 12th year there, and we love going! We purchased about 25 to 30 pounds of cheeses from Evelyn’s Pantry in Monterey and The Cheese Shoppe in Stuarts Draft. Mild cheddar, sharp cheddar, irish cheddar, swiss, and Colby… Then, we smoked the cheeses. Everyone loved it! Perfect for a grilled cheese with tomato soup in the winter time! (I love all of the food options we have that come straight from the farm!)

Speaking of winter time, the holidays are right around the corner. You, Brianna, and your families will be home for the holidays soon. I love Thanksgiving and Christmastime, especially in the country. There’s nothing like a Country Christmas. And if you add in Highland County…. Oh… You just can’t beat that.

The county is starting to plan for our traditional Wintertide Celebration. We’ve already talked to Santa Claus and he is visiting on Friday, December 2, to hear all the Christmas wishes from the kids all over the county. Then, on Saturday, December 3, the shops will open for Christmas shopping. Plus, we’ll have the Christmas parade again this year. We started the Christmas parade last year, and it was a hit! Then, we’ll all gather on the Courthouse Lawn for the traditional lighting of our town Christmas Tree, the reading of the Christmas Story, and then retire to the church for the Christmas Choir Performance. It’s such a great evening that really gets you in the Christmas spirit! And it sounds like something right out of a Hallmark movie, doesn’t it? You can’t get any closer to a Hallmark movie than Christmas in Highland County!

I’d better get back to work. So much to do on a farm and so little time! Give Shannon our love. Your mother and I are looking forward to seeing you both soon. In the meantime, take care, love each other, and know home misses you! We’ll see you back at the farm soon.



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fall, Pumpkins, and Apple Butter

Dear Brianna,

I hope you’re well, young lady. Your mother and I miss you, and we can’t wait for your next visit. I recently wrote your brother, Sean, and told him to take care of that new wife of his. I’m sure you agree – Shannon fits well within our family. Brianna, you and the girls did a great job with the wedding and the bridal shower. You should all start your own business!
Shannon's Bridal Shower at Fair Lawn Farm

In my last letter to Sean, I updated him on what’s been going on at the farm – getting ready for the Hands & Harvest Festival, finding apples to make our apple butter, the growing pumpkin patch and apple orchard… the list goes on! The farm is growing by leaps and bounds! We have so many plans for the future. There are just not enough days in a week. We’ll get there though!

The Highland County Fair recently ended, so it would seem summer has officially come to a close. That’s the typical Highland County tradition anyway – the cool, fall air seems to roll in during the Highland Fair. And it did! The nights were cool; however, summer and its hot humidity came back with a bit of a vengeance the week following the fair. The ground is browning, streams and creeks are drying… it will feel good when the crisp, fall air sticks around. It will be a nice relief from the heat we’ve felt this summer. We're busy getting fire wood. Fall and winter are definitely my favorite times of the year. Mom will agree with one of the two. Can you guess which one?

We recently went to 2 Pond Farm in Mount Sidney to make apple butter during one of their music festivals. We met a lot of new friends and promoted Highland County and the farm.

As for the apple butter, we have two cookings down and another one this weekend here at home. Our goal is at least six for the fall.

Visitors Love Stirring the Apple Butter!

We'll be in Huntersville, West Virginia, the first weekend in October. Next to our Hands and Harvest, it's our favorite. Peggy and Lud Creef will be helping again. I don't know what we'd do without them. 

We're breaking ground next week for the first of the cabins. When you come home in October, you'll see the progress. I won't tell you which one or where it's going to be. It will be a surprise!

As usual, we (I) over planted the pumpkin patch. Now that the leaves are dying back you can see all the orange, and white, and stripped, and ........ you get the idea. It's fun watching all the kids running through the patch. They all seem to have to touch each and every pumpkin before they decide on which one, and their pick usually ends up being the first one they picked up! Like last year, when you leave, we'll fill up your car with pumpkins, and apple butter, and gourds and whatever else will fit.

Despite the dryness, the pumpkins are growing larger and larger, and they will be ready for kids and families to pick during the Hands & Harvest Festival. Folks love to pick their own pumpkins during the festival. I think its one of the highlights. Of course, there are a lot of different things going on at the farm – smoked trout and cheeses, the maple sugar camp, tractor rides – its so much fun. As you know, we truly love welcoming families to the farm. Hopefully, with all the work we’re doing to the farm, we’ll be able to make new opportunities for folks and families to visit us more throughout the year. Like I said, lots of great things going on!

Stay tuned for more letters with more updates! In the meantime, remember how much your mother and I love you. We’re looking forward to your upcoming visit home. I have a hug waiting for my little girl. Take care.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Summer's Coming to an End

Dear Sean,
     Well, son, congratulations. It looks like the wedding pulled off without a hitch. I’m so proud of you, and your mom and I are so happy to welcome Shannon to the family, and I know your sister, Brianna, is very excited to have a sister-in-law as well. It’s just great. We wish you all the happiness in the world.

     Summer is already coming to a close in Highland County. The days are getting shorter. Last night, it was almost dark by 8:30. The Highland County Fair is next week, and, as you know, that seems to be the official close of summer in Highland County. I just can’t believe how much the time flies. I guess what they say is true – time flies when you’re having fun. Between your wedding and all the projects we have going on here at the farm; it’s not surprising this summer has gone by so quickly.

     Hay is down now, so we will be bailing tomorrow, getting ready for the winter. We'll keep what we need for Mom’s sheep, and the rest will be donated to the folks in West Virginia. We sure know they could use it.

     The pumpkin patch is getting larger! We’re definitely going to have a lot of pumpkins for the kids to pick at the Hands & Harvest Festival in October.

     And the apple orchard is coming along nicely! We got the fence up this summer and the trees and raspberry bushes are growing very well and are very healthy. Of course, it’s going to be about three years before the trees really start to produce a whole lot, but I did find two little apples in the back corner of the orchard! It will be nice to be able to grow apples on site.
One of the two little apples I found in the orchard
Speaking of apples, we’ve also talked to the folks at the orchard where we’ve been getting apples in the past – they’re going to have apples ready for us for Hands & Harvest this year, so we can continue to make apple butter during the festival. Man, that is a big attraction here at the farm. Families love to see how apple butter is made and even be a part of stirring the apple butter as it cooks. Plus, kids love to see how the press works when we make apple cider! The Hands & Harvest Festival is definitely a growing attraction not only for the county but for Fair Lawn Farm as well!

     Well, it’s starting to get more daylight out this morning, so I’d better get ready to go out on the farm and get some things done. Again, your mom and I are so happy for you and Shannon, and we wish you all the best in the world. Take care of that beautiful bride!