Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Springtime Farm Projects

Dear Sean,

I can't lie... I am SO happy to see springtime and warm weather. It's no secret that the Maple Festival is a huge time for sugar camps like ours, but having the spring lambs arrive and being able to feel the sunshine on your skin is simply amazing. Not to mention being surrounded by the scenic beauty like we are. Highland County is absolutely heaven on earth.

The result of our 2016 pumpkin patch
Items on my spring “to do” list are slowly getting checked off. Springtime seems to be the time when we're getting ready for the rest of the year. We're preparing to plant our pumpkin patch, so it will be full of a variety of pumpkins for this year's Hands & Harvest Festival. We just plowed and tilled, and we will be planting pumpkins the second week of June. As always, we will be over-planting, so we are sure to have a lot of pumpkins for guests and friends to pick through! We'll be planting a variety of cooking, carving, and ornamental pumpkins. Our goal is somewhere around 400-600 pumpkins. The sunflowers are something new this year - six different types, ranging from the little 18-inch tall ones for decorative arrangements up to the eight-footers for whatever you do with eight-foot sunflowers! It's going to be a colorful fall with a little something for everyone!

We've also added something to our operation! Well, sort of.... We've always sold eggs from the farm; however we recently added a new sign out front to encourage travelers and local residents to stop in and purchase our farm eggs! We're charging $3 per dozen, and visitors can stop in anytime or call ahead to make sure we're here. Mix a little eggs and our smoked cheese.... Add some tomato or some ramps... That makes for a yummy (and healthy!) breakfast!

In total, we had 19 baby lambs this year. They are so cute! They're all extremely healthy, and they're some of the largest animals we've ever produced. They're very muscular! We're planning to keep seven of the girls to add to the flock for next year and swap out the buck. (For a little guy, this buck really produced some great kids!) Our goal is to build the herd up to 20 or 25.

Things are coming along on the Gunsmithing Cabin, too. In the next few days, I will be disassembling the first cabin and plan to have it set up by mid-summer and fully-functional by fall - just in time for Hands & Harvest. I guess you could say Hands & Harvest will be the Grand Opening of the Gunsmithing Cabin. The cabin's primary focus will be on building and giving classes in flint lock rifles, which are, as you know, an 18th century firearm. The classes will be focused on how to build the rifles, how to fire them, and the history of the gun. In addition, the cabin is also going to double as a wood working cabin for period pieces. We've already got a lot of great interest!!

Things are so exciting on the farm. You're working with your hands.... in the dirt.... taking care of animals.... creating your own food.... It's a great way of life. We are very blessed to have the opportunity to live like this.

Come home soon!


Monday, April 17, 2017

Maple Memories

Dear Brianna,

It was so good to have you, your brother, and Shannon home to help during the Maple Festival. I love the wonderful family we have and that we can work together as a team to help move our family farm forward.

It's been in the 60's and 70's for the past several days, and can you believe it dropped back down into the 30's a few weeks ago?! We woke up to a dusting of snow one Friday morning! This weather has certainly been crazy this winter. I think the trees stopped and started about three different times! And we were making Grade A syrup towards the end of the season! It's been different, that's for sure....

Giving the maple syrup a check between tours
But all together, it was another successful Maple Festival. It was great having the new pavilion this year. It was such a huge hit with everyone! It changed the flow of traffic, got folks out of the weather, and allowed us to chat with the guests longer. And having you, your mother, and Shannon set it up like a Farmer's Market? It was the icing on the cake! And thank goodness Sean brought his buddy, Maverick, and Maverick's wife, Courtney, with him to help. It was great having them, and if it weren't for Sean and Maverick helping with the tours and feeding the fires that first weekend, I don't know what we would have done.

I missed having Sean and Shannon home the second weekend, but it was great to work with you and your mom. I'm so glad you made it home that second weekend! And Jamie Will was a big help, too! I'm so thankful he came, and now you have an adopted big brother! The more, the merrier in our Fair Lawn Farm family.

Your mother and I estimated about 1,800 guests each Saturday. Sundays are always a little light, but we still had record numbers of around 500 each Sunday, and we sold out of everything each day! It was so funny when you turned to me during the festival and said “Dad, we've created a monster!” I think you're right! It was definitely busier this year, but of course, we've created a good monster.

And I am so thankful for our friends at Laurel Fork Sap Suckers. Ronnie and Sandy Moyers and their family had sugar water to spare at just the right time, so we had sugar water to cook in front of the guests. Of course, we told everyone where we got the water, then told them how to get to the Laurel Fork Sap Suckers camp. It's all about working together! Plus, it's worth the trip up there just to try some of Sandy's yummy baked goods!

Our smoked cheeses were also a big hit and sold out almost immediately. We've even taken orders for more! I'll be building a new “antique” smoker next week to help with production.

The sight for our new blacksmithing and woodworking cabin!

Before I know it, it will be time to move the first of the three antique cabins to the farm. The first one will be my eighteenth century gunsmithing and woodworking shop. Since the word got out, I've received orders for duck decoys and a rifle, and people are already signing up for classes on rifle building! I'd better get this cabin done soon or there will be some disappointed people.

One of our mamas with her two new twins
Well, I had better get back out to the farm. It looks like the warm temperatures are here to stay FINALLY! Our baby lambs will be happy about that. I'd say there were at least ten that came last week, and there's more to come. Everyone has been healthy and happy so far.

As always, your mother and I miss you and can't wait until you come home again. Speaking of which, when do you think your next trip home will be? Very soon, I hope. Until then, take care. Your mother and I send all our love.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Renovations & Maple Syrup

Dear Sean,

How are you and Shannon doing? I haven’t had a chance to write for a while since we’ve been so busy on the farm. There’s lots of new things coming to Fair Lawn, and our weather has been so strange lately. It’s been so warm it almost feels like spring!  It’s going to be in the 50’s and 60’s this coming week!  Not complaining though… It makes all our farm renovations easier without the snow!

Clancey is enjoying the workers, who are doing the renovations on the Sugar Camp.  Wilke Renovations, Inc., Brent Wilke’s company, has great workers that are really nice and kind to each other. They think ahead, answer my questions, and have supplies ready at the site. (Clancey likes to keep an eye on them especially when they are eating their lunches…silly dog!) I've enclosed a rendering of what the sugar camp will look like whenever it's finished. It's getting there! Wait until you see it at Maple Festival!

Also, there is a new, unexpected renovation. Jamie Will, who has been helping me with some other renovations and additional projects around the farm, has created a second pond at the property for fishing! This will be fun. It will have trout, bass, and also goldfish! People can call us and set up an appointment to fish. And while they’re here, I can also show them how to smoke their fish! It’s going to be great!

I have been keeping the pregnant ewes fed well, and they are resting a lot.  The lambs will start arriving around the first week of May.  We are expecting 20-25 new lambs! Your mother is so excited, and a lot of families will want to come see the new arrivals. 

Maple Festival is coming quick! I can’t believe it will be here in a few short weeks… We have a couple coming to make a special BBQ with our Maple Syrup.  They will be setting up and selling food, including this BBQ as well as cornmeal and grits, at the farm during Maple Festival. We have so much this year to sell at the farm!  The BBQ, grits and cornmeal, syrup, apple butter, smoked cheese, maple pecan pie, and our Fair Lawn Farm t-shirts - we are all going to be busy!  Oh, and did I tell you about the cheese?  We are going to get four to five kinds of cheese wheels to smoke this year since it was such a big hit last year. That will make about 30 to 40 pounds! 

Tim (aka: "Dad") and Clancey
I hope all is well with you and that you have been resting up. We are going to have a busy couple of weekends this year. I can’t believe it is almost that time of year again and that we have been so blessed with this fair and warm weather. Fingers crossed it sticks around! We miss you and are looking forward to seeing you during Maple Festival. We know it will be a busy time, but any time we spend with our family is precious. Give Shannon our love.