Honey. No, I'm not talking about that Jessica Alba movie. I'm not even talking about the countless songs that sing about honey and other sweet stuff. I'm talking about honey - plain and simple...or would that be pure and simple?
Meet Wes Spradlin. He, his wife Jen, and their kiddliwinks are the human sweetness behind Spradlin Farms. The rest of the sweetness comes from the bees. Now's the time to humor me and wave to the Spradlin's. Just ignore that big guy in the cowboy hat. He's there for the WiFi connection, too. Honestly, I don't have an inkling of an idea what goes into beekeeping and producing honey, but I know I like it…on toast, in oatmeal, when I'm baking bread… Get the picture?
I do know honey can look and taste different depending on what flowers the bees are sucking on. I also know several years ago when Wes told me it was hard to get his hands on those small bee udders to milk them of honey he was yanking my chain. I may be strawberry blond, but I'm not a total airhead all the time. I won't mention the number of times I've walked outside in my bare feet and stepped on a bee this summer alone. And although I remember reading honey was found in a very old Egyptian tomb, I know I wouldn't have been the one to taste test it to make sure it was still good no matter that it's supposed to keep forever if sealed well. A handfull of years ago our family went to the Lithopolis Honey Festival and had the pleasure of tasting different kinds of honey. Out of all we tested, our taste buds were fond of the local honey found at the Chillicothe Farmer's Market. Our Market is fortunate to have two local honey producers - Spradlin Farms and Pap's Hilltop Honey, with Chris Lewis being the head bee wrangler at Pap's. Whether it's Spradlin honey or Pap's honey, I can attest it's de-lic-ious! In fact, I buy the big mondo size bottles of honey because I hate to run out. Don't worry though, they have smaller sizes too. Even bottles shaped like bears.
Now I know I don't have a picture of Pap's, which is a total oops on my part, but I do have a picture of the Spradlin's. From left to right it's girl kiddliwink, Wes the bee wrangler, and boy kiddliwink. Then there's Jen at the back. Don't worry, she's not hiding. She's keeping Wes in line. Anyone that thinks I'd actually believe bees have udders needs to be kept in line...
So there you have it, folks! When you're at the Chillicothe Farmer's Market make sure to stop by and visit with our local beekeepers and buy some honey. Everyone needs a bit of sweetening up on occasion so why not make sure you sweeten up with something local? I do. Smiling & Waving, Sharon
Boy, I tell you, sometimes technology wants to be difficult and spew out all sorts of hiccups! This past week was one of those times. But that's neither here nor there now...the website server is well again and I have a story to tell.
I just love when dreams come true. I've had a particular one for a good three years or more now. It was to bring a few Icelandic sheep home from The Lavender Fleece, which is a farm up in Midland, MI. Last October Eldest and I went to the open house they have every year to see their flock up close and personal so we could drool over them. Ok, so Eldest didn't drool...and no I didn't actually drool on them either, but you know what I mean. Darryl and Laurie, the fantastic couple who, along with their daughter, make up The Lavender Fleece were busy with all of their guests, but were still able to make time to visit with eveyone that paid them a visit. This was when my dream was started to come true.
You might have noticed this past weekend I wasn't at the Chillicothe Farmer's Market. In fact, I even had several people tell me I wasn't there. That's becuase our family took a trip to The Lavender Fleece to pick up our Icelandic lambs. On our way there we stopped at Uncle Dave and Aunt Carol's for the night. It was a quick visit, but Uncle Dave grilled some burgers for dinner and made us pancakes in the morning before we headed out, and when we mix food with a family visit it makes for a grand time. We really enjoyed seeing them again! Aunt Carol even drove up to Midland with us to pick up the sheep.
When we got to The Lavender Fleece after numerous child potty breaks I was so excited it was hard to contain myself. As soon as we got out of the van Darryl and Laurie were there to greet us. They are such a friendly couple! Laurie took the time to explain some sheep raising and record keeping details with the Kid when he asked her if she'd answer some questions for his 4-H sheep breeding project. We both learned a lot! I appreciate Laurie taking the time out for the Kid and also the Kid for being such a good listener. After that Laurie and I had a chance to talk sheep and swap some stories while everyone else toured around the farm. Then the family decided it was time for us to start heading on down the road because we had a long drive back.
Here's the thing...we went up there to pick up a pair of Icelandic lambs...that means two. We ended up bring back three lambs - the pair of Icelandics and also a Leicester Longwool ram lamb for the Kid. Leicester, by the way, is pronounced Lester. Don't feel silly about how you pronounced it the first time. I messed it up, too. Anway, through Laurie's kindness and generosity the Kid is starting a new sheep breeding venture. He is so excited about the future with his new sheep! Leicester Longwool sheep are one of those breeds that have declined in numbers to the point where they are in critical danger of disappearing. In fact, at one point there weren't any in North America at all. The Lavender Fleece and a small number of other breeders in North America are working to bring this fabulous breed back to where it should (and deserves to) be. We are proud to have been able to bring one of these fantastic sheep home and are excited about the Kid's future showing and breeding to help educate and boost the Leicester Longwool population. He has big dreams and plans for this litle lamb!
This whole trip was quick. Left early Saturday, got back late Sunday. I think we spent more time in the van then out. Although if I factor in all those potty breaks... You can see a couple of pictures up there of our two new new Icelandic lambs and the Kid's Leicester Longwool lamb. They are magnificent! I want to thank The Lavender Fleece for being such awesome stewards of both Icelandic and Leicester Longwool sheep! Smiling & Waving, Sharon
This is Ryan Elliott and his wonderful family. Uh, excuse me...you didn't wave. That's it. Thank you for that friendly wave back to them. Always nice to be neighborly, even if you're not close by I always say.
Ryan's family has been part of the Chillicothe Farmer's Market for oh, I'd say three years now. Could be four, though, but I'm thinking it's three. You are probably thinking that last name sounds familiar and it should. He's related to Charlie, my market neighbor that sells that awesome maple syrup. In fact, Charlie is in the middle of both me and Ryan. I think it's a good place to be because he keeps Ryan in line. Nothing like 'ole grandpa giving him the hairy eyeball if necessary. Ok, so it's never been necessary...but he's there just in case.
Ryan started selling produce on occasion at Charlie's table and then the Market bug hit him and he decided to get his own space. Let me tell you, they need all that space! The Elliott's are one of the first on the scene every season with fresh vegetables. I don't know if it's one of those hoop houses or a greenhouse, but it's one of those totally cool garden buildings that get the fresh goodies to the Market a tad bit earlier, giving customers their first taste of the bounty to come. Just this past weekend they had mondo sized green peppers, uber big tomatoes, little tomatoes, red potatoes, onions...and the icing on the cake...ok, so it's the meat that comes before the icing on the cake...goat meat!
Now you're wondering if I've bought meat and produce from the Elliott's. The answer is a big resounding YES -of course I have! Just this weekend I bought some ground goat meat. In fact, that's what we had for dinner tonight - goat burgers on the grill. No, the kid's don't know that's what they ate. Yes, they ate it and thought it was delicious. No, I'm still not going to tell them because they wouldn't believe me anyway, thinking I was yanking their chain yet again about something. If you haven't given goat meat a go, I highly recommend it. This past weekend they also had roasts and shanks, too.
Now I have to tell you, Ryan and his wife has been an absolute blessing to me when I roll in and start setting up for the market. I have struggled with putting up my canopy every Saturday since I bought it four years ago. They have spent many Saturday mornings helping me raise that canopy up where it needs to be. For that I truly do thank them. And while I'm thinking on it, their daughter had her own goodie table set up there a few weeks back and I want to thank her for the wonderful treats she sold. I'm always one to do what I can to help kids out and I couldn't pass her's up, especially since they were sweets. Then again, she could have been selling pet rocks and I'd have been first in line for a new one. No idea where I put that last one...
If you haven't taken the time to get to know the folks from Elliott's Farm, make sure you do. How about this coming Saturday? Trust me, you'll be glad you did! Smiling & Waving, Sharon
Wow ~ two milestones in one week!! First Hon and I celebrate our 24th anniversary and now Eldest turns 15. My how time flies!
When I think back on the past 15 years it seems like it shouldn't be that many. Eldest should still be propped up on his Boppy pillow, drooling and conking himself in the forehead yet again with a rattle.
Ok, enough of those stories. I had to wait until Eldest was off with his Grandpa S for a few days to post this blog because he said under no circumstances was I to say anything about his birthday today. I'm also not allowed to reminisce about things he's done over the years...like shoving orange Play-Doh up his nose as a toddler or screaming for the first six months of his life. Oh, and then there's the time... Oh all right, I had better stop before this gets back to him.
Even though I'm not allowed to blog about Eldest's birthday today I wanted to at least share a picture of his birthday pancakes from this morning. It's been so hot, and I had a bunch of melting chocolate chips, so I made sure to glop some of those in the batter. I forgot about the whipped cream yet again, so I also loaded the layers with powdered sugar and sprinkles. Maybe all the added sugar is what gave him the energy to clean out the pigeon coop before he left with Grandpa. The candle really was lit, but the fan over the kitchen table kept blowing it out and rather than give up the cool breeze we decided to pretend it was still lit as we sung the birthday song. At least he decided to play along and blow out.
Just think, in six moths Eldest will be able to get his driving permit and start taking lessons for the all important turning 16 and driving! You might think I should be dreading that milestone coming up, but I'm not. I'm actually excited about it and can't wait! Happy birthday, Eldest! May all of the years ahead of you be better than you've ever imagined! Smiling & Waving, Mom
Me and Hon on our wedding day.
Awwww, come on now...I'm not going to get too mushy on you over this. Read on and enjoy!
This day 24 years ago Hon and I got married...hitched...tied the knot. Call it what you want, we did it and it was the best decision we've ever made together. We were married at the First Congregational Church in Rochester, Michigan, which is the church I attended when I was growing up, almost 1 1/2 years after we started dating. Ahhhhh, young love! Ahem, ok, enough of that. Even thought it was Michigan, we were having a drought and heatwave, sort of like now come to think of it. I'll never forget the day. It was 107 degrees out. Oh, and the church didn't have air conditioning. They made sure to have it the next summer though. There were two big fans at the front of the church blowing on the minister to keep him cool, if there was such a thing in that heat. This was back when videos of weddings weren't quite as popular, but we did have a voice recording of the event. Of course with those fans going there was just a rrrrrrrrrrr sound, but we were there so it really wasn't a big deal. I still have no idea what happened to that tape of the event anyway.
The wedding was beautiful! Afterwards we had our reception in the heat of the backyard under a tent with our friends and relatives. There was enough food for everyone. Wait a minute, what happened to all the food? We couldn't find it. There was some, but not nearly enough. It was a mystery! Even so, we all had a bit to eat, pictures were taken, and everyone really seemed to have a great time. I'll never forget the beautiful wedding cake Grandma Shirk made for us. It was white, but the heat turned it more a creamy yellow, and it was absolutely delicious! Grandma was an awesome cake decorator!
After the festivities were over Hon and I got in his little Chevy Spectrum and we were off on our honeymoon, which was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at a cabin we rented on Thousand Island Lake. Boy was that a drive to get there! A little tidbit of information for those who are planning a wedding...make reservations for your wedding night. You might find that every stinking hotel, motel, and inn you stop at is booked solid...except for that last ditch effort of a reeeeal expensive hotel, which happened to have one dirty room left. The bonus was when we got to our cabin it was cool and drought free. I heard that when we left the reception folks that were still there went for a swim in the pool. Oh, and the missing food was found so there were leftovers...lots of leftovers for quite some time.
Anyway, the wedding really was beautiful. I couldn't have asked for a better day. It wasn't my day, like some folks think it is for the bride, it was our day. It was the start of a wonderful marriage that's gone strong for 24 years now and I'm absolutely positive we have many many more years ahead of us. Maybe on occasion I'll tell you some stories about things we've done in these past 24 years. Every once in a while I think back on things and WHAM! there's something that pops up I hadn't thought about in years. Like every other couple we've had our ups and downs. We've found that when we are in the downs that's the best time to reflect on all the ups, to remember all the good times we've had and how we've made it through our struggles...together. My Hon is my soul mate and without him I wouldn't be who I am today. Okay, so that part was real mushy. Smiling & Waving, Sharon
Do you know The Muffin Man...The Muffin Man...The Muffin Man? Do you know The Muffin Man who's a vendor at the Chillicothe Farmers Market? Ok, so it's not quite as good as the original song, but still, do you? Yes, I know The Muffin Man...The Muffin Man...The Muffin Man... Ok, I'll stop now. Reminds me of singing lines from Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody earlier in the week but changing around the lines so they suited the situation. But still, I do know The Muffin Man.
The Muffin Man, aka Chef William, aka Bill Bell, has been a staple at the Market for years now. His yummy baked goods have graced my taste buds many many times. He's another reason why I need to invest in some more time with Jillian Michaels. The kids have visited his booth quite a few times, too, bringing back sweets to tempt me with when I wasn't able to get my own.
Yesterday I had a big decision to make...lemon poppy muffin or lemon poppy slice of cake...I'm a lover of lemon whether it be part of a drink or a food, and it was hard to choose one over the other. I ended up going with the muffin. It was an incredibly yummy choice. I even played nice and shared 1/8 of it with Young'un.
Next time you're at the Farmers Market, which I figure will be Saturday, you really need to visit The Muffin Man. He bakes up so many delectable edibles you will have a hard time making a decision as to which five goodies you'd like to take home. My suggestion, choose six and eat one as you leave. He's known to make awesome jumbo gourmet muffins (like the lemon poppy I enjoyed yesterday), triple fudge brownies, fruit bars, cakes, Irish soda bread, donut minis, smiley cakes, cookies, and gift "Minute Mugs." Those Minute Mugs make a quick and easy gift if you're looking for something to put a smile on someone's face. I don't know how he is able to stand behind so many goodies without eating them!
So, again, I ask...do you know The Muffin Man? If you haven't met him yet, I highly suggest when Saturday rolls around again you make it a point to get to know him. Your senses will thank you! Smiling & Waving, Sharon
I know what you were thinking. You thought I was going to be talking about our kids. Nope! I'm talking about the goslings. Remember when you were an early teenager and you went through that gawkey phase? The one where you woke up in the morning with a zit the size of Detroit and then another phase where you were all arms and legs? Yeah, now those memories are coming back.
I've found that poultry goes through the same phase. No matter what kind of poultry, they all go through an awkward stage of dishevelment. Case in point are the goslings. Look at them. They've gone from cute little fuzzy puff balls to, well, some inbetween stage. Their fuzzy baby feathers are being replaced with feathers you see on a grown goose. Problem is, during this growth stage they've got baby feathers sticking up all over. They look like they've been in a wind storm and aren't sure what to do about it. I don't think any hair care products would help them out.
Their feather issues aren't the only problem. They are following in your footsteps with gangly arms (er, wings) and legs syndrome. When they really get moving they hold their wings up to try and find some balance, but in the end they trip over their feet. Of course, I don't laugh at them because I remember when I was like that...okay, so I laugh a little bit.
Something I do really enjoy watching is how they emulate their parents, Moe and Alice. They have learned so much from them in such a short time, which I suppose is good considering they have a short time to get being a goose down before they've graduated and are finding their way in the world.
I am so glad Alice sat on her nest this year, after several years of me talking to her about it. I suppose like everyone else, she knew when the time was right for her and my talking was just that...talk. I've never seen Moe so busy keeping his goslings together, and believe me, they can be quite a handful...just like our kids.
In the wee hours this morning I received a wonderful phone call - the one I've been waiting for! No matter it was just after 2 a.m. All things come to a screeching hault around here when a baby is born...even if it was in Menifee, CA! At 2:10 this morning Mom called to tell me my little sister, Erin, had their baby girl. At first I was confused when the phone rang, thinking maybe I was dreaming it, but when I reached over, pressed the button, and heard Mom's voice I just KNEW it was good news. When she told me Erin had her baby I was thinking, "Oh, what wonderful news...and on the 4th of July, too!" Well, it was the 4th here, but not there yet. No matter, a baby was born! Hon and I want to congratulate Jack and Erin on the birth of their second daughter, Jordyn Lea. She was born at 10:22 p.m. last night and although I thought Mom said she was 8 lb 15 oz, Dad's email shouting his joy to the world says she is 7 lb 15 oz. ...oh, and 19" long. No matter what the weight. I was half-asleep relaying the info to Hon anyway. I do remember Mom said she was screaming her lungs off when she talked with Erin. Hehehehe - I hate to laugh at that, but Eldest was a total screamer and I swear spent the first six months of his life hollering. A big congratulations to Jack, Erin, Jackie, and Jordyn! May the years ahead be all you wish them to be!
Now today is another special day in the history of our country. I'm sure all of you out there know it's Independence Day. You know, the 4th of July. Whether you're sleeping in, swimming, working, or hanging out with the family...whether it's hot dogs and hamburgers, ribs, marshmalows, or a t.v. dinner...remember the hard work and determination our kin from long ago America went through to give us what we have today. Enjoy the day no matter what you're up to. Sing God Bless America...sing God Bless My Underwear if you feel like it, just sing something that stirs your soul even a little bit in rememberance of everyone that made our country what it is today and continues to be ~ FREE! Smiling & Waving, Sharon
Do you ever get like that - non-sentimental? It happens to me a few times a year and when it does everyone else here wants to head for the hills. Usually I'm a very sentimental person, holding on to bits and pieces of life for no logical reason. Then it happens - a major non-sentimental moment of tossing and recycling. May hit me in the basement, the kitchen, or the bedrooms. You just never know. Well, it happened earlier this week and seemed to not let go so I designated yesterday as garage clean out day. Yes, I did not go to the farmers market. No, I don't feel bad about it. Yes, I missed visiting with other vendors and folks that visit, but this purge of stuff had to be done.
Here is my thinking on the garage clean out...we're in a severe drought. We are already having to feed hay to the sheep and horses, which is not normal. We have now not cut our grass in a month, which of course the kids are estatic about. We worry about the water level in the well, which is a mystery, and the pond drying up more and more every day. I also see another hay shortage, worse than last year. What happened this past late winter and early spring is folks ran out of hay due to lack of it the summer before and then there was not much to be found. What was around went up in price 100% when it could be found and people had to make very hard decisions on their animals/livelihood. Nothing like a mid-sized really gave us a work-out pushing it out to the field round bale going for $30 in the fall and then a smaller light as air bale from the same person selling for $60 in February. Yes, it is true...and it was weedy and had prickers and I even found plastic in it. Ok, so that's neithe here nor there now, but that was the case then.
Ok, off my soap box and back to the story... Bright and very early yesterday morning we began operation clean out the garage day. So what if we were to hit the upper 90's and possibly 100. So what if we usually do this chore in the fall. Why waste a beautiful fall day sweating when we could sweat yesterday. Besides, I bribed the troops with a swim at Deer Creek State Park and a cookout there with burgers and dogs then a stop at Frosties for ice cream cones afterwards. No, the bribery didn't really work because they still didn't want to do it, but I'm queen of this here farm and I designated it clean out the garage day. Everyone would fall in line, do their job, and then appreciate that swim and meal!
We hauled just about everything out, which is a lot considering I couldn't even get the van in there if I wanted to. I may have been able to if it was really necessary, but that would have meant me picking up every scrap of wood and tool Hon and the kids have used and not put back over the past oh, say, 8 months. We swept, we sorted, the kids went through toy boxes that hadn't seen the light of day in years. It was crazy! We went on search and destroy the mouse houses, bomb the bug bungalos, and played stomp the big hairy spiders. Then before we knew it...ok, so it was about six hours later...the garage was clean (or as clean as it was going to get).
We now have a garage that has space for the van if I want to put it in there. We also have, what my ultimate goal was, to have another area to stack hay and straw. There are not a lot of hay storage options in the red barn and the barn because they are small. This gives us another place, which I think we're really going to need. And yes, I did make good on swimming at Deer Creek State Park, a burger and dog cookout while there, and ice cream at Frosties afterwards. Oh, and on an end note, we actually have a storm brewing and I. Put. The. Van. In. The. Garage. Now the big question is will we see rain? Smiling & Waving, Sharon
I'm the queen of our farm, although the animals wouldn't agree. My title is Head Chicken Wrangler, but most days I'm just called Mom. Life on a farm is full of family and hard work and I wouldn't have it any other way.