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Cold Winter Reality

December 28, 2012

Do you play Farmville? I have several friends who do and they say it is fun. I bet sitting any of the Wild Ramp farmers down to a hour of Farmville, if you could persuade them to use their time that way, would have them amazed at what the game depicts as a farm experience. And then angry that people think it is so easy. Let’s move away from the virtual and look at the REAL reality of a farm in the winter.farme

Come join me for a morning at Twin Maples Farm, following Barney and Annette in a small portion of their daily routine.   I asked to spend some time with them in order to share with you a bit of the work that goes into producing food of wonderful quality.  Bethann Earl also came with me and peppered both farmers with questions to help her own learning curve.barn

milk cow 2c

milk cow 2dAfter Annette had told me they start by milking the cows between 8 and 9, I promised we’d be there 8-ish and we pulled in at 8:11. Barney teased us that the cows were more than ready. He has the milking area in the barn set up for the goat that is currently being hand milked, and the two cows that are milked using the pump. Barney has trained them to go to where they need to stand by leading them with a feed bucket. The feed is one that they have developed specifically for their animals to optimize milk production and provide good nutrition.  By enticing new cows to follow the feed bucket, Barney trains them to walk into the milking stall without a problem.milk cowa
After carrying the milk in to Annette who ran it through the filter, Barney took it out to the cooler.butter d He brought in two other 5-gallon containers for Annette to skim off the cream in order to prepare about 2 pounds of butter. This milk and its products can not be sold but are available only to them for personal consumption because it is not pasteurized. The expense of becoming a Grade A milking operation is typically prohibitively high for a small operation and raw milk or products are not legal to sell in West Virginia.butter c

Annette also had prepared some colby cheese curds and transferred them into a press to draw off the whey. It will produce a block which will be yellow in color since she had not added annato which is the natural coloring from the achiote plant used to color cheese orange.

cheese j

cheese bcheese f

At that point the four of us piled into the truck and headed to a leased 300-acre parcel of land nearby where they cut hay twice a year. Barney explained the need to use


round bales was predicated by the fact that Annette has been working full time and he can not find anyone reliable who is willing to work with him, despite the area’s unemployment rates. By rolling the bales instead of making the square ones, he can handle the mowing and baling by himself. The process takes two weeks and is very weather dependent. He prefers to store his hay under cover instead of in the open to reduce the possibility of mold and wastage.hayd

He loaded four bales on the back of the truck and then we drove to another 15 acre parcel of land where they keep a herd of Dexters with a mule companion.  Dexters are a dual purpose (meat and milk) breed of cattle that is relatively small and well suited to the brushy nature of the West Virginia hillsides. The cattle and mule came when Barney called them and eagerly started munching on the hay.haycowb

We then went back to the home farm where hay was brought to the other cattle, the horses, and llamas and alpaca. Barney said that the bales will last about two days.hayhorsedhay cattle allama ahay cattle d

By that time it was noon….steady work, much of it outside in spitting snow, no sitting but lots of talking, sharing information.

This is not a hobby farm. Barney works full time at it and Annette works around her university teaching schedule. Barney said there is no sleeping in, no sitting and watching TV or on the computer for hours; the animals have to come first. They must be fed before he gets to eat.

This morning activity gets busier in the growing season when there are fruits and vegetables to harvest and transport to the Market. In addition, they have babies expected; several cows are pregnant. They also have chickens, ducks, pigs, turkeys and rabbits which all need attention.

They are very committed to what they do. They make an effort to get the best quality breeders they can, treat their animals with gentle but firm care, feed healthy diet, take care of medical issues, and breed in a manner that protects the health of the animals. They follow up with people who purchase their animals, offering to stop by and help teach skills to provide a quality experience for the new owner.BarneyAnnette

Bethann and I headed home, amazed it was only noon, but Barney was planning to work on the fences or on the renovation of their house which has taken way too long because of the heavy work demands of the farm.  Personal needs come last.

Twin Maples Farm

  • 24430 Ashton Upland Road
  • Milton, West Virginia 25541
Phone (614) 558-5330
7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2012 2:51 pm

    What a fabulous morning!! I want to thank Beth for bringing me along and Barney and Annette for indulging my questioning nature. I learned so much and am very excited about the journey ahead:) Thanks!!

    • December 28, 2012 3:53 pm

      Bethann, you asked all (and more) of the questions that I would have posed…I may need you to come with me more often!!! (hmmm, I might hold your pink muck boots ransom. LOL)

  2. December 28, 2012 6:16 pm

    Barney and Annette have a great place, and are great to work with! On a side note, my kids play not one, but two online farm games. They love them. I tell them they need to spend a little more time in the real life farm game. 🙂

    • December 28, 2012 7:51 pm

      I actually have not played Farmville but I figured it was as close to reality as SimCity is to City Planning. Since that is where my experience laid, I decided when invited to play Farmville I would just go visit YOU! *G*

  3. February 21, 2013 5:13 pm

    How do you like that surge milker?

    I had one but the capacity is too low for me. Also I tend to splash milk out since the lid just sets on top.

    I also don’t care for the 50/50 pulsation and the little check valve that is easy to lose when cleaning.

    Not milking cows, but also 5 goats will overfill the thing.

    I switchted to a large bucket milker with the Interpulse L80 which has the more desirable 60/40 pulsation ratio and set the thing up with all silicone inflations and lines. Like it better than the old surge.

    • February 21, 2013 5:56 pm

      I’ll send your questions on to the farmer and get his responses

      • February 26, 2013 1:26 am

        From Barney and Annette at Twin Maple Farms:
        We use the Surge milker. This machine is no longer in production, but parts and reconditioning kits are readily available. The machine was designed to hang below the belly of the cow and mimic the motion of a calf sucking the teats. Technically, it would rock, make the cow happy, and keep the teat cups from climbing up the teats and blocking suction (this still happens on cows with small teats, so you can’t always just walk away). Because of this placement, it has short runs of tubing from the teat cups to the holding bucket. These prevent contamination if suction is lost and the teat cup falls off; can’t fall to the floor. It also keeps the cow from getting tangled in the milk lines. These are also easier to clean and maintain than longer lines or “refitted” surge milkers for goats etc. I got my hand broken from a cow that got tangled in a milk line on one of these “goat” rigged versions. Was not the least bit enjoyable on my end.

        The pulsator merely requires lubrication and maintained cleanliness. Refit kits are basically leather strips that cushion the friction between the parts.

        Some of the drawbacks are that you can’t fit an in-line filter because each teat cup spills directly into the pail. There is no central “claw” from which a single milk line traverses to the bucket like on a DeLaval. (longer lines, more cleaning issues). So, filtering is somewhat cumbersome. We are rigging a DeLaval to use in the milkroom (kitchen at the moment) to run an inline filter from the Surge tank to another holding and cooling tank. This will keep the milk from exposure to the air and reduce the potential for contamination.

        The pumps can be tricky. We’ve had both to the shop because they quit working, one of them twice. It was more operator error than anything (we never did read the directions). Water will inevitably be sucked into the vacuum line and if you don’t dry the filter, it will quickly rust up the works and jam the machine. Lesson learned.

        Surge milkers can be purchased individually, as parts, or complete systems. Do not purchase a bucket that is not formed from a single piece of stainless steel. Some of the older models had a seam that ran the diameter – good place for bacteria to hide. All of ours were purchased from Ebay or from folks who purchased them from Ebay and decided not to milk goats or cows. We have not been disappointed (except for the motor thing, but hey, education is never free).

        light update after I read his entire comment. Our milk won’t splash out because the teat cups fall and the tank holds suction as it is designed to do. The goat “rigging” causes this system to fail and yes the tank lid will be loose. Since we have multiple tanks and they’re heavy enough with about 5 gal in them, we’re fine with the standard size tank.

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