Get Those Potatoes in the Ground!

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The month of March is in full swing and with it comes a couple of dates that are significant to farmers:  Daylight Saving Time and St. Patrick’s Day.  Do you know why these dates are significant?  (Maybe you an stop and take a guess before reading further?)

Daylight saving time happened last Sunday on March 8th and that was when we moved our clocks forward an hour.  This means it’s dark now when we farmer’s get up early in the morning but we have an extra hour of daylight at the end of the day.  There have been some stories circulating about the history of Daylight Saving Time that says it began to help the farmers have an extra hour of daylight in spring and summer months so that they could work their crops.  However, when researching the subject, I found out that while it is nice to have the extra daylight in the evenings when we are working,  the time change was not started to help out the farmers.  The time change in the United States began when Woodrow Wilson signed it into law during World War I with the idea that the longer hours of sunlight in the evenings would help to conserve energy.  The law signed by President Wilson didn’t last long.  In fact, it was repealed just seven months later.   Franklin D. Roosevelt led the United States in a year around daylight savings time that was also called “War Time” during World War II.  Daylight Saving Time has gone through changes over the years with different dates being set for it’s start and ending.  Today, Daylight Saving Time starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.  As you see, the time change was not implemented for the sake of farmers, in spite of it often being attributed to this cause.  In fact, the agricultural industry actually opposed the change in the beginning.

“Daylight saving time in the United States was not intended to benefit farmers, as many people think.
Contrary to popular belief, American farmers did not lobby for daylight saving to have more time to work in the fields; in fact, the agriculture industry was deeply opposed to the time switch when it was first implemented on March 31, 1918, as a wartime measure. The sun, not the clock, dictated farmers’ schedules, so daylight saving was very disruptive. Farmers had to wait an extra hour for dew to evaporate to harvest hay, hired hands worked less since they still left at the same time for dinner and cows weren’t ready to be milked an hour earlier to meet shipping schedules. Agrarian interests led the fight for the 1919 repeal of national daylight saving time, which passed after Congress voted to override President Woodrow Wilson’s veto. Rather than rural interests, it has been urban entities such as retail outlets and recreational businesses that have championed daylight saving over the decades.” 

(Source)

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The second date in March that is considered significant for farmers is March 17th, which known as St. Patrick’s Day.  While those who celebrate the day as a holiday will be wearing green clothes, eating green snacks, drinking green drinks and thinking about all things Irish, many farmers believe that potatoes should not be planted any later than St. Patrick’s Day to ensure best results.

” Potatoes have an intriguing history in Ireland that goes back to the 1600s, when Britain introduced the vegetable as an ideal food source for their first colony’s peasant population. By the 1840s, this nutritious vegetable had helped to decrease infant mortality rates in Ireland and helped make the Irish people literally stronger than their British rulers.

 Although the Great Potato Famine destroyed potato crops across Ireland in the early to late 1840s, it spurred new plant breeding programs and the introduction of disease-resistant potato varieties. The famine is credited by many historians with stimulating modern agricultural science.

 ‘The potato’s history underpins it as a unique symbol of strength,’ says Ball. ‘Combined with the usual proximity to the first day of spring, St. Patrick’s Day potato planting is a deeply ingrained Irish tradition.’ “

(Source Burpee Seed Company)

Here at the Cupp Farm, we do like to get our potatoes in by St. Patrick’s Day, but it always depends on the weather.  We have been known to have snow on the ground and frequently it is too muddy to get them in by St Patrick’s Day.  Whether we get the potatoes in the ground “on time” or not, we always work hard to grow our potatoes, which happens to be our largest (garden) crop.  We grow red potatoes, Kennebec potatoes, and Russet Potatoes.  Often, we grow Yukon Gold and Sweet Potatoes as well.  We love our potatoes and many people in our community love them too!

Resources:

Eight Things You May Not Know About Daylight Saving Time

Ten Children’s Books about Gardening

Growing Potatoes with Kids

A Preschool Potatoe Curriculum

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Hot Diggity Dog!

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Hunter and Zoie

Someone recently gave us the book THE DIGGING-EST DOG by Al Perkins and illustrated by Eric Gurney. The book was originally published in 1967 and part of the Dr. Seuss “I can read/beginner books” series. The story begins with a dog that has been kept in confinement too long at the pet store waiting on his forever home.   Sammy Brown purchased the neglected dog, took him home to the farm where he lived, and named him Duke.  Duke has a problem though.  He has forgotten how to dig.  The other dogs are disgusted with Duke’s inability to dig holes and this makes Duke feel like less of a dog.  Eventually he does learn to dig holes but this leads to another set up problems for Duke and his owner, Sammy Brown.

When I read this story, I immediately thought about our Dachshunds, Oscar, Hunter and Zoie  Dachshunds are hounds who have short legs and long bodies. They were bred specifically to hunt badgers and other animals who burrow under the ground.  Because of these inherent instincts of the breed, Dachshunds are diggers.    In the above mentioned book, poor Duke was left too long inside on the hard cold floor of the pet shop before he found a home at Sammy Brown’s farm.  When I read about Duke’s plight, I immediately thought about our little Miniature Dachshund, Hunter.

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Hunter

I found Hunter while searching online for a male, miniature dachshund.  When I arrived to pick him up from the breeder, I was horrified at what I found.  The place was clean and the animals seemed healthy, but it was definitely a puppy mill.  What I should have done is walked away but I couldn’t leave little Hunter in that situation.  I ended up bringing him home with me.  He was nine months old and had never been outside a day in his life.  When I put him down on the ground for the first time, he was terrified.  He didn’t know what to do.  I held him in my  lap on the way home (a three hour trip) and thought about a name for him.  He was pitiful………..shaking because he was scared and at the same time wanting to be touched.  I decided to name him Hunter hoping that one day he would run free on our property, hunting, and loving life like our older Dachshund, Oscar.  It took a while, but eventually Hunter began to enjoy his trips outside.  One day, the little guy found his legs and began to run!  He ran, and ran, and ran!  I had never seen a dog run so fast in my life.  It was almost as if he was flying as his back legs barely touched the ground!  Now Hunter, Oscar and Zoie enjoy hunting together on our property.  They will follow each other under the ground to flush out groundhogs.  I have seen them working together, hunting other types of prey as well.  The Dachshunds are amazing little dogs with big personalities and a fun addition to our farm.

Zoie
Zoie

If you have an opportunity to get a dog, I would encourage you to learn about the breeds of dogs you are interested in getting and realize that there are inherent traits that make specific breeds of dogs a better match for specific homes.  Find a breed that will best fit your situation.  If possible, getting a new dog from a rescue situation can be a very rewarding experience.  There are so many dogs in need of a good home.  

Oscar
Oscar

Resources:

Dachshund Coloring Pages

Everything About Dachshunds

Dachshund Information

Information and Activities about Dachshunds

Smart Cows!

imagesDo you think animals are smart?  When you think of intelligent animals, do you think about cattle?  Most of us DO NOT think of cattle as being that smart but cattle are intelligent and have distinct personalities.  Some of our cows (both the beef and the dairy) are naturally friendly and seek out human interaction.  Others are more reserved and want to be left alone.  Cattle express fear, pleasure, anger and even gentleness and affection.  Mother cows lovingly tend to their babies, and adult cattle will show affection to one another.  Cattle are “herd” animals.  This means they are meant to live in groups with other cattle.  If you separate or disturb their group or herd, they often become agitated, unhappy, or even mournful.  Calves (babies) and adult cattle all like to run, jump and play at times.  Cattle are also extremely curious. In our Jersey herd, we  have had a few cows that stand out as being full of personality.  Maya was one of my first dairy cows and she was very smart.  She learned how to open the door on the feed room.  Princess is very dramatic.  She gets very irritable when she is pregnant and  close to her delivery date.  Faith loves to be scratched and  hugged but will kick us if she’s in a bad mood.  Tori is shy and prefers not to be touched but would never kick at us.  Patience had to have medication when she was a calf, and learned to open her mouth without being coerced and chew up her pills and swallow them.  These are just a few examples of some of the different character and personality traits of a few of our cows.   untitled   There is a great children’s book about some cows that had a lot of personality!  In the book Click, Clack, Moo: Cow’s that Type, Farmer Brown’s dairy cows send him a typed note requesting electric blankets in the barn.  Farmer Brown has to decide if he is going to give in to the demands of his cows. The story that ensues is sure to bring a smile to the face of those who read it.  The book is available in board book format for the youngest of readers, as well as in the paperback and hardback varieties.

Resources: Teaching Ideas Web English Teacher Lesson Plans Lesson Plans for Click, Clack, Moo Cornerstones Lesson Guide:  PBS

Farm Love

February is when everyone starts talking about love.  Love can be displayed in many different ways, and I thought I would share in pictures, some of the love found on our farm.

Dedicated & Faithful Love:

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 Mother Love:

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Sibling Love:

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Love of the land, it’s beauty and what it produces:

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Baby Love:

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Love of the Farmer to all in their care:

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 Here at the Cupp Farm, we love our animals, the land, and all that has been placed in our care.  As you consider Valentine’s Day this year, don’t forget that there are different types of love and different ways to display  love than just the romantic type we think of on this holiday.  

Crafts and Resources:

Valentines Animal Crafts for Kids

Farm Animal Crafts

 

A Dog Story

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Farms just are not complete without a dog!   Farm dogs are even more than pets.  They have a job to do.

Our farm has been blessed with some really great dogs. One of our farm dogs is a Collie name JJ that belongs to Farmer Mike’s mom. He lives at the farm where we have our beef cattle.  JJ works hard to keep deer away from our garden and predators away from the farm.  Spencer, a Corgi,  lives at our house where we have dairy cows, chickens, turkeys, two goats and two miniature horses.  He is a herding dog and our faithful companion.  Spencer has always been gentle with the baby animals and watches over the calves when they are small.  He use to go into the barn with me when we had momma goats.  He would help to clean the babies after they were born and he watched over them and protected them.  Anytime we sell birds or animals, Spencer gets very concerned that part of his herd is leaving the farm.  This past Saturday, Spencer’s inquisitive nature almost got him into trouble and JJ the Collie came to his rescue.  If you have not read that story on our main farm blog, you can read it by following this link.

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There are a number of wonderful works of literature about dogs that children love to read.  A few classics include Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, Lassie, White Fang, and Shiloh.  These books appeal to older children and adults.  However, I recently came across an intriguing book that appeals to a younger audience  called The Strange Adventures of  Blue Dog   While the classic stories listed above appeal to older children, this book will keep the attention of younger children.  I read the story to one of our grand-kids who is but a toddler, and while she couldn’t understand the story, she found the pictures intriguing.  In fact, I think the artwork in the book is what makes it special.  The illustrations have a retro feel to them and are warm and inviting to readers of all ages.

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Free Downloadable Coloring Pages

Dog Arts and Crafts

Puppy Cookies

Dog Crafts for Kids

Fun Farming Idioms, Proverbs and Phrases

Have you ever heard of an “idiom”?  An idiom is a group of words that have come to have a special meaning in addition to their original meaning.  In other words, idioms have a figurative meaning based on their original, literal meaning.  The best way to understand what an idiom is would be to look at some commonly used idioms.  I have chosen to explore some idioms that have their origins in farming in this blog entry.  Idioms can be a lot of fun to research and discuss.  At the end of this post, I will list a number of other farm related idioms that you can research for yourself.

 

 

DON’T COUNT YOUR CHICKENS BEFORE THEY HATCH

Peeps

This idiom, or proverb, can be traced all the way back to Aesop’s fables.  (Remember when we talked about Aesop in another blog post?)  In Aesop’s story The Milkmaid and Her Pail, he says, “Ah, my child,” said the mother, “Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.

This idiom means that we should not count on things before they actually happen because sometimes things don’t turn out the way we think they might.

 DON’T LOOK A GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH

Pony

This idiom means to be thankful when you are given a gift and don’t complain about it.

A horse’s age can be determined by looking at it’s teeth.  Evidently, there was a time when those people who had been given a horse as a gift would look into it’s mouth to see how old it was and if it wasn’t a young horse, they would complain about the gift that had been given to them.  We know for sure this phrase goes back to the 16th century when a man named John Heywood wrote,

Where gifts be given freely—east, west, north or south—
No man ought to look a given horse in the mouth.
The phrase may actually be even older as it is sometimes attributed to Saint Jerome.

 

EASY AS PIE

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This was a popular idiom of the 19th century when the word “pie” was used to describe something of pleasure.  It’s not hard to eat a mouth watering piece of pie!  In other words, easy as pie is used to mean doing something that is pleasurable.

Mark Twain used the word “pie” in this manner in his book Huckleberry Finn when he said, “You’re always as polite as pie to them.”

Additional Links:

Mark Twain Boyhood Home page with resources for kids.

Interesting facts about Mark Twain.

 

DON’T PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET

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Let’s think about it.  If you have all your eggs in one basket and the basket tips over or you drop the basket what is going to happen to those eggs?  They could possibly all get broken, right?  If you have your eggs in two or more baskets, you are less likely to drop them all and break them.  This phrase means that it might not be wise to use all of your resources on one project or venture in case your plans don’t work out the way you anticipate.

This idiom is often traced back to the author of the book Don Quixote,  a man named  Miguel Cervantes.

However, it is said that the literal translation of this phrase is not found in Cervantes book but rather the idea.

Brief video explaining plot of Don Quixote to children here.

 

MAKE HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES

Making Hay

Hay loses it’s nutritional value when it exposed to rain after it has been cut.  If it gets too wet and won’t dry out, it will mold and it is useless.  This phrase means that we should make the best use of the time that we are given.  We shouldn’t waste good opportunities.

A lot of idioms, or proverbial phrases are difficult to trace back to their specific origin.  However, this phrase can be almost positively traced back to English Tudor origin as it first appears in the writings of John Heywood who in 1546 wrote,

“Whan the sunne shinth make hay. Whiche is to say.
Take time whan time cometh, lest time steale away.”

WHEN PIGS FLY

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We all know that pigs can’t fly!  This phrase simply references in a humorous way the impossibility of a situation.

This phrase is a little hard to trace with it’s variations but we do know that Lewis Carroll used it in the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland written in 1865 when he wrote, “”I’ve a right to think,” said Alice sharply… “Just about as much right,” said the Duchess, “as pigs have to fly.”

 

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Now that I have shared some of these idioms and phrases with you, here is a list of some others that you can research for yourself or talk with a friend or parent about what you think they might mean:

Let the cat out of the bag

Happy as a pig in mud

Lord willing and the creek don’t rise

Madder than a wet hen

Busy as a bee

That’s how the cow ate the cabbage.

Useless as teats on a boar hog

Don’t put the cart before the horse.

Stubborn as a mule

Strong as an ox

Were you born in a barn?

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

Eat like a pig

Egg on your face

Pecking order

When you mess with the bull, you get the horn.

Room at the trough

Nervous as a cat

Went around Robin Hood’s barn

Let sleeping dog’s lie

The grass is always greener on the other side

As scarce as hen’s teeth

No sense in shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted

You can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.

Pot calling the kettle black

As ugly as a mud fence

Till the cows come home

On it like a duck on a June bug

 

A special thank you to the following Facebook friends who helped me brain storm for idioms and phrases to use in this blog: Hollie, Linda, Barbara, Lisa, Frank, Kerry, Lynelle, Margo, Jim, Kim, Ginger, Phil, Betty, Deborah, Georgie, Jennifer, Marion, Rita, Al, Leslie, and Michael.  You all rock!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Potatoes!

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It might seem like a strange time to be thinking about potatoes, but here at the Cupp Farm, we spend a lot of our time thinking about them!  We plant more potatoes than any other vegetable.  While we do not have a commercial operation, we do plant a good many potatoes for a small, family farm!  Farmer Mike carefully prepares the soil even before it is officially spring.  Then, if the weather cooperates, we try to have the potatoes planted in the ground by St Patrick’s Day in March.

First we have to cut up all the seed potatoes.  That takes a lot of time because we do each one by hand.  Our hands get very stained and dirty and stiff from holding the knife.

Seed Potatoes
Seed Potatoes

Then, we have an antique planter that we use to put the potatoes into the ground.  It’s a lot of fun to do that part!  Someone gets to drive the tractor and two people get to ride on the back to make sure that the seed potatoes are being distributed correctly as the machine goes round and round and drops them into the ground.

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planter

Planting potatoes

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The machine covers them up and then Farmer Mike goes back and “hills” them by piling more dirt on top of them.  Then, the potatoes are left to grow all summer.  (In warmer climates, farmers can plant potatoes twice a year with an early and a late crop.  Here we only plant once.)  In the fall, the hard work begins.  This is the part that isn’t very fun.  Farmer Mike has a potato digger that digs the potatoes up and out of the ground, takes them down a long conveyor belt while shaking some of the dirt off of them, and then drops them gently back on the ground.  Then, someone has to go along behind the tractor and bend over in the dirt and pick up every single potato by hand and place them in bushel bags.  At first it’s easy, but as the bag gets heavier and heavier as you move down the row, it gets more and more difficult to pull it along.  Once the bag is filled and weighs about 60-70 pounds, they are tied and left standing like soldiers guarding the empty rows.  Then, Farmer Mike drives a truck down beside the row and places each bag of potatoes carefully on the truck.  Once they are taken back to the storage unit, they are stacked in a cool, dark place where they will keep most of the winter.  Those potatoes not only feed our family, but many of our friends, neighbors, and people in the community buy our potatoes.  We even have families that drive from other states to get our potatoes most every fall.   We usually grow Kennebec, Russet, a variety of red potatoes, Yukon Gold and often sweet potatoes as well.

Potato Head

Suggested Reading:

There is a great book called Stone Fox written by John Reynolds Gardiner. The book tells the story of a boy  named Willy and his grandfather. The grandfather, who was ill, was desperate to find the money to pay the taxes on his potato farm or he would lose the farm.  In order to help his grandfather, Willy entered a sled dog race in which he had to face Stone Fox, a Native American man, who never lost a race.

 The book sold over 3 million copies and was named New York Times most notable book of the year for 1980. It is a great book for 9-10 year olds or even older children.

Resources and Activities:

The Potato Story is an interactive site for teachers and students.

Potato stamps

Lesson Plans for using  Stone Fox in the classroom.

Additional Lesson Plans for using Stone Fox in the classroom.

Pumpkins And Such

 

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In autumn, we see a lot of pumpkins used as decorations, there are pumpkin patches where some families go for a seasonal adventure, and there are many foods and drinks that are made with pumpkin ( or at least made to taste like pumpkin).  If your family doesn’t do any of these  things, or  if you don’t enjoy  pumpkin, that’s ok.  Everyone is unique and we don’t all have to enjoy the same things.

A lot of children do enjoy pumpkins and a long time ago, there was a young boy named Almanzo Wilder who grew a GREAT, BIG pumpkin.  Can you guess his secret?  He did it by feeding it milk!  You can read about Almanzo and his giant pumpkin in the book Farmer Boy .  (The book was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, who became Alamanzo’s wife when he was an adult.)

Maybe you would like to grow a milk fed pumpkin with your family.  You can find out more information on the process at this link.

Not only did Almanzo enjoy growing pumpkin, but he also enjoyed eating pumpkin.  In fact, Almanzo enjoyed eating a variety of food that was raised on his family farm.  Here is an excerpt from the book:

“Almanzo ate the sweet, mellow baked beans. He ate the bit of salt pork that melted like cream in his mouth. He ate mealy boiled potatoes, with brown ham-gravy. He ate the ham. He bit deep in velvety bread spread with sleek butter, and he ate the crisp golden crust. He demolished a tall heap of pale mashed turnips, and a hill of stewed yellow pumpkin. Then he sighed, and tucked his napkin deeper in the neckband of his red waist. And he ate plum preserves and strawberry jam, and grape jelly, and spiced watermelon-rind pickles. He felt very comfortable inside. Slowly he ate a large piece of pumpkin pie.”

pumpkin pie with whipped cream

 

Laura, the lady who married Almanzo when he grew up, wrote other books as well.  Her books, The Little House on the Prairie Series, are based on her life as a child growing up in the Midwest in the 1800’s.  In one of the books, THE LONG WINTER,  she tells about a time when they did not have apples to make a pie and her Ma made a mock apple pie out of a green pumpkin!  She also talks about she and her sister Mary playing with their dolls in the attic among the squashes and pumpkins stored for the winter  in the book LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS

 

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We sometimes raise pumpkins here at the Cupp Farm and we enjoy growing some more unusual vegetables that we often use in the place of pumpkins for baking, as we like them better.

The cushaw is big and green striped.  You can read more about it here.

The Pennsylvania Crookneck Squash is also known as a “Neck Pumpkin”.  You can learn more about it here.

Both the Cushaw and the Pennsylvania Crookneck can be used in place of pumpkin for baking and also make wonderful fall decorations.

cushaw

 

 

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Pumpkin Themed Activities:

The Pumpkin Project~ Math, Science and Fun

A Pumpkin Unit ~ Filled with lessons, printables and more

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

Another Recipe for Roasting Pumpkin Seeds (Sugar and Cinnamon)

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Animals are Friends

Friends can come in all shapes and sizes, especially when you live on a farm!  Over the years we have had a number of animals that were special in the way they interacted with Farmer Mike and I.  I wanted to introduce our readers to a few of them.

Geese

Goslings

Splish, Splash and Splosh were three very special geese that hatched out (unknown to us) under a chicken in our barn.  There was some “fowl play” by a young man who was visiting the farm and that is how those eggs ended up under that hen.  When the goslings hatched (on Mother’s Day), the young man informed us of what he had done.  Since I didn’t think the chicken would be able to raise the goslings adequately, I brought them home and hand raised them.  They lived in our bathroom in a great big bathtub for a while.  I would fill the tub with water at least once a day when they got big enough to swim.  They loved it.  I fell in love with them and they became very special friends who were very bonded to me.

You can see additional pictures and videos of these adorable goslings at this link.

This link at Kidzone has some interesting information on Geese.  If you follow the page to the bottom, you will see links to activities, crafts, and worksheets for this subject.

Chickens

Mike and Pet Chicken

Another “bird” friend was a dear, little Speckled Sussex hen.  We never named her but she followed us around whenever we were in the barnyard and loved for us to pick her up and pet her.  She was always “talking” to us in her sweet voice.  We just loved her and she brightened our lives for five years.

Here is a link where you can find interesting facts about chickens as well as additional links to songs, stories, poems, crafts and other activities on this subject for kids.

Easy Science for Kids also is a great link.

Cows

Emmy Kiss

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Of course, we make pets out of our cattle!  But there have been a few that have been especially friendly and loving over the years.  As with any large livestock, children should never approach them without an adult along, but if you get the chance to meet a friendly cow up close, it is truly a treat!

Here is an interesting info-graphic about cows shared by Hobby Farms:

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Miniature Horses

Brandy

Our little horses are great friends.  They bring our grandchildren a lot of joy with their sweet dispositions.  An interesting job that some mini horses take is that of being a guide to people who are blind (like a seeing eye dog).  You can find out more and see some photos of these horses at work here.

There are a lot of interesting facts about horses at this link.  

Farm Dogs

Casey 1Ladyspencer and ladySpencer with bull

Every farmer needs a great farm dog as a friend.  We have been fortunate to have some amazing dogs here on our farm.  Lady, the Great Pyrenees, was a wonderful and faithful friend to all the farm animals, watching over and taking care of them.

Casey, a female Corgi,  wasn’t at our farm very long, but had a heart of gold.  She  actually worked as a therapy dog for a while with a friend of ours who had cancer.

Spencer, a male Corgi, is my ever present companion in the barnyard.  He is really good with all the animals and loves people of all ages as well.  We definitely couldn’t have a farm without our wonderful farm dog friends.

You can follow this link for activities centered on dogs.  Enjoy interesting dog facts at Science Kids.    

Goats

Goats

Goats make great friends!  They act very  much like dogs when you give them a lot of attention and they easily bond to humans.  This little goat went with me to the library where I gave a lesson on making cheese!

Fun facts about goats at this link.  Fun crafts at this link.

Recommended Reading

Book

I started thinking about sharing these pictures of just a few of our animal friends with you when I came across a beautiful book by Wendell Minor called My Farm Friends.  I fell in love with the artwork in this book and wanted to share it with you.  Here are a few pages from the book:

Book3

Book2

Book1

Farming can be very hard work and often the farmer must work alone.  The fact that some of our farm animals can be our friends sure does make our work more enjoyable!  We hope you enjoyed these pictures of a few of our farm animals and maybe even learned some things as well!