A New Year!

Wow - it was October 2017 since I last wrote in our blog. November through the end of December was crazy busy . . . crazy, overwhelming, and beyond our wildest expectations.  Our sheep milk soaps/lotions and meat gift boxes graced many of your homes this past holiday season.  It means so much to us that you included a little piece of Maple Hill Farm in your festivities.  So with that, THANK YOU!!

Now we are well into 2018 and settling into a quieter routine.  We have most of our spring, summer, and fall on the farm classes scheduled.  We will have herbal classes, foraging classes, seed preservation classes, mushroom classes, a family fun day, and even a sheep shearing day.  There are so many things out there that we love to learn about and we hope by making it available to you, you can become a little more sustainable in the process.

Next up on the farm will be lambing season.  By mid February, we should hopefully (if all goes according to plan), have a barn full on baby lambs.  We are primarily a sheep milk dairy farm so we look forward to this time of year with excitement but a little nervousness.  Every year comes with a new set of obstacles . . . I mean opportunities . . .  to overcome.  From milk fever to bloat to bitterly cold lambing to overly damp temperatures to pneumonia - all provide a time for us to put our knowledge and love for what we do to the test.  But the minute Brian tells me we have a ewe giving birth, the fear goes away and we are excited like little kids on Christmas morning.  We live for this!  We work hard every day doing what we do!  But at the end of the day, trials and tribulations are all worth it because we are on this farm, living a life we are proud of.

I better finish this blog as we have a birthday to celebrate and fresh caught fish is on the menu so until next time, feel free to visit us on the farm and  "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food".

Heading to the Classroom

It feels like it has been forever since we updated our blog. Summer flew by with haying, festivals, farmers markets, and keeping up with the garden. We have canned jams, salsa, spaghetti sauce, harvested and replanted our garlic, pulled potatoes, picked buckets of raspberries and garden huckleberries, and still eating kale and a few cabbages from the garden. We harvested our first batch of honey which is truly glorious. Pears and apples have been enjoyed and soon apple cider will be pressed. Piglets have been born and running around the pasture grunting and rooting to their hearts’ content. Turkeys have had their fill of squash, pumpkins, leftover fruit, corn cobs, watermelon, and many other delectable treats that they find as they forage their way around the acreage. The sheep have been busy grazing and maybe occassionally wandering the neighborhood to keep us on our toes. And amidst all this, I decided to jump in and start teaching. Now if you know me, I am a “behind the scenes” type gal. Don’t like the limelight, like the quiet corner of the room, or better yet, put me in the kitchen or lab where I can create and I am sufficiently content. Well our local technical college reached out and asked if I would do a few sessions on soapmaking, candlemaking, lotion making, etc in their Life and Leisure segments. When I indicated that I am not a teacher by any stretch of the imagination, she told me “if you are passionate, it will come through in your teaching”. Well, I am passionate about my products I put out, passionate about creating a healthier product, passionate about my business . . . so I said yes. As time went by, the anticipation and fear grew. But whenever I think why do I get into these things, I tell myself, “If it was easy, would it be worth it?” The answer is usually no so I tried to put my fear aside and develop a teaching agenda I thought would be easy to follow but fun for the participants. I am happy to say that I have now completed two teaching sessions where the students were able to take home some great items they made in class and I felt they could now take home what they learned and utilize it to recreate their own recipes at home. I must say that I have accomplished something I never thought I would do and I feel proud of myself. I have one more class in the original obligation but they have asked me to continue and we have spring sessions lined up. I have come a long way in a short period of time and am thankful someone reached out because they thought I had something of interest to teach. I leave you now at the end of this blog with a homework assignment: In life we often carry many burdens and pressures with the fast pace life we lead and never stop to take time to enjoy our accomplishments. So please take a few minutes today and write down a few things you are proud of that YOU overcame.

As the Seasons Change

It has been several weeks since our last blog post. What is going on at Maple Hill Farm? We attended the Rusk County Jr Fair, finished milking for the season, and added a new fur baby to the family. I would say that is enough to keep us busy, wouldn’t you?

Let’s start with the Rusk County Jr Fair – another year has come and went and this will probably be our last with one of our sons showing an animal. Definitely bittersweet but oh what memories. Over the years, we have had our kids show sheep, rabbits, chickens, pigs, beef cows, and dairy cows. We have had entries into photography, vegetables, artwork, jams/jellies, and many other fun things. We have some great trophies and ribbons to show for the hard work. But it goes way beyond the ribbons. The kids at the fair work for many months with their animals and on their projects and it all comes to a conclusion at the fair. On Sunday as some of these kids are saying farewell to their animals or just packing their animal or project up for the return trip home, it is often times met with tears. You know that the projects they work on are close to their heart. The lessons that are learned, the spirt of commradie that is developed, the hardships that might occur. That little fair has a lot of life lessons and value all wrapped up into a four-day weekend. 

Another bittersweet moment is the end of the milking season for 2017. Sheep are seasonal milkers and we start shipping around the beginning of February. The milk production goes along with the Summer Solstice so as the daylight gets shorter, the milk production lessens. On average, a sheep lactates for 190-220 days. During this time, a milk truck comes and picks up our fluid milk twice a week and returns to Carr Valley Cheese to make some of the wonderful sheep milk cheeses we sell right here at Maple Hill Farm. And of course, we hold milk back to make our sheep milk soaps and lotions. Did you know that Sheep milk is highly nutritious, richer in vitamins A, B, and E, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium than cow's milk? As you know, our little soap and lotion business continues to grow by leaps and bounds so we need to freeze this milk to allow for our production to continue year round. Sheep milk has smaller fat globules than other dairy making it a milk that can be frozen without separating. All this science means that we are able to produce our products for our awesome customers all year. Thank goodness that our wooly friends are so versatile!

And then lastly, we added a new fur baby to our household. His name is Prince. While minding my own business one day, a friend tagged me in a post for the Sawyer County Humane Society where a black border collie mix was staring with his big eyes back at me from Facebook. Needless to say, we quickly filled out adoption papers online and the next day, Brian was heading North to get a companion for Sugar. Prince is 8 months old and full of energy. Most of the time, Sugar just stands there looking at him like she can’t understand why he is always trying to get her in trouble. She seems to forget that the first year we got her, we replaced the strands of lights on the Christmas tree three times cause she thought they were great to play with. So as with anything new, it takes a little getting used to but as I came home today and saw them both running around playing with the same stick, I thought to myself that they are going to get along just fine.


So until next time we leave you with our tagline Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.

Happy Anniversary!

For those of you that saw our post on Facebook August 4, you know we celebrated 27 years of marriage. What a phenomenal show of support and well wishes we received. Truly heartwarming! 27 years!! When you put that into perspective, we have been married well over half of our life now. If you consider the four years we dated, we have been a couple for almost our entire life. I say all this because we do not hear it often that people find their soulmate at such a young age. Yes, we were young kids when we got married. While I am not sure I have the ultimate in marriage advice, we found that sharing a passion is our secret. Something that we enjoy doing together. Obviously, our passion is farming and sustainable living; not only providing quality food and products for our customers but also supporting others in this endeavor as well. We try to support local entrepreneurs, small farm ventures, farm to table establishments, food cooperatives, local artists . . . we are all in this together. There is a saying that we all vote with our dollar and small businesses are the backbone of our economy. We live it, believe it, and are part of it. We see this everyday with the customers that support our small business and we cannot thank you enough.

Now onto what we have been doing the last few weeks since our last blog. Since we finished the first crop of hay, we have now been hauling it all back to our land and getting it stacked in neat beautiful long rows. Who knew that grass rolled up into a ball could be artistically beautiful!!! But enough with the hay. We have talked about hay forever it seems. We have also been very busy with our two Farmers Markets a week. One on Friday in Bruce and one on Saturday in Ladysmith. Both have a great group of farmers and artists that work hard all week long to bring their items to customers anxiously awaiting quality produce. When you go to the market next, stop and ask your farmer how they raised that item you are purchasing. That one cucumber or tomato probably started its journey to you in January. January is probably when the farmer started looking through their resources of what to purchase in seeds for the year. Then maybe around April those little seeds were planted into little containers. From there every day, they were painstakingly watched over, watered, rotated, loved and nurtured. By the end of May, they were then hopefully planted into the ground. That is if the weather was cooperative and wasn’t too cold or too wet. By then you may think, OK they are well on their way. But wait, then there is the daily watch of the weather for frost. Maybe we need to gather items to cover each plant so they don’t get killed off because of our uncertain Wisconsin weather. Ok so we are now into late June and frost isn’t so much of an issue. Now we have severe storms and tornadoes – some farms, gardens, greenhouses were wiped out this year. Their season is done before it even began. Revenue lost and no way to recoupe for the year. The ones that survived, work hard to make sure that the customers still have their produce for the market so we don’t lose that customer base for the year so we weed, water, and continue to care for the crops and hope and pray! By now we are in July and August and we are rewarded with beautiful vegetables!! Healthy, vibrant, beautiful veggies!! We made it, we made it! Remember when you visit your local farmers market, ask that farmer how they raised that product for you. They did it with pride! Excited to share what they did with you! So ask them, encourage them, and thank them! You will definitely make their day. They won’t remember the hardships they went through because they will be proud! 

As always, we leave you with our tagline Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food. But also, thank your farmer.

First Crop of Hay

You know what I am going to talk about right? HAY! Of course I am going to talk about hay. It is July! We are farmers! Mother Nature is cooperating! The first crop of hay is almost in the record books for the year. Over the course of about a month, we have been able to cut, rake, and bale 400 round bales. That is phenomenal for us. Not all of this is for us. We sell some, bale for others, but most of it is our hay which is a big weight off our shoulders knowing that our animals have quality hay for the winter months ahead. Once Fall arrives, we start to clear out the barns of all the old bedding and manure and spread this out on all the fields we just baled. This ensures we are never stripping all the nutrients out of the ground. We want to make sure that what we take out is put back twofold. It is important to us, the environment, and our animals. Pretty much what I would call full circle. Nothing goes to waste on this farm.

We are starting to harvest from the garden which means we get to share our produce with our customers. We bring the majority to the farmers market but we love to have people come out and pick right from the garden. Harvest what they need for their supper and go home knowing you are putting food in front of your family that is as fresh as it can be. Cucumbers, kohlrabi, tomatoes, and swiss chard have made it to our table. I don’t know about you, but my favorite part of the garden is when I can make a tomato sandwich. That is summer to me! We plant mostly non GMO, heirloom seeds so we have some beautiful tomatoes that are a rainbow of colors – from deep purple to golden yellow (and of course the obvious red). Impressive to say the least. We do eat with our eyes first, right?

Since my last blog, we welcomed another nephew to the family. Brian’s sister gave birth to Gabriel Boyd. We are excited to meet the little guy. It is always hard to decide on gifts for newborns so I always head into the kitchen. What better gift than a few meals to help ease the pressure of those first few weeks. This menu consisted of lasagna, porcupine meatballs, and chicken with gravy. Hearty meals with lots of ingredients raised with our own hands. For us, this is a true gift from our heart and we get as much pleasure about giving this as the new parents are about receiving it. Of course, we threw in a few cookies cause who doesn’t need a little sweet treat after those big dinners!!

As I told you last time, this is jam making season and we cannot complain abou the quality of berries this year. We were fortunate to source organically raised gooseberries. The only form of “pesticide” is the netting they use to prevent birds from eating all the berries. We always say Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food. Well we live that philosophy as much as we preach it. The gooseberries were new to me and I fell in love. They are tart but refreshing. I am probably not doing the taste justice but it was reminiscent of a pink lemonade. They even have the light pink color in the jar. Not only would this be delicious on your morning toast but I could also picture it being stirred into some ginger ale . . . or maybe an adult cocktail with vodka, club soda, and a spoonful of this jam served up in a mason jar. Doesn’t that sound like you should be sitting on the veranda with a light breeze sipping on your drink? Give me a second . . . I can close my eyes and almost hear the sounds of frogs chirping and birds singing. Oh wait, I have the window open so I am hearing the sounds in my own yard. Now where is that drink?

Until next time, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.

Rain, Rain, Rain

Well we seem to have a constant topic of conversation lately here on the farm . . . . when will we ever get our hay all done? Mother Nature just does not seem to want to give us several days in a row of rain free days. We cut one day to sit and dry on the field. The next day we rake into rows, and then finally we can bale. Unfortunately, we have not had those consistent days. But on the positive side (yes, we always need to look on the positive side), the gardens have been growing nicely. We actually had our first cucumbers which for us, is a little early so we were excited. Our family menus have been consisting of pasta side dishes with tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, and basil; Pizza with wilted swiss chard, basil, tomatoes, peppers, and sheep milk mozzarella from our friends up in Bayfield (Happy Hollow); Hamburgers with pesto and a fried egg; Brined pork chops with a side salad. Well you get the idea and maybe I made your stomach growl a little bit. While we grow a lot of veggies, we grow mainly for fresh, farm to table meals. We don’t grow enough for our customers to come and necessarily freeze/can for those cold winter months but more to enjoy several delicious meals . . . to experience the vegetable straight from the garden to your plate. For us, that is what the whole farming experience is about. The spontaneity of cooking fresh with what is available.

We have also started jam making season. I love creating somewhat unusual jams like strawberry margarita, carrot cake, caramel apple, huckleberry, basil. It is definitely fun and since I personally don’t like eating jam on toast, I like to come up with inventive ways to enjoy it. For instance, I like taking ginger ale and adding a couple spoons of jam for a refreshing summer drink or adding ice cream and making it a float. Of course, you can always bake cookies and add jam or a filling in cakes. Some of my jellies such as the basil jelly goes into a barbecue sauce for tasty sweet/tangy lamb meatballs. Or over cream cheese with crackers. The options are endless so no need to just settle for peanut butter and jelly or morning toast with jam. This year, we are excited as we have a source for some new berries such as gooseberries and elderberries. Summer is such a wonderful time to allow my creativity with foods to come to life. You never know what might come out of the kitchen.

Back to our gardens, our newly built greenhouse is proving to be a very worthwhile endeavor. Most of what we build or do here has had a former life. Several years ago we bought a used hoop barn with a roof made out of an old billboard tarp. If you stand inside and look up, you will see a wonderful and colorful advertisement for a recreational beverage. Kind of fun and resourceful. We used this building for many things over the years . . . raising chickens, storing hay, raising lambs, etc. None of it seemed to be a perfect fit so we decided to take half of it down and that is what our current greenhouse is now made of. We removed the tall sidewalls, reinforced the hoops, and then covered with our greenhouse plastic. Put a few garden boxes inside and voila, greenhouse. The storm/tornado that went through a few months ago, knocked out the remaining portion of the hoop house so we are going to take off the billboard cover and work on adding a second greenhouse. Not everything on this farm remains as its original intent. In fact, my joke with my husband when he comes up with an idea is “how long will that stay as is?” 

Now let’s talk a little bit about our favorite greeter here on the farm . . . Sugar. She loves summer and meeting new people who will throw a stick or frisbee her way. She could do this for hours upon hours upon hours. Well since she is such an active participant, we like to trim her up every year to take some of the beautiful fur off but to keep her a little cooler. This is not her most favorite thing. I repeat, not her favorite activity. Between brushing, snipping, and shaving, the yard looked like a snowfall of white fur had happened just at Maple Hill Farm. Fur everywhere! We could have knitted several sweaters! While we never claim to be groomers, she does look much lighter and cooler so if you visit, make sure to tell her how good she looks and don’t mention that her human family should never be allowed to have a set of clippers!

Until next time, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.


The last week has been fun for us as we have had several groups come visit us on the farm. First we had Samuel Thayer, Author and Forager, bring a tour through while they picked out many edible “weeds” that can provide both tasty sources of food as well as many vitamins. We love collaborating with Sam as we learn the many weeds we can start to include in our own diet that just grows without any cultivation. We have an abundance of lambs quarter and decided to saute that up for dinner one night and what a pleasant surprise. Sauteed in a little chicken broth, add a little salt and lemon zest, and it is a wonderful side dish.

Next we had Gigi Stafne, Master Herbalist and Naturopath, visit us with her group of students. They walked the outskirts of our yard and found approximately 15-20 “weeds” to use for medicinal purposes. Who knew that the overabundant weed known as plantain is a wonderful source of helping with bug bites or used as a poultice. Or that burdock roots are a bitter than can be used to help support digestion and liver functions. All I can say is this week was a definite treat. We continue to learn more about foraging for food and medicine and enjoy the aspect of being a little more self sustainable. 

Then Friday and Saturday, Maple Hill Farm was one of the venues for the Art Along the Flambeau. We hosted a blacksmith called Odin’s Forge on Friday. He had his portable forge with him and you could hear him hammering out his designs. Beautiful art that is made with fire and metal – wonderful talent. We also sampled some of the sheep milk cheeses out on our deck. Four family farms supply the sheep milk to Carr Valley Cheese and they then in turn make wonderful varieties of cheeses. The four farms are from Strum, Clear Lake, Weyerhauser, and of course our little farm here in Ladysmith. We also then sampled some cheeses from a little creamery up in Bayfield WI who has become a good friend of ours and he makes delicious cheese as well. We love to support our fellow farmers as we all know farming is a labor of love. You don’t farm to become rich but you do farm for the riches it provides you in many other ways.

We are starting to be able to enjoy some of the garden -- spinach, garlic scapes, a few little tomatoes, lettuce, rhubarb. Mother Nature needs to warm up a bit more but we are enjoying what we can at this moment. Salads are starting to become a ritual and we get creative with the weeds we forage to make it a little more exciting and add a little different taste. Some nights we can make an entire meal out of a salad and be plenty happy. Of course a few little red tomatoes never quite make it into the house as we just grab and enjoy like a piece of candy.

Lastly we ended the week with our nephew’s wedding. Nothing better than family enjoying time together and capturing a few moments just visiting. The groom and his new bride exchanged their vows at the beautiful venue called Worden Avenue Exchange in Ladysmith. A truly work of art in itself – a historic building that has obviously been painstakingly brought back to life by the owner. A true treasure for our area. 

Until next time, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.

Farmer's Market Season Has Arrived!

The last time I left you, we were hoping to make hay if the rain held out. Well we had a glorious few days of making and baling hay. You may have seen our video of Brian’s view from his office . . . which is from the seat of the tractor. It is hard work, but when I am sitting in an office by day, I am jealous of his view. We were able to finish about half of our first crop which is always a relief. But of course, as Brian says, hay is always on the brain during the summer. So now we patiently await the next set of rain free days so we can finish our first crop. We are fortunate enough to have great neighbors within several miles of our farm that allow us to utilize their fields. We fertilize these fields with manure from the farm and reap the benefits of lush hay when the time comes to bale. This hay is what gets us through the long winters. Our cows, sheep, and even the pigs will be enjoying the fruits of labor around November.

Also since the last time I wrote, we have started back at the Bruce and Ladysmith Farmers Markets. The vendors that have their table at the markets, work night and day to bring fresh finds to you. We have vegetable farmers, dairy farmers, foraging experts, bakers, mushroom hunters, and the list keeps growing. It amazes us every time that this little county has such valuable resources. Proud to be part of a hard-working community. Make sure to support your local farmers’ markets wherever you may live. These small business owners are entrepreneurs in their own right and the quality of what they bring you is second to none.

We have also started the Maple Hill Farm Summer sessions. This last week, we had Gigi Stafne, Herbalist and Naturopath, teach a wild herb walk. What does that mean? Well, we were able to walk the perimeter of our yard and find at least 20 different “weeds” that have great medicinal properties. Now this isn’t walking our 40 acres of pasture. This was basically an average size yard and it was amazing the variety of common weeds that we could use to treat various conditions. How wonderful is that to be truly sustainable and learn to use what Mother Nature provides for us. We have quite a few more classes lined up with Gigi, we have a mushroom expert that will be teaching here as well, and then we always enjoy having families come out and visit to see how our farm operation works. During the summer, the babies aren’t as abundant as most would like but the gardens are beautiful, the pigs are lounging in the mud, the turkeys and chickens are in their tractors being moved each day, the cows are lazily sleeping in the shade, the layers are foraging, and the sheep make their way grazing by night. Our hope is that you see the value in visiting to see how we raise our animals and learn the value of small farm operations. 

Speaking of raising animals, I know we told you about our Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) certification. This past week, we went through our random audit again and passed. This is always exciting to hear that we are up to the AWA standards. Below read about their philosohy when they are reviewing farms:

It’s now widely accepted that raising animals intensively – indoors or confined on dirt feedlots – is not only bad for animal welfare, but it’s also harming human health and the wider environment. You only have to look at the headlines about the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, environmental pollution from intensive farming systems, and animal welfare abuses to see that our food system is broken.

The AWA program operates on the simple understanding that the way we raise our animals, the nutritional quality of the meat, milk and eggs they produce, and the impact of farming systems on the environment, are all intrinsically linked. We know that if we manage our animals properly and according to their needs, we don’t have to rely on things like routine antibiotics and other chemical inputs to farm. We know that healthy, content animals produce better tasting, healthier meat, milk and eggs. And we know that pasture-based farming livestock systems can actually have a positive impact on the environment, too.

WHAT DO WE DO? AWA audits, certifies and supports independent family farmers raising their animals according to the highest animal welfare standards, outdoors on pasture or range. Called a “badge of honor for farmers” and the “gold standard,” AWA has come to be the most highly regarded food label when it comes to animal welfare, pasture-based farming, and sustainability.

INTEGRITY We set standards or rules that farmers must follow before they can sell their meat, eggs and dairy products using the AWA logo. Our standards have been developed in collaboration with scientists, veterinarians, researchers, and farmers across the globe to maximize practicable, high-welfare farm management.

Our standards ensure that every AWA-certified farm provides their animals with continual access to pasture or range, as well as the opportunity to perform natural and instinctive behaviors essential to their health and well-being. AWA is one of only two labels in the U.S. that require audited, high-welfare slaughter practices, and is the only label that requires pasture access for all animals. All AWA standards, policies and procedures are available on this website, making our program one of the most transparent certifications available.

Their philosophy fits so well with our own standards that we actually welcome their extensive audits. Proves to us and hopefully to you, that we are doing things the right way. 

Until next time, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.

Making Hay

So it has been a few weeks once again since our last post. In that time, we had a graduation, planted a garden, started making hay, started making jam, and always making soaps, lotions, and other goodies. But summer is all about being busy and loving life!

Graduation was a beautiful day – not too hot, not too cold. Lots of family, friends, and food. Oh and yes, our graduate who celebrated in style by driving his tractor to and from the ceremony (returning in his full cap and gown swaying in the breeze). Could I say no to a kid who is proud of his farm upbringing? To us, it showed us that we are indeed raising our kids right when they want to show off that they were raised on a farm. Both boys will never deny how very different they are from one another but both are proud of their little farm in Rusk County Wisconsin. 

Now that the partying is done, we need to get back to work and that meant getting our garden in. The greenhouse got things started but now Mother Nature needs to take over. Our gardens are mostly all raised beds. We have grown this way for probably 20 plus years. For us, it is easier to weed, allows us to amend the soil in certain gardens, and it looks beautiful . . . who doesn’t love a beautiful garden? We have planted beans, beets, carrots, lettuce, onions, celery, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, kohlrabi, kale, radishes, cucumbers, and the list goes on. Most of our seeds are heirloom variety. Our preference is to utilize non-GMO seeds and make sure we are doing our part in sustainable agriculture.

As I do every week, we continued to make sheep milk soaps, lotions, and made a few new varieities of items. We added a patchouli orange sheep milk soap which is curing as we speak. This will go with the patchouli orange sheep milk lotion that has been a hit. We added a coconut and a mango variety to our natural lip balms. We added a lemon basil sheep milk lotion which will be a nice summer addition. And will be adding lemon basil to the foaming sheep milk hand soap. Often times our products are developed due to customer request and I love the challenge of figuring out how to make it work. So never hesitate to ask us to make something. If I can figure out how to make it naturally, it will usually end up on our list of Maple Hill Farm products – From Our Ewes to You!

Now making hay . . . we are currently blessed with a forecast that looks like multiple dry days in a row. This is the farmer’s dream. One day we cut, next day we dry, and the third day we rake into rows and start baling. If you can get all that done in three days without rain, it is heaven. So keep your fingers crossed that our first cutting of hay goes as planned. As Brian says, in the summer, a farmer is cutting hay, raking hay, baling hay, or thinking about hay!


Until next time, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.

Storm Season

It has been a couple weeks since I was able to write a post . . . and it has been a little chaotic to say the least. As we said in the last blog, we celebrated Mother’s Day at the Shepherd’s Harvest Festival in Lake Elmo MN. A couple days of selling our goods and visiting other vendors that we see a few times throughout the year. We love this event as it is only a few hours from home and most people actually know where our little town of Ladysmith WI is located. 

After returning home, we spent a day unpacking and getting ready for our next adventure . . . a high school graduation. Yep, our youngest is graduating Memorial Weekend. Let’s hope for warm weather . . . and no rain. We have had enough rain over the past week and we are still cleaning up from the Tuesday storm that left many devastated. It started out like any other afternoon but upon my return home from work, we noticed the skies were turning an eery color of green. As we watched the nightly news before milking, it appeared that we were right in its path. As the wind started to whip, we decided to head to the basement. Even Brian, who usually likes to watch the storm, sat in the corner of the basement with us. Hearing what sounded like a train and strong winds pass, we went upstairs. We were definitely the lucky ones. Power was out, several trees missing our milking parlor by inches, and our hoop barn had the side walls blown out. Again, we were the lucky ones. Total devastation in Chetek which is to the west of us and major damage in Weyerhauser, Bruce, and Conrath. First storm of the season was definitely one we don’t want to relive.

Back to the graduation – we are busy cleaning up the yard, a few gardens, and making the list of food for the celebration. Planning on a down home picnic – chicken (raised right here), coleslaw, deviled eggs (cause the girls have given us too many to keep up), fruit salad, beans, and homemade cupcakes from Blue Hills Café in Bruce. YUM! 

Have we ever told you how we make hard boiled eggs from fresh farm eggs? Well it is simple – we steam them. Yes, steam! If you have ever tried to peel a farm fresh egg after boiling them, you may find that the peel sticks and it is not a fun process. We read somewhere to steam the eggs so we put our eggs in a steamer basket above boiling water and let them go for about 12 minutes. From there, we put them in cold water and they are a breeze to peel. Our deviled eggs are simple: Beautiful yolks, mayo, brown mustard, vinegar, and a little salt. Always a family favorite.

Well off to cleaning up the herb garden from the long winter and rainy spring. Until next time, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.

The Honey Bees are here!

May already? Wow, as I get older, the time goes faster. But even though we are so busy, life on the farm is always the best. As I sit here at the kitchen table typing up the blog, the wind is drying our clothes hanging on the line, Sugar is lounging in the sun, customers are shopping, the sheep and cows are grazing on the pasture, and the pigs are lazily wandering around. Doesn’t that paint a picture of bliss? We all know that life isn’t always like this, but I will take it when I can and enjoy it immensely.

As I write this, our bees are getting ready to be put into their hives for the summer. Just in time to pollinate the fruit trees. We are hoping to get our first batch of honey this year. Last year, we left the honey for the bees to use for energy throughout the winter. This worked well until about March when we had a warm, then cold spell that ended up killing the bees. Disheartening to know that they survived the worst of the winter, only to end up dying in the last part of it. But we continue on as bees are a very important part of what we do here on the farm and enjoy the fruits of their labor. A little fact about honey:

Benefits of Honey - Nature's Cough Suppressant

Honey has been used for centuries to help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with a common cold. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, many things can cause a sore throat. These include infections with viruses, such as colds and flu; sinus drainage; allergies; or cigarette smoking, among others. Sore throats caused by bacteria such as streptococci, are usually treated with antibiotics. Always check with your doctor if you have a fever, or if symptoms continue for more than a few days.

Time is the most important healer of sore throats caused by viruses, but for relief of the irritating symptoms, try a spoonful of honey to soothe and coat your throat. Take a spoonful straight, as often as you need, to relieve the irritation. In between, keep up your liquids with a steaming cup of tea sweetened with honey. For added vitamin C, try mixing in orange, grapefruit or lemon juice.

We took a brief break to visit a new store in Rice Lake WI which is now carrying our Maple Hill Farm sheep milk beauty products! Two Sisters Boutique is definitely a place to stop and we sure enjoyed ourselves. Even made a stop by Badger Brew for a much needed and delicious cup of coffee. We love supporting small business owners because truthfully, they are the heart and soul of a community.

Our next big event is Mother’s Day weekend at Lake Elmo MN called Shepherd’s Harvest Festival. So much fun to have a booth, meet new customers, and visit with old acquaintances. This is one of the bigger events we do and it takes weeks to prepare enough product to bring with us. Soaps, lotions, lip balms, foaming soap, bath teas, and milk bath . . . all getting packed and ready to make the trek. It is a fast-paced two days but we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Well, until next time . . . Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Dreaming of Summer

Here we are at the end of April, thinking of flowers, green pastures, budding trees . . . and there is snow in the forecast. What is up with that? Well, Mother Nature is in control so we must learn to adapt and move on. We held our first class of the season on the deck at Maple Hill Farm and it was a full house. The topic was foraging for spring mushrooms. While the weather hasn’t been cooperating and mushrooms are several weeks behind schedule, the class was interesting and full of good takeaways. The class was led by Patrick Miller from Friendly Fungi. Watch for summer and fall mushroom foraging classes to be listed.

Patrick also foraged for ramps (or wild leeks). They are like a spring onion with a garlicky note. Brian and I decided to use up some of our abundance of eggs and made omelets with the ramps (bulb and green leaves chopped), mushrooms (not foraged), and some of our Carr Valley smoked Marissa cheese. Definitely was a full meal and delicious. This only makes us more excited for the growing season to get underway. The new greenhouse was started last fall but it was put on the back burner and finally getting to finishing it. It may be a little later than we anticipated but still should be able to utilize it this year. Last year we had put in an herb garden and shortly we will have to start cleaning it up and seeing what has survived and what might need replanting. It was definitely a labor of love last year and hoping that we utilize it more this year. It was fun to be able to go cut a few things, put them in a pitcher of water and then chill it to enjoy flavorful tasting water. I have been trying many items lately that have lavender in them (coffee, scones, etc.) and definitely want to see what I can do with it in my kitchen.

While I dream of the greenhouse being completed and the herb garden blooming, I leave you with a recipe that we found online and are going to be trying . . . pickled ramps:


Yield: 3 pint jars of pickled ramps, depending on size and age.

• 1 lb Ramp Bulbs, trimmed of their taproot, red portion of the stem still attached.

• 3 cups water

• 1 T kosher or sea salt

• 1/2 Cup sugar

• 1.5 cups apple cider vinegar, or champagne vinegar, or simply white vinegar.

• 1 bunch of fresh dill

• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger



• 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed

• 1 teaspoon whole allspice

• 1 teaspoon black peppercorns



1. Toast the spices on medium heat in a saute pan until aromatic, then cool and reserve.

2. Remove the leaf at the part of the stem were it turns red. Leaving the red stems on the ramps ensures you a beautiful pickle liquid with a pink hue.

3. When you have trimmed the leaves, next remove the thin layer of viscous tissue on the outside of the bulb. Remove this, also trimming off the taproot where it connects to the base of the ramp bulb.

4. If you want to preserve the leaves for future use, blanch the leaves in boiling salted water and then shock in ice water to preserve their color. From here they can be frozen as is, or pureed to make pesto, vinaigrette, or whatever.

5. Heat the water, salt and sugar, ginger, dill and spices on low heat in a pot with a lid wide enough to accommodate the ramps.

6. When the mixture starts to steam and is hot, (about five minutes) place the ramps in and cover, making sure the cover is on tight. Steam the ramp bulbs for 5 minutes like this, just until they wilt a bit, but are still crunchy and raw in the middle.

7. After the ramps are par cooked, add the vinegar. If you wish to can the pickled ramps, you may pack pint jars full of this mixture and process them in a water bath canner for 15 minutes.

8. Alternatively, store the ramps covered in their liquid in your fridge. Provided that the ramps are always completely covered by liquid, they will last pretty much forever, at least until next ramp season.



Spring Cleaning

While we shift our attention to an upcoming high school graduation for our youngest son, we take time to reflect on how busy life gets. While life on the farm and operating a business can be chaotic, we also know that our children are better for having lived this life. It has taught them how to work hard, how to enjoy nature, how to appreciate what you have, and they have also learned that life isn’t always easy. While we have made sacrifices, we know that our life here on the farm has made us all better. 

In addition to getting ready for Brandon’s graduation, we also are preparing for his last County Fair in August. While that sounds like a long time away, we needed to purchase a couple feeder pigs for him to raise and show at the Fair. So that means we needed to get the piglets now. You may wonder why we had to purchase piglets when we have so many right here. Well, April 29 is the first weigh in for fair animals and of course, we are always running a little behind on everything and unfortunately all our pigs would have been too big for this initial weigh in. We now have two little cute piglets who seem to enjoy getting out of their pen and sleeping with the lambs. Numerous times, Brian has went into the barn and couldn’t find the pigs. After searching several places, he found them curled up with a few lambs. We have decided that we must have the infamous “flying pigs” because we cannot figure out how they get out all the time. Maybe we should put a monitor in the barn to see the escape artists in action???

Brian has been working on cleaning out the beehive and getting ready for our new bees to arrive within a couple weeks. We unfortuntely did not have good luck with overwintering the bees but we are definitely not giving up. We loved having them last year and really noticed the difference with pollination of our fruit trees. He has also been taking advantage of the beautiful weather this week to continue to clean out the bedding pack from the winter and spreading it on the fields to help feed the pastures. I would say he is about quarter of the way done but what is complete, looks awesome.

Another reason our pastures look nice and lush are because our chickens enjoy roaming as we graze them. They in turn leave us beautiful eggs and in honor of that, we have been enjoying many deviled eggs and egg salad sandwiches. Many people always tell us how hard it is to peel fresh hard boiled eggs. Well, Brian is a faithful Public Radio listener, and the show stated that if you steam them, they turn out perfect and are easy to peel. That is now the only way we do it. Simply put your fresh eggs in a steamer and let them go for about 10-12 minutes. Take them out and put in cold water. They peel like a dream. 

As always, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.

We've Been Busy

You may have noticed that we did not post a blog last week. We were busy showcasing products made from Wisconsin’s sheep dairy farmers at Cheesetopia in Minneapolis MN and were unable to get a post written in time. So we will double up this week and give you some great reading on our past two weeks.

We belong to an organization called Sheep Dairy Association of Wisconsin (SDAW) and were honored to be able to show off the wonderful products coming from Wisconsin at the Aria in Minneapolis. It is a beautiful venue that was an old warehouse renovated into an extravagant place to host events such as Cheesetopia. We were surrounded by many cheesemakers from the Midwest along with other tasty treats. It was a fun afternoon for us and we may have come home with a bag full of goodies for ourselves too . . . we deserve it, right? We saw booths with a wide variety of cheeses, charcuterie, olive oils, and our booth had WI sheep milk cheeses, sheep milk to drink, sheep milk ice cream, and our lotions/soaps. The lotions/soaps were probaby a little out of place for the venue but hey, we are proud of our product and it is another way to utilize the rich milk.

Back on the farm, we have been moving our animals out onto pasture. It is so fun to watch the lambs and ewes jump around as they run. The chickens have been laying like crazy. And the pigs are making their way around a few acres. The cows have been content but I am sure they are waiting patiently for the grass to grow more. Then we can start rotating them around the pasture. We have also been cleaning out the deep bedding from the chicken coop where our layers were housed during the winter months. Their bedding then goes into the manure spreader and out onto the fields that our neighbors graciously allow us to hay. If you are wondering what the term “deep bedding” means, it is a method of allowing the bedding to become a good source of compost that doesn’t require us to clean the coop weekly. Instead of cleaning it out often, we simply put a clean layer of bedding on top of the old every week. By not removing the waste matter, good microbes make their home in the bedding. These microbes break down the feces and leave good bacteria behind. It is a fascinating concept and works with our lambs as well. Another added value is it actually heats the area keeping the animals quite toasty in those cold winter months.

We continue to welcome visitors to come see the baby lambs and we have been blessed to be able to accommodate their need for cuteness. Bottles are still being fed and surprisingly, we still have about ten ewes that need to lamb yet which means babies still need to make their appearance.

Our next big news that happened was we achieved our AWA certification. AWA is Animal Welfare Association. We were excited by the concept of being audited and able to show that we care as much about our animals as we say we do. They have very stringent requirements and after almost a year, we received the news! For us, this is just one more layer of Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.


Finally, we have been busy watering seeds and watching the new sprouts appear and this makes us anxious for the gardening season. As I write this, I can look out my window and watch the grass get greener and that is heaven to us. I am thankful for every day that we live on this farm and so happy that you chose to join us in this journey. If you ever have questions or want to learn more, let us know. We love to educate and your questions make us more knowledgeable as well.