Fire on the Fourth!

The Farming Daughter: Fire on the Fourth (

35 years ago today marks a Fourth of July my family will never forget. While other families were enjoying the usual Independence Day festivities, my family was experiencing fireworks of a different sort.

The day before, July 3rd, had been good weather, and my dad, Grandpa, Grandma, and Uncle Chuck were busy making hay. By day’s end, they had finished filling the barn hay mow completely full. This is what the farm looked like then:

The Farming Daughter: Fire on the Fourth 1 (
An aerial photograph of our farm before the fire

The next day started like normal, with everyone helping to do morning chores and milking together. Back then we milked our cows in stanchions, which meant that each cow stood in her own stall and the milking machine was brought to her. At 7:30 am the first group of cows had finished being milked and had been let out to pasture.  Just before the second group of cows was let into the milking stalls, someone, either Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Chuck, or Dad, noticed a red glow radiating from the hay mow chute. With a sinking feeling, they all realized what it was. It was one of the worst things a farm can every experience…fire!

Our farm would look idyllic, if it wasn't for the cloud of smoke pouring from our barn
Our farm would look idyllic, if it wasn’t for the cloud of smoke pouring from the barn.

The first thing a farmer thinks of in a situation like that is his cows. The men immediately shooed all of the milking cows out of the barn, and as many of the heifers as they could. Grandma, in the urgency of the situation, forgot there was a telephone in the barn, and dashed to the house to call 911.

I asked my grandparents how long it took for the fire trucks to arrive and they told me it felt like an eternity. The actual time was probably 15-20 minutes, and soon eight fire companies were working hard to put out the blaze.

The Farming Daughter: Fire on the Fourth 3 (

The fire trucks pumped water from our pond to put out the flames:

The Farming Daughter: Fire on the Fourth 4 (

My dad was 15 years old at the time of the fire and I asked him if he was scared. He said there was too much to do to have time to be afraid.

The Farming Daughter: Fire on the Fourth 5 (

Thankfully, all of the milking cows made it out of the barn and all but 4 of the heifers. While it’s heartbreaking that we lost those 4 girls, in truth we were very blessed to have lost so few.

The cows stand in the pasture, completely unaffected by the drama happening behind them.
The cows stand in the pasture,  unaffected by the drama happening behind them.

Whenever I hear the story of the fire what stands out the most to me is the number of people that showed up. Dad tells me how literally hundreds of people came to help. In this photo you can see the barn burning and the dozens of cars lining our road and stretching around the corner:

The Farming Daughter: Fire on the Fourth 7 (

At 1:30 pm, while the barn was still burning, bulldozers and pay loaders began tearing down the wreckage and loading it into dump trucks. The rubble was hauled down the road and dumped behind a generous neighbor’s barn in a pile. A fire truck had to be stationed by the pile to hose the smoking debris so it wouldn’t start on fire again.

The Farming Daughter: Fire on the Fourth 7 (

The Farming Daughter: Fire on the Fourth 9 (

Not only is it sad for me to see the destroyed barn, but also the piles of burned hay that had just been stacked in the mow the day before.

The Farming Daughter: Fire on the Fourth 8 (

Of course just because the barn was on fire didn’t mean the cows didn’t need milked anymore. Don Beck, Inc. came and started putting in a new milking pipeline in an undamaged part of the barn, while the rest of the barn was still burning and and being hauled away. By 7 pm half of the cows were taken to a neighbor’s farm and the other half were being milked in our barn. In the midst of a fire we were milking cows again, without having missed a single milking.

Bec's equipment vans showed up to put in a new milk pipeline
Beck’s equipment vans showed up to put in a new milk pipeline

We never found out for sure what caused the fire. Some speculate a “hot spot” in the new hay or a spark from the hay conveyor could have been the cause. In one day we lost an entire barn, a mow full of hay, 61 stalls, a milk pipeline, and 4 animals. 3 months later the barn was completely built back.

The Farming Daughter: Fire on the Fourth 11 (
The old barn and the new

To me the story of our barn fire illustrates some of the core values of the farming community: the courage of the firefighters that risked their lives to save the rest of our barns and our house, the neighbors that came from miles to lend a helping hand, the generosity of fellow farmers offering their barns and equipment, and the indomitable spirit of my uncle, grandparents, and father when they chose not to accept defeat, but to pick up the pieces and rebuild.

The Fourth of July barn fire is just a small part of my family’s story, but the lessons it taught are not. What have you learned from your family history?


-The Farming Daughter

Valentine Flats

Far have I traveled and much have I seen,

Dark distant mountains with valleys of green.

“Mull of Kintyre” by Paul McCartney

Dear me! I’m rather far behind posting about some of the adventures I’ve been having. I think I’ve just been too busy having the adventures (and working on the farm, and being a big sister, etc.) to post about them. I’ll attempt to post about what I’ve been up to, starting today with a day hike I did in April.

I went hiking, together with two of my brothers (Marcus and Mason), my cousin Christopher, and our family friend Professor Allan, to Valentine Flats, a part of the 3,014 acre Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area. I had never been there before, but after seeing the steep cliffs, waterfalls, and the creek I absolutely plan on going back.

After meeting up with the rest of our group, we hiked down the steep trail leading into the gorge. Sixty years ago there used to be a farm on the flat land in the valley, and this trail was the former access road to the farm. It was amazing to see how thick and tangled the trees were in an area that had not long ago been cleared farm land. All that remained was the stone foundation of the farm house and a bit of the barn foundation. It reminds me of a verse from Ecclesiastes that says, “A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.”

The abandoned house foundation.
The abandoned house foundation.

After the farmhouse ruins, we hiked through the woods and flat flood plain to the Cattaraugus Creek. Near the upper end of the flats we saw a plain tombstone marked “Thomas Dutton”. In the fall of 1826, Thomas Dutton was traveling near the creek on his way to Ashford and was, presumably, drowned. His body was found washed ashore the next spring about 1600 feet downstream. It was impossible for the coroner, Ahaz Allen, to determine, but it was reputed that since the $400 and silver watch Thomas had been carrying were never found he had been killed by a thief.

Thomas Dutton's tombstone
Thomas Dutton’s tombstone

The area of the creek that we saw was at the confluence of the south and main branches of Cattaraugus Creek.

Valentine Flats: Cattaraugus Creek (

Mason, Christopher, and Marcus
Mason, Christopher, and Marcus
Christopher and Mason
Christopher and Mason
The boys and I
The boys and I

This was the second hike that I used my new Columbia Vixen day pack. I am in love with it and hope to do a review post soon.

Valentine Flats: New day pack (

The cliffs
Some of the cliffs in Zoar Valley are over 400 feet tall.

Marcus is going on a week long backpacking trip in July so he wore his new Jansport Klamath pack to test it out. Mr. Allan decided to try it on for size too.

Marcus and Professor Allan
Marcus and Professor Allan

While we were down at the creek we saw a group of white water rafters float past. It looked exciting and fun; I hope to do it some day!

Valentine Flats:  White Water Rafters in Cattaraugus Creek (

Valentine Flats: Posing near the cliffs (

Valentine Flats: Cattaraugus Creek (

While we were hiking Mr. Allan, ever the instructive professor, amused and engrossed me by expounding on the difficulties the first settlers faced when journeying through these dense woods. He had me imagine what it would be like to be a pioneer wife traveling with my husband and several young children, with all of our scanty possessions in one wagon. It was much easier to envision myself struggling through this arduous terrain when I was actually walking in it myself.

How would one get a wagon and ox team down this hill?
How would you get a wagon and ox team down this hill?!

I also noticed these Red Trillium and Coltsfoot blooming. It was so nice to see flowers again finally!

Red Trillium
Red Trillium
Coltsfoot (Tuissilago farfara)

Valentine Flats: Hiking

I had a great time at Valentine Flats and would definitely recommend the trail to others!

-The Farming Daughter

150th Appomattox

150th Appomattox (

Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, not the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond; — was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?

“The Passing of the Armies” by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Last month, Addie and I attended the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Appomattox Court House and the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. It was slightly bittersweet, not only for the events we were portraying, but also because this is one of the last sesquicentennial reenactments. However, we were able to meet up with some reenacting friends, participate in some special scenarios, and in general had a lovely time.

The obligatory photo of Addie’s tresses…her hair is getting so long!

150th Appomattox: Addie's Hair (

When planning our meals I decided I wanted to try something new. Allison had told me about cooking “standing meat pies” at Genesee Country Village and they sounded interesting. Then I found this recipe and video from James Townsend & Sons and decided to give it a try. The crust has the same ingredients as a regular pie crust, but you boil the butter and water and knead the dough vigorously. This makes the crust strong and tough. You can eat it if you choose, but the main purpose is to have a sturdy, portable, individual sized bowl and lid.

150th Appomattox: Standing meat pies (

James Townsend recommends pork shoulder for the filling, but I used a cubed ham steak instead. I also opted to use unflavored gelatin, a bullion cube, and water for the lear (gravy) instead of a boiled pig’s foot.

h Appomattox: Dinner of standing meat pies (

I made the pork pies at home, and then we rewarmed them for dinner in the dutch oven. A rather gusty rainstorm came as we were just about to eat, so we hastened to the tent to consume our supper.

150th Appomattox: Eating Dinner (

This is what happens when your creative little sister is bored being stuck in the tent waiting for the rain to stop…she makes flowers out of her apron.

150th Appomattox: Boredom makes creativity (

Saturday evening we were privileged to participate in a scenario serving rations to the Confederate troops. When the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered the troops had not eaten for several days. General Grant agreed to supply food, and sent 25,000 rations to the starving soldiers. As far as I know, the rations were not fresh ham, soft bread, and hot coffee served by ladies at tables covered in tablecloths, but it was nice to be able to be a part of the event and celebrate the re-union of a divided nation.

150th Appomattox: Feeding the Confederates (

150th Appomattox: Feeding the Confederates 2 (
Photo by Julianne Herman

Here is a sketch by British illustrator Alfred Waud, who was actually at the surrender, of Union and Confederate soldiers sharing rations:

150th Appomattox: Sharing rations (
“The soldiers sharing rations” by Alfred Waud from Library of Congress

After serving rations Addie and I went to the dance. The issue with this reenactment was (like most of the big 150th events) everything was very far away. We counted our steps and it was over 1/4 mile just to walk to the bathrooms and back! There were no shuttles to get to the dance so we had to walk over a mile there and a mile back.

The next morning we had agreed to help repeat the ration scenario at the  Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. After the dance we tumbled into bed around midnight and slept until my abominable alarm jerked us out of our slumber at 4 am. We seriously considered if this was worth waking up for, but we decided it was a once in a lifetime event and hurriedly dressed. It took us exactly 1 hour, which for 2 girls to get fully dressed in 19th century garb, in a tent, in the pitch black, and do our hair was quite a speed record in my opinion!

I thought the park would just be the court house and Wilmer McLean’s house (where the surrender took place) but it’s actually a entire restored village of the town of Appomattox Court House. I highly recommend visiting if you’re ever in the area.
150th Appomattox: Breakfast Rations for the Confederates (

150th Appomattox: Breakfast Rations for the Confederates 2 (

Addie serving coffee:

150th Appomattox: Addie serving coffee (
Photo by Julianne Herman

When we returned to camp we ate breakfast and then Addie decided to take a nap. The guys wanted her to come watch the surrender ceremony but she decided she could “only go to some many once-in-a-lifetime events in one day”. I decided I would go though, and hiked another mile to the shuttle that would take us back to Appomattox Court House.

The guys formed up:
150th Appomattox: Our Bucktails (

I don’t think I can sufficiently describe what the surrender ceremony was like. Part of that is probably because I was wandering around in a sleep-deprived fog, but also because moments like that have to be experienced to be understood. I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to all of the soldiers who participated. This scenario could have come off as contrived, affected, or hollow, but instead the level of professionalism and focus to authentically recreating the actual event made for an emotionally moving display. Especial thanks is due to the Confederate reenactors. You guys have an incredible knowledge and understanding of what the real Southern soldiers went through, and I’m sure this was difficult for some of you to perform. I saw tears in the eyes of many of both the “boys in gray” and the “boys in blue”.

The Confederates marching up through the Union lines:

150th Appomattox: Confederate surrender ceremony 1 (

Forming up into ranks:

150th Appomattox: Confederate surrender ceremony 2 (

Stack arms for the last time:

150th Appomattox: Confederate surrender ceremony 3 (

Marching away:

150th Appomattox: Confederate surrender ceremony 4 (

A few of my guys:

150th Appomattox: Our 42nd PA Bucktails (

Sgt. Clarence:

150th Appomattox: Sgt. Clarence (


And this is what happens when you dance all night, get only 4 hours of sleep, feed 500 Confederates, and walk 10 miles:

150th Appomattox: Tuckered out ( Farming Daughter



(Header photo is the Wilmer McLean house from Library of Congress.) 

Hello, My Name Is…

Hello My Name Is... How we name cows on our farm (


Did you know that every cow on our farm has a name?

This is my calf, True-North Shan Poppy-RED PO, or “Poppy” for short.

Poppy: Hello My Name Is... How we name cows on our farm (

Each of our cows is “registered” with a breed association. Their identification, genealogy, owners, and genetic information is recorded and a certificate of registration is given to us. Just like all of our cows, Poppy was given a unique name when she was registered. Here is a picture of Poppy’s registration paper:

Poppy's Registration Paper: Hello My Name Is...How we name cows on our farm (

So how do we decide on our cows’ names, and why are they so long?

Every cows’ name starts with something called a “prefix”. Most farms have their own registered prefix that they use when registering all of their cattle. My family farm’s prefix is Richmond-FD  (it stands for Richmond Farms Dairy) and almost all of our cows have names beginning with that. A few years ago I applied for my own personal prefix to use for my cows. My prefix is True-North, and only cows where I am listed as the original owner (called the breeder) can have a name that starts with it. Prefixes are quite neat because it helps you instantly recognize who the breeder of the cow was. Some prefixes, like Regancrest, Budjon, Hanover Hill, and Round Oak have become legendary.

So now we know why Poppy’s name starts with True-North, what about the next part? Well, we usually try to incorporate parts of both the sire’s (father’s) and dam’s (mother’s) name into the offspring’s name. Since Poppy’s sire’s name is Alampco Shanosber I put Shan in Poppy’s name as a nod to her sire.  

Poppy's sire: Hello My Name Is...How we name cows on our farm
Poppy’s sire (dad): Alampco Shanosber (from the Alampco website)

The “Poppy” part of Poppy’s name took some consideration. We often choose a theme to name each cow family tree after. Poppy’s family theme is flowers. Her dam (mother) is named Jonquil, her grand-dam (grandmother) was named Sunflower, and her great-grand-dam (great-grandmother) was named Daisy. I decided on “Poppy” because, not only is it one of my favorite flowers, but since Poppy has red spots, I thought a red flower name would be perfect for that.

The last part of Poppy’s name, the RED and PO, are suffixes added by the breed association. RED indicates that Poppy is a special kind of Holstein known as “Red & White” and has red spots instead of black. The PO is an abbreviation for “polled”. Polled means that an animal is naturally without horns, and will never grow them.

True-North Shan Poppy-RED PO.

Now you know how we name the cows on our farm. Their care is important to us, even down to the little detail of naming!


-The Farming Daughter

P.S. I apologize to all of you who received the email notification several days ago before the post was finished. I accidentally hit “publish” prematurely. 😛 

“Ain’t We Got Fun” Cover Reveal

Ain't We Got Fun Cover Reveal

My friend Emily Ann (author of It Took a War) is publishing another book with her friend Emily Chapman! The story was originally featured on their blogs as a series of letters between two sisters during the Great Depression. Now, the letters are being released in book format on May 25th!

1935: It was never much of an issue for Bess: living contentedly on her family’s farm, despite the Depression which loomed around them. But when her older sister Georgiana takes off to New York City to make a fortune and help Papa out, feelings of adventure and wanderlust strike Bess at home. Through their lively letter correspondence, the sisters recount to one another their adventures, surprises, and heartaches, leaving little room for depression. For in a world of such wonder, ain’t we got fun?

Author Emily Ann Putzke

Emily Ann Putzke and Gi Rowland have two big things in common – their love for God and coffee. Besides writing historical fiction, Emily enjoys being an aunty, photography, Irish dancing, spending time with family, attempting to play the guitar, reenacting, and reading. She loves polka dots, war movies, and all things vintage. Her first novella, It Took a War, was published in December of 2014.


Author Emily Chapman

EMILY CHAPMAN, also known as Bess Rowland, is a young hobbit living in the dear old South, and she is entirely bonkers. She’s a dreamer, an optimistic pessimist, and an introverted people person. Blue skies, dancing, Disney, and whipped cream make her happy, and she swears she’s been to Narnia. She’s been a reader all her life, became a writer because of that, and published her first novel, Cry of Hope, in March of 2014. But without her Savior, all of this would mean nothing. It is in Him that she puts her hope. “And hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out His love into hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” – Romans 5: 5

Now He Belongs to the Ages

Sesquicentennial of the death of Abraham Lincoln Poem


Today marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln. As a tribute I have written this poem:


Now He Belongs to the Ages


Our country rejoices in peace come at last,

Now avarice and strife are confined to the past.

The sword it is shivered and there in its stead,

The olive branch waves o’er the field of the dead.


The four years long struggle is finally done,

The dark night is finished and bright dawns the sun,

The cannons have ceased their deafening roar,

While the shriek of the fife resounds never more.


Our banner victorious, we broke tyranny’s chain,

And joined North and South together again.

Exult all ye people, from East to the West,

We have withstood the fires and passed through the test!


But what is this shadow that’s lending its pall,

And turned sweetest vict’ry to bitterest gall?

The loathsome assassin has fired a blow,

That found its dread mark and laid our Chief low.


The Jubilee is quenched on this blackest of days,

And hope fallen cold where our brave Captain lays.

The time of our triumph intended for gladness,

Is drained of its joy and instead changed to sadness.


How little we valued while he was yet ours,

And failed to acknowledge the strength of his powers.

When he was among us, his greatness too near,

Now that he’s left us the truth becomes clear.


He was man of the people and yet stood alone,

Whom many have seen, but little have known.

Open and frank, yet guarded, contained,

Laughingly cheerful mixed with sadness and pain.


He was kind and forgiving, but solid and steady,

Deliberate and patient, yet active and ready,

Humble of character and humble of birth,

That belied his significance and obscured his worth.


Oh anomaly of men! Our comprehension failed,

Until his spirit had already passed through the veil.

Now he is counted among the rulers and sages,

He is no longer ours, now he belongs to the ages.


-Michaela Richmond

April 15, 2015