Tag Archives: Milk

Choose Life — Support Small Family Farms


Years ago, after I’d first written Shenandoah Watercolors, my nonfiction book about the joys and trials of life on our small dairy farm in the Shenandoah Valley, Mom showed the manuscript to a local historian. He said I’d beautifully captured a vanishing way of life and that this book must be published. His insistence, coupled with the term ‘vanishing way of life’, gained my attention. I knew it was hard for small farmers to hold on with mounting pressure from the broader dairy industry, unregulated imports, and the growth of mega farms, but I didn’t realize we faced extinction.

Irregardless of our fate, the consumer will always have dairy products, but are they of the quality you desire?

Have you heard of Milk Protein Concentrates, also called MPC’s? There’s scary stuff sneaking into food, we need to become aware of and speak out against.

cows grazing in pasture

(Cows in our meadow by daughter Elise Trissel)

From Food and Water Watch:

“Unregulated imports of cheap milk protein concentrates are driving down the price of domestically produced milk and putting American dairy farmers out of business. And fewer American dairy farmers mean fewer choices for consumers, who are seeing increasing amounts of MPCs’ new, unregulated protein source‚ in their food supply.

MPCs’ are created by putting milk through an ultra-filtration process that removes all of the liquid and all of smaller molecules including the minerals that the dairy industry touts as being essential for good nutrition.

What is left following the filtration is a dry substance that is very high in protein and used as an additive in products like processed cheese, frozen dairy desserts, crackers and energy bars. Because MPCs’ are generally produced as a dry powder, exporters can ship the product long-distances very cheaply, and almost all of the dry MPCs’ used in America are imported.”

Visit the above link for more on MPC’s, not inspected or subject to the quality standards demanded of American dairy farmers. Check your labels carefully.

farmer-field

(Harvesting rye in the valley by my mother, Pat Chuchman)

My question is, do you care where your milk and other food comes from?  Are you concerned about the quality of what you’re feeding yourselves and your families? If so, then support your local farmers. We’re a dying breed.

Back to our farm which has been in the family for five generations. To try to preserve our way of life, we banded together with 20 other farmers in 2013 to form Shenandoah Family Farms Cooperative. Our goal: to purchase our own creamery and sell local natural milk and other dairy products from our farms to appreciative consumers. Nothing tastes as good, or is as good for you, as milk fresh from happy cows grazing in grassy meadows. We’re as picturesque and idyllic as the hobbits in the ShireBut a growing shadow hangs over us.

Farm garden image

(Our farm garden by daughter Elise Trissel)

Marketing our own dairy line was a great concept, and our products were very well received by the public. The work farm families poured into this venture is beyond description, No one could have tried harder to succeed than this group, but the creamery was too costly to run on our own. We failed to gain vital investors and co-packers. In mid-January 2015, after less than one year of actual production, Shenandoah Family Farms was forced to close. Our products are no longer offered. Instead of better helping our farm(s) to survive, we have further endangered ourselves. Our story is woeful, indeed. Barring a tidal wave of support, we’re not going to recover.

children with farmer in meadow

(Our farmer son and grandbabies by daughter Elise)

If you want to help the Trissel farm family and learn more of our lives, buy my book, Shenandoah Watercolors, available in kindle and print with lovely pictures taken by my talented family. There’s also much in here of interest to gardeners, to anyone who loves the country and a more natural life style.

Our beautiful valley. For now. Some things are worth fighting for, some things worth saving. If this isn’t, I don’t know what is.

Image of the Shenandoah Valley in early spring by my mom.

The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in spring

***Disclaimer: I am speaking as an individual farm owner and NOT as the official spokesperson for Shenandoah Family Farms Cooperative. .I am entitled to a voice. This is my post and mine alone.

I’m Gonna Sell Ice Cream–No Seriously! Beth Trissel


Shenandoah Family Farms -image.jpg3This is a historic day for our family and 20 other dairy farmers in the Shenandoah Valley as we realized a huge step in our dream to market our own dairy products. Banding together, we purchased the former Unilever ice cream plant in Hagerstown, MD, a two-hour drive from the valley. Today, we assumed full ownership, visited the plant to begin readying it, and held a press conference. The city officials of Hagerstown are very welcoming, and we look forward to working together with this supportive community.

Under the label Shenandoah Family Farms, we hope to market our own natural, locally produced milk and ice cream in late fall and expand product lines as our company grows. My husband Dennis (Company President) has worked tirelessly toward this goal, as have many other farmers and business advisers who’ve given generously of their time. So, if you live within a 250 mile radius of Hagerstown, MD (as the crow flies, so a larger area than you might think) look for natural, sustainable, locally produced dairy products coming soon, from us to you. ***Please ‘like us’ on Facebook!  Also visit our website and fill out the form to request our products from your local stores! And hugs all around. 

Shenandoah Family Farms -image

Old Time Mennonite Apple Dumplings


Autumn is the season of apples, all kinds, colors, sweet, tangy, mild, or full of flavor, and it’s the perfect time of year to make apple dumplings.  This is an old recipe from The Mennonite Community Cookbook.

6 Medium Sized Baking Apples, 2 cups of flour, 2 1/2 tsps. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2/3 cup shortening,  1/2 cup milk.

Sauce:  2 cups brown sugar, 2 cups water, 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon or nutmeg

Pare and core apples.  Leave whole. To make pastry sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Cut in shortening until particles are the size of small peas. Sprinkle milk over mixture and press together lightly, working dough only enough to hold together. Roll dough as for pastry and cut into six squares and place an apple on each. Fill cavity in apple with sugar and cinnamon. Pat dough around apple to cover completely. Fasten edges together securely on top of apple.  Place dumplings 1 inch apart in a greased baking pan.

Pour the sauce over them made as follows:  Combine brown sugar, water and spices in stove top pan.  Cook for five minutes.  Remove from heat and add butter.

Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes. Baste occasionally during baking. Serve hot with rich milk or cream.  Savor.

Homemade Yogurt


Contributed by Barbara Monajem~

Ingredients: 1 quart/liter of milk and one-fourth cup/250 ml. plain yogurt

Quantities in this recipe are approximate. What works depends largely on the potency of the yogurt you use, and you’ll only know that by trying it out. I used Chobani Greek Yogurt, but many brands will do as long as they contain active cultures–the one I used has five different kinds of yogurt bacteria–and NO THICKENERS such as starch, gelatin, pectin, guar gum, etc. etc. If there are enough yogurt bacteria doing their job, the yogurt will be reasonably thick on its own. If they’ve used a thickener, chances are there aren’t enough bacteria in there.

Scald the milk –- i.e. heat it up, but take it off the stove just before it climbs the sides of the pan and makes a huge mess.

Pour the milk into a glass or ceramic container with a lid. (Don’t put the lid on yet – that’s for later.) Cool the milk to around 110-115 degrees F. It helps to use a thermometer the first few times until you can tell the approximate temperature by dipping your finger in. My little finger works best, perhaps because it’s less desensitized than the others.

Stir the yogurt into the milk. Cover with the lid, wrap in a blanket (two layers is good), and put it somewhere warm. All I mean by warm is somewhere not cold. In my house at this time of year, anyplace will do because I don’t have good A/C. In the winter, I’d put it somewhere sheltered in the warmest room of the house.

Open it 24 hours later, and you should have yogurt. If you don’t, or if the yogurt is too liquid… hmm. You might want to try adding more yogurt next time, or try a different brand, or keep the container in a warmer place. Once you’ve unwrapped the yogurt, store it in the fridge.

Next time, use some of your homemade yogurt as a starter. It should work fine, but again, results vary. Over the course of time, your batches may become stronger and more sour, and even develop quite a bite, so if that doesn’t appeal to you, you can always start over with a milder yogurt from the store.

Kitten Rescue


My youngest daughter, Elise, and I found a bedraggled black kitten in a murky corner of the old red barn huddled beside an ancient water trough. Hay was stuck to its fur and its head slick in places from a calf’s sympathetic tongue. We carried the mewing puff ball down to the house and gave it a bath. Being mostly fur, it shrank considerably in the water and nearly disappeared.

After drying this soggy specimen of catdom, we bundled it up in an old towel and fed it the formula concocted by a local vet for orphan kittens: one cup whole milk, one teaspoon of vegetable oil, one egg yolk, whisk well and warm. Sometimes I use a tiny bottle, but this baby is old enough to lap and downed the lot I had poured into a shallow lid. We filled a canning jar with hot water, screwed the lid on tightly and tucked our swaddled charge beside the improvised water bottle back in the small closet in the laundry room.

Assorted farm coats, jeans and shirts hang on hooks up above and brush our heads as we kneel to peer into this den-like place. There’s nothing dogs like better for a bed than a worn coat with that barn smell still clinging to it, cozily tucked back into this closet. Cats prefer sunbeams but will make do. I’ve spent many hours on my knees helping to birth puppies, fuss over their care and tend kittens. Countless kittens and puppies, tiny terriers that could fit in a shoe box, medium size dogs and dogs that have grown too big but are still attached, have called this comforting space home. The narrow walls are gnawed and deeply grooved from the many inhabitants over the years. Every household should have such a place.

Fortunately our rescue dog, Mia, also likes her bed in the dining room because she cannot be trusted to kitten-sit. The formula rapidly dwindles. Not only that, she’s afraid of kittens. Silly, silly Mia. The kitten does not yet have a name because if you name a creature that implies that it’s staying, which this one very well may be. Sometimes you just need a kitten.

Oddly, it would seem that Mia always wanted a kitten of her own after all. She follows the minute puff ball around the kitchen and hovers over it with a worried look. Actually, Mia generally looks worried. I suppose from earlier traumas before we took her in. She has never had a small furry friend though and even tries to play with the kitten as it bounds around the kitchen in great excitement over everything and anything.

My mother made the observation that kittens and other babies can utterly give themselves to play in a way that the rest of us can’t because we’ve had the play smacked out of us by life. Now and then, I think we should all play as unreservedly as possible.

Photograph of a rescue kitten and baby barnyard goose by my mother, Pat Churchman