Late Summer 2019

Late summer on the farm is a time of transition. Since we don’t use pesticides, some of our tomatoes and sensitive summer vegetables finally start to succumb to blight and pests. Some things we succession plant, so we will continue to harvest until frost, but other things have simply retreated for the year. Soon it will be time to compete with the squirrels as we gather black walnuts for future dying projects and baking!

Ben has been busy with the ongoing task of improving infrastructure for the sheep and cows. Our strong commitment to maintaining grassfed and finished livestock plays a huge role in how we invest in fencing.  Every post has been hand dug/tamped/driven, every inch of wire strung by hand. It is exhausting work, but greatly appreciated.


Grazing will greatly improve the health of the soil and promotes the health of our ruminants. The chickens, ever the opportunists, follow the flock as they graze around the farm. They eat the bugs the sheep disturb as they graze, reducing our feed costs while adding necessary protein to their diet. They also find their way into the cow pasture. In their pursuit of food, their scratching up cow patties distributes nutrients and reduces flies.

Additionally, our choice not to use chemical fertilizers means that we leave the task of adding nutrients to the soil to the ruminants and plants themselves. Improvements are slow, but our animals are healthy and gain well on grass, so we know that we are headed in the right direction.  After we have built a bare-bones fencing system, our future plans include cross fencing and a poly wire system to improve rotational grazing capabilities.

In other news, we have greatly enjoyed connecting with the Ashland, KY community at the KDMC Farmer’s Market! It has been amazing meeting so many people committed to supporting local farmers and who want to know where their food comes from. We get many questions about fiber, food, and how we care for our animals. It has been a pleasure to meet lots of new folks who now enjoy using our soap and has been humbling to hear stories of how much people are enjoying our products. We have had several people inquire about lamb; we hope to increase our flock numbers and make more lamb available for the community. Please contact us to be added to the waiting/contact list for lamb. Thank you for your interest and support!

Fiber friends, thank you for your patience as we wait for this year’s shearing! Many are chomping at the bit for Tarheelbilly Farm’s Tunis roving and yarn. We hope to hear something soon from the various mills we used this year!

Soon we will have our fall soaps back in stock. Look for apple pie spice and pumpkin in early September. We are also playing around with new soap packaging ideas. We do not want to increase prices on the soap but we would like to reduce our plastic usage, so please bear with us as we try our a few new ideas. Also coming up, we’ll have samples of winter/holiday soaps that will be available for preorder next month. The KDMC market ends October 31! We will be happy to take bulk and custom orders to ensure our loyal customers won’t run out before the 2020 farmer’s market season.


Thank you again to customers and friends new and old. We appreciate your support!




Maple in July: 6 Ways to use maple this summer

Mid summer is often not the time when most people crave maple syrup! Folks are often more interested in honey, nature’s summertime sweetener.

We often think of maple as a late winter treat. In our everyday experiences, maple syrup is most often relegated to breakfast, enjoyed on pancakes and waffles. These days, many people don’t get to enjoy maple syrup at all, as quite a few people have developed intolerance to gluten or are limiting their consumption of grain for other health reasons.

What are some other ways to enjoy maple syrup? Well, it isn’t just for pancakes or waffles! Here are a few ideas on how you can enjoy maple syrup that you may not have considered. For my gluten sensitive friends, you may want to experiment with wheat alternatives to achieve desired results with your tried and true baking flours!

1. Chocolate chip cookies with maple syrup

Who doesn’t like maple syrup? Hands-down, the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe is the best, most fool-proof recipe I have found. I simply add 1/2 c maple syrup to the recipe and have at it. The maple syrup adds a bit of depth to the brown sugar, and though subtle, the taste does come through.

2. Maple syrup on yogurt or ice cream

If you’ve never enjoyed maple syrup on your ice cream, by golly you are missing out! Simply pour a bit of maple syrup on vanilla ice cream and there you have it. It will change your life. I promise.

3. Maple Expresso Shake

Adapted from a recipe by Ken Haedrich, Maple Syrup Cookbook

¼ c. pure maple syrup
¾ c. brewed espresso/strong coffee, cold
3 ice cubes (Note: I freeze coffee in ice cube trays for just such an occasion)
½ pint good-quality vanilla ice cream
½ c. milk1 tbsp. coffee liqueur if you’re feeling squirrley, but it’s optional

Directions: Crush the ice cubes just a bit. (I use a rolling pin, but you do you.) Combine the crushed ice, espresso, milk, maple syrup, ice cream, and liqueur in a blender. Process briefly, until desired consistently. Pour into glasses and enjoy.

4. Cantaloupe bread with maple glaze

This is the recipe that I use:

I make a simple sugar glaze with milk and maple syrup. Here’s my bare-bones method:
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
About 1/4 milk and 1/4 maple or enough milk to make a thick glaze of your desired consistency.

5. Maple zucchini bread

I simply add 1/2 cup of maple syrup to my favorite zucchini bread recipe. I also use it with a chocolate zucchini bread recipe I have had for many years. Here’s a good one if you need some inspiration:

It’s pretty close to the one that I use, except I don’t use coconut flour and use 100% all purpose flour.

6. Maple Smoothie

1 c. plain yogurt
½ c. milk
1/3 c. pure  maple syrup
1 ripe banana, peeled
Several crushed ice cubes

Combine the yogurt, milk, maple syrup, and banana in a blender. Add the crushed ice and process until smooth. Enjoy!


Maple syrup is a versatile pantry staple that adds flavor and depth to most recipes. Don’t be afraid to experiment with it in your homemade BBQ sauces, salad dressings, and sweet summer treats!






Food prices rise while package sizes shrink– do you feel inflation sneaking in?

A recent conversation about the rising cost of bacon provoked a few thoughts about the subject. Roughly 10 years ago, we purchased a popular thick cut brand of bacon for $3 per lb. Last week at the local Walmart, that same bacon was $13 lb for 12 ounces. Same bacon. Smaller package. Huge price increase. I could say the same about many staples– laundry detergent, cheese, paper towels, bread… the list could go on and on. Most of the everyday food that we buy has gone up dramatically in the last decade. In many cases, the sizes are far smaller or the packaging (say, in juice) has changed to give us the illusion that we are still getting a good deal.

Bacon is a well-loved staple at our house!

A recent article in Fortune explained that prices for common household goods are set to increase in 2019. What is a budget-conscious person to do? Is it possible to eat well even if you are on a special diet? The Keto diet is especially popular these days, but meat can be particularly expensive.  Purchasing meat from butcher shops is a wonderful way to save money while supporting a local business. (Not to mention you will know exactly where your meat comes from. Food recalls anyone?) Several butchers that we know routinely offer specials for bulk pricing. Even their “by the cut” prices are reasonable. Ground chuck for $3.50 lb, bacon for $4.50– these are great prices that simply can’t be matched in the grocery store.

Purchasing meat directly from farmers is a great way to connect with your food and get a bargain. Farms that offer animals by the whole or half are also cheaper than the grocery store, and some even offer seasonal CSAs (a kind of buying club) that include diverse cuts of meat. Purchasing pastured chickens in season is a great way to stock your freezer, too.

EnterWhile Tarheelbilly Farm doesn’t offer a full CSA, we often have extra produce to sell.

Vegetables and fruit present different challenges, but now is the time farmers are planning their crops for next year.  Many people shop at farmer’s markets, and that is a great way to purchase food. It may be worth considering investigating joining a produce CSA, which may offer consumers a good way to share in the farm’s bounty throughout the season. Some farmers would be happy to accommodate large purchases or blemished “seconds” for people who can/preserve.

Don’t know how to can? Call your local cooperative extension office! Some offer classes in canning and all have information that will help you develop that skill.

canned goods

There are many ways to mitigate the rising cost of food. Small changes can empower you to feed your family affordably while supporting your local food system!



For further thought:







Slow wool in the fast economy

Yesterday I received a year’s work in a box. The wool sheared from our flock of Tunis sheep was shipped to the fiber mill in May. After months of anticipation, it finally arrived, along with several bags of roving.

Yarn from Jo-Julie, processed by family-owned Round Barn Fiber Mill in December 2018. Yarn is now available in the farm’s Etsy store.

As I gently removed each bag of fiber, tagged with the name of each sheep that it came from, I thought about the delayed satisfaction inherent in farming. Coming from a teaching background, this isn’t a new concept to me. You plant the seed and it may be years before you see the tree bear fruit. In some cases, you never see it, but you have faith that the love and effort that you gave will somehow blossom into something.

As a fiber farmer, my year both begins and ends on shearing day. I take great care when shearing; the last thing that I want to do is hurt the sheep (which generally means that I end up with few bandaids), and I want to make sure that the wool is removed quickly and in the condition preferred by handspinners and fiber mills. It is no easy task, but I enjoy the process nonetheless.


After shearing and skirting, some of my fiber addled friends purchase the fleeces raw, preferring to wash, card, and process the fiber themselves. I have tremendous respect for these people (you should too– they have the patience of Job and the skills of MacGuyver), and love to connect them with the sheep that provided their fleeces.

Fleeces are then sent off to the mill to be processed into finished goods. In my case, I have some processed into roving and some processed into yarn. Some mills are able to create socks, hats, blankets, and other finished items from shepherds’ yarns, but that requires a LOT of fiber and sometimes they need to blend it with other folks’ fiber to make it work.

Before I became a shepherd, I hung out with as many fiber producers as I could. All were gracious with their time and experience; most discouraged me from starting a flock if my intention was to make any money at all. The number of shepherds who keep wool sheep continues to decline as the market for domestic wool is overtaken by imported wool. Correspondingly, the number of woolen mills in the US continues to decline, and it’s becoming more difficult for wool producers to provide American consumers with American wool. Indeed, Woolrich, an iconic woolen mill in aptly-named Woolrich, Pennsylvania, recently announced its closure, dealing yet another blow to domestic wool production.

Woolrich Inc.,will be merging and moving operations. America’s oldest outdoor clothing company will become Woolrich International with its headquarters in London. Dan Gleiter |

When announcing the closure of Woolrich, the investment group cited the desire of the American public to purchase inexpensive wool, suggesting that Americans do not value high quality, well-made American products. (Had they read many of the comments by heartbroken, mulit-generation Woolrich shoppers, they may have reconsidered that opinion.)

None of these macroeconomic issues were on my mind when my package came, though. Carefully examining the yarn, I thought about the countless hours I put in to make that one skein possible. Feeding, hoof trimming, moving fence, (Ben building ever more fence), checking teeth, shearing, watering, hauling water in the snow… How can one assign a price to such a thing? How can I possibly assign worth and value to it?

Wool from small farmers represents a year’s worth of sweat equity. Many hands play a role in the making of sweaters, socks, hats– from the shepherds to the mill workers. As Americans have slowly begun to embrace the concept of slow food– the deliberate and careful consumption of food, with respect to growing practices and support of local sustainable growers– we would be wise to consider slow wool. Support your local shepherds. Hug a lamb or two. Refute the misinformation campaign against wool, and if you don’t know how your socks came to be, commit to learning. Vote with your dollars. Your fellow sheep-tending and mill working Americans will appreciate it.






Fall days: in search of tranquility

It’s been a busy couple of weeks around the farm. Despite my best intentions to chronicle and document the many dynamic projects that we have going on, it’s been hard to sit down and take the time to write. I compose all of these profound insights while moving fence or walking in the pasture, but when I get back to the house, it’s on to another project or series of demands.

While scrolling through my pages feed a few weeks ago, I came across a quote that has stuck with me– “Turn off Pinterest and create!” While I am not a Pinterest addict, I have been guilty of reading about projects and ideas for far too long, looking for a bit of inspiration to get me started on my next creative journey. I am especially guilty of dithering around with my weaving projects. I have some pretty severe avoidance behaviors when it comes to starting a new weaving projects. I linger a bit too long deciding on colors and yarn before I start warping the loom, but once I get started, the work seems to  flow.

I’ve been busy making holiday crafts, and spent quite a bit of time on Ravelry looking at page after page of cute snowmen, Santas, scarves, and the like. Ultimately, I printed a few instructions and patterns, cast on, and promptly ignored them all, just as I tend to do with everything I make.

Reindeer prototype 1

While I always long for a slower pace this time of year, I feel the subtle tide of the holiday season pulling me out to the sea of expectation. I fight it, but only the quiet peace of the woods, good coffee, and watching the sun evaporate the morning dew off the backs of my sheep seem to do anything to quiet my need for equanimity.


A month from now, the trees will be laid bare, and the still quiet of the woods will endure without much interruption. Hopefully I’ll be able to squirrel away a bit of time and sit in quiet reprieve.







Maple Year Round

This past weekend, we attended a Maple seminar sponsored by the WV Veterans to Agriculture program and the WV Maple Syrup Producers Association.

While the course was designed for the beginner in mind, there was a wide variety of interests and experience in attendance. The day-long course covered a wide variety of topics, from tapping and tree selection to maple products and opportunities for further study.

Mid-Appalachia is not well-known for its maple syrup, but it won’t remain a secret for long!  Production is increasing in WV, and local syrup is typically the dark amber, more robust flavored syrup. Last year, demand for local syrup across the Tristate far outstripped supply.  Our customers love our syrup, and with our plans to increase production in2018, we hope to facilitate more pancake breakfasts in the new year!



Adventures in natural dyeing

As summer fades to fall, things have been busy around the farm. We’ve been busy putting the garden to rest, and are now transitioning to crafts and hobbies. My hands gravitate toward wool as cooler weather becomes the norm; Ben spends more time woodworking.

Since acquiring the sheep and having fiber to play with, I’ve started to experiment with natural dyes. Most fiber (wool and cotton) is dyed using chemicals. This process creates fiber with deep and lasting colors but the complications that arise with disposal of the chemical medium and exposure to toxins in commercial dyes makes me a bit leery of using them.

Besides, there is something profoundly gratifying about collecting natural ingredients and using them to dye natural products! There are lots of books about gathering and using wild plants, mushrooms, and lichens to dye. Armed with a copy of “Wild Color” and a stainless steel pot, I harvested a few nettles and marigolds and gave it a go.


Using a good pair of leather gloves, I picked a good amount of stinging nettles to play with. Nettles yield colors that range from green to yellow. Using alum as a mordant, I dyed a bit of handspun and it came out a shade of brown.


I grow French and African marigolds as a part of my pest management program in the garden. Orange flowers were selected for the dye pot.

After a bit of hit and time, two skeins of yarn were transformed from white to shades of brown and yellow.

0 From left to right: dyed with nettles, marigold, and undyed

Dyeing fiber is a life-long craft. The color possibilities created using these ancient methods are endless. I see a lot more experimentation in my future…



  • A Weaver’s Garden. Rita Buchanan. Interweave Press, 1987.
  •  A Dyer’s Manual Jill Goodwin. Pelham Books, 1982.
  • Wild Color Jenny Dean and Karen Casselman