Author Archives: Susan Wilkins

Ice Cream and Agriculture

I always enjoy the State Fair of West Virginia, but probably not for any of the reasons one would think.  Last year, for instance, I didn’t see a single concert, ride any rides, buy a cinnamon bun, or even spend much time in the barns.  No, my State Fair enjoyment centers solely on ice cream.  You see, for the last several years, I have helped a local Ruritan Club sell ice cream in their stand beside the dairy barn.

I like selling ice cream for three main reasons.  First of all, rarely do mean or rude people eat ice cream.  (Perhaps I should include a disclaimer here that this statement is not scientifically proven!)  And, in my experience, if a customer starts out mean or rude when they order, by the time they get an oversized, hand dipped cone of Rocky Road or Moosetracks or Butter Pecan, their rudeness melts away.  My favorite customers are the kids whose eyes light up like its Christmas morning when I hand them a cone.  The second reason I like selling ice cream is the sampling.  After all, a shift lasts between 6 and 7 hours.  A person has to eat something during that time and plus, when a customer asks for a recommendation on ice cream flavors, I need to be able to honestly tell them!

And the third reason is the questions I get to answer.  Being located so near the cattle barns, I’ve answered questions like “What cow in the barn did this ice cream come from?”  “Does the chocolate ice cream come from a brown cow?”  “Is this ice cream made from milk?”  Sometimes the questions can be a little crazy, but it is one more way I can help promote agriculture.  People are often intimidated when they think about being an advocate for this industry, but if you can incorporate it into something you’re already doing, it makes it a lot easier!  Good luck!

You gotta make hay while the sun shines!

Summer is truly my favorite time of the entire year.  The cows are contentedly grazing in the mountain pastures, calves are growing, the corn is stretching higher and higher towards the sun, and life is taking a somewhat slower pace than it does in the winter months.

Scenic hay field. Photo by Susan Wilkins.

Scenic hay field. Photo by Susan Wilkins.

But even while baling hay on a gorgeous sunny day, farmers are inevitably thinking about and planning for the winter season.  As we make hay, I know my dad and brother are mentally calculating how many bales it will take to winter our cows and how many more they will need to make before summer’s end.

For now though, we’ll enjoy the sunshine and warmth and pray for the rain that ensures our crops will continue to grow.

From my farm to yours – happy Summertime!

Life Lessons from Maple Syrup

I tried something new this winter. Late last spring, my dad and I were bitten by the maple syrup bug. Someone we knew had made a couple gallons of syrup from trees in his backyard and he made it sound relatively simple: tap the tree, collect the sap and boil it. My dad and I talked about it all summer and fall, and then one evening this winter, we tapped our first maple tree.

Life-Lessons-from-Maple-SyrupThat first little drop of sugar water to hit the bottom of the bucket made me so happy I squealed. I felt like a little girl as I clapped my hands excitedly and pointed. I think it made my dad happy too, but of course, he didn’t squeal. For weeks, I made a daily trek with my empty water jugs up to the mountain to check my trees. On weekends, I boiled the water down in a process that took much longer than I expected.

However, I can now proudly say I have made a gallon of maple syrup that my family will thoroughly enjoy eating over our pancakes and waffles. My little gallon of syrup has made me realize that even in the deadness of winter there is hope for spring ahead. While it might seem that the grass magically turns green overnight after a warm rain, the land actually spends weeks preparing itself for a new season of growth.

As dreary as winter can be sometimes, it makes you appreciate God’s creation so much more when spring finally arrives. Happy Springtime, my friends! May this season be as sweet as maple syrup!