Category Archives: Field Trips & Travel

Latta Plantation Nature Preserve

On a recent family outing, we went to the Latta Plantation Nature Preserve near Huntersville, NC.  This is a free park with over 1300 acres to explore.  It has lots of nature trails, and is a natural setting to view a large variety of wildlife, plants, Mountain Island Lake, and the river.

Our kids had so much fun on this nature walk.  It has a paved path with beautiful mature trees, lots of under brush, and lots of wild life.

There was a nice variety of trees and many had already changed colors.  We quickly spotted oak trees, walnut trees, maple trees, and pine trees.  We plan to do a tree study soon so we can learn to spot other tree species too.

I found a plant I had never seen before, and plan to look this one up.  It had beautiful, unique, thick, bumpy, pink, outer shells the kind of resembled flowers, that opened to an orange smooth oblong shaped berry.  I am from the midwest (Kansas, and later Indiana) and this is not a plant I had ever seen before. 

I did not touch the plant just in case it was poisonous, but it was beautiful to observe.

There were lots of birds and plenty of squirrels.  The squirrels were feasting on walnuts, pine cone seeds, and acorns that literally covered the ground.

There were downed trees decomposing, and recycling themselves back into the earth.  There were lots of fallen leaves covering the ground too.  Signs of fall were all around us.

Then the path opened up to the water.  It was a beautiful view.

We strolled out onto a fishing dock. 

From this vantage point, you could see beautiful contrasts of the fall colors against the water and shoreline.

The clouds were amazing, and brewing up a fall rain storm.  It was a spectacular view.


Next, the children observed a variety of fresh water sea shells along the sandy shore.

They quickly started collecting as many shells as they could find.  They collected over a hundred shells and each put their find into a plastic bag to bring home. 

We plan to look at the shells closer at home, look at them under a microscope, wash them, draw them in our journals, perhaps use them in some other fun (math, art, and science) activities, and find out what animal had lived in them.  Homeschool adventures are so much fun!

Next, they got busy building.  At this point, I was tired from the walk.  I am eight and a half months pregnant, and running out of energy.  So I sat down at a picnic table to rest while I watched the kids play and explore some more.  The kids still had lots of energy.

They built mountains and lakes…


and motes.

We packed up to leave when the storm started to deliver rain.  We continued to explore several other sites nearby from our vehical despite the rain, and found many places we would like to go back and visit. 

It was a great day for discovering and playing in nature on this early fall day at the Latta Plantation Nature Preserve .

This post will be linked up with
No Time For Flash Cards
Science Sunday
ABC and 123
Play Academy
The Handbook Of Nature Study
Raising Homemakers

Highhill Homeschool

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Kid Senses Museum – Part 2

This is the second installment of posts, in our visit to Kid Senses Science Museum in Rutherfordton, NC.  I took so many pictures of our visit, that I had to divide the story into two parts and I still don’t have room to share it all with you. 

You can read the first post here: Kid Senses Part 1

In these two posts, you can see the variety of programs and hands on science exploration they offer for children of all ages.   But to get the full experience, you just must stop in and visit this great children’s museum for yourself. 

Trains, Engineering, and Constructing

World Geography

Learning about design, efficiency, synchronization and more.

How the heart works.

These were PVC pipes on magnets and on a magnetic wall.  The kids made paths for a ball to travel.  There was also a magnetic wall of words for building poems and word configurations.


There is also a magnetic wall with shapes to build transportation vehicles or whatever you can imagine.

Learning about Forces, Energy, Movement, Momentum.

Learning about the forces in the environment.  This is a tornado machine.

Dental Hygiene

Be sure to brush your teeth.  Smile!

Healthy Foods Store

Learning about healthy food choices, “clean and green” household supplies, role playing, money, putting stuff away and matching its location, and more.

Making wise choices and there is so much to choose from.

How much does it weight?

The bakery with lots of selection of realistic foods.

Our helpful cashier helped us check out with money leftover!

There is an arts and crafts room with lots of supplies to choose from to make projects.  Just about any supply you could want is available.

There is a large octagon craft table in the middle of the room.

One half of the craft table is like a counter top, and one half is lighted.  This was so much fun to color and make things on.  It definitely added a new dimension to crafts.

We left the bigger boys to finish their more detailed crafts and the younger children and I went to explore another hands on learning room.

This was a wonderful room for younger children to explore with murals, imaginative play, reading spaces, and lots to do.

A pretend river to kyack on.

A forest of hiding places, climbing places, tunnels, slides, stairs, and loft.

ABC’s with carpet tiles in a tumbling river.

Places to read and hide…..

and so many places to explore.

The highlight of the day was definitely the Science Show.
This gal came out dressed in a lab coat and had the personality of Beakman from the Beakman’s World.  She was wacky, funny, and very good with kids.

She taught the kids about air currents, carbon dioxide, gravity, polymers, and static electricity with some really fun science experiments that made an exciting science show.

A static machine generated static electricity.  It lit up this light bulb.

It caused a stack of aluminum pie plates to pop off the stack one at a time and fly a short distance. It also generated a lighting bolt in the dark when another metal object was near it, but I didn’t get a good picture.

She did this neat experiment where she popped a balloon with a candle. 

Then she took another balloon and filled it part way with water and part with air. 

 This time the candle did not pop the balloon, but instead the water in the balloon absorbed the heat of the candle and prevented the balloon from popping.

How about water on your head in an upside down cup?   The cup contained  a small amount of polymer and absorbed the water, but the crowd didn’t know.  Oh… the suspense…

We learned so much more.  I don’t have the room here to display all the concepts she demonstrated with the children.  But she was terrific in making science fun.

We were able to visit a bit with our wacky science instructor and she said most of the kids who visit her refer to her as Mrs. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus series.  She is definitely a very funny gal and works very well with children and adults. 

I highly recommend taking your children to this awesome hands on science museum.  They will surely meet some interesting people, and get to explore a huge variety of science and learning adventures.

All of this fun is available for $5 a person.  They have programs going on all the time and lots of special programs on Fridays and Saturdays too.  They also offer a special discount on Fridays after 3pm for $3 and stay open late.   Check out their website for more details.

Kids Senses

Check It Out!

This post will be linked up with
Science Sunday
No Time For Flash Cards
ABC and 123
Raising Homemakers

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Fishing Trip

It was a gorgeous day fishing at the lake with Dad.

We loaded the van with a picnic lunch and drinks in a cooler, chairs, fishing poles, tackle boxes, and the stroller and headed to the lake for a relaxing afternoon.

Someday, when the kids are older, we want to take them fishing from a boat to access the best locations.  But for now, while they are little, we fish from the bank.

We do wish there were more options for public access for bank fishing.  Before coming to Lake Lure today, we also drove to Lake Adger.  But though they had public access for boats, they did not have public access for bank fishing.  We have found this same problem at a lot of lakes we have visited.  Most of the banks at the lakes are private property, so to get good access one really needs a boat. 

But at Lake Lure, there is a nice walking park with a cleared path, and the bank is mowed and kept nice, and they allow public access for bank fishing from there.

We chose a lovely spot to set up our gear.  It is an inlet channel and the water was less choppy compared to the larger lake area. 

All of the kids enjoy learning how to fish.  The older boys are learning how to bait their hook and they cast their poles very well.  The younger children still need almost everything done for them, though the six year old learned to cast his pole by himself today.   He was able to get it out about 12 feet or so in the water.  

The four year old would reel hers in just minutes after daddy would cast it out for her.  He said she needed it re-casted faster than he could keep up. 

The two year old played with a stick and a rope (his fishing pole).  But instead of casting the rope into the water, he hung onto the rope and cast his pole (stick) into the water.  Then he enjoyed reeling in his stick.  It was really funny to watch him, except for the two times he let go, and I had to go after the stick “pole” before it drifted to far out to sea! 

We brought three kinds of bait today (red worms, night crawlers, and cat fish bait), plus several artificial forms of bait in the tackle box too.

My 11 year old son is holding up a Canadian night crawler worm.  It looked like a small snake, and when I went to take the picture, it had already coiled itself back into less than half it’s length.  These worms are huge!

We actually did see a small water snake just after taking this picture.  It was about a foot long.  It swam right towards us as if to check us out.   It came within a few inches of the bank, then it turned and swam away.  The children squealed in delight to have seen a real snake so close to us today.

For the entire three hours we fished at the lake, the fish kept stealing our bait.  Cast after cast, we had to reload our hooks.  There was a huge amount of little baby fish in the water, that were two inches or less in length, and they acted like little piranha.  As soon as the hooks hit the water, they devored the bait, nibble after nibble.  We did get to see groups (schools) of 20 to 50 of these little bluegill fish near the shore when my son tossed in some chips into the water. 

It is amazing to observe so many amazing things on a mini-trip like we took today.  This is a great opportunity to talk to the kids about God’s creation, natural science, life skills, observations of the environment, and more. 

Besides a beautiful lake of water, there was so much more to observe, such as gorgeous mountains on all sides rising high above the lake, a beautiful sky with swirling white clouds, a hawk flying overhead, a blue heron swooping down to scout the water for food, a snake in the water, schools of baby bluegill fish, a dying fish floating on the water, bees pollinating flowers, wasps looking for a meal, ducks, geese, beautiful trees, people in boats of all kinds, people enjoying the lake fishing and swimming, a wedding next to the lake, a birthday party, ants, waves crashing to the shore, and more.


We decided to take a sample of the lake home so we can see under the microscope more things we could not see with our eyes today.  The microscope will give us the ability to see tiny creatures living in the water and tiny things in the sand.  We got a sample of just water, and a sample of water with sand.  We will use this in our studies this week to further our understanding about life in the lake.

About the last half hour, we were joined by several beautiful ducks.  Four stayed real close to us and another group of four were about another 20 feet away.

When I stepped away from the tackle boxes, the male duck came up out of the water and walked a complete circle around our belongings checking everything out.  Then he went back into the water and rejoined his group.  It was so funny.

Even with a toddler smacking the water with a stick, these littl
e ducks were determined to stay close by.  They came back repeatedly. 

We had quite the time with the little fish stealing our bait.  They ate the red worms, the night crawlers, and even the catfish bait.  Finally, the last 30 minutes or so, dad put on some artificial worms on the younger kids poles.  No more lost bait, but….no more bites either.  But he was tuckered out with re-loading their hooks every few minutes. 

I spent most of the time just enjoying watching my family.  They are funny, interesting, and a blessing.   I took this picture of them just before packing up to leave.   They all had such a good time fishing with Dad today.

The new life growing inside my womb will be here soon and join the line up of this beautiful family.  I truly am blessed!

The lake was so beautiful today, and even the sky was gorgeous.  I could have just layed back on a blanket and enjoyed many more hours of its beauty.

I truly enjoyed today, being in the company of my family and the awesomeness of God’s creation.

This post will be linked up with
No Time For Flash Cards
Science Sunday
Raising Homemakers

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WNC Air Museum Field Trip

In March, we went on a field trip to the Western North Carolina Air Museum in Hendersonville, NC with a local homeschool co-op.  

Our family has been doing an Airplane Unit Study from Hands Of A Child, and this field trip was perfect for putting some real live airplanes into our learning adventure.  This unit study has become a year long passion for our kids.  We do a little bit at a time and purchased several science (flight, air, airplane) kits to go along with our learning adventure.  You can read about part of our airplane unit
here (starting) and here (HOAC unit components), here about building a wooden bi-plane, and here when I get the rest of it finished.  I have tons of pictures, but have not had time to write all the stories.  But we have had a blast learning about airplanes and flight this school year.

This museum is an amazing place.  They have airplanes from WWl, WWll, Veitnam, Homebuilt Airplanes, Homebuilt Helicopters, Model Airplanes, lots of historical memerobilia, a store, and so much more. 

Before going into the museum, we spent a little time outside observing planes taking off, and coming in for a landing.  The children were so excited to see this. 

One plane acted like it was going to land, and as soon as it came down to the runway, it went back up again. 

Everyone ooohed and ahhhed!

Well, it took my eyes and my camera a few minutes to adjust after having been in the brite sunshine.  Sorry about the blurr…..

Inside the museum is a vast warehouse of history.

Kit helicopter.

All the walls were packed with history. 

Perfect for this knowledge seeking boy!

Can you believe in the 1930’s you could buy a plane blueprint for $5 and put it together with a motorcycle motor and have under $199 invested in owning your own airplane?

Here is the actual plane in the add above from the 1930’s.

This fella builds and maintances the planes in the museum.  He is a vietnam veteran and a licensed pilot.  He was our guide and gave us so many facinating details about the planes in the museum.

Everyone is a volunteer at the museum.  They are passionate about planes, and keeping history alive and available for future generations.

My daughter checking out the female pilot.  “Mommy is that lady going to fly the plane?”

Some planes were unfinished, so that visitors could see inside, and help them understand more about how airplanes opperate.

Lots of things to see.

There were fun things to do and see for kids and adults of all ages.  

Big or small we all add fun.

What could be better than getting to climb aboard a real plane?

ing to explore inside….

Getting a lesson from a real pilot about what each control and gadget does….

And have free time to role play…..

With all your friends.

“Attention all passangers, this is your pilot speaking.  Please prepare for landing, and thank you for traveling KIDS FLY HIGH AIRLINES.”

The museum is free to visit.  There is a small store inside, where you can buy items to help support the musuem, and donations are always welcome. 

Please visit their website to find out more, and to get directions to the museum.

Have you visited an airplane museum?  Leave us a comment.  Thanks.

This post will be linked up
No Time For Flash Cards
ABC and 123
We Play

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Kids Senses Museum – Part 1

Kid Senses is a fun, hands on, science and discovery museum located in Rutherfordton, North Carolina.

A great place to take a field trip!

We went with a local homeschool co-op on this fun field trip to learn all about our world in a fun and hands on way.

There is so much to do at this place, and I took so many pictures, that I will have to give it to you in smaller servings!  Part one is posted here.  You can click on the link below to go to Part 2.

Kid Senses Part 2

Part One includes: Fire Station, Bubble Science, Magnets, Engineering, The Cafe, TV News Room

Part Two includes: The Store, Energy, More Engineering, Dentist Office, Geography, Science Show.


The Fire Station

The first room the children wanted to explore was the fire station.  Inside the room were fireman uniforms, a small station with an alarm, and fire pole, and a fire truck.  The kids loved exploring and playing in this room.

Bubble Science

There were several fun bubble experiments in this room.  There was a multi basin area that held different shaped bubble wands in each basin.  The children went around the basis trying out the different shapes and making bubbles.

There was a pull type bubble maker, similar to window shade.  The bar would dip down into a tray of bubble solution, and my three year old pulled a string and as the bar rose up, she would blow into the mixture and it would create a large bubble.

There was also an amazing bubble making ring that you stand inside, and pull a rope, and a ring rose up around you that held the bubble fluid suspended in the air.  You literally stand inside the bubble.

Another neat bubble producer were bubble towers.  By placing a hose that blew a continuous stream of air near the base of the tower, millions of tiny bubbles were produced.  The tiny bubbles accumulated inside the towers and eventually forced the bubbles in the upper part of the towers out. 


Engineering with Magnets

They built magnetic sculptures by holding up washers, nuts, and bolts up to very strong magnets.  My two year old and ten year old worked together at this fun experiment.   The amount of magnetic pull could be adjusted and this would also allow the metal objects to fall back onto the work table.  If the magnetic pull was adjusted all the way up, my 10 year old son could not pull the bolts and other objects away from the magnet.  I told him I was concerned he would mess up his watch, as strong as the pull was, but the watch continued to work fine.


This room also had various other engineering stations including following blue prints, building with legos and connects, a model of a heart (an engineering masterpiece!) , and more.

The Cafe

The kids explored Nutrition, Food Science, Health and Business skills at the cafe. 

They role played running a cafe business, speaking to customers, reading recipes, preparing nutritious meals, and cleaning and organizing skills in this amazing room.


TV News Anchor Room

This area allowed the kids to play around with lot of variety: Video and Audio Engine
ering, Geography, Weather, Current Events, and Public Speaking.


The children loved seeing themselves on TV and pretending to be news casters.  The role play was so funny, as they just took off with various stories and acted so serious and grown up.

You can learn more about Kid Senses at their website at

My kids had a terrific time learning and exploring at the Kids Senses Museum. 

Be sure to read part two coming up soon to hear the rest of the story of our great adventure!

This post will be linked up at

No Time For Flash Cards
Science Sunday
ABC and 123
The Play Academy
We Play

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Field Trip To Cochran Dairy

A visit to a family farm.

We went with the Henderson County, NC Barnyard Bandits 4 H Club on a field trip to Cochran Dairy today.

We met up with the club at 7:00 am.  The kids boarded a bus, and we followed in our van with our two youngest kids in tow.  The three older boys were so excited to be on the bus with the club, and headed to a working farm.  It has been three years since we left our farming lifestyle in Indiana, and we have missed it so much.

It was about an hours drive.  Thankfully, my husband enjoys driving in various situations.  I am the opposite.  I do not like driving through the mountains.  I am much better suited to either drive on flat straight roads (was raised in Kansas where every road was on a flat and straight square mile), or be the passenger, and assist the children with their needs, rather than be behind the wheel on the curvy and steep mountain roads.  Some of these roads are fine, but quickly some change hundreds to thousands of feet in elevation too quickly.  I get sick on a roller coaster, and some of these twists and turns and ups and downs in a vehicle feel a lot like it.

The farm we are visiting is situated in a narrow cove in the mountains.

When we arrived, all the children were excited as they unloaded from the bus.  The Cochran family was waiting there in front of the milk barn to greet us. 

This is a three generation family farm. Bill and Pat Cochran own the farm.  Their son, Sam and his wife Brenda and their two sons, Samuel and Riley, help run the farm. 

This is one terrific farming family!

The first room you enter is the milk room where the raw milk is stored after it comes from the cows.   This is grandson, Riley, standing at the cleaning sink.

Here, Sam explains the cleaning solution he mixes up to clean the milking pipelines. 
See the pipes above his head in the picture?  These suck up the cleaning solution and carry it into a maze of pipes into another room where the milking takes place.

Here is Bill, talking about his bulk tank.  This is what holds the raw milk after it comes through the pipelines.  Bill milks 50 cows, Holsteins and Holstein Guernsey crosses, two times a day.  The cows are milked every twelve hours. 

The 50 cows he milks, produce 2,400 lbs of milk a day and it is stored in this big stainless steal bulk tank.  This tank is like a large refrigerator.  It is cold inside.  There is a motor on top of the tank that spins a paddle inside the tank to stir the milk .  This helps the warm milk to chill faster as it comes into the tank.  To be Grade A milk, it must chill to 36 degrees within a half hour of leaving the cow.  Later, the milk is piped from the bulk tank to a big truck from MilkCo. one time a day, and is transported to a factory that homogenizes, pasteurizes, and bottles it.  Bill belongs to a milk coop called the Virginia Maryland Coop.

Next, Bill took us into the milking room.  Here he milks 8 cows at a time.  Each cow goes into their own stall that holds a feed pan which is near the wall.  Their tail end is flush with a corner of the orange railing and another railing panel, so their rear end is facing the farmer at an angle.  

Bill stands down in this walkway and cleans the cows udder and hooks the milking claws up to each teat.  You can see one of the milking claws and the attached tubing and pipelines behind the farmer’s head in this picture.  

After each milking, morning and night, the entire room and the claws and pipelines are completely cleaned and prepared for the next time.   This would be a tough job for Bill to do alone.  Thankfully, his family all works together to make this process run smoothly.

Bill is explaining how it works to our 4 H leader, Dr. Beverly.  Dr. Beverly is also a veterinarian and loves farms!  Family farms are disappearing at an alarming rate.  That is why she is heading up this Henderson County NC 4 H club, to teach the younger generation how wonderful farming can be.  I just want to say, thank you Dr. Beverly and the Cochran Family!  I wish there were more people like you!  Our family truly benefitted from all you did to bring us to visit this family farm.

Pat, Bill’s wife, took time to teach each child about how the machines milk the cow.  Here she is having each child put their fingers into the inflation cups of the milking claw so the kids can feel the pulsations and suction and understand how this helps extract the milk from the cows udder. 

A cow has one udder with four teats, and each claw has four inflation cups.  Each inflation on the claw attaches to each teat on the udder.  The claw helps to hold all four of the inflation cups together, and coordinates the piping for air and milk together in one bundle.

Pat is absolutely the sweetest lady I have met in a long, long time.  She is gentle with the kids and listens to each person old or young.  Each person is unique to her and they all have value.  She was great to talk to.  She is passionate about teaching the next generation in a very hands on way.

At the Cochran Dairy, the whole process is automated.  The milking pressure of the claw is regulated by the amount of air pressure and speed of pulsing sent through the line. Th
e farmer controls this process from a computerized control panel.  But the whole process still requires human monitoring and making adjustments if needed.

The Holstein is the largest dairy cow and produces the most quantity of milk of the dairy breeds.  Holstein milk is largely used in bottled milk as it has a lower cream content compared to other dairy breeds.  For example, Jersey cows have a large amount of cream in their milk.  Jersey milk is more “old fashioned” in our modern society, and it is often used for making butter and cheese or blended with Holstein milk for bottling.   Our country has basically done away with drinking whole fresh milk in its natural form.  Machinery alters it now to pasteurize it and homogenize it.  So the Holstein cow is more ideal for use in making bottled pasteurized and homogenized milk. 

There are many large factory farms that milk 500 to 1000 Holsteins a day.  I now of several that are totally automated and they basically have a factory of cows being moved around a great big building and milked three times a day by an automated robot.  NO KIDDING!   The whole process is totally scientific and totally in humane!   But Holstein cows are a little more of a challenge for family farms to raise.  They eat a whole lot more than the smaller breeds.  They are more reared for grain feed and less hay as they convert their diet into milk, where the more “old fashioned” breeds do a much better job of eating grass and hay and converting that diet into a higher quality, but lower in quantity, milk. 

For several reasons, Holsteins are more expensive to raise than other dairy breeds.  First is because of this larger feed need.  Also, because they are on a higher grain diet to produce more milk, they have to be culled sooner. So you have to buy or raise a new generation of milkers sooner. Grain burns up a cows stomach ( actually a system of 4 fermenting chambers or 4 stomachs).   If you ferment grass you get a special mix.  But if you ferment grain, you get a whole different mix and a lot more gas.  Cows are herbivores.  They are meant to eat grass, not a diet of grain.   So grains cause lots of digestive problems for cows.  Most farms get about 4 to 6 milking years from a Holstein and 12 to 14 milking years from an old fashioned cow such as a Jersey.   Holsteins also have more problems with giving birth, besides twisted and bloated stomaches, and require a lot more veterinarian intervention.  In my experience, Holsteins have a lot more vaginal issues, cesarean, etc (yeah that is right, a cow getting cesarian is common on a Holstein Dairy farm, because they birth larger calves.  They don’t have the physical stamina partly due to typically having less time spent in the pasture getting exercise and eating fresh grass.  So that definitely raises the bills to care for them.  But Holsteins are more desired for making bottled milk, so dairy’s are encouraged (financially) to raise them.  A farmer raising milk for bottling is paid on the 100 wt. of the milk.  So more volume equals more pay.  And the government offers special bonuses for the dairies.  A farmer raising milk for cheese or butter is also paid for the level of the cream they achieve such as 3% or 4%  in the volume of milk.  So with Jerseys, the farmer has less to sell per cow, but has higher cream and is paid for those features.  

Our modern society has made milk is so complicated !!!!

If you would like to learn more about raising cows for milk production, and the risks and benefits to the animals as well as to the farmers, I suggest reading articles from the Weston A Price Foundation and the Real Milk CampaignBoth of these groups are doing an amazing job to encourage the consumption of healthy milk, healthy meats, and promote the lifestyle of the family farm, and the freedom and benefits of raising local food.

Here is where the cows come in from the pasture and wait to be milked. 

The cows enter the milking parlor single file.  They walk to a feed pan, and are ready to get milking.

The next step is to dip the teats of the cow’s udder with a teat dip.  This dip was blue, and Sam said it feels like vaseline.  It has antibacterial properties to kill germs that could be on the teats if the cow happened to sit down in manure or a dirty place or was pooped on by another cow.  This dip helps kill microorganisms that could contaminate the milk.  After dipping the teat, it then gets wiped off with a paper towel.

Next, Sam let each of the children and adults milk a cow by hand.  He showed the children the proper way to place their hand and how to move their fingers to extract the milk.  Milking by hand is not done anymore.  But this is how the cows were milked many years ago, before the dairy had automated milking machines.

My son, age six, getting a lesson from Sam on how to hold the teats.

The four teats, or nipples, on a cows udder.

Here Sam is showing the children how to move their grip down the teat to extract the milk.

There were more lessons and opportunities for each person to practice. 

Bill explained that a cow who has just freshened (had a calf) gives a lot more milk than a cow who freshened several month ago.  These cows have a calf once a year.  The calves are removed as soon as they are born, and raised by hand, so the dairy can keep the milk and sell it for human consumption.

Bill raises his own hay for the cows on a 200 acre farm he owns in Tennessee, about 1 hour away.  Bill explained that because of the mountain terrain, and lots of housing that has reduced available farm ground, North Carolina farms in the mountains have a difficult time raising hay for their animals. 

The ground in this region doesn’t have a lot of topsoil and most of what isn’t covered in housing is rolling, forested, or in a flood plain.  Many in the farmers in the mountains raise tree crops, berries, grapes, or sesonal produce such as tomatoes and peppers in the lower flood plain areas.  Rasing livestock and grains to feed them, presents a much different challenge here, and so hay and grain are not raised as much.  Though animals such as cows, horses, and goats climb the hills just fine, it is life threatening to try and do it with a tractor or large farm equipment.  Erosion is another big factor.  Serious terracing would have to be done to use some of the rolling ground, and it is very cost prohibitive.

It costs a lot to buy hay at retail.  Talk to any horse farmer here and they’ll tell you the costs of feed that you wouldn’t believe.  As a matter of fact.  When we lived in Indiana, many of our farming friends would raise hay just to sell to the farmers, especially horse farmers, down here.  So many of the livestock farmers who make a full time living farming here, own or rent farm ground in other states to raise hay, grass, or additional animals, and help with the costs of being a farmer. 

Though this farm family loves the mountains, and they can’t imagine any other life, it is a difficult place to try and farm here.  Most people give up, as it is too costly to do and make a living at it.  For some farmers who want to keep the lifestyle, it becomes an expensive hobby rather than a way to make a living, as you end up spending more than you make at it.  Our bus driver shared a lot of personal stories in regards to the current state of family farms here.

Farmers are paid very little for what they do.  And the expenses that go into producing food at a commercial level are huge.  Not considering the costs of equipment to run a farm, barns, and all that goes into them, livestock, feed and the up keep, the ground itself is cost prohibitive. 

Good fertile ground in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky can be bought for 2,500 to 3,500 and acre. Many times you can get a house, fenced pasture, and barns at no additional cost with the purchase of at least 100 acres to 200 acres.   Currently, ground that would be good farm ground in the Henderson County, NC and surrounding areas, goes for 22,000 to 100,000 per acre, and no working farm house or barns. This is due to a huge demand for housing and development.  Just an hour or so south down the mountain, you can get farm ground for 10,000 to 15,000 an acre, still expensive from a farming standpoint, and in many ways it is still far less productive for making alfalfa hay and growing grains.  There farm ground in SC that produces grass hay, but it is minimal in comparison, due to lower rain fall levels.  It is good for pasture, and some produce, cotton, and rice the further the south you go.  

Most of the farmers in this area received their ground from family, the previous generation, either parents or grandparents, as the younger generation can not afford to buy it and make a living on it. 

A farmer can make a lot more by selling off his ground for housing and development than he can by farming it.  With these issues and all the considerations mentioned, it is no wonder the family farms here and through out much of the country have nearly disappeared!  With these presures, this is a much more difficult lifestyle to keep any way you look at it.

Well,  we are off to the next family farm to see sheep, goats, and a livestock sale.  Then we will head back to the Cochran Family Farm to for a wonderful lunch and to see their pig operation.  They typically raise 200 pigs at a time. 

We left our vehicle and loaded the bus with all the kids and headed back down the cove.  So glad we had a good bus driver who is a great mountain driver.  I wasn’t nervous one bit.  Ok, maybe a little bit.   But seriously he was a great driver and volunteered his time to drive around this 4 H club of kids.  He drives a dump truck and has also been a farmer for his whole life in Ettowah, NC.   A great fella, and I sincerely want to thank him for his time driving around the mountains with this group of kids, and sharing his farm stories with me. 

Well if you want to see the next part of our field trip adventure, you will have to read about it here(I’ll post the link as soon as I get it published)

And if you don’t, well then just stop and take a minute to think about a few things…

Farming is physically demanding.  It requires physical stamina.    Grain and produce farming is more seasonal.  Livestock farming is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week responsibility.  Bill and Pat Cochran never get a break.   Farming is high pressure responsibilities, for little pay.  

Yet, despite the difficulties farmers face, farming is highly rewarding in many other ways.  For example, you live where you work, so you don’t waist a lot of time commuting to a job.  You don’t have to work in nice clothes, so it saves on the clothing budget.  You get to raise your own food and food for others.  It is also great to be together as a family, and dad and mom don’t have to leave to go to a different job. (Though many farmers do get part time work off the farm to bring in extra income above what the farm produces.  Also many do this to get health insurance benefits as it is too costly to buy health insurance as an individual.)  But being close to home is one of the best benefits, and it has helped farmers raise strong family units.  You get to be your own boss and there is a lot of freedom in that.  You get to be outside a lot, you become very connected to the earth, animals, crops, and the weather patterns because your work depends on it.  You learn about insects, and soils, and nutrients.  You may learn about natural remedies, or you may take the mainstream approach and learn about commercial herbicides and pesticides.   There is a variety of things to do so you never get bored ( though a job like milking that requires the same routine and milking every 12 hours can get tedious or the feeling of never getting a break (vacation), as I know from experience, but the rest of it has great variety each day).  There are many more benefits, but that is enough to mention for now.

Farming is a lifestyle.  It is not a job sperate from your lifestyle.   

I know 4H make a difference in the future, as it exposes kids to so many hands on opportunities.  I believe we need these hands
on experiences to raise resourceful, strong people, and leaders for the future of our country.  Real life is not a virtual life, spent in front of a computer, a video game, or TV.  Those skills are important as we live in a modernized world and nearly every job or aspect of society utilizes technology in some way.  But it doesn’t produce people who are well grounded, and dedicated, and able to handle personal conflicts, or life challenges that arise.  Without hands on experience, there is a piece of a healthy life and balance left out.

I definitely believe that every kid should have the opportunity to help raise a garden.  Learning how to produce food is a valuable skill everyone needs.  In many foreign countries, if you don’t produce food, you would starve.  Up until the 1950’s everyone in our own country could raise a garden, except for some of the poorest people in the slums.  Why have we forgotten what an important skill this is?  Why do we only rely on a grocery store or a restaurant to acquire our foods.  A combination of laws and technology have basically forced the local food grower to almost disappear.  Yet if you look close enough, you can still find them.  Local Harvest and your town’s local farmer’s market is a good place to start your search.

I also wish that every kid, say anytime around age 10-12 upto 18 could unplug from computers, TV, and cell phones and could go with their family, and spend a year or even just a summer on the farm.  I really believe it would affect society in a positive way.  It would impact how we as a society value life, resources, and our priorities, if all young people had the chance to live the hands on lifestyle for a time.  Yes I have seen both sides.  I have seen the difference.  What an awesome summer camp, or year, of real hands on schooling this could be!!!  

So Mr. President, and any other organizations who might want to help, if you are listening and truly want to impact the future, please consider such a suggestion.  Give families with youth an income for a summer, or for one year to support their labor on a family farm educating the future generation in responsibility, being resourceful, strengthening the family unit, caring for the land, and growing local food for the food consumption needs of more than just their own family, but larger society. 

A one year full scholarship to the school of “HANDS ON FAMILY FARM” to build better families and better citizens.  What a dream!

We would likely see a revival of family farming as a way of life.

(Don’t forget to read the next article about this amazing field trip, we are only half way through. There are lots of adorable pictures with kids and baby animals…stay tuned….)

What do you do to expose your kids to the issues surrounding farming and food production?  Leave us a comment and let us know.  Thank you.

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