Life in the Country Blog
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Life in the Country Blog

Life in the Country Blog

Remembering a Farmer...Bob Breed

by Embrace Country Life on 11/21/18

It is with a very heavy hard that I write this blog tonight.  Our dear friend, Bob Breed passed away last week.  He was our neighbor, a friend, a farmer, and our daughters' bus driver throughout all their years of elementary school.  In fact, he drove a school bus for the Vestal School District for 56 years!  Yes, you read that correctly, 56 years as a bus driver!  

Bob retired in June 2017.  We planned a big parade for his final run.  There were people, signs, and balloons lining his bus route up Tracy Creek Rd, the same road his farm was on.  He even had a police escort.  As he had done for 56 years, when his run was over, he pulled his bus in next to his barn.  We celebrated his retirement with cupcakes, stories, and two news crews.  It was an amazing day and I know Bob felt the love of all of us.  I also created a scrapbook with all the memories that people sent me over Facebook.  They were great and Bob read them and laughed.  He was tough...old school.. but so loved and respected by all the children.  

Every once in a while one of our own kindergarteners would fall asleep on the bus at the end of the day and Bob would carry her to me so she could continue her nap.  Our daughters remember receiving flowers on Valentine's day (the boys got candy).  Bob also provided ice pops on the last day of school.  

 Bob loved driving the bus for Vestal and he also loved farming.  The Breed Farm established in 1941 (the date proudly painted on his barn) has been a focal point of Tracy Creek Road.  When Bob wasn't on the bus, he was on the farm.  You could drive by any time and see him working on a tractor, loading hay into the barn, helping a neighbor with car trouble, or chatting with the many people who used to pull in to see Bob on a regular basis.  If you didn't have time to stop, you could always drive by and toot the horn.  His hand would go up like a reflex to wave hello!

When we purchased our hobby farm in 1996, Bob was one of the first neighbors we met.  Every time Cliff made a machinery purchase for our farm, Bob was his consultant.  Bob knew everything about tractors and balers and rakes and hay wagons and...and...I could go on forever.  We bale hay every summer and Bob was always on call.  Something always broke and it seemed that rain was always threatening.  Even if Bob was in the middle of baling his own hay on one of the many fields he hayed every summer, he would still drop everything to "bail" us out.  He could immediately assess the problem and 9 times out of 10 he could fix the problem.  If he needed a part, he seemed to always have an extra at his barn.  We seriously couldn't be "farmers" without Bob.  He was a wealth of farming knowledge.  Farming was his passion and it was contagious.  

 It is certainly an end of an era with Bob's passing.  It is difficult to drive by the farm now knowing he is not there.  I know he is in a better place where the hay grows high, the sun always shines, and the John Deere never fails.  I know when we bale this summer, I'm not going to be worried about the rain.  We have someone upstairs who will be rooting for us!  Thanks for all the memories, Bob.  You will not be forgotten. <3

The Key to Unlocking Your Child's Heart by Momastery

by Embrace Country Life on 12/30/15

I did not create this activity but thought it was so wonderful I wanted to share it with all the parents out there!  It is from the website, Momastery.  I think the Key Jar would be a wonderful activity to start with the new year approaching!

One of our goals as parents is to help our children realize the true passion that God has put in their hearts.  Everyday conversations may not get us to that point but what the Key Jar does is helps us ask questions that get our children to think which in turn guides us to what really is important to them.  The most important gift we can give our children is time with them.  These questions will help you make the most of your time together.  I can't wait to start our Key Jar!

 Here is the link.  Just copy and paste this in your browser.

Christmas Day 2015 by Cliff

by Embrace Country Life on 12/25/15

So today is Christmas Day!  We arose at 7am to see what Santa Claus brought us.  As we descended down the stairs we noticed the stockings that hung on the banister were full of treats for the animals at Mountain Breeze Acres.  Apples for the horses, special grain for the sheep and chickens, toys and treats for the cats and dog.  Macey (our dog) was going crazy over her stocking.  She obviously smelled something delicious.  We then headed into the sitting room by the fireplace where we found our stockings hanging on the mantel full of surprises.  As with the Kasson family household tradition, we all dump out the items from our stockings onto the floor for a "show and tell".  Julia was happy to get lip balm, Sarah liked the candle and gum, Alicia was glad to get bug spray and sunscreen (for her trip to the Dominican Republic to help build a church), while Deb and Cliff enjoyed the little wool Christmas ornaments that were made from Rosie's wool (sheep on our hobby farm).  We then turned our attention to the living room to find the floor around the Christmas tree littered with gifts.  The girls sat on the floor opening gifts while Deb and I sat on the sofa watching the expressions on their faces and taking pictures and video. 

As with most families the rest of the day was spent talking to family on the phone, texting others with Merry Christmas wishes and spending time with all of the new gifts (batteries, reading directions, trying on clothes) and eating holiday treats. 

I spent some time updating the Embrace Country Life website while Debbie prepared a delicious spiral ham lunch/dinner with spaetzle, yams, carrots and salad.  Yum yum! 

Of course we can't forget about the animals in the barn.  We made our way outside leaving our Carhartt coats on the hooks in the mudroom.  We only needed to wear  long sleeve shirts (high 60's today!!).  After feeding all of the animals and gathering a baker dozen of eggs we finished taking the firewood (from the choke cherry tree that I cut down a couple of weeks ago) to the wood shed.  What a beautiful day to be outside.

I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful family to share my lifetime dream of living on a hobby farm.  My children embrace all aspects of country living...this brings joy to my heart. 

At Christmas Eve Mass I said special prayers of thanks and dedicated prayers to family members and especially those who are not with us anymore including my parents and both sets of grandparents whose country lifestyles influenced me greatly. 

What a great Christmas day!  While outside, I always take some time look around and appreciate the wonderful world that we live in.

I am thankful for Jesus and all the blessings God brings to us.  Merry Christmas!

"Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" by Debbie

by Embrace Country Life on 11/18/15

This site was created almost five years ago with the intention of promoting local farms and connecting those who want healthy foods to farms.  Since inception, it has done just that.  Cliff and I love to hear from farmers who have ordered more cows this year because their beef business has increased.  I love recommending the site to people who are interested in eating healthier and knowing where their food comes from.  

This past weekend I was in Rhode Island at a conference.  I went with two colleagues and we got to enjoy many meals out.  At dinner one night, one of my friends ordered a turkey burger and was told they were out of turkey.  She sighed but found something else to replace it.  Two days later, in another restaurant in NY, she tried to order another turkey burger.  Again, she was told there was no turkey.  It was then that I remembered what we were told during the Broome County Fair.  Turkeys were going to be limited this year because of the Avian Flu!  According to NPR in May:  "Now reaching to 15 states, the outbreak has been detected at 174 farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Because there's no vaccine, infected and even healthy birds must be killed to try to stop the virus, forcing the killing of 38.9 million birds and counting, the USDA says."  

Thanksgiving is next week!  No turkeys?  Or if you do get a turkey from the supermarket, should you be worried?  Have no fear, ECL is here!  Just click on our logo in the upper left corner of the site and it will take you to our directory of over 160 local farms.  Click on "Poultry-Eggs" and you can find local farms that are raising turkeys!  Purchase a turkey from a local farm and know how its been raised.  

We have everything from turkey to honey to fresh eggs to beef on our site.  It is free for farmers to be on the site and free for them to advertise in our ECL coupon books.  We want to see farmers thrive in our area!  Farmers are some of the hardest working people we know and our goal is to see them reap the benefits of their hard work.  It is a win-win when you purchase directly from a local farmer.  The farmer and local economy benefit but you also benefit knowing where your food has come from.  That brings peace of mind.  

We hope you enjoy this site as much as we enjoy having it.  We want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.  Don't forget to be thankful for all the farmers who raised and harvested the food on your Thanksgiving table this year.  I know we are thankful for all of them at ECL!

Crystal Escaping With Her Life by Julia

by Embrace Country Life on 11/08/15

My cat, Crystal was acting very strange.  She was hiding in my closet.  I just knew something was up.  She wasn't acting herself like the playful cat she was so I went to Alicia, aka house vet and I told her I thought something was wrong.  Alicia checked her for ticks and thought that Crystal would be OK.  Then, my mom came into my room and asked me what was wrong. Alicia told her that everything was fine but I told her that Crystal wasn't acting herself.  My mom agreed.  She thought she was meowing weird.  We brought her to the scrapbooking room with a pillow so she could sleep in peace without Macey bothering her.  We gave her cat food and water.  She was eating and drinking fine and even used the litter box.  My mom noticed a lump on her back but I told her it was normal.  Come to find out, it wasn't normal at all!

The next day, Alicia went to check on Crystal in the basement.  When she started to pet her, white puss came out of her back.  I never saw it but my sister said it was really gross.  My mom called Dr. Tillotson and made an appointment for the next day.  I didn't go because I don't like to see shots going into my cat and I thought there might be shots.  When my mom and dad got home, they told me that Crystal got bitten by a wild animal.  I think it was a fox because we've been seeing a fox around the house at night.  Some of my family think it was a coyote because we've been hearing them at night.  
Crystal had to stay overnight at Dr. Tillotson's.  I was sad because I missed my kitty cat.  The next day when she came home, she looked scary.  Her back was shaved and it had blood spots on it.  It was nasty!  She started acting like her old self again which was excellent.  I gave her good canned cat food every day and fresh water.  She also had her regular cat food.  We left her cat carrier in the basement which had a nice blanket in it so she could sleep on it.  
Every day she acted more like herself.  It's been a week now and even though she still looks scary, I love her.  

Clough Family Picnic on the Farm

by Embrace Country Life on 05/23/15

Cliff's mother, Laura Mae Clough was born and grew up on a dairy farm in Montrose, PA. Every year, John Clough (Laura Mae's youngest brother) has a picnic on Memorial Day weekend.  John never left the farm.  His wife, RoseAnn joined him on the farm 25 years ago.  John's brother Howard lives on the adjacent property.  John, Donald (now deceased), and Howard continued tending the farm after their parents' deaths.  It has been known as The Clough Brothers Dairy Farm for years.  Although it was a dairy farm originally, now John and Howard raise Angus beef cows for beef and Holstein heifers that they sell before they freshen. They also have chickens and sell their eggs.

Every time we go to the picnic, we learn a little bit more about the history of the farm and the Clough family.  Today was no exception.  John took us on the usual tour of the barns and pasture but then showed us the work he had done on the granary.  I learned today that a granary is a storehouse for threshed grain or animal feed.  The Cloughs used their granary to dry out their corn.
The granary's foundation was giving way since it was one of the original buildings on the farm.  John had the building jacked up and repaired the foundation to preserve it for another 100+ years.  While working inside the granary which had become a storage area over the years, he found many treasures.  

One of the treasures he shared with us was a bucket full of maple tree taps.  Cliff's great grandfather carved each tap out of chestnut wood.  I can only imagine how long it took him to make a bucket full of them!

Another treasure discovered was an old milk can with the name "E.E. Roberts" on the side and Trenton, NJ on the top.  Back then, milk was transported from the Montrose area to NYC and NJ via the train system.  The Roberts name was on the milk can so it would be returned to them after the milk was delivered.

This milk can was made before 1925 and was left behind by the Roberts family when Tom Clough purchased the farm.  When Cliff inquired to his Uncle John why the Roberts got out of farming, John told us the story.  Back in the early 1900's farmers transported their milk using horses.  One winter, Farmer Roberts took his milk to the creamery on a sleigh being pulled by his team of horses  On his return trip, he had an accident with the sleigh and horses.  He was turning a corner and fell off the sleigh and slipped down a 40 ft. ravine.  Mr. Roberts landed in an icy stream where his legs got caught in the ice.  Miraculously, the team of horses made it back to the farm.  When they arrived without Mr. Roberts, the family went out to look for him.  Unfortunately, it took over two hours to find him and by that time, it was too late to save his legs.  He had to have both amputated due to frostbite.  Needless to say, he could no longer farm the land and his children were too young to take it over.  This is how Tom Clough was able to purchase the farm in 1925 and it has remained in the Clough family ever since.  

It was such a different life back in those days...the days before cars and cell phones.  I love listening to all the stories that farmers are so willing to tell.  It is these stories and Cliff's experiences growing up with both sets of grandparents on dairy farms that make us want to support our local farmers.  Please check out our directory of local farms on our homepage and help keep local farming traditions alive!

Spring Chicks by Julia

by Embrace Country Life on 04/04/15

Two weeks ago my dad and sister, Alicia brought home 15 chicks.  They were cute!  Macey, our new puppy was trying to be their mother.  She was always looking into the tote to make sure they were all there.  She would put her paws on their tote and all the chicks ran to the other side.  I think she just wanted to play with them but they didn't know that.  We like to take them out and put them in the Barbie horse stable to play with them.  

Some of their names are Bubblegum, Fierce, Candy, Oreo, and Piper.  We named one after our cousin, Toni.  She came to visit us the weekend we got them.  Toni Chick has black hair like Toni and she likes to chillax like Toni!!

When they started getting feathers, we moved them outside to the barn.  They are in our old rabbit hutch.  First we had two lights to keep them warm but they didn't like two, so then Dad changed it to one light.  They are getting big now!  When they get big enough, we will move them to the chicken coop.  When it is summertime, we will let them run free in our yard with the big chickens.  

Our New Puppy by Alicia Kasson

by Embrace Country Life on 01/15/15

I've been wanting a dog for over a year after our previous dog, Scooby died at age 13.  This Christmas, my family finally gave in to getting me a puppy if it was hypoallergenic since my mom is allergic and my dad didn't want it to shed.  

On the Saturday of December 27th, my dad was searching through the pets section of the Syracuse classified ads and found goldendoodle puppies for sale in Canandaigua, NY.  My dad called the number and asked if we could visit them that day at around 3:00.  The lady said that that was find and gave him her address.  She had an accent that my dad couldn't place.

My sister and my dad left the house to pick me up at my track meet in Cortland. Between my events my dad called me and told me about the puppies and cleared everything by me.  I asked for pictures but there wasn't any connected to the ad.  I decided to call the number and ask about it.  The same lady with the accent who my dad told me about answered and said that her friend took some pictures of the puppies and she would see if she could send them to me.  I received a picture of our soon-to-be new puppy and her 4 siblings. 

After my event, my dad, sister, and I followed the GPS to the address from the ad.  As we neared the end of our trip, we found ourselves in the middle of farm country.  We weren't surprised when we pulled up to a farmhouse with a barn.  We noticed a very nice cart in the driveway and no cars in sight.  We parked and got out of the car.  A golden retriever was running around the yard who we assumed was the mother of the puppies.  The door opened and a woman in a bonnet and a long dress greeted us.  We went inside and saw two puppies curled up next to each other on the door mat.  There were also three girls and a one year old boy in the living room.  The woman told us that she gave the puppies a bath and they were still drying off.  She told us that she has 12 children, all of whom still live at home.  Her oldest son is 19 and a carpenter.  He bought the cart outside because he wanted a nicer one than the one they had before.  They don't own any cars and the kids ride their bikes to a private, Mennonite school.  The family makes a living off their dairy farm.  They sell the milk they get from about 30 cows.  The family also had horses like us so we showed them pictures of our horses on our phones.  They were so excited to see our phones!

After our nice conversation about their Mennonite way of life, we got the female dog's paperwork and asked about the puppy's parents and other basics. We learned the puppies were born in a hay mow and the kids named her Friendly because she was the friendliest of all the puppies.  She was born on October 14th, so she was about 2 1/2 months old.  Her mom was the golden retriever outside and her dad, a poodle, was located in Penn Yan.  She had nine siblings, one of which died at birth.  There were three girls in the litter and six boys.  There was only one girl and one boy left.  I wanted a girl so we decided to get the girl dog.

We wrapped her up in a towel that we brought, paid for her, thanked them, and then left.  She slept the whole ride home.  When we got home, we realized she was very sensitive to sounds such as cell phone alerts or the TV.  After two days of having her home, we finally decided to name her "Macey" after a long debate.  It recently snowed and we found out that she loves to roll in the snow and eat the snow.  We were surprised to learn that she was nervous in the barn around the sheep and horses.  She does barn chores with us every night so she is getting used to the other animals.  Macey really likes the chickens...chasing them, that is!!!  

We are so happy to have Macey in our lives and can't wait to see how she will grow!

Sarah's 2015 Memory Jar

by Embrace Country Life on 01/01/15

Last night, I created a 2015 memory jar with my cousin, Melinda.  We started our project by cutting out a piece of felt for the lid.  Next, we cut a slit in the center of the felt.  We then wrote out 2015 on a piece of paper and taped it to the mason jar. I added a piece of sparkly ribbon to the top of my jar for some extra detail.

Then, we cut out some colorful pieces of paper into little rectangles and placed them in a mini envelope.  Finally, we taped the envelope onto the side of the jar.
Melinda and I plan to write down all the good things that happen to us in the year 2015.  We want to remember all the things that made us happy in the new year.  We plan to be read all our good memories from our jar next New Year's Eve.
We had a great time doing this project together.  When we were finished, we watched the ball drop on Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve on the TV!

by, Sarah

Strawberry Picking

by Embrace Country Life on 06/27/14

Summer is finally here!  I thought it would never come!  We had a very cold winter in the Southern Tier.  I never knew what a "Polar Vortex" was until this winter.  If you ask most people about the winter of 2014, they would tell you it was the worst one in years!  Ask Cliff and he will tell you it was the best winter in years!  There was a lot of snow for sledding, skiing, and snowmobiling.  Every night the girls would go sledding or snowmobiling after barn chores.  They had a ball.

I am one of the many who are glad the 80 degree temperatures have finally arrived.  Today, the girls and I and many of our friends visited Apple Hills in Binghamton to celebrate our first official day of summer vacation.  We have been strawberry picking our first day of vacation for many years.  The strawberries were especially delicious today...maybe it was because the winter was so harsh!

We spent a couple of hours in the strawberry patch with many friends and colleagues coming and going while we picked.  The field was so plentiful you could stand in one spot and fill a bucket!  We left with 20 pounds of strawberries, full bellies, and another great memory for the first day of summer.

Apple Hills is just one of the many U-Pick farms in the Southern Tier.  Check out the U-Pick section of our website to find a farm near you.  If you would like to see more of our trip to Apple Hills, check out our video under the video tab of the website.  Also, please leave us a comment an let us know if you have a tradition you would like to share for celebrating the first day of summer!

Galloping Through the Snowy Fields by Alicia

by Embrace Country Life on 01/29/14

Every night for the past week, I have ridden my horse Sassy around the perimeter of our property.  With the extremely cold temperatures, due to the Polar Vortex, I have to make sure that Sassy doesn't sweat or catches a cold. With Sassy's winter coat and my Carhartt coat, snow pants, boots, gloves, face mask, and hat, we are prepared for the snow.  I like riding bareback better than riding with a saddle so I only put her bridle on.  We start out by walking to some trees by our house and cantering around them like barrels.  After, we walk to our pond in the center of our property.   My favorite part is when we gallop up to the barn at full speed.  Sassy loves galloping and needs little encouragement from me to gallop.

Yesterday, as we were nearing the barn, I dropped the reins and lifted my arms so they were parallel to the snow covered ground.  The feeling was invigorating.  I trusted her to keep going and not do something to get me thrown off.  Sassy slowly came to a stop in front of the barn and I gave her a couple of treats and hugged her neck. 
Today, I let go of the reins before we started cantering up to the barn and she was equally as good.  I am so lucky to have Sassy even on the days when she lives up to her name. 

Feeding the Birds by Julia

by Embrace Country Life on 01/03/14


Every winter, we feed the outside birds.  Before Christmas, we went to Agway with our three friends, the Pompeiis.  We were trying to look for the perfect bird feeder and we found it!  It can fit two suets on the ends and birdseed in the middle.  The birdfeeder looks like a house.  When we bought the feeder, we got a free bag of birdseed! 

We brought it back from the store, put two suets and birdseed in and hung in on the first hook on our back deck.  Then, we went inside.  About a half hour later, the birds started eating everything on it!  We saw blue jays, nuthatches, and a mom and dad cardinal. 

Once a week, after barn chores, we go to the back deck and fill the birdfeeders.  First, my dad and I put the four suets in the feeders (we have 2 other suet feeders).  Next, we take down the other two bird feeders and fill them with birdseed.  We have a red funnel that we use to pour the seed into the feeder.  Then, we hang them back up and wait for the birds to come visit.

  I love seeing the birds come to the feeder and eat the food!

Our New Year's Eve Tradition: Memory Box by Debbie

by Embrace Country Life on 12/31/13

New Year’s Eve Tradition

Research shows that creating/keeping family traditions helps keep your family close.  (

This year, one of my resolutions is to write more blogs.  Today’s blog will let you in on one of our New Year’s Eve family traditions.

We started the tradition of the “Memory Box” in 2004.  All of my four siblings and their families were together on New Year’s Eve.  I purchased a wood trunk (photo below) for each family.  I also printed photos of every family (cousins, grandparents, etc.)  The children went through the photos and chose ones that they wanted to include on their box.  Using fancy scissors, they cut out the photos.  Next, we placed the photos around the box and then used Modge Podge (found in craft stores) to glue the photos down.  The Modge Podge can be brushed over the photos to ensure they will seal down the photos.  The children also wrote their names and the date on pieces of paper and sealed them to the box as well. 

When the box was drying, each child was given a paper titled, 2003 Year in Review.   On the paper, she/he answered 10+ questions related to the past year.  Some questions included:  favorite book, TV show, movie, sport, school subject, etc.  The paper also included goals for the future:  Something they want to accomplish in the New Year, a resolution, and one way to help others.  I’ve included the link to the form we used.  Feel free to adapt it to your family’s needs.

We have continued this tradition every year.  The children love opening their Family Box and looking through their papers reminiscing about their favorites and seeing if they accomplished their goals.  This box truly has become our “Treasure Box.”  We hope it will become one of your family’s treasures!



My Friend's New Horse by Sarah

by Embrace Country Life on 12/29/13

Yesterday my friend, Rose got a new horse. Rose had sold her old horse, Jaine because she was way too much to handle. After a couple months of searching for the right horse, Rose found just the right one…Tara. Tara is around a 15 hand thoroughbred off-track horse.  She’s 8 yrs old and used to run in races.  We think that the reason she didn’t make it in the big races is because she had small legs, so she’s probably slower than the other race horses.

                  On the day that Rose got Tara, she first came up to our house with Preston, who used his truck to hook up our trailer to get the horse with.  When they left, my sister, Alicia and I got up and ate breakfast. Once they came back we were over at their barn waiting for Tara’s arrival.  After Tara met their other horse, Violet, Rose decided to ride her new horse. Alicia and I watched Rose and her sister, Frankie ride Tara and Violet for a while then we decided to get our horses, Sassy and Flash to ride with them. During the ride Flash got to meet Tara. He didn’t care at all, they nudged noses then walked away. We were outside for a total of 6 hours! Tara is doing amazing and so is Violet with her new friend! J

A Christmas "Thank You" to all the Farmers by Debbie

by Embrace Country Life on 12/25/13

If you read the "About Us" section of Embrace Country Life, you know that both sets of Cliff’s grandparents owned dairy farms in PA.  His parents were raised on dairy farms and they worked hard every day to keep the farms up and running.  Cliff’s dad started milking cows when he was seven years old.  He was responsible for a certain number of cows.  He had to wake up at 4:30 every morning and milk his cows before school.  Then, after supper, he had to go out and milk them again. 

Cliff’s mom was the oldest of seven children.  She and her sister took turns helping Cliff’s Grandpa and his uncles in the barn.  When she did not go to the barn, she helped grandma with the cooking and cleaning in the house.  The girl who stayed in the house also did the homework.  The one who helped with barn chores that evening copied the homework by flashlight in the girls’ bedroom.  Cliff’s mom told a story that one night Grandpa went out to the barn to check on a sick cow.  Upon returning to the house he saw a light flickering in the girls’ bedroom.  He was very upset that the girls were not sleeping, as he knew the girls needed to get a good night’s sleep to stay healthy.

Dairy farms are open 24-7; there are no vacation days, no snow days, no holidays.  Chores had to be done every day.  Needless to say, it could be a hard life at times but if you talk to any of Cliff’s relatives today, there is nothing but good times remembered.

Over the years, when Cliff and I (and even the girls) have mentioned to people that we live on a hobby farm, the reactions have ranged from inquisitiveness to disparagement.  

“You shovel what?” some people would say.  Others would say, “Doesn’t it smell?”  One particular comment led Cliff to retell a story of his father.  

Cliff’s dad grew up on a farm with seven siblings.  It was a treat to go anywhere back then.  They lived simply.  Milking cows, shooting deer in the pasture for meat and harvesting corn for their suppers was their way of life.  On one special occasion, Cliff’s grandfather got tickets to the circus for their whole family.  I can only imagine the excitement of the children!  The family dressed up in their Sunday’s best and headed into town. They found seats for their family next to a “well-to-do” woman.  

Looking at them all, she said very loudly, “Plagued old farmers!”  Abruptly, she got up and left.  That label and the emotion it evoked stayed with Cliff’s dad his entire lifetime.

This leads me to wonder why farming in general is often looked down upon in society?  Some people would never step foot in a barn.  If it weren’t for farmers, that well-to-do woman wouldn’t have had food to eat.  We all wouldn’t.  Farmers have the strongest work ethic out of all professions in my opinion. 

As I sat at mass last night, Christmas Eve, I started thinking about farmers, and animals, and barns.  It hit me that Jesus Christ, Himself wasn’t “too good” to be in a barn.  He was born in a barn and laid in an animal’s manger.  If a barn was good enough for sweet, baby, Jesus then it is good enough for me!

This Christmas, I would like to thank all the farmers who work tirelessly to put food on all of our tables every day of the year.  Your effort doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated by all of us at Embrace Country Life! 

4-H Christmas Party by Cliff

by Embrace Country Life on 12/08/13

Sitting beside the fire on a Sunday evening reminiscing about our day.  Earlier we enjoyed a wonderful coffee hour at our church with Santa and Mrs. Claus.  After eating too many sweets, conversing with friends and taking photos of our children with the jolly couple, we headed home.  The children and I tended to the animals in the barn while Deb prepared lunch and wrapped the presents for our 4-H club (Showstoppers) gift exchange Christmas dinner party.

Our 4-H club, the Showstoppers is comprised of really great people.  We feel fortunate to be associated with such caring folks.  This evening we met at the Lisle Fire Station for our Christmas party.  Everyone contributed to the dinner and enjoyed a delicious meal.  Following the meal, the children participated in the gift exchange.  At a previous meeting they all drew names and kept their drawings a secret.  It was all revealed tonight.  The children called each other up one at a time and sat with that child as they opened this.her gifts.  There were many expressions of gratitude, excitment and giggles.  The parents were busy taking photos, commenting on how thoughtful the gifts were and how they seemed to fit each child's personalities and interests. 

Following the gift exchange, the children participated in their photo contest.  At our previous meeting in November they participated in a photography lesson.  The children were instructed to take photos and enter one in a contest during the Christmas party.  After all of the votes were counted Sarah's and Rose's photos tied with the same number of votes.  The story behind Sarah's photo is as follows: she asked me to video her and Flash jumping at our hobby farm.  Sarah then viewed the video and created the photo by taking a screen shot from the video (see the photo listed on this page).  Both Sarah and Rose (who took a photo of a friend riding her horse down a dirt road near a field) were rewarded with horse themed photo frames for their pictures.

The evening concluded with the parents cleaning up (I volunteered as dishwasher) as the children were busy socializing over their presents and expressing their desires for a snow day tomorrow (the weather forecast is predicting snow and ice). On the drive home, Alicia, Sarah, Julia, Deb and I listened and sang along to FM 103.3 (24 hours of Christmas music for the month of December).  We also reflected on the 4-H party and what a wonderful time we had spent with some really nice, wholesome people.

Flash (3 weeks later) by Sarah

by Embrace Country Life on 12/01/13

Flash (After 3 Weeks)

When we got Flash we noticed that he was skinny. We had the vet check him out and she said that he needed to be fed extra feed and hay.  Since then we have noticed him start to fill in his withers and hips. The vet also told us to keep working with him (so he doesn’t get just fat, muscular too) so I’ve been jumping him with my sister Alicia (with her riding Sassy).  Just yesterday I introduced him to the part of our land that wraps around our house (behind the pool), he was scared at first but after a couple runs through it, he now sees the path as “just another route.” Flash is amazing with both his health and training. I will keep you updated!

Flash by Sarah

by Embrace Country Life on 11/10/13

The day was Saturday November 9th 2013.  Just a week before I realized I could not ride Lizzy, our 27 year old pony anymore because she was too old for the type of work I was putting her through (jumping, cantering, galloping etc.) So I went looking online for a new horse that I could ride and do all of these things with. After a couple days I found Flash.  Flash was being sold with many other horses on craigslist. I told my father that we should look at him and he told me to call the owner. And, that I did.  After about 30 minutes we had made an appointment that day to go up and ride Flash.  When we got there the owner, Lisa, showed us a variety of horses we could buy. But none of them could compete with Flash.  For example, we wanted an English riding horse; most of the horses she showed us were western. Also we wanted a tall horse so jumping would be easy and I would most likely not outgrow it. The tallest horse besides Flash was grey and grey horses tend to get cancer.  After we brush, tacked, and rode Flash we realized that he was amazing! He rode both English and Western, jumped, did a little barrels and would canter starting from a walk! After the day we told the owner that we would think about it and get back to her later in the week.

            The next two days I realized that I really wanted Flash.  I told my dad and he called her.  Apparently, someone came that morning and trailered him 40 minutes to an indoor arena then rode him and brought him back.  But the good news was that we were going to pick up Flash Saturday at 9:00! I was so happy! After the news I couldn’t wait for Saturday!

            Friday night, we got his stall ready and hooked up the trailer.  But what we didn’t get ready was his name.  The owner said that he went to summer camp and the campers named him “Taz” But I didn’t quite like that name.  As I was looking at his stall-to-be I realized that it had a sign on it saying “Black ~ Sugar ~ Flash”. I then realized that “Black” meant that he was a black horse and “Sugar” would represent white or the white he has on him and “Flash” would represent how fast he is! Then I decided that Flash was a cool name and so did my sister, Alicia.

            Saturday morning I woke up at 5 because I was so excited! But then I couldn’t go back to sleep so I played some games on my iPod then the iPad until I finally fell asleep at 5:30. Waking up at 7, I rushed downstairs, quickly ate, got dressed, grabbed my tea and went into the truck along with my dad and sister, Alicia.  After a 1hr 15min drive we finally arrived and put Flash in the trailer.  After all the paperwork and questions we finally headed back into the truck and drove home with a new friend.

            Arriving home and getting Flash out, our other three horses were flipping out.  Flash did very good in walking right down to his stall.  Later that day, Alicia introduced Flash with our other gelding, Patches, and they instantly became best buds.

            The next day we decided to open the top door so he could see the other horses too. But when we came back to check on him his stall door was spit in half and he was casually eating in the pasture.  Sassy, the queen of the barn does not like Flash very much and has tried to kick and bite him while making very strange donkey-like noises.

            Flash has been home for two days now and he’s doing very well! My dad fixed his stall door and he now hangs out with Patches all the time!  I will keep you updated on his progress!

End of an Era by Cliff

by Embrace Country Life on 10/15/13

An end of an Era.  November 1999, I purchased a used Yamaha G2 gas golf cart.  The reasoning behind this purchase?  The Spring of 1999 Alicia turned one year old.  Debbie mentioned that she would like to take Alicia to explore the pond in the lower field.  However, it was quite the walk with a one year old child.  Thus, my buddy Rusty and I went to Tire-Land-USA and purchased a used golf cart.  We brought it to my garage and cleaned it all up.  I bought rubbing compound and we polished it until it looked new.  Debbie was pleasantly surprised when she received the golf cart as a Christmas gift.  Since then that golf cart was used non stop. 

Over the years, all three of our girls learned to drive on that golf cart.  It was used, abused and used some more.  It has been stuck in mud, smashed into trees and the side of the garage.  It hauled Barbies, hay bales, fishing equipment for the pond, feed bags, and firewood.  It was even used to carry our trash cans and recycle bins down our 3/10 mile driveway.  It carried our girls and their friends all over the fields.  They drove it for hours on end.  It was always a hit with visitors as they all wanted to ride in and drive the golf cart. 

All of this use took a toll on the engine.  Eventually, I had the engine rebuilt.  However, in 2011 the engine tired out again.  By then we had purchased a Kawasaki Mule to aid with the farm work.  Thus, the out of commission golf cart was not missed.  It literally stayed put for two years.  That is until this past weekend.  I pulled it out, pumped up a couple of the tires, cleaned it up and took some pics.  We put it on Craigslist late last night at 7pm and within a half hour we had four phone calls.  A gentleman from Elmira showed up at 10pm with a trailer and cash in hand.   

With the glow of the exterior house lights shining on the golf cart we watched it leave Mountain Breeze Acres after almost 14 years of memories....


Firewood Ready for the Winter by Cliff

by Embrace Country Life on 10/14/13

As with every year at Mountain Breeze Acres, we order a 22 ton load of logs from John Wagner (see the web site for his contact info).  This year John gave us a nice variety of hardwood (oak, maple, beech, cherry, and some ash).  As they say, firewood warms you many times, cutting, splitting stacking and burning it. We start out cutting the logs into chunks about 16 inches in length.  I use my 20 inch bar Stihl MS 391 chainsaw to cut the logs.  It really rips through the wood. My process includes sharpening the chain with a file every other tank full of gas. This ensures the chain saw is spitting out nice big pieces of saw dust.  

I usually cut a few logs, move the chunks of wood near the woodshed and use the Husky gas log splitter to split the wood into burnable sizes and toss them into a pile to be stacked in the woodshed. 

I purposely do not calculate the amount of time spent on this process for fear of realizing that I spend way too much time on it.  Thus, I simply focus on the fact that I enjoy spending some time outside physically working hard to accomplish something that will benefit my family, save some money (heating with wood instead of burning fuel oil), using a renewable resource for heating purposes, and spending quality time with my family as we stack the wood in the woodshed. This is the most enjoyable part of the process.  As we stack the wood,  we have some profound conversations regarding life, school, friends etc.  I cherish those times!

What's really neat about processing your own firewood is that you gain the opportunity to add more equipment (toys as my wife calls them) to the farm. Chain saws, safety gear (including hardhat with built in ear muffs and eye protection), log roller, files, log splitter and the Kawasaki Mule for bringing the firewood to the house in the winter.  It's awesome!  Additionally, I really enjoy burning the wood in our Vermont Castings wood stove.  We rarely have the need to turn on our fuel oil baseboard hot water boiler before November 1st.  

The 22 ton of logs provides us with 7 to 8 cord of fire wood (one cord is 24 feet long, 4 feet high and 16 inches wide).  From fall to spring, we will burn almost all of the firewood that we processed over the summer. The boiler only comes on when its really cold and when we are not home to keep the wood fire going. Throughout the cold months, burning firewood easily saves us at least $2k a year in fuel oil spending.  We also use the sawdust from the chain saw as bedding in the barn.  So I guess all of those hours cutting, splitting, stacking and bringing the wood to the house is worth it in more ways than one!

Sarah is putting the finishing touches on the wood splitting video and the chimney cleaning video.  They will be available soon on the Embrace Country Life video page.  Be sure to check them out.

I'm actually writing this blog next to the wood stove this evening.  They say firewood warms you many times....All I care about now is staying warm on a cool fall evening next to our wood stove...I sit here cherishing the time I was able to spend outside with Deb, Alicia, Sarah and Julia.  We accomplished something that benefits the family and the environment.

​Sarah and Julia with "LIzzy" at our hobby farm, Mountain Breeze Acres.
​Cliff and Julia building the new chicken coop!
The girls took first place in the Costume Class at the Broome County Fair!
Sarah jumping Flash on a cool Winter day.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our farm to you!
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Feeding the birds on a cold winter day.
Milk can found in the Clough Brothers Dairy Farm granary.