Walnut Hill Farm at Elm Spring

5 May

This past Friday, May 3, was the 7th annual International Female Ride Day (IFRD). A day when women around the globe celebrate being motorcyclists.

I had grand plans for the day. I made a very special 2:00 appointment, finagled the afternoon off from work (after working lots of extra hours the week before), mapped a route, and prepared to set out. I also had to go to my Dad’s in Baltimore on Friday evening. Preparing to ride meant packing an overnight bag, loading the bike with luggage, camera equipment and tunes, and donning the gear (riding pants, boots, jacket, and helmet). After attaching my IFRD flyer to the windscreen, I was all ready.

I climbed on the bike, hit the starter, and was dismayed to hear a click, click, click as opposed to the motor purring to life.

I frantically did some troubleshooting to see if I could get the thing going, all the while being mindful of the time. That 2:00 appointment was an important one I did NOT want to miss. Finally, I decided to remove all the gear, transfer my stuff into the car, and roll.

I called Jeff, the man I’d be meeting, to let him know I was running late and see if that would be okay. He said it wasn’t a problem, so off I went. My destination was Walnut Hill Farm at Elm Springs. It’s about 33 miles southeast of Warrenton in Stafford County, Virginia.

Walnut Hill Farm was established in 2000 on a 38-acre parcel of ground, which is the only remaining land in agricultural production that remains from a farm originally established in 1843. It’s owned by Jeff and Ginny Adams. (Visit their About Us page if you’d like to learn more about the people and the farm.)

I first met Jeff at the Warrenton Farmers’ Market. I sent him an e-mail to let him know I’d mentioned him in my blog post. And to say, “If you’d like a full post on your farm, I’d love to come out and meet all of you and see your critters.”

Y’all know I love farm critters, right? Especially cows. I’ve been wanting to see a real farm for the longest time.

Jeff wrote back saying a visit would be fine, but he’d prefer to schedule a visit in May.  “I would like to wait until the poultry is out on pasture and the grass has grown,” he explained. “Emerging from winter is not always easy on a farm.”

In the weeks that followed some interesting events transpired on that busy farm. The most exciting, to me anyway, being the birth of a new cow. A male American Milking Devon (that’s the breed) named Charlie. After a very difficult birth, his Mama decided she doesn’t care much for motherhood, and she refused to feed her baby. So he needs to be bottle-fed. In a newsletter, Jeff invited folks to come feed Charlie.

You know I HAD to jump at that chance, right? As it turns out, when I called, the first available appointment was on Friday.

Me and Charlie

Me and Charlie

I was beyond excited. Really.

I have long wanted to experience bottle feeding a baby cow.

Me and Charlie

Me and Charlie

How cool is that? Jeff was even kind enough to take pictures for me.

Me and Charlie

Me and Charlie

Is that the cutest thing ever?

As exciting as that was, there was more excitement still to come. I didn’t expect a farm tour. I’d just gone down to feed Charlie. But Jeff had other plans in mind.

Charlie followed us to the gate, hoping for more milk.

Charlie followed us to the gate, hoping for more milk.

You think feeding Charlie was exciting? It gets better. For serious.

There was a chore Jeff needed help with. He did say Spring is a busy time, right?

He’d gotten a shipment from the Post Office that morning that had to be unpacked. He was kind enough to save that “chore” for me.

The Shipment

The Shipment

This was no ordinary package. It made noise. I followed Jeff from the farm store into the stable and did a very good job NOT squealing loudly in delight after he’d removed the top of the box.

100 Baby Geese!

100 Baby Geese!

Oh. My. Gawd. Cute overload!

Baby Geese

Baby Geese

I watched as he started lifting the babies gently from the box, placing them in the special brooding box he’d set up in advance.

“Can I help?” I asked. He answered with, “Sure, if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty.”

Silly man. Me NOT touch those downy little bundles of joy?

I actually got to lift a bunch of babies out of the box. I was thrilled.

Brooding Pen

Brooding Pen

We watched for a little while. Then Jeff showed me the other poultry that had arrived previously.

Chickens

Chickens

 

Turkeys

Turkeys

 

More Chickens

More Chickens

It was awesome. As soon as they’re old enough, all of the poultry will be released into pastures, so they can range freely and grow into happy, healthy, birds that will one day make a very special dinner for some lucky folks.

He introduced me to a few sheep, too, then we headed out into the pasture to meet his adopted Belgian mare, Nellie.

Nellie

Nellie

Nellie used to live at Mount Vernon. She’s spending her retirement years at Walnut Hill Farm. Jeff obviously is very fond of her.

After we’d greeted Nellie, Jeff said, “Charlie is like any other baby after it’s said.” I looked where he pointed to see a full-bellied Charlie…

Sleepy boy.

Sleepy boy.

…lounging in the sun.

Charlie can’t be pastured with the other cows. He’d try to feed off of every cow, male and female, which would just make them angry. Angry enough to beat up on the baby.

He’ll need to be bottle fed for at least four months. If all was well and he was living with his mama, he’d nurse for about nine months. That will keep Jeff and Ginny busy. As if taking care of all the critters didn’t already mean enough work.

Speaking of the other critters, our next stop was the cow pasture. I just followed along listening as Jeff shared all kinds of info with me. I didn’t think twice when he opened the pasture gate, and motioned me through.

Charlie's Mom is behind the bull.

Charlie’s Mom is behind the bull.

We slowly made our way across the pasture as he explained about different cow breeds. These are American Milking Devon cows, a heritage breed that first arrived in America in 1623. You can read all about them here if you like.

American Milking Devon cattle.

American Milking Devon cattle.

I listened closely to Jeff as we strolled across the pasture, interjecting with questions periodically. We’d only made it about halfway across the pasture when he sat down. It was a lovely, warm Spring day, so I sat down beside him.

Now, y’all know how I have always wanted to sit in the middle of a cow pasture, right? I would never have said, “Hey, Jeff, can we go sit in your pasture and see what happens?” That just seemed too frivolous when he was expending so much time and effort sharing knowledge with me.

I watched the cows as we chatted, and sure enough, they started moving closer.

A curious American Milking Devon cow.

A curious American Milking Devon cow.

 

American Milking Devon cow.

American Milking Devon cow.

Ena, I think that was her name, was the first one to get really close to us.

I did finally say, “You know, I have always heard that if you sit or lay in a cow pasture that the cows will come over to investigate. Is that why we sat here?”

He just chuckled and said he thought I might like to take some more pictures. He has obviously read my blog. Lol.

Another cow approaches.

Another cow approaches.

It was funny watching them nonchalantly ambling over. As if they didn’t want to appear too curious and risk spooking me.

How now, brownish-red cow?

How now, brownish-red cow?

I can’t remember this cow’s name. It may have been a bull.

The adults approached first.

The adults approached first.

 

A heifer.

A heifer.

The younguns were the last to come over. Jeff and I chatted away as they ambled over, checked us out, then went on their way.

At least I though they’d gone on their way. After about 20 minutes of sitting, when we went to stand up, I was tickled to see they had all lined up on the hill behind us.

At our back.

At our back.

That’s not a great shot. I was looking into the sun. But it should give you an idea how close they were standing.

Cows watching us move away.

Cows watching us move away.

I captured the second image as Jeff and I moved away.

From there, we headed over to the next pasture to meet Jeff’s two Milking Short Horns, the oxen team, Chip and Dale.

Milking Short Horns, Chip and Dale.

Milking Short Horns, Chip and Dale.

As cows go, the American Milking Devons are on the smallish side. I think the big AMDs weighed about 1,000 pounds each.

These guys, the oxen, run at about a ton. Yep, 2,000 pounds each.

I remarked at their size as we approached, and Jeff told me that they are even more gentle than the AMDs.

Then he showed me a picture of someone riding one of the oxen. I don’t know if that was a coincidence or he’d realized folks who’d been told I had an appointment with a cow on Friday had been making fun of me, saying I’d probably be riding someone’s cow!

That's one big beast.

That’s one big beast.

These guys really were very gentle. I can’t remember if that’s Chip or Dale, but I really had to chuckle to myself when Jeff started removing the crust from around the animal’s eye while saying he was clearing the “eye boogers.” That’s the same thing I say when I’m doing that to my dogs. So this cow is just a pet on a much larger scale. Don’t believe me? Check this out…

Chin scratching rocks!

Chin scratching rocks!

Yep, that 2,000 pounder loved having his chin scratched!

After meeting the boys, we made our way back to the barn. At that point, Jeff had already spent about an hour and a half with me. He still had more work to do, remarking that if he didn’t get busy, there’d be no ground beef for the farmers’ markets the next day.

There’s more to the farm to see, but I’ll have to save that for another day. I did not want to impede production.

Here are a few more pics I captured of some of the other critters.

Farm Cat

Farm Cat

 

Adopted, free-ranging rooster.

Adopted, free-ranging rooster.

 

Cotton Patch Geese

Cotton Patch Geese

Ride or no ride, it was an all-around fabulous day. I really do hope I get to go back soon. I still haven’t met the pigs. And there may be some burros. Plus, I have to tell you all about the sheep.

So, what do you think? Was that an amazing treat for me or what? 🙂

10 thoughts on “Walnut Hill Farm at Elm Spring

  1. Ooooh so much goodness. I can only imagine the silly grin you had on your face on Friday while wandering the farm. It looks as though you had so much fun.

    I am so glad you met Jeff and were invited out to the farm. Sure your bike wouldn’t start, but you had a lovely (perfect) afternoon anyway.

    Thanks so much for sharing all the pictures. I’m grinning too.

  2. Awww… so cute. Great post. And I like that you can’t tell the difference between a bull and a cow. Maybe it’s a bull who wants to be a cow…

  3. It looks like you had a great day! The baby geese and Chalie are adorable. My favorite picture is of the 2,000 pound “pet” getting his chin scratched. So cute!

  4. Kathy:

    that was a great tour ! I saw an episode on tv about the chicks but I’d imagine being so small and feathery, you would just have to pick them up

    Never thought about having a cow as a pet. You would need a big yard

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

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