It was a lovely, sunny Spring Sunday here in the Virginia Piedmont. By afternoon, temperatures were in the mid- to upper-50s, but it felt warmer in the sun. I had to do a bit of shopping and, since I knew I’d be heading southeast, I decided to stop and visit Walnut Hill Farm at Elm Springs.
It’s no secret that I like cows. A couple of years ago, during a visit to Walnut Hill Farm at Elm Springs, I had the pleasure of meeting and bottle-feeding two-week old Charlie.
The farm is owned and operated by Jeff and Ginny Adams. Jeff sells meat at the Warrenton Farmers’ Market, which is where we met. I see him sort of regularly during the market season, and we usually chat a bit. He speaks often of his wife, Ginny, who I’d never met until today.
Finally, during today’s visit, I had the pleasure of meeting Ginny. She’s just as nice as I always thought she’d be, and obviously enjoys her animals. She was kind enough to introduce me to a bunch of her animal friends today, much to my delight. 🙂
AND, get this, she re-introduced me to one very handsome guy.
Cute little Charlie isn’t so little any more. But he’s just as beautiful. (I sure wish I had hair that color!)
After visiting with Kit and Nellie for a bit, I moseyed to the next pasture to have a look over the fence at the sheep.
They were all looking right back at me.
Then, Ginny said we could go INTO the pasture. Squee!
As soon as we stepped through the gate, a funny thing happened. All of the sheep in the pasture came running over. Literally.
“Look at them all running over,” I said with a delighted giggle.
“That’s because they don’t know who you are,” Ginny explained, “or they think maybe you’re going to feed them.”
From there we headed over to the cow pasture. We spotted this courting couple along the way.
Y’all know there are different breeds of cattle, right? American Milking Devons are on the smallish side. The big, full-grown AMDs only weigh about 1,000 pounds each.
While Ginny and I stood quietly in the pasture chatting, the herd of American Milking Devon cattle watched us closely. I was struck by how much that bull’s head resembles a bison.
Cows really are curious critters. 🙂
Look at that sweet face on Chip!
Chip and Dale, the farm’s oxen, are of the Milking Shorthorn breed. Both weigh in excess of 2,000 pounds each.
They’re very gentle. Chip loves having his chin scratched.
I was able to scratch his chin, too. I just had to keep an eye on those horns. His head is almost as long as my torso, and if he swung his head around quickly, I could get speared. Not impaled, mind you, but those horns would hurt if they made contact with the wrong spot.
As we approached the pasture housing Chip and Dale, Ginny remarked that there’d been a pig escape. There were at least two very large sows running around. VERY large.
I’m a tall girl, and I’m pretty sure the backs of those pigs came up at least to my hip.
I may be a city girl, but I read a lot, and I know pigs can be quite mean, so we both kept wary eyes on them.
That enclosure also held more sheep. And there was a noisy flock of geese — it’s mating season — up behind the house.
Ginny and I chatted about farm life and critters the whole time we strolled. She explained how the sheep, once they start dropping lambs, adopt a “grass is always greener” mentality and tend to wander far and wide across the pasture in search of newly emerging grass shoots. Which is why most of that herd was on the far side of the pasture.
We eventually made our way back to the shop. In addition to attending various Farmers’ Markets throughout the area, the couple also maintains a farm store on their property, with freezers full of packaged meat.
Just as Ginny and I approached the shop, a couple of cars pulled in. These folks were regular customers, and were greeted warmly by name. There were several small children among the new arrivals, so Ginny went and got the newest bottle lamb.
This youngun had been discovered in the middle of the pasture less than a week prior, only partially cleaned off. They have no idea which sheep birthed the lamb. It’s possible that it was one of a set of twins. They’ll be bottle-feeding it for quite some time. It seems to be doing well, so far.
While the animals are cute, farm life is rife with harsh realities. Like this abandoned lamb, which, if it hadn’t been discovered when it was, could easily have died.
Ginny said she won’t name the lamb until it’s a least a week old. In the past, after she’d named several younger lambs only to have them die for one reason or another, she’d decided naming should wait.
It’s easy to romanticize farm life. Just look at all of those beautiful animals! But farm life is hard work. They have to feed and care for the animals and the 38-acre piece of land with its myriad fences, animal shelters, the pond, etc.
They rarely get days off. And they both work other jobs, too, to make ends meet.
If you’re a local and have never tried meat from Walnut Hill Farm at Elm Springs, you should. Jeff and/or one of his helpers will be at the Saturday market in Old Town Warrenton with massive coolers full of meat. The bulk chorizo is my favorite, but I also like their link sausages, too, which are available in pork and lamb varieties. I also like to experiment with new stuff on occasion. This time, I bought some lamb kabob meat, too, which I am quite anxious to try.
If you’re not close to Warrenton, you can make purchases at the farm. Click here for contact and location info.
Address: 449 Kellogg Mill Road, Falmouth, VA 22406
Phone: (540) 752-2909
And if you are nowhere near Virginia, find another local farmer to support. Not only will you find an alternate source for good, fresh, healthier food, you may just make a new friend or two in the process.