Weird Weather, Weird Eggs

This article was originally published in The Journal  on February 18, 2019.

With weird weather can come weird eggs.

A couple weeks ago we gathered our first “fairy egg” from our flock. I went out one Saturday to check on the chickens, shooed a broody hen off the clutch, and there, among the normal eggs was a miniature, creamy brown, speckled egg.

Oddities like this can really make my day. I took the dainty egg inside, resisted the urge to wake my daughter up from her nap to show her how adorable it was, and started researching the reasons why this little egg was laid.

The formation of an egg takes about 25 hours from start to finish. The reproductive tract is very sensitive to changes in the environment and stress. Stress can cause the hen’s system to speed up or slow down and lead to odd developments.

A fairy egg is a tiny egg with no yolk. Usually stress during ovulation (when the yolk is released from the

ovary) is what creates a fairy egg. This can happen if the albumen (egg white) begins forming before the yolk is released. Then the egg continues to develop the membrane and shell.

Immature hens are more likely to produce odd eggs because their reproductive systems are still developing. They can also be more sensitive to stress.

Stress can be anything from temperature swings to loud noises.

In our case, I think the stress that lead to this fairy egg was caused by a drastic drop in temperature overnight, but it could have been any number of things.

Whatever the reason for this tiny, yolkless egg, it was a fun chance for the whole family to learn more about the development of life and food.

Chick season will be here soon. If you are interested in raising poultry for food or fun, start planning now. To learn more about how to select chickens for your home flock, consult this OSU factsheet “Chicken Breed Selection” by Extension Educators, Sabrina Schirtzinger and Tim McDermott:

Where is everybody under 65?

This article was originally published in The Journal  on February 11, 2019 and republished by The Firelands Farmer. 

Last Monday night, I was in another county helping my colleagues teach a recertification class. All of the attendees had previously completed an initial training to certify their ability to use fertilizer and/or pesticides appropriately and were due to renew their licenses to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

We had a dozen people in the audience, most who have been through multiple three-year cycles of recertification since their initial licensing.

During a break between topics, one of them pulled me aside and asked, “Where is everybody under 65?”

We looked around, and noticed that the majority of the audience was near or past the average retirement age.

“I ask myself the same thing regularly,” I told him.

The truth is that across our country the average age of the American farmer continues to creep up year after year. They are continuing to farm well into retirement. They are experienced, capable, and knowledgeable, but the clock is ticking on how much longer they can carry the weight of feeding America. Eventually, they will retire or pass on and a new generation of farm managers will inherit their responsibilities.

In our region of Ohio, many of those farmers that are positioned to fill their shoes work a full-time, off-farm job. They often are working in partnership with an older relative, a sibling, or their own children. Schedules are tight, money is tight, and daylight hours are gone too soon.

In the midst of all those factors, it is understandable that other tasks are of higher priority than attending a class on one of the rare evenings they have free. At the same time, these farmers probably need the help of Extension the most.

Family farm relationships can be challenging; learning how to calibrate a sprayer can be mind-boggling; keeping farm records up to date can be difficult; calculating which type of lime is the best value can be confusing. That is what Extension is here for, to help farmers develop these kinds of skills.

Do you farm in partnership with someone that fits this description? If so, please encourage them to utilize the services Extension has to offer. It is crucial for the future of agriculture that we reinforce an understanding and appreciation for the value of the next generation of farm managers. We want to see an influx of 20, 30, 40-something aged farmers at our programs.

Educators like myself are trying to reach out to those younger farmers to get them the tools they need to be successful. Our resources are available through one-on-one interactions in the office or the field, workshops, field days, fact sheets, videos, podcasts, and social media.

So, share the information with your young farmer friends, encourage them to go to the trainings, and maybe offer to take their kids to sports practice and ice cream while they spend a few hours polishing their skills.

You need them for the future of your farm and America needs them for the future of food.

Find information about first-timer trainings for Pesticide and Fertilizer Applicator Certifications, Beef Quality Assurance, A.I. School, and more below and online at Call or email Christine at 740-732-5681 or to learn more.

Forage Focus

This article was originally published in  The Journal on January 28, 2019.

In today’s world, multimedia resources are intertwined with the average American’s daily activities. From social media to YouTube, a vast amount of information is available at the tip of your finger on a mobile device.

Extension has been making greater efforts to be present on those media platforms and utilizing non-traditional teaching methods to get information out to Ohioans. If you utilize YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you can find OSU Extension channels and accounts providing educational resources in the forms of articles, videos, photos, and more.

If you are a livestock or forage producer, there is a new OSU Extension program available for you on YouTube called ‘Forage Focus’. This program is produced by The Ohio State University South Centers and is created by county agricultural educators. The primary goal of the program is to address timely topics for pasture based livestock managers.

Forage Focus airs live on the third Thursday of the month at 10 a.m. on YouTube at Videos are then posted on the South Centers YouTube channel and shared on social media. I invite you to tune in for the live stream and to share videos you like on your social media accounts.

Some of the topics addressed on the program so far have been, “Ten Tips for Buying Horse Hay”, “Forage Considerations Around Pipelines”, “Rabies in Livestock”, and “Soil Health Under Saturated Conditions.” Coming up in the February show will be “Frost Seeding Legumes.”

You will hopefully recognize the host of the show, your county ANR Educator- me. If you have ideas for upcoming shows, please contact me with suggestions. This program is an effort to provide the information our producers need in an engaging and simple format.

You can find all the Forage Focus programs posted at Check them out!

Videos are also re-posted on this blog at

The Crockpot Approach

This article was originally published in The Journal on January 21, 2019.

In last week’s column, I shared some of the insights gained from attending the American Forage and Grassland Council’s Annual Conference and promised to continue this week. The story I shared last week was about forage tragedy and triumph. This weeks’ is about getting started farming without inheriting it or marrying it.

Two beef producers led the session I attended on this topic. Wesley Tucker, an Ag Economist for University of Missouri Extension, shared his story of starting from scratch, as did Dr. Jason Salchow, who is a veterinarian and custom grazer. The approaches they used were very different.

Mr. Tucker had farmed with his father as a young adult, but one day his dad said, “Son, this farm isn’t big enough for the both of us.” So, he started his own beef operation without owning any land.

His strategy was to rent as much grazable land as he could handle and rotate his cattle from one place to another. He would calculate the cost of feeding hay and the cost of renting the land. If the land was cheaper than buying hay, then he determined it was worth the cost to rent. Although it had many challenges, the system worked and he turned a profit. However, at the end of his presentation he said, “I have failed.”

When he first started this system, he was single and had time to run from one rental site to another checking cattle. After starting a family, he took his daughter along with him. She enjoyed helping move temporary fence and riding in the truck. His daughter is now ten years old and according to Mr. Tucker, “she hates the farm.” He continued to say, “I have failed because my daughter hates the farm. She hates it because instead of spending dedicated time with her, I’m checking cows before and after work.”

The take home message of his story was to be smart and economical, but don’t forget that your time has value too. You should be careful how you spend it.

Dr. Salchow, on the other hand, tried something different. He grew up in a farm family and decided to become a veterinarian. In the process, he accumulated a large amount of student loan debt, started a family, and soon realized that veterinary medicine was not his true calling. He made a rash decision to quit the practice, buy back part of his family’s farm, and focus on beef production. He shared that he does not recommend that exact strategy, but he does recommend perseverance and patience.

The past 20 years have been a long rough road for Dr. Salchow, his wife, and five children to get to where they are today. Currently they farm as custom grazers. They own the land and graze it with other people’s cattle. All their clients make monthly payments for their grazing services based on average daily gains. Clients maintain the liability for animal health and the Salchows maintain the liability for the land.

His wife maintains the records and he maintains the pastures and cattle. They are making money, they have gained the trust of their clients, and they are expanding. He continued to share that expanding would be a lot easier if his family’s farm hadn’t been separated by the previous generation in a divorce.

The leading cause of farm fragmentation in the U.S. is not urbanization, but rather death, divorce, and a family that cannot compromise. Dr. Salchow lamented over the loss of the American family farm by saying, “If you want to be successful on the farm, go home and love your wife. We have to be better husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers. There is no success outside the home that can compromise for failure in the home.”

A fellow member of the audience tied Dr. Salchow’s comments back to liability insurance, to say that the best liability insurance you can hold for your farm is a good relationship with your family. That is the glue that holds the farm together.

Dr. Salchow’s take home message was that success in farming is like a crockpot, not a microwave. He said, “Everyone wants quick results, like a microwave. But, nothing good comes out of a microwave. A crockpot on the other hand, that’s what the good stuff comes out of, but you have to cook it low and slow.”

My advice for you after attending this session is to consider both of these producer’s approaches, their struggles, and their successes.

Neither presentation was about the animals or land as much as they were about relationships with your neighbors and your family. Success in agriculture requires capital, but it is built on perseverance and trust. Trust takes time to develop and perseverance is what drives the crockpot approach to success. Take the time to build trusting relationships with your family, neighbors, and clients. Those relationships are like insurance for your current struggles and future successes.

Forage Tragedy and Triumph

This article was originally published in The Journal  on January 14, 2019.

Last week I was given a wonderful opportunity to attend the American Forage and Grassland Council’s Annual Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Thanks to the Ohio Joint Council of Extension Professionals, I was awarded a scholarship that covered over half of the travel and registration costs to attend.

As your county Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, I believe that expanding our knowledge and understanding of how to utilize forages to their greatest potential is of utmost importance. The American Forage and Grassland Council is the only national organization of it’s kind to bring together producers, academics, and industry leaders in one meeting space.

My number one goal when attending a learning and sharing conference is to bring back information that will benefit our community. There was a wealth of information presented at this conference, but two presentations really stood out to me and they were both delivered from beef producers, not academics.

One was a story of forage tragedy and triumph.

Buron Lanier of Piney Woods Farm in North Carolina, presented at last year’s conference about the efforts made to convert his farm from KY-31 fescue to novel endophyte fescue. A significant portion of his farm is dedicated to silvoculture, combining the production of pine trees and feeding stocker cattle. With great effort, he progressed into a 365-day grazing system. He had no need to feed hay and very little supplemental feed. The system was working marvelously.

But this year he had a different story to share. Hurricane Florence hit the East Coast in September 2018. Mr. Lanier had just started stockpiling his novel endophyte fescue for the winter when his farm became submerged by hurricane waters for over 5 days. The water levels were up to five feet in most of his pastures. He lost over 75 percent of his newly converted pastures. His neighbors also lost their KY-31 pastures and many of them lost their homes as well.

Due to his 365-day grazing plan, Piney Woods Farm had no stored feed. Mr. Lanier was devastated by the destruction, but his home was still livable, his cattle alive, and his family safe. Donated hay and feed were his saving grace. He has since learned how to feed cottonseed and plant by-products and low quality hay. Despite the set-back, he intends to re-establish his pastures back into novel endophyte fescue and begin again.

At the end of his presentation he shared that when something this devastating happens, you question all your motives for farming. He had retired as a successful entrepreneur and started a new venture, grazing stocker calves and farming trees. Why was he doing this? He was doing it for the future of his family, agriculture, and our country’s ability to feed itself. He determined that it is worth it to carry on.

You never know when devastation is lurking around the corner. In a business like agriculture, that devastation could be caused by weather or a market crash, or by the most common two factors, death or divorce. Appropriate insurance, business structure, and succession planning can help soften the blow if or when an unfortunate event comes along. Planning for the unexpected can help prevent complete devastation of the family farm, so please make a plan for your farm’s future.

Only two percent of Americans are farmers. They keep farming despite the risks associated and they often do it without the thankful support of the general public. They don’t farm to get rich, they farm to feed the world and our nation is indebted to them for their efforts.

Whether you plan on passing your farm on today or decades from now, it is crucial that you develop a business succession plan. The next local opportunity to attend an Extension program on this topic is in Morgan County. David Marrison will be leading a workshop with two opportunities to attend at the Morgan High School Vo-Ag Room in McConnelsville on January 28 and 31 from 6-9pm. The cost to attend is $20. For more information, call Morgan County OSU Extension at 740-962-4854. Registration is due by January 21.

Next week I will share a summary of another presentation with you. It focused on “getting started farming without inheriting it or marrying it”. Stay tuned.

Make Expectations Clear and Attainable

This article was first published in The Journal  on January 7, 2019.

Welcome to 2019! With the first week of 2019 behind us, many people are declaring and acting on their resolutions for the New Year. While many of them will fizzle out before spring, some will hang on and really make a difference in the lives of the resolving individuals.

As a realistic optimist with a type-A personality, I struggle with New Year’s resolutions. I hope for the best out of every day and strive for it, but I also expect each day to come with a struggle of some kind. The greatest of which is probably accepting that my best will not always be enough to meet the expectations of the world around me.  In turn, I have high expectations for the people I interact with daily.

In some ways these traits are positive and in other ways very negative. It is good to work toward goals and accomplish them, but the path to accomplishment should not be self-destructive. The tipping point between the two seems to be whether my expectations or the world’s expectations are clear and/or attainable. If expectations are not communicated clearly, they will not be met. If they are not attainable expectations for the individual, they will inevitably fail.

How does this relate to agriculture in 2019?

We all are a part of a complex relationship with the people and environment we live in. We all have expectations and ambitions. When we are working together as a team (you and your partner/employee/colleague/livestock/equipment/landscape etc.) it is important to begin the task with clear and attainable expectations for each other. This can help avoid unexpected turmoil in the midst of a task.

For example:

Before you approach feeding your cattle another round bale on a muddy slope with your old tractor on a rainy day, say your goal aloud.

“I am going to get the cows fed.”

Then consider the limitations of your partner, in this case, the tractor.

“I realized that my tractor cannot perform at full capacity in the mud and rain on a slope.”

Then adjust your expectations and plan of action to avoid turmoil.

“I may need to feed this hay in a different place. It will probably take longer than normal, but my tractor and I will accomplish this goal together safely.”

Whether your partner is a person, an animal, a field of crops, or a piece of equipment, they all have limitations. It is not reasonable to expect peak performance out of your partner if they are being pushed to perform beyond those limits. The same is true for yourself. That is where we break down and the damage often takes longer to repair than the task we needed to complete.

I hope that after reading this article you will be more mindful about communicating your expectations clearly to your partners for success. I hope that you will consider their limitations so that your expectations are attainable. I hope that you will find peace in times of turmoil. Finally, I hope that we will eventually get a break in the rain before spring comes. We all need some time to recover from the muddiness that was 2018.

If you would like to provide feedback on the type of agriculture and natural resource focused programming you would like to see from Noble County Extension in 2019, please call me or email anytime at 740-732-5681 or Extension is here to help you meet your goals in 2019.

Wreath Workshop Wrap Up

This article by Christine Gelley was originally published by The Noble Journal Leader on December 3, 2018.

For the third year, the Noble County Master Gardener Volunteers hosted a set of Holiday Wreath Making Workshops at the Ball-Caldwell House during the week following Thanksgiving. Over three sessions, thirty-six people from Noble and surrounding counties created their own unique wreaths from freshly cut evergreen material.

Each class started with the same material stock, but no two wreaths were alike. With themes ranging from natural to glitzy, the personality and individuality of the wreath creators were apparent in their designs. Fresh locally cut greenery of pine, fir, cedar, boxwood, juniper, and holly provided varieties of colors, shapes, textures, and scents. The results were stunning.


Along with a beautiful holiday decoration, attendees took home knowledge about how to care for greenery indoors. This includes keeping flammable greenery away from heat sources, both due to the risk for a fire and to prevent premature drying of the material.

Many Americans still enjoy a fresh-cut live tree during Christmas. Live trees are wonderful from a nature enthusiast’s perspective because they bring the peace of the outdoors into your home. Meticulous housekeepers may prefer artificial trees because they are easy to pack, store, and are less messy. However, artificial trees are less environmentally friendly than cut trees.

Artificial trees are not easily recyclable and they do not biodegrade. Live trees on the other hand can be turned into wildlife habitat, kindling for a campfire, or compost after the holidays.

Anytime you bring plants inside there is a risk that insects, birds, or a mammal could be at home in the tree. Check for and remove any insect or bird’s nests, before decorating your tree to help prevent accidental home invaders. Remember that any pests you encounter on an evergreen tree chose the tree as their habitat. Therefore, most hitchhikers in your house would not become a residential pest.

The number one rule of setting up a live Christmas tree is keeping it watered. The tree water pan should be checked each day and adequately refilled. This will help prevent the needles from drying out and lower your risk of a holiday house fire.

For more information about using fresh cut evergreens as décor during the holidays, call the Extension Office at 740-732-5681 and ask for Christine.

The Noble County Master Gardener Volunteers thank everyone who attended the workshops for their creativity and enthusiasm. We also thank the Noble County Historical Society for providing a beautiful setting for the classes. We look forward to offering this event again in 2019.


Thanksgiving Leftovers

This article by Christine Gelley was originally published by The Noble Journal Leader on November 26, 2018.

I hope that the best leftovers in your house this week are fond memories of time spent with people you treasure.

There are likely to be a variety of other things left over as well. Do not let leftovers go to waste. There are many ways to use the food and décor left over from the harvest season in alternative ways.

When it comes to preserving and using the leftovers from your Thanksgiving meals, consult OSU Extension FCS/4-H Educator Sami Schott at the Noble County Office about how to store and prepare leftovers safely. You can also visit to explore a variety of fact sheets on the topic.

Before you scrape leftover food into the trash can consider whether it could be composted. Fruits, vegetables, and breads are good additions to the compost pile. However, do not add meats, bones, gravies, or dairy products to compost. These are more difficult to break down and often attract scavengers to the compost bin.

Some farm animals would love to share leftovers with you too. Hogs and poultry are resourceful critters and would be happy to receive table scraps and leftover pumpkins. Again, avoid feeding bones and meats, because they could attract predators to the leftovers and the livestock.

If you are feeding commercial livestock table waste, be sure to check that it is compliant with federal and state laws. Also, be sure to double check for plastic wrap or aluminum foil particles before putting the scraps out as feed.

While it may be tempting to share leftovers with your pets, be very careful about what you share.

Poultry bones can be deadly if ingested by canines or felines. The fat and skin from turkey or ham can cause digestive difficulties. Avoid onions. Small amounts are ok, but too much could lead to anemia. Chocolate and desserts with high sugar or artificial sweeteners are definitely off limits. Green beans, cranberries, plain mashed potatoes, squash or sweet potatoes could all be delightful for dogs in small portions. Consult your veterinarian if you have specific concerns about sharing leftovers with your pets.

Other autumn décor like decorative squash, corn stalks, dried grasses, and raked leaves can all be added to the compost bin as well. If you crack open squash, birds and small mammals can enjoy the flesh and seeds in your garden bed. In turn, you may wind up with some unique homegrown décor the following year if you let the seeds sprout in the spring.

Before we move on to celebrating winter holidays, let’s remain thankful for the harvest season by respectfully utilizing the leftovers.




Thankful for Our Seniors

How often do we tell the senior citizens in our community that we are thankful for them?

In the Noble County community, a large portion of our senior population remains extremely active in the workforce, the church, public service, and childcare. They are integral pieces of the puzzle that make our community a wonderful place to live. We should let them know how thankful we are for them.

When the time comes that those very active seniors take a step back and spend more time at home, we should still communicate how thankful we are for their influence in our lives.

One way that OSU Extension is saying “Thank You” to our seniors is by offering programs specifically tailored for them.

One of the programs we have offered in 2017 and 2018 is Kindred Gardens: Gardening for Seniors. Kindred Gardens has been offered as five staggered classes per year at the Joyce M. Davis Senior Center in Caldwell. Our final class of 2018 was a floral design class where attendees made their own boxwood holiday wreaths.

The senior center has been a great location for the class. It is centralized and has public transportation. However, we also acknowledge that many of our seniors do not utilize the center.

Looking into the future, OSU Extension would like to offer the Kindred Gardens series in another location, outlaying Caldwell, if we have seniors interested in attending.

If you are a senior or know a senior who would be interested in attending Kindred Gardens in 2019, please call 740-732-5681 or write to the Noble County Extension Office care of Christine Gelley at 46049 Marietta Rd. Suite 2, Caldwell, OH 43724. We are interested in potential locations to host the program that will allow us to reach more of our seniors with an interest in gardening.

If you have other ideas of how we can show our thanks for our seniors through Extension programming, please pass those along as well.

Best wishes to you for a very happy Thanksgiving!

Business Succession- Create a Plan Before You Need One

This article by Christine Gelley was originally published by The Noble Journal Leader on October 29, 2018.

Bernie Erven, Ohio State Professor Emeritus, has consistently promoted the idea that “successful farm succession starts at the birth of the next generation.”

Assuming he is right, that means a great number of farm owners and business operators are behind on starting their business succession plans.

Beth and her flock.

“Successful farm succession starts at the birth of the next generation.”

The whole point of creating a business succession plan is to work through many of the common issues associated with transitioning business leadership before the change happens. Whether the change is forthcoming or an abrupt surprise, having a plan in place prior to needing one reduces both financial and emotional stress on family and business relationships.

The landscape of farm owner and operators will change dramatically over the next twenty years and the business sector needs to get prepared for what is to come. The USDA Census of Agriculture has been tracking the age of farm managers for decades. Data continues to show the average age increasing from one census to the next. The 2012 data showed that the average farmer in the United States of America was 57 years old (Marrison, 2017). Data from 2017 will be released soon.

Kansas State University hosted a Ranching Summit recently that included a segment on changes to anticipate over the next two decades. Guest speaker, Tom Fields of the University of Nebraska, communicated the magnitude of the shift we will soon see with America’s farm and ranch land. He stated that within the next 20 years, 60 percent of America’s farm and ranch land is going to transfer to a new generation, which would be the biggest real estate exchange since the Louisiana Purchase (Veselka, 2018).

Are farmers prepared for this shift? Are you prepared for a leadership shift in your business?

There are steps to follow to help you prepare. They include estate and ownership transition planning, a SWOT analysis, family conversations, asset transfers, staff training, retirement planning, contingency plans, and establishing implementation timetables.

The process of creating a business succession plan can feel uncomfortable, but in the end, it should help create a smooth transition when a business leadership change occurs.

To learn more about business succession planning, consult OSU Extension Fact Sheet ANR-47 “Planning for the Successful Transition of Your Agricultural Business” by David Marrison. It is available online at or from your local Extension Office. David Marrison currently serves as the Extension Educator for Agriculture and Natural Resources in Coshocton County and is a nationally recognized teacher in the field of Farm Business Management.

Another opportunity to learn more is to attend an in-person workshop taught by David Marrison over breakfast at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, November 16. This free program will take place at the Noble County Extension Office (46049 Marietta Rd. Caldwell) and conclude at 10 a.m. The program is open to business owners of all kinds.

Please RSVP for the program by calling 740-732-5681 or emailing Community Development Educator, Gwynn Stewart, at before November 12.


Marrison, David L. “Planning for the Successful Transition of Your Agricultural Business.” Ohioline, The Ohio State University, 8 Feb. 2017,

Milligan, Bob. “Ranch Transfer Is More than a Generational Transfer.” Progressive Cattleman, Nov. 2018, pp. 19–20.

Veselka, Carrie. “K-State Ranching Summit: Embracing Disruptive Technology.” Progressive Cattleman, Nov. 2018, pp. 16–18.