Lisa R. Howeler

Freelance Writer & Photographer

We were in the midst of an arctic cold snap back in January when a friend of mine shared a post on Facebook about farming written by a farmer friend of hers. The post ended up going a bit viral. I contacted  the author, second generation dairy farmer Mark Bradley, of Sayre, Pa., as soon as I saw the post and asked him if I could come photograph him at the farm one day. He kindly agreed.  This is the post that caught the attention of me and others:

I stepped outside this morning to be greeted by negative whatever it is, plus a vicious wind. I knew before even stepping in the barn that it was going to be a rough one. It was a nice 34 degrees in the middle of the barn, but colder along the northwest corner. We got the cows all fed, I thawed out a couple water bowls, then started milking.   As I was putting a milker on Hershey, this cow Candy turned around and put her soft warm muzzle alongside my cheek and in my neck. She loves to give kisses and get hugs, and she knew I needed a hug now more than ever.

 photo by Mark Bradley photo by Mark Bradley  Photo by Mark Bradley Photo by Mark Bradley

I wrapped my arms around her soft head and with tears in my eyes, gave her a big hug. Sometimes it just hits you…the reality of the responsibility of being a farmer. It doesn’t matter how cold it is, how crappy it is, how sick you are, or how tired you are.  Good day or bad, our cows count on us to take care of them, and we do whatever it takes to keep them happy. Dad and I milk around 50 cows, and have another 50 or so of youngstock. So over 100 animals ranging in age from a few hours old ( yes I had one born last night) to over 9 years old count on us everyday. Just dad and I. No hired hands, no substitutes…

I’m not complaining, I’m not looking for sympathy or a pat on the back… I’m just trying to help people understand the commitment that farmers have to the animals they love.  Buy milk, buy cheese, buy yogurt, buy anything dairy… if your kids don’t like white milk, buy chocolate. It’s still better for them than soda or sports drinks…stay warm. I’ll be outside thawing out the frost free waterer that is not supposed to freeze.”

Thank you to Mark for letting my kids and I visit his farm and for answering some questions about his lifestyle and dairy farming in Bradford County, Pa.  He has also been gracious enough to agree to be part of my personal photo project focusing on dairy farms in Bradford County. If you are a farmer, or know someone who is, and would like to be part of this series, aimed at bringing awareness and appreciative attention to farmers in our communities, please contact me via my contact form on this site or at lisahoweler@gmail.com


Tell us a little about yourself… where your from originally, your family, hobbies, etc.

“I was born in Sayre and raised on the farm that my father and I operate. My parents bought the farm in 1979 (a year before I was born), so I am the second generation to run the farm. My father’s grandfather had a small dairy farm just up the road from where he grew up a few miles from our farm, so his interest in farming was gained at a young age. My wife Nichole and I have been married 12 years, and together we have a 6 year old son (Parker) and 3 year old daughter (Lexi) who both love the farm. In my spare time I enjoy taking Parker hunting, fishing, woodworking, and fixing old tractors. “

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DSC_5843-Edit-2How long have you been farming? How did you become involved in it?

“I’ve been involved with the farm my whole life. From a young age I would help out with whatever chores I could. I’ve always loved being around the cows, and as I got a little older I was able to drive tractors and run the machinery helping out with the field work. I didn’t always see myself coming back to the farm… after high school I went to college with the intention of becoming a teacher. It was the first time I had ever really been away from the farm.

I came home every weekend to work on the farm, and I dreaded going back to college every Sunday night. Just over a year into college I began to realize that my heart was in farming, and that’s what I wanted to do. I changed my major from secondary education and finished in 4 years with degrees in physics and geology. After graduating, Dad and I formed a formal partnership, and this spring will be 15 years operating together.

What is the main focus of your farm?  

Dairy is the main focus of our farm. We milk around 50 cows which produce about 200 gallons of milk a day. We raise all our heifer (female) calves, so we have around 100 total. We grow and harvest almost all our feed on 225 owned and rented acres.

Considering the hardships farmers face in the United States especially, what keeps you from giving up on farming?

Honestly, it is a labor of love. I love working with the cows, and I love working the land.  It is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. There are always bad days, but I can’t see myself doing anything else.

 

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What do you think the future holds for farming in the United States? 

The future of dairy farming in this country is worrisome.  Small family farms like ours are disappearing at an alarming rate. Farms are becoming bigger with more cows, and are run like a factory with many employees and shifts. They are still producing good quality milk, but the cozy small farm where the cows have names and the farmers care for them and know them like pets is going by the wayside.

What is the best part of your farming life? 

The absolute best part is sharing the farm life with my kids. They see what I do and are eager to help. They understand where their milk and meat come from and they know how hard we work to put it on the table. My heart melts when they go on and on at the dinner table about how good their milk is, and talk about which cow it might have come from.
Aside from raising our kids on the farm, my other favorite thing is working so closely with nature. There is something so amazing about helping a calf to be born, then raising that calf into mature milking cow. The same can be said for planting seeds and harvesting the crops.

What is the hardest part of your farming life? 

This is a tough one to answer… I would have to say the disappointments.  I had an old farmer tell me one time that it’s human nature to want to be in control, but it’s God that is in control, and we have to trust in him. I tell myself that whenever something happens that is out of my control.

You can put your heart and soul into getting a crop planted, only to have a drought or have a torrential rain that ruins it. Your favorite cow can get sick and despite your best efforts you may lose her. Machinery breaks at times when you need it the most. Cows go into labor at the most inconvenient times.  Dinners are missed because something requires immediate attention. When I get sick, no matter how bad I feel, I still have to get up and get the work done because all the cows are counting on me.

Anything you would like to add?

When I tell people I’m a farmer, most will respond with “that’s a hard life”.  They are right. But it’s a good life. There is nothing more satisfying to me than being able to do what I love day in and day out.  At the end of the road, it’s not about how much money you made, but about the quality of life you lived. I am so blessed.

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Debby Frisk is a homeschooling mom from Athens, Pa. She is also simply a mom who cares about her children. She encourages other parents who want to homeschool their children, for various reasons, but don’t believe they can.  I asked her if she would tell my readers a little about her journey in homeschooling and offer some advice for parents who might be considering  this style of schooling for their children.


 Photos by Lisa R. Howeler

Photos by Lisa R. Howeler

Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you are from, your family, your interests.
My name is Deb Frisk, married to Tim Frisk for 25 years, with 2 daughters, Elizabeth age 19, and Leah age 16.  I’m originally from Ellwood City, PA.  We moved to Bradford County upon finishing college.  I enjoy reading, puzzles and games of all varieties, watching musicals, going on walks, cats, and spending time with my family.

What careers have you held or do you hold now?
I was hired by Towanda Area School district in 1992 to teach math and work with the deaf and hard of hearing students in the district.  I worked there for 6 years before starting our family.  Since then I’ve mainly been raising our children and homeschooling, but have worked for short times as a sign language instructor and for Early Intervention. 

You are a homeschooling mom. How did you get involved in homeschooling?
Homeschooling was always on our radar as an educational option even before we had kids.  Because I have a teaching degree, I was asked to perform homeschool evaluations for a few homeschooling friends of ours.  I was impressed with the quality curricula that is available to homeschoolers and with the character and academic excellence I saw in the homeschooled children that I met. 

When our first child was diagnosed with autism, we were strongly encouraged to enroll her in school to help with socialization.  We listened to the experts and put her in a year of private preschool and a year of public school for K-4.  Although she had fabulous teachers and aides in both places, it was obvious to us and her teachers that school was not a suitable environment for her to learn, so the decision was made to bring her home for kindergarten. 

We first enrolled her in a cyber charter school, which is public school done in the comfort of your own home.  This worked well for us for several years, but whens he reached middle school, it became cumbersome to jump through all of the hoops that the school set before us and the decision was made to begin pure homeschooling. 

What is your advice to parents who are considering homeschooling?
I have a lot to say to people who are considering homeschooling.  The first thing is that you CAN do it.  You do not need a teaching degree to be a good teacher to your own children.  Research has shown that parents without a teaching degree are just as successful as those with one. 
The next important thing to know is that there is no one right way to homeschool.  It looks different for every family.  Sometimes it takes a year or two (or three) to figure out what works and doesn’t work for your family.  It’s good to talk to other families and see what they like and what works for them, but trying to copy others will likely make you unhappy.  Do what’s best for your family. 
Next I’d suggest that you try to connect with other homeschoolers.  Some people desire a lot of support others do it all on their own.  There’s no right or wrong amount of connection either, but initially it’s good to talk to others to get ideas and to look at curriculum.  Pennsylvania has an amazing homeschool convention in early June in Lancaster that I strongly recommend. 

It’s a good place to attend seminars on homeschooling, pickup curriculum and examine it, possibly purchase some materials, and begin to network with others who’ve been-there-done-that. 
My personal preference on curriculum is to buy used, sell used.  This keeps cost to a minimum for us.  There are several different places where you can do this — used curriculum sales in your area and online sales being the main ways. 

Do you have suggestions for resources or web sites where parents can learn more about homeschooling?
For PA residents, my favorite resource is askpauline.com
For anyone in the United States, I’d recommend hslda.org
These 2 resources are great for telling you your state’s requirements for getting started and other required record-keeping. 

Many use ebay for curriculum shopping, but my favorite is homeschoolclassifieds.com.  I also use the Facebook group Homeschool Curriculum Marketplace. 

There are probably hundreds or thousands of other quality websites to learn about homeschooling.  I just don’t have specific recommendations.

What does homeschooling look like at your house?
Homeschooling looks different for every family.  Some people do school at home, copying what they’ve experienced in the classroom.  Some people use a variety of materials including textbooks, workbooks, instructional DVDs, computer programs, field trips, hands-on projects and experiments, etc.  While still others  throw out conventional methods of learning and just follow their child(ren)’s interests and explore the world with them.
One thing that we always say about our schooling is that the only subject that’s ever done at a desk or table is handwriting.  Often you’ll find us curled up on the couch or in a bed reading together or alone.  We use clipboards a lot when writing needs to be done. 

We’re pretty eclectic meaning that we use a wide variety of resources for our learning.  I prefer literature based curriculum.  Usually whatever books the girls are reading for literature is related to the same topics they’re reading about in history.  For some subjects my girls rely pretty heavily on traditional textbooks.  In recent years we’ve moved towards instructional DVDs for some high school topics like chemistry and writing.  They’ve both used computer programs for learning foreign languages. 

I have one child who enjoys art, drama, and dance and we use a lot of outside lessons to provide instruction in those areas since that is not my area of strength.  I also should add that what works for one child often is not appropriate for another.  My girls have very different learning styles and strengths.  I’ve often used totally different curriculum to cover the same subject material for them. 

Some people have found that having a schedule is necessary for school work to be completed in their home. We’ve found that our girls work best when they can choose the order of their subjects and when they work on them.  My only rule is that the assigned work needs to get done each day (though exceptions to the rule do happen).  The girls have learned very good time management and planning skills.  For example they’ve learned that it’s not wise to save their hardest subject for late in the day.  One of my children likes to get up and get all of her work done as quickly as possible in order to be free for the rest of the day.  This works really well for her.  My other child does a subject and takes a break, does another, then takes a break.  School takes her all day, but the result is the same at the end of the day and Mom is happy. 

What do you like most and what’s the hardest part about homeschooling?

The answer to these questions is the same —  Time spent with my children.  I love the amount of time that I get to spend with my kids.  I know them inside and out because we spend so much time together.  I love being part of what they’re learning.  We tried public school for a year or two with each of my girls and I really hated not being involved in what they were learning.  I love being able to tie what they’re learning into everyday life, but if you don’t know what they’re learning in school, you’re not able to do that.  I think my absolute favorite part of homeschooling ever was teaching them to read. 
I will be honest though.  As much as I love spending time with my kids, there is never a break.  When they were younger, sometimes they would be the only people I’d see for days at a time.  It’s easier when they’re older and do activities on their own and aren’t always in the house, but the younger years were sometimes tough, but just sometimes.  Mostly the time is a gift and I try to enjoy every moment of it. 
Oh, another perk for us is taking family vacations during the off-season.  The crowds at most places are lowest in September right after all the kids go back to school.  It’s the perfect time for us to hit the road.  The same is true for any kind of activity or field trip.  My kids have never been to Chuck E Cheese on a weekend. 

What misconceptions do you think people have about homeschooling?
The most common thing I hear when I tell someone that we homeschool — “Oh, I’m not against homeschooling or anything, but I just worry about socialization.”
There are always exceptions, but I think it’s fair to say that most homeschoolers are better socialized then their public school counterparts.  Most homeschoolers joke that we don’t know why it’s called home schooling because it sometimes feels like we’re never home.  First of all, because we spend so much time with our kids, homeschool parents have lots of opportunities to train them on how to interact with people.  Homeschooled kids as a group are extremely respectful and courteous.  We attend a lot of group events (like roller skating, bowling, play practice, science fairs, and field trips) with other homeschoolers. 

This gives our kids a chance to interact with other kids, but not just their age peers; they become comfortable with kids of all ages.  Our kids spend more time in their communities than their public school peers.  They go with their parents EVERYWHERE.  They go shopping with us, to the dentist, to the post office, the gas station, you name it.  They become very proficient and comfortable interacting with adults, not just other children at a young age.  And like public school kids, you’ll find us participating in other things in our communities such as soccer, swimming, Little League, dance class, art class, piano lessons and recitals, etc.

Personally Designed Albums from YOUR photos

I am currently offering personally designed albums using YOUR images. 
Do you need your digital photos from a session, wedding, or other event placed into hardcover memory albums for you?

Remember when you could look back through photo albums, hold them in your hands, while you all laughed together and remembered the moments the years had almost made you forget?

Now most of our images and memories are on our phones or in our computers and we rarely scroll through the photos together and laugh and touch the pages, almost as if we could touch those memories, maybe even the people we loved and are now gone.

Getting back to the basics of life is something important to me, whether it is in raising my children, cooking my food, or printing the photographs of my family in photo books.

This year I am adding photo album services to my list of products and services.

I will either scan images in for you to add to your personally designed album, or use digital images already provided to you by a photographer from your family session, wedding, etc. or I will take the photos for your session and it will include a hardcover memory book for you to hold on to with your children and look through, remembering the important moments of your family.

These images can be from your own digital photo collection or from images you have received from your wedding, reception, or other images from a photographer that were provided to you digitally. Not only that, but photographers, I’ll also work with you to design albums for your clients.
You will receive a hardcover memory book, your choice of size, printed on high quality paper with high quality color.

 

A L B U M S E S S I O N S: 
something new.
something unique.
something special to remember.

To learn more about album design services, contact me at lisahoweler@gmail.com or contact me here.

Pricing will be available soon at the photobook design link.

 

This is part of a monthly blog circle where we feature ten of our favorite photos from either one day or simply ten recent images we have taken. Find the link to the next person in the circle at the bottom of this post.

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Well, winter continues in Pennsylvania. The cold. The snow. The slush. The cold. Did I mention the cold?

Yeah, so it’s been cold and this week we were hit with a “snow storm” that actually turned out to be only about 5 inches of snow.

Well, combined with the two inches we got a couple days before it was about 7 inches total this week.

My family and I are definitely looking forward to warmer weather, but the kids had some fun in the snow while we wait.

 

To continue the blog circle, click on Penelope’s post at PK Photography.

 Sometimes my dad writes little stories about growing up and that’s when I realize I must have got the storytelling bug from him.

This is something he shared this week on Facebook.

Story, photos and captions by Ronnie Robinson. 

”Windy, Your Ears Are Freezing”

It was a calm but frosty minus zero morning; one of those mornings you could see particles of frost glisten in the air as the sun arose. Windy and I met each other at the Laddsburg Pond Bridge. It is the coldest spot in Laddsburg. It was one of those days that was just too cold for Willis Howell’s school bus to start.

Windy, full name Harold Wandell, was a foster child who homed with the loving Effie and Stalwart Carl Norris. He had walked the mile down from the top of the hill. Not much communication in those days and I don’t know if they had a phone but neighbors just met-up. We were there to wait for the bus that did not come.

Windy was one of the older boys that would help put the chains on the bus when it would get stuck in a snow drift. That would be a 20 min delay. But a frozen up bus or bad storm could be a 2 hour delay or a no show at all. Some times we would pile up in Willis’s station-wagon for the first part of the route, then go to his place and see if the bus would start so as to pick up the remaining students for the trip to the high school.  Windy never wore a hat to school. The top of his ears were starting to turn white and I said “Windy I think your ears are freezing”. Then we made our way to New Albany.

 photo and caption by Ronnie Robinson | This is the new bridge.In my mind, I see one with narrow steel rails.

photo and caption by Ronnie Robinson | This is the new bridge.In my mind, I see one with narrow steel rails.

 Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | The view of the road from the old Corson home going past our home.

Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | The view of the road from the old Corson home going past our home.

I don’t recall walking or running or how but I remember us being there and then getting a ride to Wyalusing in a milk truck that was picking up milk from the platform at the bottom of Dempsey Hill. You see, we were not that loyal to school but there was to be a WVHS Rams wrestling meet that day and we were on that team.                                                                           

Another event I remember well was: “The After School Blizzard.” Mary,Mary Inez Corson and I got of the school bus one blistery evening to walk the two  mile (well not quite, it was a quarter mile)  up the dirt road to my place. My parents lived there too. The wind was fierce and cutting. It was difficult to see. It was blowing frozen sheets  and chunks of icy frozen snow from the fields.The  previous snows had melted from the sun shine and then refroze. They were now breaking up and air-born in the strong wind. I think the drifts were making it more difficult also, but the blowing ice and the snow is what I remember most. We had to shield our face from getting hit by them. I was about thirteen then and I felt so manly proud because finally I was able to be ahead of my adventurous mentor and surrogate sister. I walked backward some and I could see her still walking.

 Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | You may see a set of foot prints. I vividly picture two sets.

Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | You may see a set of foot prints. I vividly picture two sets.

Thinking back on this now with a touch of shame I realize it would have been more manly-mature of me to help her.

She may have been wearing a skirt. Girls in that day wore skirts. Sometimes they carried snow pants with them. Also being a good student she may have been carrying books. I don’t remember anything after getting to my home. Mary had to walk the five hundred more yards to her home.

Mary, my forever friend, died suddenly at the age of 56. She donated her body to science. She lived in Texas with her husband. My wife Carolyn and I spoke with her when she and her husband were in Bradford County for her father’s funeral.

The portion of that conversation I recall was about being born again. I hope to see my sister again in the “Land Of No More Storms.”

I rambled about various things this past week – from faith to photography to early pregnancy loss to the 13 years I worked in small town newspapers. Something for everyone? Well, almost. I didn’t ramble about cooking, guns, or politics, so not quite something for everyone. 

So in case you missed it, here is a link to the posts from this past week:

HOTHEADS, HOMICIDAL LUNATICS, FORGOTTEN SOULS AND GUN TOTING REDNECKS: OR THE 13 YEARS I WORKED AS A SMALL TOWN NEWSPAPER REPORTER PART I

A LOSS IS A LOSS NO MATTER HOW “SMALL”

PEACE

I thought I would share some photos from the month of January. I haven’t committed to a 365 project, but I almost take a photo a day anyhow. These are simply some family documentary photographs from our month, which actually wasn’t very adventurous due to snow and a winter cold and working through grief from the loss of my aunt. We also adopted a new puppy, which was been very overwhelming and turned our house upside down a bit. 
 

About four years ago I suffered a very early pregnancy loss. The ultrasound technician told me he couldn’t see a baby, a heartbeat, anything that should have been there at 12 weeks gestation. The midwife suspected I had a blighted ovum, or an empty gestational sac, which happens when a pregnancy doesn’t progress beyond the formation of the egg and it attaching to the uterus. A positive pregnancy test shows a pregnancy is underway but often a woman will not get any of the pregnancy symptoms a woman would if the pregnancy was viable – such as morning sickness and bloating and dizziness. Sometimes, though, she’ll still get these symptoms and it isn’t until the ultrasound that she knows there is no baby and there will won’t be baby. 

No one seems to know why this happens but it is a fairly common occurrence and women should have no problem getting pregnant after a blighted ovum.

For me. it was a wait and see game after that first ultrasound but I was told by the midwife that most likely I would begin to miscarry in a few days. It was about two days after the ultrasound when my body spontaneously began to miscarry. I was one of the lucky ones. Many women have to undergo a procedure where the contents of their uturus are surgically removed. I was relieved when the miscarriage started naturally. The entire situation was so surreal I’m not even sure I can say I was upset by any of it. In the months before I had been under tremendous stress from a family situation and by this point my brain seemed to have gone into a protective lock down mode. I felt emotionally numb by the time the bleeding began.

Since my experience I’ve read many stories about women with either a blighted ovum or very early miscarriages and many times these women seem unsure they have the right to grieve, since their baby never fully formed or passed away at such an early part of the pregnancy. Because I had the same internal dialogue, I can very much relate to this line of thinking. 

It wasn’t lost on me at the time that I had suffered some sort of loss but it wasn’t until recently I began to deal with some of the feelings from that time, maybe because I became pregnant three months after my miscarriage with a little girl who is now asleep next to me for her afternoon nap. I was caught up in the fallout from a marriage crisis, the pregnancy and birth of a baby and then the adjustment of having a baby and 8-year old at home. Life rushed by and I never thought much about that previous loss until a couple of months ago when I paused and reflected on how numb I had felt that weekend I miscarried at home and never really let myself think about what could have been. There could have been five of us instead of four or maybe there never would have been because our youngest would simply be a few months older than she is now.

And then I thought about how I never gave myself time to grieve over the loss, which was devastating for our then 7-year old who had waited so long for a sibling. I cried some but never really gave myself time to feel sad. Three of our family members seemed completely unfeeling about it all – didn’t seem to think I should be so upset about such an early loss. At one point all three stopped talking to me and I was told I was stressing them out with my drama. So, I locked the pain inside. For years I had been told I was the weak one, the one who always broke down and cried and was an anxious basket case and I had been told more than once this is why people walked away from me or shut me out. They couldn’t handle my anxiety and depression, though, ironically, in both cases, I soon realized it was their own depression and anxiety that led them to turn from me. That realization helped me start the journey toward healing, even though to this day the memories are still raw.

i told myself the early miscarriage wasn’t worth being sad about. I had two friends at the time who had recently suffered late term losses and I knew that must be much more devastating to cope with. I had no right to cry when they had suffered so much more.   

My mom and I both had children eight years apart, with a loss in between, and we both had our son first and daughter second.  I know she knew what it was to lose, but I still felt my early loss wasn’t as serious. My mom had suffered a loss at seven months. She’d had toxemia and the baby was delivered prematurely, at a time when very little could be done to help babies delivered that early.

Then my Mom reminded me one day that our early miscarriage was a real loss because it was the loss of hope and the idea of what was going to be but then never was. And that’s what a pregnancy loss, no matter how early is. And it isn’t only the loss of a “pregnancy”, it is the loss of a life and an expected life.

Grieving this loss is important. Make sure, no matter what, you find a way to let yourself grieve. I don’t mean you have to grieve publicly, wail in the streets or make all your friends listen to every detail while you sob into their shoulder, but find some way to grieve – either in the quiet of your room or the pages of your journal or sharing with a friend. Grieve in a way that makes you feel comfortable but grieve.

Don’t be afraid to show others you hurt, for as long as you need. If people truly love you they’ll let you grieve and support you as long as you need them to. They’ll recognize that this is how you’re working through your thoughts and feelings about this season in your life. Those feelings are going to range from deep sadness to anger and denial to eventual acceptance. There may be times you aren’t even sure how you feel and maybe you’ll even feel nothing, like I did, for a very long time.

That’s ok and it’s normal and don’t let anyone tell you different. There is hope and healing, but it takes time, not a definitive amount, but a different amount for each person. Recognize and honor your own time table and accept that it may not be the same as someone else’s but also recognize and remember you are not alone, that there are so many other women who know what you’re going through.