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Matt Reese

I grew up on a small farm in northwest Ohio and spent most of my youth writing, doodling, taking pictures, reading and exploring the surrounding farmland. With a family full of teachers, I also grew up around a culture supportive of education. I was active in athletics in high school before graduating from Ohio State University where I studied agricultural communications. This led to my career in agricultural journalism.

I continue to work on the family Christmas tree farm in Hancock County. I live on a small farm in Fairfield County with sheep, rabbits and chickens. I have a daughter, Campbell Miriam, who was born in the fall of 2007 and a son, Parker Matthew, born in August of 2009. We are active in our local church and with numerous other organizations.

I have worked for Ohio’s Country Journal since 1999. I also write a column for numerous newspapers around Ohio, Fresh Country Air and do freelance writing and photography work. I have written and self-published six books to date. To find my books, visit lulu.com and search for “Matt Reese.”


Last minute shopping gone awry

By Matt Reese

It was three days until Christmas. And, though I had no gift for her yet, my wife had dropped less-than-subtle hints that she wanted a new pair of boots for Christmas.

I have always steered clear of clothing purchases for several reasons. First, I never have any idea what my wife likes. In fact, if I pick the ugliest thing in the store, that is typically what she likes best (it is usually also the most expensive thing in the store). In addition, I never know what size she wears and I hate going to stores.

I was prepared last year, because I asked my sister about my wife’s foot size and I was told it was 7. So, I went to a store just down the street from my office. I walked in and quickly identified ugliest pair of boots. It was the last pair, so they must have been very popular.

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Talkin' Turkey Part II: Leftovers

By Matt Reese

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I have so much to be thankful for this year, my fantastic family, my wonderful career and Ohio agriculture. Without a robust agriculture in our state and country, we would have far fewer blessings to count on the Thanksgiving table and all year long.

Of course, the turkey is always the star of the day, and there are always those great leftovers to enjoy. I have been fortunate to know Jim Chakeres for many years now and, in that time, have discovered that the Executive Vice President of the Ohio Poultry Association is a top-notch chef. With that in mind, I thought he would be the perfect guy to talk with about turkey recipes and the best ways to handle leftover turkey. Here is part of the Q&A we did with him in the Mid-November issue of Ohio’s Country Journal. And you can trust my taste buds that, if Jim says it is a good recipe, it is worth trying.

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Talkin’ Turkey Part II: Leftovers

By Matt Reese

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I have so much to be thankful for this year, my fantastic family, my wonderful career and Ohio agriculture. Without a robust agriculture in our state and country, we would have far fewer blessings to count on the Thanksgiving table and all year long.

Of course, the turkey is always the star of the day, and there are always those great leftovers to enjoy. I have been fortunate to know Jim Chakeres for many years now and, in that time, have discovered that the Executive Vice President of the Ohio Poultry Association is a top-notch chef. With that in mind, I thought he would be the perfect guy to talk with about turkey recipes and the best ways to handle leftover turkey. Here is part of the Q&A we did with him in the Mid-November issue of Ohio’s Country Journal. And you can trust my taste buds that, if Jim says it is a good recipe, it is worth trying.

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Buy your wife a fir for Christmas

 

The Reese family is gearing up for another big Christmas tree season. We spent the summer and fall doubling the size and refurbishing our aging gift shop to get it ready for the day after Thanksgiving when we open for the year — we call it Green Friday.

At any rate, there are a number of important varieties to choose from when getting a real Christmas tree from a farm (clearly the best way to do it). At our tree farm, Kaleidoscope Farms in Hancock County, we sell Canaan Fir, Blue Spruce, White Pine, Scotch Pine, Austrian Pine, Norway Spruce, Fraser Fir, and Black Hills Spruce. Here is a nice overview of popular Christmas tree varieties from University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Ron Wolford.

 

– Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) has short, flat, long-lasting needles that are rounded at the tip; nice, dark green color with silvery cast and fragrance.

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Take time to thank a veteran

We get to celebrate Veteran’s Day in a special way on my family’s Christmas tree farm in Hancock County. We participate in the Operation Evergreen Program that sends around 300 Christmas trees, complete with handmade ornaments, to troops stationed overseas for the holidays. On the Sunday prior to Veteran’s Day, we invite area veterans to come and select three or four Christmas trees from the farm to cut for this purpose. Local elementary students, high schools students and community groups also visited the farm to present the ornaments they have made to the veterans. This year there were well over 3,000 ornaments brought to the farm. The trees and ornaments then go from our farm to the Ohio Department of Agriculture where they are inspected and shipped off to Iraq, Afghanistan or wherever else U.S. troops are serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each year we have done this, my Grandpa Franklin Deeds has been a part of the ceremony.

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Will cellulosic ethanol power my flying car?

As a young man I enjoyed science fiction books and movies portraying a future of fantastic flying cars, robots that would do all of your chores for you and Jetsonian conveniences. At my young age, those wild fantasies did not seem entirely outside of the realm of possibility in my long life ahead.

Since then, I have grown up and entered the professional world of agriculture and found a new flying car to wish for — cellulosic ethanol. Cellulose is considered the next frontier in ethanol production. The process involves extracting sugars from the cell walls of biomass from a wide potential range of plant materials.

Successful, large-scale corn-based ethanol, of course, has been a fairly recent, but successful addition to Ohio’s energy portfolio, though it is not without controversy. Right or wrong, livestock producers, consumer groups, and environmental groups have often been very critical of ethanol for a wide variety of reasons.

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Rats!


We could not believe how much grain the fall lambs were eating. Not only were they cleaning out the trough quickly they were spilling the grain all over the place, even outside of the pen. Soon enough, though, the real culprit was revealed. I was out in the barn the other day finishing up chores when I saw a giant rat over by the feed (though based on its size it could have been a rain forest dwelling marsupial that had escaped from the Zanesville wild animal farm.)

Now I normally consider myself a fairly stout-hearted farm boy. Spiders don’t really phase me, snakes are no problem, and mice are almost cute, but this rat just about made me jump out of my skin. Yikes! It was terrifying.

After some further investigation, I found its lair — a large hole carved out beneath the cinder block barn side. I dropped some rat bait down the hole and hoped for the best.

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A riding "lamb" mower?

It was a long summer for mowing the grass this year as steady rains kept it growing. We have missed very few weeks since we started mowing the lawn in April (when we mowed multiple times a week in some cases). We are hoping this week will be the last that we need to mow the grass. On what may be the last nice sunny day for a while, we thought we’d better get it done.

My children love riding on the mower with their mother (I do the push mowing) and both kids wanted to ride for the last time this year. In addition, the bottle lamb named Lily (that freely roams the barnyard because she is small enough to fit under all of the fences) also wanted to go for a ride. Hence, I went outside to get something from the garage and found this unusual scene in my yard…

Good luck with finishing up your mowing for the year and try to enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.

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A riding “lamb” mower?

It was a long summer for mowing the grass this year as steady rains kept it growing. We have missed very few weeks since we started mowing the lawn in April (when we mowed multiple times a week in some cases). We are hoping this week will be the last that we need to mow the grass. On what may be the last nice sunny day for a while, we thought we’d better get it done.

My children love riding on the mower with their mother (I do the push mowing) and both kids wanted to ride for the last time this year. In addition, the bottle lamb named Lily (that freely roams the barnyard because she is small enough to fit under all of the fences) also wanted to go for a ride. Hence, I went outside to get something from the garage and found this unusual scene in my yard…

Good luck with finishing up your mowing for the year and try to enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.

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Meet the Reeses

This summer, we did a family video that highlights the large amount of stuff we do on our little farm. We stay very active with various agricultural endeavors because we enjoy them and we want our children to learn life’s lessons from an agricultural perspective. And no time is better to be around a farm than the bountiful harvest season.

We are currently gearing up for Christmas tree season and have been trying to help my family with a dramatic expansion of our gift shop building. We also have a pen full of meat chickens that will be ready for market in a couple of weeks and we are still feeding some bottle lambs. This is Fairfield County Fair week as well. Kristin is the poultry superintendant and Campbell will be helping show sheep in the Open Show and competing in the Sheep Lead. It will be a fun, but wild week.

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Still a long way to go…

My wife will tell you that I have long been a fan of cheap dates that involve taking her with me when I do story interviews that she would find interesting. Thus, it has been tradition that around our September wedding anniversary to do this.

This year, our cheap date tradition had a slightly different spin — our two children. We had also planned a work weekend at my family’s Christmas tree farm and decided we would go straight from the NE Ohio story interviews to our NW Ohio farm, which required that we bring the children. Though this was not quite ideal, the Pine Tree Barn, Moreland Fruit Farm, and Gervasi Vineyard all have great outdoor spaces where the kids could run around. The trip had all the makings of a fun family adventure and a cheap date.

We left at 7:45 a.m. and it didn’t take long for us to grow concerned about the uncooperative weather.

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Cider, anyone?

We picked up delicious apple cider from Hirsch Fruit Farm. The whole family loves it, particularly my two-year-old son. We had the cider at a birthday party for my daughter and I received reports from six different people that he had asked for (and received) cider from them throughout the course of the afternoon. Fortunately, there were no ill effects.

Though my son clearly has an affinity for cider, I was very proud the other day to see him share some of his cider with his sister after she had finished her own. It was one of those moments amid the wild schedule of our house that was great to see and enjoy as a father.

This is especially refreshing since these days it seems that almost everyone is looking out only for themselves, often at the expense of the greater good. It is nice to see that my son has already learned to share with others, even one of his most valued commodities.

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Sheep in the house?

I arrived home from the Farm Science Review this week to find a tiny lamb clad is a shirt strolling through my bedroom. Sadly, I was not as surprised by this as you might think.

My father-in-law’s flock of Horned Dorsets is lambing at full force. We’re up to 47 lambs born this month, with another batch yet to come in the next few weeks. Of that 47, there have been two sets of triplets, which obviously create some challenges. One set of triplets is at our barn and, because the ewe does not have enough milk for all three, they need to be bottle fed. While the lambs are very young, they are fed an exasperating 6 times a day. This, of course, makes for quite a bit of extra work, particularly at the midnight and 4 am feedings.

The smallest lamb born this fall (and one of the smallest my wife has ever seen) resides in our barn.

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A most notorious Ohio Century Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“In a desolate house on a corner, lived three wealthy men all alone.

For years they had lived there together in the secluded spot they called home.

No mother or sisters had they. Their father had long been dead.

For years they had labored together, cheerfully winning their coppers and bread.

Faithfully they clung to each other, did Loren, Jarvis and John.

And no less than 1,000 acres composed the farm, which they lived on.

In a dark little room apart from the others, stood an iron bound safe firmly locked.

Here was the hoarded gold of the brothers, no stranger allowed on the spot.”

So begins the 1903 song, Jarvis Meach, by Miss Coral J. Irish that sets the stage for the notorious Meach robbery that occurred a year earlier. I recently got to meet with Jarvis Babcock and his sister, Catherine (Babcock) Leary about their family’s Century Farm.

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Community demonstrates the character of caring

Hopefully you got to read the recent article about the great community support in Scioto County for the family of teenager Kile “Andy” Hayden after his tragic death this summer. This story, while a sad one, is also a great reminder about how fortunate we are to be a part of the family of Ohio agriculture.

Whether it is 4-H, FFA, production ag, agribusiness or agricultural professionals, it seems like most of the time people associated with the production of food, fuel, and fiber from the land are kinder, more caring and more generous than much of the general population. When making the decision about what career path I should take as I was starting college, my father said that continued involvement in agriculture was the way to go because of the quality of the people.

Now that I have been working at Ohio’s Country Journal for 12 years, I have abundant first hand examples to prove dad right.

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Morrow County Fair and the chick magnet

Apparently, when you marry a talented and beautiful Ohio Lamb and Wool Queen, occasionally judging Guys and Gals Lead Competitions is part of the deal. This is not something I recall from our marriage vows but I am told that this was indeed in there somewhere.

At any rate, my wife and I had the chance to visit the Morrow County Fair this week to serve as judges for the Guys and Gals Sheep Lead competition and had a great time visiting the fair. While the poise of the young ladies and their fine outfits were the highlight for most spectators, I have to say that Dale Morris was one of the real highlights for me. The three-year-old donned a bright yellow, feathery chicken costume complete with floppy chicken feet shoes. The sheep he led for the competition had what looked to be a giant magnet around its neck as they circled the show ring.

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God the dog and me

I was sitting on my front porch one hot summer day

My head hung low. Things were not going my way.

My money’s almost gone, I thought with great alarm

If hog prices do not turn around I’ll have to sell the farm.

With just my dog at my side, I prayed long and hard,

When a long black car pulled up to my yard,

An Asian businessman emerged, “What do I do now?”

I stood up to greet him and the dog said, “Bow.”

I followed Rover’s orders and the man was soon my friend,

He wanted locally grown pork and would offer many yen.

Money was no object, he’d pay handsomely —

Most any problem can be solved by God, the dog and me.

 

My wife was hoppin’ mad one day and I did not know why,

She’d left in a huff without even saying goodbye.

I couldn’t think of anything that I’d have done to make her mad,

So it must have been what I hadn’t done that had been so bad.

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Ohio hosts NCTA conference and demonstrates quality leadership

Why is it that Ohio agriculture is so often underestimated at the national level? Granted, in terms of sheer quantity, our total agricultural production is but a hill of beans compared to the vast production of the “I states” to the west. And, because we are not at the top of the list for many of the nation’s top commodities (through we are in the top 10 in many of them) it is apparently easy to overlook the might of Ohio in terms of national agriculture. The most recent example of this that I have seen is the National Christmas Tree Convention that was held in early August.

Leaders from Ohio lobbied the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) to host the event this year and there was some skepticism. After all, Ohio barely cracks the top 10 in overall Christmas tree production and would simply not be able to compete with the bigger players in the country such as North Carolina, Michigan, and Oregon that have hosted the convention in the past.

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Guys and Gals Lead a not-to-be-missed event for this proud papa

Growing up with sheep, my wife developed an early affinity for the Guys and Gals Sheep Sheep Lead competition where the contestant dresses up in wool (often on very warm summer days) during the county fair, leads the sheep around the ring and models the garments. In my estimation, this is nothing short of bizarre. To make matters worse, this has been a particular source of controversy in our marriage due to the fact that the spectacular action of the not-to-be-missed combine demolition derby at the county fair typically coincides with the event.

This all changed, however, with my daughter’s third birthday last year, making her eligible for the Guys and Gals Lead. Since then I have found that any time you combine three-year-olds, livestock and wool apparel, there is potential for great adventure. Last year, in Campbell’s first sheep lead experience at the Fairfield County Fair (during the not-to-be-missed combine derby), things were going very well until the sheep behind Campbell got loose and ran into the backside of her sheep.

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It's good to be the queen

By Matt Reese

Last spring, my family had the opportunity to meet the first ever Ohio Wool Queen, Elaine Leightey, and her husband Franklin, from Upper Sandusky. Leightey was crowned in 1955 as the first queen. It was fun for my wife to meet Mrs. Leightey because Kristin was the Ohio Lamb and Wool Queen in 1999 and is the current coordinator for the contest. Our daughter Campbell was extremely excited to meet the “Queen” and has royal aspirations as well, with hopes of one day being a Lamb and Wool Queen herself. All in all, it was a very royal afternoon.

Here are some very queenly photos and more about Leightey and the queen tradition she started. At the Ohio State Fair this weekend, 2010-2011 Ohio Lamb and Wool Queen Morgan Senath Melvin crowned Meghan Bennett, from Shelby County, as the next recipient of this honor. Judges at the Ohio State Fair will select the queen on Sunday, July 31 based on an application, interview and their answer to an impromptu question from a panel of judges live at the conclusion of the Guys and Gals lead competition.

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