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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.”


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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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Sheep-wrangling realtor

My wife is a realtor and has her share of interesting stories through the years with clients, strange properties and misadventures. I thought I would share her most recent sheep-wrangling realtor adventure that happened a couple of days ago. We raise Horned Dorset sheep and she stopped and helped some fellow sheep owners in need. Here is a recent blog she wrote on the topic:

A funny thing happened to my sister and I yesterday. Driving back from Perry County we spotted two market lambs running along the 55-mph road. We turned around to get them to safety. Jessica ran to the house to get the owners and I, dressed in nice clothes from showing a house, went to the barnyard to get the lambs in the barn.

After Jessica opened the door to the unknown house because they did not come to the door, she found a 3-year-old little boy who said he was home alone.… Continue reading

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Things are hopping at the Reese House

Now that our barn is red (after three weeks of being pink) the neighbors are happier, but it is always an adventure at the Reese house. It is a wild week with Vacation Bible School at church every night, which keeps our evenings hopping. But things were even hopping in mid-day when the kids discovered this tree frog climbing on our window. It was clinging to the glass with its fascinating frog suction cup toes. I have never seen one quite like it. My wife was less than thrilled with the discovery.

We captured the frog in some Tupperware (again, wife not thrilled) and carried it out to a tree. The frog appeared to change color slightly from a brownish to a greenish color to match the moss on the tree. The children and I were in amphibian heaven and once the frog was away from the house, my wife even liked it a bit more.… Continue reading

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Delicious lamb is gaining popularity

I recently got a spectacular new grill (the kind that has charcoal and gas) with a side smoker box. I have seasoned it with bacon grease and is ready to go. The sizzle of the fire, the rich aroma of the cooking meat and the delicious results of summer grilling hold an irresistible appeal for me. Steak is great, pork chops are divine and chicken is delicious, but lamb cooked to perfection on the grill can top them all.

Now, I am a bit biased with regard to my affinity for lamb. I married the Ohio Lamb and Wool Queen whom I met on the job 12 years ago (being an agricultural journalist does have it perks) and we do work extensively with my in-laws’ flock of registered Horned Dorset sheep. We show our sheep at the Ohio State Fair and my daughter is already smitten with having sheep in our barn.… Continue reading

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In the pines…

Earlier this week, I spent my afternoons and evenings helping shear Christmas trees on our family farm. Shearing a tree is a very interesting task that combines science, knowledge of the trees and art. It is both mental and physical, right-brain and left-brain.

Starting after their second year of growth, the trees are trimmed every year until they are sold. We have around 12,000 trees and we shear them all by hand with a serrated knife and a set of hand pruners, though there are all kinds of gadgets you can get for the task.

My dad does the bulk of the shearing, but I have been helping more in recent years and am slowly learning the complexities of this most important part of Christmas tree production.

Here is a quick lesson in the basics of shearing pines. The terminal leader (the branch that serves as the point at the top of the tree) sets the stage for a straight and attractive tree.… Continue reading

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Rain, rain, go away, so my barn won’t look this way

Last week I told you about my pink barn and the extenuating circumstances behind it.  This week, the prolonged pink coat has been the subject of increasing concern and conversation among my neighbors.

As I stated in my previous writing on the subject, my brother-in-law kindly offered to paint our barn but could only put the first coat on before leaving for a week. A week and a half later, the first primer coat continues to adorn my barn with a horrifying pink color that will haunt me for years to come.

While my brother-in-law has returned, we have not had a rain-free day since then to spray on the second coat. And, though it has rained every day, there also has been ample sunshine to highlight the bold pink color that can probably be seen from the next township.

The other night, after the rain, the weather cleared up for a beautiful evening.… Continue reading

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Our barn is pretty in pink at the Reese house

I am pretty sure that I am the only guy in the county with a Pepto-Bismol pink barn. Cars drive by really slow now and the neighbors are starting to talk, but that is the price for my policy of NEVER turning down free help.

It all started when we bought our old farmhouse more than two years ago. We were set to close on our home when the economy when down into the dumps. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in crises mode and all lenders panicked.

We had been pre-approved for several months, but when President Bush held a special press conference to address the economic collapse, we suddenly had a number of new requirements from our mortgage lender before we could close on the house. One of those requirements was to paint the barn (with the potential for lead based paint being cited as the reason). It was funny how the possibility of lead-based paint on the barn was not a problem prior to the economic issues that had surfaced in the economy.… Continue reading

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Fire up the grill for juicier pork

By Matt Reese

During the summer grilling season when meats aplenty and fire are united for top-notch seasonal dining, a favorite in the Reese house is slow-cooked pork tenderloin on the grill. While otherwise God-fearing law-abiding folks, the Reese family’s grilling techniques for pork tenderloin, though, have long been a dark secret due to our blatant disregard of federal government recommendations.

Three burners are required on the grill. The outside two burners are left on low and the middle is turned off, with the pork raised up slightly off the grill surface above the middle burner. The low temperature and slow cooking allow for apple wood smoke to penetrate the meat rubbed with ample seasonings.

The key, of course, is not over cooking the meat so it remains moist and tender. After about 45 minutes or so, the pork needs to be checked fairly regularly with a thermometer so it can be promptly removed from the grill when it is just under 145 degrees.… Continue reading

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