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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.”


Thanks to those who make farming look simple, even when its not

A few years ago my uncle got a new farm truck. He searched long and hard for a new model with as few electronic gadgets and gizmos as possible. No power seats, windows or locks, or AC. The truck has standard transmission and certainly no heated seats or heated steering wheels. He even has to turn the knob on the radio for goodness sakes. Why would anyone purposely subject themselves to such personal calamity?

The answer: all that fancy stuff breaks, and it can’t be fixed in the farm shop. Power windows, for example, are very convenient until they happen to go out when you are trying to pay at a drive-through window in a torrential downpour. Then they are frustrating, unpleasant and expensive to fix (speaking from personal experience).

As I get older I continue to gain more appreciation for non-fancy, basic stuff that really works the way it is supposed to.

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Barn cats and drugs are hard to keep out, especially after you let them in

On the colder days during the winter months, we have a group of barn cats that crowd up near the front door of our house, hoping to sneak in to enjoy the warmer temperatures at the next opportunity. In the barn they have proven repeatedly to be valuable assets. In the house and under foot, however, they are irksome beasts.

Despite the fact that they have access to a cozy barn with a well-stocked haymow perfect for snuggling in on a cold winter afternoon, one too many trips into the house as kittens courtesy of our children has provided ample experience and know-how concerning the logistics of infiltrating the front door. The worst two feline culprits are Sister (named by our daughter as a hopeful hint suggesting a possible family expansion a few years back) and Auto-steer (named by our son based upon his love for all things farm). These two female tiger cats prowl the front step and wait for any entrance or exit from the house by a person not paying complete attention to the task of keeping the cats out.

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Manage the weather risk to avoid uncertainty: What to watch for in 2016

I went into this winter with the most firewood ever. I was ready to take on winter’s worst after battling multiple severe winters with a less than adequate firewood arsenal in the past.

But, due to what has been a fairly mild season, it looks that I will have a head start on next year. I can give my chainsaw a bit of a rest in part thanks to the El Niño this winter that been shaping the weather patterns throughout the Midwest.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an El Niño develops when sea surface temperatures are warmer than average in the equatorial Pacific for an extended period of time. In El Niño winters, the polar jet stream is typically farther north than usual, while the Pacific jet stream remains to the south.

With the Midwest positioned between the storm tracks, warmer and drier conditions can develop during El Niño winters and typical extreme cold weather may be milder and less frequent.

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Sunday morning mutton bustin’ makes for unique “elevator speech”

We have a new pastor at church and he was walking through the congregation prior to the service last Sunday morning and he stopped to say, “Hello.” He looked down at my six-year-old son and said, “Pleased to meet you, what is your name?”

Rather than sharing his name, my son said, “I went mutton bustin’ — I rode the ram in the barn today before church.”

“Oh really,” the pastor said.

“Yep, his name is Big Poppa. I wore my snowboarding helmet.”

The pastor stopped and looked up at me with a questioning glance. “Is this real? What he is talking about?”

“Yes it is,” I said. “He was helping his mother with chores this morning and she let him ride on the back of the Horned Dorset ram in the barn. He did wear his snowboarding helmet.”

Even after the countless conversations he had with churchgoers that day I am pretty sure that one will be remembered for a while.

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Power Show Ohio

The 46th edition of Power Show Ohio is welcoming nearly 200 exhibitors displaying products from more that 600 companies.

Power Show Ohio offers the opportunity to learn about products in the fields of agriculture, outdoor power equipment and construction.  It’s a chance for those same customers to get information that will afford them the know-how to become more efficient in their operations. The show features displays of the newest and best in tractors, skid steer loaders, commercial mowing equipment, utility vehicles, grain handling, computer software, fence building, hay equipment, buildings, backhoes, logging equipment, compact tractors, livestock equipment plus a number of lifestyle items.

Daily educational seminars will take place all three days.  Products from Ohio Proud partners will be available to sample and purchase and the National Kiddie Tractor Pull Association will be holding pedal tractor pulls on Saturday to determine the National Champion. All youngsters 3 to 8 years old are able to take part in the competition.

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Follow up on our yield guess based on planting by the moon in 2015

If you’ll recall from last spring, we formulated a yield estimate based on the state’s planting progress according to the best phase of the moon to plant. According to two different almanacs, for planting corn in Ohio, the best days in 2015 were April 19, 20 and 23 through 25 and May 21, 22, and 28 through 31.

Here is how the USDA crop progress numbers went for corn planting this spring:

Week ending April 12: 1%

Week ending April 19: 1%

Week ending April 26: 2%

Week ending May 3: 15%

Week ending May 10: 55%

Week ending May 17: 77%

Week ending May 24: 87%

Week ending May 31: 93%

In April 1% of the corn crop was planted in the ideal time frame. In May 16% of the corn crop was planted at the best time. That is a total of 17% in the best conditions according to the moon.

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Approaching 2016 with a grateful heart

Earlier in the day a bag of dried beans for soup had broken open and a significant portion of its contents tumbled across the counter and down the kitchen sink drain. At the time, I hoped that they went all the way down. They didn’t. Instead, the dried beans soaked up water and swelled, completely filling the drain and causing a fairly colossal mess.

It had been a long day and I was tired. After dinner that evening my wife had a meeting. Our young children were playing nearby in the living room while I faced the dinner cleanup and the revolting contents of the sink, burbling up occasional blobs of gunk. I was on the border of falling back upon an old staple for handling these types of less-than-desirable situations — frustration and anger. After all, this situation was truly unpleasant and I had every right, I felt, to be frustrated.

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Top Stories of 2015

Our web site keeps track of the stories that generate the most interest and at the end of the year we like to review the top stories to gain insight into how to better serve readers of our web and print content and our radio listeners. Plus, it is always fun to see which story comes out on top. To revisit all of these favorite web stories and videos in the last year, visit ocj.com and look for “2015 top stories of the year” on the right side of the page. In addition to these top posts, other noteworthy drivers of web traffic in 2015 included the Ohio and Pro Farmer crop tours, the Ohio State Fair livestock show results, and Between the Rows. Weather challenges, unusual Ohio wildlife, all things draft horse, and farm technology also garnered major web traffic in the last 12 months. Here are the 10 most popular stories of 2015.

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A perfect fit

Dylan was sitting in the tractor seat scrolling through photos of beautiful Courtney on his phone and reviewing her text messages.

He had gotten this job at the Christmas tree farm as a favor from the farm owner to his father. At 17-years-old, Dylan didn’t listen to his parents. He didn’t care about his schoolwork. He was sort of interested in football and track, but mostly he didn’t care for much of anything — except for Courtney, and he was supposed to meet her after work that day.

His dad thought Dylan would learn a thing or two about hard work and respect for others with some time spent employed at the Christmas tree farm. So far, though, Dylan’s lackluster work ethic and self-centered nature clearly demonstrated that he was not really interested in this job either.

His thoughts of Courtney were interrupted when the farm owner yelled out from the barn, “Dylan, can you please get off your phone and help Mr.

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THANK FUL 4 U

Michael had ruined Thanksgiving.

As nine-year-old boys have been known to do, he had thrown a terrible fit after being woken from a nap. By the time his mother walked into the room, she could tell the pleasant Thanksgiving get-together was about to end (at least for her). She calmly picked Michael up as he kicked and screamed and said everything horrible thing he could think up, wrestling his mother all the way to the car seat and making quite a scene in front of the whole family.

With a few more snarls from Michael and another fit about putting on pajamas after getting home, he was tucked into bed in the tiny, tired-looking apartment. His exhausted mother impatiently left the room and said tersely, “Goodnight Michael.”

Michael awoke the next morning feeling incredibly remorseful for his behavior. He was getting too old for that sort of thing, after all.

He could see the dim glow of the morning’s first sun creeping in through the window when suddenly it dawned on him — sheer genius!

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What facts are really facts?

It can be really hard to know which way to feel about some issues because these days it seems everyone has their own set of “facts” that conclusively proves their point. The problem, of course, is that as soon as you conclusively prove a point, you run into someone else who has an entirely different set of facts that definitively proves their point, which happens to be the opposite view of the first point that was proven. Confused yet? I know I am.

One only has to sit and listen to a political debate on any issue between any candidates of any party to get all caught up in a muddled mess of my-facts-versus-your-facts. Then there is often a behind-the-scenes reporter who does a fact check on the aforementioned facts to clarify the situation. Unfortunately, more often than not, these fact checks often just compound the problem by providing another opportunity to spin the issue with a set of suspect facts about the facts.

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Veterans and an attitude of service

Life is not all about “me.” Life is about serving others — not ourselves — and agriculture has a unique way of teaching this key value.

An attitude of service always seems to be a bit more prevalent in rural agricultural areas (at least to me). The act of caring for the soil, tending to animals and producing products for others on the farm has a way of weaving itself into your moral code and instilling a willingness to serve others.

My wife and I are already trying to use lessons on the farm to teach our young children about the value of service to others. With this in mind, I tried to involve both of our children in the Operation Evergreen program this year. Each year to commemorate Veteran’s Day, veterans come out to our family Christmas tree farm and select trees that will be sent to troops overseas with the hope of providing a bit of holiday cheer so far from home.

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Farm and fair photo contest winner

With the end of the Fairfield County Fair in October, the 2015 Ohio fair season wrapped up. It has been another great year of fairs around Ohio and many online visitors enjoyed seeing favorite photos from around the state throughout the summer.

In addition, this year’s photo contest also included a bit more diversity with Ohio agriculturally-related photos of any kind. The contest ended Oct. 30. To see the entries, click here.

A winner was chosen based on the total number of votes via online voting. The winner will receive a pass for free admission to any Ohio county fair and the Ohio State Fair in 2016. The fair pass is compliments of the Ohio Fair Managers Association.

Farm and Fair Photo Contest Winner copy

This year’s winner is Cathy McKinney from Waynesburg, who submitted this photo with the following caption: Swimsuit — check. Cowboy boots — check. Feeding time — check. Summer on the farm — priceless.

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Ohio connections to the Capitol Tree

As Thanksgiving approaches, so does the annual tradition of getting in the holiday spirit that accompanies the magical time of year ahead. A couple of Ohio communities have a unique opportunity to get a jump on the Christmas spirit this month as the 2015 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree tours the state.

The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, or “The People’s Tree” got its start in 1964 when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. Since 1970, the U.S. Forest Service has provided a Christmas tree for the prominent location. A tree from a different national forest has been chosen each year. In 1987, Ohio provided a Norway spruce from Wayne-Hoosier National Forest for this purpose. The national forest also works with state forests to provide smaller Christmas trees for offices in Washington, D.C.

While Ohio is not the home of this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree, there are a number of Ohio connections to the tree that will make the trip to the Capitol from its home in Alaska’s Chugach National Forest.

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Drama ensued when prisons pulled pork

Bacon, of course, is delicious, but pork tenderloin is a Reese family staple and one of the most-preferred swine products of choice for most get-togethers. In fact, pork tenderloin was the subject of intense hoopla in a recent Reese family culinary showdown.

My dad makes tasty pork tenderloin — there is no point in denying this. He was making delicious pork on the grill long before I fired up my first outdoor propane burner. But, as my generation ages, my brothers and I feel we each have come into our own when making delicious pork tenderloin, surpassing the elder Reese.

In an attempt to settle the ongoing dispute, there was a three-man pork cook-off last summer at the annual family reunion in Mt. Cory (I was not present this year). In the competition, my brothers Aaron and Jeff took on the more experienced, elder Reese. Those in attendance cast votes.

All reports confirm the three entries were indeed delicious and the event was enjoyable for all involved, but it was not without controversy.

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Turtle tales

After last week’s blog about carving turtle shells, several more turtle tales have been discussed. Here they are.

Late this summer, my son and his two ornery cousins were keenly interested in the turtle traps a local trapper had set in my parents’ farm pond. A few snappers had been seen in previous months and it became apparent that the issue should be addressed.

The four-, six- and seven-year-old boys typically run around their grandparents’ farm with wild abandon and get into every kind of mischief they can find. On that particular day their swath of general boyhood destruction and carefree conduct regularly passed through the area of the turtle traps to check in on the possibility of an apprehended aquatic reptile.

Early that afternoon, a cry of euphoria rang out that could likely be heard in the next township at the discovery that a turtle had indeed been secured.

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Share your story if it’s positive, change it if it’s not

There was a fair amount of online interest this week in a story about a box turtle in Holmes County that was found with the date 1911 carved on the underside of its shell.

The turtle was found by John A. Yoder in early September while he was helping a neighbor shock corn. Here is an excerpt from the Times Reporter story written by Jon Baker (I recommend checking out the whole thing):

Next to the date 1911 were the initials “V.F.” Abe Yoder said that is likely Victor Fender, who lived on a farm off Holmes County Road 600. Fender died in 1985.

Below that are carved the initials “H.T.” and the date 1983. Yoder said that is likely Henry E. Troyer, who owned Fender’s farm in 1983.

The farm is now occupied by Troyer’s son-in-law Joseph D. Miller.

The average life span of a box turtle is 50 years, but a significant portion of them live for more than 100 years.

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Food for the winter

Whether the weather is cold or mild this winter, it is a grim fact that there will be hungry Ohioans in the months ahead. This continues to be a terrible reality for far too many so close to home. Each year 186 million pounds of food are distributed by Ohio foodbanks to those in need around the state.

“Hunger is a pervasive reality in the Buckeye state that impacts more than one in six Ohioans,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director, Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

Because foodbanks, including the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, can leverage funds effectively, monetary donations are more useful than actual food donations. In fact, for every $1 donated to Mid-Ohio Foodbank, four meals can be provided to our hungry neighbors.

With that in mind, Ohio’s Country Journal and Ohio Ag Net are working to raise 10,000 meals at this year’s Farm Science Review. For each $4 donated, a FSR attendee will get to add a scaled-down bushel of corn to a container with the goal of donating funds for 10,000 meals for $2,500.

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Weather worth watching in the winter ahead

As Farm Science Review approaches each year and the sultry days of summer give way to the crisp mornings of autumn, the desire to start amassing the firewood I have spent the last several months cutting starts to stir within me like the dry fallen leaves in a brisk October breeze. And, it seems my wood cutting efforts that began last January will pay off again this year as some sources continue to predict a cold, snowy winter for the region.

The editors of the Farmers’ Almanac recently issued a stern warning, to “brace yourselves” for the winter ahead in the Great Lakes Region.

“Depending on where you live and how much cold and snow you like, we have good news and bad news,” said Peter Geiger, Farmers’ Almanac editor.

According to the 2016 edition, winter will split the country in half with the eastern sections of the country shivering in frigid cold, and the other half predicted to experience milder to more normal winter conditions.

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Five generations of family and one barn

Including my children, five generations of the Reese family have worked and played in the old barn on my parent’s property — that is a lot of pitchforking and hay fort building.

When faced with a decision about the future of this incredible, historic structure, my parents made the decision in 2010 to hire a gifted Amish crew to give it a major makeover for future generations of Reeses to continue to work and play beneath the ancient rafters of this grand old barn. Based on the saw marks on the beams, the style and the roofing material, it has been estimated that the barn was built between 1870 and 1880. Think about how Ohio agriculture has changed since then!

My parents are the third generation of the Reese family to own the farm. My great-grandfather, Pearl Jay Reese, and his wife, Jessie Mae, purchased the farm in 1918. Here is more about the barn from the Hancock Historical Society.

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