May 312013


The past several months have been jam packed with activity. Between finishing up school, coaching soccer, lambing, and the farmers markets there has been little time to play. And what’s life without a little play time. So I decided to take a couple of half days off and drive down back country roads snapping photos. Ah, what total bliss!


 Posted by at 7:23 am
Dec 232012

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from all of us at Virginia Lamb & Meats.

This time of year, we can’t help but pause and reflect on all the wonderful friendships we have made over the years. Thank you for becoming part of our farm family. Your continued support and loyalty is what strengthens us, allowing us to continue a family tradition of farming!

With love, The Childs Family

 Posted by at 7:00 am
Jul 282012

Hardy breakfasts have always been a tradition in my family. Everyday my uncles got up early to go to the barn to milk cows. Sunrise was mid-morning to these boys! Their day began while it was still dark, rolling out of bed at 4:00 am. For the record, I am definitely not a morning person. Talking to me before my first cup of coffee should be done at one’s own risk. And I am not the only slug in the family.

Three of my uncles split the milking schedule so that two always milked in the morning and two always milked in the afternoon. The other uncle was in charge of field work. He got plenty of help when needed, but plowing, planting, and harvesting was his domain. Dad once told me a story of Grandad trying to get “field worker” uncle up in the morning to milk cows. After his third warning Grandad sent him to the barn in his underwear. Believable? Yes. This totally sounds like my family. Me? I preferred doing my chores once the sun was happily up to greet me (and I was fully dressed). However, my uncles and I never did agree on what time that was. ;-)

Once the morning milking was done and bottle calves fed, everyone would head to Grandma Hazel’s house for breakfast. And although cereal might be a great evening snack for this crowd, breakfast always meant plenty of eggs, bacon, and sausage… oh yes, and fresh milk!


Breakfast BLT

  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 4 fresh eggs
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1/2 cup lettuce
  • 8 slices of bread (4 slices for open faced sandwiches)

Place bacon in large pan over medium heat. Turning every 2-3 minutes. Once bacon is done to your preference, remove from pan and place on paper towel on plate to absorb excess fat. Keep in mind that bacon will continue to cook after being removed from heat.

Meanwhile, slice tomato and wash lettuce.

Using a clean pan, add 2 tablespoons of bacon grease and heat over medium heat. Once hot, gently add eggs to pan being careful that they have enough room and do not touch. Fry only two at a time if necessary. For sunny side up, fry eggs until white is completely cooked and no longer clear. If you prefer firm yokes, carefully turn egg and continue cooking.

Once eggs are done, assemble sandwiches.

stiles brothers

Dad (second from left) and my Uncles, 1959

 Posted by at 11:30 am
Jul 262012


I found this old newspaper clipping of my dad and uncles in a Hecht Company ad in the Washington Post dated 8-19-1957. Left to right, Michael Stiles, Kenneth Stiles, and Dad, Blair Stiles, getting their calf, Playmate, ready for the Montgomery County (MD) Fair.


 Posted by at 1:23 am
Jul 142012

There are times when new customers approach us at the farmers market and get frustrated when we don’t have a specific type of meat that they are looking for. Pointing to our canvas sign above the coolers, they remind us that we advertise lamb, goat, beef, pork, and poultry. So where is the {fill in the blank}? Often they totally overlook the word seasonal that precedes our offerings.

We don’t blame them, as most Americans never consider their meat supply as seasonal. Between different climates found in the US, imported meat, the ability to harvest meat within a window of time (think weeks/months vs. hours/days for vegetables), and that wonderful invention we call a freezer we are spoiled.  But if you are someone who appreciates local food, it’s time to take a look behind the scenes.

sheep on pastureLAMB

Sheep are wonderful creatures and our favorite livestock here on the farm. As in most places, our sheep naturally lamb in the spring. The spring lamb you eat isn’t really referring to the time it was harvested but when it was born.  We have a huge demand for Easter lamb, and, well, that poses a slight problem. Seldom do we have lambs ready by April or May. The bulk of our lambs are born in January and February and most are harvested at 7 to 9 months. That puts them market ready in September, long after Easter. We have been able to meet the needs of our customers by having a few of our lambs born in the fall.  But that is not an easy task. Sheep breed based on hours of daylight. And try as we may, most like to {snuggle} with the ram between August and November. Picky aren’t they!


Goats are a mystery to us most days. There is not a fence that can keep them in (ask Grandma and she’ll point to her garden). We also have a terrible time getting them to breed on our time schedule. Like sheep they are very sensitive to daylight. Several years back an old farmer told us that goats only breed in months with an “R.” Even after confiscating all their daytimers and removing all calendars from the barn — no success. Kidding aside, they definitely have their own schedule and yes, it appears they only breed in months with an “R.” So if they breed in September and October, kid in February and March, we have goat meat available in the fall. Because our herd is relatively small, we haven’t tried lengthening our breeding season into March and April yet.


We have tried our hand at breeding pigs. We choose two beautiful sows that the kids showed one year. They were calm, easy going, would walk anywhere you wanted them to go. Then they farrowed. And instantly they turned into kill-you-if-they-could beasts. Mean didn’t begin to describe them. With little kids around, we quickly got back out of the pig business.  Now we purchase a group of weaned piglets each spring and fall to raise. Traditionally pork is harvested in the fall when farmers came together as a community for harvesting. The men would scald, hang, and cut up the pork. The women would make sausage, scrapple, and organ meats. It was a flurry of activity. The weather was cool enough to smoke hams and bacon, and it wasn’t so blistering hot over the boiling kettles. Pigs will actually breed any time of year. Our decision for mostly spring born pigs is for two reasons. Our kids like showing market hogs at the county fair in late August. And Farmer (Corey’s Dad) still likes to take an occasional pig to the old timers pig harvest.


Finally, here is an animal that is eager to please. Cows breed year round and thus should be able to supply us with beef year round. Like most farmers in Virginia we run a cow/calf operation. Meaning we have a herd of mature cows that calve each year. We then sell the weaned calves as our income source. Ideally calves are all born at the same time so that weaning can be done all at once providing us with a uniform a group to market (uniform equates to higher market prices). Although we do not mind calving the herd in smaller groups throughout the year, there is a snag. Grass is most abundant during the spring. Momma cows eat a lot of grass — a must to produce the milk needed to feed their young calves. Spring is the best time to provide enough green, lush grass for milking cows in a pasture raised system. So it is much cheaper and more efficient to calve in the spring. Our calves are harvested at 18 months, thus giving us our best supplies in the fall.


Most breeds of chickens lay eggs year round. Yeah! Now there is a protein source twelve months a year. They definite drop off in production during the winter months, daylight being the culprit, but they do lay eggs in the winter. Eggs can be incubated year round. Chicks can be born year round. Broilers can be raised year round. The only down side is that there isn’t sustainable pasture in the winter months and they must be supplemented with additional feed. Also cold, drafty, damp weather can be stressful if they are not properly protected.  So when you stop by our farm stand and all we have are chicken and eggs, you now know why.

It is the cycle of life, as most species birth in the spring when natural feed sources are most abundant. As producers we try to control our meat supplies the best we can. But part of subscribing to sustainable agriculture is being able to except what nature does best on its own. So the next time you are enjoying summer grown tomatoes or corn on the cob, we hope you will now add meat to the “seasonal” category too.

Each of us associates particular foods with certain times of the year. I love spicy sausage links fresh from the butcher with sauerkraut and creamy potato soup on the first chilly day in autumn. What is your favorite seasonal meat dish?

 Posted by at 1:34 pm
Jun 182012
pink john deere tractor

Photo by

Many women have wish lists – some include diamonds, others dream vacations – mine has a new first to top the list. I want my own tractor! Not one of those powerhorses that would get stolen away by the men in my family, but one with a bucket on front to clean the barn and rotate the compost pile, and one I can use to mow the fields at the farm. I guess I am starting with the end of my story. Let me rewind…

Yesterday we decided to divide and conquer. Our farm list was getting rather long from the neglect of soccer season. Corey and Brady headed off to the farmers market as Jordan and I headed out to the farm. We had gotten the breeding ewes in the night before so we could get an early start. First on our list was to go through the ewes. With the coyote attack last week, I wanted assurance that none of the other girls were missing. It might be easy to spot a missing sheep in a flock of ten, but easily recognizing a flock of 73 when it should be 74, not so much. As we caught each ewe, we did a quick health check, looking for any abscesses that might have been caused from the occasional snake bite or broken tooth (all were good!). We also checked the color of their eye lids to determine if any were anemic, a sure sign they need to be dewormed. After the girls were all cleared, they were given free access back to their pasture. Next we went through the lambs. A few were allowed to leave alongside their mothers, most needed to be weaned (this is our second group of weanlings). So now the barn is full of very loud and disgruntled lambs. After a couple of weeks we will move them to their own pasture for the summer.

Ewes and lambs taken care of, we moved onto other pressing projects. Armed with reinforcements (our oldest son, Brett, was now on the scene) we decided to tackle the fence around Nanny’s yard and mow pasture.  Needing brute strength, I left Brett and Jordan in charge of repairing the fence. This had become priority one, given the less than pleasant visit we had from Dad accusing the lambs of eating Nanny’s flowers. Not our cute little babies, I cried! But I was too late, they were past the joking stage. And a mad grandmother is never a good thing.

With the fencing (or lack of fencing) fiasco being addressed, I headed off to mow. Ah, we are back to the tractor. First Brett had to give me a quick tutorial on Big Red, our oldest and never before tamed by me tractor. With all the other tractors currently being used in the hay field, Big Red was all that was left. I climbed up the three foot steps to take a seat. What? No comfy, cushy driver’s seat? In its place was a make shift plywood seat, no, seat seems too kind, it was more like a stool on a spring! Never deterred from a little “me” time, I took the throne and off to the pasture I went. I was making great headway when suddenly I hit something. With all the rock breaks on the farm, I couldn’t have been more careful and watchful. I couldn’t imagine what I hit. I turned off the PTO (power take off that runs the mower) and pulled up to see the cause of my frustration… a rock, a little, barely protruding rock. Oh, the story doesn’t end there. When I tried to re-engage the PTO, the mower motor began to smoke.  Shoot! Back to the barn I went. Brett took a quick look under the mower deck and whistled. Whistling was not the sign I was looking for. Thumbs up, all good, anything would have been more welcomed. But instead my mower blade now looked more like the blade on a hand sickle.

It may have begun as a small suggestive voice while bouncing my bum on that plywood seat, but in that instant I became certain. Now on the tippy top of my wish list is my very own tractor! And I think a pretty pink one might just keep it out of the hay field.

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 Posted by at 11:43 pm