Author Archives: lanifurbank

Feature Writing: The Family Milk Cow

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Lani is a regular contributor to Shenandoah Living Magazine.

Recent Story:

“The Family Milk Cow” by Lani Furbank
Published in Shenandoah Living Magazine in September of 2014

[“Come on, honey,” Faith Schlabach says, coaxing Heidi over. Heidi ambles through the grass, and Faith leans down and strokes Heidi’s forehead and ears. “Good girl,” she coos, with an accent that blends her northern roots and her southern experience.

Heidi is a 7-month-old small-standard Jersey cow. She lives on Misty Morning Farm, on 6 acres of pasture nestled behind the mountains in Fulks Run. As the sun sets, it glistens on Heidi’s coat, fresh and clean from a bath. “She’s one of our showgirls,” Faith says. Heidi only stands about 3 feet tall, and she won’t grow too much bigger.

Heidi and her friends are miniature and small-standard Jerseys, and they are of an elite pedigree – they do not carry the A1 mutation common in dairy cows, one that some worry is harmful to humans who drink their milk. Instead, these cows have ideal genetics for grazing and digesting grass instead of grain to produce nutrient-dense milk.

Faith and her husband, Adam, raised Heidi and almost 30 other calves this year to be once-a-day milk cows for local families. Their farm used to be a hobby farm. They had their own chickens, raised their own cows and had a vegetable garden. But when their neighbor gave them a heifer calf to raise and sell, the idea for a new family business was born.

Now, as a “hyped-up hobby farm,” Faith and Adam are part of a movement they call “the return of the family milk cow.” Family milk cows are rare, but the idea is beginning to catch on. In five years, they have already sold 30 cows.

The Schlabachs started farming more than 10 years ago, when Faith was suffering from serious health problems, and needed to change her diet to be as natural as possible. With these changes, she saw dramatic improvements in her health, and the health of her family. They started their business because they wanted to spread the word about the benefits of hormone-free raw milk from grass-fed cows with grazing genetics.

One of the biggest benefits is the high CLA content in grazing cows’ milk. CLA is a cancer-fighting fat, and according to a study done by Utah State University, milk from grass-fed cows is 500 percent higher in CLA than milk from cows that are primarily fed a grain diet. In addition, the Weston A. Price Foundation conducted a survey that revealed that 82 percent of raw milk drinkers in Michigan could safely drink raw milk, even though they were diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Three of Faith’s family members are a testament to this – none of them could drink pasteurized milk because they would display milk allergy symptoms, but they now drink raw milk without any negative reactions.

Most of Misty Morning’s clients are folks who have a primary career for income but have started farming on the side. They usually turn to farming to provide natural food for their families. Faith says 70 percent of the people who buy cows from Misty Morning have never owned a cow before. This is because the typical experience of their clients involves a gradual increase in commitment. Most families will try caring for chickens, a garden and some fruit trees first. If that goes well, they’re ready to try a cow.

Working with first-time owners requires providing support for families as they learn how to care for their new responsibility. So, the Schlabachs offer a free milking school for families who purchase one of their “babies.”

Milking school is an-all day affair, with instruction and hands-on sessions. It covers everything from the milking process to preventing disease and using rotational grazing methods.

Isaac, Faith and Adam’s 18-month-old grandson, has only attended milking school once, but his grandpa is always happy to give him a little extra training.

“Here Isaac, you lead her in,” Adam says. Isaac swings the cow’s lead rope up and down, almost like he’s flicking the reins to tell Big Ginger to giddy up.

As they head toward the milking parlor, a momma hen struts past, her peeps in tow. They scurry around in a zig-zag pattern – trying to keep up, but getting distracted by sights and sounds along the way.

While Faith gathers the supplies to sanitize the udder before milking, Adam hoists Isaac onto Big Ginger’s back. Isaac’s eyes light up, and he giggles as he pats her back, bouncing up and down. Adam scoops Isaac back up just in time, catching him before he plants a big kiss on Big Ginger’s backside. He hands Isaac off to Faith, who holds him as he looks on, soaking it all in.

“This is a Walmart special milking bucket,” Adam chuckles. He rests his elbow on Big Ginger, to make her aware of his presence, and he sits comfortably on the bucket, right under her udders. With a gentle but authoritative hand, he grasps two teats and begins to milk.

“Believe it or not that’s oftentimes what we do, when we have the other cow, we both milk, and we come in at the same time and that’s our Friday evening date,” Adam says. His wife of 29 years responds with a laugh.

With each squeeze, milk spurts out, hitting the sides of the metal bucket so fast that it vibrates. The first few times, the stream sounds like a gong, but as Adam works up a rhythm, the bucket fills and the sound dulls. As he works, a frothy layer forms on the surface of the liquid, a sign you’re milking fast enough, he says. All the while, Big Ginger munches on hay, undisturbed.

Having a cow like Big Ginger or Heidi can dramatically change a family’s lifestyle. With just one cow, you get fertilizer – 22,000 pounds from the average cow – milk, cultured milk to feed to your chickens or pigs, and you can make countless dairy products.

Bob Gillette, one of Misty Morning’s clients, is “an attorney turned farmboy,” Faith says. When he retired, he returned to his farming roots and now raises or grows most of his own food. He has chickens, turkeys, bees and a garden. In September, he bought two cows from Misty Morning, and he uses the milk to produce cheese, butter, cream, buttermilk, yogurt, cream cheese, curds and whey.

The Schlabachs take advantage of the resources their cows provide, too. Their daughter-in-law, Abi, brings out the antique butter churn, a gift from their 92-year-old neighbor. Faith begins to turn the creaky handle, and as it whirls, the milk splashes up the sides of the glass jar. This method takes about 30 minutes, but Adam doesn’t mind. He enjoys churning by hand while watching television or a movie. In a pinch, the blender will whip up the butter in just a couple of minutes.

Miniature and small-standard milk cows are ideal for a family, because they only need a few acres of pasture for grazing. With a miniature cow, you can get away with just half an acre, if you supplement rotational grazing with hay in the winter or times of drought. The cows are all raised without hormones, so their milk is as natural and local as it gets. They each produce between one and three gallons a day, which is just the right amount for a family drinking milk and making other dairy products. A large wheel of Monterey Jack cheese requires two gallons of milk.

Faith slices a generous hunk off of the wheel of pale yellow cheese covered in smooth red wax. She balls up the wax rind; she can reuse it for her next cheese. This wheel of Monterey Jack is her first attempt at hard cheese. After three months of waiting, she had opened it the previous night. The taste test was successful. “That won’t last me very long,” Adam had said. Half of the wheel is already gone.

The cheese might not last, but the heifer who makes it will. Hypothetically, after buying the first heifer, you’ll have an indefinite supply of milk and meat. When a bull calf comes along, you can raise them and send them to “freezer camp,” as Faith calls it. And eventually, you’ll save a heifer calf to replace her mother when she retires from milking.

But having a cow isn’t just about the production. For Faith and Adam, it’s about bringing their family together and learning responsibility. When their kids were growing up, animals were a central part of their lives. Rain or shine, they would have to go outside to care for the animals. And Abi thinks this tradition is worth continuing with Isaac. “Part of our parenting plan is to get him responsible by giving him a cow,” she jokes.

Back out in the pasture, Isaac comes over to greet Heidi. Faith bounces him on her knee. “You like that little cow, don’t you?” she asks with a smile. “He’ll be my relief milker when he grows up.”]

Blog Writing: Enlightened Lighting

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Lani is a guest contributor to Enlightened Lighting’s blog. She writes weekly posts about landscape lighting.

Recent Post:

“The 5 Most Common Outdoor Lighting Mistakes: Why Your Home Lacks Curb Appeal 

Curb appeal isn’t just about a manicured lawn or a nice paint job. If you want your home to be the talk of the town, you have to consider how it will look when the sun goes down.

The key to a stunning home is outdoor lighting. Poor lighting can make a gorgeous house look dull, but great lighting can make your home shine!

Here are the five most common outdoor lighting mistakes – and how you can avoid them.

1) No Contrast

Oversimplified lighting (such as an overuse of large floodlights) results in a lack of contrast that will make your home appear flat and boring. Carefully planned outdoor lighting design will create drama and highlight your home’s best features. This is accomplished by incorporating layers of light and using shadows.

Unlike sunlight, lighting we design can be applied selectively to draw the eye to certain areas. First, it’s important to determine the focal point of the design and create a lighting hierarchy. At Enlightened Lighting, designers consider how the home looks from all angles – not just from the street, but also from the entryway, from a deck or patio, and even from inside the house. This creates depth.

Then, a plan is drawn up to include layers of primary, secondary, background and soft lighting, as well as dark areas to create contrast. The end result? A stunning, dramatic view of your home!

2) Lighting Glare

Even a dramatic lighting scheme can be ruined by lighting glare. If a contractor is careless and doesn’t position a fixture properly (we’ll explain this more later), you’ll end up with an eyesore that looks like a reflection from a flashbulb.

Eliminating lighting glare will prevent distractions and allow the eye to focus on the whole picture, rather than a bright blemish. Lighting glare can be easily fixed by using frosted lenses or shrouds, and by considering the angle of the light.

3) Bad Fixture Placement

Just as the wrong angle can create lighting glare, bad fixture placement can result in over-illumination or an imbalance in the overall look of the home.

Our goal at Enlightened Lighting is to create understated elegance. Depending on the object we are lighting, we aim to diffuse the light to create a subtle and even appearance.

For instance, on a larger tree, one light under the trunk may create an unwanted hot spot, whereas using 2-3 fixtures spread out around the tree will create a more balanced look.

4) Wrong Color Temperature

Different fixtures have different color temperatures, and these color temperatures set the mood of your design.

  • If the color temperature in a fixture is too warm, it will produce a yellow-tinted light, which can appear dirty or dated.
  • A light that is too white can create a commercial, sterile feel.
  • Fixtures that create a bluish hue can make your home look dreary when not used for a specific purpose, such as moon lighting.

It’s crucial to find the perfect color balance to accomplish your desired look. Also, look for consistency among all of the fixtures you choose. Don’t forget to consider how a fixture’s color temperature can shift as it burns out, which could result in inconsistency down the road.

5) Under-Powered Lights

When you spend time and money to create a beautiful design plan for your outdoor lighting, the last thing you want is for it to be ruined by under-powered lights. If a light beam isn’t sufficient for the task at hand, a well thought out design will fall flat.

For instance, a light beam might only extend halfway up an object, or the spread of light might be too weak to wash a large area. The cheap, battery and solar-powered lights tend to be under-powered and appear dim, undermining a high quality outdoor lighting design.


Lighting design can make or break your home’s curb appeal. Contact us today and let us help you create a beautiful lighting plan that will bring out the best in your home.”

Blog Writing: The Whoop It Up Blog

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Lani is a guest contributor to the Whoop It Up Blog. She writes bi-monthly posts about how to live your best life.

Recent Post:

Spread Joy with the #HappyActsChallenge!

March 20th is officially the International Day of Happiness. It was established three years ago by the United Nations, so you know it’s legit!  The UN website states that, “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal.” We all could use a little extra happiness in our lives. That’s why I’m inviting you to join me in taking Live Happy Magazine’s #HappyActs Challenge to spread the joy.

Here’s how it works.

First, start by making yourself happy. Joy leads to more joy.

Here are 5 ways to Whoop It Up and live a happier life:

1) Be Grateful: When our lives get busy or we hit a rough patch, it’s easy to get discouraged. Take time to remember how lucky you truly are by writing down the things that make you happy. Listing what you’re grateful for will help you embrace the positive things in your life instead of dwelling on the negative.

2) Forgive and Forget: Holding on to anger is the quickest way to steal your own joy. Make it a habit to truly forgive people and move on. Bitterness and resentment don’t help you heal, so just “let it go!” (Now that darn song is stuck in your head, right?)

3) Remember that money can’t buy you happiness: Money is one of the biggest sources of stress in our lives. Don’t let it get to you! Research shows that once your income is above the poverty line, more money doesn’t result in any significant amount of extra happiness. So why do we always fret about it? Focus on keeping your family healthy and fed, and don’t let the occasional financial bump in the road worry you.

4) Do what makes you happy: Find the time to engage in meaningful and enjoyable activities. Plan a Girl’s Night Out, go on a romantic date with your partner, play a game with your kids, learn a new skill, volunteer your time to help others. Whatever you choose, just make sure it brings you joy and gives your life purpose.

5) Get by with a little help from your friends: “Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief.” – Swedish Proverb.  True friends keep us strong and make us whole. Spend quality time with your friends and help each other find happiness.

Now that you’ve found your own joy, it’s time to spread it to others!  Here are a few #HappyActs to get you started.”

Read the rest here.


Ghost Writing: Caduceus Marketing

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Lani ghost-writes articles for local health professionals in the DC area through Caduceus Marketing’s public relations services.

Recent Article:

Back to Basics: Keeping Your Skin Healthy and Youthful

Americans spend billions of dollars on products and treatments to help keep their skin healthy and looking youthful. Yet many fail to take basic proven – and generally inexpensive – steps to care for their skin.

Among the American Academy of Dermatology’s top recommendations is protect your skin from the sun. Sun protection forms the foundation of every anti-aging skin-care plan. The sun’s rays make our skin age more quickly. We have so much evidence that the sun prematurely ages our skin that there is actually a word to describe this effect. This word is “photoaging.”

Reversing the effects of photoaging can be complicated and costly, so it is best to prevent the process before it causes any serious damage. Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help you do just that.

First and foremost, it is imperative to limit direct contact with the sun. Try to stay in the shade between 10 am and 2 pm, and whenever your shadow appears shorter than you. If you must be outdoors during strong sunlight, cover up as much as possible. Wide-brimmed hats, pants and long sleeved shirts are effective for shading your skin from the sun. Wearing gloves will help reduce age spots on your hands, and sunglasses help prevent fine lines from forming around your eyes. Of course, always apply sunscreen on any areas of your skin that will not be covered by clothing. Be sure to use SPF 30 or higher, and look for sunscreen that is water resistant.

In addition, do not subject yourself to additional harmful sun-like rays from tanning beds or sun lamps. These machines expose your skin to ultraviolet (UV) rays, which speeds up the process of aging.

A well-rounded daily skincare regimen is crucial for maintaining healthy skin. Moisturizers trap water in your skin, keeping you looking younger. Apply facial moisturizer, body moisturizer and lip balm every day to prevent your skin from becoming excessively dry as you age. Always make sure to wash your face twice a day with warm water and a mild cleanser – not soap. Be gentle and avoid scrubbing your skin.

Beyond these basic measures, you also must consider how your overall health affects your skin. Tobacco smoke contains toxic elements that can leave your skin looking dull, dry and leathery. It can also cause your skin to lose its firmness or result in premature wrinkles. Your diet also plays a big role. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats helps keep your skin nourished and healthy. Finally, don’t forget about your beauty rest! Sleep allows your skin to regenerate, which gives you that fresh-faced morning glow.

Maintaining healthy skin is a lifelong practice. Take time every day to protect your skin, and schedule regular visits to your dermatologist. These simple preventative measures will keep you looking young for years to come!”