9.23.2019

Choosing a Caterer

Let's talk about the food at our wedding! Choosing a caterer was one of the hardest things we did during wedding planning... mostly because catering is insanely expensive. Upwards of $9,000 was not an uncommon quote for our 150 guest estimate. I love food and wanted to feed our guests well, but that wasn't going to cut it for us!

The first thing we did when planning our catering was decide what kind of food we wanted to serve, and we wanted to serve it. There are tons of choices across tons of price ranges. We wanted to serve barbeque at our rehearsal dinner for a more low-key vibe, and then wanted to up the ante just a bit for our reception. We decided to go buffet-style as it is much cheaper than a plated meal. Overall, we were looking for the right balance of style and price.

From there, we looked at the list of preferred caterers that our venue provided us with. We could have gone off the list, but would have incurred extra fees. Therefore, our first order of business was contacting each and every caterer (about 11) on the list for quotes.

With everything else, the "feel" of the catering service was important to us - we wanted vendors that complemented us and our day - but our primary concern quickly became price after receiving our first few quotes.


I created a spreadsheet with information on each catering service, including contact and phone number, overall price, price per guest, number of entrees, number of sides, etc. Moving everything from the PDFs that we received to a place where everything could be easily compared was key.

We had a few front runners, but ultimately decided to go with Old North State Catering. We actually went ahead and booked them before making it to a tasting because Hurricane Florence came through and changed dates. Crazy, I know, but it was on high recommendation from our venue and others!

The staff was incredibly friendly and kind, and truly wanted to tailor the meal to fit our day. They seemed to fit in perfectly with the very family-oriented style we had going. One thing that really impressed me upon talking to the owner was that they take a month off every year to feed others for charity.

We planned out our tentative menu, which included chicken, pork, 2 appetizers, 2 sides, salad, rolls, water, sweet and unsweet tea, plates and utensils, and late night chocolate chip cookies. I was able to attend a tasting in January and they graciously allowed both my parents and one of my sisters to go with me. Harrison wasn't able to make it as it was on a weeknight.

The tasting was phenomenal, and was more like a meal than a tasting! We got plates of food from a predetermined menu, most of which was on our tentative menu. Everything was wonderful and I was able to solidify some choices and change my mind on a few, as well. Finalizing our menu was truly difficult!

           


We ended up with the following:

Appetizers

  • Mango chutney cheese ball with assorted crackers
  • Jalapeno pimiento cheese hushpuppies with sriracha bang bang sauce

Dinner

  • Pecan encrusted chicken with NC honey drizzle
  • Brown sugar rubbed roasted pork loin
  • Roasted potatoes
  • Country style green beans
  • Spring mix salad
  • Rolls
If there was one thing I wish I could change about our wedding, it would be that I would have eaten! I heard stories all while wedding planning about brides who didn't get to eat at their wedding because they were visiting with guests, so I planned to make sure that didn't happen... and it didn't! The staff was wonderful and brought my and Harrison's meal to our table for us to make sure we got food. I was so hot, however, (and probably overwhelmed, too!) that I felt terrible during dinner and could only nibble. My second biggest regret is that we didn't take leftovers to-go with us to the hotel after we left!

Overall, I have nothing but fantastic things to say about our food and catering. Food seems to be something that people remember if it's bad, but forget if it's good. I wanted our meal to be memorable in a good way, and I think we definitely achieved that!

9.14.2019

If It's Not One Thing, It's Another...

...and sometimes it's both at the same time.

Farming and boat ownership have a bit in common: things always need to be fixed. One second things will be running smoothly, and the next... complete chaos.

This past Thursday night, I headed out to the farm after work to ride in the combine with Harrison because corn harvest was officially ready to begin! We ate our harvest supper of salami sandwiches, cut one load of corn, and started unloading it, expecting to be in the field way past dark.

We were there way past dark, but not for the reasons we originally thought. Our auger broke just as we were almost done emptying the combine. With no way to get the corn from the combine to the grain bin, we were done cutting for the night.

Harrison started tinkering with the auger and I started scooping corn. Then the chicken house alarm called. Harrison and his dad went to fix the problem there, while I stayed behind to shovel corn.

   

Three 55-gallon drums later, I headed up to the chicken houses to see what was going on. Without going into much detail, the issue had turned into a bigger issue and we had some work on our hands there.

When all was said and done (and scooped and cleaned), we went to bed exhausted and I reflected on the absurdity of it all:

  • Sometimes all you can do is laugh.
  • You know what they say about best laid plans.
  • It is possible for one girl to move half a ton of corn by herself.
  • Don't wear socks and crocs to the farm.
  • Never assume you're just going for a ride in the combine.


Happy weekend, everyone, and don't every cry over spilt corn!

9.13.2019

We're Pretty Corny Around Here

Let's talk about corn!


Corn is a crop that pretty much everyone has seen growing in fields as they drive by. Lots of people wonder, and you may have too, "Why is it turning brown? Why didn't they harvest it before it dried out?" The answer is pretty simple: the corn you see drying out isn't sweet corn! In fact, the only way you'll see this kind of corn in the grocery store is ground into corn meal or grits.

Sweet corn has too much sugar in it to dry properly. It is best for eating (Have you ever eaten an ear pulled straight off the stalk, no cooking required? I would highly recommend it if you get the chance!) and canning.

Field corn (or dent corn, as some midwesterners call it) is what we're focusing on here! In Iredell County (and other areas with dairy farms or even cow-calf operations), we typically see two things done with field corn: chopping and combining.

I'll write a post on silage in the near future, but let's focus on corn for grain right now.

Corn in North Carolina is planted between March and May. We planted the majority of our corn in mid-April. Corn typically matures in 120 days, then it's a waiting game for the moisture percentage to be low enough to harvest it. Moisture is greatly influenced by weather conditions. It has been pretty hot in Iredell County lately, around 90 degrees every day. Last week our corn was testing around 30%. Yesterday it was 18%. We have combined a few loads for some customers who want deer corn, but are largely waiting for it to be around 16%... which could be today!

Moisture is a very important consideration for corn harvest. Some people have dryers in their grain bins- they can harvest their corn at a higher moisture percentage. However, it costs money to run propane dryers, so that cuts into profit margin. An ideal time to have had dryers in Eastern North Carolina would have been two weeks ago, when we were waiting on Hurricane Dorian to come through. Our friends down east were running hard to get their corn in bins in anticipation of up to 12 inches of rain. Thankfully it wasn't as bad as it could have been, but there's a chance that some corn was brought in at a higher moisture content than is ideal.

Too high moisture can lead to spoilage and rotting, price dockage at mills, and even fire and spontaneous combustion.

Corn is planted on rows that are spaced 30 inches apart. The corn header on our combine has fingers that go between the rows to guide the stalks into the header. The ears are stripped off the stalks and go through the combine, which takes the kernels off and cleans out the big chunks of material that isn't grain. The grain is stored in the "hopper" in the back of the combine, then offloaded via auger to a grain cart, truck, or bin.

(Image courtesy of AgriExpo)
We market our corn in two different ways: we sell directly to consumers for deer corn and we sell through cash markets to local mills. We don't utilize futures contracts at this time. (Grain marketing is extremely confusing and as I learn, I'll share on the blog!)

Field corn is used for many different things: livestock feed, food for humans (grits, cornmeal, cereal, corn starch, etc.), ethanol and biofuel, as well as things like crayons, chewing gum, and shampoo! 

Corn is an extremely useful plant and fun crop to grow and harvest! Be sure to keep an eye on my Instagram for behind the scenes of corn harvest in the coming days!


9.09.2019

Welcome to Grace & Grain Bins!

Things look a little different around here! For a while I was writing as Positively Taylor, a brand that I developed as an extension of myself, and one that is still close to my heart and hard to transition away from. But, I've had quite a few new seasons here lately, so I figured my personal brand and blog deserved one, too. So, without further adieu...

Welcome to Grace & Grain Bins!


I've always like to write and tell stories, mostly to document my own journey. But now, as a farmer's wife (or am I a farmer, too? Post on that coming soon!) my story is intertwined with another... agriculture's. You see, I live on what most people outside of ag would consider a "factory farm." I want, through writing about my everyday, to try to expose the truth about farming

It's a crazy, not-normal, never-dull life, y'all... and I only have 4 months of marriage to, plus 2.5 years of dating a farmer to know that. I hope that what I have to say, as insignificant as it might be, makes people think: about where their food comes from and about the good stuff in life. 

So, if you choose to follow along, thank you from the bottom of my heart! You'll see a lot of farming, and some other stuff, too. I can't talk about just agriculture all the time! There will be a lot of wedding stuff for the next few months, as I document our planning and wedding day. If you're getting married, you may find this useful. If you're not, grin and bear it! 

You can read here to learn a little more about me and the meaning behind the name Grace & Grain Bins. You can read here to learn about about Westward Farms, although I plan to have Harrison (hi, babe!) to write about the history of the farm in a little more detail in the coming weeks.

You can follow along on Facebook, Instagram, or my personal Instagram, as well as email me at graceandgrainbins@gmail.com! Thanks again for reading!

9.05.2019

September Goals

We're a few days into a new month, but it's never too late to set goals! After making more progress in August than I have in past months, I'm feeling ready to cross off even more in September!

August Goals Recap
- Create wedding album // This didn't even get touched!
- Organize closet // Yes! I finally got all my clothes put away in their permanent homes.
- Paint & stain // Yes! Harrison actually finished this up for me, but it needed to get done regardless. The only things left is the staining the edges of the trim on our door frame to the kitchen/living room.
- Write/blog // I'll call this a win! I didn't quite stick to a schedule, but I started posting more, which feels really good!
- 2018 photo organization // Done! It's great to have those pictures culled and in a place where I can enjoy them.
- 2018 photo book // Also done! It was easy once I had the organization done to pick out my favorites and throw them in a book from Snapfish.
- Complete all workouts // Not even close, unfortunately!
- Do something for Harrison every week // I'll call this a half win.
- Budget check-in weekly // I started strong in the first half of the month then tapered off.
- 3 bottles of water daily // Unfortunately, no.
- Write the Word journal daily // Didn't stick to this one as much as I would have wanted to.
- Stick to cleaning schedule // Nope, so I ended up frantically cleaning the two days before my family came to visit.
- No frivolous purchases each day // A few days this was a win, but I still bought some "wants," instead of just "needs."


- Create and use a content calendar
- Create our wedding album
- Work on organizing our corner room
- Update YNAB weekly
- Move my body 4x per week
- Stick to our daily cleaning schedule
- Do my devotional each day

It's a much thinner list this month, but I wanted to focus on a little at a time this month to make some serious progress!

Do you have any goals for September?
Taylor Jenkins. Design by Berenica Designs.