RicelandMeadows


Standing By
August 11, 2017, 7:34 pm
Filed under: August 2017 | Tags: , , , ,

kentile2017

August 11, 2017

Yesterday, my friend Ken, installed this short section of tile. I have been wanting to do this job for two years. It was on the schedule for this summer because the feedlot expansion project now makes drainage the utmost important. He did the work, I stood by and watched for awhile. This water will filter through a gravel layer, into a tile that connects with a field tile that ends up at our wetlands. The water is filtered by grasslands and slow moving water, before it can enter Mill Creek as it leaves our farm. The job turned out real good, just as I had hoped.

It seems this has been my summer…standing by watching others do my work. I look forward to being able to reciprocate soon. Just a few more weeks of healing and therapy should do the trick. My knee continues to improve, thanks to ice, a few great therapists and rest. I will say it is a process! It tests a man’s reslove and his wife’s patience!

Pastures are holding out very well. We rotated the stock to different pastures last night. My grandson and I opened and shut gates as others moved the cattle and sheep. Today’s heavy rain, gave everything a drink again. The horses watched us over the fence. They are ready to work too, but like me, for now, are standing by.



Fingers in the Dirt

Ralphdirt

August 10, 2017

Leaning on my cane, fingers in the dirt is a mental boost for this farmer! It’s been a while since I could “play in the dirt”, if you will. Many farm jobs got put on hold. A few jobs have been done by others. Yesterday, I was able to weed and till this section of raised bed garden. I even planted a cover crop of buckwheat.

Now, this surely is farming small, but my connection with the soil has been made whole again. This whole job took a total of about 20 minutes to complete. Before knee surgery, I would have knocked it out on the way to do something else. I was my whole focus yesterday and I was even tired by the time I had completed it!

I did this entire job by hand using garden tools made by a family business called Homestead Iron. The hand tools are forged and fashioned out of tool steel in a small shop. The shipping part of their business involves using their kitchen table. This is a family business, here in America, in the state of Missouri, owned and run by Mr.& Mrs. Will Dobkins. You can check out their website at WWW.Homesteadiron.com

I am amazed at just how nice these tools were to use. They are just the right weight. They are sharp and well balanced. They fit my hand well and the angle of the blade is perfectly aligned for working the dirt. These are made like tools were made in the “olden days”. I’m talking about the time when the guy making the tool used them too. Most of the junk tools available today are bulky, heavy, not sharp and not anywhere near ergonomically friendly. It’s easy to see that many of today’s tool manufacturers never had to use one all day long!

Friends, I am endorsing the tools made by Homestead Iron. They are tools that work for people who work too. The best part is that the guy who forges them uses them too. Each tool is hammered and shaped by one man. His wife answers the phone, sends email and ships the product…from the same kitchen where she feeds her family! This is true American work ethic in action. I urge you to check them out.

Thanks to the Dobkin’s, my day of gardening, though short, was a wonderful experience. The tools they made were a joy to use. The sun shined on my face and a little dirt worked under my fingernails making the whole experience for me nothing short of divine. Due to the recovery time from my knee surgery, I’m not able to farm in a big way yet.  Getting my fingers in the dirt sure helped my healing…mentally and physically!

 



Pitching In
August 8, 2017, 11:57 pm
Filed under: August 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

kmanhelp.jpg

August 8, 2017

Everybody here, family and friend, has pitched in to help me. My grandson makes sure the cows have water and that I am doing okay. There have been so many people helping out that I am humbled by it. I am continuing to heal well, but it sure takes a load off a farmer’s mind, when the chores are all done!

appletime

Tonight, I walked along to an old apple tree that stands in the farm lane. My wife and grandson gathered up some of the dropped apples to feed the pigs. Some were given to the draft horses for a sweet treat too. They gathered up three 5 gallon buckets and didn’t even make a dent in the fallen fruit.

We will gather up as many as we can. The remainder will then be eaten by the cows and sheep. This is just a nice bonus given from a tree that I have mowed around for twenty five years. The apples are tart, but make good pies. These were all knocked off the tree in a recent rain storm. None will be wasted as we will pitch them into pens for the coming weeks.

It is just the beginning of August, but we are ahead of schedule as we race towards autumn. Children are getting back to school supplies, our county fair is in full swing, the blackberries are ripening and the windfall apples litter the ground. These are signs of autumn, next will be the blooming goldenrod and falling leaves.

For now, I will continue to watch from the porch as my knee heals. The pastures are green, the hay has all been made, the corn is making ears and all is well. I am simply amazed at how well the farm is running, thanks to the efforts of a whole lot of folks pitching in. Several folks have written notes and cards wishing me well. I want to take just a moment to say, “Thanks everybody!” I cannot do this without you!



Second Time Around

balage2017

August 3, 2017

The second cutting hay had grown thick and lush. This field was an almost pure stand of red clover. It was just beginning to blossom. It was a beautiful stand. I hired a local Amish man to mow, bale and wrap this crop. There was also another seven acres of trefoil in an adjoining field. He did indeed accomplish the work. He did a good job in a timely fashion.

My Amish friend is of a “new order” sect. They are allowed to use tractors and modern equipment according to his church and their beliefs. I watched him from the porch as I continue to recover from my knee surgery. It was an oxymoron! My big draft horses are standing in the barn, waiting to work. This man was zipping around my field, over the space of two days, with well over $70,000.00 worth of equipment. All of my hay tools together cost less than his mower!

The bales wrapped in singles will be easy to feed. This high protein hay will take the place of grain in my grassfed beef. The sweet smelling bales are a real treat for the cows. They really boost their diets in the dark, cold days of winter. We will move these bales closer to the feedlot in a few days, once we make a place for them.

To make good baleage, first you need a good crop. The hay/grass is cut and left to wilt in the sun. It is baled the very next day, sometimes even the same day. The high moisture content in the bales ferments after it is wrapped preserving the high quality forage. I am pleased to hay the bales in my feed inventory, but doubt that I will ever lay out the cash needed to buy the necessary equipment to make them on my own. This is a job that is better to hire done.

Our crazy wet weather patterns do make it a challenge to make dry hay. You have to really “make hay when the sun shines!” All other work comes to a stand still and dry hay becomes your only focus. You push yourself, the hay and even, in my case, the horses as I rake and fluff the hay to dry before it rains. Making these “wet” bales is a great option, but for now it is not cost effective for me, on our small farm, to own the equipment ourselves.

It was fun to watch the bales being made. My grandson enjoyed it too. Things like watching bales being wrapped, big mowers hogging down 13 foot of hay at a time, or a speedy baler rolling out round bales in rapid succession never gets old for guys like he and I….But I will say, we both much prefer to work with horses…a little slower? Perhaps….but much more cost efficient!



Harvest Time

bindershock

July 27, 2017

I got to take a ride in my truck yesterday. My buddy drove, as I am still not allowed. I got to see a lot from the passenger seat. We drove through northeast Ohio and wound up at my Amish buddy’s house. They are getting the oats all ready to harvest. The binder in the photo has been cleaned and is ready to be stored for the year. Looking through the binder, you can see the neat rows of oat shocks, drying in the sun.

My friend told me that he had just finished binding the oats when a gang of boys and young men showed up. The group consisted of his sons and sons-in-law, a few nephews and a few of their friends. The boys made short work of shocking the grain. They went around the field picking up bundles and building the little shocks in an almost competition style. In a little over two hours, the whole field was done.

I have built shocks before. It is a fun job when you have enough help. Each shock contains 7 bundles. If four men are available, it works perfect. The first three guys pick up a bundle in each hand. The first guy sets his bundles on the ground, oat heads up in teepee fashion. The second guy puts his bundles right in line with the first two bundles. The third guy does the same thing. So now you have two parallel rows of three bundles leaning against each other. The fourth guy takes one bundle, flares out both ends of the bundle and pulls it against his belly making a cap. This cap sits on top of the teepee shedding water and allowing the wind to dry the ripening shock.

The above process is continued until all the bundles have been picked up. The more people you have to help, the quicker the job goes. It is actually fun. Cold drinks or ice cream shared by all adds a nice finishing touch to the job of shocking. Soon the shocks will be loaded onto wagons and taken to the threshing machine. The grain is separated from the straw. This is a big job requiring many hands, but it is a busy, dirty, hot, sweaty wonderful job!

Belgianspeltz



Dig a Little Deeper

ronswell

July 21, 2017

This photo is looking down into a water well that my buddy just dug. Now, I want you to think about this; Who hand digs a well in this day and age?  My buddy, that’s who!

I witched the water last year. He asked me to dowse it for him last November. I have done this many times in the past. Finding the right spot took me only just a little while. He marked the spot with a flag and everything paused for winter.

Well, not exactly paused. My buddy went to work making the cement ring sections in his garage. He spent a great deal of time making each one exact. He measured the sand, gravel, concrete and water in five gallon buckets. He painstakingly mixed and poured the cement into forms. He made two rings every other day until he had enough.

He started digging about six weeks ago…with a shovel and a spud bar. A bucket on a pulley is how the dirt was excavated from the hole. As he dug down, he added a ring. One after the other, making sure each one was plumb as he went. After a while, he would add the steel ladder rungs into the rings, in places that were formed during the cement mixing phase. This project amazes me and I have watched from start to finish.

As he went deeper, he added light on a ground fault breaker. He also moved fresh air into and out of the space with an air mover. He tried to dig for half a day each day. He stopped to plant the garden, build some raised bed boxes and a few daily chores. He even gave me a day to mow hay for me as I recover from my knee replacement.

Last night he called me to say that as he was finishing up for the day, the clay in the bottom of the hole, “cracked”. He said then it cracked a little larger and started hissing. He stepped up onto the ladder rungs and water started spraying into the well. As of this morning, there was six feet of water in his newly hand dug well.

As I do what my therapist says to keep my new knee working, sometimes I hit a rough spot. The pain is temporary so I just dig a little deeper and keep pushing myself. I will say though that there is no way I can see myself hand digging a well! In case you are wondering, the depth of the well is just a few inches shy of thirty feet deep!



Finding Your Way
July 17, 2017, 10:45 am
Filed under: July 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

pinewoods

July 17, 2017

In this photo above, the skid trail from our pine forest is evident. I got this all mowed and ready to harvest a few logs for an addition on our machinery shed. The addition will allow me to store the last two pieces of equipment that I am forced to leave outside all winter. The structure will also make a place to store a quantity of round bales, protected from the elements.

The pine trees were to supply the rafter material, as well as a few boards to close off the north end of the building. The overhang structure, will be open to the east, but closed off from the brutal north winds of winter. It is amazing how much protection a roof gives your equipment. The fact that I can also store some hay there, means I will have less waste from the effects of the weather on bales stored outside.

I got this area of the woods ready for the lumber harvest, just a few days before I got the news that we would be replacing my knee. This project is on hold, until I get healed, but it is still on my “to-do” list. I drew my diagram and figured out the lumber list last winter for this project. A list of projects, helps me to stay on task and find my way. The filtered light on the skid road in the photo, helps me to realize that there is light at the end of the tunnel as I pause to rebuild and heal.

In life, especially on a farm, it is a good idea to have a plan. It gives direction for your energy. It helps to keep your finances on track. It gives opportunity for discussions and research. There are times when the plan serves to show you that you are going in the wrong direction. Defining your goals and working towards them, is great for your mental health. The feeling of accomplishment fills the mind and refreshes your soul.

The logging job is on hold for now, but the speltz crop has been harvested. The last of my first cutting hay has been mowed and is curing in the sun. The speltz straw too, has been mowed and waits for the baler. These projects were all completed with the help of friends. I watched from the porch as my buddies, did my summer work. It is humbling for me as people help me do what I can’t. It will all work out. It won’t be long and I can reciprocate. A good plan, a bunch of good friends….let me tell you, you can’t help but find your way!