RicelandMeadows


Here Comes the Cold
January 15, 2022, 1:43 pm
Filed under: January 2022 | Tags: , , ,

January 15, 2022

Hank, our herd stallion and me clowning around for the camera. He wasn’t impressed with the flash too much. We have been busy training with Hank, keeping him on track to become a great work horse.

He is growing well and will turn three years old in April. He has a deep, wide chest. I like this quality in a horse. It is our hope that Hank will pass this trait along to his offspring.

His best quality is his mind. He is a very likeable horse who has great manners. He doesn’t bother the ladies. Well, he may walk by close enough to get a squeal out of them, but he is just teasing. The mares are serious about no monkey business. He just walks away and minds his own business. When we work, he keeps to himself too. I really like this guy. He is a model stallion for any breed, but exemplifies the Suffolk Punch breed.

I expect him to reach 17 hands tall, with plenty of bone. He will start expanding into his body over the next two years as he matures. He has been a good horse to raise. I hope that our progress remains positive. I wouldn’t recommend a stallion for everyone, but this guy has been good for us. His first baby is due in April. We are getting excited to see what he passes on to his children.

The January cold is upon us. It is nice to have the mud frozen. The ground can be driven on anywhere on the farm. This moves many of our projects along well. I spread some compost last week and will complete that job later today. We are spreading only on paddocks with good green buffers on all sides to ensure our runoff stays put. We wouldn’t normally spread on frozen ground, but our manure pile is huge and we are simply out of room.

We plan to harvest a few trees next week for the lumber for a project we are working on. The frozen ground makes that job a joy to do. We must dress for it. I take a few extra breaks in to warm shop to warm fingers and hands, but I sure am enjoying being out of the mud!



Cold Days, Warm Meals
January 11, 2022, 11:06 am
Filed under: January 2022 | Tags: , , , ,

January 11, 2022

Well, winter has finally come to northeast Ohio. After months of mud, we are getting some relief as the ground freezes. It went from the 40’s to the single digits overnight. The up and down still persists, but the cold appears to mostly be here to stay for awhile. The animals are all eating a bit extra feed to stay warm and comfortable. I too have enjoy the holidays a bit too much in the food department!

I shot this picture of a hawk eating a field mouse yesterday, out of our kitchen window. He was a handsome fellow, but my phone couldn’t catch all of his splendor. I didn’t see him grab his prey, but I watched him quite awhile as he devoured his meal. The cycle of life played out for us to see.

We have almost completed our family butchering job for the year. Just a little bit to do remains. I am thankful for the harvest and the meals to come. The woodshed is full. Now, our woodland job will shift to that of harvesting a few pine trees to be sawed out for lumber. That job will be good for Hank, our young stallion. He needs to learn to walk and work in the woodlot.

I guess this month is for my downtime. I get to play around with my hobbies before the start of maple season and the spring work that follows. I have a few projects in mind to make in the forge. I also want to build a wall on the north end of the newly constructed hoop building. This building is for bedding materials like straw and sawdust as well as, providing some extra storage.

It is a good sized building measuring 20 feet wide, 20 feet high and 36 feet long. I put a large apron on the southeast facing end. My plan is to dump sawdust on the apron then push it in with the skid steer. The wall I intend to build on the north end is to keep the worst winds at bay, while still allowing for plenty of air circulation.

Sawdust is plentiful and cheap during the summer months. This building will allow for the storage needed to house some of that cheap bedding material, along with our farm raised spelt straw. These carbon sources are critical to stabilizing our compost made from our animal’s manure. The compost is paramount in completing the fertilizer needs of our soils. All of our farm fields benefit from this black gold we help create. Just another warm meal made here on the farm!



Celebration Day
December 30, 2021, 10:58 am
Filed under: December 2021 | Tags: , , , ,

December 30, 2021

I enlisted a little help, but the woodshed is now full! I am ready to boil maple sap for the upcoming 2022 season. This is much later than I usually complete this job, but I will celebrate anyway. It was muddy when we got off the driveway, but Abby and Amee handled it all in stride.

We have more wood that has been split, so a good start on the wood for 2023 season. It is my plan to fill the woodshed at the completion of the 2022 maple season. Once the woodshed has been filled, I want to continue with the cutting and splitting. The goal is to get to the point where we will be almost 2 years ahead on the wood supply. I already have the next 2 years worth of logs piled in a sunny place making this goal easily attainable.

After a day of wet, cold, rain and snow, it feels good to bed down. I don’t care if you are two-legged or 4-legged a warm dry bed is a beautiful thing!

We here at the farm hope all of our readers had a wonderful Christmas. We are also wishing you a Happy New Year. We look forward to each day gifted to us. We make plans, prepare and execute work, but first we ask for our endeavors to be blessed. It is hard at times to wait for things to fall into place, but thankfully they usually do. If things don’t go well, it is best to pause, examine our plans and even our hearts. One thing that I know for sure… God will make a way where there is no way! We just need to focus on the destination and not the journey…. for the journey rests in God’s hands.



Christmas 2021

December 24, 2021

It is here, Christmas 2021. This month has been a whirlwind. All sorts of things were out of sorts. My wife got Covid. We spent two weeks away from folks and her under the weather for many days. Thankfully, all is well, but man did it shorten the “getting ready for Christmas” time. I am very thankful that we were healed. I lost two friends due to this illness in the last couple of weeks. My heart goes out to those families.

Our three “main” horses that power our farm, all got their shoes reset. This makes sure their feet are trimmed and they are ready for the coming icy drive and laneway. Hank is coming along good. He took his shoeing and feet trimming all in stride. He will turn 3 next April. He is growing well and fills up the shoeing stock pretty well already.

He continues to be a gentleman who works well with his mares. He is still a youngster, but will soon be a very valuable part of the inner workings of the farm.

We are working our way through the animal harvest, as we butcher and store the meat we have raised this past year. Beef, pork and chicken grace our shelves. We are thankful for those blessings. We even butchered our old laying hens. They gave us eggs for over a year and now will continue to keep us healthy with chicken soup made from their golden broth.

One of my last remaining jobs for 2021 is to finish filling the sugarhouse woodshed with wood for boiling. In most years, I am done by mid summer. This year however, due to all sorts of excuses, bad weather including lots of rain, I am nearing completion of the job. Hats off to a couple of friends who helped me this week to finish the splitting.

This will more than finish filling the shed. It will also give me a head start on next years wood. We use 12 to 15 cords of wood to make our maple syrup. Wood cutting, hauling and splitting takes a while. It is just part of our labor of love to make great Ohio maple syrup, but to me it is worth it!

Our horse-drawn dump cart works very well for this job. The horses and I will get the shed full and this job finished before we ring in the new year. They are all ready now for sure, sporting their new shoes!

Merry Christmas everyone from our farm to yours!



Snowy Start to December
December 9, 2021, 3:16 pm
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December 9, 2021

December has arrived. I have been busy deer hunting. It is usually a fun time, but this year was bittersweet. My uncle Fred passed away during this deer season. He was my mom’s youngest brother. He was a great friend to me all of my life. He was with me the day I got my first deer. It was a buck!

I was a very excited 15 year old boy. We had hunted all that morning, but hadn’t seen anything. We stopped for a quick lunch of my mom’s homemade tomato soup. Once we had eaten and visited with mom, we headed back out to make a pass around a large weedy field.

We posted the field. I walked down the remnants of an old fence line. Quietly, I watched the field and walked slowly looking for deer. All at once I saw him. The buck raised his head and I thought he was the “Hartford Elk” the old mascot of an insurance company. I was focused and a little shaky at the same time.

My uncle told me to grab a rest on a nearby sapling, aim, relax and shoot. It was a textbook shot. The deer died quickly, dropping in its tracks. We walked up to the kill and there he was, an 8 point buck. He was an old timer, so his rack was smallish, resembling a basket, but I was filled with pride. My uncle too.

We were a long way from the house. We gutted the buck. I told my uncle to stay with the deer and I would go get one of my ponies to pull the deer back home. It seemed like a very good plan. The pony however, wasn’t to thrilled about the idea. He wasn’t too keen on the fresh blood smell. We started home a bit quicker than I would have liked.

Things were going fairly well although I was taking some very large strides, when we got to the top of an old gully that was on the way home. We hit the top edge of the gully and as the path dropped towards the bottom, the pony, the deer and I picked up even more speed. My uncle who was short in stature, was already jogging behind me. I could hear him roaring with laughter as we dropped out of sight.

I made it down the hill in about three jumps. That deer made funny noises as it bumped along behind the fast stepping pony. Those noises fueled the pony’s flight reflex just in time to start up the other side of the gully. My big old rubber boots made a thundering sound as I grappled to keep my feet under me. It was touch and go for a few moments, but we all made it to the top. I squeaked out a whoa and my pony stopped.

The pony and I heaved and gasped for breath. Both of us were soaked in sweat and quivering. My uncle was almost on his knees, holding his sides and hoping not to pee himself as he continued to howl in laughter. The pony and I were not quite as amused.

I talked softly to old Stormy and asked my steady steed to walk a little slower as we made the final leg of the journey home. I gathered the lines and spoke to old Stormy. We were off like a shot once again! The bucks antler caught in the ground and flipped his body into my almost running legs. I fell onto the dragging deer, swept completely off my feet. The pony didn’t even flinch. He just reached out farther with his front legs covering more ground as we flew.

I squeaked another whoa and Stormy stopped. I rolled off the deer and onto my feet in one motion. I looked back for uncle Fred, but I couldn’t see him. I stood there for a minute looking for my dear uncle when I noticed the goldenrod tops moving where he was literally rolling on the ground laughing. He said when I did the deer surfing thing, it was the final straw for his composure.

We did get that old buck to the house no worse for wear. The pony too was fine. He was just glad that the job was done. Uncle Fred made it to the house as I unhitched the pony. He started telling my mom the whole story. It was funny watching him try to tell the story to mom. I began to laugh and we all kept laughing about it for years.

That story happened on my mom’s birthday almost 40 year ago. This year I stood in the woods on mom’s birthday, thinking about her and my uncle, now both passed from this life, I smiled. My heart hurt a little, but this old story came to mind. We all laughed until we cried ….



Snowvember 2021
November 30, 2021, 11:13 am
Filed under: November 2021 | Tags: , , , ,

November 30, 2021

It has been another moist month! Rain and drizzle fell until the middle of the month, when the precipitation turned to sleet and snow. The moisture has made things difficult for most farming operations. Thankfully our harvest is done. We just struggle with wet pastures.

The cattle are in their winter pasture, complete with a shed and added feed. I just don’t like it that they are making too many hoofprints. The good news is that our number of steers is down. The animals are young so they are small and weigh less than the ones headed to freezer camp. Those are on the feedlot concrete.

The horses too have been only let out on their pasture sparingly. I work them for exercise. The young horses have box stalls and all get daily turnout on a portion of the concrete feedlot. I am keeping them up out of the mud not only to give our pastures a break, but to keep them healthy too.

They get to munch hay and wander around as they like. Hank gets scolded a little as he “checks” the girls. They are both in foal and do not want any of his nonsense. They lay their ears back and squeal. He is smart enough to walk away and just munch hay. He is a good boy.

A couple mornings in a row we had frozen ground for a couple of hours. I let all the horses out to really run, romp and roll. I think they enjoy those times, or perhaps they just enjoy the added brushing it takes to get them clean.

We continue to train the young horses like Hank. It is a bit of a challenge due to the wet fields. We stay on the long drive and lane way. It works ok, but I would like to get to some other jobs such as hauling logs and firewood. Exposure to work, noise and different things is vital when teaching the youngsters.

One thing about the snow….it sure makes things pretty!



Thank Full !!
November 26, 2021, 11:50 am
Filed under: November 2021 | Tags: , , , , , ,

November 26, 2021

What a wonderful day yesterday was. Plenty of great tasting food, some family , some friends and a good day to pause and reflect.

Our hogs are ready for freezer camp. They have grown nicely and are now eating only our farm raised ear corn. The weather is switching to the favored cooler weather that makes home butchering possible. Now, its just making the plans to get this job done. The pigs are happy, warm and comfortable. They have no stress. One day soon they will be humanely dispatched.

They will be turned into chops, sausage, hams and bacons. They will strengthen us and keep us fed in the coming months. Their cycle comes to an end. I will thank them for their meat, their manure and for helping to complete the farm cycle that makes our farm viable.

You see they provide us with needed protein while suppling us with manure for the compost used to grow the crops they consume. It works very well for us.

They stay clean in the speltz straw grown here too. The straw makes our compost balance very well. It provides the carbon source to hold nutrients and rot down to feed the growing crop plants. Pigs truly are the “mortgage lifter” as in the days of old. They and chickens are the perfect animal mix for a small farm or homestead. We are so thankful!



Corn Crop Seed for 2022 , Saved!

November 12, 2021

One of the things that I wrap up before the bad weather comes, is to set my next year’s seed corn in a cool dry place. It will dry down more. Then one winter day I will shell the ends off of the ears, followed by shelling the entire ear. The ends will go for animal feed. The rest of the ear will be shelled into a paper sack and kept until spring. This keeps the seed viable until it can be planted next year.

I like the color that comes naturally in this corn. It makes hand husking fun. I save seed from the biggest ears, picked from stalks that are standing up well. Many ears are over a foot long. I saved the seed that grew this corn last year. As I select the corn for seed, my crop follows that direction. There are about 50% yellow ears and 50% of ears of color. The animals don’t care, they eat it all. I just like to make picking fun.

I describe shelling the ends of the ears off. This is just so that the seed planted is from the “flats” they go through the seed plates easier and are more uniform size. I don’t have to worry about this anymore as I now have a plateless planter. It allows me to plant seeds of all different sizes including the small round seeds found at the ends of the ears. So, I guess its just an old habit slow to die for me. If folks are planting using a planter with seed plates, they may want to stick with the way I describe to get the more uniform flat seeds from the middle part of the ear. The plants themselves don’t care. The seed will all sprout and grow, producing a regular looking ear, no matter if it was a flat seed or a round seed that was planted.

I keep a close eye on these saved cobs of corn. I don’t want mice or birds getting to them. I think it could be said that I almost baby them. I check on them often and protect them. Once the seed has been removed from the cob and stored in a paper bag, I guard that pretty close too. This seed will continue to adapt to our climate. It will grow much in the way that I select the seed. Large ears from stalks that stand up and color just to make this farmer smile.

The big ears will continue to get larger. The stalks will have to get a little bigger or stronger to hold the large ears. It is a sort of circle. If the big ears have fallen over, even though they are large, they are no good for seed, because the stalk couldn’t hold them up. Like livestock, seed must be culled hard as you save only the best. A good farmer will have to make some tough choices at times. His culls will be better stock than other guys even possess. As tough as it is, that is a very good problem to have

This was a sunrise the other morning. It tells me that foul weather is coming. I know that a storm or at least more rain is headed our way, but it sure is a pretty way to let me know. Before the weather turns rough, I hope to have much of the outside work completed. The corn crop all harvested, seed saved and set aside, now its on the the last of the firewood needing to be gathered. The small farm can present plenty to do, but with amazing sunrises and sunsets to start and end the days, its fine with me.



2021 Corn Harvest Complete

November 8, 2021

We finished picking our corn last Saturday. Pictured above is one of our wagon loads. It was a fair harvest, but the good thing is, we got enough! There will be plenty to feed out until next year’s crop has been picked. This labor of love I do by hand. The multicolored ears make it an interesting job. The old guys liked to find a red ear, because doing so meant they got to kiss a girl…My heart is full and my lips are chapped. My wife doesn’t even like to see me coming towards the house these days.

We had to wait for almost a week due to heavy rains. The husking got delayed. The horses got plenty of rest and the raccoons had a hay day in the standing corn. Once the weather broke we got right back at it. I picked 2 rows at a time so that the wagon moved over its width every time we made a round. We didn’t leave many tracks. The horses pulling the wagon leave much less impact than the tractor does.

The tractor tracks that you can see in this photo were made by me brush hogging the whole field upon completion of the husking job. It is my hope that the crop residue will make a winter cover for the soil, but still allow for drying out come early spring. This field will be plowed next spring to prepare for a crop of oats and hay. The cycle continues.

I am very glad to have the harvest season completed. The last real job for this year is to finish filling the maple syrup woodshed. It is just about full. Winter is coming fast so I must push to get this job done. When cold weather gets here it will be time to butcher for the season. Then a few weeks of rest as we wait for the maple syrup season in 2022…ahhh the life on a small farm! I love it!!



Signal of the Coming Months
November 6, 2021, 9:15 am
Filed under: November 2021 | Tags: , ,

November 6, 2021

We have had a couple mornings of cool temperatures with frost on the rooftops and even one morning with a skiff of snow. Today was different. The water puddles were frozen over and the whole scene was white. The killing frost that signals the end of the growing season is here.

After a six day stretch of rainy weather, where the rainfall total was over five inches, we are finally enjoying some dry weather. The harvest is continuing. The fields are saturated making it difficult for large machinery. I am getting along slow but steady using the horses. They are making some deep hoofprints, but the wagon ruts are minimal. I am husking 2 rows at a time. This lets me move over a wagon width each time I make a round. I am keeping the loads light which also helps to make less impact on the field.

If everything goes well, we should finish picking the corn by supper time tonight. We used one of the young horses yesterday as part of her education. There is a lot of starting and stopping during this job, making it a good teaching opportunity. The youngster did well and we kept her lesson short. She will make a work horse very soon.

The growing speltz looks sleepy covered in this frosty blanket. The leaves are falling quickly and the deer breeding season is in full swing. This tells me to get my butt moving because winter will soon be upon us. I have just a little more wood to cut and split for next years maple syrup season. I think I will finish just in time. One thing for sure, Mother Nature is showing her signs and signals. I just need to pay attention! Oh yeah, and the clocks turn back an hour tonight too.