RicelandMeadows


Working in the Tree Tops
September 10, 2020, 10:05 am
Filed under: September 2020 | Tags: , , ,
One of three large piles.

September 10, 2020

Many people think that working in the tree tops requires a person to be up in the air, at the top of a tree. I am working in the tree tops that are laying on the ground from my recent tree harvest. I am salvaging firewood to be used to boil maple sap, to make maple syrup.

I am cutting everything three inches or larger, that didn’t make lumber logs and hauling them out to be cut to length and split. The brush and smaller limbs are being left for homes for small woodland creatures and to rot to enrich the forest floor.

Our harvest consisted of about 60 mature trees. The trees were removed to allow the growth of many smaller trees, predominantly maple, both hard and soft varieties. The trees removed, also allow for mature maples to have more open canopy for crown growth. It also lets in light and air to the forest floor. I can direct some water puddles towards the nearby stream, allowing the water to runoff through the existing leaf litter. This drys the forest, but assures that water quality is improved by the filtering effects of the leaf litter.

Bree is learning lessons as we work towards her weaning. She is not always happy with me. Here she learns patience. I tied her to a fence post far from mom. She did not like it, but soon realized that she would have to wait on me. This was a short lesson of about 35 minutes. It was good for her. She can be strong willed, but yields fairly quickly. Her training continues.

The garden harvest continues. Our animal corn harvest is starting, as I build shocks. Hand picking will begin soon. I picked a few random ears last night. I am happy with what I see so far.

The crop should fill my crib.

A busy time is coming, but we look forward to the dash to winter!



Woodshed 2020
September 2, 2020, 9:17 am
Filed under: September 2020 | Tags: , , , ,

Ateamwood2020

September 2, 2020

On the last day of August, We finished filling the woodshed. The wood will now have many months to dry and cure. The fire will burn hot under the boiling maple sap next spring.

woodshed2020

This is a great job to have behind us. Corn harvest will start soon, along with getting the soil ready for our fall planted crop of speltz. I will also continue to work on firewood during the autumn season. I hope to be a year ahead by late winter.

I have started to shock corn. These small shocks I made in the garden from our sweet corn. I will open my animal corn field in the coming days, by making shocks down the center. The shocks make good feed and protect the corn just like a dry crib. The best thing is, shocking the corn divides my field into two small rectangles instead of one big square. It makes harvesting more efficient. I don’t spend a lot of time driving around the ends of the field this way.

shock2020

We hope to wrap up the tomato season in the next two weeks. The potatoes are wonderful this year too. We have been enjoying all of our garden produce. It has been a good year for gardens and gardeners.

Late summer jobs and early fall work is commencing nicely. The horses are working well. The young stock is growing on the good pastures. Our stallion is learning manners and how to be a work horse. Our young filly is about to be weaned from her momma. Hank, our young stallion, will accompany our mares as we harvest the corn crop. He will mostly just walk along learning to behave and work. I like him very much. Here he is looking over the fence at us last Sunday morning.

hanklisa



Time to Harvest

ralphtulip2020

August 23, 2020

Recently, I was involved in a tree harvest in a woodlot that I had thinned and improved over ten years ago. The light and space created by my thinning and removing undesirable trees, allowed many trees to grow like mad. This Tulip Poplar that I am standing in front of, was only 18 to 20 inches in diameter ten years ago. It is a beautiful timber tree and has reached its time for cutting.

ralphtulip20202

It is a very sound and healthy tree. One of the main reasons for harvesting this tree was due to a recent clear cutting on the next door neighbor’s property. The absence of trees next door, caused these beauties to start blowing over. The selection method we used this time, was to take down the tallest, most vulnerable trees that were prone to blow over.

ralphtulip20203

This was a very tall tree. In her understory were several nice hard maple saplings. The next harvest in this woodlot will be that of mostly hard maple. In the meantime, the land owner can tap those trees for maple syrup. This sort of planning, preparing and good stewardship, will make a pay day several times before the next trees need harvested.

As sad as it was to see these giants come down, the promise of sweet things to come made it worth it. Horses pulled the logs out of the woods. Directional felling protected the growing young trees and good environmental stewardship protected the streams and wetlands found in the woodlot.

I am pleased to have been part of this harvest, but even more delighted to see my earlier efforts have such a positive effect on this forest. Now, I will guide the landowner in matters of maple syrup. What a wonderful life!



Man, How They Grow!
August 11, 2020, 10:54 am
Filed under: August 2020 | Tags: ,

bree4month

August 11, 2020

Summer continues to fly by. Work here continues, but the pressure is off. We are making great progress in all areas. The young horses are learning and growing very well. In the photo above, Bree is just short of four months old. She is a very smart animal.

hank15month

Hank, our young stallion, is also growing well. Here at fifteen months old, he is fifteen hands tall (five feet at his withers). He too is learning fast and continues to be a gentleman, with very little correction needed. This breed continues to amaze me and to make me like them even more.

a&abeautifulmower

Our team of mares is powering the farm very well. Heavy jobs are coming like fall plowing , some logging and the spreading of our compost. I am sure they will handle it well. They have done every farm job that I have asked them to do with ease. They are fun to work, making my farm jobs nothing but fun.



Garden Rewards
August 4, 2020, 1:44 pm
Filed under: August 2020 | Tags: , , , , ,

mekcorn2020

August 4, 2020

We have gotten some much needed rain. The crops are showing their gratitude! The pastures are green and growing. The corn is amazing…or perhaps “a-maize-ing”  :o)

The hay fields are growing steadily, making growth for yet another cutting. The gardens too are growing great and vegetables are ripening quickly.

squash2020

These summer squashes made it into the freezer today. I like them in vegetable soup, especially on a cold winter day. The taste of summer lasts all year that way.

Today marks the usual start of our county fair. Wet weather has been a long standing addition to the fair activities. This year, much of the fair has been cancelled due to Covid-19. I guess someone forgot to tell the weatherman. I won’t complain, we needed this recent rain.

From the look of my picture, I think it is time for me to eat more squash and less potatoes! All garden rewards should not go to waste…in my case, should not go to “waist”!



Training and Working

Bree1haircut

August 1, 2020

Bree, our young filly got her first haircut with the noisy clippers. She is just over 3 months old. She was not impressed by the noise, but in just a couple of minutes, she let me trim her bridle path, without even flinching. I ran the clippers all over her body so she could hear the noise and feel the vibration. I talked to her the whole time in a calm voice. She took it all in stride, knowing that no harm was in store.

mheath1

Last week I spent time in a woods that I had worked in ten years ago. I did a timber stand improvement project using a worst first, crop tree release approach. This current harvest is a selective cut. We are removing large trees crowding the under story of growing trees, mostly hard maples. These bigger trees are mature and now prone to blowing over due to the next door neighbor clear cutting his forest.

mheath2

We are using logging carts and even a winch cart in this open woodlot. The winch cart handles heavy, long logs with ease.

mheath3

The horses enjoyed the cooler temperatures, worked steady and made it look easy!

I was very pleased to see the progression of the forest. This harvest is a big one, but in 15 years this woodlot will be ready to harvest again. Sustainable, restorative logging is the way to go. This woodlot owner also has the potential to become an Ohio maple syrup producer. He will have an outstanding sugarbush in 2 to 3 years. Just the right time frame to tap a few trees and work out the growing pains of the industry. In no time this woodlot will contain 500 plus maple taps with more coming into production every year.

If it turns out that maple syrup isn’t his, “thing”, then the hard maple lumber harvest in his future is promising too. All of the standing trees will have some clear, very desirable furniture grade lumber in them. In the meantime, he can enjoy nature, birdsong and the peace found in a woodland holding. I know I sure do!



Training a Yearling

hankharness1

July 31, 2020

I continue to train our young stock. Hank, our yearling stallion, is learning to wear his harness. I put it on and off. I rattle the chains and fuss with the straps. I make him move from side to side as I walk around. Most importantly, I make him wear the gear for longer and longer periods. We are now up to about an hour of just standing with the harness on in a safe environment.

Today, I introduced him to the bridal and bit. He had to keep it on for about a half hour. I let him learn about it,  by just staying near as he fumbled with it in his mouth.

hankbit

He played with the bit with his tongue and teeth. I lead him around a while, then put him in his stall. I did a few other things as he stood in his stall, wearing his complete harness and bridal. After a little while, he just relaxed stood on three legs and rested. I left him stand and talked to him as I did other work around the barn.

He listened to my voice, but didn’t try to look over his blinders. He just stood like a perfect gentleman and waited for whatever was coming next. After he had stood relaxed for fifteen minutes or so, I brought him out of his stall and unharnessed him.

I started with his bridal first. As I took the bit out of his mouth, he just let it slip right out. I rubbed his ears and talked softly to him. He nuzzled me. I then took his harness and collar off. I made plenty of extra noise and made a few extra, unneeded movements, just to reinforce that all is well.

I brushed him for a while after removing his harness. He is a great student. Next we will begin line driving him on long lines teaching him to go, stop and turn. Very soon he will be going with the team, not to pull a load, just to learn commands and patience.

Hank is an April baby.  He will soon be 16 months old. It is a bit early for training to start, but he will be a stallion, so I want his mind busy with something other than breeding. He must learn to be a workhorse first. He will one day be our centerpiece.  This early learning is crucial for his development. Daily handling and good manners at all times is a must. So far, he is passing with flying colors!

 



Logs to Slumber
July 27, 2020, 7:06 am
Filed under: July 2020 | Tags: , , ,

split1

July 27, 2020

Most folks take logs and saw them into lumber. We split a bunch of logs on a very hot day last Saturday. That equated for me…slumber! We started early in the morning and finished at noon. I showered, ate and took a nap!

split2

The two photos show the total wood for our efforts. I will confess that I employed the use of a wood processor for a trial run. It still required much effort and hand work to keep the machine running. I thought it might be a good alternative to splitting with our woodsplitter one piece at a time.

The machine worked fairly well, but can only make 22″ pieces. That length is a bit short for the maple syrup arch, but I will adjust for this amount. I usually employ 4 or 5 boys and we just make a day of splitting. I believe this method is what we will stick with. Using men and boys makes for a much more fun day.  I actually think manpower, my woodsplitter and some planning, leads to more wood, the correct length split and stacked at the end of the day.

Sweat soaked our clothes and dripped from our heads. The machine droned on, often needing us to adjust a piece of wood and load another log. If the logs would have all been of the same dimension, free of knots and good length, the machine may have out performed good old-fashioned manpower. However, the short, mixed sized, tangled log and pole pile we had, made for a lot of “grunt” work. I discovered that “grunt” work is much more tiring in my 60’s than it was in my 20’s!

The good news is that we have enough wood split to boil all of next year’s maple sap. We even have a very good start on the wood we will need in 2022!  We still have to stack it all. The woodshed is 3/4 full, so even that job is well started. I can say the old adage is true…wood does warm you twice!  It will take me a while to get used to this whole new “slumber” thing, but what a great feeling to have this work behind us.



Extending the Grazing Season

sorghumsudan2020

July 20, 2020

Our pastures would have run short because of the number of livestock we are currently keeping and our lack of rain. I planned ahead, just in case,  and I am glad that I did. I planted this field of sorghum sudan grass to be grazed as needed by the sheep and steers. I put a little rape seed in the mix to add some additional feed too.

I waited until the crop was 18 inches high at its lowest spot. I then turned the flock into it. They are enjoying this fast growing forage. The other pastures are getting a rest and some much needed moisture without any grazing pressure from the sheep. I left a grassy strip all the way around this old corn field. It too provides feed of different types, much to the enjoyment of the sheep.

I have two different pastures for the horses and a couple smaller paddocks that can be utilized when needed. This field of sorghum sudan grass will grow very well and suppress weeds while feeding the sheep. It will be mowed once, grazed again, then plowed for a fall planting of speltz.

I am looking at planting a small field of oats, peas and turnips for autumn grazing for the sheep. I have room for it alongside of the current corn crop. The sheep will be able to graze the corn fodder after the corn harvest. They will get the benefit of the oats and peas, corn fodder and some grass just before the cold weather sets in. The small field of oats and turnips will also give me the opportunity to see how well the new Suffolk horses know how to plow.

There is always stuff to do, but extending the grazing season must remain a top priority. Animals grazing on farm feeds and harvesting the crop themselves, saves time and money for the farmer. It aids in increasing profitability and makes good sense from a sustainability standpoint.



Its a Heat Thing
July 14, 2020, 8:42 am
Filed under: July 2020 | Tags: , , , ,

woodsplit20201

July 14, 2020

It’s that time of year when I try to get the woodshed all fill up. I am currently about 3/4 full. We spent part of Saturday splitting some big chunks of wood. I enlisted the help of three of my buddy’s sons. We made great progress.

woodsplit20202

The large trunk sections of wood, some four feet thick, make a lot of firewood. There is plenty of work in them, but they do yield well. We used the skid steer at times to lift the large sections onto the log splitter. It was a good day made easy, thanks to lots of help. It is surely true that many hands make light work.

woodsplit20203

I still have plenty more waiting , but the biggest pieces have been conquered! This smaller stuff, I hope to have worked up by next weekend. This will launch me ahead enough that by fall, I may be a whole year ahead. In other words, 2021 wood will be all stacked and waiting in the woodshed. 2022 wood will be stacked and drying in neat stacks next to the woodshed.

I like cutting and splitting wood. It is a satisfying job. You can see your progress and it makes you feel good to be prepared. My grandma used to tell us the story of the ant and the grasshopper. The ant worked steady and was prepared when “winter” came. I think all of us should follow the example of the ant and be prepared for when our “winter” comes.

The heat that well seasoned, dry wood makes is wonderful. It really makes the sap boil! Getting ahead makes good sense. It also takes the pressure off. I will continue to work on wood even when I get ahead.

We use 11-12 cords a season for the maple syrup making. The last thing I want to happen, would be to have a longer than normal season and run out of wood to boil. Trying to cut wood and gather sap at the same time is rough. The wood made that way, even from dead trees, does not have the BTU’s that good seasoned wood puts out.

Its a heat thing! They say firewood warms you twice, once when you cut it and a second time when you burn it. I know wrestling big chunks through a log splitter in July will dang sure warm you! Seeing the large piles actually warms my heart too… no matter what the weather!