RicelandMeadows


Steel Away for the Weekend

tillknif1

August 16, 2018

I had a great time last weekend at Tiller’s International in Scotts Michigan. I took their knife making class. Last year, I took two blacksmithing courses. This was just “continuing education” I guess. I learned a bunch of new stuff thanks to good instruction and hands on learning.

tillknif2

This very simple “clamp” in the photo above, became a good friend as I sanded and rubbed on the steel knife. I forged the blade from 5160 steel, then learned to grind and sand the blade into a functional piece.

tillknif3

We learned to fit a handle on the blade. I am pleased with my first attempt to make a knife, but I see imperfections that I will work on for the next one. This is a good blade… even if it did take me two full days to make it!

tillknif4

I even ventured into file work. I free handed the “X’s” into the back of the blade for my thumb to rest on. Again, I learned things that I will do different, but am satisfied by my efforts. I need to work a bit more on the finish…but… “It will cut” as they say.

Tiller’s International is an institution that strives to bring old, early American methods in farming and homesteading to poor countries. They build small agricultural equipment out of materials found in those poor countries, like rebar, shipping containers, and bicycle parts. They make hand tools and oxen pulled pieces as well.

The international part of the Tiller’s mission, is made possible by training learned from preserving America’s past. I am glad they share. Classes in timber framing, tool making, coopering, tin smithing, commercial barrel making from white oak staves, oxen and draft horse driving basics and more. Check out their website for classes and events at http://www.tillersinternational.org  This non-profit organization can use your help, why not enrich your life while helping them out?  It worked good for me as I was able to “steel away for the weekend!”



Horse Drawn Hay Mower
August 8, 2018, 6:50 pm
Filed under: August 2018 | Tags: , , , , ,

num91

August 8, 2018

I bought this #9 regular gear horse drawn hay mower, to mow my hay. I have been using a tractor mower for the last eight years. It had reached it’s limit and I had reached mine working on it all the time! I have time now to relax and make hay when the sun shines! Using the horses is good for them and me!

This mower was rebuilt by a friend of mine. He has been rebuilding this type of mower for his entire life. It has been done from the “ground up”. I am looking forward to using it. I have four acres of second cutting grass to use for our maiden voyage. This thing sounds like a sewing machine. I can’t wait to try it out.

num92

Usually these have a cast iron seat. This one has a seat for an old man with a sore back….

This mower will cut six feet in a swath. The guards down near the mower are called stub guards. The short “stub” guards reduce plugging by a lot! The machine has been timed, all the seals replaced and a new style pitman arm bearing installed. It is as ready to go as I am.

These McCormick Deering mowers came in several styles regular gear, high gear and trailer gear. I did a lot of research before choosing this one. All of the Amish farmers that I asked said pretty much the same thing…. Well timed machine, sharp knives mean everything…the rest is “fluff” and mostly personal preference.

When I started farming, I used a McCormick Deering #7. It is a model a bit older than the #9″s. I got along well with it. I only sold it to be able to go faster…or so I thought. As I was mowing hay with my tractor mower for the last time, I realized that I was going 3MPH…the same speed a horse walks. The only thing that made it seem faster was not having to stop and rest the horses.

So, I listened to the noisy tractor drone on as I mindlessly drove around the fields. Now, I will listen to the horses and their harness bells. I will stop to rest them and give the mower a shot of grease or a splash of oil. I can listen to birdsong and enjoy farming in the way of my grandfathers. Plus…I will still be mowing at 3MPH!



Taking Out the Ash
July 28, 2018, 5:16 pm
Filed under: July 2018 | Tags: , , , , ,

ashnotch

July 28, 2018

I started removing our dead and dying Ash trees. They have fallen victim to the Emerald Ash Borer, a pest from overseas. They have no natural predator here in the USA. My wife took these pictures as she stood by while I fell the first few. In the photo above, I am completing the notch cut. This cut determines the direction of fall. This tree had some lean so a few things came in to my decision, as to where the tree would fall. I simply wanted to guide it where it would do the least amount of damage to surrounding trees.

I am not a novice. I have been trained in the art of directional felling and have many years of experience working at this craft. I wear my safety gear always. I have someone nearby to call for emergency services if needed. I get help from seasoned professionals if I find myself with a tree that I am not comfortable doing alone. I suggest that most folks leave tree cutting to professionals, as this is a dangerous job.

In this next photo, I am making my “release” cut. I have cut all but the small hinge, looked around one last time for any changes to the area, like people or pets, perhaps even a limb I hadn’t noticed beforehand. Once I am sure all is well, I make the final cut, “releasing” the tree to fall. I walk a path 45 degree angle from the tree as it falls. My chainsaw has been shut off or the chain break set, at a minimum.

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The release cut above…..Me walking safely out of harm’s way below.

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My wife even caught the falling tree, just as it was about to hit the ground.

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I am watching above the tree for anything that would snap back from the falling tree or trees nearby as it brushes them on the way down. The tree is stripped of its limbs to expose the marketable logs. The logs are measured and skidded out to be loaded. This tree yielded two logs twelve feet long. The limbs will be all used for boiling maple syrup. The trees will not be wasted. I feel bad that this specie will disappear from our landscape in the way of the American Elm and Chestnut. I am glad to be able to at least utilize the ones in my control.

I’d like to write a bit more, but I better keep my “Ash” busy.  :o)



Amazing Weekend
July 27, 2018, 10:36 am
Filed under: July 2018 | Tags: , , , , , ,

4onpasture

July 27, 2018

Last night we got some much needed rain. The whole landscape has greened up. The gardens and crops seem to have jumped, thanks to the needed moisture. It has rained all around us for over a week. It was finally our turn last night and we appreciate it very much. The rain gauge said 2.5 inches…everything else said, thank you!

Compost hauling continues…

haulingpoop

I take a load or two each day. We have lots to move, but this is almost fun! I have been trying to work when the air is cool and the flies bite less. This is good work for all of us and the farm benefits from my labor. I am liking retirement. I get to do what I love every day. Man, this is awesome!

khlooking

Here, I am hitching up to the powercart and spreader. The horses seem to be looking forward to the work as much as I am. It is very true, when your hands are doing what your heart tells them to do….there is no work in it at all! I am looking forward to an amazing weekend.



Laying It On
July 22, 2018, 8:03 am
Filed under: July 2018 | Tags: , , , ,

K&Hpowercart

July 22, 2018

It’s finally time to spread manure and our compost. The farm work is mostly caught up. The weather is a bit unsettled and rain is forecast to be spotty and scattered. I like to spread on the recently mowed pastures and hay fields. The grass responds well. The rains wash the nutrients into the soil. I get much satisfaction from handling this job well.

I don’t spread manure in winter, on soggy, wet ground or anytime that I could make ruts. I want the manure to stay put, not wash off into road ditches and watercourses. First of all, I want the nutrients to enrich my soils. Secondly, I am a good steward for the land, being responsible with this raw material is a passion. Lastly, I want my fields to stay in smooth condition whenever possible. Smooth fields are much better to farm…especially with horse drawn equipment with steel seats!

I will be working on this task everyday for several weeks. I will take 3 or 4 loads out a day, while working on other jobs around the farm. Once the pastures and hay fields have been given a light coating, the field where corn will grow next year will be given a liberal amount. It will then be plowed under in the old way of farming.

Summer is zipping by, this job signifies the halfway point for me. So far, we are on track. I steady rain falls as I write and all the plants seem to be looking skyward enjoying the life-giving moisture. Today we rest, watch the rain and enjoy family….tomorrow…I’ll be laying it on again!



Farm to Fork

fork2table

July 17, 2018

Several years ago, a young man stopped to visit with me. He was full of excitement about living a homesteading lifestyle. We had many talks about farming, gardening and family. He was a well read man, who knew what he wanted. It was easy for me to expand his knowledge. At the time, he was very interested in trying to raise his own pork.

I talked with him, showed him and encouraged him to try raising pigs. I explained what I believe to be the best methods. Buy young pigs at weaning called feeder pigs. Keep the pigs in a pen on full feed and water ration. Give them treats like apples, garden leftovers even weeds. Keep their pen clean and keep the pigs comfortable, shade for summer, deep bedding and a warm hut for cool fall days.

The young man, Mark, went home to try and convince his wife that they could grow their own hogs. Sure enough, he wore her down and pigs soon graced the landscape at their farmstead. I went over that autumn and taught him how to humanely butcher his pigs. He learned well and was a quick study. They have raised their own pork now for seven years.

Mark has a young family. He is teaching his children all about gardening and animal husbandry. Mark’s wife too has a hand in teaching. She cans and freezes their food. They make cider, raise chickens for eggs and meat, and produce lots of vegetables in their raised bed gardens.

After using a makeshift yet sturdy pen for a number of years, Mark built this nice permanent pen. At the gate where the pigs enter the pen, he set a stainless steel fork into the concrete. The pigs pass this fork twice. Once when they enter the pen and the last time as they are slaughtered for food.

The fork keeps everyone grounded. The children know that the pigs are not pets. Sure, pet them, scratch their ears and rub them down, but keep in mind the purpose of the pig is to sustain the farmer and his family. The fork also signifies that the pork will be going into their mouths, so the pigs will be only fed wholesome grain, vegetables and other gleaned produce from the farm like apples and pumpkins.

I am pleased to have helped this young man out. He is paying it forward by helping others return to the land. This makes me very happy. We must teach the young ones where our food comes from. They learn kindness, responsibility, nurturing and become self-reliant. They learn patience and tolerance. They learn many things about “farm to fork”. Congratulations on your homestead Mark. Thanks for being such a good student, but most of all, thanks for helping others.



Hay What a Busy Week
July 16, 2018, 9:04 am
Filed under: July 2018 | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

haymow1

July 16, 2018

The last week has been a whirlwind! Hay dried very nice in the sun. We raked and baled, hauled and stacked until we got it all in off the fields without any of it getting wet.

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I modified the the hay loft door and am able to set the hay bales up into the loft with the skidsteer. I can set 5 bales up before I have to go up and roll them out of the way. This makes haying much easier for me. Most importantly, I don’t need help. Hay help is getting harder and harder to find, having overcome this fact is awesome! I can store the equivalent of 400 small square bales by doing it this new way. I will unroll the bale at feeding time and fork the hay down chutes to the horse mangers below.

The speltz straw also had to be mowed and made ready to bale

hayted2018

The horses and I fluffed the straw with our hay tedder. There was a lot of nice, new seeded grasses in the straw. I treated this bounty as hay. The animals will get to eat anything they want, then sleep on the rest. It gives new meaning to “bed and breakfast”. It was a hot week. The temperatures were 90F and above for many of them. The horses and I both sweated together, but we made 42 nice bales. Those bales have all been hauled in and stacked near where they will be used.

We are now ready for some needed rain. We are thankful that it held off while we scrambled to get the last of the first cutting hay harvested, the speltz combined and the straw gleaned as well. Today, it’s hot and sticky, but all of us will rest and wait for the rain…while I make a new list of work for us all.