Crazy things I have done
May 31, 2011, 7:15 am
Filed under: May 2011
Dinner time!

May 31, 2011

     I have done some crazy things in my life. In the photo above a baby deer nurses off of a goat. We had this whole deal going on last year. Our grandson saw the baby’s mother get hit on the road and killed. I was sure the little thing wouldn’t make it, but I was wrong.
     We got the little fella nursing from the goat. He did very well and the goat didn’t seem to mind. It was much easier than messing around with bottles and milk replacer. The deer grew well on the goat’s milk too. He nursed for about 80 days. They spent most of the summer in our pastures … well the goat did.  The deer went where ever it wanted, leaping our fences in a single bound. One day he leapt over the fence and was gone.
     People shouldn’t mess with wild creatures. They are better off left alone, even if it means their very end. The deer in the photo, as far as I know, made it through hunting season. However, he  may have walked right up to a hunter looking for a treat only to be dispatched of his life.  I think in the long run, we didn’t really help the deer. Deer raising should be done with permits, a handling system and taller fences. Then I say go for it. It can be profitable and for sure the babies are fun to watch 😮
     One winter day a friend and I were sled riding. We built a tunnel from a snow drift on the side of the hill.  Just before we were done for the day, we tried to go through the tunnel at the same time. We didn’t use sleds. We just jumped into the tunnel on the side of the hill at the same time. We were stuck like a cork in a bottle. We were quite a ways from home and it was getting dark. We couldn’t move our arms. They were stuck fast. It felt like we couldn’t breathe. In a panic, we started kicking and thrashing around. At first it only seemed to get us more stuck, but then the packed snow drift tunnel broke apart. I have been claustrophobic ever since. That was a crazy thing, let me tell you!
     Another time a friend and I went scouting for turkeys in the southern Ohio mountains. I guess they are only hills, but they felt like mountains by the end of that day. We were in unfamiliar territory and left our map in the truck. We were only going to be a little while and there was a path anyway. Some how we got turned around and walked twelve miles or so in the wrong direction. We didn’t have water and were wearing warm clothing and big boots. The day became very hot. We took off what clothing we could and kept walking. We did get back to the truck. The whole day was gone. We were overheated with swollen feet and damaged egos. This may actually be in the “stupidest” things I have done category. I knew better,  but made a dumb decision anyway.
     Thankfully, I surround myself with good friends and people who love me. They overlook the crazy things I do. They listen to my ideas, like selling ice cream from a horse-drawn wagon, and say things like “aw huh” or “maybe”, but not many say “forget about it!”  Some even share my crazy dreams.
     Crazy things make me who I am. I dream big. I think outside the box, sometimes way outside the box 😮  Those very same friends and family help to ground me, work out solutions and find a way where no way existed. So, even though I do some crazy things, I am lucky enough to have a support network that is there for me … anytime I need it … Lucky? No way …….. I am blessed

Memorial Day
May 30, 2011, 8:12 am
Filed under: May 2011
A Day of Remembrance

May 30, 2011

     Today is Memorial Day and I will pause to remember and to thank the veterans who have served our country. In our little country cemetery just down the road, the flags stand proud, paying tribute to the men and women who served. The silence was deafening as I stood among the large trees and thanked those who died helping to preserve the freedoms that I enjoy.
     Today is also a day where we pause to remember people we have known along with  family members who have left this world. I will not be sad today because I will remember all the good memories from those people who have touched my heart.
     Some scars on my heart have not healed, some are barely visible , but all of them are badges of honor. To have been touched by someone who left a mark on your heart is a divine gift. Many people have never known the wonder of true friendship or felt the wonderful pain of love. I have been fortunate enough to have known both.
     I am a better man for the bumps, bruises and marks upon my heart, left there by folks who loved me. It has shaped my life and defined me as a person. I am filled with reflections, fond memories and the resolve to make more memories with the people I touch, by deed, word or prose.
     Celebrate your life and those that you love. Remember the people who have made a mark on your soul and be the person God wants you to be.  There are two who died to make me free, one is Jesus Christ the other is the American soldier … I hold them both dear.

May 29, 2011, 9:29 am
Filed under: May 2011
Allis Chalmers “B” Tractor

May 29, 2011

     Because I got this tractor as part of my inheritance when my mom and  her husband died, I wanted it to have a special purpose. My uncle Fred and I made it to buzz wood for the sugarhouse. Fred designed and built a buzz saw for it from an old arbor we got at a garage sale. It is belt driven, plenty powerful and works great.
     When we got it out this spring, we had two flat tires and air would not stay in them. We decided to replace the old tires. This seemed like a pretty easy task, not to mention something to do in this rainy weather. It has turned out to be a nightmare that now has become funny.
     We took the rear wheels off and dropped them off at the tire repair place. I hadn’t even left the parking lot when one of the guys came out and told me that the rims needed repair. Many years of calcium in the old tires had taken its toll on the steel rims. The salty brine had eaten through the rims in a couple of places and the major part of them was covered in rust.
     After diligent search, we found a place to sandblast and repair the rims. It took over ten days, for a variety of reasons, but they were finally done. We picked them up, slapped a coat of paint on them and took them back to the tire place. The new tires looked great and were installed in minutes. We came home with our new tires and rims to the tune of $544.06 😮
     We messed around for 4 hours trying to get the rims back on. We, of course were doing it in the gravel driveway. The gravel dug into our knees and backs while the sun beat down sucking all the moisture out of the wet ground and making steam rise from soil and men alike. Unk and I exchanged cuss words and remarks about the sharp gravel, but kept trying things until we were out of ideas.
     I went to the internet, found an Allis Chalmers forum where guys discussed problems with the old tractors. I found section after section about our very problem. Many guys before us had rolled around in the driveway testing skin, knees and patience while trying to get the rims to fit. No matter what they tried, just like us, the result was the same. The rim was too big for the hub. The old clamps wouldn’t tighten down. The answer was that the sandblasting takes away enough old rust ,scale and crud that you have to either shim the rim or weld a small bead in each clamp.
    Unk and I felt better for having the answer, but were tired enough to say to heck with the repair until next week. We have about two full working days, 180 miles in my truck and the $544.06 invested so far. That total does not include wear and tear on our egos, ripped jeans and sore knees. All of this to fix a little tractor that has one job and will be used a half-dozen times per year. We may have to find more jobs for it to do!
     This little tractor does make me smile. It reminds me of my Mom and Butch every time I look at it. Butch, I am sure is chuckling B-Cause he probably knew all about the rim/clamp/sandblast fiasco. My mom is smiling, because two of her favorite men are working together and losing their tempers once in a while … all in the name of fun!   😮

May 26, 2011, 5:55 pm
Filed under: May 2011
I Love Lucy

May 26, 2011

     This is our farm’s dog Lucy. She is a red and white Border Collie. She came from Montana, but we got her from Madison, Ohio. She was a year old when we got her and had not ever seen any farm animals. She adopted us. Very soon her instincts took over and she became a wonderful stock dog. She is eleven now and still has heart for working the animals. Like me she is a little slow, but the desire is still there 😮
     The lady we got her from said she was a lady’s dog, but Lucy fell for me and is my constant companion. I love her too. She knows all the daily routines and makes sure every animal does what it’s supposed to do. She works them while watching over me. We are bonded.
     Our family is large. My wife and I are each in our second marriage. She had five children and I had two. Nineteen years ago we decided to blend our brood and is has worked out very well. We had bumps and jolts along the way, but not any more than other families share. We are all bonded to each other, look out for each other and love one another.
     The twin lambs that we have been bottle feeding have had a twist of fate. The little ram lamb went to another farm to become part of their breeding program in time. The little ewe lamb is here. I didn’t want her to be lonely. I put her in a pen in the pasture with the rest of the flock. A red ewe stayed nearby and her single white lamb rubbed noses with the bottle baby. The little white lamb jumped and played outside of the bottle baby’s pen.
     I decided to put the bottle baby with the rest of the flock after the introduction had been made and several days had passed. This morning I went ti feed the baby and she wouldn’t come. I walked the pasture for quite a while fearing the worst. After a bit of time I discovered the little lamb nursing off of the red ewe, the little white lamb on the other side and both wagging tails for all they were worth. I will say that they are bonded. The little family stays together, plays together and looks out for each other. I am sure if sheep love each other, that they are bound by the ties that bind.
     I should be jumping for joy. No more feedings. No more bottles … Yippee!  Well, I would be jumping up and down except that I traded for a milk goat to provide milk for the growing lamb. Now me and the goat are bound! I milk, she fidgets and eats grain. I feed her milk to a couple runt piglets for right now, growing them to spit size, Yum 😮
     I should use the milk for the house. We could make cheese, ice cream and of course drink it. I can slop all over the kitchen mixing my muddy shoes with the clean floor, dirty hands with clean towels and the straining filters with the trash. My city born wife is bound to me … not so much to the goat. I will continue to feed the piglets until Connie and my caprine milk maker become bonded  😮

May 25, 2011, 7:54 am
Filed under: May 2011
Leading the way

May 25, 2011

     The ewe in the foreground is Persephone. She leads the flock and comes when I call her. She makes moving sheep a very easy task. She has been my helper for ten lambing seasons. She is an old lady now, who still commands respect, yet seems to love her flock.
     I have been shown the way in life by many people. My parents and grandparents taught me many life lessons and my mother made sure I stayed on the narrow path. I was mentored by former bosses who employed me as a farm hand and by a wonderful country veterinarian. I learned things while growing up that made me what I am today. Most of the time, I didn’t even know that I was being taught a life lesson … well except for when mom was directing my feet back to the narrow path 😮
     I was helped out by many older teamsters when it came to horses. I was taught to plow by a couple of guys. Others taught me the skill and art of logging. One looked after me like a son and shared many insights that he had learned over time. I am grateful to these men, most of whom have passed from this life to greener pastures and divine horses where furrows are always straight.
     I too have taught a few people, some purely by accident. This morning I got an e-mail from my nephew. He lives outside of a city in a quiet neighborhood. He just started to garden, is raising fish and even a few laying hens. His heart lies in the country too. He thanked me for teaching him not only how to do things, but also to love what you do. His fish provide an aquaculture that waters his garden through a sort of gray water system. The water nourishes the plants, gets filtered and then goes back into the fish pond. I didn’t teach him that cycle, but did try to impress upon him the cycle of life.
     I didn’t sit my nephew down and cram his head with farm ideas and lessons. Instead I had him stay with us a few summers where he did chores, baled hay and shoveled manure. He played in the woods, helped build a cabin and learned to be a man. I am proud of him. Our last real visit was while he was on leave from the Marine Corps. He now is a husband, a daddy and going to school to further his career while trying his hand at urban farming.
     Just as Persephone leads my flock, I try to impart wisdom and confidence upon my farm’s visitors and family. Leadership and mentorship are best done quietly and confidently with a glad heart. I love what I do, so it is easy to share the positives, but I will also share the negative side. Life lessons are best learned when you don’t really know that you are being taught. I can’t say enough about all the good people who helped me along the way, so rather than try to talk about it, I share what I have learned to honor them.
     I urge my readers to share what you do best with someone you know. You will never know who you will touch or how far that person may go. My children have a great connection to the land and their food. They have a pretty good idea how to farm and in the best example of my mom, they also know how to walk the narrow path.

Gentle Guidance
May 24, 2011, 8:07 am
Filed under: May 2011

No need for words

                                                              May 24, 2011

     When I drive my horses, I do talk to them and give voice commands, but there is gentle pressure on the lines. I guide them this way. It gives them confidence and security. I don’t pull on the lines. I hold them tight with just enough pressure to telegraph my thoughts.

     I think driving horses helped me to become a good daddy and pa-pa. The method is the same. When gentle guidance is used it gives the youngsters confidence in themselves and in you. It provides them with security, knowing that you are always there, even when the lines are not in your hands.

     Holding the reins too tight is just as bad on young people as it is on young horses. They will begin to fight the bit, get strong willed and become a real handfull. Gentle guidance even when correcting bad behavior must be used. A slap on the rump builds character, but beating on anything will destroy self esteem, kill morale and instill fear.

     The idea is to train… not to break. The Bible says to train your child up in the way he should go and the Lord will make his paths straight. It doesn’t say anywhere to whip the crap out of him and break his spirit. Motivation by fear and intimidation doesn’t work very well and it doesn’t work for very long. Men and animals will resist this type of treatment some to their own deaths.

     I am not a push over. I define the boundries and explain what is expected. I then guide my charges through whatever the task may be. I expect them to do their share, pull their load and stay within the confines I have set. I will praise them with deed and voice and soothe them with a soft hand, building confidence every time a task is completed successfully. I show deep appreciation and love, it is not a weakness… it is a strength.

     I have raised sons and daughters that don’t spray paint buildings or mug little old ladies. I taught them to work and even enjoy it sometimes. I taught them to live inside the lines and to love with all their heart. I helped them to learn problem solving by using logic mixed with a little emotion. I have trained some good horses in my time too and those very same horses have trained me.

     I influence my grandchildren and have helped raise some fine young people. They may all say that I was tough sometimes, but not one will ever wonder if I loved them. I won’t take all the credit, but like the dew on the morning grass, I was everywhere. Gently guiding them, if only by the little voice in their heads. I am humbled to have had a hand in helping to grow such wonderful people and honored that they care enough to call me dad, pa-pa and even Ralph.

Farming before I was born
May 23, 2011, 11:15 am
Filed under: May 2011
Easy little fella…

       May 23, 2011

     I was litteraly farming before I was born. My mother was just about done with the evening milking when I decided it was time to come and help. The neighbor boys finished up chores, while mom and I had our first meeting. She thought I was quite a guy back then  and I am sure she still does now.
     My mom and dad decided they couldn’t live together as man and wife, so when I was a little boy they divorced. I don’t remember much about it, but am very sure this is why my grandparents looked out for me so much. They had a lot of influence in my life and make up many of my good memories.
     I enjoy farming. To say that is an understatement. I think that I must farm or I will wither and die. I have done chores since I could walk and hope to do them until I can’t. I like farm animals and can’t imagine a life without a dog.
     I think the animals know that I am a husbandryman. They can sense when I am around and even know my moods. Often this is good, but sometimes they will push my buttons on my worst days. I guess I know them too pretty well. The mother pigs pay me almost no mind as I talk to them and handle their babies. The mares too will allow me to pet and imprint their foals without worry.
     I will not say that I speak their language, but there is for sure, a deep connection. I like to sit in the barn after chores, smelling the sweet hay and fresh straw and listen to the animals chew. It is comforting to me.
     The woods gives me peace and feeds my soul. The barn and animals give me contentment and teach me patience. Long ago they taught me responsibility and caring. Now, I guess, they continue to teach me nurturing and commitment. I will take care of them as long as I am able. I will ensure that someone will care for them long after I am gone as well. Between now and then, I will care and and tend to them, getting as much enjoyment from them as I can. I will also continue to learn from them and pass the knowledge I get, on to my children and grandchildren and others who want to learn.
     I was farming before I was born … funny…. but it’s true.

The cabin in the woods
May 22, 2011, 4:46 am
Filed under: May 2011
Josh & Jake’s Cabin EST. 1996

 May 22, 2011

     This little cabin in our woods was built a number of year ago by my sons and their cousin. I helped a little, but the boys did the lion’s share of the work. They did a very good job.
     Last week my son Josh and his family came and cleaned up around the cabin. They wiped down the cobwebs and straightened things up. The plan is to camp out there, have a nice fire and enjoy each other, as they experience nature.
     The fact that my grandchildren will be playing in a cabin their daddy helped build pleases me greatly. I have volunteered to help build some furniture and make a few structurial repairs. The real job, that of filling the space with laughter and a few more memories, is up to them.
     My boys and I all like hunting and fishing and the out of doors. I taught each of them as much as I could, but more importantly introduced them to a wonderful place. The woods and its inhabitants is that place.
     I like the woods for all the bounty it provides, but I like it more for the peace found there. There is something magical about the forest. You enter filled with worry, anger or sadness and come away refreshed, at peace and your mind is rested. It seems that sitting in the quiet, just thinking of nothing and everything at the same time, makes the stress of life melt away.
     My memories of the woods are long and pleasant. I can see, in my minds eye my grandparents gathering sap. I remember the taking of my first deer. I have seen ruffled grouse drum their love song on an autumn day. I can hear the animal footsteps, the distant hammering of three little boys building a woodland palace and the gentle coo of a dove, calling to its mate.
     Soon, our little cabin will echo with the sound of children playing once again. The woods too, will absorb that sound and the trees will embrace the love of family that spills forth. I know that is how it happens, for when I take my woodland walks, and sit for a spell under a big tree, all that is good fills my soul. I feel the love of generations, the kindness of a million mothers and the joy of children playing. All is right with the world as those feelings fill my body and comfort my soul.
     I think back when the cabin was built. The boys only saw wood, work and some tin. I saw three young men complete a project of their design. I saw confidence being built from the inside out. I heard the negioations as they solved problems and felt the frustrations when they couldn’t. I experienced the joy that comes from knowing the answer and being held in high regard because I did. I was a hero at times.
     My sons, four in all, have  touched people with good deeds. They have mentored others and taught their own children. They have passed on things I have taught them and created new experiences for their friends and family on things they have learned themselves. They have all been heros but more important to me is that each of them is my hero.
     Life is tough. All of them have made good decisions sometimes after one that is not so good, but they have all found their way. I can’t help but wonder if it was the woods that helped them find the good in themselves. I will take just a little credit. I will be like the bent down grass from footsteps, the rustled leaves from tracking deer and the breeze that moves the small hairs on the back of their necks. I may not always be the hero, but I will always be the one who left footprints on their hearts….. and I am fine with that 😮

Sweet Reward
May 21, 2011, 11:21 am
Filed under: May 2011
Sugarhouse Woodshed Complete

May 21, 2011

     The rain stopped yesterday, so I snapped this picture of the completed woodshed. It is still very muddy all around and clean up needs to happen , but the building is finished. We even installed an old sliding glass door for two very nice windows. The door was a gift from my cousin who was going to throw it away. The door made great windows that let in lots of light. I think they will let in much more light once I clean them 😮
     Our next big job for the sugarhouse will be to re-tin then re-brick the arch. The arch is the metal contraption that includes the firebox and is the base for the syrup pans to sit on. Ours is in need of repair and since we are doing everything over, it makes sense to complete that project too. The arch is 4 foot by 14 foot. We should be able to boil 9 to 10 barrels of sap per hour (about 300 to 400 gallons) yielding 9 to 10 gallons of sweet maple syrup each hour too … YUM.
     In order to boil at the rate explained above, we need dry seasoned wood and probably around 10 cords. The split, stacked, cord wood will burn hot, bringing the sap to a rolling boil, as the sap releases the water and leaves the sweet reward behind … to be eaten and loved by all of us … OK , maybe love is a bit strong, but if you haven’t tasted that golden sweet treat, hot from the pan, you haven’t lived!
     I remember when I was a young boy, spending time in my grandpa’s sugarhouse. I remember the buckets of sap running over as he boild feverishly, but couldn’t keep up. He would be working so very hard, sweat on his brow and worry lines on his face, but the sap continued to drip. Once he was caught up and the buckets on the trees were once again empty, the quiet, calm face of grandpa would return. I coild only find fun in the sugarhouse, no worry or care, grandpa worried enough for both of us. Now, I know why. The sap overflowing the pails was pennies from heaven being wasted on the ground. If he boiled faster by keeping the pans shallow, the risk of burning them up was great. If he boiled too deep, it took longer and its possible to make the syrup dark. He was a master who wanted perfection and I am pretty sure he got it. He made about 100 gallons of syrup each year and in doing so, boiled almost 4000 gallons of sap.
     My gramma helped in the sugarhouse, even sleeping on an old car seat late into the night as they took turns keeping up with the running sap. She brought lunches and answered many questions from a curious boy. That boy was probably a bit wild as most young kids are, not to mention being hopped up on hot maple syrup!
     Syrup time brought the family together. Many hands make light work and folks would help hang buckets, gather sap and even haul wood. I guess gramma and grampa had help on the big weekends, but the rest of the year it was mostly the two of them. The work of getting wood ready, washing buckets, cleaning the sugarhouse and pans, usually fell to the two of them. They worked shoulder to shoulder on everything, not just making syrup. The sweet reward they shared was their love for one another. God understood that love and so took them home on the very same day, the very same hour, knowing niether could live without the other.
     I make maple syrup to show my family how its done. I like working as a family and hopefully, it will become an income source for the farm. The sweet reward will be shared with excited boys and girls and many questions will be answered by me, sometimes with a look of worry on my face, but always with the love of my gramma and grampa Rice on my mind.
     I am so blessed by having the love of family and friends to keep me strong and keep me steadfast in my farming vocation. I am also blessed to have been fortunate enough to have had grandparents and parents to show me the way. It is in their memory that I strive to enlighten, not only my family, but anyone who asks. I share because people shared with me, I give because people give to me without holding back and I love with all my heart  because I have seen the power of that sweet reward, take people all the way to heaven …… and back … through the next generations … now, that is POWER!

Let’s Go PaPa
May 20, 2011, 12:01 pm
Filed under: May 2011
Bye PaPa

May 20, 2011

     My grandson and his daddy were here to spend a day on the farm. Mom and sister were here too. They all had fun fishing, walking in the very wet woods, cleaning up around the old cabin and of course helping with chores. Little boys (and big boys) love tractors and skidsteers.
     The rains are keeping us out of the fields and gardens. The manure piles up, but we don’t spread on wet muddy fields due to run-off. We don’t want the nutrients to wash away and pollute our streams. The rich goodness the manure supplies will be used to feed our crops and soils as soon as the weather cooperates.
     Josh and John are headed after a round bale for the horses. John waves bye and wants his dad to get moving. I like the production attitude in the little fella 😮 He might be a real pusher one day.
     Feeding the new twin bottle babies is a treat for the grandkids. They take the job serious and I can see they both will choose the farm life one day. It may be in a city far away, where tomatoes will grow on their apartment rooftops in containers, but they will be farming none the less. This lifestyle stays with a person no matter how far from home you get.
     I would much rather to wave bye-bye as they take off to get a hay bale or just a quick jaunt around the drive, than to see them packed up leaving for some far away place. I understand the need to leave the nest, but wish we all lived closer. E-mail, telephones and the world wide web does make it much easier to communicate with our large extended family, but there is nothing like face time!
     The best thing about family is, no matter how far we get in distance, it only takes a split second to be there in our hearts. I am sure my mom and dad, grandparents on both sides who are in the heavens, transend the space to watch over and be with us. My knowing that makes it much easier to wave bye-bye as our family scatters all around the nation. We just need to take a minute, close our eyes and let our hearts give hugs to those we miss……… Now don’t you feel better?   I sure do 😮