The Pig Barn
July 31, 2011, 3:24 pm
Filed under: July 2011
The little house of hog

July 31, 2011

     The last day of July is upon us. Summer is more than half over. Where did it go? As I look back a bit I can see that I used it up. I didn’t spend many days loafing, so even though the month is fleeting, I am satisfied with all that I was able to accomplish.
     The little pig barn, in the photo, was one of the first structures built on our farmstead. It was constructed mostly from leftovers from another building. I slapped a coat of stain on it to make it blend in and look like it belonged here. Now, with the border flowers gracing its facade, it is a quaint little cottage that some of our pigs call home.
     The pig barn has a three-foot aisle way and doors on each end. It has three 8×8 pens. The east door opens to a cement lot and gates to the pasture. Our piggies have access to an exercise paddock all of their life. They get play time each day, even in the winter. I can vouch that happy pigs makes for great tasting meat. No stress, no worries and no rough handling. Pig raising too is part of the balance on our farm.
     The little pig barn measures 12×24. It has a cement floor for easy cleaning. The stalls are well bedded even in the summer. The pigs stay clean. We often use sawdust in the summer because I believe that it is cooler than straw. The pigs slumber on hot days often unaware of my presence, so I think they like the fresh sawdust too.
     The stalls in the pig barn are just the right size for two pigs of the same size from weaning to finished weight. They get daily exercise and are not cramped in any way. This building has served us well for eleven years and I expect it to last a long time baring some unforseen catastrophe.
     The little barn in its grandeur,graced with flowers and small animal statues, pleases me. It makes me feel at home, much like pictures on the wall or knickknacks on a shelf. It says I love you. I think it’s those flowers that make the difference. They bloom in spite of getting run over, rooted through by the pigs and other livestock, even munched on by the goats!
     The flowers are more of the perennials that we split and then look for a place to plant them. Here again is another unexpected pleasing sight, just like the little building made from scraps. It could have been a castaway, the material burned or tossed out, but it became a very important part of our farm. It is functional , necessary and pleasing to look at.
     I too could have been tossed out. I was conceived out-of-wedlock at a time when this was very taboo. My mother kept me anyway. My dad stood beside her and I was born to a young couple who were just getting by. Their marriage didn’t last, but their love for me did. It helped me to grow and become a positive influence. I am not sure that I am pleasing to the eye, but I am functional and necessary… I have to lift all those awkward and not heavy objects 😮
     I am sure that I brighten the days of friends and family. I know that my animals think I am pretty special, especially at chore time. In your own life find perfection in imperfection, look for the good and you will find it. Plant flowers and trees ….. One day you will be glad that you did.

Clean Up Crew
July 30, 2011, 4:32 pm
Filed under: July 2011
Circling Buzzards

July 30, 2011

     Seventeen buzzards circled the back pasture today. I watched them land on fence posts one by one. Then they started to feed on something surely dead in the pasture. I went to investigate. No animals had been in the pasture since last fall. I was sure it wasn’t one of our farm animals, but I still wondered what the clean up crew was after.
     They flew from their fence post perches as I approached. They didn’t seem too annoyed, but left just the same. They circled overhead watching me as I looked for the dead animal. My nose soon found the racoon. I don’t know for sure what killed it. The evidence was pretty much eaten by the crew and I am no CSI person.
     I like having the buzzards around. They come in early spring about late April. It seems they come just in time for lambing. They glean the fields for the afterbirth from the baby lambs. The entire field is always spotless as the buzzards wait nearby to keep it all clean. I am very sure this is healthy for the sheep and lambs as well as, giving the buzzards many meals. It does seem a little gross, but hey this is how nature intends it no be .. I am not going to argue!
     The hot summer days are upon us. The grass is slowing down. The corn is growing fast as long as the rains keep it watered. The harvest will come soon enough. My chores are lessened because all the animals are on pasture. It also helps that the clean up crew is on duty…every mindful to keep the farm cleaned up ..  Thanks guys 😮

Just Peachy
July 29, 2011, 4:42 pm
Filed under: July 2011
Canned Peaches July 2011

July 29, 2011

     “How are you?”, “Just Peachy!” It’s funny when people say that. I will say though, that we are, ” Just Peachy!”  My dear wife canned peaches yesterday. They are as good as they look. The flavor and juiceyness of the ripe peaches are stored in those jars, making delightful sweet treats all winter long. Is there any thing that says “Summer”, like a fresh peach?  Well, OK, perhaps fresh sweet corn right off the stalk 😮
     As I look at the peaches, not only do I have vision of pies, cobblers and bowls of fruit, I see love. It is the ingredient in the jar that touches your heart. That ingredient can also be found in the green beans, applesauce, meat and soup. It can be found in jams and jellies and other home canned foods. The source also can be found in the freezer where freshly frozen blueberries, raspberries and sweet corn stay to be devoured by our hungry brood.
     Canning our food is they way I was raised. Our pantry was not only a source of pride, it was a way of life. My grandmothers exemplified, ” putting food by”, or home canning. We can everything, including meat. There is nothing to rival its tenderness and flavor, not to mention the love that goes into those jars.
    The work is hot and even a bit hard. It is made easier when at least two people are working together. The pantry fills slowly as the jars are filled one by one, but by the end of the season the shelves are full and a sense of security fills the house. That security is passed to the next generation at meal time when everyone realizes that the food was grown, prepared and preserved by our own hands. The children understand that 90% of the food on the plate  was grown on the farm or garden, that they helped to tend.
     Children often can’t wait to get away from home and the work that comes with it. Once they are out on their own, they see that the work wasn’t hard at all. The self-sacrifice made by mom and dad to make sure food was plentiful is seen as a labor of love. Those days of picking beans or watering the cattle become favorite memories and the longing for country becomes a nagging persistence that is only satisfied by a return home.
     Most all of our children raise part of their food. They come and help prepare their own bounty that is shared with family during the butchering or corn harvest. In the future more opportunities to bond as family are coming. I plan to have apple cider pressing, perhaps apple butter making and of course all aspects of butchering, smoking and curing.
     I am sure that our children enjoy turning the crank on the ice cream freezer as we make homemade ice cream. Sure its a task that requires patience, but it yields that frozen treat that everyone enjoys. I think it’s as much the fact that we are together, as it is, the taste of the sweet ice cream.
     Peaches kick the canning season off for us. The garden will soon burst forth all the fruits of our labor and God’s blessings. The canners will boil non-stop. The harvest season will soon be upon us. Our garden is not as good as it usually is due in part to our wet spring weather. I am sure, however, that it will feed us with plenty to share. The love that goes into the jars is in abundance too. It comes from many generations of canning women in our family that cared enough to show it for the world to see. There is no doubt that it fills our jars and lives in our hearts. I guess that I am “Just Peachy” too 😮

Rembrandt … Maybe?
July 28, 2011, 3:26 pm
Filed under: July 2011
The Garden Fence 2011

July 28, 2011

     The garden fence has been installed. The old posts were re-used we just drove them in a little deeper and straightened them as we went. The boards are new and freshly painted. The paint is supposed to last 15 years, I guess we will see.
     My wife painted the entire fence. She did it in record time. Well, at least I think so. I am not much of a painter, but my wife may even be another Rembrandt. She whips that brush and roller around like a professional and hardly drips. I , on the other hand, drip all over. I usually have as much paint on me as I do on the project. Hands down, Connie is the painter in this house.
     The patio project continues. I re-used all the old slabs of concrete. The new pad will be a bit larger and definitely more level. We have a guy who will be stamping a design on the new cement. It should be very nice. I hope to complete it very soon. We don’t sit out there much in the winter, so finishing it soon would be in my best interest 😮
     The horses and I continue to spread compost on the speltz field. That job is going good too. I hope to cover the field within the week. I have other places to spread, but want that field done first to give the newly seeded hay crop a good dose of nutrition.
     We got six tenths of an inch of much-needed rain overnight. Today everything looks refreshed and even a bit greener. I think we will have to resume lawn mowing very soon. I am OK with that,,,especially because “Rembrandt” also mows our lawn 😮  I do the farm work and she mows the lawn. It gives her some time out in the sun and she likes to do it, so I guess that is perfect … well, it is for me!
     We had a ram rodeo yesterday. I traded one for another from a local farmer. I had given him the ram a few years ago and it was time for him to switch rams. I took him a dandy and traded for this big handsome fellow that is now in my barn. The dandy ram I took him got away from us and took a tour of his new surroundings before finally going with the ewes. The big fellow didn’t want to leave his ewes either. In fact I think he resents me for it. He plowed me over yesterday during the loading and again today as I unloaded him.
     This new ram has yet to be named. I have called him several things so far, but none can be repeated in the presence of ladies or small children. Actually I am thinking his name should be dinner. The Muslim holidays are upon us and I think he should become the guest of honor or better yet the main course!  Hey, I might be on to something! I can call him Ram-A-Don.

Taking crap from everyone!
July 27, 2011, 10:48 pm
Filed under: July 2011
Knight & Hoss hauling the manure spreader

July 27, 2011

     Knight and Hoss are walking down our farm lane, hauling a load of manure. It was a very cool evening much to our delight. The loaded spreader pulled easy on the dry, hard ground. The horses walked leisurely along as if there was no load at all. So it went, as we took crap from everyone!
     I use a big manure spreader that holds 125 bushels. It is a power take off driven spreader. My powercart handles the unloading as the horses pull it around the fields. We are applying compost to the recently combined speltz field.
     The powercart is a wonderful thing for me and my way of farming. It enables me to use horses on every piece of equipment on our farm. The powercart has 3-point hitch, power take off, remote hydraulics and rear wheel steering. Any category one, piece of equipment, will fit right on. The hydraulics are electric so I only have to run the engine to turn the power take off shaft. The rest of our work is done in the peaceful quiet where the only sound is harness jingling, footsteps and bird song.
     The engine on the powercart is about 33 horsepower. The horses supply all the traction power, so this engine can do the work that a 50 horsepower tractor can do. If I need more horsepower, I just go get another horse. The tongue on the powercart is set up for a quick change to a 3-horse hitch, by pulling 3 pins. It is a homemade, well designed piece of equipment built by a Pennsylvania friend of mine.
     When I stripped the harness from the horses tonight, the only sweat was just a little under the harness. This was much better than last week when the sweat rolled off of all of us, just standing still. The horses are still grateful to have the harness off, I think mostly for the attention they get as I pet and talk to them.
     The horses get turned out into a big pasture at night. The flies don’t bother them and the evening air is cool. They drink deeply, find a perfect spot and roll. They lay around enjoying the rest time just as I do, knowing that tomorrow, we will do it all again …. start taking crap from everyone that is 😮

July 26, 2011, 8:54 am
Filed under: July 2011
Sweet Corn July 26 2011

July 26, 2011

     It is amazing what a half an inch of rain can do. This corn was 5 inches high on fourth of July and today, three weeks later, it’s up to my chest. You can see by the shadow that it was a self-portrait and if you think that fist is fat … you should have seen my double chin that close 😮
     The heat wave continued yesterday. We did get a little pop up shower that took our total rainfall amount to half an inch since last Saturday. Many around us got much more, some even had flooded basements, but we were missed this time by most of the rain … hopefully we will get some more before too long.
     It is amazing that corn was once a grass, cultivated and propagated by the Mayans. It now feeds much of the world. They were patient. It took many generations of people to selectively save seed to finally get what we have today. Our super scientist and their GMO seed missed the patient part. They are sure they are not fouling our food supply … I am not so sure. I pray that we don’t find all the negatives forty years from now … Hey, DDT was once a gardeners wonder spray blessed by well-meaning scientist!
     Yesterday I saw a whole bunch of baby Praying Mantis. They were very tiny and very recently hatched. The presence of these “good bugs” ,toads and even fireflies, lets me know that there is a balance on my farm. Earthworms also abound and it is a good thing they do. The capillary action that they give to the soil was a real help during our wet spring. Compacted soils stayed waterlogged much longer than mine did.
     The Canadian geese have been gleaning our speltz field for several days now. I guess they are getting what I missed. The goose and gander are teaching the young ones how to fly, land and look after themselves. All too soon they will be gathering in the autumn sky for the trek south… signalling winter’s fast approach. Today, however, they are predicting 88 degrees F.
     The horses and I are spreading compost. We start early before the flies bite too bad. I have fly nets ordered for them to help give them some relief beyond our homemade fly spray. Those green heads bite hard and now the big black horse flies are here. Those black ones feel as if they have a drill bit installed on their heads…those suckers hurt!
     It may sound corny, but … have an A-Maize-Ing  Day!

Happy Birthday Dad
July 25, 2011, 6:53 am
Filed under: July 2011
A man who loved horses

July 25, 2011

     Today was my dad’s birthday. He no longer walks this Earth, but rather rests in my horse pasture. I am pleased to have him nearby, but do miss him still. Happy birthday dad.
     My dad was a guy who liked everyone. I don’t remember him having a cross word for anyone. He seemed to always give everyone a break. If he was treated badly, he would blame it on the persons problems in life. It was never personal to dad.
      I suppose there were folks he just avoided, but I can’t remember even one confrontation, except for a run in with my grandpa over a problem he and mom had. I guess it all worked out, but mom and dad did divorce when I was about five years old.
     My dad loved horses , mules, ponies and women. He was a likeable cuss with a nice smile, shining blue eyes and black wavy hair. He wore his hair in a style unique to him. It had a sort of superman curl in the front, but piled on his head. He wore it that way all the days of his life.
     He was a cowboy who dressed the part. His cowboy boots and western shirt were just part of who he was. He could rope with a lasso too. My aunt and I would run and he would try to rope us. He didn’t always catch us but when he did, he’d smile and laugh and get us to run again.
     Dad loved old pick-up trucks, antique tractors and all things about farming. He liked to sing, watch people and tell corny jokes. He liked children, not just his own , but kids in general. He was a school bus driver, school janitor and friend to many.
     My dad was an auctioneer. He would rattle and banter at the drop of a hat. He practiced in the car, while he was shaving or anytime I asked him to do it. Dad liked western movies and books and even moved to the southwest United States later in his life. He was a cowboy until the day he died.
     I remember following him one time to my grandpa’s woodpile. I was jumping into his boot prints in the snow. I said, “Look dad, I’m following in your footsteps.” Dad looked back and said , “I hope you don’t.” I asked him what he meant by that.. He said, ” Son, I have been married three times, worked lots of jobs with no career and I am broke. I hope you don’t follow in my footsteps.”
     I have thought of his advice many times in my life. It hit home when my first wife and I divorced. It smacked me in the face when a business that I built all my dreams around failed and I stood penniless without a plan. I remembered his easy-going nature, as I sorted my life out and I blamed no one but myself.
     The last few years of my father’s life were cut short by Alzheimer’s disease. He could remember many things about his youth, but nothing current. The disease stripped him of his personality, his dignity and his independence. It actually killed him. He got pneumonia from forgetting how to swallow and died from it.
     Today I will enjoy a cup of black coffee as I visit with an old cowboy. We will share a minute and talk horses, farming and life. I will thank him for his advice, his love for me and for helping to make me who I am.
     Happy Birthday Dad


Mid-Summer Blooms
July 24, 2011, 9:30 am
Filed under: July 2011
Garden Border 2011

July 24, 2011

     A heat wave along with thunder and strong winds produced a minimal amount of rain, but made computer work uneasy. The power faded and kicked off, putting us in the dark a few times, so we shut the computer down…sorry for my absence.
     The garden border is magnificent. It is a perennial border of daisies, day lilies and cone flowers. I moved these plants here a couple of years ago when we needed to split plants and had no place in mind to plant them. We are so very happy that we did. These are beautiful every year, require very little maintenance and they were free 😮  The flower border mimics the plantings around our house. I have even started planting in front of our pig barn.
      The splash of color helps to brighten my day. The blooms last quite awhile and are sure pretty when they are on display. I have also started planting these mid-summer bloomers near my mother’s gravesite. The color there is nice to see and I am sure mom would approve. I plan to start a bunch of Cosmos, mom’s favorite, this summer/fall. I found that they can be direct seeded in late August and will do very well the following year. Ours even come up in the sidewalk cracks.
     I am tearing out the cement that was our back patio. I, being ever frugal… OK … cheap, cut the patio into large blocks. I dragged the blocks to an overhang on my barn that had no cement. It is working out well. I will have a cement floor where none existed and a clean slate for the new patio. The old one had a “Ralph” slant to it. I poured the concrete so water would be sure to run off of it. It had so much fall that iced tea on a picnic table listed quite heavily and hot dogs would roll off your plate!
     This has become a big job that required stone to be brought in for fill. I had to rip out ten-year old plantings. I am tearing up the grass with the skid steer and I managed to pick the hottest days in over a decade to work on this project. I have tested the capacity of my machine, the tensile strength of a few chains, the absorbancy of my clothing and the resolve of a middle-aged man (me). I have two more 8×9 blocks to move then I can start forming the new covered patio that exists now, only in my dreams.
     Today I will not work on the patio. I plan to visit with an old friend, drive my horses on the wagon and enjoy the blooming flowers. There will be plenty of time next week for the hard work required for patio block moving. I may sit and design the plantings that will grace the new outside place, but then again I may leave that to chance. I am pretty happy with our random efforts so far. I don’t want to upset the balance that comes from having too many plants and just sticking them in the ground. The rewards are amazing!
     Enjoy the Mid-Summer Blooms, for not all of them are plants. Look for the bloom in a happy child’s smile or in the light of your lovers face. Spend time with a friend and see the emotion in their eyes. These things, just like the blooms of summer, are gifts from God.

Gardening in the heat
July 21, 2011, 10:37 pm
Filed under: July 2011
Green tomatoes 2011

July 21, 2011

     It was HOT today. We spent it baling straw and some very nice hay that has a little straw in it. Of course our small baler gave me fits again, so we round baled it all in 4×4 bales at about 500# each. We got 38 of them. It was the hottest day in 16 years , so the weatherman says.
     Funny how the hay is always ready in the hottest part of the day. The sun beats down and dries man , beast and the curing hay. Our only saving grace today was a nice breeze that cooled everything off to what felt like 90 or so. The thermometer read 97 with high humidity and in five more months it will likely be below zero… Ahhh , northeast Ohio 😮
     Our garden is looking better. The plants all would like some rain. I may have to start watering if we don’t get some relief soon. The hay and straw are all done, grain is in the bin and pastures have been mowed. The needed rain will be welcomed when it comes.
     Tomatoes are beginning to grow on the vines. The plants were mulched with straw to help keep the soil moist. The moisture keeps nutrients moving up the plants. The much-needed calcium makes everything else available to the growing and ripening fruit. The lack of calcium causes blossom end rot where a perfectly formed tomato has a rotted bottom on it… all for the lack of calcium caused by the lack of moisture. The straw is an easy fix that also helps smother weeds.
     Our vine crops of squash and pumpkins are starting to spread out and set fruit as well. This is later than usual , but a welcome sight none the less. The sweet corn is waist-high and doing well, but curled up some, wanting water by the end of the day.
     Today, my boys and I were also wanting water by the end of the day. It seemed that no matter how much you drank, the thirst stayed present. You southwestern and Florida folks can have this weather. I will take our breezy 70’s with the occasional 80 anytime. This 90 plus stuff is for lizards, snakes and cold-blooded humans I guess.
     The horses got the day off today, but will start hauling compost tomorrow. The fields need it where we just took the straw off. The black gold will give the new hay crop a great start. The manure applied this way has helped our harvest turn to abundance. The proof is in the pudding they say. I sure can see the difference here!
     As far as gardening in the heat goes, it can be said that we plowed into our work. We went down the rows of hay. We planted our feet and got the job done. I raised a little cane, got beat red, hoed my way through the job, watered myself and helpers … but when it was time to lettuce, turnip and pea… We needed more Gatorade … I know…  corny huh? 😮

Necessary Evil
July 20, 2011, 9:39 pm
Filed under: July 2011
Hoss & Knight killing weeds July 2011

July 20, 2011

     I did something that I have only done once in 19 years since coming to this farm. I spray my corn with a herbicide to kill weeds. The late planted corn needs every advantage that I can give it. The late spring is making summer work last later into the season too. We just finished first cutting hay and usually by now the corn has been cultivated at least once. Not so this year, I simply can’t get to it.
     I have also had to work a few extra shifts at my off farm job. That cuts into my farming as well. The corn needs a big drink, but the rains have mostly missed us. I wanted to keep ahead of the weeds to give this corn every chance that I can. I used the least amount of poison as possible and one of the weakest ones available. It still goes against my grain, but in this instance, it’s a necessary evil. I guess the experts call it “integrated weed management”, even with that fancy name , I don’t like it.
     I don’t own a sprayer and have no intention of buying one. I borrowed one from my Amish buddy. The sprayer came with my buddy’s son to operate it. We used my horses on their sprayer. The horses are used to working around motors and such, so they walked on beautifully, just as expected. The young man worked very well too 😮
     It was very hot and humid today. The mid-day temperature was 95 degrees F.  The humidity was almost high enough to wring water out of the air. We worked during the mid-morning when it was a little cooler, but the horse flies were tough on the horses. I rub the horses down with homemade fly spray that works very well, but today, even that was partly ignored by the biting pests.
     We will bale straw tomorrow if all goes well. It is supposed to be the hottest day in 16 years. Getting the straw baled before the rainy weather predicted for the weekend is another ….  necessary evil. My boys are so looking forward to it …. NOT!
     Working in the heat on such a day as this, makes us appreciate the taste of cold watermelon, sitting in the shade and the refreshing effects of a cold glass of water. Simple pleasures made sweet by hard work , hot sun and a family working together…. Is it a necessary evil?  I say no… It is a gift from God.