Spring Spruce Up
April 30, 2012, 8:39 pm
Filed under: April 2012

Round Bale Mover with a new coat of paint

                                                    April 30, 2012

      The last day of April is here. Another month has faded away, but spring is in full motion now. The rain is sprucing up the grass and I have been forced inside for much of the day. This painting project got squeezed in before the cloudburst started.

      This two-wheeled piece of home-made machinery, is used to move round bales two at a time. It was made by a friend of mine in Pennsylvania. He is a handy guy. This thing works great. I can use it with horses, tractor or even behind my truck 😮

      I will show it off in action one day soon, but today I just wanted to give the old rusty thing a whole new look. I feel better about it, almost like a new haircut, but without all the itching.

      Spring makes me want to clean up, fix up and straighten up. My dear wife ventures out this time of year now that the temperature is above 50 F. She likes things picked up too … perhaps that is why I like it so much. Hey if I try a little, I can hear the peepers over her gentle urging to put things away.

      I went to the Ohio state plowing match last Saturday. I watched, but did not take horses to plow. Now that I know the layout and logistics, I will plow there next time. It was a fun time, held at Carriage Hill metro park just outside of Dayton.. wonderful place, wonderful folks.

      The plowing grounds were held on a small field at a restored 1880’s homestead. If you get a chance to visit, I urge you to do so. It is a very neat place where period equipment and horses farm in the old ways. It is very well done.

      Lambs and piglets coming soon. The mothers are very ready. The little sow “Piggy-Sue”, is busily making her pen just so … I think she is sprucing everything up too!

Cooped Up
April 26, 2012, 9:31 pm
Filed under: April 2012

The new chicken coop

                                                      April 26, 2012

      Here it is, still on the trailer, but home just the same. The new coop has arrived. It is a beauty. The wooden end will be stained and the roosts need to be built, but other than that, it is move in ready 😮

      The inside is roomy and airy, yet not drafty. The high center roof lets in lots of light through the fiberglass panel walls. The end vents will let the summer heat out. The windows let in light too and have screens in them to allow a nice breeze to pass through.

      The nest boxes have a lid that allows for gathering the eggs without entering the coop. I think the girls will be happy in their new house. The chicken yard will be a three and one half-acre pasture for them to roam.

      It seems a bit extravagant, but this building will hopefully last twenty-five years. The old coop is older than that. It has worked out well, but has come to the end of its life. The new coop matches our buildings and is much handier than the old one.

      I designed this building, but it was built by an Amish friend. He did an awesome job. I am proud of my design and his craftsmanship. The hens will be content, I know. I just feel a little bad about all the poop about to litter the floor.

      Deep bedding will be provided for the chickens. That litter will make a great addition to my compost just as it does now. I guess the hens pay dividends in two ways… manure and eggs. Thankfully it’s hard to mix those two up!


Ready to renovate
April 24, 2012, 9:14 pm
Filed under: April 2012

Noah inspects his new "digs"

                                                   April 24, 2012

      No, that is not a small pen… It’s a big boar. Noah is pushing 500 pounds. He is calm and easy-going. I expect he will work my garden soil over good!

      In the photo, Noah is in the new pen, but also still in the confines of my cement lot. I wanted to make sure he would be content inside the new pen. In the event that he jumped out, I wanted to be able to catch him easily.

      I am happy to report that today is day number three and Noah is delighted with his new pen. He has been digging and rooting until his heart is content. He lays in the straw, rubs on the posts and plays in the sun and fresh air. Now, that’s the life… not to mention all the girlfriends 😮

      I will report back now and then as Noah builds soil and renovates beds. I am thinking he is a wonderful tool. He even works while I sleep … Now, that’s innovation!


Going Bottomless!
April 23, 2012, 7:20 pm
Filed under: April 2012

Portable pig pen with no bottom

                                                       April 23, 2012

      I have a problem with one end of our garden. The soil is poor and tough to work. I have decided to rectify that problem this year. I am going to harness the playful power of pork to help accomplish my goal.

      I will put pigs in this pen at the end of our garden. They can dig and poop and play. I will move the pen back and forth allowing the pigs to “plow” all they want. I will add straw, greens and shelled corn to get them to dig even more.

      The pigs will incorporate the straw, compost, grass clippings and their own dung into the soil. I will just continue to provide them with lots of material to root through. They will have a ball, stay exercised and happy, while building garden soil for me.

      They will be nearby to get treats from the garden. Corn husks, soft melons, a rotted tomato or two and young weeds will be eaten with gusto. I will be rewarded with manure for the soil and pork for the freezer. What a great deal 😮

      I have to believe that nobody “nose ” dirt like pigs do!


Shhh … Don’t tell mom that I’m a stripper!
April 22, 2012, 10:20 am
Filed under: April 2012

Market garden plots laid out

                                                   April 22, 2012

      Okay, it’s not as exciting as you thought … but they are strips none the less 😮

      I have laid out a three and a half-acre field into the strips you see above. This field is where we will grow pumpkins, squash, some mid-season sweet corn and ornamental gourds. These crops will be planted in the plowed strips.

      The green strips in between, is where I will take a cutting of hay. Those sod strips will then be left for the pumpkins vines to sprawl across. The grassy strips will make a good place to drive the wagon when the pumpkin harvest is in full swing. It will keep us out of the mud.

      On the east side of the field, we will plant a mixture of purple top turnips and dwarf Essex rape. These two crops are a delight for pigs and sheep. The pigs will be given the pumpkin field first. They will eat any leftover pumpkins and their seed. The will clean up the squash, eat grass and graze the rape and turnips.

      Once the cold weather hits, the pigs will be moved to a winter paddock with a warm hut in which to sleep. The sheep will be moved to this field shown above. They will graze what the pigs left of the stockpiled grass. They will eat the turnip tops and turnip bulbs. This vegetable they eat all winter long until they are gone. The sheep also get hay to supplement their grazing, but usually eat the sweet-smelling dry hay last. I guess they know what they like best.

      This is my first attempt to try this method. I have used the strips to grow food in of course, but I have not tried this planned, diversified approach to include the grazing animals. I hope that they will not only glean the garden plots, but will make efficient use of this entire field as a food plot.

      I am sure to write about this more as the season unfolds. I will try to communicate success as well as failures with the system at the end of the season. I think it will go well… but I am sure lots of folks didn’t do so well the first time they tried stripping either!



The end of an era
April 21, 2012, 7:20 pm
Filed under: April 2012

Our old chicken coop

                                                    April 21, 2012

      Our old chicken coop started it’s life as a corn crib. It is a very old building that I got from a guy across town. He had made it into a clubhouse for his children. They out grew it so I brought it to my farm and turned it back into a corn crib. That was about twenty years ago.

      This little structure was probably first built, in the late 1930’s. It was well made even though it would only hold ear corn. I felt good about using it for its original purpose….that is until I built a bigger one. 

     I hated to get rid of the little crib, so I turned it into a small pig barn. I worked okay for weaned pigs until they got too big for it. I used it that way for only a little while, because it was a hassle once the piglets reached a hundred pounds or so.

      I decided to keep chickens in it. It worked alright ,as long as, the hens could free range. It was too dark inside to keep the hens healthy or happy when they were confined. I knew that I had to make some changes.

      When we moved to this location on our farm and sold the old farmhouse and a few acres, I brought the old shed with us. I completely refurbished it. We put windows in, resided her and have her a new roof. I placed it on a pole foundation and gave it a coat of stain. That was eleven years ago now.

      The little coop is too small for our flock, but the real problem is that she is just plain worn out. The siding is what is mostly holding up the roof. The windows are in need of repair or replacement and the floor is starting to rot.

      It has been a good little structure these last twenty years. I am sure that not many folks would have squeezed these last years out of it. The time has come for major repair or replacement. We have decided upon replacing it. It is the end of an era for the old crib, but what a life it has had! 


     I have designed a “monitor” roof styled mini barn to become our next chicken coop. I have counted my pennies and realize that in this instance, I can have it built for what I can build it for myself. I will hire it done to save precious time. I will only be out the cost of the labor.

      My friend builds lawn structures for a living. He builds all sorts of designs in the warm, dry workshop, on his small farm. He is a good carpenter. The buildings he builds are stylish, neat and serviceable.

      I will haul the chicken coop home when it is done, set it on railroad ties, leveled on a gravel base. The coop will be located where the hens can free range one of our pastures, yet still make chores and gathering eggs easy.

      The new building will be larger that our current coop. It will have windows that open and close, letting in plenty of light and helping with ventilation on hot, sticky summer days. The “monitor” style roof will allow for heat to exhaust through vents and let in lots of light through fiberglass skylights in its side walls.

      The color of the building will match the horse barn. The little coop will look almost cute while providing our laying flock with a safe, secure, well lit home. It will be easy to clean with roosts that fold up out of the way. The nest box will even have a lid so eggs can be gathered without even having to enter the coop 😮

      So it is with mixed emotion that I say good-bye to the old coop. It has been like an old friend for the past two decades, but I won’t miss cleaning the rough sawn shed out. It is too narrow to swing a shovel. It is hotter than blazes during the dog days of summer despite my best efforts. I am sure the hens will thank me when they get moved into their new home …. I think they know “eggs-actly” how to show me!



Ready to Garden
April 14, 2012, 8:48 pm
Filed under: April 2012

Killing Weeds

                                                      April 14, 2012

      The garden is looking very inviting. I am amazed that it is almost ready to plant. I could have it ready in just a few hours, but alas, it is too early for me.

      I have a few early crops planted in another place. This garden is for our mid and late season crops. A good patch of potatoes and some sweet corn will be here along with tomatoes. The east end I will keep in a soil building fallow much of this season.

      I am killing weeds in this spot for now. I harrow the piece every week or so. It kills a whole lot of germinating weed seed. I intend to keep harassing those things until time to plant the crops.

      I will still have to my fair share of weeding, but killing them young helps a lot. The east end I will apply compost then seed it to buckwheat. I will let the crop grow until it blossoms. Then it will be mowed down.The green manure in the buckwheat clippings will feed this lower end of the garden.

      I am hoping to apply another light layer of compost on the clippings. The buckwheat will be allowed to grow once again. I am hoping then to plow it down just before frost with the rest of the garden. I will then put the garden to bed for winter, with a rye cover crop planted in the late autumn.

      Buckwheat along with the mowing will help to suppress weeds. The compost applied and left to rot more with the clippings will make a nice banquet to plow under in the late summer. I hope to stockpile nutrients for the next years garden. This cycle has worked well for me in the past.

      The rain gauge is out. I think it won’t freeze solid anymore… but this crazy weather year … Who knows?  😮



Back at it…
April 12, 2012, 2:13 pm
Filed under: April 2012

Almost full

                                                     April 12, 2012

      After a couple of extra days at work on my off farm job, I am back at the wood cutting, splitting and stacking. The woodshed is filling up, but it sure does take a lot to get it done. I have just two more large pieces of trunk wood to go. Those chunks worked up, should make another hay wagon full. All that will remain, is to fill the last of the openings with some additional slab wood.

      The weather here today is sunny and wonderful. I will even pick some corn before dark. The weatherman says that we are in for a rainy period starting tomorrow. I have some inside stuff to do, so I will find plenty of work to keep me going. I am just hoping we don’t get a total washout like last year.

      Our sow is bagging up and waiting on her piglets. The ewes are all looking very pregnant as they are in their last few weeks of gestation. Soon we will have babies everywhere. Spring is a favorite time of year … all those babies keep a farmer young 😮



The Celebration of Easter
April 8, 2012, 2:07 pm
Filed under: April 2012

Little girls and hula-hoops

                                                      April 8, 2012

      Easter baskets, colored eggs, hula-hoops and of course chocolate! People are gathering to celebrate Easter on this day. My hope is that the true meaning of Easter gets conveyed. It truly is a day for celebrating. This is the day Jesus conquered death and rose from the dead, taking away all of our sin. God’s gift to us is free, John 3:16.

      I remember as a boy many Easter dinners and the fanfare that went with it. We always had to dress up in new outfits. We went to grandma’s for dinner..and we behaved like ladies and gentlemen. I used to hate that part. I mean think about it..gorge yourself with candy, then sit still.

      One of my most treasured memories revolves around Easter. My mother had gotten me a new suit. It was made from corduroy. We weren’t able to go to my grandma’s on the upcoming Easter, for some reason that I do not remember, but we were to celebrate the holiday on the Saturday before.

      We arrived at my grandparents house mid-morning on the Saturday before Easter. My great grandpa, who lived next door to my grandparents, was just leaving the barn with a manure spreader load of fresh cow manure. I begged my mom to go see my great grandpa Case. 

     “Go ahead”, she said reluctantly … “Don’t get dirty.” she yelled after me. I heard nothing but the wind in my ears, as I ran as fast as I could, to see my grandpa Case.

      He was just pulling out of the barn by the time I ran to him. He stopped the tractor, got off to close the barn door and to talk to me. I convinced him to let me go with him to spread that load of wet, sloppy manure.

      The spreader he was using was an old New Idea horse-drawn type with a seat in the front of it. My grandpa had cut the tongue down and was using the tractor. I am sure he would have prefered horses, but his daughters talked him out of his team when he hit the age of 80.

      I climbed up onto that old steel seat in my brand new corduroy suit and sat with a big grin. We went to the field with the aroma of fresh cow poop clinging to my nostrils. Once in the field my grandpa pulled the levers and started the ground drive spreader unloading the gooey mixture.

      Around the field we went, unloading the spreader. The breeze caught the small bits of manure and a mist coming off the beaters and sprayed it all over me. I felt the little droplets on my face and perhaps on my teeth and lips, because I was grinning from ear to ear. I loved all things farming even back then 😮 

     The spreader unloaded, we arrived back at the barn. I climbed down off the spreader seat and looked down at myself.  Oh my, small bits of wet cow poop, hay and straw really stick to a corduroy suit! 

     I got a little nervous about showing my mom. My grandpa consoled me. He said, “Don’t worry. I can clean you up in no time.” We went into the barn where my grandpa got a burlap feed bag. He dusted me off with that bag. Actually what happened was that he smeared all that fresh cow shit into my suit along with a fine dusting of cow feed. Now I looked like a small boy covered in crap and rolled in corn meal… but I felt like a cat turd in a sandbox!

      We walked to the house. I walked much slower going that direction than I did when running to the barn. I was pretty sure it was going to be my last day on Earth. My mother would simply kill me and leave me for the buzzards … I began to cry.

      My mother came out of the house. Her face fell for just a second… the she broke into laughter! I mean the kind that involves howling, snorting and coughing. She was dang near hysterical. Then she did something that still amazes me. She wrapped her arms around me hugging me for all I was worth… calling me her little farmer ……….. I never grew out of it!

      Happy Easter everybody 😮



A Prickly Situation
April 7, 2012, 6:48 am
Filed under: April 2012

Pile of barbed wire headed for recycle

                                                                   April 7, 2012

      This rusty old barbed wire was gathered from an old fence line. The wire was stapled to trees and long grown into them. The trees don’t seem to mind, but future woodcutters might!

      The fence row was getting over run with briars and brambles. The pokes from the barbed wired were punctuated by the pricks from those nasty bushes. The worst of the lot was the multi-flora rose.

      The multi-flora rose was once hailed by the USDA to be the end of wire fences. This giant pricker bush would grow “horse high and hog tight” they claimed. Then it became apparent that this once hailed vegetation would become the farmer’s scourge as it spread all over the countryside. Oops.. we’re sorry, multi-flora rose is an invasive specie that is very hard to control.

      The thorns on the nasty rose bushes point backwards toward the stem. You can put your arm or hand into the plant, but pulling away causes the thorns to dig deep into your flesh. They grow by leaps and bounds. The best defense is a herd of goats as long as the plants are young and tender. The old stalks are thick and woody, covered in hard thorns and best picked up with a pitchfork, once they are cut down.

      The only thing that I find good about this plant is its spring blooms. The sweet blossoms have an almost heavenly scent. It is powerful, yet delicate. The aroma floats on the breeze and fills your nostrils with a sweet, pleasing smell. I even cut the little flowers off to enjoy the smell in the house.

      As good as the blossoms smell, they still don’t make up for the prickly situations the rest of the plant causes. It grows almost anywhere the sun shines for part of a day. It is easy to find in the dark while coon hunting…walking into it makes most any guy whine or cuss. If you run through a wood edge, surely it will tear at your clothes and skin. It is also almost always the cause of an electric fence short.

      I cut it, mow it and rip it from the ground when I see it. My farm still has plenty of it around. I get the nice smell in spring and the pain in the *ss the rest of the year 😮 Fence, you can take down, scrap it and eradicate it. Multi-flora rose you work at for a lifetime while it keeps coming back and showing up in all sorts of new places.

      The south has red cedar and kudzu vine. We have this pricker and all of us have the USDA to thank. remember, these are the folks who okayed DDT, and most recently “pink slime”, but don’t want you drinking fresh Jersey cow’s milk! … Well, go ahead and drink the milk from your own cow, they will just caution you against it… but try to sell some and it’s a crime!