February 28, 2015, 12:53 am
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Two pals share a meal

Two pals share a meal

February 28, 2015

Last night I broke bread with some great men. They are not famous, but neither am I. They are just regular guys who love their families. They work regular jobs, drive plain old cars and work and worry about life’s events. They lead by example, seek God’s blessings in all they do and lean on one another. It was an honor to get to know them.

Life can be rough. It is a wonderful thing to have friends. Each of us has something to offer another. It may be a skill or perhaps just a hand up. Sometimes, it is just nice to have someone to talk with and share problems, plans and ideas. I am thankful for my friends. My hope is that I am a good friend to others!

As February comes to a close and the temperature once again dips low, I will reflect on the value of friends, dream about warmer days…and make plans for maple syrup making!


3 Sided Cow Shed
The cattle abode

The cattle abode

February 26, 2015

Our winter just wants to hang on with temperatures dipping below zero degrees F for days. Keeping the animals warm and dry can be a challenge. I use this open shed for my cattle. They choose when they want to go inside. The door faces south with a half wall on the east. The north and west sides are closed.

The cattle often spend the cold, crisp nights outside laying on the ground chewing their cud. The cold wet snow sometimes drives them inside, but even then, they stay outside a big part of the day and night. A good indicator that they are warm, is when snow lies on their backs. It sounds crazy, but their hair will insulate them enough that the snow doesn’t bother them.

It is a very different story when their hair gets wet. They lose their insulation power. They cannot get warm without getting dry first. They will hump up and shiver trying almost anything to stay warm. A simple 3 sided shed with a good roof is very serviceable for this purpose. Usually a windbreak is plenty for cattle. A row of bales, a board fence, a stand of pines or even the side of a building will work, but when they get wet they will really enjoy the protection of a roof, especially in winter.

My goal is to have a 3 sided shed in every paddock. The sheds also provide shade from the hot sun in summer. They make a great spot for protection from a spring hail storm or hard rain, not to mention the wet sleet days of late autumn. I also use them to store equipment in vacant paddocks over winter or perhaps the stick the grain drill as I rush from the fields to beat a rain storm.

These affordable sheds have many uses. I build mine from pine lumber sawed from trees on the farm. I use treated wood against the ground and for the poles that are the sheds foundation. I use “seconds” sheet steel for my roof material. The steel is half price, without holes and always white… on one side 😮

As winter slogs on, refusing to ease its grip, I stay warm shoveling manure from animal pens or wrapped in a homemade quilt. The animals stay warm in the barn or in sheds like the one pictured. I know all is well when the animals are standing outside soaking up the sun or even laying in the snow. If they are inside looking out or bedded down there, it usually means bad weather looms….or its already here…. and to think the uninformed call them…dumb animals!

Hay, It’s a Buffet
February 24, 2015, 9:48 pm
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It just tastes better

It just tastes better

February 24, 2015

Every day I bring the cows up to the feedlot to look them over and make sure that all is well. I have created extra work for myself. The cows now stand at the gate, demanding that I come get them. I give them a small splash of grain and a bale of the same hay that they have out back at the cow stable. They eat the grain, then devour the hay.

They make a big deal of pushing and shoving acting like it is the best hay they ever ate. I think it is just because I bring it to them. It’s like a cup of tea. One made and drank tastes good, but one made for you and brought to you while you sit on your butt in your favorite chair….Now, that tastes awesome!  I sometimes think I could stand and bawl for that too, for you see…. It is a moo..ving experience!

Patiently Waiting
Cinch waits while I fill the water trough

Cinch waits while I fill the water trough

February 23, 2015

The temperature plummets as I write. It is -5 F outside, crisp and cool. Chores are done and all the animals are tucked into bed. The barnyard is quiet as the animals begin to slumber, the horses chewing is the only sound. We are all waiting on spring!

The next several days shows us staying below freezing. I too must wait on spring and the busy maple syrup season. There is plenty to do just keeping all my animal charges fed and bedded…not to mention keeping water thawed out 😮

I need to be more like the dogs. They are patient. They find all sorts of ways to rest. They stretch when they rise before thundering off to play in the snow. On cold days they snuggle down and sleep in the soft straw. They don’t spend one minute worrying about anything…especially doing more work!

Not This Week!
February 22, 2015, 11:21 am
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Ready, Willing & Waiting

Ready, Willing & Waiting

February 22, 2015

The cold will continue for the next ten days. I have cancelled my vacation for the upcoming week, choosing instead to take it the end of March. Hopefully I won’t have to move it to April 😮

I tried to take a walk through the woods yesterday afternoon. It didn’t take too long to abandon that idea. The snow is deep, mealy and has a crust several inches down that cracks you on the shins with every step. It is very laborious just trying to walk, tapping trees will take extreme effort, when the time comes.

My friend Paul, in New York state, has a sugarbush with 6500 taps. They often tap wearing snowshoes. I talked with him last week. He said the snow is too soft to hold them up this year. They had spent a whole day wading in waist deep snow to make a repair to his vacuum line. At least I don’t have to do that!!

I will say the snow is beautiful. The trees are all painted white this morning as a winter fog has frozen to all the branches. Jack Frost was busy last night, much to my delight. After all, if we are going to be delayed, we might as well enjoy the view!

Drinking and Driving
February 21, 2015, 5:43 pm
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Even on a cold day, water tastes very good!

Even on a cold day, water tastes very good!

February 21, 2015

Once again, we are getting snowed upon. They said we would just get a couple of inches, they were wrong. We got six or seven inches so far, but it’s still snowing. The snow had settled some, but today, it is back to almost thirty inches on the flat. That is too deep to walk in for very long. Working on firewood is at a standstill because it’s just too tough to get around in the woods.

The extreme cold has delayed the maple syrup season. The next ten days still look too cold to start the sap running. The season will come. I am just trying to be as ready as possible. I have lots of plans and a long list of stuff to do, but the weather and the deep snow, have us in a holding pattern. Even driving the horses is tough any place other than the driveway.

Luckily, I can relax and drink coffee and tea. I have become an expert this year, at drinking coffee and looking out the window. I am working on my writing project since I have been forced inside. This is probably a good thing because my deadline is just five weeks away….so I must drive hard to finish. The syrup season will soon take up much of my time, so drinking hot coffee while I drive to the finish line, is working out perfect!

On a Treadmill?
February 19, 2015, 9:18 pm
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February 19, 2015

Are you feeling like you are on a treadmill? Does everyday seem the same? I have been there, feeling like I was stuck in a rut. I spent too many days wishing and hoping for a change, but then one day, I decided to make change happen. I decided to make my heart happy, giving roots to my restless soul.

After too many people telling me that farming is a dead-end, unless you have a huge mega farm, I set out to prove them wrong. I will say that I had the safety net, of an off farm job, but many farms in America are supplemented that way. Farmers sell seeds, drive school busses, or work at a government job like being a township trustee. Some have wives that work off the farm in factories, as nurses or some other vocation where they get insurance benefits and wages. My point here is this; having a safety net is not a shameful thing, it is a prudent thing.

I kept my job so as to pay down debt, both farm and personal, as well as having a steady paycheck and benefits. I choose to work my butt off on the farm, working around my off farm schedule just so I can keep my heart and hands immersed in farming. This farm grounds me, keeps me happy and feeds us to boot. I farm small, in the way of my grandparents. I have a very tough time leaving this place. It is my home, my haven and my pride and joy.

We built this place from a field of redbrush and goldenrod. I work to pay down debt, build infrastructure and buildings. My hope is to farm fulltime one day. I have had that goal in sight since the first day that I stepped foot on this farm. I knew that for me to create a living here, I had to create my market. I have done that by producing safe wholesome food, of great quality and insisting on that same quality from our processors, our help and even my family members.

I am hard on myself, but that makes for consistent product. I know that everything that I sell is a direct reflection on my name. I want my name to stand for honesty, quality and all things good. This attention to detail makes for good farm products. Good farm products makes for a good market. A good market makes my farm able to sell its products, keeping it in the black. This community based farming allows for a small farm to make it in a niche market. So contrary to all that negativity… I made it. It was worth all those days on the treadmill!


I Love You
February 13, 2015, 10:03 pm
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February 13, 2015

St Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. It is a day for lovers and all things sweet. It is not just love, but all things that say love. In my mind loyalty is an awesome thing. A good dog loves his owner beyond words. After all, you never hear them talk, do you? Yet, in their eyes, there is no doubt how much they love and trust you. It is the payback for feeding, caring and loving a pet.

I have a farm full of animals. Many of them could not care less who feeds them. The only thing they care about is that someone does. My horses, on the other hand, look for me, work for me and try to please me. The cats too seem to search me out. Wait to be petted, sometimes not too patiently, but they do wait. The dogs, especially Cinch, are a whole different story.

We adopted Cinch this past summer. He was aloof at first, paying more attention to the animals, than any of us. He loves small children, but his excitement makes them a little mad. They all seem to work it out. Cinch chases stuff for hours even tiring the kids out. He loves our animals and knows who belongs and who doesn’t. He is an asset to our farm.

I guess my favorite part about him, is his love for me. This dog idolizes me. He has wormed his way into my heart among the places where my favorite canines live. I hold him dear like Freckles, Lucy, King and my old friend Queenie. I see them in his quiet honest eyes and I swear, sometimes they look back at me. It is a beautiful thing and if that’s not love… I don’t know what is!

Talk About a Tank!


reworked sap hauling tank

reworked sap hauling tank

February 12, 2015

What you are looking at, is the result of many drawings, much thought and lots of steel. I wanted to make the tank so it would slide on runners when the woods were soft, yet still roll down the road when needed. I wanted it to be more user friendly, hence the ladder. I wanted it to be safer for my grandchildren, so it has a platform and a safety rail.

A couple of years ago, I made a mess of our trails from using this tank and our tractor to gather sap. We were left with rutted up roads and trails. I am hoping that once the tires start to sink, it will slide on the steel runners. The horses will pull this instead of the sled and tank we normally use…at least I hope it works out that way,  😮

When we used this trailer in the past, we had to jump up on a small step. My jumping up days are pretty much behind me. Even the young guys didn’t like it by the end of the job. I am hoping the ladder and handrail makes this thing much easier to use. It holds 300 gallons of sap, 90 more than the sled and tank.

I will use three horses to pull it I think, not because I need that much horsepower, but because I can’t stand the sound of my third horse whinnying from the barn. It will also get all three horses ready for spring plowing. Work hardened horses ready for spring work, makes me thankful..in fact I will say… “Tanks a lot!”

 Ain't she a beaut?!

Ain’t she a beaut?!

Warm Quilts and Cold Nights
February 12, 2015, 12:13 am
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Our Barn Quilt

Our Barn Quilt

February 11, 2015

I have been lucky enough to have slept under homemade quilts my entire life. My grandmas, my mom and now my wife has made them for me. The sleep, found under a pile of quilts on a cold night, is like no other. They are warm for sure, but I think it’s the love quilted into them that makes you feel safe and loved. When I am wrapped up in them, I feel like I am being hugged. That is a very content way to sleep.

My farm animals lay down in beds of old hay or straw. They sometimes lay on a deep bed of sawdust or woodchips, but I do my best to keep them warm and dry. I can’t say that I love them, but I do take very good care of them. I understand just how important a good night of sleep is for man and beast. It keeps us happy, well rested and ready for whatever the world throws at us.

The temperature will dip very low this weekend. The wind will whip and the cold will bite at us all. My animals will lay contented, chewing their cud. A dry bed and full bellies will allow them to shrug off the cold. I will sleep much like them. My belly will be full, my body will be warm, because someone loves me  enough to take very good care of me. I don’t know any way to say thank you for such wonderful things, so I say I love you….and I mean it!