RicelandMeadows


It’s The Day For It
April 30, 2015, 2:51 pm
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All Tuckered Out

All Tuckered Out

April 30, 2015

After a late night in the oat field, IĀ am a bit lazy today. I have done my chores and a few extra things, but I can’t seem to talk myself into any big projects. It’s a bit cool, with passing showers mixed into the day. Twice I dragged a few tools out, only to have the rain start again. I said, the heck with it and gave myself permission to just do nothing šŸ˜®

There is plenty to do and tomorrow is another day as they say. So, I will rest and let my mind wander through my thoughts. I work much better with a clear mind and a rested body. I don’t work like IĀ once did, but I’m not used up yet!



Beautiful Day…Oats are planted!
April 29, 2015, 10:56 pm
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The back pond, home to a goose family

The back pond, home to a goose family

April 29, 2015

I got up this morning and had an idea. I would plant oats in my spent corn field. I am not trying to get a grain crop. I just want to plant a quick crop of additional pasture. It should be ready by mid June. I may only get a week or two grazing from this field, but I used my bin oats to plant it, at a cost of about twenty five dollars, plus some diesel fuel. I can’t feed ten cows for two weeks much cheaper than that. So I say hooray for oats! The awesome grazing extender!

I worked all day on this project, along with farm work. The animals all had to be fed, pens and stalls cleaned, and water troughs filled. I also went and got a load of mulch for our flower beds. Perhaps the mulch is wishful thinking, but the weekend looks nice and I can get two young men to help me šŸ˜®

I hope to start back on my firewood cuttingĀ for the sugarhouse next week. If I push hard, I should have the woodshed filled before time to cut hay! Now with the oats out of the way, the only other big farm job is to empty the compost bin. That too will be a big job, but I can do it in one long day. The sun stays out until after nine pm. It gets up early these days too. All I have to do is work with old Mr. Sol, and my work will disappear …. now, talk about a beautiful day!

The compost bin, cooking and waiting

The compost bin, cooking and waiting



Raised Bed gardening
April 28, 2015, 7:45 pm
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Our garden entrance

Our garden entrance

April 28, 2015

This garden space was once used completely. Now, there are not so many of us, so the whole space is not needed. I arranged these raised beds to be able to mow in between and around the ends. I can drive down through the garden to hoe, harvest or add compost when needed. The added height will dry us out sooner and make our wet, cold springs less of a concern. It will also be easy to root zone water when needed.

I like the new look. I am sure that I can raised plenty of food for the two of us. The one side of the garden I left so it can be plowed and used for things like potatoes and sweet corn. Who knows ? I may one day only use the raised bed system and add more. This season will be our first with this set up. We do have two raised beds of strawberries. Those beds are thirty inches high, so no bending over to pick berries.

I hope this makes for easy gardening as I age šŸ˜®Ā  I used to focus so hard on gardening that I almost took the fun out of it. I hate weeds and enjoy a clean, neat garden. I have enough to do without obsessing over a few weeds. I hope that I can stay just as focused, but in these smaller spaces, spend far less time hoeing. I think this will be fun.

I am considering small high tunnels to be used in conjunction with the raised beds. This will extend my gardening season on both ends. I think by having soaker hose to water when needed, along with the warmer soil, I can continue to raise award-winning produce, but with half the effort! I also plan to create beds for a blueberry patch, some herbs, asparagus, and some thornless blackberry bushes. In short,Ā I’m just going to have fun with this space.

I am planning to grow concord grapes up the entrance arbor. We just want enough to make jelly and to see the nice arbor. I have planted rhubarb and onions so far, It is fun to plan for the upcoming season as well as planning for the future. This will make for a great space to spend a few hours each week once I retire. I figure if I plant it now, there may be something to see by then šŸ˜®

The best part of this project is that more than two thirds of the material was left over from other jobs or salvaged. The dirt was left over from the building of my son’s house. Compost will be applied and mixed in once we clean the manure storage area this spring. I want the very best stuff for these beds. I like it when you plant seeds then have to step back quickly, so the growing plants don’t knockĀ your hat off !

Here we grow!

Here we grow!



Hello Ladies!
April 27, 2015, 2:34 pm
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10,000 ladies arrive at the farm

10,000 ladies arrive at the farm

April 27, 2015

Last Friday my bee packages arrived. I of course was not ready šŸ˜®Ā  Oh well, I dropped almost everything else and scrambled to get my new Top Bar bee hives ready. I want to try these old/new hive bodies for raising bees on the homestead. I sold or gave away most of my equipment that revolved around the traditional Langstroth style of boxes and frames. I just got tired of losing bees, maintaining equipment and storing stuff to keep wax moths out etc. I guess it was part of my trying to downsize some of my work…problem is… I miss having the bees here.

I ordered two Top Bar hives. My plan was to hive them with purchased bees. New bees, new woodware, new plan, everything should be great…right?Ā  Wrong! I forgot to get my hives put together until I got the call saying my bees are here! Thank goodness my wife helped me prepare. She helped with assembly and she painted the beeswax on the frames. The beeswax guides the ladies where to build their comb.

Connie paints on the beeswax

Connie paints on the beeswax

We got the hives all built last Friday night. Other folks go out to dinner or a movie on Friday nights. We spent ours screwing……hive boxes together šŸ˜® Once the were completed, all I had to do was get the bees put inside. I have handled many wild swarms, but this was my first experience with purchased bees. I give many thanks for the folks at YouTube. I spent some time watching and learning!

I placed the hives in a good location, sprayed the inside with sugar water, placed food in there and then prepared the bees for placement. On YouTube, nobody wore their bee suits…I sure as heck did. I am not afraid of the occasional sting, but I also know the kind of pandemonium that can ensue when working bees. Much better to be dressed and prepared than running like a madman for your veil.

I followed the instructions laid out in YouTube and it worked great! I twisted some grass and installed it at the hive entrance to reduce the opening size. I will remove it later, once the hive has built up and can defend itself from intruders. I dumped the bees into the hive after hanging the queen inside in her cage. The bees will removeĀ candy cork that holds her inside. Then the work begins as the queen sets up housekeeping.

I placed the bees, installed the food then put the lid on the hives…yes, hives, I ordered two packages of bees! I waited outside the hives watching the new neighbors acclimate themselves to the neighborhood. As I left the bee yard, only about 1000 bees were in flight around the two hives. I am hoping all is well. I will check them on a sunny day next week. In the meantime they will settle down and settle in. Welcome home ladies!

Moving in day!

Moving in day!

Top Bar hives are not new. They have been used around the world for centuries. They allow the bees to draw honeycomb just as they would do in the wild. They make their bee cells the correct size for their larva, not larger ones like commercial hives do. The larger cells allow for Varoa mite infestation and other problems. Once the bees draw out comb and fill it with capped honey, all I have to do is slice it off and strain it. It is easy. It is natural and it is as good for the bees asĀ it is for a busy farmer.



Water Babies
April 24, 2015, 10:38 am
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Little pigs at the fountain

Little pigs at the fountain

April 24, 2015

Winter is over, so I have put my homemade pig waterers back into service. The curious piglets figured them out quickly. They were soon fighting over the nipple. In a very short time they aren’t thirsty anymore, but they love to play with the water nipple. I guess its like kids and a spigot… any reason to play in the water is great!Ā  šŸ˜®

At first, it’s cute. They monkey around delightfully playing in the water. By day three or four it becomes annoying for the farmer. There is always one smart Alec who learns to hold the nipple in his teeth and let the water flow out of his mouth…and ALL OVER the floor. Then again, just like small children, the pigs, run, splash and play in the water. They have a great time until their entire pen is soaked…even their nice straw beds. Like a dutiful parent, I clean up the mess, remake their beds and offer no water at bedtime šŸ˜® This cycle however, continues until the pigs go off to freezer camp!

In summer, the mess must be kept to a minimum otherwiseĀ the flies find great places to lay their eggs….and what a yuk fest that is!Ā  Having water readily available is necessary and it helps the pigs grow. It is much better once the pigs are out on pasture. They still play in the water, but the dirt soaks upĀ most of it. The pigs stillĀ find a way to make a sloppy place to play. They don’t sweat so the mud keeps them cooler. I guess all this mess making now is just good practice for later.

I make my waterers out of a 15 gallon plastic jug/barrel. I use two pipe flanges with the barrel sandwiched in between. I use silicone caulk to keep it from leaking around the bolt holes and face of the flanges. I then drill a hole in the center of the flange and screw in a pipe nipple, then a bushing and last, the pig nipple. It is important to set your pig nipple up for gravity flow. They come from the factory set up for pressure.



A Pig or a mouse..Come on Squeak Up!
April 21, 2015, 8:25 pm
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Moo and her buddy

Moo and her buddy

April 21, 2015

This pig cracks me up. She looks like a mouse sometimes! She is growing slow, just like I want. She will be a momma some day. I want her to be healthy, strong and tame. She is all of the above and fun to look at too. My granddaughter calls her Moo. She thinks the young pig looks like a cow. Me, I think she looks like a mouse šŸ˜®

The spring green up continues. It is just nice to sit and look at the landscape. Soon bugs will be out, grass will be needing mowed and it will be hot. I like spring and fall. Both sides of summer are loaded with beautiful color and adventure. The flowers at both times of the year punctuate the scene with their beauty.

Our project list is looking manageable. I have plenty of things to keep me busy, but looking at piglets, green grass and the first flowers of springĀ are at the top of my list right now. I will give myself permission to reflect on old friends, look for the beauty in the little things and celebrate the cycle of life.



Honey Do List
April 19, 2015, 6:59 pm
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Nice to see the green again

Nice to see the green again

April 19, 2015

We spent the weekend working on projects from a big list my wife and I made. It included such things as washingĀ  the house, picking up “stuff” from the yard our dog Max finds and carries there. We built some raised beds in preparation for the gardening season. We got the flower beds ready for mulch and restored order to several trivial, yet annoying things.

Chores are an every day, two times a day affair. The maple syrup season puts everything else on hold, until it is done. I played catch up these last two days, but having a list kept me on track. My wife is pleased with what we got done. We did not mow the lawn for the first time this year. I hope I don’t regret that….especially as the rain is now falling…in very large drops šŸ˜®

One good thing, having paused with farm work to do the little things keeps smiles on faces as the spring planting season bears down on us. A large pile of firewood is waiting to be cut and split. I want that job done and over before it’s time to cut hay. Farm work keeps a guy busy, but he must set enough time aside for the things that are important to his wife. It pays to remember those little things!

The horses had the weekend off. They will be back at it soon. We have a little plowing and some firewood logs to skid. I will work on these projects as the weather lets me. When I can’t plow because its too wet… I can always work on wood. I am breaking in a couple of new hired hands. So far they are standing the work well. I have not held back and they keep coming back, so I think it’s going very well šŸ˜®



Wash Day
April 18, 2015, 8:50 pm
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Cleaning off the sugar mud!

Cleaning off the sugar mud!

April 18,2015

What a beautiful day we had today. It was 70 degrees F, sunny and wonderful. The grass is getting greener by the day. It was a great day to enjoy. We washed the horse’s harnesses today. After slogging through mud while gathering maple sap, the harnesses were covered in the stuff to say the least. This is one awesome positive about my bio-plastic harness. Unlike like the heavy leather ones I had for years, these can be pressure washed and made almost new. I am pleased with the results.

As I was enjoying the day and making plans for the days to come, my phone rang. It was a call I had been expecting, but not wanting to get. My friend in Pennsylvania who has been battling cancer for the last three years, lost his battle today. ItĀ was with mixed emotion and heavy heart that I spent the rest of my day. My friend is in a better place. His pain and suffering are now gone, but I am selfish, wishing he was here at plowing time.

He lived his entire life farming. Almost all of it, horse farming. What I mean is, he used horses to do 99% of his farm work. They even pulled the feed cart twice a day to feed his steers. He was a man who loved breaking and training colts. He had an eye for young stock. They loved his voice and manner and responded to himĀ easily. He was quite a guy. A great friend who I will truly miss. So, I will celebrate his life every time I pick up my lines. He will walk my fields with me just as my ancestors do. I will tell his stories and keep him close. I will let him live through me. Rest in peace Jonathan Lawton.



Fleeting Memories
April 13, 2015, 10:12 am
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Firelight dancing in the darkness

Firelight dancing in the darkness

April 13,2015

This past weekend, my memories rushed in several times. I will say that all of them were good, the memories that is. Unfortunately, a friend of mine since childhood died. He was a very fun and funny guy. His children and mine knew each other well. His son and mine played baseball and hunted together. They share a relationship that continues to this day.

When I got the word that he had passed, I remembered many fun times we shared and several times where our antics got us into trouble. Bob could draw like a professional. His features reminded me of Jay Leno, but Bob was much funnier! He had lost his father when he was young, so I think he sought out the good in people and found happy thoughts no matter what!

I spent much of my idle time last week thinking about Bob and fun times in high school. I thought about him and his wife as young adults. They lived a life of self sufficiency. Bob, an avid hunter, provided many meals for his family. His trade was that of a tool and die maker, but his love was making hunting bows. He was a skilled craftsman who turned out beautiful bows. Each one wasĀ built by hand form his own designs.

I remember one afternoon in the early 1980’s. I stopped at Bob’s on my way home from work. As I walked up to him, it looked as if he had been in a terrible fight. Both of his eyes were black and blue. His nose was swollen, yellow and red in color, with a nasty gash most of the way across. The black stitches looked painful, sticking out of his swollen nose. “My Gosh Bob, what the heck happened?” , I asked.

He broke out into infectious laughter. Before long I started to chuckle. He said, You should see your face! You look like you saw a ghost!” Before long both of us were holding our sides with laughter, yet I still didn’t know what had happened. Finally, after we regained our composure, he told me what had happened.

He got an idea for a new bow design, The handle and limbs were laminated, then cut from the formed block of glued wood and composite material. Bob was just starting the process of making his own bows, so this was during the development stage. He stepped out the backdoor of his house. He carefully inserted an arrow. He drew down on the target, bringing the bow to full draw. That was the point when the bow broke in half. One piece flew back in an instant, with great force,Ā striking him in the nose and face!

His nose hung from his face by a piece of skin, bleeding profusely. His vision was blurred and his head ached. Bob still had enough humor left to joke with the doctors and nurses while they patched him up! He went on to fix the design flaw and turn out beautiful, functional hunting bows. My son owns one, signed by Bob. It is a treasured piece of his hunting collection.

Bob leaves a wife, a daughter, a son and three granddaughters. His love of life and great humor will help them all as they grieve. His impish smile can be seen on the faces ofĀ his children and grandchildren. I, and many others will remember him with fondness and for his clown antics. I guess it was spoken best by Bob’s best friendĀ at Bob’s celebration of lifeĀ services. He played guitar and sang, “You got a friend”, by James Taylor. The only friend Bob didn’t have…was someone he had not yet met.



Signs of Spring
April 11, 2015, 8:43 pm
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Wild Onions

Wild Onions

April 11, 2015

My sheep were sold last summer, so my fields are void of baby lambs this spring. I do miss the soft bleats on the wind. I am sure to miss the bouncy babies playing in the pastures. The mothers calling their offspring is also only heard in my memory. It rings bittersweet in my head. I will indeed miss the youngsters, but not lambing time right on the heels of maple syrup season.

I look for other signs of spring. Wild onions growing in the leaf litter of the woods,Ā daffodils blooming in the sun and buds on the trees. The grass is starting to green up. The cattle snip green shots of the new grass. The eat it anywhere they find it. Their manure shows that they found plenty of it šŸ˜®

Spring has sprung. The peepers are singing much of the night. The spelt is bright green and growing in the fields. The compost pile steams steadily as the red wing black birds fly about. Garden seeds wait to be planted and the strawberry beds start to wake up. Soon the hot summer sun will bake us in our skin, but for now it kisses the grassĀ like a mother ewe nurturing her baby lambs.