Pot of Gold
My Pot ofGold

My Pot of Gold

May 31, 2015

It’s hard to believe that we will say good-bye to the month of May today, but it is true. After several extra shifts at work, a long endless list of chores and some rainy weather, I am just a touch behind. I will be happy anyway! The rains have pushed the pastures and hay fields to grow lush and green. It has watered many transplanted plants and is nourishing the growing speltz as it makes its heads of grain.

I work best with a list of stuff to do and pushed for time. What luck! 😮 This year I am right on target. The warm soil will soon get planted with this years garden. A few early plants are growing well and I am sure the main garden will be off and growing soon. I have yet to plant a small field of dent corn for the animals. This small field is mostly to grow next years seed. I saved some nice ears from the best plants. These seeds will provide next years seed with vitality and tailor made for our area. Each year they develop into corn best suited for our area…wonderful process!

Our boar is in with a couple new gilts. They are getting to know each other, sharing meals and sleeping places. In no time at all…they will be sharing families. Next week the entire pig herd will go out on summer pasture. The sows will have their babies in makeshift huts in the open air. The piglets will be born in nests made from straw, weeds and long grass. The little ones will soon follow momma all over the field playing, rooting and nursing in the sunshine and open space.

I am about to enjoy a few days of time off from my off farm job. The projects list will be checked off. I have made many strides in preliminary work. I should be able to whack many things off that list, including some time for family and friends. My farm work pleases me, relieves stress and makes me whole. It is a wonderful thing to know your place in the universe and I truly have found mine.

Pathways and Footprints
May 26, 2015, 10:33 pm
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Summer Sap Road

Summer Sap Road

May 26, 2015

In my woods there are sap roads and pathways. On these trails you will find footprints, mine and those of woodland animals. I go there sometimes to think, to pray or just to be alone. I find this place to be magical. I have watched it change in many ways since I became the owner and caretaker. I appreciate having all this green space to enjoy and share. I salute people who also place value on places such as these.

Among my friends is a man named Mark who is a champion for Ashtabula County. He has been in charge of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. He will be leaving that post and taking over the helm at the 503 Corp. I am sure he will do an awesome job there as well, but my thoughts tonight revolve around his energy for open space, parks, vineyards and damn near anything Ashtabula County.

I share his passion for gardening, homesteading, family and self reliance. We have shared many conversations regarding market gardening, the greenway trail, connections, networking and apple cider! I helped him learn to raise and butcher home grown pork. I has been a fun journey to watch, but better still, to be along for the ride. I am pleased the Mark has found another niche for himself here in our county. It is good for him and it is good for us!

I will walk in my woods. I will share this farm through word and deed. I will get my energy from the footprints and pathways in my woods and on my heart. This farm touches me and restores me. I find peace here. I make friends here. I am proud to say that I was able to help a young man embrace the values he had all along. I am proud to be a mentor, a friend and a fellow small farmer. Congratulations and good luck Mark Winchell

Steering to the Finish
May 23, 2015, 10:30 pm
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Auto rotate... I think not!

Auto rotate… I think not!

May 23, 2015

Okay, so I still have not figured out how to use a computer and it’s many functions, otherwise this picture would be rotated 90 degrees! I am okay with my ability to drive a keyboard….mostly because I am the guy who drove that skidsteeer up into my trailer. I had a big two days working off my farm. The first job was moving dirt. Today’s job was bringing home four big loads of firewood to be used in the sugarhouse.

I thought I would be done in no time, but both days got filled up. I was planning on some field work and cutting some wood here at home, but my skidsteer jobs lasted longer than I thought. No mater, it was good to get them done and everyone, including me, is happy with the results. Now, back to the business of farming!

My hired hands and I are pretty well caught up around here. The last of the field crops should be in by the end of next week, weather permitting. We have lots of wood to do, but are on schedule so all is well. The horses are ready to work. Seed has been made ready to plant and the hay fields are growing fast and looking great. The growing season is in full swing so I won’t be spending time at the computer learning how to rotate pictures 😮

Working with Friends
May 16, 2015, 8:48 pm
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My pal Duke

My pal Duke

May 16, 2015

Today we worked in the drizzle some, but by noon we had four large cherry trees up ended and laying on the ground. Two of the trees were cut up and loaded onto my trailer. The trees were in the yard of a friend. They were in a bad spot, dropping their abundant cherry fruit into their swimming pool. The birds too dropped stuff…making an ugly mess on new furniture cushions.

I enlisted the help of a friend. I have know this young man since he was seven or eight. He was a home schooled lad who grew up to do anything that he sets his mind too. His skill set amazes me. He can fix anything. He likes all things that have to do with homesteading. He is polite, strong in will, character and body too. He can climb trees like a squirrel and cut trees like a beaver. I needed help for this intense job, close to houses and fences. I called my pal Tice and he came. He and I made short work of the trees.

I also took my hired hands along. They are great help. I got to mentor them and introduce them to a man that they can aspire to be like. They pulled brush, loaded the trailer and helped us secure and pull down the trees. We had a good day. We made a great start to filling the sugarhouse woodshed. It’s been awhile since I swung my chainsaw for the better part of a day. I awakened old muscles…they are not happy. I have to keep telling myself that “pain is weakness being released”… Otherwise, I’d feel like an old fat man  😮

My pal Duke will help me tomorrow. I have plans for the horses. The rain has slowed down field work, but there are still many things to do…just the way I like it!

Flower Power
May 15, 2015, 9:37 pm
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Our fountain's new purpose

Our fountain’s new purpose

May 15, 2015

In my youth, in the 1960’s and early 1970’s I remember people holding signs and marching for all sorts of things, mostly an end to the war in Vietnam. The slogans said things like; Make Love Not War, Peace and Flower Power. The times were turbulent and uneasy, but those messages still hold true today. I am sure that if you asked any soldier, he would much rather be making love than be engaged in a firefight. Peace, is why he is there and a wonderful thing to fight for and the power in flowers is almost beyond measure.

Flowers are given at births. They make special occasions sweet. They are often the precursor to making love and have gotten more than one guy out of trouble. Flowers are given as remembrances at the time of death and mark graves everywhere. Flowers brighten our days, add color to our landscape and scent to the breezes. In short, they are awesome!

Our fountain was nice to watch as the water trickled over it. The gentle sound made you think of “P…eace”  😮 Our water level had to be watched all of the time. The wind would splash just enough water out to be a pain in the ass. The hose had to be nearby to keep the water level above the pump. Grandchildren loved to play in the water. The dogs thought it was a giant water bowl and it was only functional for about 5 months of the year.

My wife wanted to plant flowers in it this year. I welcomed the idea. It looks nice. it still resembles a fountain and the dogs stay out of it. Now, if the cats don’t start using it as a large litter box…we got it made! It will fill in and stay beautiful until autumn. It gives my wife a nice place to garden without having to kneel. I think it is a nice touch to our backyard landscape. Thanks to our son and daughter-in-law for the idea!

Root Zone Watering
Newly planted raspberries, thirsty no more

Newly planted raspberries, thirsty no more

May 12, 2015

Spring work continues to fill our days. One of our big projects continues to take shape. We are making the raised beds better as often as we can. I added soaker hoses to the raspberry and blueberry beds. Overhead watering is not only wasteful, it opens the door to many plant diseases. Overhead watering is not like a rain storm. It can give your brambles and other plants, the equivalent to athlete’s feet…. but even the berry bushes can’t scratch themselves!

Watering plants at the root zone is very beneficial. Now that our beds are raised, we have to be more aware of the micro-climate we have created. The soil will be warmer and drier. The sun and wind evaporate the moisture quicker than in a conventional garden. This makes it easier to garden in wet times or earlier in the year, but the reduced soil moisture needs to be monitored. A plant needs a inch of water per week in the growing season.

I keep a rain gage handy to see what Mother Nature applied. I consider temperatures and wind conditions. I then try to keep somewhere around that inch. A simple trick for the novice is; place a sardine can under the soaker hose. When the can is pretty much full…that is an inch of water. That water was applied right where it will do the most good.

Keep an eye on soil moisture by feel, by look and eventually experience will make it easy to know, ” when to say when.” The best part is, spending time in the garden checking out the water makes you want to pull weeds, stake up a plant or pick a fresh vegetable. Time spent in a garden will ease your mind and feed your body as well as your soul.

BS and many others!
May 10, 2015, 10:26 pm
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The home of our farms fertility

The home of our farms fertility

May 10, 2015

My day comes to a close. Today was Mother’s Day. Our children all talked to “mom”. It made her day and mine too. As I thought about next weeks “to-do” list, I realized how perfect it was that it is Mother’s Day. Our farm feeds us thanks in part to Mother Earth. It seems fitting to be feeding the soil over the next several days. This manure/compost pile will be reduced to nothing by the end of the week.

There is Bullsh*t, cow dung, horse, pig and chicken manure in here. It is all mixed with straw, old hay, wood chips and sawdust. Only the fresh crap stinks. The rest, mixed well with the carbon materials, smell more like dirt. On foggy mornings, when the air is heavy, the earthy, stinky odor can be a bit much. When we get to this point…it’s time to feed the soil :o)

I have a full week of things to do, but this will be our main focus. The horses and I will do some every day. I load it, they pull the manure spreader and unload it. It is teamwork at its best. The weather for the next seven days is unsettled, with rain and thunderstorms looming. We spread a thin layer being ever mindful of the potential runoff. I want the goodness on my fields, not in the creeks. Once we get our pile spread, much of it will be plowed under, incorporated to feed this years corn crop.

Once we get to the front of the pile, where the pile has composted longest, some will go on our new raised beds. A two to three inch layer will be added, then tilled into the topsoil. Raw manure should never be used where food crops will be grown that season. There are many schools of thought, but my rule of thumb, is one year. Compost manure for a whole year before you put it on your garden beds. Food safety MUST be your number one concern.

This is a spring ritual. I want it done when the soil is warm and the land dry. I don’t want to make ruts. I get the most out of our compost by applying it at the right time. Spring through early fall works best for me. I can compost stuff pretty fast when the days are warm. In winter the process slows, but a properly made pile continues to cook. It is a steamy, foggy , cooking pile of biomass …and that is a wonderful thing!

My Summer “do”
May 9, 2015, 8:01 pm
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OMG...My new haircut

OMG…My new haircut

May 9, 2015

My name is Cinch. Many of you have seen me before. My master is lazy tonight, so I am writing the BLOG. Today, my mistress took me to a nice lady’s house. The lady met us in her driveway. She took a look at my matted, long stinky coat and smiled. I wanted to tell her that I am usually more handsome, but I have been enjoying watching the big sows. I found a cool spot from which to lay and watch…. I didn’t know it was pig crap!

My bad hair day started a month ago when the mud replaced snow on the sap roads. I go everywhere with my master, so a little mud wasn’t going to stop me. The cockleburs and prickers didn’t slow me down much either. I found lots of places to wait on him, often in a puddle or creek. He brushed me quite often, but the animal bedding, garden mulch and poo stayed stuck on my coat.

I soon became hot as the weather warmed. I found refuge in the farm pond 😮  The cool water felt good, rinsed off some of my dirt and only smelled a little like a fish. My coat was thick and black. These past days of muggy hot weather were making me miserable. My mistress said the lady would make me feel cooler and boy was she right!

I got a bath right in the driveway. The lady didn’t seem to appreciate my wonderful odor of farm and fish. She was wonderful. She soon learned to cope and we were having a great time. She removed my entire coat in a mere 4 hours. I almost didn’t recognize myself. My friend Max even growled at me when we got home! I swear those darn cats even snickered at me. I feel good. I think I favor my master now, both of us a bit too fat with short gray hair!

Planning Ahead
May 8, 2015, 8:50 pm
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Renovating the old strawberry bed

Renovating the old strawberry bed

May 8, 2015

I built these nicely raised beds for gardening in my old age. We plant our strawberries in one bed and garden vegetables in the other. We keep the strawberries in each bed for a total of three years. During the off years, we grow our vegetables like green beans, salad greens, carrots and any other veggie that is hard on the back when picking 😮

Once we pull out the old strawberry plants, we add topsoil and compost to raise the bed from it settling. The compost enriches the soil. The crop rotation done by swapping our veggies around, keeps our plants healthy. Strawberries are in the nightshade family as are tomatoes and potatoes, for this reason we don’t plant the close relatives in succession of each other.

I can see, perhaps one day in our future, planting sweet corn in these beds just to break up the growing cycle, confuse the bad bugs and have some ears to brag about. I would have to pick the ears with a step ladder, unless they blew over, but wow would they be healthy plants! This compost soil mix makes plants thrive. We grow vegetables in abundance.

I plan to make some “covered wagon bows” to turn my raised beds into high tunnels. These little greenhouses will provide food for us for at least nine months out of the year. I have too much to do with the farm for now, but I am sure one day, these two beds will become awesome food factories. It will give plenty to do, keep me out of trouble and provide us food to boot!

Making Progress
May 7, 2015, 9:23 pm
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Newly planted raspberries

Newly planted raspberries

May 7, 2015

What a week! I have been busier than a one-armed wall paper hanger 😮  I took pigs off to freezer camp today. We were up and moving early. Chores got done and my horses all got a spring time haircut. We mowed the lawn and trimmed it too. I spent quality time with my cousin whom I haven’t seen in months due to his demanding job.

We continue to lay out our new garden plans with the raised beds. Some of our beds will become the home for our homestead fruit crops. The strawberries have worked out well, so other fruit plants will follow. Today we moved some raspberry plants to one of the new beds. They look well, nicely planted and covered with a bark mulch.

We will be off in search for blueberry plants next. I am fussy. I prefer locally grown berry bushes over farm store and department store “cheap” ones. I will pay a little more, after all, these will be the last ones I will ever plant. By the time they are spent, old and done…so I will be 😮

The rhubarb that we planted weeks ago is doing great. It has rooted in well. It takes all the willpower that I have, not to cut the new plant growth. I have some mint plants to move to a small yet to be built bed. Mint tea over ice is a summertime favorite. I acquired the taste for it long ago in my grandma Rice’s kitchen.

We planted onions today and planned for the balance of the garden layout. The fields are wet, so farm work is on hold for a bit while mother nature waters her plants. It will all work out. It always does. I will sleep well tonight after a great day on the farm. My mind is clear because I know we are making progress.