A Little Help From My Friends
July 31, 2015, 7:08 am
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Flocking together

Flocking together

July 31, 2015

Often I write about what is new around here, the projects that I am working on and the ones in the planning stages. It is true that I stay busy here on the farm, but it is not all about me. Much of what I do is made possible by friends of mine and my family. Even on days when chores are the only thing accomplished, my wife works hard behind the scene cooking meals, packing lunches and washing a mountain of clothes, to keep me going.

I rely on different guys for work on motors, others for fabrication and some to just lend a hand on any job. I have friends who are builders, farmers and fellow maple syrup makers. We may not work together, but we bounce ideas off one another, talk about markets and trends or where to buy the best lumber. This network of friends is a blessing and something for which I am very grateful.

I realize that I too am a friend to others. It is important to make myself available to them on occasion. I have been searching my life a bit and fear that I am sometimes too busy to make that happen. I work a full time job, write a column in Rural Heritage magazine, am the township zoning inspector and run this farm. I have decided that something has to give. I am not sure yet just what, but I will create a break in my business to visit friends and family and to make myself a better friend to them.

They say “Life is not about the breaths you take, but rather the moments that take your breath.” I have my head down working perhaps a bit too much and may have missed a few of those moments. I vow to change my behavior and live more for others and enjoy “the ride” a little bit more. I will still be found here immersed in my farm work, but I will take more time to lean on the fork to visit 😮

Tank You, Tank You Very Much!
July 30, 2015, 9:23 pm
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1,100 Gallon Tank Ready for Install

1,100 Gallon Tank Ready for Install

July 30, 2015

Can you see my lip curling as you read the title? I am very happy to be bringing home my maple sap storage tank. It has been constructed three months ahead of schedule. I am very glad that we built the sugarhouse addition during the rainy days of June. Now, when the cold autumn winds are whipping across the farm, I can be snug in the sugarhouse plumbing up this awesome addition to our operation.

The tank was built by H&M Fabricating on Jug road in Burton, Ohio. These men build all sorts of maple equipment. They are very good at their craft. The use the equipment that they build. They understand the maple business from the tree to the bottle. Their welds are top shelf. Their products are tested before leaving the shop. I have known these men for years now and will recommend them highly.

It seems funny to be thinking about maple syrup season in mid-summer, but I think about it often. I am looking forward to the ease of cleaning this big tank. It will reduce many hours for me, compared to our old set up. I am very grateful to have saved the money for this key piece of equipment. It not only holds 1,100 gallons of sap, but it also will feed the evaporator in my gravity set up.

This reminds me of the recent speltz harvest. It too was gained by hard work, good weather and a blessing from Heaven.

Horse fuel!

Horse fuel!

Is That Ewe?
July 26, 2015, 7:16 am
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4-legged lawn mower

4-legged lawn mower

July 26, 2015

What a couple of weeks this has been! I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror yesterday and thought to myself, “Who the heck is that?” My eyes are red with dark circles around them. Someone stole much of my hair and what is left is almost all gray. My face and arms are sunburned except where my sleeves and hat sat. I even thought I looked a little stooped over. The only ray of sunshine was the glimmer in my eye from satisfaction.

The first cutting hay has all been made. The grain has been harvested and yesterday, I baled all of the straw and got it put away. We made repairs to our combine, poured a cement pad and erected a feed bin after making a trip to Indiana. There were chores that were done, gardens were weeded, livestock moved and grease fittings pumped at  regular intervals. The push is over and we are all caught up……now REST…until the next jobs pop up  😮

It’s Hot Dad
July 24, 2015, 3:49 pm
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Great is thy faithfulness

Great is thy faithfulness

July 24, 2015

My dog Cinch goes everywhere that I go. He runs back and forth as I go to the field. He waits by the gate while I work. He sits at my feet or lays nearby. If I move, he is going too. I could not ask for a better canine companion. He loves to ride in my truck, even if it is only for fifty feet. He will nudge my hand once in a while, but is not a pest. We are fast friends who look out for each other.

Lately, with all the farm work, we have made hundreds of trips to the fields and back, or at least it seems that way 😮  In every instance Cinch is with me….panting like mad. Today it is hot and dry. The straw is drying in the sun and most farm creatures are laying in the shade. I let Cinch into the breezeway where it is cooler. He gets fresh water often but what quenches his fire best is a word of praise and a pat on the head.

When I use the sickle bar mower, I keep Cinch in his kennel or in the breezeway. I don’t want an accident. When I was a boy, there were lots of farms with 3-legged dogs. Many farmers cut their hay with sickle bar mowers. The dogs would lay in the high grass or even jump at the sickle bar. The often fell victim to the sharp blades. I sure don’t want that to happen to my buddy!

Panting dogs, sweating men and drying straw are three things that can be counted on today. It reminds me of a time not so long ago when two little boys followed me around whining, “it’s hot dad.”  Dang I miss those days………….

Gobbling It All Up
July 23, 2015, 9:30 am
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The 2015 Spelt Harvest is finished

The 2015 Spelt Harvest is finished

July 23, 2015

My wife snapped this picture as I was making a turn. The header on the combine is raised all the way up. She said it looked like she was about to be gobbled up. I told her no problem, that thing loves to “eat” grain, not people. It worked wonderfully. My speltz, or spelt for some folks, have all been harvested. It is a great feeling. No rain, dry grain, no breakdowns and no accidents!

I have cleaned the combine, oiled and greased her all up for next year. She is 1967 vintage. In other words…still a kid 😮  I want to keep her under cover and well taken care of, so she will still be bringing in my harvest when she is old. I was very fortunate to find this machine. She was well taken care of by her former owner, Frank Mann. I will do my best to follow in his footsteps.

We adjusted the combine by getting “the book” out. I still have the original owner’s manual. She combined my speltz better than any machine I have ever used. She is almost as good as a threshing machine, but she takes a lot more work out of the job. I can see good from my perch up on the seat. I even watched my old cell phone fall in the header and disappear. It was like slow motion. I heard a little “zip” noise and my phone was gone…all except my “Otterbox” cover. It made it through.

Last night at supper, we ate summer squash and zucchini fresh from the garden. I gobbled up two helpings of the great tasting stuff. I mowed the straw from the speltz after supper. The work continues here on the farm as we hit mid-summer, but we are caught up and all is well. It’s a great life, especially if you don’t mind the work!

Rejoicing, Bringing In The Sheaves
July 21, 2015, 11:57 pm
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Gleaner E...for Excellant

Gleaner E…for Excellent

July 22, 2015

The speltz harvest is finally underway. I got one field done. The yield is good. The machine worked great and I had a good time. We still have about three and a half acres to go. I hope to finish tomorrow. I am not bringing in the sheaves, but the grain is coming in nicely…so I am rejoicing!

I harvest my spelt when they are very ripe. I don’t drop the combine header low enough to gather in a bunch of weeds and grass. I don’t want the green stuff mixed in with the grain. I want the grain to be dry and not heat up from the grass and seed heads that would otherwise mix in. This is my horse’s feed for a year. It needs to be the best that I can grow and harvest.

This grain is the fuel that runs my farm. It provides the energy for the draft horses, who partially power this farm. It’s like growing a fuel pump in my fields 😮  I am very happy with this year’s crop. The rain has gone for now. The fields are dry. I hope to mow the straw and weeds by tomorrow evening. There should be lots of bedding to bale up in a few days. This is an awesome crop for us.

It provides feed, fuel and carbon for our compost in the form of straw. This coming winter when the cold winds howl, our animals will be all snuggled down in a deep bed of straw, warm and comfortable. I am rejoicing now, but they will be rejoicing then! The horses will also benefit from not only this awesome feed, but from the dry, clean bedding as well.

2015 speltz harvest

2015 speltz harvest underway


Where Have You Bin
July 21, 2015, 7:25 am
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New Feed Bin from E R Polyfarm Products LLC

New Feed Bin from E R Polyfarm Products LLC

July 21, 2015

Connie and I drove to northern Indiana to pick up this bin we bought while attending Horse Progress Days. We had a great time, saw some beautiful country and enjoyed lots of laughs. The factory where the bins are made was even a highlight of our trip. We got to tour the place, watch a few things being made and see many items on their inventory list.

We only had one little hic-cup. We stopped at a national food chain for a milkshake and a coffee. After several minutes of waiting and a very incompetent staff, I was handed a yellow milkshake that had been hand stirred. The milkshake machine was not working correctly…no big deal…but come guys don’t BS me…I am an expert 😮

The good thing about the terrible milkshake was that it gave us one more thing to laugh about. Interstate 80 was a good drive, almost no construction. We had one little stop to adjust a strap, but other than that the trip was uneventful. We drove home stopping for a couple breaks and a nice lunch from the people at “Cracker Barrel”. The trip home took seven hours including our stops….then we set the bin up to boot!

My friend Ron met me. He is a perfectionist who is also very good at math. We divided the cement pad to find exact center. The next step was to make a perfect six foot circle. We placed the legs on the circle and fastened them down. It was a good job. The bin is very stable. I am hoping for many years of service out of this bin that will store our farm grown speltz. My draft horse’s fuel for the entire year.

Everybody Pitched In
July 19, 2015, 8:00 am
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My almost 1-year old grandson helping with the harvest

My almost 1-year old grandson helping with the harvest

July 19, 2015

At dark last night, our round bales were all off the fields. The combine was completely repaired and adjusted to take the speltz off. A new pad has been poured for a grain bin for additional storage. The chores were all done and the greenheads had finally stopped biting! It was a wonderful evening 😮

Getting all that work done was only possible because everyone helped. The combine repairs and cement pad would exist only in my mind, if it weren’t for great friends. Sure, I helped with both jobs, but I was chasing my tail keeping right with the hay harvest. The weather was perfect. Our dry hay, though made late, is some of the best quality that I have made in three years. I am very pleased with it.

There are not enough words to say thank you sometimes, when a friend comes along and bails you out. I only hope that I too am that friend to others. They don’t seek pay or even the thanks for a job well done. They simply want to lend a hand, use their talents and walk away feeling good. I know I sure felt good last night as I stood at the pasture gate and reflected on all that was accomplished this week.

I am grateful for friends who could stop by and even a few others who didn’t’. What I mean is, they knew I was way too busy for a visit, but also knew that when things slow down, I will converse, visit and run off at the mouth until I bore them half to death about this place I call home. I am also very thankful for my wife who fed extra mouths, kept the cold drinks coming and waited patiently for me to end my day…most nights after eleven o’clock

“Many hands make light work”, this verse from the Bible is especially true for work around a farm. The work can be tedious, monotonous, hard, dirty and hot. I love every minute of it, but it is sure a wonderful thing when friends lend a hand. It is a wonderful feeling when family and friends show up..it makes you think maybe you did a few things right after all  😮

By Golly We Got!
July 18, 2015, 6:19 am
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Even Cinch can't believe that Jake can work on hay in short pants!

Even Cinch can’t believe that Jake can work on hay in short pants!

July 18, 2015

What a day! The weather looked rainy almost all day. It even sprinkled for about 3 minutes around 9:30, but the real rain never came. We almost gave up on doing hay, but like I said yesterday, I will keep looking forward and not skyward. It was the right thing to do.

We tedded the hay about 11:00. I went out with the round baler at 2:00pm and started roaring around the field in the hopes that I would get a few bales made. I never expected to finish those last two fields as thunder boomed overhead, but I did. The last bale rolled out of the machine at 7:00pm. I almost shouted, but instead said a little prayer of thanks.

It sure didn’t pay to listen to the weatherman yesterday. He was full of doom and gloom…and so was the radar. It rained all around us, but our place stayed dry. The sunset was red as I was putting the equipment away, signaling the promise of a great day to come. Tired, sore and happy, I trudged into the house at 10pm after pulling the radiator out of the combine, but that is another story 😮

Up Up and Away!
July 17, 2015, 9:14 am
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Jake loads the elevator

Jake loads the elevator

July 17, 2015

Yay!!!  Finally after missing half a summer, we got some dry hay made. We have more down and almost ready. Rain threatens, but no worries here, if it gets wet I will roll it up in plastic for silage! It is awesome to have a back up plan. Yesterday was not with out its problems, but we overcame each and every one. I do have a shear pin to replace on the baler, but that is an easy job.

The combine wouldn’t start as we prepared for the speltz harvest. We found many little things, but apparently the mice building a big straw nest in the muffler, was my biggest problem! It’s all good now.

Today I will wrestle with the last of our first cutting hay. I will adapt with the weather and try looking forward instead of skyward…. Tomorrow I will know just how today went, no point in worrying about it today!