Footprints in the Snow
November 30, 2015, 9:36 pm
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November 30, 2015

Today marks the last day of November. As I pause to think about this month gone by, I am reminded that “time marches on”. The month flew by and this year is quickly fading into a memory. My birthday is less than two weeks away and I will say goodbye to another year that way too.

I could pout for a few hours as I think of the time that slipped away, but I prefer to dwell instead, on the memories this year has made. I can string a lifetime of them together and not feel one bit sad. In fact, I feel a little bit proud for having made it this far!

I remember once, as a young boy, my cousin and I parachuting off our chicken coop. We made parachutes out of a big sheet of plastic and some baling twine. We tucked the plastic into our belts and climbed to the roof of the coop. I was oldest, so I went first.

I ran as fast as I could along the peak of the roof. I jumped as high as I could and yanked the chute out of my belt. I fell to the ground, into a thicket of brambles like a plastic covered rock. The air in my lungs left my body in one gush. I rolled on the hard ground in agony, trying to catch my breath. My cousin was doubled up in laughter and choked to finally ask if I was okay?

I told him that I was fine and to go ahead and try it, but I cautioned…”Jump higher!”. We did survive that day and several more doing some very stupid, yet brave things. So, it is no small feat when I say I celebrate my survival thus far.

Last week we got our first real snow. My grandchildren were here for a while running around the farm. They helped me and they played with the animals. They stayed until they got cold. It was time to go. I waved goodbye as I watched them head for home. Turning back to my chores, I saw their little footprints in the snow.

I paused a minute from my work to think about our children’s footprints, snow angels and snowmen from years gone by. I couldn’t help but smile. I went to get my camera to take a picture of the small boot prints. When I got back, the footprints along with the snow, were gone. They remain only in my memory.

So, I will salute this passing month. I will thank her for some unseasonably warm weather. I will commit to memory some treasured times shared with family and friends. I will take a minute to think of a few Novembers past and smile, for I don’t know where they went, but I sure won’t forget them!

Nothing Like a Fire
November 20, 2015, 9:08 pm
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002November 20, 2015

Tonight the temperature is dropping. It is still a very nice night for late November, but all of us farm critters feel the nip in the air. The cattle and sheep are full, chewing their cud and resting happily. The pigs are all huddled down in their soft beds of straw. Even my dog Cinch has eaten and is curled up in his bed. I watched the flames in the fire, enjoying the warmth and the dancing flames.

There is nothing like a warm fire on a cold night. I remember teamsters gathered around a noon time fire on a cold winter day, when logging was my vocation. A man named Jack would build a big fire every day at lunchtime. I told him one day that he sure builds a big fire. He said, ” There ain’t no sense in having a cold fire!”

The warmth felt good back then as we exchanged stories or poked fun at one another. Sitting around a campfire on a summer evening is another fond memory. Sometimes, just sitting alone watching the light pierce the night, makes me feel good.

There is nothing like a fire to warm the body and soul. It can fill your heart with memories while warming your hands. It can conquer the darkness or accompany the dark in a blended dance. I hope to reflect light in our world. Like a flame in the night or a star in the sky, I want to be a bright spot in someone’s life.

On this cold night, I will cherish old memories and savor the warmth, as the flames lick the sky. I will join the animals in their relaxation as we wait for the winter blast soon to arrive and I will say again…There is nothing like a fire!

Coffee and a Book!
November 19, 2015, 10:49 am
Filed under: November 2015, Uncategorized

007November 19, 2015

What a great week this has been! First my book came out and yesterday, I learned the secret to percolating coffee. I find myself humbled by both events! It is kind of funny how both things go together; Both of them took over twenty-five years to come to be.

I have been gathering life experiences, remembering funny things and even some tragic events to write my book. It is about me, but it is a book that will touch anyone. I step outside of myself and tell the stories through another’s eyes. I laugh at myself and invite the reader to laugh along with me. I tear up a little and allow a time for reflection and peace to sweep over my audience. I end on a happy note, because in spite of all the rough things, the bumps and bruises on body and soul, the ride this far has been an awesome one!

My coffee has been a big part of my life too. I have drank it cold…not on purpose. I don’t like iced coffee, but I do like the stimulating liquid. I like it hot and black. I thought the way it was made, was to boil it on the stove for half an hour or so. However, I found that there is really some finesse to the method.

Chances are, I will still boil my coffee now and then, because I will get preoccupied and forget it on the stove. It is surly a fact that life will throw me a few curves yet as I stumble down the road to old age and beyond. So, I will take my coffee black and life any way that I can get it 😮

Me book 002

Coffee Time
November 18, 2015, 1:53 pm
Filed under: November 2015, Uncategorized


November 18, 2015

This morning, after 25 years of making coffee wrong, I made the best coffee ever. I enjoy a good cup of perked coffee. I thought that I knew exactly how my mother made it. I was wrong… I “Googled it”.

Turns out you don’t have to boil it for 20 minutes on the stove…In fact, you’re not supposed to boil it at all! You just set the percolator up with coffee in the little basket. Put in water to just below the basket. Put it on the stove and heat it up. As soon as the pot perks once, reduce the heat so that it just hiccups every little while. keep an eye on the little glass window at the top and let it percolate for 3 minutes! That’s it!!

It’s not bitter. It is hot and smooth. I couldn’t believe it. Up until today coffee and cow kidney had the same recipe…You just boil the piss out of it 😮

Man, was I ever wrong. This will be fun for the next 25 years. That bitter, sometimes stinky swill, that I used to drink, is forgotten. I am sure my kids and farm visitors will be very pleased! Old dogs can learn new tricks!

The Pages of My Life
Cultivating Memories...Hot off the Press

Cultivating Memories…Hot off the Press

November 15, 2015

It’s here! My book is finally done. This project of putting together a collection of short stories, to warm the heart and soul, Is done. I have been putting my memories and life experiences down on paper for over twenty years. This past January, I began to select stories and get them in order for this book. I write a column for Rural Heritage magazine and a few of these articles have been printed, but most of these 63 stories are original to this book.

My friend and mentor, Gene Logsdon, was kind enough to write the forward for this Reflection of my life. Bethany Caskey, from Iowa, illustrated the pages and cover. This work of mine is 235 pages of easy reading that will make you laugh and make you cry, as I tug at your heart strings. There are stories about love and life, farming, logging, horses and children. They are assembled from the pages of my life.

This book is available through the Rural Heritage website WWW.ruralheritage.com , here at the farm, or in Jefferson Ohio at The Jefferson Milling Company, J.R.Hoffestter Jeweler and the 4-H Extension Office….for the bargain price of $14.95 I invite you to come along, share a story, a laugh or a tear.

It is the simple things in life that matter. I will take you away from the stresses in your life, as you relax and take a mental vacation to my farm. I am not responsible for coffee or tea sprayed on your favorite chair as you bust out laughing, but I will take credit for the warm feelings that will be stirred in your heart.

Living the Good Life
Part of the pig herd enjoying dinner

Part of the pig herd enjoying dinner

November 13, 2015

These hogs have been out on pasture since July 4th. They get supplemented with ear corn, but forage for much of their food. It is no accident that they are in this good condition. I grow red clover and fescue pasture for them. I look after them and nature provides a bounty of nuts and wild apples. I also supplement their feed when needed. The stock is fattened by the eye of the master.

These hogs are, like me, very content. They are not bored. They are not standing in manure or swill. The mud on them is usually because they choose to put it there. They make wallows to cool themselves. They push up leaves and brush to create a warm bed. They snuggle together and slumber. They do root a little, but the damage is usually done to quack grass roots that I want to eradicate anyway!

I think about my livestock often. It is my job to keep them safe and fed. I choose to raise them in a stress free environment. I know that, living with minimal stress is better for all of us. I do many repetitive things. I feed at the same time. I use the same gates. I call the pigs different than the horses. Each specie knows when I am calling them, the rest barely look up. I am resistant to change, much more enjoying the status quo.

In my off farm job, change is constant. On the farm, when an animal leaves, the rest get more room, perhaps a bite more of food. When someone disappears from the workforce, it is unsettling for everyone. The poor person is now looking for work and everyone else gets a bigger share of job duties. They have great names for it like; cost cutting, down sizing, team initiative, lean manufacturing etc….sounds like freezer camp to me…anyway you put it, someone gets axed and the herd goes into disarray. The dynamics change as the next “herd leader” picks out his favorites and beats up the rest 😮

I prefer the order of things. If the axe must fall, it is done humanely. I don’t talk about it for weeks, stir up a rumor mill or threaten the animals with the phrase, “You might be next.”. I do what needs done swiftly. I don’t put on a show and I comfort those left behind. There are many lessons to be learned on a  good farm. I am glad to have learned, listened and watched, but most of all I am glad to have this haven to call home. It truly is what it means to be … Living the good life!

Chilly Sunshine
November 12, 2015, 4:31 pm
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The growing season ends

The growing season ends

November 12, 2015

I snapped this photo the other morning just as the sun was coming up. The leaves, now long gone, were shimmering in that chilly sunshine. It was beautiful. I was thankful for the gift of sight. The morning was quiet. The animals hadn’t awakened yet. So, I stood in the quiet of morning, breathing the cold, crisp air and soaked in one of the last full days of autumn. My hands were wrapped around a mug of hot coffee. The aroma of the coffee mixed with the sweet autumn air and I drank up all that I could hold….confirming once again that this farm is my place in the universe. I am so very happy to be here.

Over the past winter I labored over a writing project. It was much bigger than my column in Rural Heritage magazine. It was the culmination of many stories, memories and life experiences. I worked gleaning my notebooks and in some cases bits of paper as I put together a book of my life thus far. “Cultivating Memories”, is not an autobiography. It is a collection of short stories that will warm the reader and touch their very core. I will make you laugh and I will make you cry, as I talk about all things country and farming.

My book is forwarded by Gene Logsdon and illustrated by Bethany Caskey. “Cultivating Memories”, is a labor of love and will touch people from the city and country alike. I will give more details in the coming days as to where to get your copy, so stay tuned in. You will not be disappointed.  😮

Thanks To Veterans
November 11, 2015, 9:48 pm
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A November Sky

A November Sky

November 11, 2015

One of the brightest lights in our world today… the American Military.

Thanks to all of you veterans…past and present

Off to the Woodshed
November 10, 2015, 8:05 pm
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Headed for the woodpile

Headed for the woodpile

November 10, 2015

What a rainy day today was. It drizzled all day, forcing me to work inside. I got a whole bunch of little things done. I got my oil changed in the log splitter and I fixed a piece on Duke’s harness. We also fabricated a way to get my smokehouse up to a higher temperature. (I will share tomorrow) These things took me until afternoon, so my garage still needs order restored to it, but I will keep it on the list.

Tomorrow I will be off to the wood pile. I need some horse time and wood getting is great work for all of us. My log cart and wagon are ready to go. I have logs ready to bring out of the woods. Dead trees, mostly ash make up the majority of the wood. I will be glad to have them hauled out and put in the pile. Further cutting and splitting is easy once the wood is in a central location.

I am reminded of my grandpa Rice every time I work on firewood. Some of my favorite memories revolve around him, his horses and bringing in firewood. Sometimes we helped with “sugarwood” for the sugarhouse, but usually it was wood used to heat the house. I remember him sawing and splitting big chunks. He would load the chunks onto the wooden sled and head for the house. He had a big pile where the wood was unloaded. I don’t remember him stacking it anywhere except by the old wood furnace, but I do remember how warm the house was from the wood heat and the love of grandparents.

Yippie, We Got An Egg
November 9, 2015, 7:45 am
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Proud Little Lady

Proud Little Lady

November 9, 2015

Usually, each year we replace our old flock with a new one. The hens lay eggs very well for the first year. The second year they lay bigger eggs, but less of them. The third year the production drops way off and in year number four, you are feeding feathered pets 😮  I find that keeping the hens for one year is the most profitable way to raise your own eggs. This does mean culling every year. The old hens make great soup stock when canned and put in the pantry, but this job is a tough one for some homesteaders.

We raise our livestock, including our laying flock, in the most humane way we can. They are tended to twice daily. They have clean, warm beds, plenty to eat and are treated kindly. We raise all of these animals for a purpose. The mother cows give us steers and heifers, for meat and replacements. Once the cows reach the end of their baby raising years, they head off to freezer camp and provide us with yummy ground beef. Our sows are treated the same way. Again, they have a great life here, then we eat them.

Our pets are the dog, cats and my horses. All of these animals have jobs too and are expected to perform, but they don’t get eaten 😮 Culling is the hardest part of farming. I sometimes am guilty of giving a sow “one more chance” this is not the best way to farm. Giving “one more chance” often leads to a disaster. A bad mother pig will squash her babies or even eat them! This is not a pretty sight on either account. You have also raised, fed and hauled poop from that sow for an additional four months, only to be repaid by getting…nothing. Well, nothing except for a whole bunch of great tasting sausage when you send the ungrateful animal off to freezer camp.

We buy our replacement hens as young pullets ready to start laying. This year we bought them a bit younger that usual. They are good, healthy birds, but were a bit younger than we were told. In any case, we are starting to get eggs again. It is a fun thing to find the new eggs in the hen house nest boxes. It is almost like finding treasure. I will tell you that for those of you who have never seen the face of a child gathering his first egg or digging her first potato, it is a treasure!

The other night when I came home from work, my wife greeted me with the words, “Yippee, we got an egg!”  I realized just what a treasure it is….eggs, sausage, this farm and the love that holds it all together.