Warm Smiles
November 27, 2016, 11:02 pm
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November 27, 2016

It was a beautiful day, especially for late November in northeast Ohio. I worked with my little sister, cutting and splitting her some wood for winter. Her primary heat source is coal. She uses the wood on the coldest winter days in a basement wood burner to warm her cellar and the floors of her big house.

We had a good day of laughing and visiting. We managed to split a good amount of wood too. We will do another load one day soon, but for now she has half of what she needs. I enjoy working on wood, so this day and those that will follow make me smile.

I have worked up most of the wood the horses and I have dragged out of the woods. We will now work on bringing more up to the drive where splitting is done. The easy access makes for easy splitting all winter long. The dead and fallen trees in our woods provide for many. I am glad that I can help others. I am feeling good because all the farm work has been done for the year. So, I get to work on firewood and making warm smiles.

It’s the little things that matter
November 26, 2016, 6:18 pm
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November 26, 2016

After several years, two other attempts and some new parts, I finally have water at the back pasture. I am not out of the woods yet, as there is still a leak underground, but at least I can pump water for the cows. I snapped this picture in the dark the other night as I celebrated at the flowing water. This makes doing chores much easier. No longer do I have to take the cows all the way to the barn to drink.

Opening and closing gates to move the cows, added anywhere from twenty to thirty minutes onto my chore time. This always depended upon the mood of the cows too. I especially hated this job, in the dark mornings, before work at my off farm job. Those were the days when the cows wanted to poke along slow or even turn around and go the wrong way. I am very grateful for having water here at the cow’s winter home, to say the least.

Getting the pump working was actually a simple thing. We fixed it once this summer, but the contacts on the switch burnt up. It took the efforts of my electrical friend Brian to sort it out. That job was easy for him. It pays to know such people. Having water for the cows is just a little thing, but it means a lot in the scheme of things. It usually is the little things that matter.

Here on this small farm, I need to make every step count. Fiddling around anĀ  extra hour every day doing chores, makes no sense at all. I should have kept at it and just got the water fixed years ago. I kept putting it off for every reason under the sun and thereby adding to my workload. What was I thinking? Oh well, it’s fixed now and I will keep it that way.

Bedded and Shedded
November 19, 2016, 9:11 pm
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November 19, 2016

After a cold rainy day, the snow is starting to swirl on the wind. The icy pellets stung my cheeks as I did chores tonight. It was nice to be in the warm barns feeding and caring for the animals. The pigs were all nestling down into their straw beds as I shut the doors and turned out the lights. The horses quietly munched on their hay as they stood knee deep in fresh bedding.

The cats were licking their paws and our dog laid in the hay watching me as I finished chores. I swept the aisle and hung up the broom. I sat down next to the dog and petted him on the head. I sat in silence, reflecting upon the last several days.

All of our farm equipment has been cleaned, lubricated and put away. Even the equipment that we will be using in the coming months has been given a space indoors for winter. I managed to store my horse drawn farm tools all together in my shop close to the horse barn. I can easily get out the pieces that I want to use and put them away when done.

The cows and sheep have been moved to their winter pastures. The horses have now started their rotation where they are inside at night and outside during the day. These cold nasty nights, when the winds and snows buffet the buildings , it is very peaceful to watch the animals enjoy the warmth of stall and stable. I listen to them chew, pet the dog and take comfort in knowing they are all bedded and shedded.

Grazing Extended
November 18, 2016, 10:02 pm
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November 18, 2016

Today, I turned the cows into the oats and buckwheat that we planted in early August. The oats are just headed out, in the “dough” stage. They are lush and green. They are waist high. The buckwheat has bloomed and has reached maturity. The plants are succulent, big and leafy. This is a little field that was simply disced, two or three times. The seed was broadcasted and then rolled. The rain did most of the work after that.

My pastures around the farm have all been grazed off. The fields are now resting, feeding themselves before going dormant for the year. The weather has been unseasonable, but this is about the time that we are done grazing every year. This year however, this little field will feed the cow herd for another two or three weeks. I will offer hay and baleage free choice in a few days to ensure the cows have plenty of feed.

Here in the snow belt of northeast Ohio, grazing extenders like these oats and buckwheat, help to keep inputs down. Low input means more profitability. More profitability keeps us sustainable, ensuring and securing this farm’s future. The oats were straight out of our feed bin. They need to be oats that were not heat treated so that they germinate. I am not after a grain crop. I just want to stockpile feed for when the grazing is over for the year.

I also have some fourth cutting clover in another field. I plan to graze that field off once the ground freezes. I don’t want the cattle punching holes in the new field of clover. If the ground doesn’t freeze, at a minimum, I will graze the sheep flock there. They will not hurt the soil. They will harvest their own feed and spread their own manure.The other dynamic is their little hooves will press the clover seed heads into the soft soil, thereby reseeding the field as they eat.

Increasing the amount of grazing on a small farm is easy if you think outside the box a little bit. Small plots of summer annuals planted and grazed can rest the regular pastures while keeping the cattle in top condition. Cover crops can be lightly grazed before incorporating them into the soil. Corn fodder, after harvest, can be grazed along with the field edges in that field. I even let the animals graze on the field while I am plowing it. Plowing takes me a few days when using the horses. The grazing keeps the grass short so it turns over easier. I get my plowing done while the animals get their grazing extended.


November 13, 2016, 3:28 pm
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November 13, 2016

This cow calved yesterday afternoon. The calf is a little girl. This mom saved her own life. Last year she apparently got missed by the bull. So she didn’t have a calf. Most farmers would have culled her last year. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and waited for this year. Her date with “freezer camp” was coming up fast. She absolutely had to have a calf by December 20th. According to my calculations, that day would have been the last possible date for her gestation.

Thanks to having plenty of feed and lots of patience, we now have a new baby girl. There is one more potential mom in that same boat. She too is looking very close to calving, so I think they both have redeemed themselves. I am still not sure what happened. Our bull was very handsome. There were plenty of moonlit nights. Small hamlets in the back pasture abound…so I am not sure why these two females played so hard to get?

I have seen this happen on our farm before. What I mean is, I have seen animals redeem themselves at the last minute. My draft horse Duke was all but loaded in the trailer headed out of here. I decided to use him on one last job. He stepped up and preformed at a level that not only surprised me…it saved his happy home. He has gone on to become a very important part of my farming operation.

I don’t know if it is my patience, my easy going nature or perhaps my belief in others, that allows me to give things “one more try”. I will say, that when you believe in someone, it makes great things happen. Believing in someone opens doors and helps a person grow. The confidence they acquire moves them forward and helps them accomplish tasks at an unknown level. This power of self confidence promotes growth and learning. Redemption is not only good for farm animals, it is good for us humans too!

Oh Baby
November 12, 2016, 3:31 pm
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November 12, 2016

We are in our calving season. I share a Murry Gray bull with another guy. I get him for six months and my buddy keeps the bull the rest of the time. I calve in autumn because it works out for us. We have plenty of feed and a good winter home for the cows. This part of our farm operation does not compete with other jobs, so this works out perfect for us.

This little heifer calf was born Wednesday. She had a little half brother born yesterday. The weather is great. Even the sunbeam, caught in the photo above, seems to agree! The cows will soon move to their winter pasture. The babies get to run and play. They and their mommas can choose to sleep under the soft pine trees or in the three-sided shed. Most nights they stay in the pines, but when freezing rain comes, they all prefer the protection of the walls and roof.

I enjoy babies at this time of year. Spring has me hopping with maple syrup season, followed by the planting season. It is often while making hay that I would finally get to look after the calves. Now that we have switched to fall calving, I have more time to watch over them. I get to enjoy their antics as they jump and play. I can give the whole herd more attention and all of us are better off for it.

This is just one more part of our operation that we had to sort out. We need our small farm to produce in order to be sustainable. It also needs to be manageable. I think we have finally found our “groove” and Oh Baby …it’s worth it!

Wrapping Things Up
November 8, 2016, 9:52 pm
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November 7, 2016

As I work on getting the farm ready for winter, I have been much more relaxed than usual. I guess it’s because the weather has been wonderful on my days off from my off farm job. It may also be because I have great friends and family, who have helped me along the way this year. I also think it is because I finally realized that no matter what, winter is coming ready or not.

There is no sense in fretting, worrying or hand wringing. I just make a list and work hard to accomplish what I have written down. I am making great progress, because I have direction. I am doing well because I don’t give a darn if I get it all done or not! I’ve taken time out for visits, hayrides and helping others and I’m further ahead than ever. Life is short, taking time to have one is really paying off!

Lastly, there may be two other things that have helped. I said, “no” when asked to do a couple of projects for other people. I’m not good at that, but in both cases it worked out for all involved. I didn’t get bogged down and the other people got their projects completed on their own timeline. The other thing is … gasp…that I asked for help…and many folks stepped right up.

One thing is for sure, I have learned a few valuable lessons. Saying “no” is not the end of the world and time spent with family and friends gets more precious every single day. I will continue to put equipment away and tie up loose ends, heck, I might even remember to bring the water hoses in!

My View
November 7, 2016, 9:39 pm
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November 7, 2016

This is my view when driving my team. I never get tired of it. Knight and Hoss have been awesome partners these last several days. They are well broke, making working them a true pleasure. I snapped this photo as we were taking a quick hayride around the farm. My youngest son, his family and a few new friends, all accompanied me as we drove. My grandson held the end of the lines. It was a great time.

It is fun to mix a little family time in with the work. I was just going to move the wagon, when my son suggested a hayride. It was a great idea. I did get the wagon moved too! Tomorrow, my oldest son and his family will be here to help me finish re-baling a few large round bales into small squares. It will be lots of fun and just a little work. I need a few more bales up in the loft. He needs some for his goats for winter. It is a win-win for both of us.

Tonight, my wife and I are working up the fall honey. I took the last of it off a few days ago. I was very careful, taking just a little more for the year. I needed to make sure my bees have enough to get through the winter.


A little bit of “topbar” honeycomb. The bees do this all themselves. No foundation, no wire, no plastic, just pure bees wax, filled with honey and capped.


This is the mashed honeycomb in the top jar. It is gravity filtered into the bottom jar. Just pure, raw honey. The bees produce it from the blossoms all around the farm. It is tasty, wholesome and a sweet reward for taking care of them. Everywhere that I look around this farm, I enjoy the view…even the memories are sweet!

clean Up in any Asile


November 6, 2016

After I finish picking the ear corn, I turn the cows into the field. I also turn the sows in there too. The animals eat the fodder and corn husks. They glean the field for any ears that I might have missed. They also eat the grass and clover on the field edges. There is a lot of feed in my finished field. I like to make use of every corner of my farm. The animals are also spreading their own manure, saving me some work and expending no fossil fuel in the process.

The animals walk up and down the rows eating whatever strikes their fancy. I don’t force them to clean up every dry stick. I just let them forage until the grass has been grazed off. They will then be moved off this field. They will however return many times this winter as will the draft horses. The field will be used as a sacrificial lot over winter for the animals to get exercise. They will graze the standing stalks, but mostly they will jump and play without poking holes in our meadows. This five acre plot will be plowed next spring.

There are grassy areas on both ends and both sides of the field to catch any muddy water or manure run off before it gets into the road ditches or small streams. This keep the nutrients where we want them…in the fields, not in someone’s drinking water! So, eat up gang, clean up in any aisle!

Chop Chop
November 5, 2016, 7:56 pm
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November 5, 2016

The corn has been picked, so I moved on to another project that has been bugging me. These big maple trunks and a few still left from the old white oak tree needed to be split. They are too large for me to man handle anymore. Some pieces of the white oak were over five feet in diameter. This tree is sizable as well. I traded labor for the use of my neighbor’s skidsteer mounted logsplitter. He sent his son and the machine.


The splitter hangs upside down. The machine grabs a piece and slices through it in seconds. I just needed the large chunks to be small enough so that I can finish processing them. He did a great job. I sawed a few more large logs while he worked. He caught up to me on the last log. In just three hours we reduced big hulking logs to manageable firewood pieces.


Chop chop, what a great day. I can have this all cleaned up by the end of the week. What another beautiful fall day.