RicelandMeadows


Farm Play Date
December 31, 2016, 10:40 am
Filed under: December 2016 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

jakbarn

December 31, 2016

Last night, I stopped to see my youngest son. My grandson asked, “play farm, Pa-pa?” I couldn’t resist. It’s awesome to play with my grandchildren. Over Christmas I got to play suction cup arrows and bullets, as I target shot with John and Rachel. That never gets old!

What I thought was wonderful about last night’s play date, was the way my grandson and his daddy had set up their farmstead. A big old wooden barn stood close to a new plastic one. We played awhile, setting up animals and moving them from pasture to pasture. There was no doubt that my grandson preferred the old barn to the newer one. The little wooden stalls inside were where the horses lived.

The old wooden barn belonged to my son. We bought it for him when he was about three year’s old. It was made by an Amish boy who was afflicted by mental retardation. The young Amish man made toys and wooden eveners for horse drawn equipment. I had gone there to buy a set of eveners, also called double trees, when I spotted the handmade wooden barn.

The old barn has doors on both sides that open and close. Inside there are two tie stalls for a team of draft horses. There is also a short row manger where the cows would stand to be milked. The large haymow has a loose hay trolley system that used eye hooks, string and a metal piece that served as the “harpoon” for the hay. A rod goes from end to end in the haymow. When the string is threaded through the eye hooks and out the opposite end from the large hay door, the “harpoon” can be let down to the wagon and pulled up, then in to the barn as it slides along the rod in the peak of the barn. This worked just as the old Louden hay carriers did.

I brought the old barn out of our basement and gave it to my grandson. He is almost three now too. There was just as much excitement on his face, when he saw they barn, as there was twenty seven years ago when his daddy first got it. The memory was priceless.

As I kneeled on the ground to play farm, my thoughts drifted to “Elmer” the toy maker who worked steadily on his wooden toys. Elmer passed many years ago, but his kindness and the joy from his handmade toys, will last for generations. Elmer had only “ability”, not “disability”, may God bless his soul.

jakbarani



Sod Waterway works even in Winter

snoway

December 30, 2016

The other evening while doing chores, I got to admire one of my farming practices. This little intermittent stream winds its way through my recently planted speltz field. I was careful when planting and doing the field preparation to keep this sensitive area intact. The grass, even this late in the year, filters any topsoil that might otherwise wash into the nearby watershed. This is good farm stewardship and I am proud to do it.

It is by paying attention to small details that makes good economic sense. My soil stays where in belongs. The nutrients also stay with the newly planted crop instead of washing into the stream that makes up the eastern border of our farm. It is also pretty to look at any time of year. The bright green of the fresh grass against the newly fallen snow, brightens our landscape. So we reap the benefits of good crops, a great view and that of being a good steward.

I suggest putting environmental concerns at the top of your list as a small farmer, land owner or caretaker. The rewards will last long after you are gone from this Earth. The effects of good stewardship benefit people unknown to you , as well as, your closest neighbors. Best of all, your farm and your bottom line will reflect your efforts.



New arrivals

calicopigs

December 22, 2016

A hush fell on the night. The pig barn was quiet. Only the sound of munching pigs and fluffing straw filled the air. All except, that is, the soft grunts of a mother pig giving birth. I swept the feed aisle and offered a bit more straw to the pigs in their pens. I went about my usual business of doing chores, not disturbing the busy momma.

I found out long ago, keeping to the regular duties of chore time and keeping the status quo, keeps everybody calm. It is times like these that pay big dividends to regularity. Even the dog watching the sow, had no effect on her. The squealing pigs waiting impatiently for their dinner, is just part of the routine. The mother pig stays focused on her delivery job. I finished chores, made sure the barn was closed up from the cold winds then went to the house.

I checked on the mother pig later by looking through the window. I leave a light on making it easy to see into the barn. The mother and babies were snug in a warm straw nest. The piglets latched on and nursing were fast asleep. The mother sow also sleeping sound, tired from her big job. Satisfied, I went to bed myself.

This mother was selected from a long line of females. I have been breeding this lineage since 1986. I need mothers that will farrow on pasture or in warm winter nests … all by themselves. This is the way it was done long ago when pigs were bred for good mothering along with rate of gain. Today’s modern pig is raised with lean muscle in mind, most other qualities are secondary at best. So piglets are born in crates, where nervous mothers can barely move to keep them from laying on their piglets or even eating them!

Yes, having a pig herd such as mine requires more of my time than the standard commercial way of confined feedlot growing. My pigs are raised on pasture or in roomy pens in a barn when the winter weather forces us inside. Their pens are cleaned and their bellies are full. They are not left to walk in a swill of manure or lay on cold, wet, manure covered concrete.

The big shots say that farmers like me can not feed the world because of inefficiency. I say “Hogwash!”. There are plenty of want to be farmers who would take good care of their stock as I do. It’s just that when the mainstream way of raising pigs sucks every ounce of profit out of this noble profession. It can and will turn around, but it will take consumers demanding a better way. Once we force the big shots to produce food as good animal husbandrymen, there will be room for other farmers and a return to common sense where the animals are concerned.

The drawback will be that our food will cost a little more. It will have more flavor and perhaps even be much better for us, but it will increase prices. Our food in America is very cheap when compared to other places in the world, but that cheapness comes at a price. Small farmers get pushed out of farming and animals become regarded as “things” not living, breathing creatures which we have been given dominion over. For me, dominion means care… and I do.



Home Butchering

sowcarcas

December 15, 2016

Home butchering is best done on a cold day. Using nature’s refrigeration only makes sense! This sow was a bad mother, who killed her babies.(It happens sometimes when farrowing in nests) I have no need for a mother such as her, but we needed sausage. I dressed her out before the storm yesterday.

Today, inside our farm’s little slaughterhouse, we deboned her and turned her into sausage for our family. The sausage was very nice, with just the right fat to lean ratio. We will enjoy it in the coming year. It is a wonderful thing to have the knowledge and the where-with-all to be self sufficient. It is even better to be able to share those skills with friends and family.

Perhaps I should make a photo story of the butchering process step by step? I will wait for comments and proceed from there. I would leave out the “yukiest” photos, and simply show my viewers how to dress a hog from start to finish. I skin our pigs. It is much easier to do them that way. Plus we don’t eat the pig’s feet, tail or snout,so there is no reason to scald and scrape the animal.

I confess that having been a butcher as a younger man, sure comes in handy here on the homestead. We will soon be doing beef and a few more hogs before winter is over and maple syrup season starts. Winter is for relaxing, resting and butchering. We make is a social event spending time with family and friends. The youngest people in our family learn early where our food comes from. They also learn to take very good care of those animals and treat them with respect. It’s the cycle of life for us carnivores.



Waiting Out The Storm
December 14, 2016, 8:22 pm
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snocow

December 14, 2016

A storm is about to force us all inside. Old man winter is about to really blow. The weatherman says we may get up to two feet of snow, high winds and low temperatures. All of us are snug, both man and beast.

The horses and hogs are all bedded in warm straw. The cows and sheep get to chose where they want to be. They all have the option of going into a building if they want, but many times they choose to be outside. The cows can even go in to the shelter of the pines. When cold rain comes, all of them prefer to be under the cover of a tin roof, but the rest of the time, they seem to just like Mother Nature.

I will spend the day in the barns just staying out of the weather and enjoying my four-legged friends. The horses will all get haircuts and a good brushing. The pens will all be cleaned and the barns straightened up, sweep the corners etc. It is nice to spend a day just reflecting on life and counting my blessings. The work will all wait until the storm has passed.



Abby On The Grow

abby-first-day

December 13, 2016

We bought Abby this year in April. She has fit in very well. Her training continues and will continue for at least another year. I still have to remind her now and then that I am the boss, but she learns quickly. She has come to understand that I will win every argument without violence, but I will win.

Tonight, as I finished chores, I snapped this picture below. Yes, that is Abby on the left. She is growing well and quickly, like most youngsters.

abduke12-12

All horses turn a year older on January first, so Abby will be considered a three-year old. She will get to do meaningful work by spring. This winter, she will pull a sled and a wagon, as we do redundant training. She will stop, she will turn, she will stand and wait. She will go when asked and learn to pull steadily and consistently. The geldings will teach her as much, perhaps even more, than I will.

She is a special lady who pleases me very much. She is strong willed, yet lets me be in charge. She is steady and calm. She is trusting and friendly. She is graceful when she moves. She is my little girl and I think she is beautiful. Soon, she will fill her role as a team member and be an important power source for the farm. For now, her training continues while she learns and grows.



Its Here!
December 12, 2016, 8:58 pm
Filed under: December 2016 | Tags: , , , , ,

sugarhousesnow

December 12, 2016

Winter has arrived here in northeast Ohio. It came with a vengeance! We had this quick first snow, followed two days later with eighteen inches more. I dug us out. Last night, it drizzled for four or five hours. We had a slushy mess today. Six to eight inches covers the ground, but slush and mud are underneath. Ugh, that is winter, but not my favorite kind of weather.

The cattle and sheep took it all in stride. They waited out the rain in their respective sheds. The horses went out to play during the deep snow event. They had a great time. Today, they romped and splashed about like children. Tonight, they are back in the warm barn, coats all brushed and ready for bed.

The winter chores are mostly about feeding and making sure all the animals have a dry, warm bed. That means shoveling lots of manure. The manure makes compost so as I wheel each load to the pile, I smile a bit knowing the payback comes in the spring. Those rich nutrients make my crops grow well and round out a well managed farm plan. So as the snow piles up and the rest of us hunker down, I will pile up the benefits…one forkful at a time.