RicelandMeadows


Safe and Secure
May 31, 2017, 10:23 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

gateclose

May 31, 2017

My almost three year old grandson is a stickler for keeping the gates closed. He knows which gates are normally open, as well as, the ones that are usually closed. He does not like to see one that is usually closed, in the open position. It’s okay if we are moving livestock, but a random open gate really bothers this young man.

I guess that I am where my grandson gets his ideas from. I close gates behind me. I insist that others do too. If you go through a gate and it is closed, then the expectation is that you close and latch it behind you. We live on a busy road. There is not a time when livestock are welcomed there. I also don’t like them stomping holes in the lawn or other mischief.

Our oil well tender man is also very careful with our gates. I am grateful to him as well. I guess much of our farm life revolves around opening and closing gates. I have many because we move livestock often, from pasture to pasture. I need things to be easy, especially with my advancing age! Our cattle and even the sow herd knows where to go, all because of our gates. They make life easy and keep all of us safe and secure.

My little next door farmer keeps a watchful eye for open gates and anything amiss. I too am wary of strange things or stuff out of place. I notice things that are different and have done so from an early age. I see part of myself in this little guy…that knowledge also makes me feel safe and secure.



A.I. for Breeding Hogs Does Work

AIsow

May 25, 2017

Our red sow was bred last time using artificial insemination. I was a bit skeptical at first but my son and his friend convinced me that it would work good. We had recently sold our boar and had not replaced him yet. Jake and Brian, told me what to do, where to order the boar “seed” and reassured me saying they would take care of making it happen. That was about 4 months ago. Today, 10 little piglets are nursing on a very good mother.

Now, for the “inside and very funny”…rest of the story.

The UPS driver rolled into our drive with a package. I asked him if it was corn seed or boar seed. He thought a minute and handed me the package with two fingers and said, “I don’t think it’s corn.” I took the package to our basement, in keeping with the directions included with the boar seed. There were also plastic “corkscrews” inside the package. I knew right then, that this was going to be an interesting project.

Our little red sow, is not little by any means. She weighs over five hundred pounds and measures over six feet long. She is over waist high when she stands up. She is tame…and that turned out to be a good thing. The first attempt to see if the sow was ready for a male visitor, lead to some unpleasant grunts and squeals from her. We tried for a whole day, over several hours to no avail.

Brian shows up with a can of “boar spray” ( no crap..it smells like a male pig!) He sprayed a little near the flirtatious sow and shazam… she was in a standing heat and ready to breed. The corkscrew thing that came with the boar seed was inserted and actually screwed into place. The semen came in a soft plastic bottle and was squirted into the corkscrew tube. Deed done, but to make the sow relax, Brian sat on the sow backwards to imitate the weight of the boar.

That was a sight…tall sow, short man…he looked more like a one legged kangaroo hopping around the pen saying kind words and squeezing the bottle! Remember, he was seated backwards, so this too made for a funny thing to watch. I was grateful to Brian then and now… A.I  works, but I believe that I will continue to keep a boar! I’m just not good at hopping one legged and backwards to boot!



Homemade, Handcrafted, Shop Made
May 24, 2017, 9:20 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

spreaderfert

May 24, 2017

Yesterday, I spread my fertilizer on the corn ground with my rig pictured above. The spreader is affixed to the axle out of an old Jeep and some small I-beam. My uncle did all the welding. My late friend in Pennsylvania figured the gear ratio. He took the distance in one revolution of the tires and told me what size gear was needed to weld on the shaft coming out of the axle rear end “pumpkin”.

My uncle welded the frame and centered the gear on the rear end shaft. A stub shaft made from pillow block bearings and fitted with stub ends from an old PTO shaft, completed the build. The spreader is just a category one, three point hitch model that I already had. Once the whole rig had been assembled, I tried it out. The horses walk about four miles per hour. My old friend Jonathan had it figured so the speed of the walking horses, turned the power take off at 540 rpm…exactly what the old spreader needed to work at its optimum.

My uncle’s welding days are behind him. My old friend has designed his last piece of homemade equipment. I think of the two of them every time I use this spreader. It gets used often during the growing season. We even spread grass seed on a football field for a community project, to help make a place for some young football players. Because of my uncle and my friend, I was able to “pay it forward” using inexpensive shop built equipment.

Many times in my life I have benefited from someone’s hand made or hand crafted object. The very first leather harnesses that I owned were a gift from my two grandfathers. They each contributed parts to get me a set that would work on two small ponies that I owned. One day, I should compile a list of all the folks who have shown me the greatest love by giving of themselves.

I have slept under homemade quilts all of my life. I still have the last one that my mother and great grandmother made for me. It is well worn and faded, but still held together by the love that made it. My wife quilts for me, our family and others. She works steady and almost tirelessly creating designs in cloth. The love she puts into them will be seen for decades.

I try to always meet people on the level and treat them square. I try to lead with a smile and follow with a good deed. One of the gifts I have, is that of managing the written word. I hope that I can impart a series of words that will touch a heart and stir a fond memory. I hope that long after I am gone, I will still be able to make folks remember a loved one, a favorite event or an old object made by hand with help from the heart.



Applying a Boost

fertspread

May 23, 2017

Today, the horses and I applied soil amendments to the corn ground. We got chased off by the weather on the day we planted. It took seven days of sun, wind and drying, to make it so we could finish our job. Everything went very well. I like it when things go that way! Our homemade spreader worked stellar as usual.

Knight, my left hand horse, is still shedding some of his winter hair. It got a little warm before we were done. He sweated some, but so did I. We both will be better off for it. I brushed him down after stripping the harness off. He stood like a statue, enjoying every single stroke. I imagine that he will be all shedded out like the other horses by the end of the week.

We spread commercial fertilizer on this field, following the recommended plan from our soil tests. It has been five years since we added anything other than compost and cover crops to this piece. The corn to be grown here will use much of the applied fertilizer. I plan to sow rye, or perhaps wheat to this field at harvest. The grain , cover crop, will suck up anything left over. It will be transformed by next spring into usable, stable plant food. Corn won’t grow here again for five to seven years. A soil test will be taken to determine if we need any additional nutrients then.

disc2017

The boys taking a break. We disced the plot lightly to incorporate the fertilizer. Rain is forecast for tomorrow, so we won’t be back to this field until time to cultivate to eliminate or at least reduce weed pressure.

I grow corn to feed my sows. The growing hogs get some when they get to about 120# live weight. This just helps stave off boredom. The horses get one ear a piece on cold days in winter. I only need about 3 acres of corn to meet all of our need. Growing it in a rotation helps break up the nematode cycle, gets rid of ruts in the field, and just works well in our farm plan. This year I planted an open pollinated variety called “Wapsie Valley” it grows nice for me….. hopefully, more on that later in this season!



Rye Cover Crop
May 22, 2017, 10:05 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

ryecover

May 22, 2017

This photo shows the cover crop of  cereal rye on our garden this spring. This seed is also known as annual rye. It is grown for grain for flour and for whiskey. I plant it here in late fall, September even into October. It actually grew to waist high before I got it mowed down. I mowed it with the weedeater. Usually, I just plow it under. The wet weather made the fast growing crop too rank to plow down. Once the garden was dry enough to plow, my schedule had changed, so we mowed it. Today, I could have plowed it, but am housebound recovering from pneumonia!

Using a cover crop, even in a small scale like on my garden, makes sense. The growing plants hold soil in place, stopping erosion. They suppress weeds, both in the late autumn as well as, in early spring. They “mine” minerals and nutrients out of the ground. These “mined” materials are given up by the decaying plant. Those become available to the growing plants, in a form ready for use. I will caution that decay uses soil nitrogen, so if the cover crop gets too big, like mine did this year, additional nitrogen may need to be added.

In the case of a heavy nitrogen feeder like corn (maize), you could actually set the plants back by the rich cover crop. My garden soil is well balanced. There is plenty of nitrogen available, so I am not worried. If this was a new garden spot, too much decaying plant material can almost starve the growing crop. Compost added, has already decayed, so if the carbon balance is correct, the nitrogen in the compost is stable and stays in the soil until needed by the growing crop.

You can offset the effects of a thick, heavy cover crop in its decay cycle, by adding more compost. You can add commercial fertilizer too or in place of the compost, but I choose to use compost only on our food crops. I have used commercial fertilizers, but only when soil tests demand it. I’d rather farm with nature and the balance she provides.

The mowed rye plants have dried in the sun. The hollow stems are soaking up rain water and decaying a bit. Incorporating them into the soil as soon as possible is the order of the day. I hope to beat the coming rain and have the garden plowed by chore time Wednesday. Farming is a wonderful life. It is an ongoing chemistry lesson. The cycle of life spins daily and I love the ride!



My Country Life
May 21, 2017, 2:27 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

countrylife

May 21, 2017

As a young boy, I spent many hours playing on a swing such as this. It was tied to a limb on a big maple tree in my grandpa and grandma Rice’s front yard. I remember my dad giving us “underducks” where he would push us very fast and duck under the wooden board swing sending us skyward like a rocket…or so it seemed. The laughter of those happy times still echo in my memories.

My grandchildren and their friends are swinging in the photo above. You don’t see “I-pads, phones or earbuds”, just four children playing using their imagination. I don’t know if they are Jedi Knights, dragon flies or rockets, but even from the photo, I can see they are having fun. This, in my mind, explains my country life.

It is not about material things. It is about bonfires, sled rides, baby lambs and garden vegetables. It is about hard work done together with family, followed by a cold drink or dish of ice cream. It is the simple things like woods walks and lightening bugs, even pollywogs in a jar. The smell of fresh mowed hay or the soft mew of a kitten in the mow of the barn, these are the things that bring joy.

City children play “bottle flip” with water bottles. We drank water from a garden hose, at times from a pump pumped by hand. Water tasted so very good on a hot day after some type of work, especially during haying. One of the most refreshing drinks I ever had, came from a hand dug well. I gulped down mouthfuls of the cool water after having been working on a thrashing machine with my Amish friends. I’m not sure if it was the water or the friendship that made it so sweet, but every swallow made me praise God.

The common denominator in a country life is the country or green space of course, but the real key, is family and friends. Keep in mind, you can have a country life in the city if you choose to do so. Put friends and family first. Hold the door for a stranger. Offer your seat to another. If all else fails, smile. In fact if you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours. Kindness goes a long way. Being kind does not make you weak, in fact, it probably makes you stronger.

I hope that I can always have time to spare a minute, to listen to a bird sing or listen to the dreams shared by a child. I hope I can dig fishing worms, smell wildflowers and eat strawberries off a dew covered vine for a long time yet. It’s not the amount of days in your life…it’s the amount of life in your days. So, live county my friends!

 

 



“Cow Plowing”

corn171

May 20, 2017

I completed planting my corn last Wednesday. I feel good about getting it planted, especially this year due to our wet weather. It has been a crazy weather spring and that trend continues. I waited on some dry days, like all of the area farmers, I pushed hard once it got here.

This field is where our cows spent the winter. There is a three-sided building, just out of the frame where they could take shelter when they wanted it. Usually in winter, the ground freezes hard and stays that way for months. This past winter, the ground was only frozen hard for about a total of three weeks. The cows feet punched this field full of holes. I mean they tracked it into oblivion! It was all but impossible to walk through the quagmire. The cows slowly picked their way along, from water tank to hay feeder. Every step left a hole six to eight inches deep.

In late February, I moved the cows out of this paddock. They spent the worst days of late spring on our cement lot next to the barn. The overhang shelter was bedded with woodchips. They were comfortable, dry and content even though the space was smaller than the paddock. I must say, I did not miss fighting the mud either.

Once the cows had been moved off that back muddy paddock, winter returned. The ground froze and thawed several times before we were out of the icy grip. The punched up field resembled a landscape found on the surface of our moon. I decided to disc it once to smooth it enough to even be able to plow it.

I made the first round with the disc and could not believe my eyes! The cows feet, mixed with the freeze and thaw cycle of spring, had turned my nightmare into a dream! Twice over the field with the disc and spike tooth drag made the field ready to plant. I planted my corn that same day, just before dark. I was excited by my new found innovation. I was overcome by a bit of sadness when I realized that I could not share this contrary news with my friend, the late Gene Logsdon.

Gene and I often talked and discussed many things “farming”. We shared many of the same beliefs. The corn I had just finished planting in that “cow plowed” field was an open pollinated variety called “Wapise Valley”. Gene and I had many conversations about corn, soil, cover crops, the value of oats in many forms and anything that made things easier for the small farmer. “Cow plowing” is one of those topics we would have talked at length about. Gene passed away almost a year ago. I miss my friend. I will remember him always, especially at planting time, but always when I stumble on a topic that he would have loved to debate! RIP Gene

corn172

This section joins the field in the photo above. The cattle “plowed” all around the old stumps and even leveled this section, saving me hours, perhaps days, of work! Timing was everything. The cattle got moved while the winter freeze could work the sodden clay. I stayed off the wet ground until the sun and wind had dried it. I know from experience that working these wet clay soils too early will make clods like bricks dried in the sun. It takes a full year for the frost to break them up. Using that knowledge sure paid off this year.

I am not sure that I would try this process again, unless it would be on ground where extreme efforts were needed. As an example, say an area where a forest had been cut down. The cows could work the rutted, rooted uneven ground by accident. Smoothing it out for a spring planting of grass could be done by dragging a wooden drag around. I bet the pioneers learned and used this method when clearing this area of Ohio. In any case, I can say it worked well for me, I did not discover it, but certainly did rediscover it!