Nature’s Bounty


August 31, 2017

Where did summer go? This last day of August, I am pleased to have plenty of grass left in our pastures. The cattle and all of the farm’s livestock are looking great. Now, we are getting another nice bonus as we share in Nature’s Bounty. Wild apple trees are dropping their fruit. The cattle love the sweet treats. Our dairy steer in the picture above seems to delight in eating them.

When I was a boy, the old farmer that I worked for thought apples would make his cows choke. So, we cut every wild apple tree we saw. It has been my experience that the livestock, as well as, the wild animals benefit from this wild fruit. I think there are enough nice apples to make applesauce or cider for us. The trees could be trimmed to enhance the fruit, making them grow bigger and easier to peel. Sounds like a great idea, especially by selecting the trees with the best tasting fruit.

The hickory nuts are dropping in the woods as well. I have one wooded pasture where the hickory trees are plentiful. There are apple trees there as well. My sow herd really enjoys spending a couple of weeks in that pasture. They munch on clover, nuts and apples, barely eating the corn I give them for those two weeks. There is much to be said about farming “with” nature instead of trying to fight “against” her. She is the boss and when you respect her, the bounty abounds.

Farm Wife
August 25, 2017, 10:59 am
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August 25, 2017

My wife grew up in Mentor Ohio. She was a city girl who had moved out to this rural area where we met. She has learned all sorts of things from this country boy. Over the years she has milked a cow by hand, helped castrate animals, deworm and tend to medical animal emergencies. She gardens and processes our food. She is an almost expert parts runner and flashlight holder. (Where I’m looking, he says!)

Where she excels the most is nurturing all creatures, two-legged and four-legged. She closes and opens gates. She hand feeds, bottle feeds and forks hay. She has shoveled more than her share of manure and turned the water off to overflowing water troughs way too many times!

The remarkable part to me is that she does all of those things while keeping a clean house, washing a mountain of clothes, cooking, dish washing and nest building, making our house a home. She keeps her finger on the pulse of our family. She keeps tabs on Facebook, remembers birthdays and such and keeps all of us covered in her homemade quilts.

On Sunday August 27, we will celebrate twenty-five years of marriage. I am not an easy guy to love. I come with baggage, strange smells and a menagerie of farm animals. I can be abrupt to a fault and very bossy. She takes it in stride choosing to look past my faults and into parts of me that I can’t see.

So, today, I will use this public forum to say thank you for not only choosing me, but for staying with me after learning all my faults and shortcomings. Thank you for loving me and my whole brood. Thank you for helping me blend our crazy group even when it seems the wheels have fallen off. You are my hope, my love and my best friend. I ask that you continue to hold my hand as we walk through life. Wherever and however far our journey takes us, together forever no matter what…I will love you.

How About a Hug
August 19, 2017, 10:26 am
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August 19, 2017

Once again, friends came forward to do my farm work while I recover from knee replacement. This time, one friend donated the use of his bale “grabber” and another friend donated his time to haul and stack all of our wrapped bales. The day went very well. Now, all the second cutting has been stored right next to the feedlot for winter feeding.

I can’t help but think the bale “grabber” should be called a bale “hugger”. It squeezes the bales just right. They can then be lifted, moved and stacked with care. No holes get ripped in the plastic. This is important, because a hole with cause spoilage in the bale. This machine attachment along with our skid steer, made easy work of the job. It hugged the bales one by one and set them into place.

Who wouldn’t rather be hugged than grabbed?!


The attachment works like a pair of big smooth tongs. It doesn’t pinch, it doesn’t grab, it gently squeezes. The Welsh people would called it “cwtch”  A very special hug saved for the ones we truly love, creating more than a snuggle, but a safe place as well. So, as I click one more job of the farm list, I hope you’ll agree a hug is much better than a grab!

Standing By
August 11, 2017, 7:34 pm
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August 11, 2017

Yesterday, my friend Ken, installed this short section of tile. I have been wanting to do this job for two years. It was on the schedule for this summer because the feedlot expansion project now makes drainage the utmost important. He did the work, I stood by and watched for awhile. This water will filter through a gravel layer, into a tile that connects with a field tile that ends up at our wetlands. The water is filtered by grasslands and slow moving water, before it can enter Mill Creek as it leaves our farm. The job turned out real good, just as I had hoped.

It seems this has been my summer…standing by watching others do my work. I look forward to being able to reciprocate soon. Just a few more weeks of healing and therapy should do the trick. My knee continues to improve, thanks to ice, a few great therapists and rest. I will say it is a process! It tests a man’s reslove and his wife’s patience!

Pastures are holding out very well. We rotated the stock to different pastures last night. My grandson and I opened and shut gates as others moved the cattle and sheep. Today’s heavy rain, gave everything a drink again. The horses watched us over the fence. They are ready to work too, but like me, for now, are standing by.

Fingers in the Dirt


August 10, 2017

Leaning on my cane, fingers in the dirt is a mental boost for this farmer! It’s been a while since I could “play in the dirt”, if you will. Many farm jobs got put on hold. A few jobs have been done by others. Yesterday, I was able to weed and till this section of raised bed garden. I even planted a cover crop of buckwheat.

Now, this surely is farming small, but my connection with the soil has been made whole again. This whole job took a total of about 20 minutes to complete. Before knee surgery, I would have knocked it out on the way to do something else. I was my whole focus yesterday and I was even tired by the time I had completed it!

I did this entire job by hand using garden tools made by a family business called Homestead Iron. The hand tools are forged and fashioned out of tool steel in a small shop. The shipping part of their business involves using their kitchen table. This is a family business, here in America, in the state of Missouri, owned and run by Mr.& Mrs. Will Dobkins. You can check out their website at WWW.Homesteadiron.com

I am amazed at just how nice these tools were to use. They are just the right weight. They are sharp and well balanced. They fit my hand well and the angle of the blade is perfectly aligned for working the dirt. These are made like tools were made in the “olden days”. I’m talking about the time when the guy making the tool used them too. Most of the junk tools available today are bulky, heavy, not sharp and not anywhere near ergonomically friendly. It’s easy to see that many of today’s tool manufacturers never had to use one all day long!

Friends, I am endorsing the tools made by Homestead Iron. They are tools that work for people who work too. The best part is that the guy who forges them uses them too. Each tool is hammered and shaped by one man. His wife answers the phone, sends email and ships the product…from the same kitchen where she feeds her family! This is true American work ethic in action. I urge you to check them out.

Thanks to the Dobkin’s, my day of gardening, though short, was a wonderful experience. The tools they made were a joy to use. The sun shined on my face and a little dirt worked under my fingernails making the whole experience for me nothing short of divine. Due to the recovery time from my knee surgery, I’m not able to farm in a big way yet.  Getting my fingers in the dirt sure helped my healing…mentally and physically!


Pitching In
August 8, 2017, 11:57 pm
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August 8, 2017

Everybody here, family and friend, has pitched in to help me. My grandson makes sure the cows have water and that I am doing okay. There have been so many people helping out that I am humbled by it. I am continuing to heal well, but it sure takes a load off a farmer’s mind, when the chores are all done!


Tonight, I walked along to an old apple tree that stands in the farm lane. My wife and grandson gathered up some of the dropped apples to feed the pigs. Some were given to the draft horses for a sweet treat too. They gathered up three 5 gallon buckets and didn’t even make a dent in the fallen fruit.

We will gather up as many as we can. The remainder will then be eaten by the cows and sheep. This is just a nice bonus given from a tree that I have mowed around for twenty five years. The apples are tart, but make good pies. These were all knocked off the tree in a recent rain storm. None will be wasted as we will pitch them into pens for the coming weeks.

It is just the beginning of August, but we are ahead of schedule as we race towards autumn. Children are getting back to school supplies, our county fair is in full swing, the blackberries are ripening and the windfall apples litter the ground. These are signs of autumn, next will be the blooming goldenrod and falling leaves.

For now, I will continue to watch from the porch as my knee heals. The pastures are green, the hay has all been made, the corn is making ears and all is well. I am simply amazed at how well the farm is running, thanks to the efforts of a whole lot of folks pitching in. Several folks have written notes and cards wishing me well. I want to take just a moment to say, “Thanks everybody!” I cannot do this without you!

Second Time Around


August 3, 2017

The second cutting hay had grown thick and lush. This field was an almost pure stand of red clover. It was just beginning to blossom. It was a beautiful stand. I hired a local Amish man to mow, bale and wrap this crop. There was also another seven acres of trefoil in an adjoining field. He did indeed accomplish the work. He did a good job in a timely fashion.

My Amish friend is of a “new order” sect. They are allowed to use tractors and modern equipment according to his church and their beliefs. I watched him from the porch as I continue to recover from my knee surgery. It was an oxymoron! My big draft horses are standing in the barn, waiting to work. This man was zipping around my field, over the space of two days, with well over $70,000.00 worth of equipment. All of my hay tools together cost less than his mower!

The bales wrapped in singles will be easy to feed. This high protein hay will take the place of grain in my grassfed beef. The sweet smelling bales are a real treat for the cows. They really boost their diets in the dark, cold days of winter. We will move these bales closer to the feedlot in a few days, once we make a place for them.

To make good baleage, first you need a good crop. The hay/grass is cut and left to wilt in the sun. It is baled the very next day, sometimes even the same day. The high moisture content in the bales ferments after it is wrapped preserving the high quality forage. I am pleased to hay the bales in my feed inventory, but doubt that I will ever lay out the cash needed to buy the necessary equipment to make them on my own. This is a job that is better to hire done.

Our crazy wet weather patterns do make it a challenge to make dry hay. You have to really “make hay when the sun shines!” All other work comes to a stand still and dry hay becomes your only focus. You push yourself, the hay and even, in my case, the horses as I rake and fluff the hay to dry before it rains. Making these “wet” bales is a great option, but for now it is not cost effective for me, on our small farm, to own the equipment ourselves.

It was fun to watch the bales being made. My grandson enjoyed it too. Things like watching bales being wrapped, big mowers hogging down 13 foot of hay at a time, or a speedy baler rolling out round bales in rapid succession never gets old for guys like he and I….But I will say, we both much prefer to work with horses…a little slower? Perhaps….but much more cost efficient!