Farm Play Date
December 31, 2016, 10:40 am
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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.


Home Butchering


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.

Abby On The Grow


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.


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
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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.

Tis The Season
December 6, 2016, 10:30 pm
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December 6, 2016

Butchering season is upon us. This is one of our 2016 grassfed lambs. We will enjoy him ourselves. It is a bittersweet time. The animals that I have nurtured all year, now become meals for us. It is the cycle of life. I understand, I am grateful and yet a part of me feels a little sad. I stun the animals humanely and treat them with respect right to the end of their lives. I take comfort in that fact.

Our animals are well treated form birth until death. Even in the final seconds of their lives, they know no fear or mistreatment. I believe the stress free lives that they live, translates to very safe, wholesome food for me and my family. They spend much of their lives on pasture in the fresh air and sunshine. I watch over them, keeping them safe and well. We get the benefit of vitamins and minerals consumed from our grass and converted into the flesh of our animals.

We feed the soil with compost and pH buffering limestone. The soil feeds the crops. The crops feed the animals and in the case of cover crops, the soil itself. The animals feed us very nutritious protein, packed with vitamins and omega3. The work that I do taking care of our soils is worth every minute. I see it in the crops we grow and I taste it in the beef, lamb, pork and chicken that we eat.


Time For Another Lumber Project


December 5, 2016

After a rough couple of weeks at my off farm job, it’s time to sort out the winter projects that we want to complete before maple sugaring time. I, of course, have our seasonal butchering to do, but I also have a few building projects on my list for next year. I walked the white pines looking things over and will be selecting the candidates in the next couple of days.

On some farms, these big pine trees would be considered a nuisance. Here on my farm, I consider them like a savings account. I will select and harvest the ones I need to have them sawed into lumber. I like to have a material list, before cutting. No sense in taking more than I need. Plus, I want to make sure I can get the lengths and widths I desire.

I also choose trees based upon the forest in which they live. I take the crooked ones, the small ones and the crowded ones. I want the little pine forests to be better off for my selective thinning. In this manner, I get two benefits. I get the lumber that I need, while improving my holdings at the same time. It is like adding to my savings account instead of always withdrawing.

Using the horses to skid the logs leaves a very small footprint. I pile the boughs and brush making winter places for small animals to take cover under. I enjoy the work. The horses enjoy working with me and our woodlands improve. That is a pretty good project for the winter months… getting the lumber is just icing on the cake.