Setting up your Farmstead
June 30, 2012, 7:22 am
Filed under: June 2012

The girls check out their new playground

                                                    June 30, 2012      

     When you arrive at your new home, farm or farmstead, the first thing to do is just walk around and get the feel of it. See which way the ground slopes. Try to visualize where your barn will go and other buildings as well. Think about fences, where to locate the garden and what will the flow of traffic look like, both mechanical and foot traffic, as well.

      Now, consider what types of livestock you will want. Don’t set up a menagery of animals that are just big pets. Think instead of sustainability and self-sufficiency. Animals that provide food, fiber or power should be considered first. The next thing is the ease of their care… hauling buckets of water in deep snow, is not the time to be thinking about how many cows you should have.

      Go slow. Plant a garden, fruit trees and berry bushes. incorporate these items into the landscape, near the house where weeds are easier to hoe and vegetables are readily picked. If the garden is too far from the house , it gets neglected.

      Plan with your partner what exactly you want your place to do. Is it just for fun? Is it to become a business, contributing to the family’s income?  Will it just be your little slice of heaven that helps to sustain your family, by providing the bulk of the food and peace from the corporate world?

      Equipment needs will have to be considered based upon the farming venture and the size of your farmstead. Along with equipment, manpower should be considered. How much will you need? Will your family supply the labor needed for the upcoming jobs? Be honest with yourself and …. go slow.

      Read, read, read as many books and articles on the subject that you can. Do trials as you go. Plant small plots as you sort everything out, finding out what will work best for you. Build barns and fences BEFORE you get animals!

      Try to find a mentor who shares your vision. Most farmers who farm a thousand acres, will be too busy to help you understand how to care for bees, plant raspberries or set up a pasture rotation for a small flock of goats. Seek like-minded folks with whom,  to share ideas and experiences.

      Do not give up. Your dream is not only real…it’s possible. Go slow, plan ahead, ask questions, but above all enjoy yourself. There is much to learn, but the rewards are endless… the birdsong, on a quiet morning alone, is priceless. The first corn or potatoes grown in your garden, prepared by family and picked at the peak of freshness, will fuel your passion and satisfy your palette.

      Every situation is different and yet very much alike. Water will be needed by anyone wanting to grow flowers, fruits or vegetables. A secondary source like a pond or cistern should be considered and planned. Manure management, like composting must be well thought out and planned.

      Take on one or two projects a year. Follow them to completion before taking on something new. This will help to keep you from becoming over whelmed. Farming on any scale is hard work. I think it is wonderful work that brings on great sleep, but I am a bit biased… I love this life and all that it provides.


Come Babies
June 29, 2012, 1:44 pm
Filed under: June 2012

Moving the flock

                                                      June 29, 2012

      Our new lambs are approaching sixty days old. I start moving them almost daily now. Many times I only have them follow me to the barn for a treat of grain. The mothers really like this part 😮

      Our sheep are 99% grass-fed. They only get a grain treat when moving from pasture to pasture. I call to them in an almost singing voice, “Come Babies…”  I shake a five gallon bucket of shelled corn or spelt and head off in the direction that I want them to go.

      I am pretty sure that the sheep are coming for the tasty treat of gran rather than my singing…but hey, whatever works! The ewes come and the lambs follow. In a few moves they begin to realize that moving means reward, at the end of the move. It may be grain, but is most often a new green fresh grass pasture for them to enjoy.

      My ewes all know the drill by now, but the lambs are just learning. It is funny because , just like people, some do not like change! I have a group, led by a small black ewe, who are a rouge band of non-conformers. They scatter away from my delightful singing voice and head for the farthest corner of the pasture.

      I refuse to chase sheep. It never goes well. They get hot. I get hot. They learn to avoid capture at any cost. I get frustrated, often fall down and consider butchering every single one of them… often on the spot!

      It is much better to be patient, coaxing the flock with grain. The greedy ones follow or even run ahead. The timid ones follow a bit behind, but don’t want to be left alone. The rogue devils soon want to be included and come along in spite of wanting to tick me off 😮

      This is our eleventh year with sheep. This early summer ritual takes place every year. So far I am winning, 11 to 0. This ritual keeps me humble, teaches me tolerance and makes me learn the personalities of my flock. I guess it’s a good thing for all of us.

      My horses come when I whistle. The cows come when I holler “Ka-boss” . The hogs run to the sound of me thumping on the bottom of a bucket like a drum. My sheep come to my singing “Come Babies”. I am thinking we won’t ever have ducks..because calling them would …. “Quack me up”.


Fly Spray and Fly Nets
June 28, 2012, 7:58 am
Filed under: June 2012

Jake and the boys mowing pasture

                                                              June 28, 2012

      The next week we are expected to have some very hot muggy days. The horses spend daytime in the barn and are turned out on pasture at night. This management for them keeps the biting flies at a minimum. The flies leave them alone at night.

      We do have to work during the day , so we use fly nets and homemade fly spray. I got the recipe for the fly spray from the “Front Porch” forum on the Rural Heritage website   WWW.Ruralheritage.com  It was from an old post a few years ago. That recipe works well and is cheaper than what is sold over the counter.

      I curry my horses first. I next apply the fly spray by wiping it on with a soft cloth. It can be thinned and sprayed, but I prefer to wipe it on. Once the fly spray has been wiped on, I harness up. The fly nets go on top of the harness. My nets are nylon. They were purchased from Meader’s Supply. The dangly nylon fringe helps immensely to keep the flies away.

      The recipe for the fly spray is as follows, for a 60 ounce batch;

24 ounces of water

24 ounces original Pinesol

6 ounces of original Dawn dishwashing liquid

6 ounces of original Listerene mouthwash

      We try to work mornings and evenings, leaving the horses in the barn on the hottest part of the day. This is not always possible, but we try. If we work 3 or 4 hours in the cool of morning, then another 3 or 4 hours later in the cool evening, we still get a full days work in and avoid some of the fly pressure.

      When we are making hay or logging, it’s just tough on all of us, as you can’t always wait for evening.  The fly spray and fly nets do help a lot. An old-timer that I once worked with, would feed his horses a cap full of apple cider vinegar twice a day beginning in late March. He swore by this remedy, but I have never tried it.

      I try to keep my horses comfortable while they work. I remember milking cows in the summertime. Those biting flies would come in with the cows. It always seemed as if, just when your hands were full, one would bite you right in the middle of the back. This lends to a colorful vocabulary…since my horses can’t swear… we will take on summer with fly spray and fly nets 😮


Whacking Away At It
June 27, 2012, 8:08 am
Filed under: June 2012

Hoss, Knight and I mowing pasture

                                                                   June 27, 2012

      The horses and I have been mowing pasture. I am not worried about hitting anything with the brush hog because we are only mowing grass. I would not mow over shrubs and brush due to flying debris. The grass however, yields easily and is fun to mow.

      The brush hog is six feet wide. It cuts well.  The powercart handles it pretty good. I do have to slow the horses down some in the thickest parts, because I can hear the motor dragging a little… not the horses. They pull this like it’s a toy behind them.

      I am using fly nets on the horses to help keep the biting pest away. The nets, along with homemade fly spray, work well on all but the hottest, muggiest days. The green head flies are the worst right now and very soon come those big black ones. Those big black ones have a drill bit for a stinger… I swear!

      We continue to have a summer without much rain. The nice days do make it easy to work on my list of jobs. I am not anywhere near the end of the list , but I am whacking away at it 😮


Home Sweet Home
June 26, 2012, 7:01 am
Filed under: June 2012

The new chicken house

                                                      June 26, 2012

      It’s official, the hens have moved. They are waking up to their new home. I am sure there is a lot of clucking going on, as they discuss their new coop.

      The location couldn’t be better. The gravel pad looks too big right now, but will look just right once we back-fill with topsoil. I even reused an old piece of cement for an entrance stoop. The girls are living in grand style now..even the window box looks cute 😮

      I don’t know if the hens will produce enough eggs to make this move worth it, but I sure do like the look and function of the new building. The hens will be shut in here for a week or so and then will begin to free-range in the big pasture.

      I guess I should say that the hens will be “cooped up” not shut up. All of us guys know you can’t shut up a bunch of hens … anymore than you can keep a proud rooster from strutting! It is just the way of things and living in harmony makes ….. home sweet home!


Did you hear we’re moving?
June 25, 2012, 4:22 pm
Filed under: June 2012

A Black Giant hen and her gal pal

                                                       June 25, 2012

      I have been in a computer fight with “WordPress” for the last few days. I am not sure I won, but I am getting to post again 😮      Our new hen-house has been set on its platform of gravel. It has been leveled and made ready for the hens. Tonight after dark, we will transfer the girls to their new place. I am sure they will enjoy their new home.

      The new place for them to free-range will be a 2 acre haven. It is planted in hay, pumpkins, rape and turnips. The later two crops were planted today. Those crops are eaten by pigs and sheep, later in the season.

      The hens new coop was designed by me, but built by an Amish friend in his shop. It is roomy, bright and airy. The windows will make the hens feel at home even in the dark days of winter. The monitor style roof will also let in light through the translucent panels. The vents on the ends of the ridge will keep fresh air moving in all types of weather without giving any of the hens a chill.

      The new nest boxes may take some getting used to, as we will reach in from outside the coop to gather eggs. I think the hens will soon settle down and really get to liking their new home.

      The horses and I are mowing their pasture. Tomorrow there will be a photo of my pals and I working….. Okay, I’m sitting on the seat… They are doing all the work!


It’s Too Hot To Work Today Pa-Pa
June 20, 2012, 1:44 pm
Filed under: June 2012

My grandson in his straw hat

                                                  June 20, 2012

      The thermometer is sitting at 93 degrees F. It is hot, especially for us thick blooded northerners…. and even more especially for us fat ones 😮

       I hit the ground running this morning. I was in the hayfield by six-thirty am. I worked at loading round bales to get them all in before a thunderstorm pops up. It is hot and muggy much like weather seen in central Florida where my sister lives..I am sure she is crazy, especially after a day like this one!

      I talked my grandson into wearing a straw hat. I told him it would keep him cooler and better still, it would keep the flies off his face. I told him that when you are working, those pesky flies make it worse.  He told me , “It’s too hot to work today pa-pa!”  There, that proves it… even my three-year old grandson is smarter than my sister 😮

      One thing for sure, the green head flies that bite the horses are in rare form today. I think they may even be biting each other! The horses are very glad to be in the dark, cool barn away from those relentless biting critters, anyway ” it’s too hot for working” … even my little grandson knows that!


His First Birthday
June 18, 2012, 11:00 pm
Filed under: June 2012

King destroying his new toy

                                                    June 18, 2012

      King turned one year old on Father’s Day. He celebrated by taking a dip in his beloved pond, chewing on some old bone he found and playing with a new toy that “mom” bought him. His new toy is a squeaky monkey. He played with it quite awhile, then unceremoniously, ripped the poor monkey’s arm off! He is hiding it under his foot if you look close 😮

      We made our first second cutting hay, right in front of a small, short shower. The baler went back into the barn, just as the raindrops started to fall. It is very nice hay. The pumpkin field continues to be a success.

      King was happy to be playing in the pumpkin field while I baled hay in a big hurry to try to beat the rain. He, like any small boy left to his own plan, found an old pig wallow in the high grass. He was a muddy, stinky mess. I am so glad that I saw him before “mom” did. I got him cleaned up before company came.

      Our little pup who came here at eight weeks old weighing eighteen pounds, now weighs over one hundred and thirty. He is a big boy who likes the farm life as much as I do. So , this was his first birthday on the farm. We are looking forward to many more 😮


A Father’s Day
June 17, 2012, 7:18 am
Filed under: June 2012

Uncle Fred, standing in the steam, watching over me

                                                       June 17, 2012

      My dad has passed away. My father-in-law is now gone too. My grandfathers are all waiting on the other side as well. I am the next generation. The next one to make a mark on the hearts and minds of my family. A mark that I hope will last a long time and be as sweet as the maple syrup that we make.

      My uncles are all from my mother’s side of the family. My dad’s side had only great uncles, old men who were brothers to my grandma. My mom’s brothers have been my uncles and my pals for as long as I have memory. They have looked out for and watched over me, for all of my fifty-three years.

      My mom’s baby brother, my uncle Fred, has always had a special bond with me. He is the father of two daughters. I am sure that he is close to them too, but I was here first 😮 He took me hunting when I got my first deer. He helped me out over the years on more than one project, I’ll tell you. Now, in his retirement years, he chooses to spend time here on my farm, sharing yet another dream with me.

      Our sugarhouse had been a dream of mine for a very long time. My mother enjoyed feeding that dream. My dad’s parents lit the fire in the dream way back in the 1960’s, when I was just a boy. To see it finally come true was a highlight and then some. It seems only fitting to have the steamy, blurry photo in today’s post. It’s like all my family was there that first boil, gathered in mass to offer me congratulations, while my uncle Fred stood by.

      On this Father’s Day, I will make some second cutting hay. I will visit the resting place of my father and I will take phone calls from my family. I am sure some will drop by to visit, even my grandchildren will call to say hello. I will call my uncles as well. This is a day for fathers and men who have helped shaped your life.

      I can think of many great men in my life. These men had no relationship other than to be mentors. I would love to call and say thank you to them, but it is way too late, for they too have passed away. There was J Elliott, my first boss, E Jordan, the best pony man I ever knew and of course Dr. Ernie Kazar a man among men.

      On this day, take time to reflect upon your daddy. Hold him in your thoughts and prayers for just a little while. It makes no difference if he is alive or dead… the fact that you remembered him is all that he would want.


So Far, So Good
June 16, 2012, 7:17 am
Filed under: June 2012

Pumpkins on plastic mulch

                                                      June 16, 2012

      The pumpkins seem to be doing well. The plastic is keeping the weeds away from the pumpkins. I do need to get the weeds cultivated in between the rows. Right now they are small, but soon will be menacing water stealers, that have to go!

      This experiment continues to go quite well. I am not exactly sure how much water they are getting, but they look good, with no signs of stress. The drip tape waters at the root zone, so it’s hard to see. One thing for sure, the tape is effective.

      The hay is now cut in the field around the pumpkins. They will soon be sending out their runners. This is the part of the plant where the pumpkins grow. I want to get the hay made and then apply composted manure to the green strips. I am thinking that when the runners grow out into that space, they will get nutrients from the manure too.

      I will soon have to treat the plants for powdery mildew and a few other plant diseases. These pumpkins are a little bit labor intensive, but so far so good   😮