Somewhere Under the Rainbow
June 25, 2014, 1:25 pm
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Look close, there is a rainbow

Look close, there is a rainbow

June 25, 2014

Rain, rain, go away 😮 We are very wet here. Farming has stopped, at least for today. I am forced to work inside on a few things I really don’t want to do…but they need done too.

I will finish my “inside” list looking forward to getting back outside to all that awaits…even the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Animal Corn 2014

2014 off to a good start

2014 off to a good start

June 23, 2014

This year I went back to a tried and true variety of field corn for my animals. I used a hybrid for the last two years and had crop failures both years. I will blame the weather, first year drought, last year constant rain and weed pressure. I can’t help but wonder, if this open pollenated corn might have fared better even in those stress years.

Three years ago I planted this corn. Three years ago at harvest time I had large twelve inch ears on tall stalks. My expense that year totaled $140.00 per acre. Those costs included the seed, organic fertilizer and some fuel. The corn produced 90 bushels per acre of ear corn plus, the fodder that the animals ate almost completely to the ground.

My largest cost that year was the organic fertilizer at $100.00 per acre. I didn’t have enough of my own compost that year, so had to buy some “plant food”. I feel that I still made out very well. I had my seed for next year, corn in the crib and quite a bit of dry matter feed in the fodder. The patch had been cultivated with the horses, costing me only my time … and time using horses is an asset to me 😮

Last year’s corn crop cost me $410.00 per acre, my yield was less than 20 bushels per acre. I only recovered any because I was able to turn cattle and hogs into the short, stressed, standing corn to harvest it themselves. I don’t think a silver tongued salesmen will ever sway me again… no matter what the weather!

Our June has been a wet one again. The crops are all planted and so far so good. I am looking forward to making hay while watching the corn grow. The horse drawn cultivator is ready to go, hopefully it will all work out.

Experiment Underway
June 22, 2014, 10:31 pm
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Newly planted field

Newly planted field

June 22, 2014

I finished the experimental field today. I prepped and planted about four acres. I planted oats, buckwheat and sorghum/Sudan grass, for the purpose of making dry hay for the cows. I have no idea how this will work, but do know that thinking outside of the box now and then is a wonderful thing 😮

I planted the mixture of 1/3 each at a rate of about 60 pounds to the acre, sort of aimed at two bushels per acre because I simply broadcast the seed onto the soil. I didn’t even try to cover the seed or cultipack. I might have cultipacked the seed, but my cultipacker is currently broken. A big roller would work…but I don’t have one.

If this works, my plan is to make a cutting of hay, then apply compost. I will let the whole field regrow until late August or early September. Then the whole thing will be plowed down as a green manure crop for the speltz that will follow in mid to late September.

I have heard of folks getting 1.5 to 2 tons of dry hay per acre using a method such as this. There are many variables and I have not done this before, but I think it will be successful if only due to the weed suppression from the buckwheat and heavy seeding rate. Plus, mowing the whole mess will take some vigor out of any weeds too , I hope!

In any case, it was a long yet good day. No break downs, no rain and everything went well. I finished before sundown and even took a few minutes to sit in a lawn chair and do nothing! Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow. Hopefully, it will set the seed and get it off and growing…the experiment is now underway.

Spending Time With Max
June 21, 2014, 10:04 pm
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My Buddy Max

My Buddy Max

June 21, 2014

I think that it was fitting to spend the longest day of 2014, playing with Max. I know he liked it. I too had some fun, enjoying a little down time! I have plenty to do, but took a little time off just to rest mind and body.

I have one more small field to plant. I am planning on an experiment for “dry” hay. I will be planting sorghum, oats and buckwheat on a small paddock behind the barn. I don’t know how it will work, but if it goes badly, I’ll plow the whole thing down in late summer as a green manure crop.

Max and I walked the fields checking things out, finding more work and celebrating a few “wins” along the way. Max is my constant companion, just as I had hoped. I think he will be a great dog…he sure is a smart one!

Max and I checked out the hayfields while we walked too. They are ready to cut. The hay tools are ready to go, now for some nice sunny weather. I need a minimum of three dry days to get my hay made. Perhaps I err on the dry side, but it makes good hay that way. The kind I need to feed my horses, no mold, no dust.

The farm is green, the corn is up, the pastures are looking good. Yep, I think a day for reflection was just what I needed…to have a good dog along, just made it sweeter….like the strawberries freshly picked, from our raised beds!

Then, There Were None
June 19, 2014, 8:44 am
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The sheep boarding the trailer

The sheep boarding the trailer

June 19, 2014

After much consideration, thought and meditation, I sold our sheep flock. I have been a shepherd since 1999. I watched over, herded and took care of sheep for fifteen years. I spent countless hours watching baby lambs bounce around the fields of Riceland Meadows.

It is with a little bittersweet sadness that I close this chapter of our farming operation. I liked the sheep. They kept the pastures and fencerows neat and clean. They could mow around a building much easier than I, but I need to focus on other parts of our operation.

I raised my sheep and lambs on pasture. Lambing time came in May most years, when the demands for spring planting was licking at my heels. It followed closely the maple syrup season and pushed me hard to keep things in balance.

I want to do more farming with my draft horses. I want to focus here on my farm, giving up acres farmed for others. By sending the sheep to a new home, the need for hay and pasture will be less. I can focus on our cattle and hog operations.

The cattle are raised mostly to keep our family in beef. The hogs fit my busy life and the tillable acres of my farm. I can focus on the acres here, increasing fertility and the carrying capacity of our farm. Using the draft horses makes economic sense and pleases me very much.

My sheep have an excellent new home. I get to visit any time that I want. I will send my customers there next season. The lambs from this year will be fattened by me and fill orders already taken. I guess it is my way of “weaning” myself from having sheep. 😮

As I closed the trailer door after delivering the sheep, I realized that I had also closed a chapter in my life. I may one day have sheep again, but for now…. there are none.

Goodbye my friends.

Goodbye my friends.

And the Rains Came
June 18, 2014, 9:35 pm
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Storm clouds loom in the southeastern sky

Storm clouds loom in the southeastern sky

June 18, 2014

After a couple of grueling days in the tractor seat, I beat the rain and got four acres of sorghum/Sudan grass planted. The rain chased me to the house, but the seed had all been planted 😮

It has been a very busy two days. I am pressed a bit, but making progress. I had to catch up, so no horse time on this job, but soon we will be in the hay fields, with the horses supplying the power.

I have been moving the cows every day to the horse pasture. The multi specie grazing makes use of the grass best this way. The cows eat what the horses leave. Soon we will mow the pasture to stimulate grass regrowth. The mowing also knocks back the weeds.

The cows are tonight, grazing the wooded pasture where the goats have been. Just like the horses, the goats leave lots of good grass for the cows to enjoy.

It has been a good two days too. The corn is peeking through the soil, the lambs are growing and the hay looks great. The rains are welcomed as is the little bit of rest that comes with it…although, there is always manure to take care of my down time!

What is it about Fire?
June 16, 2014, 10:24 pm
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Fleeting Flames Kissing the Night

Fleeting Flames Kissing the Night

June 16, 2014

What is it about a fire that draws us to it. Perhaps it is the primal instinct of man to be close to it. Maybe its the feeling of control over something that can be deadly. Or is it the warmth, the glow and the beauty? I don’t know, but I enjoy looking at the flames of an open fire.

Last year we built a small gas fire pit on our patio. The showy sparks from a wood fire are missing, but everything else is there for the viewing and no mess to clean up 😮

Staring into the flames, a person can think, or let thoughts disappear. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy it. The flames jump into the night and vanish into the air. Like a lost love, or a first kiss, the memory is fleeting, but somewhere in your mind’s eye a glimpse is repeated on the dancing flames.

Love is like a fire. It consumes us. It’s hot and desire burns deep. It warms us inside and out. It is beautiful, but it can hurt us deeply, scarring us for life. Looking into the flames, I consider all of these things and realize that life, without fire or love, would be a very terrible thing…cold and lonely. I think miserable, would describe it in one word.

There is no question in my mind, that love without ceasing, is the only way to love someone. Give your heart and all of yourself to that special person. The joy and enrichment you get in return is indescribable. I didn’t always do that, and for that I am truly sorry.

I don’t want to go back. I figured it out finally. It took me a couple tries. Sadly, the burn sometimes can still be felt, thank goodness, for the ointment of true love. It soothes, comforts and quiets the hurt made long ago and takes the sting out of life. Thank you God, for my loving wife.

On the Right Path
June 15, 2014, 9:09 pm
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One last look at an old trouble spot

One last look at an old trouble spot

June 15, 2014
Father’s Day. I spent a minute talking at my father’s resting place. I do wish we could share a cup of coffee and conversation, but even a one sided visit makes me feel better. I heard from my children and all is well.

I worked on my list, sold a couple piglets and spent time with our new dog. We walked the sap roads for awhile, just looking at the big difference, and liking what I saw.

Yesterday, I spent time with my uncles. It was good to see and talk with them. This coming week will be full of farm work, horse work and the like, but I have set aside some time for visiting with some old friends. I am sure, that like the sap roads, I am on the right path! 😮

Woodland Stewardship
June 14, 2014, 6:29 am
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Ruts repaired, erosion minimized

Ruts repaired, erosion minimized

June 14, 2014

A few days ago, I posted a picture of some terrible ruts I made getting our maple sap this year. Well, those ruts are now history! I fretted for months on how to make them all go away. Then I met a man with a small bulldozer who has many hours in the seat. He fixed all those bad places in less than half a day and the best part… it cost less than 300 dollars!

He did an awesome job. He was very careful around the trees. He shaped the roads in places, creating small ditches for the water to drain. I still have some work to do, but what a difference already. I feel much better about my woodland stewardship efforts now. 😮

I can see that maintaining my roads will always take some effort. We are on them during the spring thaw and wet season. Care must be used to protect the streams and woodland, using the horses to draw the sled, has the lowest impact. I have roads we have used for over twenty years with the horses, that resemble hiking paths…the tractor created a mess in just two very short seasons…never again!

Never again will I tear things up like that. I vow to use my horses and horses only. When I am too old to drive them, I will still insist that its horses or nothing…lucky for me I have grandsons 😮 Now, to just get them to think like me… of course my ideas come from my grandpa’s, so there is hope!

Making maple syrup will be a part of this farming operation for as long as I can run it. Using horses will always be part of it too. These two things go together like peaches and cream …they are simply made for each other.

Much Better!

Much Better!

Back on Top
June 13, 2014, 8:50 am
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Our repaired horse , runs again!

Our repaired horse , runs again!

June 13, 2014

Today is Friday the 13th, big deal. It’s Friday. I am off work and I am not superstitious…so, I am going to have a good day no matter what!

Yesterday, we got our weathervane put back in order. Our horse got beat up by the wind. He had come loose from his moorings and looked as if he was standing on his head. He had simply lost his direction. I know how he felt. After too many long shifts and too much time away from the farm, I too was starting to lose my direction.

It is amazing what a true craftsman can do. Our weathervane is as good as new. I also got some much needed rest and after just one relaxing evening around my animals and fields, I too am re-charged and “Back on Top.”

After six months of grieving over our dog King, we bought a new pup. We are the proud owners of a black and white Border Collie named Max. He is a year old. He is full of excitement and wonder. He was very timid and shy at first, but is coming into his own with encouragement and praise from us.

It is fun to watch as this little guy learns his place. He has it pretty much figured out that I am the top dog and he is my helper. He tries just a bit too hard to help now and then, but is learning quickly. He is a bit jealous of the cats and Vincent the goat when they get some of my attention. He waits patiently…well sort of patiently, at least he is learning to share 😮

So it is with a rested mind, a new pup and the love of family, that I embrace my farm work. I feel so much better! The horses can sense it too. The farm work waits in fear of us, with our new found vigor, even work knows we are about to slay it. 😮