Grampa Rice
November 30, 2013, 11:19 pm
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Making Memories

Making Memories

November 30, 2013

   Today, we celebrated Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful time. After dinner I hitched the horses and took everyone for a sled ride. It was crisp and cool, but everyone had a very warm heart 😮

   I am reminded of Thanksgivings long ago, when I was a boy. I couldn’t wait to go to my gramma and grampa’s house. It was a wonderful place with animals, great food, big draft horses and my grandparents lived there! Oh how I loved that place.

   It seemed every year, back then, it was cold and snowy. The wood fire heated the house while gramma’s great cooking filled our bellies. Once the meal was finished, grampa would have to go do chores. I begged to go along. Every once in a while, I was allowed to go, it was awesome!

   I have many great memories of my grampa Rice. Almost every one of those memories involve horses or some other farm animal and of course, making maple syrup. I do miss him so very much.

   Today, it dawned on me, that I am grampa Rice. I saw magic in the eyes of my grandchildren today. It was heart-warming as I saw memories dance in the eyes of the little ones. Our great grand children were here today too, out newest, a baby girl, rode in the sled while sucking a bottle. I doubt that she will remember today, but I vow to be her grampa Rice as long as I live … and even long after, in her memory.

   We hitched three horses just for fun. The bells echoed across the farm as the harness bells chimed. The snow made everything clean and the sun blessed our day, shining brightly, in the afternoon sky. The little boys held the ends of the reins and had a big time.

   The youngsters were not the only ones with magic in their eyes for I too had a certain shine in mine. I spoke to the horses and guided them around our farm and I could feel my grampa, my great grampa and my dad riding along with us. We made magic and we made memories and I am real sure that my grampa Rice would be proud!


The Harvest is Complete
November 28, 2013, 6:24 pm
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Resting through winter

Resting through winter

November 28, 2013

   The harvest is complete. The cows and sows have gleaned the corn off this field. The field now rests until spring. We celebrate Thanksgiving enjoying the fruits of our labor. A meal shared by family and friends is a great way to celebrate the harvest!

   On this farm, we think outside of the box. I try to keep my options open and my ideas fresh. I am wise enough to not reinvent the wheel, but rather, search out the old methods of farming and use them for my own good.

   Using animals to harvest crops, especially corn, has been done for decades. I used it this year due to the pitiful crop that grew in spite of the weather and weed pressure. The animals fed themselves for six weeks. They will spend winter on this field to deposit their manure, eat a little more fodder and get excercise.

   The sows will share in this field once their babies are weaned. They will root around in the soil with the boar. Breeding will take place and the cycle will repeat itself. Spring will come and the field will be pushed into service, gestating sows will pasture in a different field and next year’s crop will grow.

A Short Week?
November 27, 2013, 2:41 pm
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Play Day

Play Day

November 27, 2013

   The horses enjoyed a day just romping and playing. The ground was frozen. They made no tracks with their big hooves. It seemed they could tell a storm was coming, but they had several hours of pure fun in spite of it.

   Many folks are about to enjoy a short work week. In a day, they will gather with family and friends and share a meal of Thanksgiving. Some will enjoy a nice four day break from work. Many will head to the stores to start their Christmas shopping. I celebrate will all those folks 😮

   I would also like to take a minute to say thanks to the folks who will be at work that day. Men and women like police and firemen. The people who keep the stores open and even the parades happening. I salute those folks… Take a minute as you say “thanks” to remember the men and women in service to our country and the doctors and nurses who give care.

   I will say thanks as well to the folks whose jobs require them to work through holidays, weekends and stormy nights. Men who run the trains, factory workers and airline pilots are but a few who will toil as others spend time in celebration of Thanksgiving …. but every one of them is just as thankful as the rest of us.

   Enjoy a meal, treasure your time off from work and if you get one …. enjoy that short week!

Counting the Days
November 24, 2013, 8:07 pm
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Maternity Pen

Maternity Pen

November 24, 2013

   At this time of the year, lots of folks are counting down the days. Some are counting down to the end of the year.  Youngsters are counting down the remaining days until Christmas. Around here, we are counting down the days until the baby pigs come.

   The cold weather makes this job a little tricky, but our moms are experienced. They will have no problem managing their babies. They will build big, soft, deep nests. The nests will cradle the babies and along with mom’s body heat, will keep them warm.

   The sow in the photo is in an eight foot by eight foot pen. She is a big girl, but still has plenty of room. She also gets “playtime” twice a day. She gets to exercise and walk around. She soon gets tired of the whole exercise thing and walks back to her pen. Or perhaps I should say “waddle”, because she is at the end stage of her pregnancy…. you ladies know what I mean 😮

   I spend a little extra time petting and talking to my gals. They seem to appreciate a scratch behind the ear or a good brushing of their backs. All this bonding goes a long way when its time to handle thier babies. They tolerate me much better, knowing that I won’t hurt Their young. I should probably rub their feet …but then that’s going a bit too far 😮

   In any case, the time of year for counting days is upon us. Especially here at the farm… I’m doing all that I can to make sure there is indeed “room at the Inn”.


Cuddle Up!
November 22, 2013, 10:55 pm
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Ready for the storm

Ready for the storm

November 22, 2013

   “The storm is coming”,  the weatherman says. I think he is right this time. My animals are eating and getting into big fluffy beds. They are all cuddled up and ready for whatever comes.

   I think that is a great idea. Snuggling while the wind blows outside is a wonderful thing. These girls will all have babies before the end of the year. Now, they are content to lay together and just stay warm. Soon, they will get ornery and want to be alone. That is when they get moved to a place of their own.

   They arrange their new pen to suit themselves. They push the hay and straw into a big pile and sleep in the center. After a short while, their bed resembles a big bird’s nest. In a day or so after that, piglets will be born. It is a neat sight to see.

   Once the evening chores are all done and all is quiet, the animals settle down and get comfortable. It is peaceful. I like to absorb the quiet and let the stresses of the day melt away…and let’s face it…there is nothing like a little cuddling to make the stress go away!  😮

Next !
November 21, 2013, 8:16 pm
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My next effort stands at the ready!

My next effort stands at the ready!

November 21, 2013

   Today was a cold rainy day. We still managed to finish filling the sugarwood kindling rack. So another job is completed. I also washed and put away the baler. The barns all got cleaned and the sows are snug and warm tucked away under the barn’s overhang.

   I am very happy with my progress these last few days. I am caught up with all of my work after a very trying farming year. Now, just winter stuff remains. Sure, I want to haul a few loads of slabwood to the sugarhouse, but that just makes for a fun day of horse work.

   We have our fall butchering to do, but we are right on schedule with that too. I am thinking that I will get a few loads of composted manure hauled out. If the weather completely tanks, I don’t care. I have enough room to pile manure for quite a while.

   Last night I spent a time visiting with some old friends. The ice cream went down smooth and the jokes and laughter filled a room. It was a nice time. I didn’t stress once about goofing off when so much work remains….that’s because no work remains!  Dang I am happy about that!

   I haul all of our manure with the spreader in the photo. My horses pull the powercart that runs the spreader. The horses don’t get stuck. Light loads and big tires keep the manure spreader from sinking in and making ruts. Light loads also allow me more time to work horses and that is always a good thing 😮

   So, as long as the rain stops and the snow doesn’t get too deep, we will be in the manure business. I don’t want any run-off from the manure though, so this project may be put on hold unless we just take it out to the field and run it off into a pile. The pile can be spread later when conditions are right. I still make room in my compost stack area, the horses get work, so everyone is happy…especially me.


Hay Jake!
November 20, 2013, 8:13 pm
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Baling hay with our coats on!

Baling hay with our coats on!

November 20, 2013

   Today, the weather cooperated, and we baled up some of our round bales into small squares. The little bales are very nice when a winter storm is blasting away outside. I just have to climb the ladder to the hay mow to serve the horses their supper.

   This too is a job usually done long before now. I thought it was funny that we were baling hay with our coats on. Usually sweat runs into our eyes and heat makes it hard to breath, but that was not the case today!

   I now have made room under the barn’s overhang for my gestating sows to spend the winter. They will be warm and snug in a deep straw bed. The hay that was stored in there is now all upstairs in the barn. The sows and I are both very happy 😮

   We also got half of the sugarwood kindling cut and stacked away. I put some back every year to use to start the fire in the maple syrup arch. It is small slab pieces called edgings. The edgings come off the edge of the log and have very little value. They make great fire starters and real good heat for a quick fire in a small stove, but that is about it.

   Tomorrow I will put away the baler for the year. It will get a bath, a good oiling and greasing, then stowed and covered up. Again, it’s hard to believe that I am doing this in November and not September, but what a great feeling to be caught up ….almost!

   I did get some great help today from my son Jake. He enjoys farm work ….. just ask me 😮


November 19, 2013, 9:05 pm
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Full moon covered by the clouds

Full moon covered by the clouds

November 19, 2013

   Tonight the moon is full. It is hidden partially by the clouds, but it is far more beautiful than my photograph can show. I stood and looked at the majesty, in awe. I am not scared of boogeymen or ghosts. I don’t think evil lurks under a full moon… I think it is underly amazing how much light it shares. It , to me, is truly beautiful 😮

   I like to walk in the moonlight. I really like to drive horses on a snowy, cold, full moon lit night. It is like magic! I have worked many times by the light of the moon. Picking corn with team and wagon, husking the ears by hand is nothing short of fun, when the moon shines overhead.

   I remember one summer planting potatoes on my hands and knees by moon light. My wife thought that I was crazy. I had to get the spuds planted because rain was in the forecast and my off-farm job was about to conflict with planting. I did get them all planted and we had a bountiful harvest that year.

   We have had lots of farm babies born the night of a full moon. I’m not sure if it’s because mom can see better…or if she just wants her babies to see the beauty that surrounds them. I guess it’s the pull of the ocean currents or the rhythm of the Earth, but I will just choose to focus on the pure magic.

   I used today to tie up several loose ends. I would much rather be cutting wood or something that can be measured at the end of the day. I will say, however, now I can focus on other things without the nagging little things beating me up 😮

   I revamped a wagon tongue and got it ready for a three-horse hitch. It worked great as I took a short wagon ride just to be sure. I cleaned up inside the washhouse from some recent inside construction and I put up two shelves in my tackroom. We also finished closing in the overhang on the side of the machinery shed. It will make the shed more serviceable for winter storage.

   I finished at suppertime. I just had to walk out one more time to check on my boys (the horses). I like to say goodnight when I can. I was greeted not only by three black giants, but by that wonderful moonrise as well!


Where Are They Now?
November 18, 2013, 10:00 pm
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A pair of turkeys waiting for Thanksgiving

A pair of turkeys waiting for Thanksgiving

November 18, 2013

   I guess someone told the turkeys that they would be included in our Thanksgiving meal. They hung around for a week or so, but now are long gone. I wonder if they sorted the whole thing out?  😮

   Hunting is like this too. We watch deer run here and there, dart out in front of cars, but where are they when you want to shoot one? I guess that is why they call it hunting and not catching. Oh well, I’m sure it will all work out.

   The weather is turning cold again. I am quite glad. It is time for us to process the last pen of roaster chickens for the year. I hope to be done by the end of the week. A couple of pigs are waiting to go to freezer camp too.

   I am in the mad scramble to finish up all the little things before winter descends on us. I crossed a couple of things off my list today and even managed to visit a friend of mine. It was an awesome day.

   As I finished chores, I was wondering where those turkeys have gone. I was also thinking about a couple of high school friends. We were close “back in the day” and I have not seen either of them for over twenty years. I can’t help but wonder …where are they now?


Tunnel Vision
November 16, 2013, 1:56 pm
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Snow covered sap road

Snow covered sap road

November 16, 2013

   Why is it that when the way seems so clear,  we often deviate from the obvious?

   Life takes us on some interesting journeys. I remember thinking, back in high school, that I was going to be a butcher. I planned, studied, worked for free and did anything that I could do to learn the butcher’s trade. I was sure that my career choice was a good one. I held that dream for almost twenty years. I did indeed become a butcher. I learned all aspects of that trade and even became quite good at it.

   Farming has been a part of my life since before I was born. In fact, the night I was born, my mother had to quit the evening milking to go to the hospital to have me 😮 It feeds my soul to be around animals and to have my hands in the dirt! It took me a while to find my way, but now I farm everyday. It makes me whole and keeps me grounded.

   I did not inherit a farm. I had to find a piece of ground that fit my vision. I had to buy that ground and everything that went with it. I learned to build, to repair and to find a way where no way existed. My dream always in sight, my goals defined and my shoulder to the wheel.

   I have the blessing of a good wife who believes in me and shares my vision. She lets me farm, trusts in my decisions and loves me beyond measure. This makes my dream possible and my goal a reality. She simply lets me be me.

   When I was young, I could only see myself in the career of meatcutting. I persisted even when things went bad. The jobs were low paying. The work was hard. I bit off a bigger payment than I could make when I bought a slaughterhouse of my own. After a long fight, I gave up, closed the business and moved on.

   The next few years things changed for me, but I stayed close to the land. That is what kept me grounded, satisfied my soul and let me dream again. I took a job in a factory that helped me to dig out from under a mountain of debt that led the way to be here on my farm today.

   I am glad to have had the bumps along the way. It gives me character. It educated me and helped me to become more flexible. My hands now work where my heart is happy. I still work the off farm job to make ends meet and continue to pay down debt. My goal now is to get squared away and work to become a full-time farmer …what ever that means 😮

   It is important to follow your heart in love and life. Define your plan and keep your goals in sight. If things change…adapt…don’t lose sight of your vision for your life.

   Incidently, the farm wash-house where we will butcher our meat, wash vegetables and extract honey is almost completed. I will farm and I will tap my butchering skills every now and then, allowing myself to scratch an old itch. So, is it a vision or is it tunnel vision?   You decide.