“Spook” -tacular
October 31, 2014, 7:40 pm
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Trick or treat

Trick or treat

October 31, 2014

It’s that time of year already. October has all but faded into a memory. The children will gather candy and bellyaches. The parents will try to find their sanity as sugar charged kids go crazy. Perhaps, that is why they call it trick or treat šŸ˜®

I say farewell to the month. As I reflect upon these last several weeks, I am filled with gladness. One heck of a lot of work got done. The haymow is full. The gilts are bred. The ends and edges of the corn field have been picked by hand. The rows stand ready to be machine picked, hopefully, starting the end of next week.

I have been stockpiling logs for a wood cutting day. The pile is getting quite large. There are more dead tree logs and limbs waiting to be brought to the pile, but progress has been steady. Our broilers are chilling on ice, freshly butchered and the pig pens are almost empty, because most of the pigs went off to freezer camp. Lastly, our steer Charlie, can now be called “ground chuck”.

So, as November comes in and chases the clocks back an hour, I get to look at a much shorter list of chores. Wood cutting and corn picking will be our top projects, followed by our own butchering as we fill our freezers. Smoked sausages, hams and bacons will soon fill the smokehouse. Our turkeys, named Thanksgiving and Christmas, will also soon vacate their pen, making room for growing piglets.

I see rest on the horizon, but for tonight mostly just goblins…… or perhaps candy eating…Ā gobblings!

Oh Baby
October 24, 2014, 8:24 pm
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Hello World

Hello World

October 24, 2014

Liz’s calf finally stopped long enough for me to get a picture. They were all just moved to the white clover field. I am sure they are very happy…because their backsides are green with envy…or something like that šŸ˜®

The little calf is 3/4 Murry Grey. She is standing right in front of mom and dad, but I focused on the cute one! The rich clover will help provide very rich milk to make the little one grow. She is a chunk. She is a fine example of what I hope my breeding program will accomplish. I haven’t named her yet, but all in good time I guess.

We are expecting more calves in the coming weeks. It is an exciting time. The grass is holding out well, but I don’t especially like calving this late in the year. I just hope the babies will come soon, before the biting winter winds blow. They are hardy once they are born and dried off. They are born with a winter coat at this time of year, but I still think that is a rough way to enter the world. They leave a 101 degree womb and hit the ground with the outside temperatures near freezing. No wonder they are in a rush to stand and drink warm milk!

The best part of farming is the babies. It is a great reward. I will never get over the miracle of birth…2 legged or 4 legged.

Colorful Characters
October 22, 2014, 6:51 pm
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October 22, 2014

In my lifetime so far, I have met many colorful characters,Ā some are old farmers. Many of the men and women that I am thinking about are good country people, but then I don’t know too many city folks. I am amazed by real people from the city. I can’t understand for the life of me why someone wants to be surrounded by tall buildings, traffic and constant commotion. I much prefer tall trees, animals and peace and quiet. The bright lights for me consist of a star filled night sky. The only way to make that sparkling evening any better, is to share it with someone you love.

Anyway, getting back to the characters that have shaped my life, I was reminded today of an old man named John. John took great delight in telling stupid, corny jokes. He almost always smelled of creosote, it was a miracle liquid for him. He put that stuff on everything from wood, to the bottom of his vehicle. He was from the old country, a kind, gentle man. His mission in life was to make people smile. If you didn’t mind the smell of creosote, you couldn’t help but smile. ( ****creosote is now known to cause cancer, I don’t even think you can buy or own it anymore)

Another man who helped me more than he will ever know, was also named John. I called him Johnny. He was a small man in stature but a large man in my life. He taught me many old-time farming practices, especially when it comes to raising pigs. He was a man of God and witnessed often without being overbearing. I miss him often and stand ever grateful for his shared knowledge.

A lady, who babysat my sister and I, was another character in my life who shaped me as a man. She wasĀ a model lady from West Virginia. Her name was Nellie and she thought that I had hung the moon. I guess after raising five boys on her own, I was just a reminder of days gone by. She helped me to become a gentleman. She was a very hard-working woman who gardened and canned like she was still raising five boys, but you could eat all you wanted when you sat down at her table. ”Ā Take all you want, but eat all you take.”, she would say, in a sweet voice that still lingers in my memory.

These are but three people who touched my life. I only hope that I have made a difference in someone’s life justĀ as these nice folks did in mine. One thing I know for sure is this…. I am a colorful character, who enjoys seeing people smile!

Stockpiled Pasture
October 20, 2014, 9:38 pm
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White clover blooms against a colorful backdrop

White clover blooms against a colorful backdrop

October 20, 2014

The cows are eating their last pastures of the 2014 grazing season. I have a few more paddocks with some stockpiled grass for them to enjoy, until the winter snows blow. They are in the most east pasture now,Ā munching on third cutting hay, left to grow to nourish the plant roots. The frost has signaled the grass to go dormant, so lightly grazing the hayfield won’t hurt a thing.

The wooded pasture in the photo is the next hamlet for the cows. The woods provide some shelter from the late autumn winds. The grass lush and green will provide some very good meals for my soon to be momma cows. One young lady had her calf last week. She is still camera-shy, but we will see about that!

My horse pasture grows short. The horses are just tonight starting to be supplemented with hay, a little each day at meal time. They eat their oats and clean up the hay by morning. I am sure winter will soon be here. Our logging job, cleaning up the old fallen oak begins Wednesday. The horses and equipment are ready to go. I just need to roll up some broken fence and the job can start.

The horses will be given an old hay field with some corn fodder on one end as a jump lot this winter. They will paw down through the snowĀ and eat the stockpiled grass andĀ the leaves from the corn fodder. The frozen ground will keep them from damagingĀ  the soil and plants beneath their big feet. The area is more for excercise than for feeding. The grass is just a bonus.

The cow’s last pasture for the season has waist-high grass and red clover standing in it. A large grove of white pines will provide shelter and protection from the elements for the cows and their calves. Once the pasture has been eaten down, they will spend the winter under the barn overhang. This last pasture will provide a playground on nice days, once the cattle are moved to the barnyard for winter.

Having stockpiled grasses, left to grow tall until after frost, is like having money in the bank. It keeps the feed bill down by providing many free meals. This approach to self sufficiency, is just one moreĀ reason why I farm the way I do. Low inputs help keep the business end profitable…without profit, there is no farm…at least not one “in the black.”

Hickory Nuts and Ear Corn
October 15, 2014, 7:04 pm
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One of our gilts enjoying her pasture

One of our gilts enjoying her pasture

October 15, 2014

Our gilts are out on a wooded pasture with a boar. They are enjoying freedom, hickory nuts and ear corn. I guess they must be enjoying each other too, because I see the incriminating hoof marks on their backs…and that is a very good thing!

The pasture measures about four acres. This is much more area than they need, but there is plenty to eat, so this breeding season is costing me almost nothing. I am picking the ear corn on the ends and edges of the field, The pigs get a big helping every night. They usually have it cleaned up by morning, but don’t come running for it due to all the fallen hickory nuts.

Sunday’s frost along with Tuesdays wind has loosened the bounty in the hickory trees. The squirrels are even shaking their little fists at the hogs, as the hogsĀ gobble up the nuts. The pigs are in great shape and eating less than half a normal ration, thanks to the pasture and all of feed it provides.

Each sow will get her own pen and recess for 40 minutes a day, once they return to the barn. The pasture is a better place, but I lack the time to make a place for them to spend the winter on pasture. I do have a portable pen for late autumn so they can glean the picked corn field, but litters will arrive in late December. I like to have the mommas and babies close where I can watch and care as needed….but for now it’s hickory nuts and ear corn!

How Now Brown Cow?
October 12, 2014, 7:42 am
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Rachel chills out

Rachel chills out

October 12, 2014

This morning we woke up to a very hard frost. Today marks the end of the growing season here on our farm. The leaves have been turning for a couple of weeks, but this frost will turn the woods into a colorful bouquet. The cows pasture will now quit growing and the lawns can be mowed for the last time.

We have a brown steer. I call him Charlie Brown. His purpose is to fill our freezer with… ground “Chuck”. He is ready to go, so now that the summer grazing season is coming to a close, Charlie and a few others will be moved off the pastures permanently. Some of our cows are calving now. We have one new baby on the ground as I write. She is camera-shy, so no photo…yet.

I still plan to move and replant some strawberries, divide the rhubarb and get a bed ready for some asparagus roots in the spring. Also , I have plans for a place for some concord grape rootstock. It seems funny to be planting at the end of the growing season, but that is how it goes, nature too plans for next year…ever notice all the acorns?


Baled out!
October 11, 2014, 8:21 pm
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October 11, 2014

The big round bales are all small square ones now. The mow is mostly full and I am very pleased to have this job done for another year. My kids and grandkids and several friends, over the last three days, came to my aid and … baled me out! šŸ˜®

Today, a couple of my friends met here at eight o’clock. We started baling and it went very well. We were all finished by lunchtime. I then went to their farm and helped pick corn for the afternoon. We finished that job too. So, both of us, traded labor and managed to get more done than any of us thought possible.

Tonight, I will sleep well. I am tired, stiff and even a little sore, but my mind and heart will rest easy, knowing that this work is behind us. There are many farm jobs to do, but the hay tools can now all be cleaned, lubricated and put away…and that is a very good thing!

Wrapping up the season
October 9, 2014, 5:28 pm
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Josh and his wife help with the hay

Josh and his wife help with the hay

October 9,2014

The season will soon be closing in, with snow all around us. We are taking advantage of these nice October days to wrap things up. We spent much of yesterday making small square bales out of larger round ones. It seems like a lot of work, but the effort is well worth it. Those small square bales come in very handy on a wet, freezing, rainy night. I only do the horse hay this way and a few second cutting bales for the baby calves.

It is peace of mind in summer as I rush around the field making large round bales, as I make hay while the sun shines. It is mostly a one man show here, so making round bales lets me get our hay made all by myself. However, it does make things very nice when we can have extra hands to make the small square bales. We had a good time. It was cool and breezy. The children played all day and even helped some too. It is real nice to be in a hay mow when its cool and comfortable, still the same amount of work,but the coolness makes it a nice job.

Another wonderful thing that happened yesterday, was finding out that I had fixed the baler. I had recently replaced a broken spring. That spring. That $8.00 spring has caused me aggravation for over 3 seasons! I simply couldn’t figure it out. Wow, what a difference! We only missed tieing two bales yesterday and both of them were my fault!

This job continues but we made great progress. I think I will have it all squared away before the weather turns wet again…at least that’s my hope

The Beauty Around Us
October 5, 2014, 11:11 am
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Back porch mums

Back porch mums

October 5, 2014

In my rush to catch up on chores, get speltz planted and come up with a plan for wood cutting, I have almost missed some very pretty things. The mums around the back porch are in full bloom. The leaves on the trees are starting to turn color and the corn is fading from bright green to golden harvest brown. The animals are in great condition from the green grass. Their coats shine in the sun and in the meadows, red clover and goldenrod bloom in a blaze of color.

Even the farm looks good with it’s patchwork of fields. The green pastures never faded this year because of the rains. The hayfields are lush as they await the coming frost. The recently planted speltz fields provide a dark contrast in the neat landscape. The wood line border awash in autumn color gives the scene a final touch….and to think that I almost missed it!

My main focus this week will be on cutting wood. I want to finish that job before the weather shuts me down. I don’t mind working at it in the winter, as long as it for a coming year and not the year we are in! I have a few friends coming next week to share a days labor. I want as many logs stacked up as I can get. Five men can make a whopper pile of cut and split wood in no time!

One last job that I have a keen eye on is the job of bringing in my corn. I want to shock some for use later this winter. The rest will get picked once it dries down enough to store on the cob in my crib. Sure, there is still plenty to do to keep me busy, but today I will putter around, rest up and enjoy the sights around me…maybe I’ll even get to see a grandchild or two šŸ˜®

A Celebration!
October 3, 2014, 6:39 pm
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One of the planted spelt fields

One of the planted spelt fields

October 3, 2014

Against many odds, after losing sleep and pushing through, my eight acres of speltz are planted and fertilized. I worked into the darkness last night after a long day of field work to get the planting all done. I ran out of steam a little after nine pm last light. I closed the barn doors and headed for a shower and a soft bed.

This morning, with rain looming, I attacked the task of spreading soil amendments onto the recently planted seedbed. My younger sister gave me a hand. I would not have beaten the rain without her help. As I made the last round, the rain started to fall. My shirt got wet, my glasses got spotted, but nothing could dampen the jubilation I felt in my soul! All that hard work and loss of sleep, was worth every minute!

I cannot take all of the credit. My son helped me plow. My sister helped me beat the rain. My wife had meals ready, lunches packed and a thousand other details in order, so that I could focus on getting this crop in the ground. This crop provides the horses grain for the entire year. It gives us valuable straw for the animal’s bedding. The carbon source of this straw is the foundation of our compost pile, the main fertility of our farm.

Last year, the fall rains made getting a crop of speltz in impossible for me. I had to buy horse grain. We are running short on straw and are in search of some. It is hard to believe just how important this crop is to our operation. The grain is the fuel source for our horse powered farm. The straw a key building block in our sustainability. To say that I am happy is an understatement.

Even Cinch is Smiling

Even Cinch is Smiling