On the Grow
September 29, 2012, 8:35 pm
Filed under: September 2012

Pouring the footer

                                                 September 29, 2012

     Today we started one of the last buildings that I will build in this lifetime. It will be a “wash-house”. A place for washing summer vegetables, butchering chickens, cutting up our farm raise livestock and smoking hams and bacons.

     It has been a dream for quite a while. It is nice to see it all coming together. I have most of the lumber sawed and waiting. The rest of the logs will be delivered to the sawmill once I have a couple of days off. The project is underway. I hope to have it all closed in before bad weather sets in for winter.

     It will be a pay as we go building, so construction will be slow, but steady. I am glad to have it off my notebook and coming to be a reality. I am looking forward to seeing it completed, or better still…. using it:o

Spelt … This Small Farmer’s Friend
September 28, 2012, 1:12 pm
Filed under: September 2012

Speltz popping up, (evening photo)

                                            September 28, 2012

     Spelt also known as speltz, is one of my most favored crops. It fills our farms needs nicely. The grain, fed whole, right off the combine, makes wonderful horse feed. The draft horses get all they need from this grain, salt and mineral and our good hay.

     The rest of the ripened plant makes some of the nicest straw I have ever used. It is absorbent and warm. The pigs snuggle underneath and spend lots of cold days, warm and content. It is easy to fork out of a stall and makes great bedding for the other animals too.

     I also like it because of the time it gets planted and harvested. The time for planting is right now. The time comes right before the corn harvest following late summer. The harvest comes sometime between the 4th of July and the middle of that month. I am not struggling in the mud for planting or harvesting.

     This crop mixes well in our farm plan. In spring when oats need to be planted, I am finishing up with the maple syrup season, plowing for other spring crops or scrambling to be ready for the baby lambs. When it’s time to plant speltz, the workload is much less.

     Harvesting speltz and making the straw comes at the end of first cutting hay. The tools are out and ready to be used. There is usually no mud in mid-July, so that is a blessing too. The speltz combine well in the hot dry July weather. The straw dries quickly and is ready for baling just a few days after the grain has been combined.

     The photo above shows this years crop of speltz coming up out of the ground. The nice green color stays on the speltz much of the winter. That gives a little highlight in mid-winter when the landscape is void of  color and speaks of the promise of spring.

     Old timers say that the speltz don’t yield as good as oats. All I know is that I get enough every year to feed my horses until the following year. The straw gets us through the winter too. I usually plant 3 to 5 acres and have plenty for our needs.

     I would say that having “enough” is just right. It is just one more reason why spelt is this small farmer’s friend.

On The Level
September 27, 2012, 10:38 am
Filed under: September 2012

My youngest son, working on his pole barn

                                                            September 27, 2012

     My youngest son is building a pole barn at his place. It is slow going, but progress is steady. He nor I, are carpenters, but we are getting it built just the same. I think working together, taking it slow and trying to be precise will pay off in the end. It does require checking and double checking, but so far, so good.

     My recent dabbling in the produce growing venture, was much like building this barn. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, even though I have farmed and gardened most of my life. I had to go slow, read directions and check and recheck. The checking, was for things like soil moisture, plant disease and ripeness.

     My Amish friend who helped me out, could not have been more forthright. He offered suggestion and mentorship to me. He got right in the field and helped me out. He was a resource that made it all happen. He was “on the level” from the start. He has helped me with sorting, washing and most of all, marketing.

     I had a goal of breaking even on this project. I wanted to learn how to do it, for once in my life, without costing me a fortune in time and dollars. I have done that, only because of my friend’s willingness to guide me in my efforts. I also had great help along the way as we planted, watered and harvested, but that is another story.

     I was instructed a long time ago to “meet on the level”, those are very good words for life. Show up with no hidden agenda, expect the same consideration from all you meet. Be square in your dealings and expect the same. Once the whole meeting is over, always let it be the other guy who wronged you… walk away smarter, but respected by all…. especially yourself.

     Autumn is here for sure. The calender says that it is so,and now it wants to rain every other day. I am working on one more construction project and working around the rain. The garden is almost cleaned off ready for plowing some nice day. I will plant it to rye and put it to bed for the winter, as soon as, time and weather permit. In the meantime I will stay the course and stay “on the level.”


A wagon load of Promise
September 26, 2012, 7:52 am
Filed under: September 2012 | Tags: ,

A wagon load of pumpkins at Marvin’s

                                              September 26, 2012

     Yesterday I took the last of my pumpkins and squash to the produce auction. I proudly wheeled the last two pallets into their place at the auction. I then went to my friend Marvin’s farm to haul a load for him too.

     When I arrived at his farm, pumpkins were the order of the day. There was a wagon load waiting to be unloaded and another one waiting to be filled. Pumpkins were placed neatly on the lawn and a youngster was hosing them off. Several other children were working at the produce washer, washing and sorting squashes.

     The whole place was abuzz, as they prepared their farm products for the market. There were pallets all wrapped and ready to go. Bins of pie pumpkins, jack-o-lantern pumpkins and a couple of different kinds of squash ready to be loaded. Three pallets of mini straw bales waited along with the others to be sent off to market.

     I took in the entire scene, slowly processing it in my mind. I watched as Marv’s children worked together, the older ones working with the younger ones guiding them through the process. There was no bickering (well, not much 😮 ) as the children cleaned and washed the produce, loaded it into bins or boxes and made short work of a wagon load of produce.

     In short, it was nothing less than awesome as little hands and fingers worked quickly and efficiently as they chatted about school and the upcoming deer hunting season, while folding and filling boxes. They all worked together. Dad and mom were there, but were taking on smaller roles, now that the children were accomplished produce workers, after several seasons of that work.

     I realized that I was missing that piece of the puzzle. I didn’t have that support network of help…. well not yet anyway! I did get help in planting and some of the watering, but harvesting took place in the evenings, lasting until after dark. The work this year was done mostly by my hired man and his sister. They worked like troopers making short work of our little patch.

     I will adjust for next year, making sure to include many and make it fun. Our patch will be bigger next year, as we work towards another niche for our farm. As the workload increases, bringing the family into the mix will be necessary and a pleasure. A good old-fashioned “frolic” is in order. There is much truth in the biblical adage “many hands make light work.”

     There is more to it than just the work getting done, there is love. Everyone is in touch, if only for a day. Chatter and laughter fills the air and though we are all tired at the end of the day, it wasn’t work for anybody … It was fun…. and believe me, that … Is a wagon load of promise!


Off to Market
September 25, 2012, 8:23 am
Filed under: September 2012

Ready for the auction

                                                September 25, 2012

     Today, I will take our last load of pumpkins to the produce auction. The harvest is complete. Our little experiment is done, as far as, the produce is concerned. I won’t know the final numbers for a few days, but the mere fact that it’s over is satisfying to me. This job is a lot of work.

     Yesterday, I spent much of the day remembering my mother’s passing five years ago. I searched my life for a little while,  and am sure that mom would be proud of me. I am doing exactly what I said I would do. She would be proud too, that the spletz have been planted 😮

     The produce auction is a neat place. Like any auction, buyers and sellers are in abundance. Your stuff may not top the sale, but the opportunity is there. This is a wholesale auction where grocerymen purchase produce for local stores. It is a wonderful asset to have one so close to us…. auction that is.

     I may have been able to get a few more local dollars by selling retail here at the farm, but I don’t have any structure in place to make that happen. My schedule and time, at present, doesn’t allow for much in the way of retail marketing. I am glad however, to be selling the entire crop… only the culls remain, much to the delight of the pigs.

     Whomever coined the phrase ” like a hen on a June bug” apparently never saw  ” a sow on a pumpkin”!  They love the small and imperfect fruit. They eat it noisily and greedily, smacking their lips with every bite!

     Our endeavor in the vegetable producer’s role has been educational and entertaining. We have learned much and are still learning. You just never know when a conversation will turn to pumpkin stems… and when it does, I can stand proudly and say, “Handles are important!” .. followed by, “Don’t pick them up by the stem.”

     So, it’s off to market we go and in doing so, can scratch this job off our list! Oh, what a wonderful thing 😮

Made in the Shade
September 23, 2012, 2:30 pm
Filed under: September 2012

The cows in the shade

                                                 September 23, 2012

     The rain has started to fall. Normal weather is returning to northeast Ohio. The grass and pastures are greening back up and the lawn needs mowed weekly again. It came a little too late for my field crops, but I am thankful just the same.

     The maple trees in the sugarbush are grateful for the moisture too I bet. The hottest summer on record is pretty much behind us as Autumn begins. The cool working days make me smile. Only the corn harvest waits and I enjoy that one too.

     Many of my projects are completed and the last one is in my sights. Another building is planned before winter. I hope to get it all framed in and weather proofed before the cold, windy ,winter days make building anything but a fire, a pain in the ass.

     The horses and I will be doing some fall plowing as soon as we get the corn binded and shocked. Working horses on cool days is a joy for me and pleasant for them.

     One other job that waits for me is taking the honey off the bee hive. They made a large super full. I just need a nice, sunny, warm day to rob it from them. They are less angry when the weather is warm. The ladies are out gathering pollen and nectar on the goldenrod and aster plants. They are just busy enough that they leave me alone while I take a portion of their efforts.

     My projects mostly completed, wood stacked drying in the woodshed and much of the harvest completed, makes me realize that I have it … made in the shade 😮


Squash & Pumpkin Harvest
September 19, 2012, 10:20 pm
Filed under: September 2012

First load, headed for market

                                                 September 19, 2012

     We got the first load of squash and pumpkins out of the field and off to market. This is the bulk of our butternut squash and most of the pie pumpkins. Tonight we gathered in the last of those and accumulated one more bin of each.

     We also starting bringing in the jack-o-lantern pumpkins. We got five bins, enough to fill the trailer again. We are 2/3rds done. We worked tonight until after dark, trying to get the harvest in before the forecasted weekend rains make the harvest stop.

     I write this blog tonight through weary eyes. Last Saturday we finished planting the speltz. Sunday we made preparations for getting the pig barn addition underway. Monday and Tuesday we worked long days getting the barn built. In the spare daylight hours we started gathering in the squash and pumpkins.

     Today was spent delivering the load in the picture, then loading it all back up again. Oh yea, somewhere in the middle, I helped my youngest son for a few hours on a building project of his. I guess it’s safe to say …. “Pumpkin …. I’m squashed!” 😮


Pig Barn Addition
September 18, 2012, 10:45 pm
Filed under: September 2012

Waiting on the front windows

                                               September 18, 2012

     After two, ten-hour days, the pig barn addition is complete, except for installing the two front windows. The large sliding window shown in the photo, I found along side of the road with a free sign on it. It had been in a yard sale, but didn’t sell. It will sure work nice for this project.

     Yesterday was a beautiful day. I woke early and got a good start. I got the last of the speltz planted, while my youngest son helped my buddy get started on the addition. I joined them late in the afternoon, but by days end yesterday, we were about half way done.

     Today started out rainy. We went at it anyway, working under the new roof. We worked on bracing and siding while the rain drizzled down. Mid-day there was a break in the weather. We grabbed that opportunity to rip off the roof on the old part of the barn.

     We made a make-shift scaffolding out of my horse wagon. We used the skid steer to lift the shingles. With an eye on the sky, we started nailing down shingles as fast as we could. We had four pieces of the cap left to lay down, when the rain came. It pounded down just long enough to soak us through, then let up to a drizzle that lasted for the next several hours.

     We put the rest of the siding on, installed the window and re-fitted the old door. We made needed repairs to the door, but put it right back on the end of the barn. It fit like a glove. The barn only waits for the ordered windows to come and be installed. I can finish that project in less than an hour.

     The speltz fields benefited from the rain, as did the trees and pastures. It has been a long summer void of rain, so even though I was wet to my socks, it was a good thing to feel the rain… Okay maybe not when it soaks in from the skidsteer seat 😮  BUT, it did not dampen my feeling of accomplishment, as we put the tools away.

     The new part of the pig barn will be a sort of nursery for recently weaned piglets. The well-lit space will make them feel good, even in the darkest days of winter. The sliding window will let in a nice breeze when needed, while protecting from the harsh winds. I can envision little piglets laying in fresh bright straw, soaking up the afternoon sun through that big window…makes me smile almost as much as finishing this project.


Chasing Firewood
September 17, 2012, 10:54 pm
Filed under: September 2012

Trailer load of free wood, just for picking it up

                                                          September 17, 2012

     I have been chasing my tail. I am trying to get several projects started and finished. I got a call from a friend who had a couple of trees he was taking down. Yep, free for the taking. I just had to go get it. I cut it into manageable pieces and he even loaded it for me!

     The sugar house  woodshed is full for the 2013 season. I am starting on the wood I will need in 2014. No time like the present to get ahead a little 😮  Chasing firewood is a job that I will do happily, at least as long as I am able to work the sugarbush.

     I had been working in the fields getting them ready for speltz planting. I am glad to have had help from our farm’s hired man. He stayed in the saddle so to speak, and got the fields ready. I was working on some other stuff like getting the grain drill ready, while he disced and dragged the fields smooth.

     Planting spelt and building a pig barn addition are first on my list. I hope to complete them by the end of the week. The rain is coming, planting is first, even if it means a late night. No headlights on the horses makes  tail-chasing  a bit tougher, but we are managing just the same…. don’t even ask about the squash harvest… that job is underway too!


Building Character
September 14, 2012, 2:44 pm
Filed under: September 2012

Pig Barn Lumber… Ready to build!

                                              September 14, 2012

     Last evening I had more commitments than time. I needed to be 50 miles south of home to pick up speltz seed before dark. I also had scheduled a concrete truck to come today at 8:00 am. I still had to get the pig barn floor ready to pour…. oops… overlap 😮

     I decided that the young man who works for me would learn about the preparation work for concrete. The pad would only be twelve feet by sixteen feet in size. It would be a good first project for him and a very big help to me.

     I explained what was needed, gave a little guidance and turned him loose. When he was about half way done, I offered some more direction and helpful hints. I then took off to get the speltz seed.

     I returned home about midnight. I checked the, soon to be floor, area out. The boy had done a very good job. He was precise in his measurements and correct in his efforts. He had installed “grade stake” to ensure proper thickness. The cement wire had been cut and was ready nearby. Clearly, he understood the directions and more importantly, had followed them to the letter.

     The cement truck arrived promptly at 8:00 am. this morning. I was glad to have had everything ready. We laid the concrete just in time. An afternoon rain wetted our drying slab, helping to cure the cement slowly adding strength as it dried. This whole project is succesful, because I had faith in a young guy whom I knew would give me his best effort.

     I know that I have instilled a little more confidence into a growing man. It is confidence that is well deserved. I have seen this type of self-esteem building work before in young men. I know that it worked for me when I was young and I have seen it in my sons.

     I got to see the results again this morning as my son and his buddy, who spent many days playing and growing here as a boy, put the concrete down. They worked together, had fun and did a great job. I will not take credit for their ability, but I will take partial credit for giving them the confidence to work, by putting their best effort forward.

     Success is measured in many ways. I try to live by the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson who said  “Making a difference in just one person’s life, is to have succeeded in life.”  I am happy that I can say, that if it all ends tomorrow… I am a success.