Moonlit Meal
September 30, 2015, 4:16 pm
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September super moon

September super moon

September 30, 2015

September comes to a close with a list of successes for us. We had a nice Vermont vacation. We have our gardens all cleaned up and ready for fall. The speltz are planted and have sprouted thanks to the recent rains. The wood needed for a few friend’s winter firewood is piled up in logs waiting to be split. The pastures are still green and growing and everyone is healthy.

This week during the night of the full moon, I had to rise early and leave for a job. The pigs were eating their corn under the moonlight. They didn’t care that it was only four o’clock in the morning. I snapped a picture of my ladies without a flash. The moonlight was so bright it made an awesome scene. It would have been a good morning to share a meal with almost anybody, but most folks are still enjoying slumber at that time of day…and I don’t blame them one bit!

munching in the moonlight

munching in the moonlight

Putting The Shine On
September 27, 2015, 8:41 pm
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Hoss, Duke and Knight in the evening sunset

Hoss, Duke and Knight in the evening sunset

September 27, 2015

Tonight is a full moon. There are lots of folks watching it because it is very close to Earth and there will be a lunar eclipse. I will say that it is a beautiful sight, but talking about beautiful sights…. My horses were shining like a new car last night in the evening sun. We had a quick few days, the horses and I, with getting the speltz out. Then I had to work a few shifts at my off farm job. So, tonight, after moving some gilts in with the boar, I am relaxing and watching the moon shine 😮

The horses and I will be skidding firewood and sugarwood this week. This job is one like shoveling manure…it is just never done. Watching the horses muscles move and ripple when they work is a sight that I never get tired of seeing. Their glossy summer coats, slick and shiny, tells me they are in great condition. They are eating good pasture, getting plenty of exercise and lots of rests in the cool evenings. They are content and I am also.

As I clean and store farm equipment ahead of the coming foul, winter weather, I feel as if I am “putting a shine” on my farm. It is beginning to look neat and orderly. Believe me there are plenty of opportunities to improve, but it does look a little better each day. Soon, the Autumn leaves will adorn our place in color fit for a Christmas package…and that is exactly how I see this farm… it is a gift!

Feeling Crowded
September 25, 2015, 9:39 pm
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Surrounded by the Boys

Surrounded by the Boys

September 25, 2015

What a day. I am thinking that I should be feeling free. Much of the work for the year has been completed, but I am feeling crowded by the looming winter. I guess relaxing for me comes hard. I am thinking about equipment readiness for next year, firewood, and even fall plowing. I can’t understand why I simply can’t relax. I guess it comes from my childhood when a mean old man told me that I would never amount to anything and he called me… (gasp) …lazy!

I have spent most of my life making sure no one ever says that to me again! It’s almost funny. I guess I should go out of my way in defiance of him and just screw off once in a while, but I can’t. Heck, I don’t even like to fish. I spend the whole time waiting for the fish to bite, thinking of all the things that I could/should be doing! I will admit that I sometimes take quite a long time to drink a cup of tea. I can let the guilt go as I sip that warm brew…because I can always say that I am thinking, planning or otherwise working out a problem.

I have been known to take a “power nap”. Those quick minutes stolen from a day, fast asleep on the couch, where it is warm or cool depending upon the season 😮  I can, now and then, be found under the shade of the porch sipping water and looking out across the farmstead. I keep that far away look in my eyes so the untrained will think that I am in deep thought. In reality, I am stealing a few moments from a productive day to recharge my batteries by simply sitting and resting.

I guess that is the secret to a happy life, find joy everywhere that you look. I do that. I am satisfied beyond measure with the progress I have made and the plans that I have laid. I just need to pause and reflect more. It completes a man’s life when he takes time to be thankful, to be grateful and to be pleased with his efforts. I don’t want to get so busy making a living that I forget to have a life. So, I take my pleasure in the woodlands and animals on this farm. In the photo above, the horses have surrounded me. They are nuzzling me and waiting to be touched, so in reality I am not crowded… I am embraced, I am hugged and I am loved! Yes, my life is complete and it is wonderful!

2015 Speltz Crop Has Been Planted
September 24, 2015, 10:46 pm
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One of Two fields

One of Two fields

September 24, 2015

After three marathon days of farm work, my speltz crop is in the ground. I worked until after dark the last three days, but it was worth it. These fields represent next year’s horse grain. It will last me for an entire year providing we get a decent crop. I have done my job, so now I patiently wait 😮

I plowed these fields last week. This week I spent lots of time harrowing them smooth. A hay crop is planted with the speltz. The speltz will nurse the growing hay. Once the grain has been harvested and the straw all baled, the hay will flourish. Harvesting hay a year later from these fields will be very nice on the smooth ground. Keep in mind, two winters will cover the hayfields with snow, helping to flatten everything out too.

I can now wash, lubricate and store my grain drill and the tillage tools. Only my horse plow will be kept near the front of the shed. The horses and I will be doing some fall plowing in a few weeks, but for now I will busy myself with putting things away for …winter (gulp)

It is looking like a maternity ward around here too. Sows and cows are heavy with young. Very soon farm babies will be born. It is always an exciting time. The best part of farming for me is seeing the new babies. I simply never get tired of looking at them. They are so dang cute. They don’t become a pain in the backside for a few months, so watching them and laughing while they are babies makes it all worth it!

I Hate To Do It.
September 20, 2015, 6:22 am
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Swiss Chard still going strong

Swiss Chard still going strong

September 20, 2015

I have been cleaning up the garden beds and preparing for winter. In the bed above I have a row of awesome Swiss chard growing like crazy. We have eaten lots of it fresh. We have frozen (well my dear wife has) a good quantity of the chard and it keeps on growing very well. We often cut this “green” way after frost, almost until Thanksgiving. In another bed there is a lonesome pepper plant. It is hanging with peppers ready to pick. I need to remove both vegetables so as to complete my garden plans…but I hate to do it.

The Swiss chard is growing at the end of a soon to be planted strawberry bed. I want to take the chard out, add soil and compost to refill the settled bed, then plant strawberry plants. I have the plants ready to go. I will soon have the time, so this meal favorite of mine will have to go. I will plant more next year, but this prolific vegetable reminds me of summer. Eating a mouthful of the juicy green leaves takes me to summertime, even in the dead of winter.

As a boy, I hated most vegetables, even Swiss chard. My mother encouraged me to eat them anyway. Encouragement was sometimes like punishment, but I learned to eat many garden delights. I also confirmed that some of them I will never like. Once I became an adult, I enjoyed the garden. I became a good gardener and enjoy what I grow. The key here is to grow what you like to eat. I also grow a few things that are not my favorites, but other people enjoy them. I grow for them and give them away with pleasure knowing that I don’t have to eat them….beets and parsnips are two of my least favorite veggies. I do eat them…but I just hate to do it 😮

Cider Time!
September 19, 2015, 6:08 am
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Little apple tree...loaded

Little apple tree…loaded

September 19, 2015

We planted a small orchard three years ago. It still needs lots of growing time, a few replacements and some care. This little tree, however, doesn’t know just how good it is! In this crazy hot summer void of rain, she still made this awesome crop. I asked a friend to mix some apples with these and to please make me some cider. He is somewhat of a cider “king”, so I know that I am in good hands 😮

I want this orchard just for cider, some apples to eat and of course PIE. It will all come in time, but for this year cider only… well okay, I did eat one of these sweet Jonagold apples and it was great. I am hoping for a lifetime supply and if this little tree has anything to do with it, we are well on our way!

Growing fruit trees and edibles in your landscape is a great idea. You get the joy of watching them grow along with the joy of eating the fruits of your labor. We are going to plant two more of these semi dwarf trees in the chicken yard. The trees will provide some shade in time, more apples and the hens can clean up the dropped apples. I think it is a simple way to provide food for us, shade for the hens and a quaint look to the yard.

Think about your own place. Is there room for a raspberry hedge? Or perhaps a couple of apple trees in a forgotten corner or border planting? I don’t spray these trees. I only trim them just a little. They are not much work. They look neat to me and hey, Who doesn’t like sweet cider?

Cover Ups
September 17, 2015, 4:51 pm
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Garden beds ready for winter

Garden beds ready for winter

September 17, 2015

It has been a hectic week so far. The garden beds have been all cleaned off, worked up and planted to a cover crop. This year I chose oats. The oats will grow well until about Thanksgiving time. They will then die back and provide a winter mulch layer for the otherwise exposed soil. When spring gets here, the oat mulch is easily worked into the beds at planting time.

I have used rye, wheat and spelt for winter cover. These plants grow much of the winter and early spring. They provide plenty of organic matter to till in the spring. I chose oats this year because the beds are full of composted material already and I am hoping for an early spring warm up in the raised beds. It will be nice to get off to an early gardening start.

My favorite summer cover crop for garden and field is buckwheat. This plant provides much weed suppression. It is hollow stemmed and incorporates easily at plow down time. It is also a great soil miner. It makes many micro nutrients available for the following crop. It mines the soil, then gives it up when dead and rotting in the soil. The bees and other pollinators love the flowering blossoms of buckwheat making this plant a win-win for everyone involved 😮

A Nip In The Air
September 15, 2015, 7:00 am
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Autumn is closing in...

Autumn is closing in…

September 15, 2015

After several weeks of hot, dry weather, we got a very welcomed three inches of rain. The rains came mostly slow and steady over two and a half days. The ground sucked up the moisture and the grass turned green again. The entire landscape was refreshed. The cool weather that followed the rain, felt good to this thick blooded farmer. I like working when the temperature struggles to hit 70 degrees F.

The cool weather, however, is a signal that Autumn will soon be upon us. The cold wet rains will soon make farming and harvest time a challenge for us all. I am trying to make the best use of every day… more like the ant than the grasshopper. I have managed to direct seed 6.5 acres of “horse hay”, “timothy/trefoil”. The hay seed planted is an old standby for good dry hay, but the varieties are new. The timothy is a wide leaf late maturing type. The trefoil is a fine stemmed, vigorous type that resembles alfalfa. These seeds will do well on my clay soils and make a hay crop for many years.

Yesterday, I started plowing the ground where our speltz crop will be planted, in the hope of having that job done by early next week.. We are putting the gardens to bed for winter and planting cover crops in them. The landscape plants around farm and garden are being trimmed, dead headed and weeded for one last time. The lawn, thanks to the recent rain, is being mowed and trimmed. The animals were moved to new pastures yesterday, while their main pasture rests and regrows for a few weeks.

I purchased some ear corn from an Amish farmer friend. I will be bringing it home soon. The corn is local, a good hybrid and non-GMO. Some folks say it doesn’t matter, but it matters to me 😮

This corn will be the main feed for my sow herd this winter. I didn’t grow any this year due to schedule demands at my off farm job. I am actually happy, because for this area, corn growing this year was a challenge to say the least. I will miss the corn fodder, but its a small price to pay for the loss of investment that I avoided by not planting at all.

Today, September is half over. The frosts will soon be changing leaves, ending the growing season and sending the wild deer into breeding season. In the meantime, I will work my butt off, along with my horses’ as we work hard while the nip is in the air.

A Jersey cow rests in her bed at Billings Farm Museum

A Jersey cow rests in her bed at Billings Farm Museum

September 13, 2015

After a health scare, that shook me to the core, my wife and I went to the state of Vermont. I want to do a story on the Billings farm museum, located just outside of a town called Woodstock. This is not the rock and roll Woodstock, that one is in New York 😮  I felt that some time away from work and farm, would be just what I needed to decompress. I , by the grace of God, learned that I do NOT have cancer.

The area around Woodstock Vermont is beautiful. The Green Mountains were spectacular. They were just starting to turn color as they dress for autumn. We came at the tail end of summer and the beginning of “leaf peeper” season. The roads were not crowded. We were able to spend as much time as we wanted looking at anything we desired. It was a nice relaxing trip.

We stayed in a bed and breakfast in the town of Woodstock. The food was extremely good. The peace and quiet found there was just what I needed. We had fun walking the village streets. Those streets look just like a Norman Rockwell painting. It is a town almost stuck in time. The place is almost enchanting.

We also went to a large farm stand where they sold cheese and maple syrup all made by themselves. The cheese is awesome. The maple syrup operation is much like ours, but much bigger. They have 8500 taps. They do boil with wood on a modern evaporator, but like us, they do not use reverse osmosis to remove water from the sap. We do it the old fashioned way, with just heat and time…..you simply can’t rush perfection.

Billings farm was a very nice place. It is a farmstead that showcases life in the 1890’s, but also keeps a modern dairy farm running. The farm has been known for trophy winning Jersey cows for forty years. They still have a barn full of the little brown matrons. The pastures too are filled with heifers coming up to join the milking herd. There are sheep and draft horses too. The museum and tour are very well done. They are informative for sure, but they are set up to show young and old alike, where our food comes from….and that is a very good thing.

The real story for me about the Billings farm, was Mr. Billing’s approach to agriculture. He was a husbandryman for sure, but also an environmentalist. He was also a visionary who could see the promise in the land. He planted trees, used animal manures correctly and employed sustainable farming practices, that the farm still uses today. These practices help make the farm profitable and a good fit for the mountain farms of Vermont.

The Village Inn of Woodstock

The Village Inn of Woodstock