Light through the woods
September 30, 2011, 9:07 pm
Filed under: September
Thinned out neighbor woods

September 30, 2011

     My neighbor had his woods logged off. I think he thought he was going to get a nice selective harvest. He now has no woods, lots of debris and a war zone to look at out his back door. I think he is sad… I know that I am.
     The woods was in need of a nice thinning. There were large trees that needed to be harvested. There were cull trees that needed to be removed to make way for nice future timber growth. There was maybe even a need to harvest a bit heavy-handed just to get some light into the forest floor. In my opinion, there was no need to lay waste to 19 acres of timber, suspending the next harvest for probably 75 to 100 years… I am teaching my boys a different way to manage a woodlot.
     It starts when the boys are young. You teach them the names of the trees. You show them the animals and eco-systems. You let them experience the solitude and wonder that comes from sitting under a tree and just listening with your soul. You teach them the value in cutting dead and down trees for firewood. You show them how to build habitat for small woodland creatures even as you glean limbs from the forest floor.
     You see, I make them stewards of the land. I train them in sustainable forestry. I lead by example and teach them about water quality and how to protect it. We make riparian buffers, sod waterways and use best management practices in our farming methods. This ensures no negative impacts are felt by nature or our neighbors.
     Trees are a crop. They need to be managed. sustainable forestry , just like sustainable farming takes a little longer, pays out a little slower, but leaves the land better for the next generation. The woods and farm soil are living bank accounts ….overdraft is an easy thing to do, but frugal management builds wealth.
     I was a logger. I chose to get certified by the state in best management practices. I know it is the right thing to do. I think our foresters should have to abide by stump limits and reforestation should be demanded on every piece of timber that is harvested.  Landowners should demand it and loggers should insist upon doing it, to perpetuate their own livelihood!
     Rape, pillage and plunder was the way of pirates and barbarians. It was a bad thing back then and it is still not good. The scars on the land will take a long time to heal. Re-growth will happen in time … but my time is way to short to ever see a magnificent oak in that woodlot again… in fact only my grandchildren, will have any hope to see one there. Seventy five years from now my granddaughter will be almost eighty years old. That will be pretty old for a little old lady, but just a teenager for the mighty oak.
     I won’t ever have that quick feeling of wealth as my bank account grows from a single check from selling off our woodland holdings. I prefer instead to look at the wealth I am passing on to my family by teaching the value in the woods itself. Harvest? yes, by all means, but do it slowly, correctly and with a gentle spirit. It will provide for many generations, only getting better as the years go by, people, animals and a host of other living creatures will benefit.
     Now … That Is Real Wealth!

Water, water everywhere!
September 29, 2011, 4:27 pm
Filed under: September
Swollen little creek

September 29, 2011

     The little creek above you can usually step across. It is usually a foot wide at the widest spot. The recent rains, still running off the land, makes for swollen creeks, ponds and rivers. I won’t talk about my saturated fields now, but suffice to say they are wet too!
     I suffered a stomach problem yesterday that was awful. I still am not myself, but do think I will live. It is a wonderful thing to have good health and I have been blessed with over fifty years of it so far. That is most certainly a gift from God.
     We still can’t do any farming to speak of, due to the wet weather. More rain is forecast for tonight and tomorrow. I guess high winds are in our future too. Good thing I have heavy horses, otherwise they might be rolled up against the fence like a tumble weed 😮
     King went to his vet appointment today. He needed to get his puppy shots. He now weighs 38.8# and is fourteen weeks old. He is growing into his regal name at a very fast pace.
     My aunt Judy went to be with her Lord. She will know everybody there and the ravages of Alzheimer’s will be long forgotten. I will miss her because of many things, one of which was her “beet jelly”. I know its sounds like it would taste awful, but it was awesome .. YUM.
     I heard a man today say that folks say you can’t take anything with you when you leave this earth. He said is was absolutely not true. He said that he is taking his memories with him and has given the undertaker instructions to add three feet to the depth of his grave. That extra three feet is for his memories!
     When it’s my time to go, I want to be cremated. I will have my ashes scattered on my farm and use all of its acres to contain my memories. I am thankful to have a bunch of them … and like the man said, “I’m just warming up!”

Sunset at Mom’s Place
September 27, 2011, 7:58 pm
Filed under: September
Mom’s resting place by the sugarhouse

September 27, 2011

     I snapped this picture tonight at sunset. We got well over two inches of rain last night. The sun came out late this morning and made for a pretty day. The creeks, ditches and rivers are very high, but the sun made me feel better anyway.
     I was out checking to see that the river had reached its crest as was finally going down. The woods are flooded, but the water is receding. The sun was setting and made for a beautiful scene as the leaves on the trees are just starting to turn.
     Very soon I will be filling mom’s bird feeder. I keep it out there in remembrance of her. The birds like it, but so do the doggone fox squirrels! Oh well, they are God’s creatures too. I need to make a feeder just for them in hopes they will stay out of the bird feeder.
     I like to sit on the cement bench in the photo. It is a good place to just rest and think. I talk stuff over with mom and drink coffee now and then. It is peaceful there …. I think you can see that even from the photo.
     I worked on my inside list this morning and got a couple of things completed. I even managed to mow the lawn tonight even though I left a few marks. I decided that I had better try it, because the weatherman says more rain for us over the next several days.
     It is funny, I used to like going to my mother’s in the evening. I could sit and talk, knowing that the day’s work was done and that I wasn’t wasting time. That still holds true, as I visit mom’s place at sunset.

Looking For Light
September 26, 2011, 11:55 pm
Filed under: September
Power Outage 9-26-11

September 26, 2011

     After a very busy weekend working here and my off farm job, I intended to catch up on my BLOG writing..only to have the rain storm knock the power out. I was looking for light. My wife lit a candle. I went to the shop and got the Coleman lantern.
     In no time at all the living room was filled with light bright enough to read by. We sat and waited for the power. We talked , did a crossword puzzle and  had a cup of tea thanks to the gas stove. We didn’t miss the power at all … although I was a bit worried about the ice cream … I even considered eating a bunch of it before it melted 😮
     I have been looking for light much of my life. As a child I wanted to be enlightened about the world. As a man I wanted to keep looking for the light as I go forward. That light is sometimes a new way of understanding or sometimes a way of forgiving. Trying to stay out of the darkness is a good idea … at least I think so.
     Tonight my dad’s sister, my aunt Judy, clings to life. Her final hours on this earth are playing out. Her light grows dimmer as she walks towards the light of Heaven. I feel her in my soul. She, like my father, was robbed of some of her time in this world by an awful disease called Alzheimer’s. It leaves a body healthy, while destroying a mind. It steals memories, dignity and indeed a person’s personality. I hope soon doctors shed light on this disease and cure it for future generations.
     Rain is pouring down again this evening. Our farm is saturated and the falling rain is running off as fast as it falls. Every low spot in the ground lays full of water as our La Nina winter starts to take up residence. The forecast is for rain for the next five days …. not my worry. I just have to wait and do other work until the weather clears.
     I am working hard to find the light at the end of the tunnel. I want to find that magic bullet that will show me how to quit the off farm job and make my living here… with my hands and heart in the soil. I know that I am close. I have found the key… that key is hard work. Hard work is the answer to dang near every question. I just need to work out details like mortgage payments, insurance and a small salary and I will have found that magic bullet … that light that I have been looking for.
     Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”  I found him … the rest should be easy…I guess I just need to let Him lead …. After all He is the light unto my feet and the lamp unto my path.

The King and I
September 24, 2011, 1:58 pm
Filed under: September
Taking a break

September 24, 2011

     King and I were taking a break. Connie snapped this picture. We are working on training, so he stays in our kitchen … rather than romping through the house … and he can romp!
     Three years ago today my mother passed away. I am taking a break today to reflect on her memory. We had coffee this afternoon and talked about all sorts of stuff. I feel better, I guess the break was needed. My mom loved big dogs and she would sure love King.
     The sun is peeking out and the bees are active. I am going to try to harvest honey before the next rainy stretch moves in. The hives are full, so taking my share won’t hurt a thing. The goldenrod is blooming making for an excellent honey crop for them to build even a few more stores before winter.
     Winter  😮  Yep, I said it. I realize we are just into Autumn, but winter is knocking on the door. My mom liked the cool temps of fall and was a real lover of winter…perhaps I get it from her. I was born in the winter, like the cold and look forward to the frosty mornings about to descend upon us.
     So, I will harvest honey, relish the first warm days of autumn and reflect on mom and a whole bunch of good times. King will sit nearby…once the honey crop has been taken .. and just learn about the ways of life …patient to just take a break.

All Tied Up
September 22, 2011, 10:01 pm
Filed under: September
Our Herd Sire Sampson

September 22, 2011

     Sampson is the ram of our sheep flock. He is purebred Katahdin. He is just getting used to being tied out. He requires constant overseeing on our part. He does not fret when he tangles his foot, he just won’t move! That is wonderful compared to fighting the rope and getting hurt.
     I simply tied him out one day while cleaning his pen. He was enjoying the grass that grows along the lane fence. I decided that he would be a better mower than the brush hog, so started tieing him out. I discovered on the first day that he will not fight the rope. If he gets tangled, he just waits for me to untangle him…. not your regular ram for sure!
     I will not advocate tieing a sheep out. They are much better off to free graze inside of a well made fence. Sheep get scared easily. Sheep die for almost no reason. They are delicate creatures when it comes to stress. “Sam”  is an unusual guy who takes everything in stride and worries about nothing.
     “Sam” has been handled since he was a small lamb. He knows how to lead and will follow me anywhere. He is self-assured and not scared of much of anything. He is patient and quite wise for an animal. All of this being said, I still would not leave him tied unattended … just in case.
     I wonder sometimes if I might be better off when I am all tied up , to just sit and wait. I think sometimes I get wrapped up in too much stuff, then jump and roll trying to get free only to get tangled up worse. Sam simply waits for me to take the danger away. He has confidence in me, knowing that I will rescue him.
     I have simplified my farming by cutting back. I am also working on systems to make farming at a larger level much easier on these old bones. I will use the next couple years to modify and simplify. The main goal is to work draft horses exclusively for our farm’s power. We are at about 50% now, but the goal is to be at 95% by 2012 … and I will get there!
     I must make the best use of my time and not spend it all tied up with stupid time-wasting jobs. I mean things like climbing over make shift gates, cleaning out rigged up water buckets, chipping ice or feeding late into the dark. I have plans for all these things. Most are simple fixes that I didn’t have time to do because I was all tied up with the dumb stuff … see above 😮
     Many of my downfalls can be fixed without spending lots of money. Many just require moving a gate, building a wall or installing automatic waterers. Getting down to just three draft horses will also help. I can make the best use of my barn and tackroom. This will also enable me to harness and care for the horses in much less time, while allowing for more quality time..like breathing on them…a.k.a. spending time just being around them.
     I admit, I was all tied up, working myself into a frazzle. I was always behind and often frustrated. This year, even with our incessant wet weather, I have made money farming, kept up with my lists and even got a few extra things done. The rest of my days will be unencumbered with unnecessary work. I will continue to farm, even earn my living doing it, but with a whole new outlook that leads to success …. make every step count … and don’t get all tied up!

Making Small Talk
September 21, 2011, 8:12 pm
Filed under: September
King meets the Goats

September 21, 2011

     The other day, when the sun peeked out, King and I met the goats for the first time. My oldest son manages the goat-herd now. They are usually at his little farm nearby. They are here while he makes modifications to his fence and adds another paddock.
     The goats miss my grandchildren. They run to the gate when we walk by looking for some attention. I give them some, but I walk by that gate often. If I stopped to pet the goats every time, I’d get nothing done. I am very sure they are happiest at their home farm.
     I talk to the goats, as I do all my animals, when I greet them. King seems to understand this. He waits for me to talk and fuss with which ever animal I stop to see. In the case of the goats, he stops each time and visits with them as I hustle on by. He licks their muzzles and whimpers to them. Once in a while he barks and scares the goats half to death … I am sure the goats are scared because I nearly crap up my back when he lets out a little “woof.”
     King is most usually quiet. He barks at strange noises, cell phones and now when he makes small talk with the goats. I am still getting used to the whole deal. I don’t mind him barking when needed, but dang, he lets out a bark that curls your hair! The goats jump back three feet, so he thinks they are playing. He jumps and barks until I am too far away for him. Then he rushes off to catch up with me.
     Making small talk is good for people. It builds character. It puts folks at ease and fills in quiet places. Annoying jabbering is not necessary, but a few quick lines about the weather never hurt anyone. I make enough small talk that some people probably think it’s big talk … or perhaps annoying jabbering 😮   But I greet others anyway!
     When I work my draft horses, I talk with them while we harness. I visit again once the job is done, but usually when we are working only voice commands are communicated. I will clarify this to say that when we take breaks, I walk around front and talk to each of them. I pet them and I speak with them as I would any other working partner.
     We discuss the job they are doing, how they are doing it and just how much more is left to go. Once the small talk is over, I take my place on the implement seat, gather my lines and it is off to work we go. Once again, only giving voice commands and direction. I do not want to confuse them. This is my method of working horses, while others may disagree, I know this works for me!
     I leave the small talk for down times, doctor’s offices, feed mills and walking on the street. I try to keep business … just that …. business…. Now , as for pillow talk… that is for a whole other BLOG 😮

Today we Paws
September 20, 2011, 12:24 pm
Filed under: September
The King and I Sept. 20, 2011

September 20, 2011

     Yesterday we laid to rest a man who we loved very much. My father-in-law served his country in WWII, was a good father to his family and set an example for everyone who knew him. The world is a little dimmer now, since his flame has been extinguished. Today we pause to remember him as we work through our grief.
     King knows there is something amiss as Connie and I are simply not ourselves yet. He is patient, waiting for us to come around. He sits with us and watches us with his big eyes offering his condolences. A large gesture from a small puppy … well young anyway 😮
     Farming here at Riceland Meadows is stalled due to the recent rainy weather. There is much to do to get our ground ready for planting the speltz crop. The soil must be turned and disced smooth as part of the seedbed preparation. Water is standing in all of our fields and the weatherman says, there will be at least six more days of scattered showers. .. we may have to wait until spring and plant oats for the horses instead. I guess we’ll adapt as needed.
     There is plenty of firewood left to cut and split. We need to finish up the sugarwood for the sugarhouse. That stack will be a very large one. It is not a bad job now that cooler weather has come upon us. The scattered rain, however, has been mostly scattered right on top of us….causing a delay in this job too.
     I guess the pause is good for us as we rest mind and body. We can reflect on memories and good things, while resting up for the work that awaits us. I can use some of the time to keep teaching King how to shake hands..before his hands out grow mine!

Goats the Original Weedeater
September 19, 2011, 8:52 am
Filed under: September
Up Close and Personal

September 19, 2011

     Goats are a intregal part of our pasture management plan. They eat weeds and brush that no other animal will. They not only eat it, they relish it! It is a wonderful thing seeing the goats eat the seed heads off of ragweed, quack grass and thistle. They devour poison ivy, burdock and young multi-flora rose. They get into places that the brush hog can’t. They are wonderful critters well suited for this purpose.
     Currently, the goats are in a field that is mostly second-growth trees and brush. I am working to clear this 4 acres of all the cull trees. I will leave plenty of straight trees and create a sort of wooded pasture. The goats eat the new growth on the stumps and any new brush that is trying to make a start.
     Goats are great browsers, but not very efficient grazers. I have a young steer in the pasture with them. He eats the grasses and clovers that the goats only pick at. By the time the goats have clipped all the weeds and brush, the steer will have eaten the good stuff down and they will all be moved to a different paddock.
     Multi-specie grazing has built our pastures to text-book grazing areas. The animals eat it down to about 3 inches, then we move them. The young stock goes in first, followed by the larger sheep, then cattle. The horses eat last. Then the whole paddock is mowed and left to rest and re-grow. It is working very well for us.
     Our pigs get to be the last ones on the pastures before they are plowed down for corn. They are hard on pastures due to their rooting. I used to think the rooting was a bad thing, but then discovered that on almost every occasion, the pigs are rooting out the quack grass-roots. They love the tender white rootlets. Once the pigs are done, the quack grass is all but eradicated… and without any chemical spray of any kind!
     I put the goats on a tether often, to mow the outside of a fence line. They will eat the weeds. After a short time, I follow along with our ram. He gets to eat the very best grasses that the goats have snubbed their noses at. He is doing very well on the lush grass.
     Goats make great pets and are wonderful animals for weed control. The biggest factor for goats is that you must have good fences. When I say good, I mean fences that will almost hold water 😮  They are escape artists. Once they are loose, they like to come up on your porch, jump up on the cars…especially visiting family members cars. The love to eat flowers and landscape and leave a trail of poop balls everywhere they go … not bad in the pasture, but not good on sidewalks!
     Goats as weedeaters work very well. They are easy to start, require no gasoline and make their own replacements. They are loveable creatures who really love their humans, especially children. I will have them as part of my farm plan for as long as I farm … especially now, since our fences are good! 

New Experiences
September 18, 2011, 8:09 pm
Filed under: September
King 12 Weeks Old

September 18, 2011

     King keeps getting new experiences every day. Today he met the goats. We do our meetings in such a way that King is safe and the other animals are safe. He seems to take it all in stride. He is a very good puppy.
     We picked squash today. I snipped them from the vine before the frost could ruin them. We didn’t get frost last night, but it did dip to 44F. The squash and pumpkins have all been washed and dried. They are the winter varieties and should keep much of the winter. King helped with that job too.
     I guess I should be happy that I only lost one squash to the playful pup. He was trying to help I think, but his teeth went in way too deep. The shaking of the vegetable didn’t help either 😮  He is a tough guy… or so he thinks.
     I have to commend the dog for his out going nature. He does not shy away from anything. He is curious and willing to try anything new. I am not so much that way. I do pretty good with the familiar, but not so well with the new stuff. I guess I wasn’t exposed enough as a kid .. BUT I am OK with that!
     We had a nice day today. It was the last Sunday of summer and I can say that I enjoyed every minute of it. It was a day of rest and I think I loafed pretty well. The things I did weren’t strenuous and they gave me satisfaction. My brain and body rests well when it is satisfied. The honeymooners returned home today and that pleased me too. I like to have my chicks in the nest or at least in earshot….. even if that means by cell phone 😮
     I am about to get a haircut from my wife… talk about new experiences! It will be my third one since we got the clippers…I do still have eyebrows, but only by a stroke of luck! The nicks haven’t been too bad and the only difference between a good haircut and a bad one is about 3 weeks 😮     I know this because the eyebrow incident took place about 3 weeks ago…..  😮