RicelandMeadows


Barn Renovation 2021
April 21, 2021, 11:24 am
Filed under: April 2021 | Tags: , , ,

April 21, 2021

Our busy spring continues to roll on. The barn renovation project too is going well. The old overhang has gotten a facelift. The overhang will be divided into thirds. Each third will become a large box stall. The stalls will be safe, warm and well lit.

Each stall will have a door that opens into the main part of the existing barn aisleway. The new arrangement will allow for great air flow, very important to horses. It will also give me the advantage to see each horse at a glance. The entire herd will be able to see and interact with each other. Feeding, cleaning, harnessing and any daily chore will be made easier by these new changes.

The box stalls will be a size of about 16 by 10 feet. There is a lot remaining to do, but we are well started on this new project. There are lots of behind the scenes things going on. These little things help to keep the project moving along well. Things like ordering special trim, figuring how to best utilize our native lumber during the high cost of conventional lumber prices and keeping the work area cleaned up ready for the next part of the project. This attention to detail, keeps the project moving along even when the job looks idle.

This project has to take a backseat to daily chores, fence line cleaning, and the ever present firewood job that maple syrup making demands. We are also waiting, somewhat patiently, for our new Suffolk foal who is due any day. Stay tuned for updates.



The Show Goes On

April 14, 2021

Yesterday, we completed filming for a few more videos that will appear on RFD-TV. One will be shown in late June. We had a good time. The weather was perfect and things went very well. It was a fun day.

I drove our mares and explained our newly built “sap rig”. Shout out to Joel Baldwin for all of his help in the build. The mares showed how well it travels, as well as, how easy it pulls. Our cows stood by the fence nodding their approval.

We explained our thoughts on the training methods that we use, gave a few grooming tips and even touched on the current barn renovation . Jake, our son, and I both hitched our young, in training, horses too.

These programs and the writing that I do for Rural Heritage magazine, gives me an outlet to share my experiences and knowledge with others. I do this to help pass along information given to be by others or learned through my own experiences. I want to be resource for those searching for knowledge on how to farm or garden. I like to share ideas with other draft animal folks. I will do my best to share this life that I love so much. Thanks for reading and watching!



Safe at Home

April 12, 2021

After 21 years, our barn needs some upgrading and renovation. This is our hay mow floor. The original one, made form OSB plywood, had a few spongy spots and even a couple holes. I didn’t want anyone to fall through or even step through the declining wood. We laid new boards right over the top of the OSB after fixing the holes. The new lumber is native hardwood Beech with a section of white pine. The floor is safe, stable and will last me for a very long time.

New doors will be one of the next projects. I am also removing a door on one end. I will install a window in its place. Things change as the years go by. We now fill our mow with 4×4 round bales of hay instead of the labor intensive small square bales. Finding help to put up the small squares had become a problem. The round bales I can put in with our skid steer. I just need a guy upstairs to roll them into place. The mow will hold 30 bales. It supplies the hay needed for the worst part of our winter. I simply stand the bales on end and peel off what I need. Its almost like feeding loose hay.

I am also making changes to our east overhang. This has been a run-in shed for cattle and sheep for 21 years. I have decided to house those animals in other areas around the farm. This will allow for big roomy box stalls to be built under the overhang. We need them for our Suffolk mares and foals. The barns footprint won’t change, but its usefulness will be much enhanced.

It will be quite an upgrade once the project is complete. We sold our flock of sheep to help finance the project. Sheep may be back in our future especially young lamb for our customers. We will continue to finish lambs on our pastures seeded for that purpose, but the ewes are gone…for now.

The farm is evolving as we transition into breeding and preserving this rare breed, the Suffolk Punch horse. I want to ensure their safety and mine as we go. :o) Stay tuned for updates as this project progresses.



Training Day, One of Many

April 5, 2021

Our nice weather continues. April Fool’s day and Easter are behind us. We are training our young horses. We hitch them as often as we can, daily when possible. Hank, the horse with the white stripe on his face, is doing great. This was his first time hitched in a team. We have used him in a 3-horse hitch several times, but today was his maiden voyage hitched this way. He did very well thanks to his teammate Abby. She is showing him “the ropes”.

We use a two wheeled cart pulling a tire for these lessons. The tire provides some weight, noise and resistance. It makes weird noises as it drags along behind. These noises help to get young horses to pay no attention to what’s behind them. All they have to do is just listen to the direction and confidence in their master’s voice. Perhaps, all of us should take note ?

Spring plowing has started. Hank will take his turn soon for a few short lessons. Hank will turn 2 later this month. This training is to help him grow and learn for now. Later, as he matures, the work load will increase, but for now it all about learning the job and getting his mind right. He is a gangly teenager now with a few raging hormones. Work helps to keep things under control.

What a pair!

My son Jake is making good progress with these fillies of his. They too are in the learning stages. It takes time and patience to make a good draft horse. They need to work, stand, listen and be willing to do any job when asked. This early training makes all those things possible. It keeps the horses in a safe learning environment. It also builds the bond between them and us. We all learn to rely on each other in a harmonious relationship. These horses too will soon celebrate birthdays. They will turn 3 and 2 in the next few weeks. Belle, the three year old, will soon join my team of mares for more in-depth training on other equipment used in the farming operation. She will learn to be prompt and she will build endurance, as the jobs get longer and the loads get heavier at times.

This window for this intense training is due in part to my main team member, Amee, going on maternity leave. She is due to foal by the end of the month. We are getting excited about that too. We are closing up the maple season by cleaning and storing equipment. This job takes a while, mostly because it is a heavy, sticky job that requires help. I guess also because this weather has been wonderful and its hard to keep inside where the cleaning takes place. The good news is that the worst of that job is over. I will have it completed by the end of the week. In the meantime, I will continue to train the youngsters and think spring!



New Month, New Project

April 1, 2021

I took this picture yesterday. Today, the snow is an inch deep with cold wind blowing it around! Oh well, that is spring in northeast Ohio.

I acquired this manure spreader from a friend who made a wonderful purchase. He bought two of them and sold me one. It was encased in about an inch layer of dried manure. All the moving parts had been well greased. I think the dried manure and being stored inside may have preserved this wonderful old piece of equipment. We scraped on it a while. Then we pressure washed it. Next comes some needed small repairs and adjustment, but it will soon be spreading manure and compost here on the farm.

The web needs some adjustment and the box will get a liberal coating of linseed oil, but all in all she is in great shape.

The beaters and crossbars are in good shape too. I look forward to training our young horses to pull this machine. The load decreases as they pull it. Flying poop makes for a few unexpected things for the colts to see. The noises it makes bumping along also helps the young horses learn that the “boogyman” will not hurt them. I will be there, encouraging them from the driver’s seat keeping them safe and confident.

Amee will foal by the end of the month. She is enjoying maternity leave. The young horses will have lots of opportunity to learn while she rests. Having this manure spreader to use, makes for another training tool that will help them become good farm horses.

We got our new farm sign. Hats off to “Get your Graphics” in Jefferson Ohio. We are letting people know what breed of horse now powers our farm. We sure like these critically endangered rare breed horses! They are wonderful, willing, powerful horses, with a mind like no other. Stay tuned as we grow.



Its a Wrap! 2021 Maple Season is Done
March 27, 2021, 10:48 am
Filed under: March 2021 | Tags: , , , ,

March 27, 2021

Our maple season came to an end last Monday. We gathered the last of the sap and “untapped” the trees as we went. It took a little longer to gather the sap that way, but at the end of the day we were all done with both jobs. Last Tuesday, I boiled maple sap the entire day. I was feeding the fire, changing filters and drawing off syrup for almost 14 hours. Thank goodness my dear wife was there to help me! It was an unseasonably warm day in the mid-seventies. The inside of the sugarhouse was very warm. I, dressed in my long sleeved flannel shirt, heavy jeans, leather apron, leather gloves and a hat, clothes all needed to allow me to push the fire as hard as possible, made me one very hot man! I drank water like a steel mill worker and kept the fire burning hot and the steam rolling out of the syrup.

Our season lasted three weeks this year. We boiled just over 10,000 gallons of sap that yielded 167.5 gallons of maple syrup. Our ratio was 60:1, due mostly to the soft maples in our woodland maple mix. The syrup stayed light most of the year and has our distinctive “buttery” taste. We had friends and family help us with the process and quite a few visitors. It is a wonderful time of year for me, but I have to say, I am glad that it is over…until next year!

I had an idea this year to try and collect condensate water from the boiling steam. I made a sort of plate that sat above the boiling sap. I thought water would condense on the plate and I could collect it to use for a source of hot water in the sugarhouse. My idea did work, but it didn’t collect enough water to be a stand alone system. I took water back each day and filled a stainless steel tank. The condensate water added to this amount, that helped quite a bit. I will need to improve on this idea, because there is promise in my efforts.

The plate and stainless steel eave trough that leads to the holding tank. It will all work out one day…I mean hey! the Wright Brothers started at Kitty Hawk and look where we are now.



March Madness!
March 15, 2021, 8:26 pm
Filed under: March 2021 | Tags: , , , ,

March 15, 2021

We have been busy in the sugarhouse making maple syrup. It is a sweet time of year, but very busy too. The maple takes up many days, but the rest of the farm work must be done too. Our weather has been unseasonably dry for us. The temperature has been above average many days, but thankfully the nights have been cold, so the sap keeps running.

We also hosted the 2021 A-Tech senior class Horticulture students for a sap gathering farm field day last week. The horses were ambassadors who worked very hard. The kids all had a great time and I think they may have even learned a little.

We benefited from some willing workers as the class learned about forestry, small farming and all things maple!

So March Madness isn’t just found on basketball courts…it can be found in most any maple woods in spring. Here on this farm the “sap” runs… He also does animal chores, farm planning and other jobs around the farm!

Spring plowing will be underway soon, but first the maple madness continues…oh yeah…a baby horse should make the blog soon (about 30 days)…mama is starting to waddle a little when she walks.



Sap Weather Returns 2021
March 4, 2021, 11:37 am
Filed under: March 2021 | Tags: , , , ,

March 4, 2021

Today is the date that tells us what to do…March fourth! We are in maple season full swing. It is a favorite time of year for me. This picture was taken on March second. The air was crisp with an east breeze. The steam stayed a bit close to the ground, but made for a pretty picture. This was our first run of the year. It went well.

This photo shows the new sap rig in use. The horses pulled it easily even when loaded. It rolled along and travelled well on the muddy and bumpy sap roads.

We got the pans “sweet” as we boiled and condensed the sap. It takes awhile to get the sweet liquid to the density needed for syrup. Occasionally, we don’t even get any maple syrup from our first boil. We make a lot of steam and reduce the sap but run out of sap before it yields the yummy maple syrup. This year we had an ample supply of sap (1450 gallons) so we managed to make some syrup. From here on out, we will get syrup every time we boil.

This process is a lot of work. It is truly a labor of love. We make it the old-fashioned way. We gather the sap from tree to tree, using horses to pull the sap sled. We boil the sap over a wood fire, without the benefit of reverse osmosis. This takes longer, but allows for the flavor molecules to develop. I follow in the footsteps of my grandparents in this time honored vocation. I make syrup. I make memories and I get to relive my childhood just a bit. For me, this is a sweet deal!



Its Time!
February 28, 2021, 11:07 pm
Filed under: February 2021 | Tags: , , , , ,

February 28, 2021

It is maple time! After a couple of weeks of very cold temperatures and me having the worst cold that I have had in years, we are all tapped. The weather turned warm in an instant. We weren’t quite ready. We had a full week of playing catch up, but we got it done. The steam will be rising soon from the sugarhouse roof. It is a sweet time!

Not to be outdone by Mother Nature, the redwing blackbirds showed up. They come in big flocks signaling the coming of spring.

They were happily enjoying something in last years corn field. They make a lot of noise, but it is welcome noise.

They gathered in the treetops for a bit. They seemed to be making sure that everyone had made the trip north. As February comes to a close and we get off to a bit later syrup season than usual, the return of the warm season birds lets me know that warm weather is coming fast. It is my hope that we get a few good cold nights with the coming warm days to fill our sap bags.

Only God knows what is in store, but we are ready and we are thankful to get the season started. The redwings will just make the season a bit sweeter as we listen to their songs. Very soon the spring peepers will join the chorus, but for now they continue to sleep. Spring has sprung as the old saying goes. I say let “er” rip, but maybe I should say…let “er” drip!



Neighborly

February 21, 2021

These horses belong to our son. He has been working steady with them. They are coming 3 and 2 years-old. This is their third time hooked together. They are doing great. I have been under the weather this week, so no training going on here. It’s nice to see it continuing at the neighbors :o)

We are looking forward to spring and summer weather. The hope is to have the young horses able to take a small part in the work. No heavy loads, just lots of driving and different situations. Patience on our part will pay big dividends with these youngsters.

This coming summer, during the last week in June, we will be helping to host a “Suffolk Horse” gathering. We hope to catch folks as they travel to Horse Progress Days , a draft horse event held in Mount Hope, Ohio, later in that same week. We think it will be a great time to meet people and introduce these amazing animals to the public. We will hold the event at the Ashtabula County Fairgrounds in Jefferson, Ohio

I hope some of you can make it! Come on out and say hello.