RicelandMeadows


Rye Cover Crop
May 22, 2017, 10:05 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

ryecover

May 22, 2017

This photo shows the cover crop of  cereal rye on our garden this spring. This seed is also known as annual rye. It is grown for grain for flour and for whiskey. I plant it here in late fall, September even into October. It actually grew to waist high before I got it mowed down. I mowed it with the weedeater. Usually, I just plow it under. The wet weather made the fast growing crop too rank to plow down. Once the garden was dry enough to plow, my schedule had changed, so we mowed it. Today, I could have plowed it, but am housebound recovering from pneumonia!

Using a cover crop, even in a small scale like on my garden, makes sense. The growing plants hold soil in place, stopping erosion. They suppress weeds, both in the late autumn as well as, in early spring. They “mine” minerals and nutrients out of the ground. These “mined” materials are given up by the decaying plant. Those become available to the growing plants, in a form ready for use. I will caution that decay uses soil nitrogen, so if the cover crop gets too big, like mine did this year, additional nitrogen may need to be added.

In the case of a heavy nitrogen feeder like corn (maize), you could actually set the plants back by the rich cover crop. My garden soil is well balanced. There is plenty of nitrogen available, so I am not worried. If this was a new garden spot, too much decaying plant material can almost starve the growing crop. Compost added, has already decayed, so if the carbon balance is correct, the nitrogen in the compost is stable and stays in the soil until needed by the growing crop.

You can offset the effects of a thick, heavy cover crop in its decay cycle, by adding more compost. You can add commercial fertilizer too or in place of the compost, but I choose to use compost only on our food crops. I have used commercial fertilizers, but only when soil tests demand it. I’d rather farm with nature and the balance she provides.

The mowed rye plants have dried in the sun. The hollow stems are soaking up rain water and decaying a bit. Incorporating them into the soil as soon as possible is the order of the day. I hope to beat the coming rain and have the garden plowed by chore time Wednesday. Farming is a wonderful life. It is an ongoing chemistry lesson. The cycle of life spins daily and I love the ride!



My Country Life
May 21, 2017, 2:27 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

countrylife

May 21, 2017

As a young boy, I spent many hours playing on a swing such as this. It was tied to a limb on a big maple tree in my grandpa and grandma Rice’s front yard. I remember my dad giving us “underducks” where he would push us very fast and duck under the wooden board swing sending us skyward like a rocket…or so it seemed. The laughter of those happy times still echo in my memories.

My grandchildren and their friends are swinging in the photo above. You don’t see “I-pads, phones or earbuds”, just four children playing using their imagination. I don’t know if they are Jedi Knights, dragon flies or rockets, but even from the photo, I can see they are having fun. This, in my mind, explains my country life.

It is not about material things. It is about bonfires, sled rides, baby lambs and garden vegetables. It is about hard work done together with family, followed by a cold drink or dish of ice cream. It is the simple things like woods walks and lightening bugs, even pollywogs in a jar. The smell of fresh mowed hay or the soft mew of a kitten in the mow of the barn, these are the things that bring joy.

City children play “bottle flip” with water bottles. We drank water from a garden hose, at times from a pump pumped by hand. Water tasted so very good on a hot day after some type of work, especially during haying. One of the most refreshing drinks I ever had, came from a hand dug well. I gulped down mouthfuls of the cool water after having been working on a thrashing machine with my Amish friends. I’m not sure if it was the water or the friendship that made it so sweet, but every swallow made me praise God.

The common denominator in a country life is the country or green space of course, but the real key, is family and friends. Keep in mind, you can have a country life in the city if you choose to do so. Put friends and family first. Hold the door for a stranger. Offer your seat to another. If all else fails, smile. In fact if you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours. Kindness goes a long way. Being kind does not make you weak, in fact, it probably makes you stronger.

I hope that I can always have time to spare a minute, to listen to a bird sing or listen to the dreams shared by a child. I hope I can dig fishing worms, smell wildflowers and eat strawberries off a dew covered vine for a long time yet. It’s not the amount of days in your life…it’s the amount of life in your days. So, live county my friends!

 

 



“Cow Plowing”

corn171

May 20, 2017

I completed planting my corn last Wednesday. I feel good about getting it planted, especially this year due to our wet weather. It has been a crazy weather spring and that trend continues. I waited on some dry days, like all of the area farmers, I pushed hard once it got here.

This field is where our cows spent the winter. There is a three-sided building, just out of the frame where they could take shelter when they wanted it. Usually in winter, the ground freezes hard and stays that way for months. This past winter, the ground was only frozen hard for about a total of three weeks. The cows feet punched this field full of holes. I mean they tracked it into oblivion! It was all but impossible to walk through the quagmire. The cows slowly picked their way along, from water tank to hay feeder. Every step left a hole six to eight inches deep.

In late February, I moved the cows out of this paddock. They spent the worst days of late spring on our cement lot next to the barn. The overhang shelter was bedded with woodchips. They were comfortable, dry and content even though the space was smaller than the paddock. I must say, I did not miss fighting the mud either.

Once the cows had been moved off that back muddy paddock, winter returned. The ground froze and thawed several times before we were out of the icy grip. The punched up field resembled a landscape found on the surface of our moon. I decided to disc it once to smooth it enough to even be able to plow it.

I made the first round with the disc and could not believe my eyes! The cows feet, mixed with the freeze and thaw cycle of spring, had turned my nightmare into a dream! Twice over the field with the disc and spike tooth drag made the field ready to plant. I planted my corn that same day, just before dark. I was excited by my new found innovation. I was overcome by a bit of sadness when I realized that I could not share this contrary news with my friend, the late Gene Logsdon.

Gene and I often talked and discussed many things “farming”. We shared many of the same beliefs. The corn I had just finished planting in that “cow plowed” field was an open pollinated variety called “Wapise Valley”. Gene and I had many conversations about corn, soil, cover crops, the value of oats in many forms and anything that made things easier for the small farmer. “Cow plowing” is one of those topics we would have talked at length about. Gene passed away almost a year ago. I miss my friend. I will remember him always, especially at planting time, but always when I stumble on a topic that he would have loved to debate! RIP Gene

corn172

This section joins the field in the photo above. The cattle “plowed” all around the old stumps and even leveled this section, saving me hours, perhaps days, of work! Timing was everything. The cattle got moved while the winter freeze could work the sodden clay. I stayed off the wet ground until the sun and wind had dried it. I know from experience that working these wet clay soils too early will make clods like bricks dried in the sun. It takes a full year for the frost to break them up. Using that knowledge sure paid off this year.

I am not sure that I would try this process again, unless it would be on ground where extreme efforts were needed. As an example, say an area where a forest had been cut down. The cows could work the rutted, rooted uneven ground by accident. Smoothing it out for a spring planting of grass could be done by dragging a wooden drag around. I bet the pioneers learned and used this method when clearing this area of Ohio. In any case, I can say it worked well for me, I did not discover it, but certainly did rediscover it!



The Beginning…Not The End.
May 19, 2017, 1:15 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , ,

babywyonia

May 19, 2017

This small seedling is a little white oak tree. I planted it in the center of the old tree that took me two years to harvest. The stump crater measures almost nine feet across. The old woodchips has composted over time, inside the hollow tree. The dirt is soft and friable. My hope is that this seedling from a nursery in Pennsylvania, grows to become a giant in its own right.

This tree, if the deer don’t eat it, the beavers don’t chew it and it doesn’t simply die, should bear acorns in about fifteen years. The forest critters will benefit from my efforts. The farm will be graced with a deciduous focal point, a stately tree standing tall on our east borderline. I take no credit for its success, but I will sure appreciate the shade and the beauty it will provide.

Spring on the farm is a very busy time. Planting has been delayed by the weather. We got a very nice surprise with a stretch of great, drying weather. I jumped at the chance to get our corn field prepared and planted. I stayed at it, worked steady and by nightfall on Wednesday, the corn was in the ground. What a relief! I used a new innovation for small farmers. I will blog about it more in day or two.

We were able to put a new roof on our house. The old roof hadn’t started leaking, but I didn’t want to have to install a new roof on a fixed income after I retire. It was a little planning, a lot of saving, but worth every penny!

newroof

So today I am a bit under the weather, but at the same time, very satisfied with the accomplishments of the last few days.



Going Green!
May 3, 2017, 10:51 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

goingreen517

May 3, 2017

This field is out behind my pig barn. It is where my small sheep flock spent the winter. It was my idea to keep them close, give them shelter and have them work for me all winter. By working, I mean they were eating grass. The grass was under the snow some of the winter. In spring, they kept it in check so as not to get too far ahead of me during the spring flush. I didn’t expect to see the hay growing as fast as it is this year, but man was this ever a good idea.

I make mostly “dry” hay. I need the hot sun to wilt, then cure the hay. The sun and even the dry dirt, sucks the moisture out of the drying grass. When the hay ripens in early June, its not often anymore that we have the drying days needed to make nice hay. Many farmers, including me, have to make baleage or wet wrapped in plastic bales. This makes great livestock feed. It is silage. The problem is, silage should not be fed to horses.

The sheep eating the grasses and clovers has slowed this field down a bit. It is hard to tell however, because the recent rain, hot humid weather and balanced soil is making this hay grow like mad! It is a good problem, but may put the push on once good hay making weather gets here. The sheep are currently in another hayfield knocking it back some. They are up to their necks in lush grass. The ewes are in milk….the baby lambs think they are in heaven. They are growing very, very well!

It is hard to believe that this early in May we have grass this lush, this tall and this beautiful shade of green. I am pleased with my little grassland farm. I’m not fighting the mud. The oats are up. The animals are grazing. The horses and all the livestock are on pasture. It is a wonderful year so far. It’s easy for me to see that going green is truly a wonderful thing!



Because I Said So…
May 2, 2017, 10:09 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , , , ,

abbybridal

May 2, 2017

Those four words still make my hackles stand up! I absolutely hate to hear those words. As a strong willed child, I did hear those words from my mother, quite often. I would try to reason with her, but once she said, “because I said so.”, that was it. There would be no more conversation of any kind. Unless of course I wanted to bring the house down upon myself!

As a parent, years later, I tried not to say those words. I realized that shutting down conversation is never good. I tried to listen to my children’s point of view. I didn’t reason with them very often, but I did try to take the time to explain my decision. If their persistence continued, then I would resort to “the look”. That “look” would also end conversation once I had gotten exasperated.

The difference between my mother’s approach and mine, was that I would revisit the conversation again once we were in neutral territory. I don’t mean to imply that I am a saint. I just wanted to give the other person, even if it was a child, the opportunity to share their opinion. I have been swayed by other’s logic and experiences more than once, by cooling off and listening….even the logic of a child.

Training children, is good experience for training young horses. The young horse has spirit, feelings and heart. They learn by repetition. I also think that kindness goes a long way. Make no mistake, I am in charge and we will do it my way, but I will allow a certain amount of playfulness. I want to train the youngster, not break its spirit. I will sometimes move to neutral territory to continue a lesson. I will look to see if something is out of order, like a sore spot or annoying harness part causing the distraction. I will check for flies, strange objects in view or new noises. I will not force my will at all costs.

I say again, I am the boss. We will do it my way, but I want to lead in such a way as to make the youngster want to please me. When they think its their idea that helps a lot. When they come to know that it is “our” idea, that is where teamwork begins. I could force my will. I could beat or threaten to beat my ideas into them…but that would only serve to make them hate me and it would only make me tired….that would be total failure!

Today’s “take away” is to lead by example. Take time to listen. Look for clues in other’s logic and experiences. Remember, there is more than one way to reach an objective. By softening your stance, you can still be in charge. You will foster teamwork, team building, respect and perhaps even love. So…lighten up! …. because I said so….



Washed Stone?
April 27, 2017, 11:34 am
Filed under: April 2017 | Tags: , , , ,

keaaganstone

April 27, 2017

My son and daughter-in-law thought it would be a great idea to make a playground that they wouldn’t have to mow. They placed landscape fabric under the swings and playset. Next they bought a load of washed smooth stone. The pile of stone was too much for my grandson. He just had to climb it, roll in it and frolic like a baby goat. I laughed at his antics. The washed stone was COVERED with a fine mud…after a little while…so was my grandson!

We have been enjoying some nice spring days. The soil is finally drying out. Plowing for corn will begin in a day or so…as long as the wet weather holds off. Sure we need spring rain. We even look forward to it. Right now we get a washout followed by a few days of drying. The weather teases us all who want to get into the fields. Experience tells us to wait. Our clay soils will bake like a brick if worked when it is too damp…so we wait.

One good thing about the rains. It will wash that playground free of mud, but if it doesn’t…I know one little boy who could not care less!