RicelandMeadows


Laying It On Thin

KH2018july

October 29, 2018

In the photo above, I am hooking up to my powercart. Hoss looks like he is about to talk out the side of his mouth. Fear not, I am not being cruel with my lines or his bit, the camera just caught that moment when line pressure tells a horse where to stand.

They were watching the cattle, who had just been moved to new pasture. The cattle were running and jumping, playing if you will, checking out their new paddock. The horses were so focused on the cattle, that they weren’t listening to my voice. Usually they plod over to whatever they are to be hooked to, sidle up and stand. They move right or left when I say, “Gee or Haw”. This day they were wide awake, yet waiting for my signal.

KHCompost

Once we were all hooked up, we took this load of compost out to the field. I spread it on thin. The thin application is absorbed quickly by the soil. The nutrients stay in place and are used as food. Composted manure applied in this manner is of in little danger of running off into streams and waterways. It is also important to spread on dry days when rain or snow is of little concern.

I also make sure there are grass filter strips along stream borders. These strips collect any potential manure from becoming a problem. It takes a little planning to farm the way I do, but it is worth it. To know that my farm is not having a negative impact on my neighbors or any person downstream is pleasing to me.

This year, I was able to spread 40 loads of compost like the one in the photo above. The black gold was spread on a field that will grow next season’s corn. It was spread on a field where the speltz were harvested to give the growing newly seeded hay crop a boost. Lastly, it was spread on an older hay field that will soon be put into pasture. The compost applications are done as part of our crop rotations. We try to put the nutrients where they will be needed most. By spreading the compost thin, it goes farther, stays in place and gives us the most “bang for our buck”! Good farm husbandry goes hand and hand with good environmental stewardship. I believe that is not only my responsibility, but my duty as well.



Amazing Weekend
July 27, 2018, 10:36 am
Filed under: July 2018 | Tags: , , , , , ,

4onpasture

July 27, 2018

Last night we got some much needed rain. The whole landscape has greened up. The gardens and crops seem to have jumped, thanks to the needed moisture. It has rained all around us for over a week. It was finally our turn last night and we appreciate it very much. The rain gauge said 2.5 inches…everything else said, thank you!

Compost hauling continues…

haulingpoop

I take a load or two each day. We have lots to move, but this is almost fun! I have been trying to work when the air is cool and the flies bite less. This is good work for all of us and the farm benefits from my labor. I am liking retirement. I get to do what I love every day. Man, this is awesome!

khlooking

Here, I am hitching up to the powercart and spreader. The horses seem to be looking forward to the work as much as I am. It is very true, when your hands are doing what your heart tells them to do….there is no work in it at all! I am looking forward to an amazing weekend.



Laying It On
July 22, 2018, 8:03 am
Filed under: July 2018 | Tags: , , , ,

K&Hpowercart

July 22, 2018

It’s finally time to spread manure and our compost. The farm work is mostly caught up. The weather is a bit unsettled and rain is forecast to be spotty and scattered. I like to spread on the recently mowed pastures and hay fields. The grass responds well. The rains wash the nutrients into the soil. I get much satisfaction from handling this job well.

I don’t spread manure in winter, on soggy, wet ground or anytime that I could make ruts. I want the manure to stay put, not wash off into road ditches and watercourses. First of all, I want the nutrients to enrich my soils. Secondly, I am a good steward for the land, being responsible with this raw material is a passion. Lastly, I want my fields to stay in smooth condition whenever possible. Smooth fields are much better to farm…especially with horse drawn equipment with steel seats!

I will be working on this task everyday for several weeks. I will take 3 or 4 loads out a day, while working on other jobs around the farm. Once the pastures and hay fields have been given a light coating, the field where corn will grow next year will be given a liberal amount. It will then be plowed under in the old way of farming.

Summer is zipping by, this job signifies the halfway point for me. So far, we are on track. I steady rain falls as I write and all the plants seem to be looking skyward enjoying the life-giving moisture. Today we rest, watch the rain and enjoy family….tomorrow…I’ll be laying it on again!



Winter White
January 15, 2018, 6:54 pm
Filed under: January 2018 | Tags: , , , , , ,

snoplay18

January 15, 2018

Today, the calves were having a ball, running all over the feedlot. The snow covered lot actually looks great. I scraped everything clean thanks to last week’s warm-up. The slush and manure was like cleaning up applesauce, but I did manage to get it all cleaned up. That was one job I was very happy to complete.

The manure collected will compost along with the daily horse droppings and bedding. It takes a while because the cold weather slows down the rotting process. I’m fine with it because the reward of the compost is worth the wait. I also like the look of the feedlot clean and currently covered in a blanket of white!

The cows are not paying much attention to this cold winter weather. They are fed, bedded and content to just chew their cud and wait for spring. Perhaps there is wisdom in what the cows do. The young ones run and play. The rest of the herd simply takes it all in stride. There is much to be said for a full belly and a warm bed. Watching the snow pile up is just a bonus I guess.

winterlot



A Job Worth Doing…
November 5, 2017, 8:05 pm
Filed under: November 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

wbpoop

November 5, 2017

How many times have you heard that a job worth doing, is worth doing right.? It always makes me laugh as I clean the barn…that is one job that just won’t stay done! I find it almost therapeutic. Cleaning the barn daily, makes it look and smell nice. I am sue the animals appreciate it too. In fact, I think they pay me with manure for keeping their beds clean.

I like the feeling of satisfaction I get as I apply fresh bedding and sweep the barn. It pleases me to know that all is well. The animals are in their stalls eating or have just been turned out to pasture as I clean. In any case, the clean, neat barn, gives me a sense of pride.

This wheelbarrow load of sawdust, old hay and manure is headed for the compost pile. It won’t get spread on the fields until next spring. This is the beginning of next years fertilizer. The pit is now empty waiting for the animals and I to fill it up again. The repetitive barn cleanings, just like daily chores, make up a farmers life. I love this life and wouldn’t change a thing!



Tabletop Farming
July 15, 2017, 9:41 pm
Filed under: July 2017 | Tags: , , , , , ,

tabletopfarm

July 15, 2017

My farming these days amounts to playing on a table with my grandson. He is a meticulous farmer! The tractors get parked by the barn. The gate must be closed unless you are driving the tractor through it. Hay bales get stacked in the same direction and the animals can be in the same pasture, but the cows are with the cows and the sheep with the sheep. I watch and play with a big smile….this kid takes this stuff serious and he won’t be three until next week!

My days just got a little better. I am allowed to walk around the circle drive around the barn once a day. It is part of my therapy. It also does wonders for my mental health as I peek through the windows at the pigs and monitor the landscape as I walk. Progress is slow but steady as my knee heals.

Today, the cement crew that I hired, completed the feedlot extension. The job went fast. I saved my daily walk until the cement was 99% done, so I could see the completed job. I was very happy with the job they did. The next phase will be gates and fences, but like my knee, progress is slow but steady.

feedlotextcement

This is going to make winter chores a breeze. Hay feeding will now move to a weekly job from a daily job. Cattle comfort will be improved and manure management just got better too. Plus I get to keep all that liquid gold all winter to make crop food for next year’s crops.

So, in between ice packs, great exercises for bending, stretching and sweating, I will take that daily walk and do my farming on the tabletop…for now :o)



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!



Piling up the Benefits
January 5, 2017, 2:03 pm
Filed under: January 2017 | Tags: , ,

wintercompost

January 5 2017

Yesterday, in a bitter cold windy day, I pushed up the manure pile. I use this dry stack area to compost all of our manure. I dump wheelbarrows until I can’t close the gate. I then push the piles up and mix it in a bit with the skid steer. Yesterday, the steam rolled out of the pile as I disturbed it, with a fog that I couldn’t see through! That pile is working hard, let me tell you.

The pile is a mix of animal manures and lots of straw, old hay and some sawdust. The whole thing breaks down and turns to rich compost. The rotting action does slow a little in this cold time of year, but it still works like a charm. By the time I have to push up the wheelbarrow piles, the main pile will have shrunk down by a few feet. I root around in there with the skid steer bucket, somewhat turning the pile. This action seems to make the pile decompose much quicker.

I would not do quite so much mixing, if it weren’t for my big orange shovel (AKA skid steer) That thing makes quick work of all manure management issues. I have quite a bit to manage, so I welcome the help it gives me. This pile and many like it are the basis for my farm’s fertility. It’s free for the gathering, just one more benefit that piles up around here.



Its Here!
December 12, 2016, 8:58 pm
Filed under: December 2016 | Tags: , , , , ,

sugarhousesnow

December 12, 2016

Winter has arrived here in northeast Ohio. It came with a vengeance! We had this quick first snow, followed two days later with eighteen inches more. I dug us out. Last night, it drizzled for four or five hours. We had a slushy mess today. Six to eight inches covers the ground, but slush and mud are underneath. Ugh, that is winter, but not my favorite kind of weather.

The cattle and sheep took it all in stride. They waited out the rain in their respective sheds. The horses went out to play during the deep snow event. They had a great time. Today, they romped and splashed about like children. Tonight, they are back in the warm barn, coats all brushed and ready for bed.

The winter chores are mostly about feeding and making sure all the animals have a dry, warm bed. That means shoveling lots of manure. The manure makes compost so as I wheel each load to the pile, I smile a bit knowing the payback comes in the spring. Those rich nutrients make my crops grow well and round out a well managed farm plan. So as the snow piles up and the rest of us hunker down, I will pile up the benefits…one forkful at a time.



Tis The Season
December 6, 2016, 10:30 pm
Filed under: December 2016 | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

lamb2016

December 6, 2016

Butchering season is upon us. This is one of our 2016 grassfed lambs. We will enjoy him ourselves. It is a bittersweet time. The animals that I have nurtured all year, now become meals for us. It is the cycle of life. I understand, I am grateful and yet a part of me feels a little sad. I stun the animals humanely and treat them with respect right to the end of their lives. I take comfort in that fact.

Our animals are well treated form birth until death. Even in the final seconds of their lives, they know no fear or mistreatment. I believe the stress free lives that they live, translates to very safe, wholesome food for me and my family. They spend much of their lives on pasture in the fresh air and sunshine. I watch over them, keeping them safe and well. We get the benefit of vitamins and minerals consumed from our grass and converted into the flesh of our animals.

We feed the soil with compost and pH buffering limestone. The soil feeds the crops. The crops feed the animals and in the case of cover crops, the soil itself. The animals feed us very nutritious protein, packed with vitamins and omega3. The work that I do taking care of our soils is worth every minute. I see it in the crops we grow and I taste it in the beef, lamb, pork and chicken that we eat.