RicelandMeadows


Applying a Boost

fertspread

May 23, 2017

Today, the horses and I applied soil amendments to the corn ground. We got chased off by the weather on the day we planted. It took seven days of sun, wind and drying, to make it so we could finish our job. Everything went very well. I like it when things go that way! Our homemade spreader worked stellar as usual.

Knight, my left hand horse, is still shedding some of his winter hair. It got a little warm before we were done. He sweated some, but so did I. We both will be better off for it. I brushed him down after stripping the harness off. He stood like a statue, enjoying every single stroke. I imagine that he will be all shedded out like the other horses by the end of the week.

We spread commercial fertilizer on this field, following the recommended plan from our soil tests. It has been five years since we added anything other than compost and cover crops to this piece. The corn to be grown here will use much of the applied fertilizer. I plan to sow rye, or perhaps wheat to this field at harvest. The grain , cover crop, will suck up anything left over. It will be transformed by next spring into usable, stable plant food. Corn won’t grow here again for five to seven years. A soil test will be taken to determine if we need any additional nutrients then.

disc2017

The boys taking a break. We disced the plot lightly to incorporate the fertilizer. Rain is forecast for tomorrow, so we won’t be back to this field until time to cultivate to eliminate or at least reduce weed pressure.

I grow corn to feed my sows. The growing hogs get some when they get to about 120# live weight. This just helps stave off boredom. The horses get one ear a piece on cold days in winter. I only need about 3 acres of corn to meet all of our need. Growing it in a rotation helps break up the nematode cycle, gets rid of ruts in the field, and just works well in our farm plan. This year I planted an open pollinated variety called “Wapsie Valley” it grows nice for me….. hopefully, more on that later in this season!



The Promise in the Sky
April 20, 2017, 10:47 am
Filed under: April 2017 | Tags: , , , , , ,

417rainbow

April 20, 2017

I don’t think there are many things more pleasing to the eye,┬áthan a rainbow in the sky. The bible says it is God’s promise that he would never drown the Earth again. I feel peace when I see one. Yesterday, in the midst of a spring storm, with dark skies and heavy rain, the sun poked through bright and beautiful. This double rainbow was the result. (sorry if the second arc is not to visible, I was slow with the camera)

I always feel humbled when the colorful arcs show themselves over our barns. I know that I am supposed to be here, in this spot, at this place in time. Seeing the rainbow sort of “cements” this for me. I know that the best is yet to come!

Yesterday, before the storm, we managed to spin “bin oats” on the roughed up corn stubble field. These oat seeds are straight out of my oat bin. They will germinate and grow quickly, providing cattle grazing in just a few weeks. It is a minimum tillage practice that I sometimes use that also provides a cover crop for the bare field.

This field, once grazed off by the cows, will next be planted to a cover of buckwheat. While the field mostly “rests”, I will install some needed drainage. Once the buckwheat is tall and blooming, I will mow it all down and apply compost to the whole field. The buckwheat will be allowed to grow, while the horses and I begin plowing the field down in preparation for planting speltz in late summer, early fall.

Small farming is a series of small farming practices. Cover cropping, animal grazing, compost applications and timely weed eradication by mowing, helps me to keep my purchased inputs at a minimum. Sure, it requires a little extra work. It makes me walk my fields to look them over often. I get to know my farm this way, every piece of it. I don’t know of a way to be better connected to my farm, the woodlands or the animals who live here.

Last year, my corn planter skipped like crazy. I would up with it only planting half of a crop! Most people would have started over or mowed it all down. I persisted. Even though my field looked sparse when driving by on the road, it yielded very well. I hand picked the ears , with the help of some great friends. My corn crib is still half full. I will have plenty to get me through to this years crop. Isn’t that all a farmer could ask for? To have enough, what a wonderful thing!

The bee trap is working successfully. The bees, under protest perhaps, are moving in to the hive and setting up their home there. The rains of yesterday and today will sprout the oat crop and keep the fresh grass growing nicely. I will work horses on the sled and wagon as I prep for the coming work season. I will also work my brain, as we travel around the farm, planning for crops, improvements, and tasks that need completed. I will do all of this under the promise in the sky… even when I can’t see it.



Grazing Extended
November 18, 2016, 10:02 pm
Filed under: November 2016 | Tags: , , , , ,

grazob2

November 18, 2016

Today, I turned the cows into the oats and buckwheat that we planted in early August. The oats are just headed out, in the “dough” stage. They are lush and green. They are waist high. The buckwheat has bloomed and has reached maturity. The plants are succulent, big and leafy. This is a little field that was simply disced, two or three times. The seed was broadcasted and then rolled. The rain did most of the work after that.

My pastures around the farm have all been grazed off. The fields are now resting, feeding themselves before going dormant for the year. The weather has been unseasonable, but this is about the time that we are done grazing every year. This year however, this little field will feed the cow herd for another two or three weeks. I will offer hay and baleage free choice in a few days to ensure the cows have plenty of feed.

Here in the snow belt of northeast Ohio, grazing extenders like these oats and buckwheat, help to keep inputs down. Low input means more profitability. More profitability keeps us sustainable, ensuring and securing this farm’s future. The oats were straight out of our feed bin. They need to be oats that were not heat treated so that they germinate. I am not after a grain crop. I just want to stockpile feed for when the grazing is over for the year.

I also have some fourth cutting clover in another field. I plan to graze that field off once the ground freezes. I don’t want the cattle punching holes in the new field of clover. If the ground doesn’t freeze, at a minimum, I will graze the sheep flock there. They will not hurt the soil. They will harvest their own feed and spread their own manure.The other dynamic is their little hooves will press the clover seed heads into the soft soil, thereby reseeding the field as they eat.

Increasing the amount of grazing on a small farm is easy if you think outside the box a little bit. Small plots of summer annuals planted and grazed can rest the regular pastures while keeping the cattle in top condition. Cover crops can be lightly grazed before incorporating them into the soil. Corn fodder, after harvest, can be grazed along with the field edges in that field. I even let the animals graze on the field while I am plowing it. Plowing takes me a few days when using the horses. The grazing keeps the grass short so it turns over easier. I get my plowing done while the animals get their grazing extended.

grazob1



2016 Spelt Has Been Planted
October 7, 2016, 8:52 pm
Filed under: October 2016 | Tags: , , , , , ,

2016speltzplant

October 7, 2016

Wow, after pushing hard from dark until dark for the last three days, the spelt crop for this year has been planted. I had to use the tractor some, but the horses and I pushed through it. This back field is usually our pig herd pasture. I needed to renovate it. Spelt and hay is planted at the same time. I will frost seed clover into this field in February or March, but in the meantime, the spelt will nurse the fescue hay seedlings.

This is a field of about five acres including a small wooded section and several small groves of trees. I farm around the trees for the benefit of the animals and even for the look of the grassy hamlet. The spelt field is about three acres, so well worth the effort. Next July, the grain and straw from this piece will meet our farm needs for a year.

The straw when mixed with the animals manure, after providing them a warm bed, is the foundation for our compost providing much of the carbon source needed. The grain fuels” the horses for an entire year, providing all goes well with the crop. We have not had to buy commercial horse feed for over eight years. Spelt and salt and mineral are all that is needed to keep working horses in good condition, along with good hay of course.

As I type these words, I am tired from the last three days, but I am very satisfied. Now, I just have to clean up the grain drill, grease and put away the disc and other tools while I wait for the seed to sprout. :o)



Oats and Buckwheat
October 6, 2016, 1:56 pm
Filed under: October 2016 | Tags: , , , , , ,

oatsnbuck

October 6, 2016

This little field is located at the back of my farm. It is where the cows will spend the winter. I planted oats and buckwheat here to extend the grazing season. The little field is much better with a cover crop on it. The cows will soon eat this, leaving rich manure behind. It’s nice when they spread their own!

I spent $24.00 on the buckwheat seed. The oats were right out of my feed bin. We disced the area to cut some grooves into the hard ground. We next broadcasted the oats and buckwheat on top of the ground and waited. The rains finally came and sprouted the seed. The buckwheat bloomed and provided a nice autumn crop for the bees. The standing forage will make my cows very happy.

The oats and buckwheat are not frost hardy. They will die once winter gets here, but the cows will have this all eaten before then. The plants have “mined” the soil of trace elements. The cows will eat the plants and deposit the digested minerals back on the ground. Next spring I will plant corn in this small place. The corn will benefit from this crop and from the cows too. It will prove to be a very good way to have spent $24.00.



Cover Ups
September 17, 2015, 4:51 pm
Filed under: September 2015 | Tags: , , , , ,
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 ­čś«



A Nip In The Air
September 15, 2015, 7:00 am
Filed under: September 2015 | Tags: , , , ,
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 ­čś«

This corn will be the main feed for my sow herd this winter. I didn’t grow any this year due to schedule┬ádemands 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.