RicelandMeadows


The Ups and Downs
February 13, 2020, 3:41 pm
Filed under: February 2020 | Tags: , , , , ,

knightAmee

February 13, 2020

In the photo above compares the size of my Percheron gelding Knight, to our new Suffolk Punch mare Amee. There is a full eight inches of height difference! It seams funny to be able to see her back when I am brushing her. Putting the harness and bridal on is a breeze with the new girls. My old, short body appreciates that fact. My geldings are big. Hoss measures 18 hands. Knight is 17.3 hands. Amee measures 16 hands. Her mate Abby is a bit shorter at 15.3. A “hand” for you non-horse folks, is a unit of measurement of four inches.

My geldings have been sold. They are still here on the farm, while their new owner prepares a stall for them. They will be getting a great new home. They will work some, but have a good retirement home, giving wagon and sled rides, mowing cow pastures and skidding a little firewood. The new owner is kind and calm. He has been driving Knight and Hoss. This gives the horses and the man a chance to meet and get to know each other.

As we transition to the smaller, chunkier Suffolk punch horses, things are going smoothly. The new girls have gotten used to the routine. They will soon be powering the farm 100% of the time, but for now, are sharing the work with the geldings. My own emotions are on a roller coaster ride. It is a bittersweet thing to be making this change. It helps me a bunch, knowing that my guys will be going to a good home. A place that I can even visit from time to time.

Our black Percheron mare, also called Abby will be headed off our farm too. We are in negotiations over her sale now. She is a flashy girl who is broke well too. I will make sure that she too gets a great place to live.

Maple syrup time is at hand. We need horses to power the sugaring operation. So far, things are working out well. I will say though that my emotions, just like the sap in the maple trees, are having their ups and downs!



Suffolk Punch
January 31, 2020, 11:02 pm
Filed under: January 2020 | Tags: , , , ,

Amee&Abbyday1

January 31, 2020

Well, I did it! I bought a pair of Suffolk Punch mares. These gals are registered, six years old and in foal. The photo above was taken on their first day on our farm yesterday. I am pleased with them. It will be bittersweet to say farewell to my Percheron pals, Knight and Hoss, but these ladies will power our farm just as well.

We are making this change after thirty years of working mostly Percherons. I do really like the breed and have had some wonderful horses. I am simply getting old and throwing the harness up on my black gentle giants, takes too much effort. The Suffolk Punch horse is a chunkier and shorter work horse. These are just two of their attributes.

Amee&abbyday1butts

They are “easy keepers” meaning they make efficient use of their feed…much like me. They have been bred for stamina and gentleness for centuries. The powerful horses are known for their great attitude, willingness to work and calm disposition.

I am continuing to be amazed by this breed. Today the mares got their feet trimmed, bridal path clipped, dewormed and fitted to harness. I guess that is the equivalent to a day at the spa…am I right ladies? In any case, they took it all in stride. They look nice tonight all cleaned up and shining in the barn light.

Big changes for the farm for sure, but the future looks bright! Oh by the way, their names are Abby and Amee. Their DNA tests revealed that they both are unrelated to our little guy Hank.



Draft Horse Tie Stall Manger

manger

February 18, 2017

My draft horse tie stalls are ten feet wide.I made my mangers like the one pictured above. I had several people ask me questions about their size and how they are made. The mangers have a bottom that is about 18 inches above the floor. The ten foot width is divided in half. Each horse has a compartment that is five feet long, thirty three inches wide and twenty six inches deep.

knightmanger

I installed a corner feeder in each section for the horse’s grain. The size of the manger easily holds a half of a 50# bale. The horses have plenty of room to “root” around in their hay, without pushing it out onto the floor to be wasted. The mangers pictured have been in use since the year 2000. The top board is a 2×8 inch piece of red oak. The top edge of which is forty four inches high, when measured from the floor to the top edge.

chainmanger

I drilled a hole in the 2×8 inch top board. I off set it just enough to have a little more wood on the top of the hole than the bottom part. The chain is long enough to allow the horse access to the bottom of the corner feeder. That length is long enough to allow the horse to lie down easily, but not so long so the horse can get tangled. I use a big heavy snap to connect at their halter. I moved the snap a link at a time until I found the desired link for the proper length. This should be somewhere between 18 to 24 inches, depending upon the size of the horse, looseness of his halter etc. I cut the extra links off the chain to keep them from becoming entangled in the snap once it is attached to the horse’s halter.

ringmanger

On the end of the chain that is inside the manger, I attached these big rings. The rings can’t pull through the hole. They are heavy so as the horse moves forward, the ring pulls the slack in the chain to the inside of the manger. It slides up and down easily keeping the chain taut while not pulling on the horse. The horses had no trouble adjusting to the chain and ring.

My double tie stalls keep my horses safe and clean. They are turned out or used each day, so don’t need the exercise a boxstall allows. They can lie down whenever they want and often do. I would not make a double stall any wider than ten feet, nor a single stall and wider than five feet, otherwise, the horse may try to roll in his stall. I stable my horses in the same manner that they are hitched, each horse shares a stall with its team mate.

It is possible to harness that horses in their double stall. They are roomy for the horses and makes caring for them easy. I have used tie stalls since 1986. The key is that the horses need to be used or exercised daily. The mangers are a key component to keeping them safe, fed and secure.



Daunserly Light
September 22, 2014, 4:49 pm
Filed under: September 2014 | Tags: , , , , , ,

Duke in the dawn's early light

Duke in the dawn’s early light


September 22, 2014

When I was a boy, I read in a copy of Reader’s Digest, a story about a man who related a story of his childhood. He had heard our National Anthem and in his mind the words “dawn’s early light” were melded into the words “daunserly light”. That kind of light, he reasoned was for extra special things like the sun on a new-born baby, or the afternoon hue that engulfs a new bride. Our flag, bathed in sunlight at the end of a long battle, was of course that kind of light.

I read that story in the Reader’s Digest and laughed out loud, because for years I had made that same observation! Surely, there must be some divine light know as daunserly! It simply had to be that way…after all they made a song about it, that thousands of people sing. I belted that phrase out many times in my childhood, never knowing I was doing it wrong.

In my adulthood, I still believe that there is such a light. Perhaps there is a different name for it, but I still see that doggone daunserly light! When the preacher is preaching and light through the stained glass bathes his face, Is that not daunserly? For sure it must be that light, when a new-born babe suckles his mother’s breast, as the early morning sun shines on them from a window. Or how about when the sun breaks through the fog in the middle of a forest and sheds light on a tiny seedling? Perhaps it is the hype, or maybe the beauty, I don’t know. I guess for me it is the splendor, the wonder and the promise of something great found on the sunbeams…. All I know is; that I love it!



In the Groove and Hitting Our Stride
April 1, 2013, 8:35 am
Filed under: April 2013 | Tags: , ,
The horses help gather sap by voice command

The horses help gather sap by voice command

 

April 1, 2013

After several trips up and down the sap roads, stopping many, many times along the way, the horses have the routes memorized. Jake was gathering sap along the edge of the roads. He would ask the horses to go. They would lean into their work, step off together and walk until he told them, “Whoa.”

This is where horses beat a tractor everytime 😮 You can tell the tractor to move. You can yell and scream until you are blue in the face… and that tractor will not move. Of course, leave the thing in gear or on a hill in neutral … and suddenly it won’t “Whoa!” I’ll take horses over a tractor every time for this job!

I guess the horses work by “conditioned response”. They know the way. They know where we stop most times. Telling them to stop and go, makes sense to them…. This is what the experts would say… I however prefer to think a bit differently 😮 I say the horses are my partners. They work for me because I ask.

I look after the horses just as I would my children. I feed and care for them. I nurture and praise them. When needed, they get a slap on the butt or usually a stern voice of disapproval. I think my voice, filled with disappointment, stings much more than the slap on the butt.

Our horses have come a long way. Their training is on going, but they are becoming a trusted team. They stand when told. The move when asked. They enjoy our farm’s visitors. They almost look forward to all the petting and love, especially when given by children.

There is sap to gather again today. The rain fell last night along with the temperature. The horses will get a short break tomorrow, perhaps even Wednesday, but there is warm in the forecast by the weeks end. I am sure the horses will take it all in stride. The maple season for us, is nearing its end… but for now, we are in the groove!

 



Maple Syrup, A Family Affair
March 11, 2013, 7:44 pm
Filed under: March 2013 | Tags: , ,
Teamwork !

Teamwork !

March 11, 2013

We had an awesome weekend of everything maple 😮 We gathered sap, we boiled sap, we burnt wood … LOTS of wood. We tasted the fresh syrup several times for quality control measures … of course!

We had lots of help and many visitors. On Sunday, I thought we would just gather what little bit had dripped over night. I wasn’t expecting much, so I didn’t line up much help. Sunday turned out to be one of the biggest days we have seen for gathering.

On that very big day, my hired man brought his mom and dad and his sister to watch and experience the maple process. They had a great time even though they worked like dogs due to my lack of help. They did have fun. They did learn a little, but the best part was the memories that they will have forever.

I know all about those great reflections. My life is full of them. I am very thankful for each and every one. It means that someone took the time to share their life with me. They cared enough to make a special mark upon my heart. I am doing my best to make those kind of marks too.

We had a pair of brother-in-laws who brought their children out to the farm. I had not met them before, but we are now friends. The children are city kids from west of Cleveland. Their eyes got opened to a whole new way of life. They even got to see my horses working … a sight not seen much in the big city. They tasted syrup and stood in the steamy room, breathing in all that they could.

Today, rain fell softly as I boiled the last of the sap from the weekend. The steam vented the sugarhouse, but then was directed downward filling my little sugar valley with the sweet smell of the maple season. Lambs jumped and played in the warm rain as I watched out of the sugarhouse window. Today, I once again drink from the saucer …. because my cup runneth over.

Making maple syrup, at least on this farm, will always be a family affair. I know that no matter how far away my friends and famliy get, when the sap runs … their thoughts will run back to the little sugarhouse in the valley, right here at Riceland Meadows.



Sharing the harvest and making Memories
March 10, 2013, 12:16 am
Filed under: March 2013 | Tags: , , ,
Lots of help gathering sap

Lots of help gathering sap

March 9, 2013

Today was the best sap run of the season. Our trees were dripping like mad. The bags were full, the sun was warm and smiles were everywhere! We had a great time.

The horses got another good workout, but the work is starting to become “old hat”. They take it in stride and almost seem to enjoy it as much as we do. It is so much fun for me to see the looks on the little kid’s faces as they watch the horses work.

We had lots of help today today and it took a while to gather all the taps. Once the sled tank was full, the gatherers would rest and wait for the horses to come back. They laughed and joked and made memories that will last a lifetime.

I boiled for just over six hours and made some very nice syrup. We had customers, visitors and helpers all watching and sharing memories. I had a great day 😮 I could feel my grandpa guiding my moves, whenever he wasn’t out watching my son Jake handle the team. My grandpa watches from heaven, but I know he was here today…if only in my memory.



Saps a Running!
February 10, 2013, 4:21 pm
Filed under: February 2013 | Tags: ,
One drip at a time!

One drip at a time!

February 10, 2013

The sap is starting to run today. The weather is just right for maple syrup. The warming trend is supposed to go into tomorrow evening before it gets cold once again. I am hoping for our first run tomorrow.

We are almost ready. We just have to put the unloading pipe together and a few minor adjustments inside the sugarhouse. I have a timer that keeps me on track to put wood in the arch. It rings every 9 minutes. I reset the timer and load the hungry fire with wood.

The timer needs a better shelf to sit on, so I will take care of that in the morning. I have a bunch of “rearing to go” young guys at the ready. We will see how they hold up to the increased production.
I’m pretty sure they will be fine … oh, to be eighteen again 😮

We hauuled a load of wood this afternoon to give the horses a job. They did well even though we used the wagon and it pulled hard. The load was of good size and the ground is soft. The horses dug in and pulled with ease.

Here we go. I am excited to once again be in the sugarhouse. I can feel the approval from long gone family members. The steam will fill the room a bit, but what will surround me, will not be water vapor, but rather the love from the generations of syrup makers who have gone on before me.



Butchering Day
January 26, 2013, 10:22 pm
Filed under: January 2013 | Tags: , ,
Yum!

Yum!

January 26, 2013

Yesterday, I taught my son how to walk a pig 😮 We used an old-fashioned pig crate. It is a rectangle wooden box, a little larger than the size of a pig, with no bottom. The pig goes in by way of a sliding door. Two men carry the box by handles on each end. They carry it just up off the ground. The pig walks along because he doesn’t like the box touching it’s rear end.

We walked the pigs 200 feet from my son’s barn to my trailer. We made a ramp out of white pine 2×6 inch planks. The pig walks right up the ramp and into the trailer. My son was amazed. The pigs went along without a squeal. They snuggled down in the straw in the trailer and spent the night that way in my driveway.

This morning we butchered the pigs. They were dispatched quickly, quietly and humanely. We killed them out on the snow. They were bled out there. We then skinned and finished the job in the shelter of the new slaughterhouse. It is far from finished, but worked very well to keep us out of the wind and cold.

We left the carcasses hanging to cool while we cut and hauled two loads of firewood. The snow is deep. The ground is not frozen underneath. The horses pulled us through the deep snow like we weighed next to nothing at all. We made two trips to the woods and back, filling two pick up trucks with firewood.

Our farm had some visitors today as well. A friend of mine who lives in the city, brought his grandchildren out to see the farm. They got to see all the animals and the farm by way of a horse drawn sled ride. I am sure they are still talking about it. They left happy, cold and still brimming with excitement.

Once the trucks were loaded, we unharnessed the horses. They were given a drink and some hay. We all gathered in the garage to cut up the now cooled pigs. In just under two hours, the pork was all cut, trimmed and ready for the freezer. It was great looking, fresh pork. I am sure many meals will be enjoyed thanks to those two piggies.

I had a wonderful day. I finished up just after 5 pm. One more trip to the barn to check on everybody, walk the dog and enjoy the view of the full moon. I am tired, but satisfied and will go to bed with a greatful, thankful heart.



Draft Horse Work Hardening
January 2, 2013, 9:21 pm
Filed under: January 2013 | Tags:
Resting, but ready to go

Resting, but ready to go

                                                            January 2, 2013

     The horses are a bit soft since last falls harvest. I have begun to get them ready for the maple syrup season. They will soon be pulling the sled loaded with the sap tank. It will tire them some, but I try to get them ready like an athlete. We start out with everyday work, light loads at first with a good pull or two now and then.

     The horses like to work. They are bidable and willing. When the going gets a little tough, they just hunker down and keep on pulling. I need to work them steady but not over do it just yet. Their muscles and lungs need to get fit for the work ahead.

     We cut firewood when there is no other job. A good wagon ride down the road will also help get them ready. Hauling the sap sled takes about three to four hours a day when the sap is running. There may be snow, but last year it was a daily pull through the mud. They handled it well.

     I must keep in mind that the spring work of field preparation comes just after or even during the maple sugar harvest. The horses must also be tough enough to pull the plow, fertilizer spreader, drag or anything else that comes up. By starting now, it gets them ready by work hardening.

     I should walk more myself, rather than ride, I could use a little work hardening myself. I too have become soft. My off-farm job has me riding a desk too much. I need my muscles and lungs to be ready for the upcoming work too. My hired man has taken much of the work out of my daily routine. The only thing expanding is my waistline! I got to get that in check!

     My youngest son has taken a renewed interest in driving and working the horses. He is a good teamster. He practically cut his teeth on the butt lines. He does well, the horses listen to him and he applies only the pressure they need on their bits or their attitude. His helping me is very good for the horses and both me and him. Between the two of us, we will all be ready to go. It’s only six weeks away…the syrup season that is. Time will fly now as we head for that sweet time of year 😮