RicelandMeadows


Taking Nothing For Granted
June 1, 2018, 1:27 pm
Filed under: June 2018 | Tags: , , ,

lilac

June 1, 2018

Today, is my first official day of retirement. I am the first male “Rice” to make it to retirement in three generations. My grandpa, was killed in an auto accident when he was in his fifties. My father’s retirement years were stolen from him by a disease called Alzheimer’s. I made it to today, but I realize that life is truly short, so I will take nothing for granted!

I took this selfie while sitting on the porch. I sat there just to rest a bit, but mostly to smell the blooming lilacs. I think over the years, I have let myself miss out on things such as that. I know a bit more rest wouldn’t have hurt anything. Smelling those lilacs made me remember days gone by, people I have known and loved ones that I have lost. The scent was truly heavenly…and just like us…only here for a short time.

I am making lists and working on fun projects. The wet weather makes gardening tough, but the grasses in the pastures and hay fields are loving it. I have taken the time to walk those wet fields, making notes were some drainage would help. I also see nesting birds and baby animals. It is as if I am seeing some of these things for the very first time. I guess my eyes were always open, but now, time allows for my heart to be opened too.

Stay tuned, as I work this farm with renewed vigor, in the ways of my grandfather’s, walking the rows and fields with draft horses leading the way. I will share. I will care and I will take nothing for granted.



The Stars Are Out Again!

Hosknisap2018

March 22, 2018

My horses are stars again! They just had the role in a video showcasing our farm’s maple syrup operation. The footage was shot by Rural Heritage magazine and will appear in the future on RFD-TV. The CD will also be available for purchase from Rural Heritage magazine. You can look for this and other episodes made here at the farm by going to their website Ruralheritage.com 

It was an amazing day. We gathered maple sap. We tapped a tree and we boiled the sap and made some syrup all while being filmed. The horses gave me a little “push back” at first , but soon settled into their routine and worked perfectly…. as expected.

Maple season has been hit and miss, but these last few days we have been very busy. We boiled for the 7th time yesterday. The next few days look pretty good too. We will be in a rush as the season will soon be at its end, but for now we will work hard, even into the night….working at times, when the stars are shining!

Special thanks to Susan Blocker for the amazing photo of Hoss and Knight pulling the sap sled!



Snow Buddies Business
January 16, 2018, 9:16 pm
Filed under: January 2018 | Tags: , , , ,

snowbuddies

January 16, 2018

I let the horses and donkey out to play this afternoon. They are fun to watch as they run, jump and roll in the fresh snow. I guess they get bored on these cold snowy days just like we do. The boredom will soon pass. I am healing well and very soon will resume winter farm work. I will be careful. I will have help, but I will soon be working horses again and I can’t wait!

The donkey has bonded with the draft horses. He much prefers to be with them instead of the sheep. He still patrols the sheep pasture, but stays with the horses. He has his own “stall” which is just the spot where he eats his grain, but he goes there every time! He makes me chuckle. I like the little guy.

I actually wonder if he will follow us while we work. I think it will be much easier to take him along, than to have him lonely in the barn. It will be a hoot for sure but time will tell. If I would have known how sweet these critters can be… I would have had one a long time ago!



Little Help Please

kmanpets

June 16, 2017

In the photo, two friends enjoy a drink after work. If you look close, you’ll see a little helper. If you look even closer, you’ll see a tiny hand about to pet the face of our draft horse. It doesn’t get much better than that.

We here on the farm are extremely busy with mowing and hoeing, to name two jobs. This week, with the help of family and friends, we made 90% of our first cutting hay. The horse barn is full to the brim with some of the nicest hay that we have ever made. The day was very hot and muggy. Water and sweat flowed freely. When the last rays of sunlight were fading, I was backing the baler into the barn, tired, happy and very thankful.

2017Ted

The horses and I sweated together as we fluffed the hay for drying with our tedder. The best thing about that day was the cool stiff breeze. It was a nice quiet time, listening to the machine as it softly flipped the drying gasses into the air. The harness bells and birdsong complemented the light chatter of the machine’s metal parts. The sweet smell of the curing hay filled my nostrils, as the big animals easily pulled me around the field. Their power and grace never ceases to amaze me.

Hay making on a small farm takes many hands. I am grateful for all of you who helped. The main day was Tuesday, but a lot of work was done in the days leading up to then and even the days that followed. Two small fields remain. Those fields will be rolled into round bales for the cows winter feeding. I will still need the sun, some dry weather and help from the horses, but the hands on portion of small bales for this year, is now over! I could not have done it without all the help. Thank You!



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, than 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.



Second Opinion
March 21, 2017, 9:10 pm
Filed under: March 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

abbybelgin

March 21, 2017

Today, I hauled Abby and Duke to get their horseshoes reset. I want them shod because we are on the gravel drive quite a lot. Abby’s training continues almost daily. As long as I was in the neighborhood, I asked my buddy to hitch Abby with one of his horses and give me a second opinion on her progress.

We hitched her with a steady Belgian horse that belongs to my friend. She went along with him as if she has known him for years. She did well, especially given her short time in training. We even tried to expose her to a few unexpected things, but she paid them no mind and kept her brain “in the game”.

We kept the training lesson short and ended on a good note. She continues to do well. Sure, she is still a little girl with lots to learn. Some days she tries my patience and pushes my buttons, but I continue to win every game she plays. I can see her becoming a valuable asset to the farm. I will try to keep on my guard, keep her lessons short and keep all of us safe.

By the way, my buddy who is shy with his compliments, told me he can tell we’ve been working at it….that’s about as close to an “atta boy” as I will get…and I am fine with that.