RicelandMeadows


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.



Untapped!
March 9, 2017, 8:03 pm
Filed under: March 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

untap2017

March 9, 2017

After a very short season, we have the trees untapped. We had to dump full bags of maple sap. The bags were full but the quality was not good. The trees have budded, so the sap has an “off” flavor. I would rather dump it on the ground than make “buddy” syrup. It has a strong offensive taste. I can sell it to a few buyers who use it for pipe tobacco and animal feed, but the price they pay is low. It is so low, that I would be better off selling the firewood it would take to boil the sap. I would get more for the firewood, than I would the maple syrup.

Thanks to the horses and several guys we untapped in a matter of a few hours. It is a great job to have behind us. It has been a funny year. It has been very warm. It was a very early maple season and very short. We did make a good amount, but were hoping to make more than we did. I will get everything cleaned and put away, then wait patiently for next year. It pays to be a Cleveland Browns fan…..there is always next year!

It was a beautiful day to be in the woods. Yesterday, we had high winds that blew at speeds of 50 mph. There are several trees uprooted. The forest floor is littered with down and dead limbs. The whole woodlot could use a good cleaning. I will salvage what I can for lumber and firewood. I will build some nice brush piles for woodland creature habitat and I will burn some of the slash. The old, mostly rotted wood, I will push into piles to finish rotting to enrich the forest. This is one job that I will never complete, but I refuse to stop working at it.



Time Marches On
February 27, 2017, 7:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

jake3

February 27, 2017

Our maple syrup season for 2017 is over. This photo, I snapped of my youngest son as he drove the horses back into the woods for another load of maple sap. It is a bittersweet photo for me. He is driving my horses every bit as well as I can. I asked him if he needed any help hitching up. He smiled and said, “Dad after you teaching me for 30 years… I got it.”

He was right. He had everything perfect. The horses can sense when someone is not confident when handling the lines. They were real sure that Jake was in charge. He is quiet with them and uses a soft hand, but they feel his inner strength as he drives them. His thoughts are telegraphed through the leather lines to the bits in their mouths. This gentle guidance along with an encouraging voice, makes for great teamwork of man and horses.

I held my little grandson’s hand as we watched dad go off down the sap road. I was proud and humbled at the same time. The little hand inside of mine made me think back that 30 years ago. I could see my son looking up, asking questions and learning things that I didn’t even know I was teaching. My heart was full to almost overflowing, then my grandson said, “I’m gonna drive your horses some day Pa-Pa” My heart overflowed a little bit as a tear spilled down my cheek.

My how fast time does fly!



Maple 2017
February 20, 2017, 12:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

threesap

February 19, 2017

Whew, the sap is running and so am I. I got some very welcomed help over the last few days, as I readied for making maple syrup. Today, we managed to get everything in the sugarhouse ready, while my son and a whole bunch of friends gathered the dripping sap.

Many of the bags were full to the top. The mud was sticky and drying. The sled pulled hard, so we used three horses. They still have their winter coats on, so we went slow, not pushing too hard. In four hours time, they had gathered almost 1100 gallons of sap.

My sister and two of her friends came. They were an BIG help. We managed to do all the final clean up of tanks and equipment, as well as, the final set up. We finished just as the sap started coming in to the sugarhouse. Right in the nick of time! We hold the sap in a tank that my cousin and I set in the ice and snow last Thursday. Today, a few guys wore only short sleeves!

Our weather for the next few days has us concerned. The warm up is coming too fast. Time will tell how our season will go, but it has started. Tomorrow we will be boiling much of the day. Oh what a wonderful day it will be!