RicelandMeadows


Sod Waterway works even in Winter

snoway

December 30, 2016

The other evening while doing chores, I got to admire one of my farming practices. This little intermittent stream winds its way through my recently planted speltz field. I was careful when planting and doing the field preparation to keep this sensitive area intact. The grass, even this late in the year, filters any topsoil that might otherwise wash into the nearby watershed. This is good farm stewardship and I am proud to do it.

It is by paying attention to small details that makes good economic sense. My soil stays where in belongs. The nutrients also stay with the newly planted crop instead of washing into the stream that makes up the eastern border of our farm. It is also pretty to look at any time of year. The bright green of the fresh grass against the newly fallen snow, brightens our landscape. So we reap the benefits of good crops, a great view and that of being a good steward.

I suggest putting environmental concerns at the top of your list as a small farmer, land owner or caretaker. The rewards will last long after you are gone from this Earth. The effects of good stewardship benefit people unknown to you , as well as, your closest neighbors. Best of all, your farm and your bottom line will reflect your efforts.



clean Up in any Asile

casper

November 6, 2016

After I finish picking the ear corn, I turn the cows into the field. I also turn the sows in there too. The animals eat the fodder and corn husks. They glean the field for any ears that I might have missed. They also eat the grass and clover on the field edges. There is a lot of feed in my finished field. I like to make use of every corner of my farm. The animals are also spreading their own manure, saving me some work and expending no fossil fuel in the process.

The animals walk up and down the rows eating whatever strikes their fancy. I don’t force them to clean up every dry stick. I just let them forage until the grass has been grazed off. They will then be moved off this field. They will however return many times this winter as will the draft horses. The field will be used as a sacrificial lot over winter for the animals to get exercise. They will graze the standing stalks, but mostly they will jump and play without poking holes in our meadows. This five acre plot will be plowed next spring.

There are grassy areas on both ends and both sides of the field to catch any muddy water or manure run off before it gets into the road ditches or small streams. This keep the nutrients where we want them…in the fields, not in someone’s drinking water! So, eat up gang, clean up in any aisle!



Shady Summer Pasture

woodedpasture

August 15, 2016

This patch of woodlands was recommended by the state forester to become a pasture. There were not too many trees worth saving according to him. I bought a herd of goats several years ago and let them eat whatever they wanted. I mowed what I could after the goats had moved on. I cut down and am cutting down, cull trees while cleaning up what falls down every year.

This hamlet has become a great pasture for sultry summer days. I feed hay to the cows here to provide feed in addition to whatever the cows graze. I graze it very short so that my clean up efforts are made easier. Soon I will hand seed grasses into the bare spots. As I remove trees the filtered sunlight encourages the grass to grow. What was once a brushy, thorny, overgrown patch, with a few trees growing among the multi-flora rose, has become a productive paddock on my farm.

I am going to remove all the trees with multi-trunks, leaving the best and straightest to grow. I continue to clean up the dead, wind blown, fallen trees and branches. Trust me I have made great progress, but plenty of work awaits. I work here in the fall. The weather is good for hard work. I also like to take trees down after the leaves have fallen. It makes the brush easier to handle.

In following my “Woodland Management Plan”, this area will become a pasture. In following my own desire, the pasture will be wooded, providing shade and comfort during the dog days of summer. I do get a fair amount of grazing days here as I rotate the animals through this field. I also graze the sow herd here to clean up the fallen Hickory nuts and wild apples. It has been a great little field and it is just starting to reach its full potential.



Kids and Cows

Kids n cows

April 12, 2016

Last week I had the opportunity to welcome the “Junior LeaderShip” class to my farm. About thirty young men and women came to see and learn about small farming, environmental stewardship, water quality, draft animal power and “all these animals!” The young people had a great time. They asked good questions as they toured the farm. These young ladies were smitten with the cows.

They arrived at the farm in four vans. They jumped out of the vehicles, eager to see and touch the animals. My draft horse Duke, always the farm ambassador, was the subject of many “selfies”. Cinch the dog chased sticks and followed the kids everywhere they went. I explained the difference between commodity agriculture and community agriculture. They understood the market of direct sales. They also seemed to enjoy my diverse, sustainable farm.

I think the only hard part for the visitors, was when it was time to leave. They said goodbye to as many critters as they could. They waved to the two-day old baby lamb triplets as they rolled out the drive. I  know they had a some fun. I also think that I was able to help tomorrows policy  makers gain a new perspective of an old way of life. They left happy talking about things they had seen. I watched them go, smiling, because I am sure that a little piece of my farm will live in their memories. Who knows just how far that little spark may go?



Mentoring

MeTeach

March 21, 2016

Despite my muddy jacket, baggy pants and barn boots, I made a good teacher last week. I mentor to the local Vocational School. I teach woodlot management, environmental stewardship, and give a short maple presentation. I also give talks about small sustainable farming and the difference between community based farming -vs- commodity based farming. It is a good day for me when I can reach out to these young minds.

I have been doing this sort of thing for over five years now. I gear the talks to whatever curriculum at the time dictates.I have found that no matter how boring my presentation is…they think it beats sitting in the classroom! I figure that if I only reach one kid…it was worth it.

all about sap

I explain the process of maple syrup. I talk about how that process is somewhat complicated when working in an environmentally sensitive area such as along the banks of Mill creek. It gives me one more platform to sing praises about the low impact of my draft horses upon the land and landscape. They pull the sap sled effortlessly leaving very little sign that we were even there.

My hope is that by opening my mind and my farm to these young people, one day farm policies and public opinion will support small, even niche type, farming. These young folks are the future.  It is my hope that small farming is a part of their future too. If not farmers themselves, at least educated, informed people who buy farm products and vote.



Getting Water
The cows drink their fill

The cows drink their fill

August 10, 2015

Tonight as I write, we are getting a very nice rain. It has been raining for over three hours. The weatherman says it should rain off and on all night. This is our first rain since the 5th of July. It is pretty dry here. The grasses, the gardens and the trees are drinking their fill as well.

Our second cutting grass/hay is ready to cut. This rainy period is just what we need. The corn was starting to curl as it too, was wanting water. The pig herd was playing in the water when I got home. The whole farm seems content, with the exception of a few hens who got stranded outside when the wind blew the coop door shut 😮

We were featured in the current issue of Countryside magazine. The horses and I are looking forward to farming full time. I thirst for that day. The horses just like having me near. I am sure that breathing on them is as good for them as it is for me. The peace from our partnership fills me and satisfies my soul. I write a column in Rural Heritage magazine. In the current issue, I describe a way to grow pork chops in your backyard, complete with directions on how to set up gravity water flow to a pig drinker.

It’s all about water. The moisture of life, without which we die. I do all that I can to protect the quality of water that leaves my farm. I catch two ponds full. I maintain a ten acre wetland that borders a large stream. I use best management practices when logging, farming and especially when spreading manure. I am a good neighbor, a good steward and a protector of the resources that this farm holds. I am so careful with water, that I have even been called a …drip!



A day for good Stewardship
One of our woodland sap roads

One of our woodland sap roads

May 4, 2015

Last year we fixed a couple of road sections in the woods. Today we fixed a few more. The trouble spots we worked on today were stream crossings. I was able to get a culvert pipe installed. The trouble spot has been a thorn in my side for twenty years. It felt very good to cross it off the list! I would have taken a picture, but it was close to dark when we finished and I was too tired to walk back there 🙂

Sap roads hold up pretty well because of using the horses for gathering the maple sap.I am going to build a road repairer from an old disc my friend Bill gave me. I have narrowed it down so it fits the roads better. I am adding a piece of railroad rail to drag behind the disc. My hope is that the disc will cut the ruts and the dragging rail with level them all off. I has to make a difference!

In maple syrup season, we are using the roads when the soil is unstable…in fact muddy is a better word. Once in a while we have snow, but more often it is mud. As we slog through a stream, we drag mud with us, but worse than that we make small ditches. The sled runners cut grooves in the dirt where water makes a fast exit to the stream. The silt soon fills the stream with soft mud. It is not good for the stream or any water down stream of it either. I is my goal to have all my problem areas fixed by this time next year…I only have two more places to go.

When water can trickle or even run onto a place littered with leaves before making it to the stream, the dirt settles out and only clean water enters the stream bed. By building bridges and installing culverts at stream crossings, I am improving water quality here on my farm and even more importantly, downstream from my farm!

The job of environmental steward is one I don’t take lightly. I want to be a good neighbor, it’s the right thing to do and I believe it is my responsibility. I also like the way it looks. I can see that it will be a life’s work. It is noble and it pleases me. I am teaching others as I go along and setting an example for my heirs to boot. If my heirs don’t get it…they will get the boot! I am a true believer in sustainability for a farm and for a woodland. Here at Riceland, it’s the way we do business.