RicelandMeadows


Farm to Fork

fork2table

July 17, 2018

Several years ago, a young man stopped to visit with me. He was full of excitement about living a homesteading lifestyle. We had many talks about farming, gardening and family. He was a well read man, who knew what he wanted. It was easy for me to expand his knowledge. At the time, he was very interested in trying to raise his own pork.

I talked with him, showed him and encouraged him to try raising pigs. I explained what I believe to be the best methods. Buy young pigs at weaning called feeder pigs. Keep the pigs in a pen on full feed and water ration. Give them treats like apples, garden leftovers even weeds. Keep their pen clean and keep the pigs comfortable, shade for summer, deep bedding and a warm hut for cool fall days.

The young man, Mark, went home to try and convince his wife that they could grow their own hogs. Sure enough, he wore her down and pigs soon graced the landscape at their farmstead. I went over that autumn and taught him how to humanely butcher his pigs. He learned well and was a quick study. They have raised their own pork now for seven years.

Mark has a young family. He is teaching his children all about gardening and animal husbandry. Mark’s wife too has a hand in teaching. She cans and freezes their food. They make cider, raise chickens for eggs and meat, and produce lots of vegetables in their raised bed gardens.

After using a makeshift yet sturdy pen for a number of years, Mark built this nice permanent pen. At the gate where the pigs enter the pen, he set a stainless steel fork into the concrete. The pigs pass this fork twice. Once when they enter the pen and the last time as they are slaughtered for food.

The fork keeps everyone grounded. The children know that the pigs are not pets. Sure, pet them, scratch their ears and rub them down, but keep in mind the purpose of the pig is to sustain the farmer and his family. The fork also signifies that the pork will be going into their mouths, so the pigs will be only fed wholesome grain, vegetables and other gleaned produce from the farm like apples and pumpkins.

I am pleased to have helped this young man out. He is paying it forward by helping others return to the land. This makes me very happy. We must teach the young ones where our food comes from. They learn kindness, responsibility, nurturing and become self-reliant. They learn patience and tolerance. They learn many things about “farm to fork”. Congratulations on your homestead Mark. Thanks for being such a good student, but most of all, thanks for helping others.



Sunrise Weeding

garden2018

June 26 2018

This morning, I was weeding the garden as the sun rose. The garden is behind a bit due to delayed planting from our rainy weather. It is easy to see that we should get a crop. It may come a little late, but it will taste good just the same.

Weeding is a great quiet time for me. The small weeds succumb to the sharp bladed hoe easily. I am alone with my thoughts. The animals have been fed. The horses are back in the barn after a night of grazing. The biting flies don’t like the dark cool barn, but the horses sure do.

The sheep and cattle are still laying peacefully in the grass. Their bellies are full and the cool morning refreshes them all. I hilled the potato rows. I was going slowly, tucking dirt around the small tender plants. The dirt wasn’t quite ready for this job, but rain is forecast for tomorrow, so I pushed to complete the job. Soon, in the soft hilled up dirt, potatoes will form and grow in the dark, warm ground. A tasty treat, boiled, fried or baked, makes my efforts worthwhile.

Today, I have to use the skidsteer to move the big, plastic-wrapped, round bales of haylage. It is a noisy job that must be done. The horses will rest in the barn as I stack the bales for winter feeding. I need to get them off the field before they kill the grass underneath. I pondered that up coming job as my hoe slid into the Earth, barely making a sound. This sunrise weeding is good for my well being. I sort my day, kill weeds and grow some of my food…all under a beautiful sky, in the cool of morning, surrounded by birdsong.



Fingers in the Dirt

Ralphdirt

August 10, 2017

Leaning on my cane, fingers in the dirt is a mental boost for this farmer! It’s been a while since I could “play in the dirt”, if you will. Many farm jobs got put on hold. A few jobs have been done by others. Yesterday, I was able to weed and till this section of raised bed garden. I even planted a cover crop of buckwheat.

Now, this surely is farming small, but my connection with the soil has been made whole again. This whole job took a total of about 20 minutes to complete. Before knee surgery, I would have knocked it out on the way to do something else. I was my whole focus yesterday and I was even tired by the time I had completed it!

I did this entire job by hand using garden tools made by a family business called Homestead Iron. The hand tools are forged and fashioned out of tool steel in a small shop. The shipping part of their business involves using their kitchen table. This is a family business, here in America, in the state of Missouri, owned and run by Mr.& Mrs. Will Dobkins. You can check out their website at WWW.Homesteadiron.com

I am amazed at just how nice these tools were to use. They are just the right weight. They are sharp and well balanced. They fit my hand well and the angle of the blade is perfectly aligned for working the dirt. These are made like tools were made in the “olden days”. I’m talking about the time when the guy making the tool used them too. Most of the junk tools available today are bulky, heavy, not sharp and not anywhere near ergonomically friendly. It’s easy to see that many of today’s tool manufacturers never had to use one all day long!

Friends, I am endorsing the tools made by Homestead Iron. They are tools that work for people who work too. The best part is that the guy who forges them uses them too. Each tool is hammered and shaped by one man. His wife answers the phone, sends email and ships the product…from the same kitchen where she feeds her family! This is true American work ethic in action. I urge you to check them out.

Thanks to the Dobkin’s, my day of gardening, though short, was a wonderful experience. The tools they made were a joy to use. The sun shined on my face and a little dirt worked under my fingernails making the whole experience for me nothing short of divine. Due to the recovery time from my knee surgery, I’m not able to farm in a big way yet.  Getting my fingers in the dirt sure helped my healing…mentally and physically!

 



Rye Cover Crop
May 22, 2017, 10:05 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

ryecover

May 22, 2017

This photo shows the cover crop of  cereal rye on our garden this spring. This seed is also known as annual rye. It is grown for grain for flour and for whiskey. I plant it here in late fall, September even into October. It actually grew to waist high before I got it mowed down. I mowed it with the weedeater. Usually, I just plow it under. The wet weather made the fast growing crop too rank to plow down. Once the garden was dry enough to plow, my schedule had changed, so we mowed it. Today, I could have plowed it, but am housebound recovering from pneumonia!

Using a cover crop, even in a small scale like on my garden, makes sense. The growing plants hold soil in place, stopping erosion. They suppress weeds, both in the late autumn as well as, in early spring. They “mine” minerals and nutrients out of the ground. These “mined” materials are given up by the decaying plant. Those become available to the growing plants, in a form ready for use. I will caution that decay uses soil nitrogen, so if the cover crop gets too big, like mine did this year, additional nitrogen may need to be added.

In the case of a heavy nitrogen feeder like corn (maize), you could actually set the plants back by the rich cover crop. My garden soil is well balanced. There is plenty of nitrogen available, so I am not worried. If this was a new garden spot, too much decaying plant material can almost starve the growing crop. Compost added, has already decayed, so if the carbon balance is correct, the nitrogen in the compost is stable and stays in the soil until needed by the growing crop.

You can offset the effects of a thick, heavy cover crop in its decay cycle, by adding more compost. You can add commercial fertilizer too or in place of the compost, but I choose to use compost only on our food crops. I have used commercial fertilizers, but only when soil tests demand it. I’d rather farm with nature and the balance she provides.

The mowed rye plants have dried in the sun. The hollow stems are soaking up rain water and decaying a bit. Incorporating them into the soil as soon as possible is the order of the day. I hope to beat the coming rain and have the garden plowed by chore time Wednesday. Farming is a wonderful life. It is an ongoing chemistry lesson. The cycle of life spins daily and I love the ride!



Amaryllis by morning…. LOL
September 12, 2016, 9:04 pm
Filed under: September 2016 | Tags: , , , , ,

amaryliss

September 12, 2016

Okay, so we had this crazy plant blooming in our living room last Christmas. It was a pretty thing, showing off in the dead of winter. I read up on the care of the plant. I thought I had done everything right. The last step is to move it to a darkened basement for sixty days. Then it will once again bloom in late December.

So, we put it on the porch where it would get sun and fresh air. The greenery is supposed to be feeding the bulb now. Apparently, it was so happy out there it decided to bloom. I don’t know, perhaps it has been talking to our Christmas cactus. That crazy cactus also blooms two or three times a year! I guess like me, they are happy here on this farm, in this time.

I learned a long time ago not to hold anything back. I don’t want to stifle ideas, deeds or works. I have found that love unlimited is more valuable than gold. Any living thing that is happy with its surroundings will excel in any manner that it chooses. We raise and sell meat that is raised stress free. The animals are well cared for at all times.My horses look for me each day. They welcome me to the barn or pasture. The woodlands open up and share shade and the peace and quiet found there with me. This little plant is blooming her heart out. I will take that as a compliment and just enjoy the view!



Gardening is a Family Affair
August 1, 2016, 4:18 pm
Filed under: August 2016 | Tags: , , , , , ,

JoshBeckgarden

August 1, 2016

Many years ago now, I taught my son and daughter-in-law how to garden. I showed them the basics of how to raise much of their own food. I explained as many things as I could and told them that keeping the weeds out is one of the biggest, yet rewarding jobs.

My son sent me this picture yesterday of their current garden. Over their right shoulders is this years sweet corn. The corn on the other side is “Indian” corn. It is doing remarkable. The bean, potato and tomato plants look lush and green. The weeds are few and the garden truly is something to write about!

My son and his family all work together to have this outside pantry. Everyone helps weed and everyone helps pick the produce. I am proud to see that they choose to be self reliant. The independence that this brings is a wonderful feeling for all of us. My grandchildren smile when they talk about it…and so do I.



Kit and Kaboodle
May 1, 2016, 3:12 pm
Filed under: May 2016, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

kittens

May 1, 2016

It continues to show the signs of spring on the farm. Baby lambs jump and play in the pasture, kittens mew in the barn and the grass continues to turn bright green. Today after a night of drizzle, the cows and horses are all stretched out soaking up the warm sunshine. It’s too wet to do much farming right now, but it sure is a great day for stretching out!

Why is it that the grass in the lawn out paces the grass in the pasture? I guess its because we don’t eat it, but it sure eats into our time having to mow. I guess that is one more signal of spring and the freshly mowed grass sure smells good! So, no complaints, just the facts I guess.

We have started to prep the gardens. That season will be upon us soon. In fact, early crops like peas, lettuce, radish and even potatoes could already be planted. No worries however, the warm soil will catch us all up once it dries out again. I will be preoccupied for a little while getting this years corn crop out. That job too will begin soon.

I guess we have much to do, all sorts of jobs, with just enough down time mixed in for the whole kit and kaboddle , to make for a very happy life!