RicelandMeadows


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!



Yum times Six

6xyum

March 11, 2016

We completed our sixth boil of the maple season yesterday evening. It has been a great year for us so far. The sap is not very sweet, so it takes a lot of it to make a gallon of syrup. This year’s syrup has been light and creamy tasting. The ratio is closer to 65:1 , than our usual 40:1, but it is still worth the effort to me.

The weatherman say we are in for a warm up. Lots of folks are giving up for the season. I am not one of them. I did chase the pans with water and will do a mid-season clean up tomorrow. The pans and all equipment will be drained, cleaned, rinsed and made ready for what I hope will be the next run. It’s only early March and the trees know. A few warm days will tease them just like us, but it’s not time to start gardening yet!

As I write, the thermometer just dipped below freezing. It may not be cold enough to make the sap run, but it should remind the trees not to set buds yet. Next week looks cold and seasonable. So, with fingers crossed and plenty of wood in the woodshed, I will wait and hope for more maple sap.

Just to help things turn cold, the horses and I will start plowing. That almost always makes for a good freeze. It’s like washing your car, no sooner you get started and the rain starts to fall. The warm days and cool evenings makes for pleasant plowing. The horses ease into spring work while shedding their winter coats. I get to work the horses while the greedy maple trees hold their sap.

Last June, when we got 19 days of rain and cool temperatures, the trees could not get enough sunshine to make sugar and send the nutrients to their roots. Now, when we want the sweet juice bound for the treetops, we are reminded of the rainy days of last year and trying to make hay.

The season will be what it is and I can speak all about how it went much better in a few weeks. For now I will enjoy the nice days and continue to do farm work being ever ready to jump back into the sugarbush. It has been awesome so far. I will be satisfied with our success, thankful for the memories and happy as a little boy as I breathe the sweet steam.



Dreaming on the Inside
January 2, 2016, 4:47 pm
Filed under: January 2016 | Tags: , , , ,

older pictures 017

January 2, 2015

This morning I butchered a beef for some farmstead friends of mine. It was a great day for butchering, cold but not brutal. The beef fell quickly and was treated humanely right to the very end of his life. It now hangs cooling, waiting to be transformed into steaks, roasts and ground beef.

I have chores done and I am looking through the new seed catalogs. It will soon be time to order for the 2016 gardening season. It is fun to sit inside, on a cold day, and dream of warm soil and growing plants. I guess a day for dreaming on the inside is just what I needed.

The basket above was a sample from our garden. It is a wonderful thing to eat fresh, home grown vegetables. Add them to home raised meat and it is food fit for a king. If a man is the king of his castle, then I am eating just what I should be. I can say this; farm raised food cooked by my wife, is better than any that I can buy!

So, I will warm my body and my soul today, as I dream about garden vegetables, a juicy steak and a slice of apple pie. It doesn’t hurt one bit to dream on the inside 🙂