RicelandMeadows


Some Fun Days

May 1, 2022

We enjoyed a couple of sunny days…in a row! We set up and sawed out some lumber for a couple of projects that we hope to complete soon. This young man in the photo helps me out from time to time. He owns this small sawmill. It did a nice job as we made logs into lumber. The logs were from a few white pine trees we recently harvested here on the farm.

The day we sawed was sunny and bright. The north wind had a bite to it, but it dried up some mud for us. We spent the day sawing and dreaming of field days to come. It is time to be plowing and working in the fields, but we are staying busy in spite of the wet weather.

We spent yesterday at the 2nd annual Baldwin Percheron Plow Day, just outside of Ashtabula, Ohio. Amee stayed home with her new foal. Abby was teamed up with our son Jake’s horse Belle. The horses and I pulled a people mover giving rides much of the day.

The event was well attended with teamsters and 20 horses of all sizes, but mostly draft horses. Percherons, Belgians, Shires, Suffolks and a team of mini paints were all represented. The weather was perfect. The grounds were dry and plowed nicely. The field has a gravel base, lays nice and is of very mellow ground.

My girls were looking at the other horses. There are just a couple other teams in the picture, but much action was happening behind us. This was Belle’s second time out in the public, but she took it all in stride. Abby kept her calm and her mind on her work. It was a fun day for us as we hauled folks of all ages, especially the children. Kids love horses and those kids are our future. We were glad to be there and make a few memories for them.

Today, the sun and clouds are having an argument. The sun peeps out for small parts of the day, but then the clouds gather and dump rain on us. The grass is growing and everything is green. This makes for a pleasing view as we wait for the fields to dry out so spring work can commence.



All Done for 2022 Maple Season

March 21, 2022

Last Thursday, we untapped our maple trees. The warm weather, with no freezing nights has brought an end to our maple syrup season. We pulled the taps from the trees, gathered up our bags for recycle and said thank you to the trees.

Today, I boiled water and started the big job of cleaning up the sticky pans and equipment. It is a job that is sweet, bittersweet! It means putting everything to bed until next year. This year’s season was only 19 days long for us. We did make some very nice syrup, but the season was about half what is normal. That is okay, we will be thankful for what we made.

Our son’s young team of Suffolk horses, Anna and Belle have learned quite a bit this season. They are looking forward to the next jobs of field preparation for the coming crops. It is a busy time, but we take time to listen to the “peepers” and watch for spring flowers. I love this life!



Snowy Start to December
December 9, 2021, 3:16 pm
Filed under: December 2021 | Tags: , , , ,

December 9, 2021

December has arrived. I have been busy deer hunting. It is usually a fun time, but this year was bittersweet. My uncle Fred passed away during this deer season. He was my mom’s youngest brother. He was a great friend to me all of my life. He was with me the day I got my first deer. It was a buck!

I was a very excited 15 year old boy. We had hunted all that morning, but hadn’t seen anything. We stopped for a quick lunch of my mom’s homemade tomato soup. Once we had eaten and visited with mom, we headed back out to make a pass around a large weedy field.

We posted the field. I walked down the remnants of an old fence line. Quietly, I watched the field and walked slowly looking for deer. All at once I saw him. The buck raised his head and I thought he was the “Hartford Elk” the old mascot of an insurance company. I was focused and a little shaky at the same time.

My uncle told me to grab a rest on a nearby sapling, aim, relax and shoot. It was a textbook shot. The deer died quickly, dropping in its tracks. We walked up to the kill and there he was, an 8 point buck. He was an old timer, so his rack was smallish, resembling a basket, but I was filled with pride. My uncle too.

We were a long way from the house. We gutted the buck. I told my uncle to stay with the deer and I would go get one of my ponies to pull the deer back home. It seemed like a very good plan. The pony however, wasn’t to thrilled about the idea. He wasn’t too keen on the fresh blood smell. We started home a bit quicker than I would have liked.

Things were going fairly well although I was taking some very large strides, when we got to the top of an old gully that was on the way home. We hit the top edge of the gully and as the path dropped towards the bottom, the pony, the deer and I picked up even more speed. My uncle who was short in stature, was already jogging behind me. I could hear him roaring with laughter as we dropped out of sight.

I made it down the hill in about three jumps. That deer made funny noises as it bumped along behind the fast stepping pony. Those noises fueled the pony’s flight reflex just in time to start up the other side of the gully. My big old rubber boots made a thundering sound as I grappled to keep my feet under me. It was touch and go for a few moments, but we all made it to the top. I squeaked out a whoa and my pony stopped.

The pony and I heaved and gasped for breath. Both of us were soaked in sweat and quivering. My uncle was almost on his knees, holding his sides and hoping not to pee himself as he continued to howl in laughter. The pony and I were not quite as amused.

I talked softly to old Stormy and asked my steady steed to walk a little slower as we made the final leg of the journey home. I gathered the lines and spoke to old Stormy. We were off like a shot once again! The bucks antler caught in the ground and flipped his body into my almost running legs. I fell onto the dragging deer, swept completely off my feet. The pony didn’t even flinch. He just reached out farther with his front legs covering more ground as we flew.

I squeaked another whoa and Stormy stopped. I rolled off the deer and onto my feet in one motion. I looked back for uncle Fred, but I couldn’t see him. I stood there for a minute looking for my dear uncle when I noticed the goldenrod tops moving where he was literally rolling on the ground laughing. He said when I did the deer surfing thing, it was the final straw for his composure.

We did get that old buck to the house no worse for wear. The pony too was fine. He was just glad that the job was done. Uncle Fred made it to the house as I unhitched the pony. He started telling my mom the whole story. It was funny watching him try to tell the story to mom. I began to laugh and we all kept laughing about it for years.

That story happened on my mom’s birthday almost 40 year ago. This year I stood in the woods on mom’s birthday, thinking about her and my uncle, now both passed from this life, I smiled. My heart hurt a little, but this old story came to mind. We all laughed until we cried ….



Its Time!
February 28, 2021, 11:07 pm
Filed under: February 2021 | Tags: , , , , ,

February 28, 2021

It is maple time! After a couple of weeks of very cold temperatures and me having the worst cold that I have had in years, we are all tapped. The weather turned warm in an instant. We weren’t quite ready. We had a full week of playing catch up, but we got it done. The steam will be rising soon from the sugarhouse roof. It is a sweet time!

Not to be outdone by Mother Nature, the redwing blackbirds showed up. They come in big flocks signaling the coming of spring.

They were happily enjoying something in last years corn field. They make a lot of noise, but it is welcome noise.

They gathered in the treetops for a bit. They seemed to be making sure that everyone had made the trip north. As February comes to a close and we get off to a bit later syrup season than usual, the return of the warm season birds lets me know that warm weather is coming fast. It is my hope that we get a few good cold nights with the coming warm days to fill our sap bags.

Only God knows what is in store, but we are ready and we are thankful to get the season started. The redwings will just make the season a bit sweeter as we listen to their songs. Very soon the spring peepers will join the chorus, but for now they continue to sleep. Spring has sprung as the old saying goes. I say let “er” rip, but maybe I should say…let “er” drip!



Dashing Through The Mud

muddash

December 23, 2019

Our weather the last two or three days has been unseasonably warm and sunny. It feels good on the skin, but sure melts snow fast. We have only had one freeze up. That freeze up only lasted two days. We did pick corn on that second day, until the sun once again warmed the soil. We fell through the frozen crust and down into the mud in mere seconds.

A long chain and the tractor had to pull the wagon and then the corn picker out of the mud. We made a few ruts, but stopped before the field became a mess. We managed to pick over half of the field before the frost was gone. One more frosty morning, when the ground is hard enough to hold equipment, is all we need to finish the corn field picking.

The horses have been enjoying too much off time. They like to work and exercise. The mud has made it tough to do much of anything. So, I obtained an old tire. I drilled holes in the tire and installed a chain hook-up. I can now drag the old tire behind my cart or wagon. The tire makes for just enough load to require a steady pull. The exercise done in this way is just right for the horses. I can stay on the drive and simply make several trips around the farmyard.

Yesterday after church, two of my grandchildren and my son, came by to help hitch and drive. The horses, the kids and this old man had a fun day. Christmas will be here in two days. The snowy Christmas’ of my youth are a memory as well the horse drawn sled rides, but I think I am still making memories…even in the mud!

muddash2



Demonstration
January 2, 2019, 3:13 pm
Filed under: January 2019 | Tags: , , , , ,

forgedemo

January 2, 2019

I want to thank the folks at “Tiller’s International” in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Those guys teach classes on all sorts of old skills from blacksmithing to barrel making, timber framing and tin smithing. The instructors give a very good foundation for learning. I took classes there for blacksmithing and knife making. I am enjoying my new hobbies very much.

Over the Christmas holiday, I was able to give a few demonstrations to friends and family. I feel it is our duty to teach others. I enjoy watching my “students” learn. I am not a master smith, although I do get a little better almost daily. I am able to show and teach  others. Some people want to learn the skill, other folks just like watching. I understand it all, because as a much younger man, I watched a guy doing blacksmithing….I have been “hooked” ever since!

I make all sorts of useful things for the farm. The only limitation is my imagination. I encourage you, dear reader, to teach something that you know to someone else. That someone else could be a friend or stranger, a child or grandchild, but the good you will feel is wonderful.

I learned a lot from my grandparents. Much of what they taught me, I use daily. The best part for me is, that those early days of learning are some of my most treasured memories!

 



Harvesting in Many Ways
September 9, 2018, 12:09 pm
Filed under: September 2018 | Tags: , , ,

caitlynpep

September 9, 2018

We are started with the fall harvest. Our first order of business was to make and preserve memories as most of our family joined us for a reunion. Our granddaughter Caitlin, made friends with Pepper in the photo above. City relatives enjoyed the farm and its animals, as much as we enjoyed seeing them all again. A water balloon fight, pony rides and a walk in the woods were highlights of the day.

The pantry is filling up as the garden is producing in high gear. It looks like we will soon be pulling up the plants and preparing for a fall cover crop, putting the garden to bed for winter. I’ll be glad to click that off the list. The field corn for cows is ripening fast and will take up my attention soon. The first order of business however,  is to prepare and plant the speltz grain for our horses.

sweetcornshock

Sweet corn shocks, cut and tied for decoration. Our son Josh and his family grew pumpkins, squash, gourds and such for a fall roadside stand. They are getting all set up and open for business. Our granddaughter Rachel is selling bouquets of wild and cut flowers. She too is harvesting and gleaning not only plants, but memories as well.

I am inside today as rain falls steadily, the remnants of hurricane Gordon. The rest is good on this sleepy Sunday, as we all prepare to hit high gear very soon!



Creatures From The Black Lagoon
June 25, 2018, 7:45 am
Filed under: June 2018 | Tags: , , , , ,

mudface

June 25, 2018

The other evening our son and his family came for a visit. Two of the grandkids went swimming in our farm pond. Being the crazy kids that they are, they took mud from the pond bottom and covered their faces. It was “yucky” to watch, but they had a great time.

A childhood memory flashed through my mind as I watched them. My father and a group of family members were swimming in grandpa’s pond. My dad went deep to swim under someone. When he surfaced, his chest and belly were as black as my granddaughter’s face. I remember everyone laughing, just as I was laughing at my grandchildren. Making memories is what life is all about!

seahair

They even found “seaweed” to make long green locks of hair. The kids had a ball. My dog Cinch waited fairly patiently to play catch. I watched and laughed while reflecting upon the past too. A farm pond with its muddy bottom, just struck a chord in my memory. I am blessed to have had a simple childhood….it is good to see these children are too!



Another Maple Season Come and Gone
March 29, 2018, 11:07 am
Filed under: March 2018 | Tags: , , , , ,

endoftheseason2018

March 29, 2018

This new section of road saw many trips of horse drawn sled. On the day of the photo we had gotten almost two inches of rain. I am always impressed by the small amount of disturbance the horses do. Their impact on the land, even in muddy conditions is light.

I boiled maple sap for the last time this year yesterday. The syrup was still light and yummy looking. The taste was awesome too. I take a few sips to ensure the quality! Just a few drops to swirl on my tongue is enough to make a big maple smile.

Yesterday was bittersweet. The season ends so this job is done for another year. I enjoy this time of year like no other. Sometimes its cold, wet and miserable as we gather in the sleet or rain. Other times the sun shines warm on our faces as the snow covers the ground. The steamy room echos with voices of children, family and friends. I even hear the echo as I boil all alone. My memories rush forth from days long ago, as I watched my grandparents make this sweet treat I so dearly love.

The evaporator boiled the last of the season’s sap. I watched the puffy clouds make their way out the roof knowing that the work would be over for a year, but silent too will be the voices and laughter. You see, I make more than maple syrup here… I make memories and smiles, while ensuring an old way of making maple syrup is preserved for the next generations.

The clean up part of the job begins today and will continue for a week or so. Tanks, pans and piping all get washed, dried and stored away. The trees have all already been untapped. The spiles now get washed and dried. The job of filling the woodshed again will begin and take a few months to complete. All these things must be done, because the maple season 2019 will be here before we know it!

emptyshed2018

 



Homemade, Handcrafted, Shop Made
May 24, 2017, 9:20 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

spreaderfert

May 24, 2017

Yesterday, I spread my fertilizer on the corn ground with my rig pictured above. The spreader is affixed to the axle out of an old Jeep and some small I-beam. My uncle did all the welding. My late friend in Pennsylvania figured the gear ratio. He took the distance in one revolution of the tires and told me what size gear was needed to weld on the shaft coming out of the axle rear end “pumpkin”.

My uncle welded the frame and centered the gear on the rear end shaft. A stub shaft made from pillow block bearings and fitted with stub ends from an old PTO shaft, completed the build. The spreader is just a category one, three point hitch model that I already had. Once the whole rig had been assembled, I tried it out. The horses walk about four miles per hour. My old friend Jonathan had it figured so the speed of the walking horses, turned the power take off at 540 rpm…exactly what the old spreader needed to work at its optimum.

My uncle’s welding days are behind him. My old friend has designed his last piece of homemade equipment. I think of the two of them every time I use this spreader. It gets used often during the growing season. We even spread grass seed on a football field for a community project, to help make a place for some young football players. Because of my uncle and my friend, I was able to “pay it forward” using inexpensive shop built equipment.

Many times in my life I have benefited from someone’s hand made or hand crafted object. The very first leather harnesses that I owned were a gift from my two grandfathers. They each contributed parts to get me a set that would work on two small ponies that I owned. One day, I should compile a list of all the folks who have shown me the greatest love by giving of themselves.

I have slept under homemade quilts all of my life. I still have the last one that my mother and great grandmother made for me. It is well worn and faded, but still held together by the love that made it. My wife quilts for me, our family and others. She works steady and almost tirelessly creating designs in cloth. The love she puts into them will be seen for decades.

I try to always meet people on the level and treat them square. I try to lead with a smile and follow with a good deed. One of the gifts I have, is that of managing the written word. I hope that I can impart a series of words that will touch a heart and stir a fond memory. I hope that long after I am gone, I will still be able to make folks remember a loved one, a favorite event or an old object made by hand with help from the heart.