Ewww…Bird Poo
June 29, 2019, 4:44 pm
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June 29, 2019

I allow, actually encourage, nesting birds, especially barn swallows. They are great bug and fly eaters. I love to watch their acrobatic flights as they dive for water, skimming a drink at high speed. I leave doors open when necessary, supply a few strategic platforms and make it difficult for cats to reach the nests. The above photo shows how I am repaid!

It was no big deal. It cleaned right off. I just grabbed a big handful of grass and rubbed until the poop was mostly gone. The residual avian manure was easy to remove with my bib overalls as I drove the tractor…In other words, I got what I could, then sat on the seat and went about my business. At the end of the day, the seat was clean!

I will gladly put up with a little poo, in exchange for these winged mosquito eaters, keeping the farm population of the blood sucking insects under control. I like to watch them teach their babies to fly. It seems it happens almost over night!

Wildlife on a farm can be a problem, but I will take the bad with the good. There are a lot more good things. Watching the birds and small animals makes me smile. Listening to the birdsong while I work the horses, completes a perfect picture. So, I say its a fair trade to have the birds, even if they leave me a few “presents” once in awhile. I haven’t asked my dear wife, who does the laundry, but I think she too would approve!

Give Us a Break!
April 13, 2018, 10:43 am
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April 13, 2018

Well, my ladies made it through a long winter, a crazy spring and were doing quite well. This morning, I find this. I first thought it was bear damage, but have decided that it is thanks to the wind and raccoons. I am beating myself up for allowing the wind to be a factor. The raccoons are just taking advantage of an opportunity. The bees however, have all died.

I will clean up the mess, assemble the hive after cleaning it all out and get it ready for a new batch of bees. I just am disgusted with this event. Folks, the honeybees need our help. They do provide honey, but the honey is a by product of pollenating our food! No bees…no food. This is perhaps a bit of an extreme statement, but is very close to the truth.

I will keep trying. I will upgrade my setup for the bee yard. I will even look at a better way to stabilize the topbar hives. I’m not going to give up, but I can say that I am mad about this!

Nature’s Bounty


August 31, 2017

Where did summer go? This last day of August, I am pleased to have plenty of grass left in our pastures. The cattle and all of the farm’s livestock are looking great. Now, we are getting another nice bonus as we share in Nature’s Bounty. Wild apple trees are dropping their fruit. The cattle love the sweet treats. Our dairy steer in the picture above seems to delight in eating them.

When I was a boy, the old farmer that I worked for thought apples would make his cows choke. So, we cut every wild apple tree we saw. It has been my experience that the livestock, as well as, the wild animals benefit from this wild fruit. I think there are enough nice apples to make applesauce or cider for us. The trees could be trimmed to enhance the fruit, making them grow bigger and easier to peel. Sounds like a great idea, especially by selecting the trees with the best tasting fruit.

The hickory nuts are dropping in the woods as well. I have one wooded pasture where the hickory trees are plentiful. There are apple trees there as well. My sow herd really enjoys spending a couple of weeks in that pasture. They munch on clover, nuts and apples, barely eating the corn I give them for those two weeks. There is much to be said about farming “with” nature instead of trying to fight “against” her. She is the boss and when you respect her, the bounty abounds.

Sharing the harvest and making Memories
March 10, 2013, 12:16 am
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Lots of help gathering sap

Lots of help gathering sap

March 9, 2013

Today was the best sap run of the season. Our trees were dripping like mad. The bags were full, the sun was warm and smiles were everywhere! We had a great time.

The horses got another good workout, but the work is starting to become “old hat”. They take it in stride and almost seem to enjoy it as much as we do. It is so much fun for me to see the looks on the little kid’s faces as they watch the horses work.

We had lots of help today today and it took a while to gather all the taps. Once the sled tank was full, the gatherers would rest and wait for the horses to come back. They laughed and joked and made memories that will last a lifetime.

I boiled for just over six hours and made some very nice syrup. We had customers, visitors and helpers all watching and sharing memories. I had a great day ūüėģ I could feel my grandpa guiding my moves, whenever he wasn’t out watching my son Jake handle the team. My grandpa watches from heaven, but I know he was here today…if only in my memory.

January 7, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Jake passing on knowledge

Jake passing on knowledge

                                                            January 7, 2013

     Yesterday, we did indeed take care of two fallen trees that were blocking a maple sap path. The job went well and we were done in less than four hours. I had the pleasure of watching my youngest son, teach my hired man some draft horse stuff.

     My son practically cut his teeth on the butt lines of my team. He has been a horseman since the day he was born. He is good on the lines and has patience for both young horses and young men. He has learned by watching and by doing. He is a great help to me and an asset to my farm.

¬†¬†¬†¬† He does a few things differently than I do. The result is the same and perhaps even a bit easier. I am just the old dog who learns new tricks slowly ūüėģ¬† I am also shorter than both of the young men in the photo. Trust me, tall horses and short men must learn to adapt to each other!

¬†¬†¬†¬† I have been mentoring my hired man since he came to work for me. He is a quick learner who can be trusted with animals and equipment. He wants to learn how to work horses. I don’t know that he will ever farm, but the value of horses goes beyond farm work …at least for me!

¬†¬†¬†¬† I owned horses ten years before I owned a farm. I used them around my small rural lot to plow snow, plow the garden, haul manure and for cutting firewood. We were in several parades and worked on a Christmas tree farm every season. I got many hours of enjoyment from the horses. I learned how magical they are…that is a feeling that never goes away.

¬†¬†¬†¬† Justin has been bitten by the draft horse bug. It is an infectious thing that spreads to a man’s heart. It creates a longing to be near one of the gentle giants every few days. I know, I have been smitten ever since my grandpa let me take the lines fifty years ago. The seed once planted, grows strong.

     We are teaching Justin how to work horses with a soft hand and voice. Teaching him what it means for a horse to work because they want to, not because they are afraid not to. Mine work for me because I ask them. They will give all they have and nuzzle me at the end of the day to boot. I have never had a tractor do that.

     I busied myself with cutting the trees and cruising the woodlot looking for other candidates for firewood. Jake and Justin loaded the sled, drove the horses and bonded over some work. Jake imparted wisdom, of that, I am sure.

¬†¬†¬†¬† Just like the day my grandpa handed me the lines of his old work team and¬†I was hooked, so it goes with my son Jacob. Now, Jake passes on his love of horses to another young man. I think my grandpa knew exactly what he was doing ūüėģ



See Spot Run
November 14, 2012, 10:15 am
Filed under: November 2012 | Tags: , , ,

“Spot” enjoying a bit of free ranging

                                               November 14, 2012

¬†¬†¬†¬† Yesterday, I was able to turn two young gilts out into a small pasture. It is the pasture where we had planted pumpkins and squash. The little rape and turnip field is also located in this pasture. I had taken the fence down to build the wash-house. That fence has been rebuilt and the hogs are loving it ūüėģ

¬†¬†¬†¬† Hogs on pasture is nothing new. Folks raised their pigs in this fashion for centuries, but then the “modern farmer came along and crammed large numbers of pigs into barns and onto feedlots. These confinement operations were for “efficiency” the experts said. Chores can be done in minutes rather than hours. Feed and manure can be handled much better. The hogs can be moved or sorted easier too.

¬†¬†¬†¬† One of the greatest things, according to the experts is, that the pigs will clean the manure from their own pen! I got to that work a time or two and I knew before I could see it, that there must be a better way…. I could smell the self cleaning pens long before I could see them.

     The pig stalls were quite large, with 25-30 pigs in each one. The floors were slightly slanted towards a slatted trench. As the pigs walked around, the 3 inches of liquid manure would flow towards the slats by gravity and eventually ooze through into the trench below. That trench was also slanted so the manure would slowly ooze to an outside pond. No bedding of any kind was used, because it would mess with gravity and plug up the system.

¬†¬†¬†¬† The high part of the slanted pig pen was were the pigs ate and slept. The floors were wet and slippery with manure from the pigs feet. I am sure the floors were cold too. I felt sorry for the pigs at the hands of the so-called experts. Government¬†officials came from far away to see this updated wonder¬†for rasing¬†pigs “humanely and efficiently”. They blessed the farm with many permits so nearby neighbors could only complain, but do little else…. other than move away.

¬†¬†¬†¬† I watch my hogs roam our pasture and cuddle down in deep bedding on cold nights. I see babies¬†chase and play, then run to momma to nurse in batches of eight or ten. I see them root out treats and vegetables grown for them and supplement their diet with roots and grasses from¬†our pastures. I can’t help but wonder how those experts got it so screwed up in the first place!

¬†¬†¬†¬† My pigs are clean. Their sleeping area is bedded and soft. I move and sort them slowly with patience and repetition. They start out by following mom. They next run in and out of the pig barn for water or to play. They don’t fear me and many come when I call them. They live a stress free life here on our farm.

     Sure, we eat them and I sell to many other folks who eat them. Stress free hogs raised with compassion and locally grown farm raised corn, soybeans, pasture treats and all the fresh water they can drink, make for some very tasty pork!

¬†¬†¬†¬† I will say that many folks don’t want the chores that I have. Many small farmers were pushed out of the hog business by the large feeding operations because of those self cleaning¬†pens, quick feeding methods and easy moving and sorting. The feed companies¬†bring feed¬†in with all sorts of stuff mixed into¬†it ..including bones, fat and meat from other animals for those pigs to eat.

¬†¬†¬†¬† The “expertly” raised hogs are often placed on the farm by a big company. The farmer is merely an indentured servant pushing buttons to care for the livestock and making perhaps $5.00 per head once the animals head¬†off to market. It is important to him to have raised lots of them in a years time… I’m sure it’s not so great for the animals though.

¬†¬†¬†¬† It is not just the hogs who are pushed onto cement lots to live in filth. The beef and dairy industries¬†are also headed this direction and quickly too. One farm with 1200 cows takes the place of forty farms with¬†30 cows. The manure was once spread over the land of forty farms, is now concentrated in lagoons and pumped to fields near the big farms of the 1200 cows. The nutrient rich manure once held in high regard for fertilizer, is now a waste product and a nuisance¬†for farmers that use the petroleum based fertilizers…made practical by the “experts”.

¬†¬†¬†¬† I know what is right. I see it work here on my farm. The once depleted fields are now lush green and able to support many head of livestock. The manures from many species of animals, composted¬†then spread on my fields makes them productive. The animals stay healthy in my pastures and barns. I have control over my pork from the womb to the tomb.. I am sure Tyson can’t compare with that “chain of custody”.

¬†¬†¬†¬† I will leave the experts to their thinking for now, because I know people who want quality will demand what this farm produces and other farms just like it. Small Farming will once again become profitable, without gouging customers, as consumers and producers meet. The transition back to small farms may be a little slow as new farmers learn to embrace the old ways, but we will get there. In the meantime I will be content to¬† … See Spot¬†Run ūüėģ


A wagon load of Promise
September 26, 2012, 7:52 am
Filed under: September 2012 | Tags: ,

A wagon load of pumpkins at Marvin’s

                                              September 26, 2012

¬†¬†¬†¬† Yesterday I took the last of my pumpkins and squash to the produce auction. I proudly wheeled the last two pallets into their place at the auction. I then went to my friend Marvin’s farm to haul a load for him too.

     When I arrived at his farm, pumpkins were the order of the day. There was a wagon load waiting to be unloaded and another one waiting to be filled. Pumpkins were placed neatly on the lawn and a youngster was hosing them off. Several other children were working at the produce washer, washing and sorting squashes.

     The whole place was abuzz, as they prepared their farm products for the market. There were pallets all wrapped and ready to go. Bins of pie pumpkins, jack-o-lantern pumpkins and a couple of different kinds of squash ready to be loaded. Three pallets of mini straw bales waited along with the others to be sent off to market.

¬†¬†¬†¬† I took in the entire scene, slowly processing it in my mind. I watched as Marv’s children worked together, the older ones working with the younger ones guiding them through the process. There was no bickering (well, not much ūüėģ ) as the children cleaned and washed the produce, loaded it into bins or boxes and made short work of a wagon load of produce.

     In short, it was nothing less than awesome as little hands and fingers worked quickly and efficiently as they chatted about school and the upcoming deer hunting season, while folding and filling boxes. They all worked together. Dad and mom were there, but were taking on smaller roles, now that the children were accomplished produce workers, after several seasons of that work.

¬†¬†¬†¬† I realized that I was missing that piece of the puzzle. I didn’t have that support network of help…. well not yet anyway! I did get help in planting and some of the watering, but harvesting took place in the evenings, lasting until after dark. The work this year was done mostly by my hired man and his sister. They worked like troopers making short work of our little patch.

¬†¬†¬†¬† I will adjust for next year, making sure to include many and make it fun. Our patch will be bigger next year, as we work towards another niche for our farm. As the workload increases, bringing the family into the mix will be necessary and a pleasure. A good old-fashioned “frolic” is in order. There is much truth in the biblical adage “many hands make light work.”

¬†¬†¬†¬† There is more to it than just the work getting done, there is love. Everyone is in touch, if only for a day. Chatter and laughter fills the air and though we are all tired at the end of the day, it wasn’t work for anybody … It was fun…. and believe me, that … Is a wagon load of promise!