RicelandMeadows


The Old is New
June 20, 2017, 10:22 pm
Filed under: June 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

cultivatorretrofit

June 20, 2017

The photo above is of an old John Deere cultivator that I recently upgraded. This same unit is being made by a new company using the old pattern. They are a bit pricey. I found this old piece shed kept but rusty. I cleaned it up and had it painted. Last week, we added these new style “S” tines. They get the weeds but are a bit more gentle on the crop being weeded.

This unit is made for two horses to cultivate two rows at a time. I get to ride in the back on a seat riding on a dolly wheel. I am excited to try it out. I am even already thinking of adding a homemade fertilizer side dress applicator to this next year. Projects keep my mind and hands busy!

This cultivator replaces an old McCormick Deering one that I recently sold. The old one had served me for over thirty years. It worked great and was in great shape. My only reason for selling it, was due to the way I had to sort of climb down in to it to use it. As I get older, I find that I am not as spry as I once was! If I should get into trouble while using this piece of equipment, I could almost just fall off the back, out of harm’s way. The old one, I would almost be trapped, especially now when my old knees don’t work as well as they once did.

Taking something old and making it new again, pleases me very much. I have a few pieces of reworked equipment, even a few homemade pieces. It is things such as these, that keep our farm profitable. By the way, I have a total of $425.00 invested, counting the initial purchase, painting and now the retro-fit. Those new ones that I talked about cost over $4000.00  I think that I did good!

cult2

If you look close you can see my seat and even the old toolbar in the background. This was a great project. Many thanks to my friend Ervin R Miller!



Little Help Please

kmanpets

June 16, 2017

In the photo, two friends enjoy a drink after work. If you look close, you’ll see a little helper. If you look even closer, you’ll see a tiny hand about to pet the face of our draft horse. It doesn’t get much better than that.

We here on the farm are extremely busy with mowing and hoeing, to name two jobs. This week, with the help of family and friends, we made 90% of our first cutting hay. The horse barn is full to the brim with some of the nicest hay that we have ever made. The day was very hot and muggy. Water and sweat flowed freely. When the last rays of sunlight were fading, I was backing the baler into the barn, tired, happy and very thankful.

2017Ted

The horses and I sweated together as we fluffed the hay for drying with our tedder. The best thing about that day was the cool stiff breeze. It was a nice quiet time, listening to the machine as it softly flipped the drying gasses into the air. The harness bells and birdsong complemented the light chatter of the machine’s metal parts. The sweet smell of the curing hay filled my nostrils, as the big animals easily pulled me around the field. Their power and grace never ceases to amaze me.

Hay making on a small farm takes many hands. I am grateful for all of you who helped. The main day was Tuesday, but a lot of work was done in the days leading up to then and even the days that followed. Two small fields remain. Those fields will be rolled into round bales for the cows winter feeding. I will still need the sun, some dry weather and help from the horses, but the hands on portion of small bales for this year, is now over! I could not have done it without all the help. Thank You!



A.I. for Breeding Hogs Does Work

AIsow

May 25, 2017

Our red sow was bred last time using artificial insemination. I was a bit skeptical at first but my son and his friend convinced me that it would work good. We had recently sold our boar and had not replaced him yet. Jake and Brian, told me what to do, where to order the boar “seed” and reassured me saying they would take care of making it happen. That was about 4 months ago. Today, 10 little piglets are nursing on a very good mother.

Now, for the “inside and very funny”…rest of the story.

The UPS driver rolled into our drive with a package. I asked him if it was corn seed or boar seed. He thought a minute and handed me the package with two fingers and said, “I don’t think it’s corn.” I took the package to our basement, in keeping with the directions included with the boar seed. There were also plastic “corkscrews” inside the package. I knew right then, that this was going to be an interesting project.

Our little red sow, is not little by any means. She weighs over five hundred pounds and measures over six feet long. She is over waist high when she stands up. She is tame…and that turned out to be a good thing. The first attempt to see if the sow was ready for a male visitor, lead to some unpleasant grunts and squeals from her. We tried for a whole day, over several hours to no avail.

Brian shows up with a can of “boar spray” ( no crap..it smells like a male pig!) He sprayed a little near the flirtatious sow and shazam… she was in a standing heat and ready to breed. The corkscrew thing that came with the boar seed was inserted and actually screwed into place. The semen came in a soft plastic bottle and was squirted into the corkscrew tube. Deed done, but to make the sow relax, Brian sat on the sow backwards to imitate the weight of the boar.

That was a sight…tall sow, short man…he looked more like a one legged kangaroo hopping around the pen saying kind words and squeezing the bottle! Remember, he was seated backwards, so this too made for a funny thing to watch. I was grateful to Brian then and now… A.I  works, but I believe that I will continue to keep a boar! I’m just not good at hopping one legged and backwards to boot!



Applying a Boost

fertspread

May 23, 2017

Today, the horses and I applied soil amendments to the corn ground. We got chased off by the weather on the day we planted. It took seven days of sun, wind and drying, to make it so we could finish our job. Everything went very well. I like it when things go that way! Our homemade spreader worked stellar as usual.

Knight, my left hand horse, is still shedding some of his winter hair. It got a little warm before we were done. He sweated some, but so did I. We both will be better off for it. I brushed him down after stripping the harness off. He stood like a statue, enjoying every single stroke. I imagine that he will be all shedded out like the other horses by the end of the week.

We spread commercial fertilizer on this field, following the recommended plan from our soil tests. It has been five years since we added anything other than compost and cover crops to this piece. The corn to be grown here will use much of the applied fertilizer. I plan to sow rye, or perhaps wheat to this field at harvest. The grain , cover crop, will suck up anything left over. It will be transformed by next spring into usable, stable plant food. Corn won’t grow here again for five to seven years. A soil test will be taken to determine if we need any additional nutrients then.

disc2017

The boys taking a break. We disced the plot lightly to incorporate the fertilizer. Rain is forecast for tomorrow, so we won’t be back to this field until time to cultivate to eliminate or at least reduce weed pressure.

I grow corn to feed my sows. The growing hogs get some when they get to about 120# live weight. This just helps stave off boredom. The horses get one ear a piece on cold days in winter. I only need about 3 acres of corn to meet all of our need. Growing it in a rotation helps break up the nematode cycle, gets rid of ruts in the field, and just works well in our farm plan. This year I planted an open pollinated variety called “Wapsie Valley” it grows nice for me….. hopefully, more on that later in this season!



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!



My Country Life
May 21, 2017, 2:27 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

countrylife

May 21, 2017

As a young boy, I spent many hours playing on a swing such as this. It was tied to a limb on a big maple tree in my grandpa and grandma Rice’s front yard. I remember my dad giving us “underducks” where he would push us very fast and duck under the wooden board swing sending us skyward like a rocket…or so it seemed. The laughter of those happy times still echo in my memories.

My grandchildren and their friends are swinging in the photo above. You don’t see “I-pads, phones or earbuds”, just four children playing using their imagination. I don’t know if they are Jedi Knights, dragon flies or rockets, but even from the photo, I can see they are having fun. This, in my mind, explains my country life.

It is not about material things. It is about bonfires, sled rides, baby lambs and garden vegetables. It is about hard work done together with family, followed by a cold drink or dish of ice cream. It is the simple things like woods walks and lightening bugs, even pollywogs in a jar. The smell of fresh mowed hay or the soft mew of a kitten in the mow of the barn, these are the things that bring joy.

City children play “bottle flip” with water bottles. We drank water from a garden hose, at times from a pump pumped by hand. Water tasted so very good on a hot day after some type of work, especially during haying. One of the most refreshing drinks I ever had, came from a hand dug well. I gulped down mouthfuls of the cool water after having been working on a thrashing machine with my Amish friends. I’m not sure if it was the water or the friendship that made it so sweet, but every swallow made me praise God.

The common denominator in a country life is the country or green space of course, but the real key, is family and friends. Keep in mind, you can have a country life in the city if you choose to do so. Put friends and family first. Hold the door for a stranger. Offer your seat to another. If all else fails, smile. In fact if you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours. Kindness goes a long way. Being kind does not make you weak, in fact, it probably makes you stronger.

I hope that I can always have time to spare a minute, to listen to a bird sing or listen to the dreams shared by a child. I hope I can dig fishing worms, smell wildflowers and eat strawberries off a dew covered vine for a long time yet. It’s not the amount of days in your life…it’s the amount of life in your days. So, live county my friends!

 

 



“Cow Plowing”

corn171

May 20, 2017

I completed planting my corn last Wednesday. I feel good about getting it planted, especially this year due to our wet weather. It has been a crazy weather spring and that trend continues. I waited on some dry days, like all of the area farmers, I pushed hard once it got here.

This field is where our cows spent the winter. There is a three-sided building, just out of the frame where they could take shelter when they wanted it. Usually in winter, the ground freezes hard and stays that way for months. This past winter, the ground was only frozen hard for about a total of three weeks. The cows feet punched this field full of holes. I mean they tracked it into oblivion! It was all but impossible to walk through the quagmire. The cows slowly picked their way along, from water tank to hay feeder. Every step left a hole six to eight inches deep.

In late February, I moved the cows out of this paddock. They spent the worst days of late spring on our cement lot next to the barn. The overhang shelter was bedded with woodchips. They were comfortable, dry and content even though the space was smaller than the paddock. I must say, I did not miss fighting the mud either.

Once the cows had been moved off that back muddy paddock, winter returned. The ground froze and thawed several times before we were out of the icy grip. The punched up field resembled a landscape found on the surface of our moon. I decided to disc it once to smooth it enough to even be able to plow it.

I made the first round with the disc and could not believe my eyes! The cows feet, mixed with the freeze and thaw cycle of spring, had turned my nightmare into a dream! Twice over the field with the disc and spike tooth drag made the field ready to plant. I planted my corn that same day, just before dark. I was excited by my new found innovation. I was overcome by a bit of sadness when I realized that I could not share this contrary news with my friend, the late Gene Logsdon.

Gene and I often talked and discussed many things “farming”. We shared many of the same beliefs. The corn I had just finished planting in that “cow plowed” field was an open pollinated variety called “Wapise Valley”. Gene and I had many conversations about corn, soil, cover crops, the value of oats in many forms and anything that made things easier for the small farmer. “Cow plowing” is one of those topics we would have talked at length about. Gene passed away almost a year ago. I miss my friend. I will remember him always, especially at planting time, but always when I stumble on a topic that he would have loved to debate! RIP Gene

corn172

This section joins the field in the photo above. The cattle “plowed” all around the old stumps and even leveled this section, saving me hours, perhaps days, of work! Timing was everything. The cattle got moved while the winter freeze could work the sodden clay. I stayed off the wet ground until the sun and wind had dried it. I know from experience that working these wet clay soils too early will make clods like bricks dried in the sun. It takes a full year for the frost to break them up. Using that knowledge sure paid off this year.

I am not sure that I would try this process again, unless it would be on ground where extreme efforts were needed. As an example, say an area where a forest had been cut down. The cows could work the rutted, rooted uneven ground by accident. Smoothing it out for a spring planting of grass could be done by dragging a wooden drag around. I bet the pioneers learned and used this method when clearing this area of Ohio. In any case, I can say it worked well for me, I did not discover it, but certainly did rediscover it!