Fingers in the Dirt


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!


“Cow Plowing”


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


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!

It’s That Time of Year
November 9, 2014, 9:53 am
Filed under: November 2014 | Tags: , , , , ,
Hoss and Knight ready for bed

Hoss and Knight ready for bed

November 9, 2014

It’s that time of year. The horse pasture is finally depleted. The horses will now eat and sleep indoors. Their paddock will be just a place to enjoy the sunshine and romp playfully. My chores double at this time, but my horses make it worth it. I enjoy that time in the evening when they are in clean stalls, happily munching their hay. It is very peaceful to me. It calms my very soul.

I get a wheelbarrow a day of straw enriched manure from each horse. This is the foundation for our farms fertility. The straw and manure get mixed with soiled bedding from the other animals and stored to heat and rot. The compost feeds the soil. The soil, eventually feeds us. The cycle of life can be seen in the simple job of keeping pens and stable clean and bedded.

Our borrowed boar went home yesterday. He jumped into the trailer as if he knew more ladies were waiting for him at home. My gilts are gestating comfortably, as we wait for the coming piglets. This morning, another new calf was born. I am glad he came before the coming weeks looming storm. It sounds like winter will blow in by the end of the week.

We have been swamped by rain over the last week, but we are going to try to pick corn Monday and Tuesday. The ends and edges have been picked for a couple of weeks. The horses and corn picker should be able to travel and turn without knocking down any corn. Now, if we can just navigate the mud!

Experiment Underway
June 22, 2014, 10:31 pm
Filed under: June 2014 | Tags: , , , , , ,

Newly planted field

Newly planted field

June 22, 2014

I finished the experimental field today. I prepped and planted about four acres. I planted oats, buckwheat and sorghum/Sudan grass, for the purpose of making dry hay for the cows. I have no idea how this will work, but do know that thinking outside of the box now and then is a wonderful thing 😮

I planted the mixture of 1/3 each at a rate of about 60 pounds to the acre, sort of aimed at two bushels per acre because I simply broadcast the seed onto the soil. I didn’t even try to cover the seed or cultipack. I might have cultipacked the seed, but my cultipacker is currently broken. A big roller would work…but I don’t have one.

If this works, my plan is to make a cutting of hay, then apply compost. I will let the whole field regrow until late August or early September. Then the whole thing will be plowed down as a green manure crop for the speltz that will follow in mid to late September.

I have heard of folks getting 1.5 to 2 tons of dry hay per acre using a method such as this. There are many variables and I have not done this before, but I think it will be successful if only due to the weed suppression from the buckwheat and heavy seeding rate. Plus, mowing the whole mess will take some vigor out of any weeds too , I hope!

In any case, it was a long yet good day. No break downs, no rain and everything went well. I finished before sundown and even took a few minutes to sit in a lawn chair and do nothing! Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow. Hopefully, it will set the seed and get it off and growing…the experiment is now underway.