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What’s Next

Well it is October and my husband usually tries to set out a white wrapped round bale for me to decorate. Some years we haven’t done this just because the time seems to disappear, and boom its December. My pumpkin still needs a stem, but at least its out. This year we switched the farm we are setting it at. The house is up off the road, so the pumpkin looks tiny.

So on with the farm. One of the fields that had been chopped for silage, is slowly getting the next crop on it. The first thing will be to spread stored manure from our animals. Because of regulations, we can only spread manure certain times of year. I know some people dislike this practice, because of the smell, but it is short lived and comes with the chore. However as we recycle by spreading manure from the sheds, and barn yard, we are replacing nutrients into the soil. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are replaced back into the soil. If we didn’t do this than we would need to purchase and spray a chemical fertilizer. I would rather recycle, than purchase a chemical.

One we have finished spreading manure, we plan to work it in to the soil by working the soil several times. This also will help deter any weeds from growing, and level out the ground.

Henry trying to get this field done before the rain sets in.

It will be worked once again to break the larger clots of dirt up, and smooth it out. Actually we were able to do that before the rains set in. Once the field dries out we plant it with Wheat, and the field will rest until spring. We wont do this with all the fields, but this was one that we needed to do. There were lots of ruts left from the previous equipment running when the ground was to soft.

Stay safe and enjoy the rain as well as the sun. As much as I love the nice weather, it’s the rainy days that bring the fresh growth from the earth.

Silage is Done!

As the last wagon went into the silo as the sun was setting. Corn silage has been completed. The next few days have been oiling, greasing and any maintenance needed on the chopper and wagons before they were put away for the winter. We still have a lot of harvest ahead of us, but personally this is the most stressful. We were able to fill one silo, and partially fill the second. Both silos have been checked over and have been running feed to the cows, heifers, bulls and steers ever since. As this last wagon was unloading, we were already mowing down our last cutting of hay.

As we finished up with hay, we had a little burp. As we were bring in the hay, from the field, one wagon decided it was nice out in the field. Well actually, it was moving fairly slow, so it just drifted to a gentle stop when the hitch broke. This was some of the last few bales to be brought in and wrapped, so the wagon is in line to be fixed over the winter. So what is next? Well- There were a few days of rain, and it benefited our store.

Yes we had a few days to shift gears, and restock the store. I love fall, and Indian corn. Of course I’m just getting started as I have plans on our farm and our fall decorations. We sit a bit off the road, so what ever I do has to be kind of big. So, stay tuned for that.

So as the sun set last night I finished my last 100 years corn corn for the freezer, and started making apple sauce. The apples this year are so good, and our family loves homemade apple sauce. I will use the juice from cooking the apples down to make apple jelly, but that is for another day. I already made several batches of zucchini bread for the freezer, but I noticed it already gone. So maybe a day of bread and jelly is on my list.

Every day we take little steps, and before we know it our goal is accomplished. Sometimes it takes longer, and sometimes it easier that we thought. When the list is big and we are full of anxiety like we had ahead of us in August, just take little steps.

Remember to watch the sun come up and go down. The world as it awakes and as it falls asleep, is full of choices. keep an eye out for them so they don’t pass you by.

Passing on the Farm

There comes a time when the farm has the chance to pass on to the next generation. Our case is no different. Back in the 1920 John Christian Myers started milking Guernseys on our farm. It wasn’t called Dogwood Lane Farm back then and in fact we didn’t even own it. John Christian was renting it. There had been cows on the farm, but the owner was killed by a bull, and his widow moved off and back with family about 8-10 years prior. The farm was eventually purchased into our family and horses were used to plow and harvest the fields. We also raised turkeys, ducks and chickens. These things were sold by direct market to customers both local and as far as Baltimore.

John Christian Myers filling silage with his grand son John Henry Jr. about 1964.
John Henry Myers in the 1940’s. His mom stopped him while doing chores to snap this picture. He told me as he looked back at this picture and said “I had things to do, but mom wanted a picture”.

John Henry Myers Sr. was the next generation. Into the 1950’s our neighbors were selling out their Guernseys and replacing them with Holsteins. We stayed true to the Guernseys, and still do today. Over time the horses were replaced with tractors. They were not sold, but just retired. I do believe the last one was named Earl, and passed on about 1960.

John H Myers Jr. while in high school help to buy out the aunts, and the farm went into its 3rd generation. Numbers of cows increased, and goose hunting became a second source of income. We no longer raised turkeys, ducks, or chickens. The ever changing times and ideas changed the direction of the farm. John Henry Jr. named the farm Dogwood Lane Farm and lined the lane with Dogwood trees. He brought the Guernsey herd back threw genetic recovery, so it became a registered Guernsey herd. Dogwood Lane became our prefix.

The next generationare becoming adults. The dairy industry is struggling and there is a need to diversify. We find ourselves direct marketing again as we sell our cheese and butter made from the milk off our farm. We have almost come full circle to the first generation. We also have chickens, but for the eggs, adding them to the direct market.

The video above was the last time John Henry Sr. got up in a tractor and worked ground. He out lived two wives many childhood friends and family and had battled cancer. He spoke about this day for weeks. My husband made this possible. We worried about him and thought of all the things that could happen. We said a prayer. Its hard to let go and pass things on, but I think it is just as hard to know this was probably going to be his last ride. It was. He doesn’t drive any more, and has passed his share on to his grandsons. However John Henry did more than that, he also passed on the love of Guernseys, farming and love for the earth. Respect of Mother Nature, and how to adapt quickly, quietly while saying a prayer. We owe a lot to the generation before us. We may not agree with the things they did or how they did it, but they didn’t just pass on the farm, they passed on a way of life.

Make time and love those around you, tomorrow isn’t promised.

A Little Bit of Silage

Filling the Silo

I have added pictures before, but I had this video, and finally figured out how to upload it into a blog. It isn’t the best video, but it shows the process of how the chopped corn gets into the the silo. I have spoken about all the moving parts that make it dangerous, and this shows how dangerous it can be.

The video is a little loud, but when working around this equipment it is loud. I always say this is why my husband is hard of hearing. Some people wear ear protection. Either way it only adds to the danger. I will say even with all the noise, there is a pattern.

Its raining today so I’m sure the men at home are finding something to do, but as soon as it is fit, they will be back at it. I think we are a little more than half done. Enjoy today, even the rain is beautiful in its own way.

Labor Day Weekend Is Here

Early morning on one of our Ponds. Still and quiet.

Well it is Labor Day weekend and a holiday that includes time off. Did you go to the beach? Have a BBQ? Visit family or friends? Not us- not on our farm, but we could if we wanted to. On this early Saturday morning as the sun rises, I am off to stock and open our store in town. The men are milking, and feeding. They will conclude by eating their own breakfast only after all the other animals have been tended to. So by about 9 am they will have finished eating and can start their day. I wish I could say its a BBQ. We are however working on our corn silage. The corn is ready to be chopped and put in the silo. I wish we could choose that date, but mother nature does that. Corn is technically a grass. Stored in the silo and fed during the winter is one way to make sure they are getting the nutrients they need. They will also get hay and the cows that are milking will also get ground grain that we harvested earlier this year.

Hooking up the blower to the silo. photo taken by P. Myers.

How has it been going so far. Well we got the blower hooked up to the silo. Then well we ran a few test runs and boom.

Things have started off slow. The rim on the rear right tire broke. We unloaded the silage from the wagon to fix the tire and hooked it back up. It looks worse than it was cause he had just come from the field and crossing the driveway as it broke. That entire field behind the tractor will be chopped and put in the silo. We will be working on this for the better part of next week or until the silo is full. Once fixed, on we go just need to come back and clean up the silage we unloaded from the wagon to make it a little lighter as we fixed the tire.

Enjoy Labor Day, but please remember from now into late fall, tractors will be on the roads. Our load can only go so fast and we can’t stop on a dime. We have mirrors, but if your to close you will be in our blind spot. We have the same right to be on the roads, and most farmers try to move equipment during off peak hours when possible.

I think our “Labor Day” will happen when all field work is done and equipment has been put away for the winter. Then it will be just milking and caring for our Guernseys, and all fix it items on our agenda.

Tomorrow isn’t promised so enjoy today. It is a beautiful as we choose to make it.

It’s Crunch Time

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I wish I could say these geese are a sign of fall, but I’m afraid not. They never went home. Resident geese can be a problem, and these guys are big and fat. There is a resident season for geese and so in just a few weeks, and then with the full moon in September we usually see the first migratory geese.

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With the sun shinning we are cutting and bailing hay. We wont dry this down. We really don’t have the time, and it probably wont dry right. There is just to much fall grass in it so we will wrap it in white plastic. So we will have lots of giant looking marshmallows. They are wrapped tight so there is no oxygen to spoil the hay. Just like the vacuum sealer we use in the kitchen but on a bigger scale.

We will jump from hay right into corn silage.  The corn is drying down faster than we think, and we only have so much time to chop.  The nutrients drop if it is to dry, and too wet or green isn’t good either. I know I have said before this is not a favorite time of year on the farm for me. I constantly worry about the safety of the men. It’s Crunch time and not much sleep. I pray for their safety constantly. I am usually showing cows with the boys at our local State Fair the week before and during Labor Day, and its like out of site out of mind. I will just take it one step at a time, and we will get it done.

When the work seems like a mountain, just take little steps, and don’t look at the pile. We will finish before we know it.

Try Something New

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I love living on the farm. I love the open space, fresh air, and I love putting food up. What scares me the most is using a pressure canner. My mother in-law past away before she really had a chance to show me. I’m a hands on learner, so I really needed someone to be there. Its just the way I learn.  Well, this year I took the plunge and told myself, have faith and to just do it. So I bought a brand new canner. All my putting up has been via hot water bath, or freezing, so this is another option.  There is only so much freezer space, and we are down one freezer.

So what did I choose to start with. Sweet potatoes! I know this is a root harvested this time of year and has a long shelf life if stored properly, so it seems odd to do this. I had read everything I could find on canning sweet potatoes. Then I found a recipe from someone that canned theirs in a honey syrup. PERFECT!!!!!  I had local honey from a friend, and some sweet potatoes.

One meal we love is having over the winter is candied sweet potatoes. I would only make this when I had plenty of time to cook and prep. By canning them ahead of time, I now have a jump in my prep for dinner.

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So when all was said and done I have added 7 jars of sweet potatoes to the pantry (those other 3 jars are peach jam that I made while waiting on the canner). However, that’s 4 meals.  Its not a lot but if I purchased these already canned from the local super market each can is about $3-4.00. Plus the local honey. Is it a good trade off, maybe but I at least know what is exactly in my jar of sweet potatoes – sweet potatoes, water, and honey.  Best part is that I tried something new. The door has opened for more ideas and options.

Let your Faith be bigger than your Fear, and try something new.

 

Sunday Fun Day

Sunday has been the day I take to slow down and rest. However there is always something we can do. I love to can and put up food for future meals. I don’t always have time to shop or make meals completely from scratch everyday. So over the years we have  developed our favorites and comfort foods that have become a part of our routine.  From that point I work to can and freeze. Today is tomato sauce, and string beans. I’m blanching the string beans and freezing them, and canning the tomato sauce.  This may seem like a lot of sauce, but this is actually the second batch.  I don’t add any meat. I’ll do that when we are preparing the meal.

For the tomato sauce I use a hot water bath to seal the jars, and the string beans need a pressure canner. So it was easier to freeze what I had in string beans. There wasn’t enough room on my stove for both pots.

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I keep the jars covered as they cool over night. I was always told if they cool to fast the glass can crack. Since I have a fan in the kitchen, I figured it wont hurt. I pulled the dish towel off and checked the seals, and took the rings off this morning. I’ll store them with out the rings. I reuse the rings multiple times, but the lid seal is always new.  If one didn’t seal properly I could always try to reseal it, I however usually just put it in the refrigerator and use it right away. These will be labeled later today with the date, and contents before they are added to the pantry.

Tomorrow may not be promised, but we can always at least prepare for it.

A look ahead to Fall

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It may be August, but the signs of fall are here. The corn is beginning to get that look at it begins to dry down. As we were mowing the yard we noticed the fall grasses starting to grow. The sunrise may still be showing us how hot the day will be, but there is the slightest change. I really see it in the sunsets though. The sky, the haze, maybe the slightest color change in the trees.

So what will this mean for us. Well its time to fill the silo. We will chop as much corn as we can to prepare for winter. In reality it needs to last until this time next year. We feed it year round. We need to, if not the top will mold and spoil. They will eat more pasture in the summer, but always have the choice of silage.  Personally this is the one time of the harvest season I dislike the most. Corn will dry down fast, and there is a small window in which to get it put up. To wet the silo will fall, to dry and the nutrients will be gone from the corn. We will run with very little sleep, and nerves on edge. The equipment is dangerous, and accidents happen. I seem to constantly pray to make it threw with the silo still standing, and all our lives intact.

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Ever see the inside of a silo. We this is it. We had just finished filling it in the picture above. It still isn’t ready to feed. We need to level it off. This means we do it manually. climb up the shoot and crawl into the silo. Using pitch forks we literally spread the silage around until it is flat. Its not as easy as it sounds. It’s heavy.  Nitrogen dioxide, and carbon dioxide gasses build in the silo. While leveling this we use the blower to constantly to push fresh air threw the silo. Once leveled out, we turn the blower off and store it until the next time we use it. We lower the unloader and  test it out.

 

We need to climb the silo. There are many reasons for it as we raise and lower the silo unloader. The silage is unloaded from the wagon and into the blower, and it is blown up the pipe work and falls back down on to a plie. We have some control of where it blows in the silo. However we still need to level it out.

There are lots of moving parts to this whole process, and in the end this is where my dislike comes from.  There are other options for storing silage, but this is our choice.

Stay safe, and please be mindful of the farmers over the next few months as they bring in their harvest.

Our Little Old Farm House

 

As we are constantly working to provide for our animals it sometimes means we need more land for their needs. We are always working to put up as much feed as we can for them. As urban sprawl moves closer to the country the cost of renting is just too high. So, About 25 years ago we acquired a second farm. We live in an area where waterfowl hunting is a big economic business for those in our county. Because of this we were able secure this new property. It came with an old farm house. We have fixed it up several times in the past and rented it several times. Some renters were better than others, and some I don’t want to even remember. However, there were some projects that never really were completed to our liking.  So, as this last tenant moved out, we decided it was time to finish the renovations. This old house has a story, but for now we will just work to restore it again. The story will come when its all done.

The renovations are out of love for its history, and will take time. No there isn’t any extra money in our pockets and we still have the farm work to consider for our cows.  So this will take a while. What we do have are great friends, and a bunch of gadgets to help us take this journey with this house.

This is one of the down stairs rooms. We just pulled the carpet up and the floor is nice and solid. This is our starting point.