What a beautiful day we had today. It was 70 degrees F, sunny and wonderful. The grass is getting greener by the day. It was a great day to enjoy. We washed the horse’s harnesses today. After slogging through mud while gathering maple sap, the harnesses were covered in the stuff to say the least. This is one awesome positive about my bio-plastic harness. Unlike like the heavy leather ones I had for years, these can be pressure washed and made almost new. I am pleased with the results.
As I was enjoying the day and making plans for the days to come, my phone rang. It was a call I had been expecting, but not wanting to get. My friend in Pennsylvania who has been battling cancer for the last three years, lost his battle today. It was with mixed emotion and heavy heart that I spent the rest of my day. My friend is in a better place. His pain and suffering are now gone, but I am selfish, wishing he was here at plowing time.
He lived his entire life farming. Almost all of it, horse farming. What I mean is, he used horses to do 99% of his farm work. They even pulled the feed cart twice a day to feed his steers. He was a man who loved breaking and training colts. He had an eye for young stock. They loved his voice and manner and responded to him easily. He was quite a guy. A great friend who I will truly miss. So, I will celebrate his life every time I pick up my lines. He will walk my fields with me just as my ancestors do. I will tell his stories and keep him close. I will let him live through me. Rest in peace Jonathan Lawton.
Filed under: April 2015 | Tags: best friend, bow making, Friendship, grief, hunting
This past weekend, my memories rushed in several times. I will say that all of them were good, the memories that is. Unfortunately, a friend of mine since childhood died. He was a very fun and funny guy. His children and mine knew each other well. His son and mine played baseball and hunted together. They share a relationship that continues to this day.
When I got the word that he had passed, I remembered many fun times we shared and several times where our antics got us into trouble. Bob could draw like a professional. His features reminded me of Jay Leno, but Bob was much funnier! He had lost his father when he was young, so I think he sought out the good in people and found happy thoughts no matter what!
I spent much of my idle time last week thinking about Bob and fun times in high school. I thought about him and his wife as young adults. They lived a life of self sufficiency. Bob, an avid hunter, provided many meals for his family. His trade was that of a tool and die maker, but his love was making hunting bows. He was a skilled craftsman who turned out beautiful bows. Each one was built by hand form his own designs.
I remember one afternoon in the early 1980’s. I stopped at Bob’s on my way home from work. As I walked up to him, it looked as if he had been in a terrible fight. Both of his eyes were black and blue. His nose was swollen, yellow and red in color, with a nasty gash most of the way across. The black stitches looked painful, sticking out of his swollen nose. “My Gosh Bob, what the heck happened?” , I asked.
He broke out into infectious laughter. Before long I started to chuckle. He said, You should see your face! You look like you saw a ghost!” Before long both of us were holding our sides with laughter, yet I still didn’t know what had happened. Finally, after we regained our composure, he told me what had happened.
He got an idea for a new bow design, The handle and limbs were laminated, then cut from the formed block of glued wood and composite material. Bob was just starting the process of making his own bows, so this was during the development stage. He stepped out the backdoor of his house. He carefully inserted an arrow. He drew down on the target, bringing the bow to full draw. That was the point when the bow broke in half. One piece flew back in an instant, with great force, striking him in the nose and face!
His nose hung from his face by a piece of skin, bleeding profusely. His vision was blurred and his head ached. Bob still had enough humor left to joke with the doctors and nurses while they patched him up! He went on to fix the design flaw and turn out beautiful, functional hunting bows. My son owns one, signed by Bob. It is a treasured piece of his hunting collection.
Bob leaves a wife, a daughter, a son and three granddaughters. His love of life and great humor will help them all as they grieve. His impish smile can be seen on the faces of his children and grandchildren. I, and many others will remember him with fondness and for his clown antics. I guess it was spoken best by Bob’s best friend at Bob’s celebration of life services. He played guitar and sang, “You got a friend”, by James Taylor. The only friend Bob didn’t have…was someone he had not yet met.
April 11, 2015
My sheep were sold last summer, so my fields are void of baby lambs this spring. I do miss the soft bleats on the wind. I am sure to miss the bouncy babies playing in the pastures. The mothers calling their offspring is also only heard in my memory. It rings bittersweet in my head. I will indeed miss the youngsters, but not lambing time right on the heels of maple syrup season.
I look for other signs of spring. Wild onions growing in the leaf litter of the woods, daffodils blooming in the sun and buds on the trees. The grass is starting to green up. The cattle snip green shots of the new grass. The eat it anywhere they find it. Their manure shows that they found plenty of it :o
Spring has sprung. The peepers are singing much of the night. The spelt is bright green and growing in the fields. The compost pile steams steadily as the red wing black birds fly about. Garden seeds wait to be planted and the strawberry beds start to wake up. Soon the hot summer sun will bake us in our skin, but for now it kisses the grass like a mother ewe nurturing her baby lambs.
Filed under: April 2015 | Tags: building project, Celtic, dreams, elbow grease, logs to lumber, maple syrup season
April 8, 2015
Armed with 600 gallons of water, a couple of cases of white vinegar, some bleach and huge quantities of elbow grease, I am attacking the job of breaking down and cleaning up the sugarhouse and it’s equipment. A little bluegrass and Celtic bagpipe music playing on my headphones passes the time and keeps me company.
Before the 2016 maple syrup season begins, we plan to change our three sap tanks out. They have served us well for four seasons, but the time has come to upgrade. One large stainless steel tank will replace the three current ones. The large tank will take away some of my redundant work while boiling, as well as, make the job of clean up much easier! The job will require some building construction later this year. The wood will be acquired from white pine trees growing here on the farm.The horses and I will turn logs into lumber for the project.
The addition to the sugarhouse will be small in size, but will have a giant impact on my operation. It will make the sugarhouse more user friendly, safer and more efficient. I will create a mezzanine for the big tank. The roof will be tall enough to stand beside the tank for cleaning and inspection. The little addition will create some needed storage and free up some much needed space. For now, this whole project resides in my head, but stay tuned as I make another dream come true :o
Filed under: April 2015 | Tags: draft horses, maple sap, maple season, maple syrup, mud, Thanks
April 7, 2015
Today, I boiled the last of this season’s maple syrup. We had a rough last few days as I worked my off farm job and pushed to get the last of this years sap collected and boiled. I will now catch up on sleep and start the big job of clean up. The trees must be “untapped”. The spiles, and bags must be taken down. The spiles get cleaned and dried, then put away. The plastic bags get collected and taken to the recycle. The sugarhouse and all equipment gets cleaned and stored away until next year.
We had a good season. We made and canned some nice syrup. The greedy trees kept a lot of their sugar, so our yield is down, but I will still have enough for our farm’s customers. I will even sell a barrel of bulk syrup wholesale. All and all, the effort was worth it on every count. The best thing is, that I made memories and so did quite a few visitors to the sugarhouse.
The woodshed is showing the effects of all my boiling. The job of woodcutting is now at hand. I will get started on the giant oak tree again very soon. The maple season may be over, but farm work continues to keep me busy. Logs to skid will keep the horses in shape, as we wait to begin plowing. My clean up jobs, chores and woodcutting may be the order of the day for now, but spring planting season looms…..oh yea…and all that lawn mowing too :o
Thanks to my sister Charlie for laughs and help, my family for help, understanding and goodies. Special thanks to Charlie McCormick for conversation and help. Thanks to my sap gatherers, Sheldon, Marcus, Tony, Lyric, Josh, Becky, Ken and Mae. Hats off to Knight and Hoss for pulling their hearts out and for showing my sister what large feet do to a big mud puddle :o
April 1, 2015
We had a big day of gathering yesterday! We collected over 1400 gallons of sap. The season is pushing hard after a slow start. The sap was clear and foamy as we poured it. Looks like nice sweet stuff. The boiling will begin shortly and last much of the day. I am excited. This season drives me crazy, but makes me very happy!
It looks like the end is near, but for the next few days, it’s in high gear! My vacation is coming to an end, so these last days of our crazy late season will be a test to my endurance….but hey I’m crazy about this stuff…You could even call me an April Fool :o