Horsing around

long tail 009

January 26, 2016

I spent most of today at my buddy Marvin’s farm. We were working on a new sap sled for me. It is a new style for us, but tried and true on several farms. It has a long tail. It is designed so as to take the big dips out of the woodland floor. Well, it doesn’t take the dips out, but rather floats over them without digging the dips deeper.

The long runners displace the weight of the sled and make for a smooth ride like a long wheel base on a truck or car. Us guys who gather sap from tree to tree throughout the woods, use the same paths over and over. Once a short sled goes down in a depression, it makes the hole deeper every time we go through it. It isn’t very long and what was a nice ride resembles a bucking bronco.

These deep holes fill with water and wash out even deeper as the sled drops into them. The long tailed sled, has a bob sled front end and a very long set of runners behind. The bob goes down slightly, but it takes awhile before the back runners come to the hole. The middle part of the long runner holds the load up and runs smoothly along the ground. No more gouging, digging or wrecking the forest floor. It also saves the wear and tear on an old man’s back!

So, I spent the day doing some carpentry work, learning about new things, sipping coffee and enjoying the sights and sounds of my friends Amish farm. It was a great day to have off. I am looking forward to using the sled in the upcoming maple syrup season. I wasn’t really horsing around…I was getting something done :o)

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The sap tank sets on the platform. The man stands behind the handrail. The horses hitch to the front. Exciting times ahead, as I strive to continue to be a good steward to my land.

What’s a Guy To Do?
January 22, 2016, 3:28 pm
Filed under: January 2016, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,


January 22, 2016

It’s cold and snowy outside. I have my chores done. I have been a bit cooped up these last few days. Yes, there is plenty to do, but I am enjoying being forced inside a little bit. I caught up on some reading. I got ahead on a few writing projects. I am keeping up with our family’s butchering projects and I am catching up on some rest.

I am about to start a shelf building project in the sugarhouse. I need them for a little more organization, since changing out the old storage tanks. The new tank has a spot of its own, but I lost a little bit of room for supplies. The new shelves should help with that problem. Cardboard boxes filled with new syrup containers take up a lot of room. I also like them in a clean, steam free, place. So, I hope my idea works out as well as I think it will.

I am gathering a list of supplies for the upcoming maple season. I need to run errands, but want to be sure that I remember everything. Filters, pre-filters, different sized containers, new spiles, sap bags and extra lids are items to start the list. A little ambition would help too, but right now I am enjoying the rest that comes with a big snow… What’s a guy to do? :)


Homemade Ham
January 18, 2016, 5:24 pm
Filed under: January 2016, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

ham 001

January 18, 2016

Winter is whooping our butts right now. The snow is over my boots on the flat and up past my hips where it has drifted. Not bad for a storm that rolled in yesterday afternoon…when the ground was bare! Last week we got a day or two of winter too. I spent that time working in the slaughterhouse. We cut some of our pork for family. This load of smoked meat is from the efforts of that day.

The meat was all smoked with apple wood. It imparts a light smoke with great flavor. I prefer hickory with pork, but one of my family members likes it lighter. I accomplished this with apple wood and everyone has been happy. The bacon and hams taste great. The color was the only thing effected by the lighter smoke.

I cured these hams and bacons with “Morton’s Tender Quick ” and “Morton’s Sugar Cure”. I rub the bacons liberally with the sugar cure. I also de-bone the hams and rub them inside and out. Next I make a liquid, by following the directions on the Tender Quick bag. This liquid I inject into the thick meat on the shoulder ends of the bacons. I also inject the hams in each piece every two or three inches. I use a brine needle also known as a marinate needle and syringe.

Once the meat has been rubbed and injected, I place it in a plastic container and cover it with the remainder of the liquid Tender Quick. I next mix up a little more liquid using Sugar Cure and water, enough to cover the meat. I place a loose lid on the container and leave it cure for seven days.

After the week has passed, I rinse the meat with cold water. I then hang it on my racks and smoke and cook it. The bacon gets smoked and cooked to an internal temperature of 140 degrees F. The hams, the beef tongue you see and the lunch meat chunks of ham all get smoked and cooked to an internal temperature of 155 degrees F

Having the ability to do this at home is an awesome thing. I enjoy doing it and many of our farm’s guest enjoy eating the “fruits” of my labor. Home made ham with fresh eggs is a great breakfast. A slice of our bacon on top of a grass fed cheeseburger…yum! I love my country life :)

Dreaming on the Inside
January 2, 2016, 4:47 pm
Filed under: January 2016 | Tags: , , , ,

older pictures 017

January 2, 2015

This morning I butchered a beef for some farmstead friends of mine. It was a great day for butchering, cold but not brutal. The beef fell quickly and was treated humanely right to the very end of his life. It now hangs cooling, waiting to be transformed into steaks, roasts and ground beef.

I have chores done and I am looking through the new seed catalogs. It will soon be time to order for the 2016 gardening season. It is fun to sit inside, on a cold day, and dream of warm soil and growing plants. I guess a day for dreaming on the inside is just what I needed.

The basket above was a sample from our garden. It is a wonderful thing to eat fresh, home grown vegetables. Add them to home raised meat and it is food fit for a king. If a man is the king of his castle, then I am eating just what I should be. I can say this; farm raised food cooked by my wife, is better than any that I can buy!

So, I will warm my body and my soul today, as I dream about garden vegetables, a juicy steak and a slice of apple pie. It doesn’t hurt one bit to dream on the inside :)

The Best Laid Plans…
December 31, 2015, 8:40 pm
Filed under: December 2015 | Tags: , , , , , ,


December 31, 2015

The best laid plans of mice and men, oft go astray, is a quote by Robert Burns, I believe. I can say, as I look over this past year that was 2015, there were plenty of successes, but a few of my efforts went astray. This young gilt that we named “moo”, thanks to my granddaughter, was to be a great addition to our sow herd.

She was out of one of my best mothers. She was born on a sub zero night and has real survivor instinct. She has great confirmation, as well as, fourteen teats. She was a shoo in for the job of mom…or so I thought. I fed and cared for her for eleven months. I put up with her sometimes negative attitude. I tolerated her indifference to the other hogs along with her general aloofness.

She finally had her piglets three days ago. She made a nice nest, in the pattern of her awesome mom. I was so sure of her ability, that I only checked her a few times. It turns out, she is one of the worst mothers that I have raised in twenty-five years! She only had three piglets. She stepped on one and wouldn’t move despite his squealing. The other two, she laid on in the night and flattened the life out of them :(

Her appointment for freezer camp is coming right up. She had the best of everything. She was content, well fed and happy. She just hates being a mom I guess. I watched her with her two surviving babies. She wouldn’t push them out of the way with her snout. She didn’t grunt little pig noises to them. Quite frankly, she paid them almost no attention what-so-ever.

I put up a cautionary rail to protect the little ones. I made sure they were warm, well bedded and dry. I did all that I could, but “Moo” simply was not cut out for “natural pig birth”. I don’t use farrowing crates or intense confinement pens. The sows, selected from many years of good mothering genetics, make nests then have, love and protect their babies until weaning. “Moo” failed miserably.

In times like that, I question my ability as a farmer. I rethink everything that happened. I look for places where I screwed up. In this case, it wasn’t me. She did everything right…except for nurturing. She hated that part. I have zero tolerance for this type of behavior, not to mention the negative effect to the farm’s bottom line due to her indifference.

So, on New Years day when we celebrate with sauerkraut and pork, I shall chew and swallow my pride with every bite. Ms. Moo reminded me that some pigs are destined to be sausage… I just wish that I would have culled her sooner. Hindsight really is a wonderful thing!

This experience will leave a rough spot on my year that went pretty smooth, but just one. The rest of the year goes down as a good one. We have much to celebrate and many good memories to reflect upon. So we say goodbye 2015 and Happy New year 2016.

Merry Christmas!
December 25, 2015, 7:00 pm
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December 25, 2015

Today is Christmas. The packages have been opened, the meal is a memory and the house is quiet. Our little ones will be in and out all weekend, so the celebration will continue. We will pause to give thanks for many things, including the birth of Christ.

We have a great grandson, who decided to come for Christmas too. He was not scheduled to arrive until February, but he had other plans. Cameron Robert Fraley was born on 12/22. He weighed 4 pounds 7 ounces and was 16 inches long. The little fellow is doing very well, but will be staying in the hospital for a while. He just needs to grow a bit more!

We all had a great Christmas. There was food a plenty and gifts galore. The animals were all given a bit more grain or a special treat. I made plans for horse work. I call it work, but it is more like play, but hey…it’s Christmas!

Waiting on Snow
December 23, 2015, 4:01 pm
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December 23, 2015

I have been in the midst of a stretch of work at my off farm job. It crunches my time a bit. I will say though, that with this unseasonable weather, balancing work and chores has been an easy task. Today it is over 60 degrees F. It is almost hot :)  They animals don’t know weather to get ready for spring or hunker down for the cold.

The days have started getting longer now. I only shoveled snow once so far this winter. The animals are wintering over in great shape and except for a few muddy places, the farm is in great shape. There are only two more days before Christmas and no snow in sight. The kid in me is sad. The adult…or shall I say older adult, in me…celebrates!

I’m pretty sure we will get winter at some point. Us maple syrup makers are counting on it. I will try not to complain when it does get here and simply remain thankful for this very long autumn and early winter.


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