The Flood of March 14 & 15, 2010

This year was the first time that our road was flooded by the Monocacy River since we moved here three and a half years ago. The road flooded slightly once earlier this year during the night and receded again in time for people to go to work the next morning. This time, we were flooded in for two days – Sunday and Monday.


This picture is taken from the lawn of the little white church on Ed Sears Rd looking toward Park Mills Rd. The water is almost covering the guardrail on our road. The Monocacy River normally flows on the other side of the trees to the left. Sunday afternoon we had a good time meeting neighbors who had come down to the river to see the flooding.


The new "boat ramp" on our road. No mail today!

Making Hay – the (Sort Of) Old-Fashioned Way

One unique thing at our farm is the size of our equipment. Our largest "tractor" is a 14 horsepower Wheel Horse garden tractor, currently sporting dual wheels. We have about 35 acres of pasture, and in the spring, the grass grows like crazy, more than what the sheep and cattle can eat. Eventually, this grass gets more mature and tough than what the animals want to eat and must be mowed off to allow new, tender growth. Obviously, we would prefer to make this grass into hay and feed it in the wintertime when the pasture stops growing. But you certainly cannot run a hay baler with a garden tractor.

Last summer, I (Joel) bought an old-fashioned horse-drawn hay rake at a farm auction. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 80-100 years old. One wheel was frozen with rust, and it needed some other work to make it usable, but after a couple days’ work, the hay rake was ready to go. I welded up a hitch so that we can pull it behind the (appropriately named) Wheel Horse.

In the meantime, we also had purchased an old sicklebar mower, originally designed to be pulled behind a tractor. We modified it and mounted an engine on it to run the sicklebar so that we could pull it behind the Wheel Horse as well. After much trial, error and repairs, the mower was ready to cut hay.

After cutting the hay, the next step was raking it together into piles, then dragging the piles together and making haystacks. We were making hay just like they did before the advent of the hay baler.

After starting a stack, one team used the tractor and hay rake to drag hay to the stack, while the rest pitched the hay onto the stack. The younger ones got the job of stomping down the hay to compact it so that we could get more on the stack.

Forking hay by hand is a lot of work. However, it is actually simpler than if we made square hay bales. In that case, we would first bale the hay and the baler would shoot the bales into the haywagon. We would stack the bales in the wagon until it was full. Then we would have to unload the bales into the haymow of a barn – by hand. At feeding time, someone would have to throw down the hay bales, then take them to wherever we fed it. This adds up to handling the hay four times or more.

By contrast, we drag the hay to the stack by machine. All we have to do is pitch the hay onto the stack. We should only have to handle it one more time – when we feed it to the animals, right there in the pasture.

You have probably heard the old nursery rhyme:

Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn,
The sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn.
Where’s the little boy who looks after the sheep?
He’s under the haystack, fast asleep.

Every picture that I’ve ever seen of Little Boy Blue shows him snoozing beside the haystack. After all, isn’t that the closest you can get to being under the haystack?

We discovered otherwise. One old method of making loose hay was to pile the hay on a tripod that held it off the ground. This allowed the farmer to stack up the hay before it had fully dried, because the tripod allowed air to flow underneath the stack and cure the hay. Another method was to have a slanted rack, similar to a fence leaning over, on which the hay was stacked, again allowing air to circulate around the stack and finish curing it so that the hay didn’t spoil and rot.

 

We tried a similar method with the last cutting of hay that we made. Some previous farmer had left behind a large, long metal hay feeder that had been sitting in our front pasture since we moved to this farm. It was made of heavy steel and was still quite rugged, so we dragged it on out into the pasture where we had cut hay, turned the feeder upside down and stacked hay on it. Turned upside down, with hay piled on top, the feeder made a nice tunnel through the middle of the stack.

If you crawl inside this tunnel, you understand why Little Boy Blue would go to sleep under the haystack. On a hot summer day, the haystack offers a cool, highly insulated retreat from the sun, with maybe a bit of a breeze to stir the air and keep things pleasant. It would be a nice place to take a nap.

Jehovah Jireh Farm – "The Lord Will Provide"

Many of you know the story of how God provided this farm for us, but the story and God’s provision doesn’t end there.

This spring God provided this 2000 Chevy Astro van for our egg delivery van for free! Our old delivery van had 275,000 miles on it and the transmission went out. It was not worth fixing. We are very grateful for this provision.

Our neighbor, who is a contractor, tore down a deck and brought the wood to us rather than taking it to the dump. We recycled some of the wood by making it into a picket fence for around Cathy’s kitchen garden. Our only cost was for nails and paint. 

Some of the wood we recycled to make a grape trellis and quiet spot around our camp fire ring. Here again our only costs were: one post, a 2×12 for stairs (which has not been made yet) and nails. We plan to weather it by using a special homemade weathering stain. You can make it by taking equal parts of white vinegar and regular iced tea. Add a steel wool pad or some rusty nails and let sit for a week or so. Then apply to the wood. It will look like dirty water, but within a short period of time it will chemically weather the wood with an authentic weathered look. You can then apply a clear wood preservative if you desire. 

At the end of last year God provided these three bikes in excellent condition for only $15 dollars each! The two on the right sold for around $500 new. We use bikes a lot here on the farm. You can travel 3 to 4 times faster with a bike than by walking and it is much easier. Bikes don’t require any fossil fuels, nor do they emit pollution. They also provide the benefit of exercise over a four wheeler. I (Myron) have put 100 miles on the middle bike in the last four months here on the farm as I went about my work. That would have been a lot of additional walking.

Floating Lights in the Pasture

The next Saturday evening after Blondie’s escapade, our son Nathan and I (Myron) rode our bikes out the lane just as it was getting dark. We enjoy going out the lane at dusk and taking in the peacefulness of the evening. We saw some people in our front pasture near the road and some white lights and red lights floating across the pasture. What was going on?! The parking lot out at the road was full of vehicles. We stopped and talked with a few of the people who were in the parking lot. They were members of Mid-Atlantic Search and Rescue. It is a volunteer organization based in Rockville that searches for missing people. They were using the front pasture and surrounding woods for a training exercise for their search dogs. Several people would hide in the pasture or woods and the dogs would search for them. The dogs had a light attached to their backs so that their trainers could see the dog’s location in the dark. The effect was that the lights appeared to float above the ground as the dogs ran looking for the "missing" people. It was pretty neat. It is interesting living on park property and having a part in worthwhile organizations like Search and Rescue and the American Chestnut Foundation.  If you would like to find out more about Search and Rescue, you can check out their website at www.midatlanticdogs.org

Looking for Action on a Saturday Night

What do you do for excitement on a Saturday night if you are a cow living on a farm in what seems like the middle of nowhere? Your only companions are one other cow and a bunch of sleeping turkeys. Not very exciting! If you are like our milk cow "Blondie", you jump the electric fence and go looking for some excitement.

Sunday morning, several weeks ago, when we went out to take care of the chickens, turkeys, and other animals, we discovered that Blondie had vanished. Daisy, our other milk cow, was contentedly eating in the pasture, but Blondie was gone without a trace. Where do you find a cow when you are surrounded with uninhabited forest for a mile in almost every direction? We drove out the road looking for Blondie. It was a great opportunity to meet some of our neighbors for the first time. It was also interesting having the opportunity to drive in long lanes and see the houses that were hidden behind the trees. No one had seen Blondie. Sunday evening, on a whim, we decided to drive over to Dickerson and check with the dairy farms over there. When we asked one of the farmers if he had seen a Jersey cow, he got a funny look on his face. He said, "So that is who that cow belongs to". That morning he had received a call from Sugarloaf Mountain personnel saying that there was a cow near the entrance to Sugarloaf Mountain. He had no idea where the cow had come from. He did not know anyone else that had a Jersey milk cow in the area. The farmer had put Blondie in the pasture behind the Sugarloaf Mountain offices, and that is where we found her. She was enjoying the company of the farmer’s cows.

Blondie had hiked through the woods and over the ridge behind our house. She had hiked about a mile and a half, most of it through woods. Her udder was scratched up from going through sticker bushes, but otherwise she was fine. What a cow!