So many things have happened since the last update! Sorry for not corresponding more, but hope this will catch everyone up to date.
Asparagus note! Thank you to each customer who has placed an order for asparagus. However, while it started out with a “bang” and really was looking good, the recent cool weather has slowed it to almost a literal stand still. All my estimated harvest dates will be delayed until the weather warms and the sun shines again. I will contact you when I have your asparagus available.
Mom’s pullets have started laying some eggs now! She has mostly Silver Laced Wyandotte which are black and white with a few Araucanas that are multi colored and lay beautiful blue, green and pink shelled eggs! These colored blue, green and pink shelled eggs are the same as brown shelled eggs the only difference being the shell color.
Around the time of the writing of the last update Mom and Dad went truck shopping for a farm truck. The funny thing was they went on Jena’s birthday and actually found a used one-ton Dodge Ram truck they could afford and, seven years prior to that, to the exact day, they’d purchased the green Subaru after a deer had totaled our old van! This new truck has relived Granddad’s ½ ton truck of hauling loads which were really too much for it. We’ve hauled several loads of hay with it already and have been very thankful how well it handled them. Jena has named this new farm acquisition “The Beast” and has a lot of fun driving it around! We try to leave it parked as much as possible though as the fuel mileage is not so good as the Subaru’s!
G-Jean and I had a lot of fun making and decorating Jena’s birthday cake, but decided we’d never do one like it again! We thought this might be very fitting for her since she’s joined the Air Force.
After a lot of debate and discussion my family finally talked me into taking off on the longest duration trip I’ve ever taken saying that they’d hold down the fort for me while I was out gallivanting around. Once I had decided to go, it took over a week for the weather to clear enough that the roads would be good for driving. Saturday, January 29’s high was 70 degrees then by Thursday, February 3rd it dropped to -15. It snowed a lot on Tuesday…enough that Dad had to stay in a hotel in Coffeyville overnight! Thankfully he was able to come home Wednesday night. However, I got stuck that night on our east/west county road trying to get to the neighbor’s house to attend a Bible study. There were 1-1/2’ to 2’ drifts all around, but our east/west road had 36” and some 40” drifts. It looked like a front loader had come through and cleared a trail down the center of the road, but apparently it wasn’t enough for me to get through! After a little playing around with Dad, Jena and the Kubota we managed to get the car unstuck and I decided I really didn’t need to go anywhere that bad.
By Sunday the roads were nearly clear and I took off on my trip Monday morning before another blizzard (literally) hit Tuesday night bringing more snow and some terribly cold -21 degree weather soon after! Here’s proof:
After taking off I made it down to Poplarville, Mississippi that night where Kenny and Renee Russell live. They had invited me to spend some time with them learning more about working draft horses etc. Dad, Jena and I had really enjoyed attending one of their Workhorse Workshops in the fall of 2008 so I decided to take them up on their offer. I spent about three weeks helping around the farm in exchange for “lessons” each evening.
We worked horses on everything from spring tooth harrows with a new attachment called a crumbler, to a cultipacker, spike tooth harrows both with a harrow cart and without, two sizes of discs, cleaning out the barn with a work sled (tricky driving in and out of that barn!) four wheel wagon work, drilling oats, using the manure spreader and plowing with four different plows…I even had the experience of plowing my wallet under when it fell out of my pocket and then trying to find it again. Praise the Lord we were able to find it and it was ok!!!
I didn’t get many pictures while on my trip, but here’s a picture of Jim and Jake (not a good perspective) to show the oat field we worked and planted while I was there.
During my first week in Mississippi it was a little damp and cool but it soon warmed up and the bone chilling -21 degrees my family was telling me about was hard to imagine. However, about eight days later we were talking on the phone and they said the high that day had made it a 90 degree temperature difference!
Around this time there was a batch of little piggies born on the farm! This picture shows them after they’re a week or two old.
Back in Mississippi I also got to participate in and help with one of the Russell’s workshops near the end of my stay. It was a privilege to meet a lot of folks while down in the Mississippi area as well. Here we’re plowing the oat field during the Russell’s workshop. Atlee Weaver (whom I’ll mention more later) is on the far left. He and his family came down from Ohio to help one of Kenny Russell’s friends and be an instructor at the workshop.
On the home front Mom, Dad, Granddad and G-Jean had been working hard on getting the big hoop house started for me. They planted several thousand soil blocks of different types of greens and transplanted them into the big hoop house so they’d be up and growing for me by the time I returned from my trip.
Starting the seedlings…
…transplanting them into the hoop house…
…and now they’re off to a good start!
My next stay was at my Papaw and Mamaw’s house in Kentucky. While I was only able to spend two full days there it was a huge blessing to be with them and spend a little time together. Papaw even took me out on a damp, drizzly Saturday to see some of the beautiful scenic mountain views not all that far from their house. With light grey storm clouds hovering across the sky, a light rain fell as fog was shifting and spiraling upwards like streams of light smoke through densely covered mountainsides with rocky bluffs jutting intrusively here and there over forest covered valleys…the view was absolutely breath taking. Unfortunately I missed getting pictures of these beautiful views.
As I was traveling to Kentucky it was both Papaw and Dad’s birthdays! Back home my family celebrated Dad’s birthday (for the first time since I’ve been around that I wasn’t with him on his birthday) and made a replica of “The Beast” for Dad’s cake.
Sunday morning I realized Mississippi’s 70-80 degree weather had really spoiled me when it was 30 or so degrees and a light snow had fallen during the early morning hours! It was cold all day and the light snow stayed around on the higher elevation mountains. Monday morning I took off from Kentucky and launched on up north to stay with one of Kenny Russell’s Amish friends, Aden Weaver, in Danville, Ohio. Kenny and some of our other Mississippi friends met me there and we all had a wonderful time being hosted at the Weaver residence. Our purpose in being there was to attend a horse drawn equipment and horse auction as well as visiting several horse related stores in the area.
Kenny Russell had to pick up some supplies while we were in Ohio so I got to ride along as we visited Weaver Leather Co., a harness shop, a guy who rebuilds Knobview manure spreaders, and even got a personal tour of one of the new horse drawn equipment factories, Pioneer equipment! The family who owns the business are friends of Kenny and Renee Russell and they invited us to eat supper with them that evening. Some of the boys were gathering sap from maples and I appreciated the opportunity to learn several things about tapping trees and the maple syrup process.
Visiting Atlee Weaver’s Amish farm was another great experience. He grows a market garden in Ohio and farms all of it strictly with horses. Atlee’s farm produces most, if not all, the grain and hay that his horses need as well. It was a lot of fun sharing ideas and learning from Atlee as we got to know one another a little better. Dropping back down to Dayton, Ohio, I stayed at a friend’s house that night. Getting up early the next morning I took off after brushing about 2-3” of snow off the car and didn’t look back until I finally made it all the way home to Montgomery County, Kansas. Boy it was sure good to see my family again!
We’ve had an unusually high number of small hail storms move through here this spring. Thankfully they haven’t caused any real heavy damage here on the farm but they certainly don’t help out either!
One day Mom and Dad went on a walk back to the old pond where the beavers have taken up residence in the old pond’s dam and checked out their construction project along the creek. Those little stinkers have really been hard at work! They have a dam that’s filled our creek banks level full and even a little beyond!
Since arriving home it’s been a little chaotic trying to catch up on all the spring work that’s needing done. G-Jean has taken the mulch off the strawberries and they’re looking great now! Lord willing we’ll have a bumper crop of strawberries coming on the last of May or the first of June. Hoop house greens are already shooting up an should be ready by mid April. Blackberries should also come along in July with garlic being harvested in that same time frame.
I’ve been trying to use my team a little more and have spread several loads of compost with them and also used them by dragging a spike tooth harrow for leveling out a small plot. Hopefully I can get a larger area of ground worked for cover crops soon, but first I need to clean up some of last year’s drip tape, tomato and pepper cages as well as some plant residues! Never a lack of things to do!
Granddad and G-Jean are also planning to add on to their log house and move out their old trailer house! It has been a long, hard decision as they had planned on doing this “one of these days” since they built the log house 37 years ago. Now their 1968 model trailer house which they’ve had and lived in for over 40 years is starting to show signs of being very tired. They will be hiring some Amish gentlemen to come in and build the addition, but our family is trying to get some prep work done before they start. We’ve already jack hammered the front porch out so the new pad can be poured. When Granddad made that porch he sure used some good concrete and hard limestone rock! It was tough breaking that up! We need to get the plumbing, sewer and electrical set as well.
With the beautifully warm weather within the last couple of weeks too many trees and plants have been pushing the spring limits. Our elm trees sprang to life and have set seed, ornamental pear trees are a mass of white blossoms, red bud trees are a vibrant violet/red, the sand plums are nearly finished blooming and our weeping willows have bloomed and started leafing out! Now, the last few nights have been reaching light freezing temperatures and we even had snow in the late evening a few days ago!
I had pruned several of the fruit trees which needed pruned the worst before my extended trip, but when I came back home it had stayed warm long enough I was too late for much more pruning. There were a few small branches that were starting to rub on one another so I cut them off, but other than that had to leave the remaining trees unpruned this year because they were starting to bud out just a little. While pruning before my trip Jena even came out and helped me some which was a real blessing!
An apricot tree I ordered arrived soon after I arrived home so I had to plant it ASAP. This new tree will replace one I lost last year. Supposedly this apricot variety will bloom later than other varieties to help miss the last spring frosts. We’ll see in a few years!
Dad and I have been wanting to burn off the pastures for several years now, and finally, this year, we were able to burn off the big pasture. It was a little challenging getting it all back burned but then we were able to just “let it go.” As the fire swept across the pastures’ expanse eagerly and hungrily burning away the weeds with their seeds, hopefully stunting some nuisance tree sprouts and blackberry briars, we watched with fascination at the sight. While the burning didn’t destroy all the blackberry briars as we’d hoped, it should rejuvenate the grass and help it come on good this coming growing season.
Well, there’s much to be done around the farm and I’d better get going until next time! If you don’t like the weather wait five minutes and it’ll change!
Farmer Josh and the Mitchell crew
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Early spring bloom report!
A delicate Winter Aconite
Beautiful crocus, and one displays a couple of Mom’s pullet eggs nicely!
Hyacinths, Grape Hyacinths and Daffodils have also been blooming around the farm’s flower beds!