Planting Soybeans

We were planting soybeans today into a field with a beautiful cover crop of cereal rye. We planted the rye last fall. It grows until winter sets in, then goes dormant and begins to grow again in the spring. By late May the rye is 4 feet tall. The rye keeps the soil from eroding and takes up nutrients from the soil. When we plant the rye dies and returns those nutrients to the soybeans.


We just plant right into the living rye. The rye roots make the soil crumbly and soft, perfect for planting.

This side of the field has been planted.


And this side hasn’t been planted.

Not Planted
Not Planted

That’s what we’re after, to disturb the soil as little as possible. Walking over the planted field it just looks like we drove over the rye and knocked it down. But if you dig in the soil [1] you’ll find soybeans an inch deep in loose crumbly soil.

Running over the rye kills most of it, a very light application of herbicide will finish off the rest. Dead rye is straw, the same thing you’d use to mulch grass seed when you plant a new lawn. It serves the same purpose in our fields, as mulch it holds moisture and smothers the weeds.

Ray Archuleta, a government conservationist, says, “A tilled field is naked, thirsty, and running a fever.” When you till a field you leave it bare to erosion from wind and water, you dry it out, and you burn up the organic matter in the soil.

Planting into a field of rye is planting into a field that is healthy and bursting with life. And clothed:

“Consider the lilies of the field … even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.”

It’s that beautiful.

1. As I do, obsessively.

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Good Karma

I blasting home with the planter, well, blasting is an exaggeration, on our county roads that’s 0 to 12 mph as we navigate the potholes and half-hearted road repairs.

Anyway, blasting along and I came over a hill and there was a turtle in the road!

Turtle in the Road!
Turtle in the Road!

Our planter tractor has terrible brakes but I got it stopped in time. The turtle stopped too. We had a standoff.

I looked at the turtle and I looked at the tractor. The tractor is dualled up, 4 tires across, each 18 inches wide. I was pulling our drill, which has 4 flotation tires across the back, each of them over a foot wide and not lined up with the tractor duals. No way was I going to be able to proceed and not hit the turtle with one of those tires.

I looked behind to make sure no one was barreling down the road and about to get a surprise when they came over the hill. The drill is over 20 feet wide and blocks the entire road. The way was clear, I hopped out of the tractor and picked up the turtle and carried him across the road. He was not grateful.

I was feeling grateful though as I headed home. Grateful that I didn’t smash a turtle. Grateful that one of my neighbors didn’t smash me while I was stopped on the blind side of a hill. Good karma.

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Eating Locally

This morning I went to the opening day for the Columbia City Farmer’s Market. I came home with greens, ramps, miner’s lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata, and a loaf of crusty bread. Tonight I whipped that into an almost entirely locally grown meal.

Salad with Smoked Duck

I had a whole Maple Leaf Farms duck in the freezer. I thawed that out and smoked it in the Jay Rosswurm Big Stone Cooking Area with some cherry logs cut from our farm.

I made that all into a salad topped with an orange vinaigrette. The oranges were probably picked by slaves and trucked 1,500 miles. I should’ve used the apple cider vinegar I made.

Oh well, it was tasty all the same. The duck was rich, fat, and smoky, the greens were bitter and fresh, the ramps pungent, and the vinaigrette cut it all with its sharp and bright acid.

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Pink Moon

There’s a pink moon rising over Skunk Hill tonight.

Pink Moon
Pink Moon
Pink Moon
by Nick Drake

I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on its way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all
It’s a pink moon, yeah, pink moon
Pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon
Pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon
I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on its way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all
It’s a pink moon, yeah, pink moon

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All the Nutty People

If you’ve heard even a smidgen of news in the past few weeks, you’ve heard how Indiana’s state legislative and executive branches of government managed to take one of the founding principles[1] of our country and turn it into joke worthy of national mockery[2].

Viv Sade mentioned to me all the letters to the editor she was getting from “nuts.” Where do all the nutty people come from, I wondered. That rang a bell, and what follows just flowed forth.

“Governor Pence”
Sung to the tune of “Eleanor Rigby” [3]

Ah, look at all the nutty people
Ah, look at all the nutty people

Governor Pence bars the flowers from the church where a gay wedding’s been
Lives in a dream

Stares at the statehouse, passing the laws that keeps the gays in their place
Surely we can save face?

All the nutty people
Where do they all come from?
All the nutty people
Where do they all belong?

Senator Long writing the amendments to a law that none will obey
No one will yea
Look at him working, doing Freelands bidding when there’s nobody there
What does he care?

All the nutty people
Where do they all come from?
All the nutty people
Where do they all belong?

Governor Pence’s hopes died in the spring and were buried along his campaign
No one was sane
Senator Long wiping the dirt from his hands as he walked from the grave
He still was paid.

All the nutty people (Ah, look at all the nutty people)
Where do they all come from?
All the nutty people (Ah, look at all the nutty people)
Where do they all belong?

1. In case you haven’t heard a smidgen of news, it’s freedom of religion.

2.Yeah, I’m piling on.

3. The original song, in case you really live in a vacuum. YouTube video of Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles

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Winning the Lottery

We got a new flock of chickens today. They’re pullets and will eventually grow to be laying hens.

We got them at Rural King in Fort Wayne. Rural King had a wide selection of breeds to choose pullets from: Buff Orpingtons, Australorps, Jersey Giants, Light Brahmas, Auracaunas, Lace Wyandottes, Rhode Island Reds, and Barred Rocks. By the time we picked them out I was totally confused as to which ones we ended up with. I can say with confidence that we have 15 new pullets of some but not all of the breeds listed above.

At Rural King they have the chickens in oblong watering troughs. That is an eminently practical thing to hold baby chickens, because if there are corners the chickens will pile up in them. We pointed out to the helper at Rural King what kind of chickens we wanted and she would scoop them out the trough and put them in a box for us. The little chickens dashed everywhere in the trough, trying to avoid being caught.

I thought, “Don’t try to get away, little chickens. You don’t know it, but if you’re caught, you’ve won the lottery.”

They’ll get a full life here, good feed, clean water, fresh air, room to run, dirt to peck.

Kind of like being born in America to parents who love you. You’ve won the lottery by no action of your own, just by the hand that scooped you up and dropped you into this spot.


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Didn’t Even Ask

I was in [1] Fort Wayne this week at lunchtime so I stopped at my favorite fast food chicken place, Lee’s on West State, for lunch.

I ordered up a tasty lunch, an all-dark-meat-spicy-crispy snack with a soft drink. When young lady behind the counter rang me up I was a little surprised that my soft drink wasn’t an extra charge with a snack. But the world moves faster everyday, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that I wasn’t up-to-date with the intricacies of the Lee’s menu.

It wasn’t much of a surprise at least until I sat down and looked at my receipt. The sweet young lady behind the counter had given me the “senior citizen’s discount.” A free soft drink!

She could’ve at least asked if I was old enough![2]

1. Well, within about 5 miles of Fort Wayne, close enough for an excuse to go to Lee’s.

2. I am, by 2 years. Phbbbbt,

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Burn it, Burn it Good

We burned all our native plantings areas today. The weather was perfect, the wind was out of the east (away from our house). The ground is still saturated so we didn’t have to worry about catching the muck on fire [1].


Owen always follows the same path through the high grass. He’s trod it down until it’s so firm it wouldn’t burn.

Corgi Trail
Corgi Trail

Can’t wait to see what does and doesn’t come up after burning!

1. The muck is high organic matter soil. It’s what they cut into turves and burn in their stoves in Ireland. If you get it burning in the fields that’s a bad thing.

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So now Steve Wozniak has peddled himself to sell Cadillacs. Did he not make enough money selling Apples as better than PC’s that he now has to sell himself, huskstering Cadillacs as somehow better than Chevy’s?

Shame on you, Woz, shame.

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Mud Time

We slogged around in the mud all day today on the farm. Where we have a good layer of stone it is just squishy underfoot, anywhere else is a sloppy mess that quickly proves (or disproves) your boot’s claim to waterproofness.

The mud is a nuisance but I love the change in seasons. By afternoon today we’d shed our coats and were sweating in the thin sunshine. It felt great.

The mud reminds me of one of my favorite poems. It’s good to muse over it while relaxing after the first day’s work in the mud time.

Two Tramps in Mud Time by Robert Frost

Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily “Hit them hard!”
I knew pretty well why he dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of beech it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good
That day, giving a loose to my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And fronts the wind to unruffle a plume
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake: and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn’t blue,
But he wouldn’t advise a thing to blossom.

The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheel rut’s now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don’t forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

The time when most I loved my task
These two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask.
You’d think I never had felt before
The weight of an axhead poised aloft,
The grip on earth of outspread feet.
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.

Out of the woods two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps.)
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
They judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax,
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man’s work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right — agreed.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future’s sakes.

We dug a posthole today. About 14 inches down we hit the “lurking frost” in a very real way.

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