Monday, July 16, 2018

Heinäkuu - The Hay Moon

Strawberries = Summer.  Early in the morning Sam and I headed out to the  Rautio Farm a couple of miles down the road. and picked 4 of these trays full of berries.  I was surprised to see that there were still so many berries this late in the season - mid-July.

Strawberries still warm off the field and ice cream!

Next we headed a half mile down the road to the Juntikka farm to pick up a load of hay bales.  It was a luxury to pick up a hay wagon full of bales that had been parked in a barn overnight.  In the past we have had to haul hay with pickup trucks from a long distance.  This was so much easier.

Ready to roll.  I followed behind in my truck with the lights flashing.  These old hay wagons aren't meant for high speed.

Almost to the hayshed.

I used the tractor to back it up next to the hayshed.  It takes a while to get the hang of backing up one of these rigs; you have to  turn the front wheels of the wagon by backing up the tractor in one direction and then cutting your steering wheel sharply in the other way to straighten out the trailer tongue before it jackknifes too far.  It took many tries, but we finally got it where we wanted it.

King of the Mountain.

Tossing down the bales.

I hauled them into the hayshed.

Haymaking was, and still remains, a very important part of the year in agrarian cultures, as it was in Finland was for most of its history.  The hay that was put up in summer was critical to feed cows and sheep over the winter.  The month of July is called the Hay Moon - Heinäkuu.  The hay was cut by hand with a scythe,  raked and stacked to dry on wooden posts that were set throughout the field.  Once dry the loose hay was forked onto horse drawn wagons and piled in haysheds made of  logs.  The work required many hands and sunny dry weather.  Needless to say it could be a very stressful, hectic time.  Nowadays most of the work is done by machines, but it still involves long hours for the farmer on his tractor, and for us, handling 50 pound bales is still hard work, particularly on a hot day.

Stacking the bales in the hayshed.

We put up two loads, a total of over 200 bales.  I  need to feed the sheep hay from mid-October to mid-May, generally a bale a day.

Good green hay.  The sheep will enjoy it next winter.

Sunday, July 15, 2018


I was finally granted parole after serving 33 years at the institution of higher learning formerly called the Michigan College of Mines.  My mother said that when I came home from kindergarten she would ask me how school went, but my stock answer was, "I've been there, I don't want to talk about it."  Ironically,  I spent most of my life in school or working at a University. 

My fellow inmates put on a real nice party for me and the wardens assured them that if they behaved themselves for another twenty of thirty years they too might be considered for parole.  
This time they even got the Finnish correct.
All the grandchildren showed up for the occasion.

These four stayed calm enough for another picture.

The warden came by the following day for a bike ride.  We did a 15 mile loop of which 10 miles was under a torrential downpour thunderstorm.  The logging roads we rode on were literally rivers.  Needless to say we were thoroughly soaked....

...and muddy.

Twas a rainy weekend

Which the flowers loved.  No, these aren't dandelions.  I believe they are Yellow Goatsbeard.

Indian aka Devil's Paintbrushes


A Mexican dish consisting of  chicken, rice, beans, cheese, tomatoes, salsa, onions, corn, sour cream,  guacamole, etc.  Unless you're really careful and only take a very little bit of each topping by the time you are through you have a small mountain on your plate.  But no worries, it was delicious.

The girls concurred.

This one had already eaten at home.

 Looks like everyone was well fed.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Lazy Hazy Days of Summer

Our strawberry patch did not produce very well this year (old plants and lots of weeds) so we went to nearby farm to pick these.

It's best to pick your berries in the morning...

...because you still have to clean them when you get home.
This is best done outdoors in the shade.  You should set up your work area so that you have to move your hands very little, ideally in a line parallel to your shoulders.  Marja has set up her work area in a suboptimal orientation which requires her to reach for a berry.

The old pro, on the other hand, has set his containers in a line so that the hands  simply pivot outward from the elbow.  The right hand picks up the strawberry , the left hand snips off cap with a knife, both hands move outward - the left dropping the snipped cap into the bowl while the right drops the clean berry into the pail.  The hands move in a balanced motion out and back like clapping in slow motion minimizing stress on the upper back and neck.  Granted, if you are only cleaning 8 or 9 quarts of berries like we are doing here, you could do it standing on your head, but if you have to process a large amount by yourself you need to analyze every motion so that it flows like a well-choreographed dance.   It's all about applying the Lean principles used in manufacturing.

Here's the way to make the best cake in the world.  First make a regular cake in a pan.  Cut it in half when it has cooled.  Pour orange juice over one layer to moisten it.  Lay a thick layer of sliced strawberries over it. 

 Lay a heavy layer of whipped cream (very lightly sweetened with powdered sugar) over the strawberries.  Use real whipping cream.  Don't use any phony substitutes.  If you don't know how to whip cream, look on Youtube or just figure it out.  It ain't rocket science.

Place the other half of the cake on top of the first.  Moisten it with orange juice also.  (Don't be stringy with the juice, the cake will soak it up like a sponge.)  Cover the top layer and the sides of the cake with whipping cream.  Cover the top of the cake with strawberries.  Once you've made a few of these cakes you can add other fruits, but stick with strawberries for starters.  You don't want to mix up too many tastes.  Keep it simple.  Your tastebuds will thank you.

Lastly, put the cake in the refrigerator for a few hours until it is well-chilled through and through.  Then take it out, cut yourself a man-sized piece and enjoy it with strong black coffee.

Now that you know how to make the best cake in the world, there is no reason for you to ever make any other kind.  Frankly, I can't imagine you would ever want to eat any other kind.

Our pond was made for hot days.

Monday, July 9, 2018


Silvopasture can be defined as pasturing animals amid trees in a manner that benefits the animal and does not harm the trees.  This involves rotating the animals through successive paddocks.  Here I am mowing a lane through our red pine plantings along which I will set up electric netting.

My walk-behind brush mower allows me to weave among the trees and cut down small brush as needed.
Laying out the electric netting.  Each roll is 164 feet long - roughly 72 relaxed steps for me.  I pace off my mowed lanes and adjust them as needed by mowing wider or cutting corners.  The paddocks are irregularly shaped.  I would like to make them in perfect squares, but that will have to wait until my woods are better groomed than they are now. 

I first stretch the netting taut while it is flat on the ground, then raise each post and step on the top of the U-shaped dual prongs to drive it in.   

The sheep know that I am going to open up fresh pasture to them and have been keeping up a running commentary.  Everyone has an opinion and expresses it loudly.  I am obviously too slow and they want action.  Sheep are really obnoxious, pushy and ungrateful critters.  If you have low self-esteem get a dog instead.
Baaa.....what are you waiting for?  Can't you see you're wasting our valuable time?  What do we pay you for anyhow?  Move faster you lazy slug!

In this case the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence.

Alright, we are about to open the floodgate.

Here they go.


As ungrateful as these critters are, there is something deeply satisfying in watching them wade into lush deep grass.

You too, bud.  You're turning into fine lamb chops, you know.

Momma has a bell.  It helps me find the sheep in the brush and also is said to deter predators.  Not sure about that one, but someone once said it and someone else wrote it in a book, so I guess it must be true.

Two weeks later....

...the grass on the other side of the fence is looking greener.

It's time to move the sheep again.

Sheep path.

The charger unit contains a solar panel, battery and charger.  I have a voltmeter to check that the fence has at least a 4000 volt charge.  That sounds like a lot, but the unit releases only a small amount of energy in short pulses - enough to cause pain, but not serious injury.  Lambs learn quickly after touching the fence once or twice.  Most importantly dogs and coyotes learn even more quickly when they touch it with their sensitive noses.