In mid-March Susan and I visited Ralph and Connie Rice at their productive small farm outside Jefferson, Ohio. We were there to shoot footage for a Rural Heritage on RFD-TV episode about their maple sugaring operation.
Ralph has tapped several hundred trees in the woods behind his farm, and collects the sugar water in plastic bags that are then emptied into five gallon buckets, to be transferred to a holding tank on Ralph's horse drawn sled before being emptied into his evaporator tanks.
It is truly a joy to walk around Ralph's farm and listen to him describe why he has set things up the way he has. From the rainwater collection ponds to the orientation and layout of his outbuildings, Ralph's farm is an example of orderly efficiency. We ran three episodes of our television program earlier this year that highlighted Ralph's farm plan. I think it is some of the best video we’ve ever shown. You just can't watch it and not be inspired to plant, build or grow something.
Susan and I are grateful for Ralph and Connie's friendship and look forward to spending more time at their Riceland Meadows farm.
After we got back from our trip to Ohio, we had to get ready for the Waverly Midwest Spring Horse Sale where we set up a small booth and sell subscriptions, DVDs and books. While this sale, like many of them, has shrunk over the years in terms of equipment, horses and buyers, it still attracts the usual group of horsemen and horsewomen who enjoy visiting, telling stories, and catching up.
I was pleased to spend time with more friends than I can list, but was especially glad to visit with K.C. Fox of Brewster, Neb., a longtime subscriber and frequent contributor to our front porch forum. K.C. is among the hardest working men I’ve met and is a wealth of experience and knowledge. Along those same lines, I was very glad to meet Daryl Woolstehulme, another of those men to whom we owe so much for keeping alive the heritage and skills of horsemanship, ranching, leather working, and much more. In this issue, on page 58, Brandt Ainsworth writes about yet another of these invaluable mentors, Fred Wolfer.
From Waverly, I drove to Columbia, Tenn., for my first ever Columbia Mule Days Celebration. Despite the uncharacteristic deluge of rain and accompanying cold, the friendly and enthusiastic mule and donkey owners put on a great parade and as much of a show as could be held on the flooded grounds. I will be back next year when I hope the sun will be shining.
My next trip was to west central Texas to visit the amazing Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue in San Angelo where thousands of donkeys are rescued each year and adopted. From there I drove across the great state of Texas to Huntsville and spent the day at Alan Fry's farm where members of the Texas Draft Horse and Mule Association plowed, disked and harrowed one of his fields. Before heading home I stopped at Rodney and Mary Margaret Read's Suffolk farm and learned about their history with this great draft horse breed.
Coming up, I head to Anarchy Acres and Renaissance man Charlie Tennessen and his amazing donkeys. Then I'm off to visit the Julians with their Brabants at a public school Civil War Day and the following day at John Davis' horsepowered farm near Medford, Wis.
Then its time to set up at Horse Progress Days, two of my favorite days of the year. After that there are more trips to farms and festivals where people are borrowing from yesterday to do the work of today.
Know of someone I should visit for a magazine story or TV show? Please write or call. This magazine, the television show, and our website forum are all here to connect the thousands of us out there who refuse to let our rural heritage die away. — jm