We do not spray our fields we grow food in with herbicides. Herbicides for those of you that don’t know kill weeds without (hopefully) killing the food crop you are trying to grow. There are two types, selective (kills the weeds and not the crops) or non-selective (kills everything). The next time you are out and see a clean, weed free field especially of corn or soybeans the farmer is most likely using herbicides (in conjunction with other means). They work great and have been used for many years, but they do have a few “minor” downside issues. The first “minor” issue is expense, herbicides and the equipment to spray them are expensive. Also if you are going to spray them yourself in many areas you will need an applicators license (which you will need to take and pass a test to get “certified”). Also you can hire someone to spray your fields for you either on the ground or from the air, both are common farming practices. The second “minor” issue is the possible health and environmental related effects of herbicide residue in your food and in the soil. There is conflicting information on herbicide related effects on people, animals and the environment but we err on the side of caution. Just search online for the word glyphosate which is used in many of today’s modern herbicides and review the results for yourself.

What we utilize is commonly called mechanical weed removal. We have a tractor mounted and manual walk behind tiller, a row builder and a cultivator for removing weeds under most circumstances. These work pretty good in most stages of crop growth. The cultivator allows us to drive between the rows and remove the weeds by having a steel shank called a sweep pulled under the soil. This has been a pretty common farming practice for a hundred years or more; before tractors farmers used animals to pull cultivators and before that they used their spouse (BE ADVISED: for any budding homesteaders out there who are considering this option this can be a touchy subject with your significant other). The row builder is not really designed for weed removal but when hilling (moving soil from the middle of the row to around the plants in the row) and done properly has provided us a measure of successful weed control in the past. The walk behind tiller is used for close quarters combat with weeds and is especially effective around tomato cages. The tractor mounted tiller is only used in a weed removal context when a very wide area that we leave between crop types (example: between corn and tomatoes) is utilized.

Vine type vegetables (cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, all types of melons etc.), blackberries and grapes require some special handling. Driving the tractor around, through or over this type of home grown edible in our small scale world is problematic and trying to use the walk behind tiller in most of these circumstances is agricultural suicide. There are large scale solutions to weeds but not much for mechanical removal except the old “Armstrong” methods (me, my wife, my children and grandchildren manually removing weeds) so prevention is a better solution. We utilize black fabric around the plants and then  apply mulch on top of that. This will slow but not always stop weed growth, I suggest periodic weed removal throughout the growing season always keeping a watchful eye for invaders. We use a regular hoe or a wheel hoe I built several years ago as much as possible but many times it’s just your hands and a smile.  Some years this works better than others, but in my view anything is better than ingesting unwanted chemical residue.

In my opinion weed control is a pay me now or pay me later proposition. Spraying herbicides is much easier and less labor intensive then mechanical removal but in 20 years if things go south you could pay the ultimate price. Something to think about

Until next time, see you down at the barn.


Note: This blog post has been broken down into several parts to help with the load times, this project is picture intensive.

You can see the stanchion “in action” on our milking barn page at  http://thepossumridgefarms.com/home/the-milking-barn/

Materials listing for part one of this blog

Qty 1  2X4X8 pressure treated wood

Qty 1  4X4X10 pressure treated wood

Qty 3 2X6X8 pressure treated wood

Qty 1  farmer in training

Qty (a bunch) 3 inch deck screws

Tools Required:


Post hole digger



Drill (corded or cordless)

Spud Bar ( if you have concrete for soil)

In part 1 we left off with an empty building and 4  posts sticking out of the ground and a single 2X6 wood plank screwed into two of the posts. At this point we dug 3 additional holes, one hole each centered on our original posts and one completely centered within the assembly. Each hole should be a least 2 feet deep. Cut a 10 foot long 4X4 into thirds and put each one of them  into each hole. At this point do not put the dirt back in the hole, just leave it for later. Then we cut a 2X4 into 2 pieces the same length as the distance of the posts we assembled in part 1 and screwed them in with deck screws. Please remember each 2X4 needs to be COMPLETELY level prior to attaching to the post, this is critical. Attach a 2X6 to the outside posts allowing them to sit directly on the 2X4 at each end of the project. Add qty 2 2X5 to the center 4X4 posts in the ground ( one on each side) and your substructure is complete. This certainly sounds complex but follow the pictures and it’s not all that complicated (see below).


In our next post we will add the decking and the ramp structures

Stay tuned and see you down at the barn






On our 12 year old grandson’s first full night back at the farm for the summer he had an experience that he will probably remember for the rest of his life. One of the last things we do each day is close up the chickens and ducks for the night. This keeps them safe from predators and mostly out of trouble. They naturally go in the barn when it gets dark so it doesn’t take long and it’s normally pretty uneventful.

The path to the chicken house borders a small forest which provides for a stunning view at dusk but also the echo of nighttime wildlife sounds of coyote, wild animals moving in the woods, birds and the occasional bobcat screech. After reaching the barn with his flashlight concentrated on getting through the fence apparently he didn’t see the danger lurking just a few feet away.  As he took a few steps toward the barn it happened, a small black streak pushed out of the night in his direction startling him as he jumped back away from the danger.

He had stumbled on a snake looking for eggs to eat (which are collected much earlier in the day) and was in no mood to be disturbed.

This was one angry snake.

In my opinion what he did next was pretty amazing. With the understanding that letting the snake get away (the easiest option) would be a continuing problem with lost eggs, there was no one coming to help and more importantly the snake could eventually bite someone in the family, he acted. Risking shock he pulled an end post from our electric fence and using the “sharp” end worked his way in close enough to subdue the predator (without giving the graphic details the snake wasn’t going anywhere).

At that point he ran back to the house asking me to use my pistol and that’s where I got all the details. In my “infinite wisdom” it didn’t seem like giving a very excited 12 year old boy a pistol in the dark to shoot a snake was a good idea so we went out and that’s where I saw his handiwork.

After I had dispatched the snake permanently and had a few minutes to think about recent events, I had to admit that this young man who I had helped raise almost since birth was turning into the man I always hoped he would be. On his own he was able to deal with a crisis under pressure, solving multiple problems on the fly and getting the issue resolved with the best possible result (I know MBA’s that can’t come even close to that).

For his actions under fire on that fateful night, Noah was awarded the Golden Possum, one of Possum Ridge Farms highest awards!!! (Okay, maybe he didn’t get an award but if I had one he surely earned it)


Until next time, see you down at the barn