Bully for us

This week I have been trying to work on the bull enclosure. The best part of this is after last weekend I went and got a load of hay and had Mr Consumer unload it while I was at work! This is the absolute best way to move hay, by not moving it at all and letting someone else do it.

I decided to change my name for Mr Consumer. Its a big deal for me as I don’t usually do this but I just cannot pass up the opportunity to use a better one. His mother calls him Bubba! I cannot make this up and it is way cooler than my name! So I am switching forever and ever, this one time.

My nephew has been coming out to the house in the late evenings to help me out. We are focusing on the bull enclosure. Its slow going but we have been able to sink 6-8 posts every night. We are setting each post with gravel instead of putting the dirt back. This means we are staying out till 2130on the nights we can work. This means I just come home, eat dinner and then head out to the barn lot to work. This only works 2-3 evenings a week but it is a little more done every day and ultimately it will be done if I just keep at it.

The only lousy part is we are having to manually dig the holes the rest of the way. My tractor just won’t do it. A 16 pound breaker bar will move a lot of rocks a little way then we manually dig them out of the holes. Most of the time you have to dig them out by hand as the post hole digger doesn’t grab the rocks. It is amazing how you can literally break a rock in half with a steel bar and enough effort. I can tell we have been at this for over three weeks, my T-shirts are starting to not be as loose on me from the upper body muscles compensating for the hard work. Now if only this would contribute to a six pack ab set without having to work at it!

We are reusing some old cedar posts in an effort to keep costs down. I am hoping they will hold but the only real way to test this theory out is to build it, put the bull in there and see how it works. So we are going to do a trial by fire after completion.

Hay moving time again

Mr Consumer has been out helping me again. I have had him on the tractor discing up the two upper fields. I am going to try and level out the middle field as it is pretty uneven and see if I cannot get it flatter so it will be easier to hay next year. I was able to spend a few hours at it one evening this week working until dark. My wife was out of town and so there was no curfew to come inside and relax. It was just the mistress and I for a few hours. The fields are all disced up now and I will spray them this week or the weekend at the latest to keep the weeds knocked down. This will allow us to disc it one more time and then a friend will bring in his big tractor in the fall for a day and condition the field then I can plant alfalfa. I am getting super excited about doing our own hay next year!

I am especially excited after having to pay for hay again this year and moving all the 65-80# bales. These are light compared to the 110# bales we had two years ago. I am too old and those are too heavy. After moving 8 ton in a day I am bushed, beat, exhausted, stick a fork in me done! Our new bales will only be 50#. They will be round, but since we are stacking them in the barn that won’t be a big deal as the walls will keep them from rolling away.

Mr Consumer and I stacked 8 ton yesterday and another 8 ton today. The stack just gets higher every time we bring in more hay. In the barn we can stack the bales 12 high and it is done all by hand. I have the used elevator I got last year but it needs some welding repairs and since I am taking the welding class this fall, all welding projects have been delegated to next year.

We stacked a total of 9 ton in the machine shed over the weekend. We stacked it high in the middle so that I can lay down a couple of sheets of plywood and fix those broken supports in the roof I broke out last year with the old tractor. It will be a lot easier to work on a six foot ladder than a 16 foot ladder.

I will work on getting the lumber to fix those next week. Things are starting to come together. The bull enclosure is my single big project, if I can get that done then I think I can get the barn addition frame work done this summer. I have a few more fences I want to install but honestly its too late to be fencing. I need to do that next spring.

The machine shed gate got hooked by a trailer so I will have to repair that now. I have learned that anything can be repaired and things will go wrong or break all the time. You just keep moving forward and fix them as they come.

I am going to let Mr Consumer unload the trailer while I am at work! I plan on getting a load every evening and letting him unload it the next day. This is by far and away the best way to unload hay!

This is our club wheat crop this year. It is probably the best crop we have had since we have been back to the farm. I will get a shot once it has all turned a golden color.

If only it were easy

I really want to get the bull enclosure finished but it is turning out to not be an easy project. My choice of locations is making it difficult. There is a hidden solid rock bluff just under the dirt on this hillside. This is good as the soil never really grows anything but bad when you talk about actually trying to drill a hole in the ground. Sarah came out to help me and she proved valuable. Its funny, I am not sure if I will ever outgrow riding my child verbally to work faster and hit harder even though she is an adult. I did the same thing when she was a child. It went well and she kept calling dibs on moving the tractor so I was hoofing it around the barn lot. I am trying to reuse some of the old cedar posts that have been on the farm 50+ years. I don’t want to put a railroad tie into every hole as there are over 50 holes and a railroad tie is $20/each nowadays. We are not certain the bull wont push over the posts so it is a guessing game. I am going to create solid corners and then anchor the two posts next to the corner on either side together with an overhead wooden support. This should keep the bull from tearing up the corners. I have put in one rock crib on every stretch and may have to put in two to keep him from pushing the fence outwards. We will see how it goes as we actually start building the fence. We are still just drilling holes and have managed to get 9 posts set in gravel and 6 more dropped in holes. I set all my wooden posts in gravel now. They stiffen up much nicer and I am hoping that they last longer, time will tell.

This corner arrangement will have a triangle shaped rock crib between these posts. The posts are 8 feet apart and my lovely wife tells me that is 32 Sqft. It will be four feet high so I am betting it will take about four hours just to fill this single corner up with rocks. I have five cribs so far that will take at least 16 hours just to collect rocks off the hillside and fill them up. On the plus side it does help cut down on the rocks on the hillside but since we are pretty sure rocks grow there it is an ongoing battle.

I had better luck digging some of the holes by hand. I could manipulate the smaller hand tool to get through the clay faster. I may even need to take a metal file to the teeth of the auger on my tractor. I can knock off the burrs and sharpen the auger teeth, the problem is if I do this it will dig faster but every time I hit a rock I will cringe even more than I do now and I hit a lot of rocks when digging holes!

This week I was looking out the kitchen window and realized that it just looked weird. The light was very dull and the ground was a very unnatural color. I ran out the front door with my cell phone and took the above purple blue tinged picture from the front porch. I wanted one without the power lines so I walked across the bridge and stood on my trailer. This took maybe a minute, what a difference that minute made in the view. Five minutes later this was all gone. It was an amazingly beautiful sight and one of my favorite pictures from the farm.

Holes and more holes

Its fathers day today so i did what any father would do and worked all day on the farm. I wanted to see if I could get all the holes for the bull enclosure done today. It was a solid attempt but it did not happen. I have about 20 holes completed and another 10 about 2/3 done and only about three just started. I have one corner that I just cannot get to drill. I very well may have to form a rock crib between the three posts near the corner. I already think I will have to do this on two other corners also. This means I am up to five rock cribs already. That is a lot of rock to have to carry in the tractor. I hate carrrying rock, it is inherently heavy! I realize that this may seem obvious, but until you have done it for five plus hours it is not obvious. I dug holes until Sarah called me into the house for my Father’s Day presents. I ate lunch while we planned out the rest of the week. She is going to come out and help me put posts into the ground starting tomorrow. I have been looking around at what to use for posts. I only have about 15 railroad ties on the farm, but I have a whole pile of old heavy duty cedar posts left over from the farm. I am going to use those not on the corners and high stress points on the fence. I think I will be able to get all the posts into the ground without having to buy any new ones. I have all the 2×6 boards and just need to get some cow panels and woven fencing. I even think I have about 12-15 cow panels over in the pile so I may have enough of those to cover the metal panels. It is all starting to come together. Getting those posts in the ground and set is the single biggest hurdle I need to overcome. After that things will start to just fall into place.

The stupid sheep got out today. Remember I let them out onto the back hillside yesterday? Well I did not go up and drop the fence panels over the back creek as there is no more running water. They climbed out through the creek. I took the border collies out and Mouse wanted to chase the sheep and Zeke ran off to the right after I told him to circle around and had to pee on three bushes. I almost lost my voice again before I had the sheep back in. I might complain about them but I had the sheep back in the correct field in under ten minutes with me having to holler at both dogs. Mouse just wants to work, Zeke wants to screw off and chase rodents. I want to leave the sheep on the back hillside until they have it eaten down. I will need to check for water in the upper prime pasture tomorrow. We have a few cows locked in there and eventually that water supply will disappear.

I tried to get my disc set put and going and the second set broke off. I need to get a new plate welded onto it. I had to break two bolts to get it apart and managed to get one set up to the field. I threw on a few hundred pounds of weight to get it to dig into the ground. I am hoping Mr Consumer can drag it around the field tomorrow. This is a stupid problem and one that my welding class is going to fix this fall, but that does not help me currently.

Drilling for oil

I wasn’t done mowing but I had the highlights done and that bull enclosure is not building itself. Saturday Mr Consumer came out to help me. I had not gotten the tractor from out of the field yet so I had him mow the yard while I went to get the tractor. This worked out well as he managed to mow the entire lawn while I got the tractor and got it refueled. We hooked on the auger. I keep tying to teach him how to hook the pto drive on and off but he is not getting it. He hasn’t managed to successfully get it on or off yet. I started to drill holes and had him go get the post hole digger and a shovel. He came back with two T post drivers and a shovel… I gave more descriptive instructions as to what a post hole digger looked like. He came back with one the second time. I had him dig out the holes and then fill them with water from the front creek. The ground is too hard and I could not dig the holes down to as far as needed. I was hoping that after the water soaked in I would be able to get down the three feet. If not then I will have to build more rock cribs and I really don’t want to do that.

At 1130 Mr Consumer tells me he has to go. He actually had to tap my leg as I had closed my eyes and was resting while digging a hole. The tractor movement is like an adult bouncy chair. It will lull you right into a calm sleepy state. It was taking 20 minutes to get one hole into the ground. I continued to drill holes. I marked out the entire area with paint and attempted to get every hole started. I had about 10 holes left to start when I was done. I filled all the incomplete holes, all but the five I actually managed to finish, with water. My hope was on Sunday I could finish.

Gizmo has a hole in the yard. I am unsure where it is currently as I have plugged three already this weekend. He keeps coming out into the barn lot and hanging out with me. He wanders around then just lays down and watches me. At this rate I may be able to teach him how to herd sheep. The barn lot is pretty much dead and no grass left. The horses are not happy. I had to let the sheep out onto the back hillside but the horses are stuck to the barn lot. I am feeding them hay again.

Playing catch up

Friday was catch up day for me. I keep trying to get outside after work during the week but it never seems to get me any where. I really need to work on the bull enclosure but our weeds are getting out of control.

So I spent the day mowing. I mowed the small field down by my mother-in-laws house then went around the property out on the road and up past the school house. We have a gate into the property at the top of the hill. I broke the tightener handle and had a heck of a time getting the gate shut. Sooner than later I am going to need to install a metal gate at that entrance. I have been thinking about gates. I have several small ones and multiple odd sizes laying around. I think I am going to start hanging two gates of various sizes across openings so that I don’t have to go buy new gates. Recycle and reuse is my motto when it comes to fencing.

I still need to put in both those culverts in the lower field. I can barely get across the ditch with the mower on the tractor. It’s a whole lot of boring. Just sitting on the tractor going around and around. I made it till 1630 when the engine light came on signaling it was too hot. I had cleaned off the intake once already. When you get into the dry grass and cheatgrass it clogs up things fast. So I took the engine key and propped up the hood to let things cool off. It was a sign of quitting time!

I found a couple of low spots where the water was coming over the side of the ditch out into the field. I dug out two of those spots to promote these outlets. I really need to take a tarp and some boards down and see if I cannot get the entire ditch to flood out and then just move it a couple of times a week.

The back creek is now dry behind our house. But when you go down by the school house it runs for a few hundred yards above ground before disappearing again.

The baby calf was with his momma and very active. The cows like the tractor as it always brings food so they always come see me when I drive it out into the field.

Was gonna move hay

I had big plans for Saturday, I was going to move 25 tons of hay into the barn. To accomplish this gargantuan task I had enlisted the help of three teenagers. That is a lot of hay and I have yet to get the hay elevator working yet. It needs to be welded on and since I have signed up for the welding class this fall I am unwilling to pay to have the current five things (kitchen table, horseshoe gate latches, welding table repair, stairway fixation point and hay elevator) that need welded completed. I would rather pay the $350 and buy my own welder and save myself a few hundred dollars. This means another year of muscle power to get all the hay manually stacked into the barn.

I have decided that I need to make a key of knick names and keep it on the refrigerator just to keep names straight in the blog. I had to go back and search the archives to make sure I kept the same names for two of my helpers Saturday. I had simply called them the “Brothers”. This lumps them togoether and is not very descriptive so I have created an addendum and will now be referring to them as Thing 1 and Thing 2. I recognize this may seem odd but trust me after spending all day getting them to work together, defend each other, pick on each other, telling them not to whack on each other with sticks this is very apropos.

I sent a text to my hay supplier stating that I would not be picking up hay as it was raining! Unbeknownst to me Saturday had a 70% chance of rain and it turned into 100% for most of the day.

The Brothers showed up early so they hung out while I made breakfast. I managed to talk them into some sausage eventually. Last time they were out I made homemade sourdough waffles for everyone. My third helper arrived and we all headed out to the barn. I was not going to build fence in the rain and mud but I figured we could do something in the barn. There is always something that needs to be done. I had the late arrival start on cleaning out the hay room while Thing 1 and Thing 2 started to sort lumber up on the gangway. I wanted it separated out and all the 2×6 removed so we could extend the gangway over all the sheep feeders. This would let me sort out all the lumber available. Its hard to find stuff or even know what you have if you cannot see it or are just guessing about what is at the bottom of the pile. I went to the old house to grab tools and to string up a couple of extension cords to the barn. It took some direction to get the Brothers to realize what a 2×6 actually looked like. We finally managed to get them all down on the barn floor so we could see what was usable. I had kept all the 2×6 from the roof section that had blown off the barn. They had a lot of splits and cracks in them but I was able to find good usable wood and we worked on getting the gangway extended. Thing 2 and myself extended it another 24 feet. I had Mr. Consumer and Thing 1 take the hay elevator out to the lamb shed and lash it to the upright poles horizontally. I have yet to actually go out and verify how this turned out. They came in at one point and asked me how to work a tie down, I showed them and sent them back out to finish the job. Thing 2?has some mechanical ability so he helped me with the construction and eventually was able to do the cuts for me while I installed them. There was lots of hollering about pinching the blade, creating a workbench side, starting the blade up to full speed before touching the wood and to position himself directly in line with the wood to allow for a straight cut. After a calm discussion or two I would holler “pinched wood!” “Start the blade first!” “No wonder you cannot cut a straight line, you have to be behind the side you cannot just reach to the side!” I did actually congratulate a job well done, occasionally. He was much improved by the end of the day. Once this was done I had the boys help me remove all the wood from the L shaped granary and pile it up in the barn. Mr Consumer stood by the barn door and tossed all the scrap wood I handed or tossed his way outside to be burnt. The Brothers had to carry all the large pieces out to the barn floor. I am positive that Mr Consumer had figured he had the best job until I spotted a large black and white fur ball on the floor hidden under some wood and informed Mr. Consumer that he would be disposing of the dead skunk! He did bitch slightly but I told him he had made a choice to take the easier job of the three and his choice may have been the easier choice but the consequence of said choice was that he got to move the dead skunk as his job was to remove the trash from the barn. We had a couple minute discussion on how sometimes our choices lead us down paths we don’t expect but it was our choice and we have to live with our personal decisions. I had to keep digging through the lumber to get to the body as it was buried. Turns out it was just a furball from the packrat! He did not have to deal with a dead skunk but the anticipation and dread served its purpose.

I had Mr Consumer and Thing 1 go out and remove the “stairs” (pallet concoctions that will hold a horse!) and sweep under and behind them. Every year they had slid away from the barn a couple of inches. I blame the horses for this but regardless there was about an eight inch gap filled with straw. They cleaned it out and I screwed in a 4×4 at the front of the stairs once they were back in place. They can no longer slide away from the wall. This will make Sarah and Annmarie happy. The Brothers reminded me of lunch time at 1205. They have worked with me before and know that one must be vocal if one wants to get fed on time. Mr Consumer brought his own lunch. I did not expect this and ended up with an extra 18 inch hoagie in the fridge. We ate on the front porch as Mr Consumer and Thing 1 had started digging feces covered straw out of the barn and did not smell the best. As we ate lunch I watched two different washed and cut fruits in separate bags emerge from the lunch pail. Meanwhile, the Brothers and I are wolfing down meat and cheese hoagies and Doritos. I enquired as to whom had prepared his lunch? Drumroll please! What 16 year old boy puts TWO types of fruit in his lunchpail? You are all correct, his mother did it and a name was born, Mr Consumer. He ate every bit of his lunch.

This L shaped room just needs a door on the outside of the barn, a door on the inside and we need to move the grain separater over to the old chicken coop. Its an antique, of which I have no idea what I am going to do with it but for now it will be moved to the old chicken coop. I also have a four inch auger almost 28 feet long in two sections. All of this needs to be moved out. None of that can happen until I get the Bull enclosure completed.

Mr Consumer got both hay rooms organized and cleaned out. They are all ready for new hay to be placed. I think we have enough straw to get through the winter.

I ended up raising the door height on the momma enclosure and raising the back wall. This should prevent the sheep from jumping out now, I hope. The back Y gate also had four inches cut off of the bottom. I had not accounted for any straw being on the ground when I installed it the first time and this made it near impossible to work the door. I also cut off an inch from the bottom of the tack room door for the same reason.

After the long day I was cooking myself dinner and looked out and spotted this brand new baby calf on the back hillside! It was standing up and walking around while momma just sat and chewed her cud. It was an incredibly productive day and now I need to get the fields mowed and disced again then I can start in on the bull enclosure. Those fields need to be ready in the fall for alfalfa. A friend of ours is looking into getting me 150# of Round up ready alfalfa. I have a Monsanto ID number now so I can buy it. I am told it is very expensive but we need it as I will be able to spray Round Up on it to keep the weeds and cheat grass under control as it establishes itself. We only need one cutting from it next year.