Micro Hay equipment, its a thing

Well Tex came out this morning and while we were eating breakfast “Slim” came out. She is Tex’s little sister and she has agreed to dig out the chicken coop and the barn and do a few odd chores this summer. I set her up with instructions on how to clean out coop, we found all the tools and I got her some bleach, a rag and a bucket for after it got cleaned out. Tex and I went out to the machine shed to attempt to get the micro baler hooked up. This proved difficult at best as the first PTO shaft was too long, so we added the quick connect to get three inches more away from the tractor. The PTO shaft just did not want to go on. We then had to change out the posts and adjust everything to get the dang thing lined up correctly. We also had to put in a quart of gear oil into the baler. I was a little surprised by this as the thing is brand new and has not been leaking at all. We managed to read the instructions a couple more times and drove up to the second field to try it out.

Tex went with me as we figured there would be a learning curve. This was a major misstatement as we managed to only make two bales in the first hour and could not get either one of them wrapped in twine. They were totally naked. We managed to shear off two shear bolts and discover that a pair of spring wire pliers are needed to correct this issue. I do not own a pair of said pliers so I did it by hand, which is never fun. I finally got three bales done correctly and Tex went off to work on the machine shed while I tried to figure it out.

Tex outsmarted himself as doubling the row widths caused a ton of problems. The rows are too wide and too much material is present. We would have been way better off had he not done it. It made baling it a lot harder. I spent 3 hours on the tractor and got 119 bales done. Two boxes of baling twine are not going to be enough. We are using a lot of twine. I managed to mess up two bales and had to lift the dump part manually twice. The second time I had to go get Tex, damn thing is just getting heavier and heavier.

Each bale is supposed to weigh around 50#, I went down to the machine shed to get Tex so I could show him how to bale and give him some tips to avoid issues. He was working with Slim and they had gotten 8 sheets of plywood up on the walls. I showed Slim a few more things I wanted done in the chicken coop and she set right to work. I had told her first thing this was only a one day job and she did it! She just dug in and did the job!! So nice and refreshing.

I ran back to town and got 10 gallons of diesel and 10 more rolls of twine so Tex will be able to hit it hard first thing at 0900 tomorrow. When I come home from work I will relieve him and go until dark. The race is on now to get it all done. It does not look like we already have almost 5 ton of hay baled. I think we are going to have over 1000 bales in just the first field only.

It must be even

It had rained the days before so we did not want to cut any new hay. Instead we planned on turning hay. I had a funeral to go to so we got Tex all set up with our new 5 foot power rake. He will turn all the hay this Saturday. This rake will let you pile it all up into a row. I had visions of Tex just following the rows that the mower created. he did one better! He went down one side of the row then at the end of the row he turned around 180 degrees and went the opposite direction allowing the row to double in size and cut the number of rows in half. This was very clever and not something I would have thought of had I done the turning.

Before I left in the morning Tex and I planned out our needed improvements to the machine shop. One of the rafters is broken, we need a bunch of plywood to line the hay room to keep the round bales in and the loose hay out of the new gravel area. We also need to install the bolt and screw organizers that were laying on the floor of the machine shed. I need to get all the bolts and screws organized and out of the multitude of drawers I currently have them in. I am also going to hang some bin organizers on one wall. I need to mount these to a sheet of plywood, so we will be hanging a few sheets up on the walls for future use. We also need to make legs for the new free countertops I managed to snag on the way home this week. Every once in a while those “Free” signs are a big win.

I went to my least favorite big box store and picked up plywood and lumber with a few Knick nacks. I had to wait 30 minutes for help loading plywood as there was only one guy who could do it. There are reasons I dread Home Depot, but I spend so much money there I get the zero interest for 6 months on my charge card and always pay it off in time. I love that deal!! Plus on Saturday at 1600 there is no other place in the area open to buy lumber.

I knew I needed some more baling twine, but with micro equipment I was unsure where I was going to get it. The salesman on the phone seemed to think I could get it anywhere. So I found it at a local store and bought two small, 5000 feet rounds. They did not have Jute cord like the free roll I got with the baler but they had lots of types of plastic cord to pick from. I was not sure if they would fit but its all they had and something is better than nothing.

When I got home and published the blog last night Annmarie spotted the uneven gates on the new stretch of fence. She mentioned that would need to be corrected tomorrow. I told her hay came first but I would think about how to fix it without spending 10 hours reworking two rock cribs.

Weather not cooperating

Star, our very distinct Dexter cow (she has a white tail), had her first baby and it’s still alive. I drove up the paved road by the schoolhouse and saw her with her baby. We had not seen the baby for a few days and were wondering if it had made it. It is the first brown spot standing to the left of her in the picture. Honestly, its there. It rained on Wednesday so no haying for me. This was good as I had other things to catch up on. Our front yard is getting hip high. Its the best looking grass field on the place.

Tex came out today, he is officially done with school for the summer so I will be loading him up. I had a hankering for Pasta Carbonara for breakfast today. One of my favorite Medics use to make it when he would float up to our Lifeflight base. He used to say it had all the breakfast food you needed, a meat, eggs, cheese, and a carbohydrate, the perfect one dish meal. So I had it ready to go at 0700 sharp. Tex ate about half and I told him that was great as we would be eating the same thing for lunch! He was not opposed to this concept. At lunch when Annmarie was critiquing my breakfast options I chimed in and said Tex would love it if I served pizza for breakfast. He emphatically cheered that idea as good enough to do one morning.

He worked on getting the slash pile next to the house built up and the pine trees I cut down two years ago cut up. I worked on trying to get a weed eater to work so that our daughter could start in on our jungle of a yard. I finally managed to get one started after 30 minutes and another YouTube video. I then had to swap out the head for one my progeny could use without instructions. She ended up weed eating for 5 hours and only has about 10 left, it builds character. After we got the first slash pile created we went out into the orchard and patched a wash out near the fence that the flooding created. One of the sheep had slipped out and spent five days hollering for its mom. It was old enough to wean so I ignored it. Today while we were working in the orchard the sheep ran out onto the back hillside. They were tired of the confined orchard. We cleaned up and readied a second slash pile in the orchard. We would have torched them today but the wind was blowing pretty hard and I did not want the flames and heat going near the live trees.

Near lunch time I was giving direction to the child when she reached over and started trying to pet my beard on the right side. She muttered something about my beard being messy but I ignored it. After lunch we went out and started back in on that section of fence we have been at for a month. We had to hand dig three holes and then set three wooden posts. This doesn’t sound horrible except we use a metal breaker bar as a gravel tamper so it gets mighty heavy before the post gets set. Once done that post is solid and not moving. I picked up some near brand new 4′ woven Red Brand wire from the scrap yard. It was perfect and allowed us to use it only and no smooth wire installation was required.

I thought I had the gate opening distance correct but Tex had to keep redoing it. We finally had to start over and add two wooden posts to the outside of the rock crib. It doesn’t make for a very aesthetically pleasing look but its very functional and the gate will now open far enough for me to pull a trailer through. The creek crossing has been removed. It was the hardest to take down in a runoff situation and will make it much safer for me.

We ran the fence over a rock bluff so I ended up having to build an old fashioned rock crib. I have just a few old wooden posts hangin around. They are all cedar and I trimmed or split them to get them to fit the new rock crib. I also pushed a couple of very large rocks over so that the animals cannot push on the bottom of the fence forcing the fence up and sideways.

The lovely hay grass field you see in the foreground of the below picture is really our front lawn. It seriously needs to be mowed. The weather looks not very good so here’s to hoping it does not rain tonight.

When I came in for the night Annmarie started chiding me about taking a shower immediately. Not because I was dirty but because I had a rooster tail in my beard. I held out for another 15 minutes before heading to the bathroom. This was my first visit of the day, as the entire great outdoors was my urinal all day long. Holy smokes! I had this huge sticky out rooster tail on one side only of my beard. I had it all day long. Guess how many times TEX commented on my lack of grooming skills? None, Nada, Nothing all day long!!!

Haying virgin

The farm parts place came through in spades! My new driveshaft came in on Monday and I was able to pick it up that evening. Now it was 28″ and would need to be cut down but I had purchased a grinder that went with the new 60V DeWalt battery. It is amazing! There is no noticeable difference between the battery grinder and a plug in one other than pure convenience. Electric tools had to be able to get there eventually.

On Tuesday afternoon I cut the driveshaft, attempted to install it and had to cut another 2″ off to make it fit properly, this took a while. I was now ready to cut some hay!

This is me ready to cut some hay. I spent another 30 minutes on the internet and watching YouTube videos trying to figure out how to rotate the drum to behind the tractor for transport. I never did figure it out. Yes I read the instruction manual, but it was originally written in Italian and then translated into English. There were about 20 pages of how not to cut your hands or feet off because the mower blades are rotating. So this means I cannot go through narrow gates, it is possible but it does limit the gates that I can use.

I fired up the drum mower and started to mow in the cow pasture. I figured it was a great place to start and work out the kinks. Yes, there is a learning curve on where you can drive and how fast you can drive. After about an hour I started to hear this thunking noise. I finally stopped the mower, lifted it and waited for the blades to stop. The blades actually take about a minute to stop rotating and after hitting a rock and slicing it in two I figured out why the manufacturer had 20 pages of instructions on how not to slice off a body part.

There was a skid plate off of the bottom of one of the two drums that had come loose and was held on by a single bolt. Three bolts had already fallen out. I attempted to take a bolt out of the intact side but was unable to get one loose. So I had to take the loose one out, it came out with my fingers and then I went to Pendleton. Everything is from Italy, so it’s all going to be Metric. I had my fingers crossed and hoped I could find replacement bolts. I found 6, I needed 3 but they only had them in alloy not stainless steel like the ones that fell out. So I grabbed all the alloy they had and went home. I was putting the third one in when I realized something was different about the drum plate I was installing and the intact one. There were 14mm spaces between the bottom of the drum mower and the skid plate. There were no spacers when I found it. So, I had to go back to town and find something that could act like a spacer. I did and managed to get them installed. This is the loaner mower!

I started mowing again and just kept going until 2230 at night. I am definitely going to have to invest in some kind of aftermarket lights for the roll bar. There is 300# of antique tractor weight discs in the tractor bucket to offset the mower weight. So when I get the bucket high enough into the air to see with the headlights the tractor becomes very top heavy. I almost tipped it over twice. If I had roll bar lights I could keep the bucket closer to the ground and it would be much safer.

I came back on Wednesday and was able to finish both fields by 2100. So about 11 acres cut in 11 hours. Now I think in all reality that number could be 11 acres in 6 hours without the breakdowns and learning curve. Its supposed to rain.

Three more projects

We got back from California last week and I proceeded to dig back into the farm on Sunday. Tex watched our animals while we were gone and everyone survived. I decided I needed to try and finish up the short stretch of fence we have been at for a month. I finished filling the rock crib on the left and topped off the other one that Tex had filled. I then went up and started to dig a hole for the middle support railroad tie. The ground is pretty much fist sized rocks the entire way down. I managed to get about 1.5 feet down and decided to call it a day as I had enough dealing with rocks. I swapped out the box blade on the tractor and hooked up the mower. I wanted to try and get the property out by the cars mowed down. I also figured I could mow a path for the new fence that needs to go in down by the creek. My grant is approved so now I just need to get cracking on the new fence. The first step is to use string and spray paint to mark out the fence. Once that is done we can start pounding T posts into the ground, after I buy them. The paint will give me an accurate count so i don’t over purchase.

While I was down by the school house I realized I needed to get the irrigation water back into the ditch. It had been flood irrigating the lower bottom but I need to get in there and cut for hay. To do this without sinking the tractor I need the bottoms to dry out some. So I dug out the ditch and got all the water flowing down the ditch again. I should be able to cut hay by the end of the week. Since I managed to forget my hat in California I had to be super careful of the sun. I ended up with a lobster skull for several days and didn’t want to make it worse. So I had lots of protective gear. If I wear all this getup I can spend all day out in the 100F beating down sun and not get burned.

“Star” our white tailed cow, had her baby on Sunday. I know this as the baby was still wet and sitting up when I went by her and mom on the tractor. They looked good. Most likely Star will hide the baby for the next couple of weeks and we won’t spot it. If we don’t see it in another week I will go down and look for it. At that point I will just be trying to confirm it died. Hopefully she is just hiding it from prying eyes.

The cows are no different than the sheep, one adult female becomes the babysitter and is responsible for corralling and entertaining all of the babies. I have yet to figure out how they choose whose turn it is today or this week to watch the babies but it is better to avoid this appointment. There are enough babies now that that appointee has to actually work.

The holiday afforded me the time to get all of my outside mowing completed. I will be haying by the end of the week.