Perfect tractor needs to have…

Since my recent rental of the next size up John Deere tractor I have decided to come up with some necessary items for the tractor I will be buying in 6 years. Some may say this is planning a little too far in advance but the blog is forever and these are good points.

1. I still need a small tractor. It has to be under 35 HP to operate the new hay equipment so 30 HP seems ideal as my current one is 25 HP.

2. It needs to have a comfortable seat. The new seat is not as comfortable as my old one. My old one is wearing out so I will need to research an aftermarket seat.

3. It needs to have a manual seatbelt. This is a must! The rental had an automatically retracting type and it does not stay tight enough. The manual one I can tighten down snug over my thighs and my butt stays in the tractor seat no matter how many bumps you hit!

4. Fuel efficiency is a must. In going up 5 HP my fuel consumption went up almost 50%. It was a dramatic change over my little tractor.

5. Some form of tool holder needs to be able to be mounted on the tractor. It is necessary.

6. The damn cup holder needs to be deep enough that the coffee cup cannot jump out of it when you hit a bump.

7. It needs to have 4 wheel drive.

8. Some form of secondary dust filtration system. Most tractors have a grate on front of tractor then there is a screen of some type over the radiator. I need a third line of defense. They also need to be easy to clean out. I work in lots of dust and dry weed debris. It clogs things up fast.

9. It needs to have chain hooks welded to the bucket. I can do this. This is such a lifesaver when it comes to lifting things with the bucket.

10. Rear hydraulic takeoffs. Need for hay equipment.

If I think up any more things I will be sure and write them down.

Saturday I had to go out into the rain to let the sheep into the barn. Once they figured out I was opening up a path to the barn they came running! I went in to check on my baby chicks and counted adult laying hens and there are only 8 left. They are slowly getting picked off! The predators are winning. I also had one dead chick. No apparent cause of death so now there are 24.

Tex was late this morning. I think he had forgotten we were working cows today. He was out by 0800. I had taken both border collies out to go get the cows pushed to the barn. I happened to find a deer shed almost buried in the ground. This is the second one in as many years that I know about. I have a buck tag but not sure it will get filled this year. I have only seen a few deer on the place. I will be doing some actual hunting at the end of the week.

Tex and I finally got the cows into the barn lot and managed to get the two 6 months cows sorted off as they will be going up with the steers for a while to get away from momma. Sorting off the three babies was not too bad as we were able to leave most of the cows in the main area. Once we had it down to three calves in the corral we were ready to start. I promptly dropped my castrating/tag bin off of the fence railing first thing. I definitely need to make a shelf for it so its not on the ground. Tex grabbed the first calf a little girl who is only a couple of weeks old. She bawled but he just picked her up so she could not fight. The other two calves were both boys. They also happened to weigh around 120-135#!! Luckily, I had grabbed two of the extra large bands for the bandarator as backup. Once Tex grabbed that first calf and threw it on the ground it was pretty obvious I was gonna have trouble. I tried but could only get one testicle in place. I switched to the large bandarator and it was smooth. For the last calf I placed the bandarator and tagging pliers in my back pocket loaded and ready to go. Tex tried multiple times to drop the calf and it kept getting back up. I finally intervened and ended up at the head of the calf on the ground with my left arm under the calf holding a front leg and the calf and I pinning my arm in place. I was over the calf’s shoulder and neck and Tex had the back two legs. I hollered for him to use the bandarator but it had fallen out of my pocket. He managed to get it and still hold onto the calf. After he banded it I worked my arm free and placed an ear tag. My back has been bothering me but had been improving. Wrestling a calf is not a good way to improve your back pain. The odd thing about the cows is we used tag #19 & 20 or the two boys and only #9 for the girl. Our sheep tag numbers are very similar but the cows not so much. This might explain why we band so many cows. Annmarie and I had been talking about moving the front porch stairs to over to in front of the actual door. The door used to be directly in front of the stairs but we moved it back to the original opening. To do this the evergreen shrubs needed to come out. The fire department guys had been warning me that they were a fire hazard anyways so I get to kill two birds with one stone. I was really afraid that the wood would be in worse shape than it was but it was okay. Amazing since no one has seen it in 30 years. We were able to use the tractor to pull the bushes out of the ground. I don’t think this would have been possible without all this recent rain.

Once we had cleaned up we popped the stepping stones out of the ground also and then hosed everything off to make the mud disappear.

I wanted to burn the scrap pile but it was not a burn day. So we are going to have to wait a little longer. I had Tex cut the bushes away from the house and the back tree was touching the house so it got trimmed back also. We found a huge 18″ bald faced hornet’s nest in the upper corner of the house. I had no idea it was there and its not visible from any of our doors or windows. Tex was knocking it down and as it started to fall I told him not to get any on him. He asked why and I said because the thing probably has hornets in it! He got a little panicked looked on his face but it was only 40 degrees outside so he had little to worry about. I went inside the house and unleashed an entire can of wasp/hornet spray on the ground and the overhead nest. They are no more.

Once all the leaves fall off the trees we will need to do some tree trimming. This upcoming weekend hopefully we can do more catch up.

14 acres so far planted for hay

One cannot just go to and work on the tractor in silence, you must have noise. Due to my hearing aides, I know have built in Bluetooth speakers in my ears at all times. The trouble with this is my cell phone really needs to be above my waist to make them work perfectly. My shirt yesterday did not have a zip up chest pocket so I started looking for my Tune Belt, 100% neoprene patented belt that will hold your Walkman but also fits my phone. This gem was recently discovered in a box I unpacked from the old house and I have now started to use it. I hunted high and low and could not find it. So I changed my long sleeve shirt to one with a zipper pocket and then found the Tune Belt in the closet by the front door. This is not it’s home so I moved it to the laundry room shelf so I could find it when it was needed.

I went out and disced the upper field with the rental tractor. The trouble was I thought I had two Clevis so I could hook the disc to the draw bar. I did not so I fashioned this concoction from available parts and used it for 5 hours. My pin is more C shaped now but it held for the entire time with no difficulties. I then went down with the mistress, my tractor, and used the power harrow/seeder to plant triticale. I had a hard time getting good penetration so I am unsure of how well it will do.

Today I finished planting the field that was prepped in the upper 7 acre field. I went over it with the power harrow first then went back over it again this time dropping seed as I went. I think this section, 3 acres, will take better. If not, it looks better and I hope all of it takes no matter how poorly it was planted.

After I finished with the upper prepped field I came back to the house. I have 2 acres still to mow, disc and plant in the upper 7 acre field.

I wanted to plant some more grass out in front of the house. I want to be able to test the new hay equipment somewhere I know there are no hidden obstructions. I had disced the area behind the machine shed yesterday so today I went over it 3 times with the power harrow. I filled the entire bucket with junk, mostly scrap metal. I finally had to go empty the bucket as the load was getting too heavy for the tractor.

Once I emptied the bucket I went over the field one more time while planting grass seed and got about a 1/4 of a bucket full of more metal! That was only one pass. It looks great and there are no obvious obstructions. Metal will continue to sprout out of the ground for the next 50 years I am sure. I even found two new 10′ chains, they each need a chain hook for one end but I am always needing more chain.

I am super happy with the power harrow. It has not broken any teeth and it has been getting beat up by the rocks and metal in the fields. So far its my favorite piece of new equipment. Honestly, since I have not used the baler or new mower it probably doesn’t count for much yet.

The field behind the grain bins had hardly any hidden objects. One 5 foot section of 2″ pipe and 4 very large rocks were the only major obstacles. I got it seeded also. I have planted 14 acres so far for hay, 9 acres of grass and 5 acres of triticale. I have 8-9 acres left to plant but it only 2 acres has been burned, the rest needs burned, mowed, disced, harrowed then planted. My vacation ends on Tuesday and we have a wedding on Sunday. Monday Tex and I are going to tag and band cows and sort off the calves that need weaned. I would also like to trim up our bush in the yard and possibly rip out the evergreen bushes in the front yard.

Getting ready for winter

Yesterday, I got up at 0408 and was out the door, after cooking myself breakfast by 0428. Now it was only a ham, egg and cheese hot sandwich but it was breakfast. I wanted to get out early while it was cool so I cold mow with the rental tractor and hopefully not have it overheat. It had headlights and I had already filled it with fuel the night before. It was only about 15 degrees cooler and I had to stop three times before it got light due to overheating. I even took an air tank down to blow out the radiator. This worked the first two times until I ran out of stored air.

Annmarie called me back up to the house to help her get dressed. She has had some horrible muscle spasms in her back. I did and she got a deep tissue massage and is on the mend now. She thinks she will now survive, yesterday she was not so sure.

After a few more hours I had to head to town to get money for the cow hay I was picking up today. I stopped at the bank, the bakery (a pastry of some kind was calling my name, it turned out to be a peach filled deliciousness), the coffee shop, the seed place (grain elevator) and then convenience store. The only place that did not bat an eye at my dust/soot covered countenance was the seed silo. He just wanted to know if I had an account, I don’t or had cash or check. I then mentioned that a pastry was going to save me as I had to get change to buy it and I needed $252 for the seed. I was saved by a pastry and a coffee!

While I was at the seed silo I enquired about winter beardless barley. Its what I really wanted to plant but they only had spring barley and I am not sure I can get into the mud pit this upcoming spring. I then asked about a grain based hay seed and the guy said “club wheat”. He said a lot of people are turning it into hay. It only cost $14/50#.
Annmarie and I had talked the night before and triticale had come up as we fed it one winter and all the animals liked it. So the triticale was only $18/50#. So I bought 800# of triticale seed for the upper 7 acre pasture. You are supposed to seed it at 80#/acre. Since there is no magical setting on the seeder and I have to guess and adjust on the fly I figured I better have a little extra.

I came home and planted 2 acres. The harrow had a hard time as the soil was hard, rock filled and there was a lot of plant matter. I had to adjust the seed rate several times and ended up planting the 2 acres and then opening up the seed grate and running over the entire two acres quickly with the harrow to get seed to drop out at the right rate.

Tex came first thing in the morning so we could tag and band the sheep before picking up the cow’s hay from a nearby seller. Tex used Daisy (his red heeler pup) to help move the sheep around. I had him keep her on a lead rope so she could not get away. At four months old she liked chasing the animals and was excited to work.

After we tagged and banded the left over sheep, I went to the post office to pick up our baby chicks! We ordered 25 pullets for $100 all inclusive cost. Since they have to be about 6 months old before they lay I like to start my chicks in the late fall so come spring time they are old enough to start laying and I feed them through the winter at their smallest. I usually brood them in the house for a couple of weeks but I just started them out in the coop this time. I had to send Tex to Pendleton as the rental tractor had a flat front tire. I took care of the chicks and setup while he got the tire fixed. Once he got back, I started driving the trailer back and forth to pick up our hay. Unfortunately, I can only carry 5 large bales at a time and I had to transport 36 bales, a total weight of 25 tons. In between trailer loads, Tex moved some old irrigation pipe, got the cow feeder panels into the bull Alcatraz and hooked up the seeder to my tractor.

My tractor came back from the shop today. Someone (had to be me, despite my lack of memory) put regular fuel into the diesel tractor. I didn’t really understand how bad this is. After the rental cost and tractor repair the wrong fuel mistake cost us around $1000, this was a very expensive lesson. I will now be buying a third yellow fuel can for diesel to prevent this in the future.

We got all the hay put away and ready. We were going to do cows today, but didn’t get done with hay until 1600. I was tired and did not want to go wrestle with cows so we will be doing cows on Monday!

My goal tomorrow is to disc the three acres I have mowed in the 7 acre field. I need to get the soil broken up and rocks picked so I can get in there with the power harrow and plant triticale. The goal is to get those three acres planted by tomorrow evening. That will leave me with two more acres still to mow and plant. The middle seven acre field needs burned and disced and mowed and some soil moved around. I am saving it for last.

After dinner, Annmarie asked me to go get the sheep. They were visible from the kitchen window. I put on my shoes and Annmarie asked me if I wanted the dogs, my reply “the sheep like me I won’t need them”. I called the sheep onto the back hillside but they did not want to come into the ram pasture. I ended up on the back hillside with the sheep spread out every where and no dogs. I tried to call Annmarie as I could see her through the kitchen window. NOPE, I had left my cell phone on the kitchen table. I went old school and pulled out my white handkerchief and started waving it around. It only took her about 2 minutes to spot me through the window! When she came out the door I hollered for her to let the dogs out. Five minutes later the sheep were in the ram pasture. I was still on the hillside and had asked Mouse to guard the gate opening. Zeke and I were ambling down the hill when I looked up and spotted mouse chasing down two sheep that had broken from the herd. I started hollering and he reached up grabbed the ewe by the throat and tossed her to the ground. It took him about 1 second to roll her onto the ground. He didn’t hold onto her neck as she dropped to the ground and when she got back up she went right back to the herd. This is why Mouse loves to work the cows, he can be very aggressive. This is why Zeke loves to work the sheep, he just needs to run around them and stare them into submission. Unfortunately for them both, they have to learn to do both.

Planting continues

Saturday morning I had just started to tear up the front hillside so I could plant clover when the tractor started to smoke and lose power. It would not go, so I had to call the dealer and arranged for a pickup on Monday. They do not lease small tractors so I had to call the rental place. Its $625/week or 40 hours whatever comes first.

So now we have a 31 HP John Deere tractor for one week so that I can hopefully get the planting completed. I spent all day Sunday planting. I love the new power harrow/seeder! It took some adjusting to get the seed rate set. I now have 9 acres planted in grass seed!

It rained again on Sunday but I just kept planting. I need to get that seed into the ground so that the seed can utilize the moisture available. We need the grass to grow and make tall green grass so we can make it into hay. I did somehow managed to bend the seed arm support bar. I am going to end up having to weld something that is a lot sturdier than those two small bolts that currently hold it in place. It functions even better than I expected, the only real problems is you have to crawl under it occasionally and pull out or cut out all the bailing twine or wire that has wrapped around the tines. The back roller can get filled with mud due to all the rain. The mud has to be dug out by hand. I use my pocket knife. I now carry two, one to dig with and one to cut twine.

The two completed fields look great and are very smooth and 99% rock free. I have had to pick rocks as I am planting.

I finished planting the test field out in front of the grain bins. I had some “cheap” grass seed that was a combination of seeds. It had Sainfoin in it but the problem with that is int only had 5% Sainfoin but those seeds are 5 times as big as grass seed. I had to open up the planter aperture about 5 times bigger than normal. I used up the whole 25 lbs of seed but I am not sure it made it through the whole field. I know for certain that at least 2/3 of the field has seed. We will know in the spring.

I also arranged to pickup 25 tons of large bale hay for the cows on Wednesday. Our 25 baby chickens come on Wednesday also! Plus, Tex is coming so we can tag and band sheep and cows! Its going to be a busy day.

Today I went up into the 7 acre pasture at the far end of the pasture. I tried to mow it with the rental tractor. I overheated it twice. In frustration I called the burn line and gave my permit number and lit the field up! Within 30 minutes, someone had called 911 to report a fire. I got the page and reminded everyone that I was fine and the fire was under control. Once the fire slowed down I got back on the tractor and mowed some more. I did clean off the radiator multiple times. My plan is to get up at O’dark 30 and mow while it is cool tomorrow. I hope it works. If I can get it all mowed I can start planting it also. We are still discussing what I am going to plant but this field still needs to have the Sumac cleaned up and the ditch repaired and a fence installed so I am going to have to be able to tear up the field.

Vacation day 4

Big surprise it was raining again this morning! I am never going to get the upper field burnt. So instead I went over the machine shop and started working on installing my flood lights on the tractor. It seemed like a straightforward kind of thing. There are even power takeoffs under the seat that run through the light switch so I can hook up power there. It took me a while to gets the lights assembled and mounted to the roll bar using hose clamps. Getting the clamps adjusted so that I can retighten all four at any moment took a few tries when I added the second light. I plugged one light in and got it to work. I did not have the right connectors and was able to find them in Pilot Rock amazingly. I broke two of them and never could get the light to work again. I made a second trip to Pendleton for another cable harness and could still not get it to work. They are Blazer brand lights and I do not know why they won’t work. I even checked all the fuses on the tractor and they were all intact. I swapped parts from both wire harnesses and still no joy. I finally gave up and taped off the light plugs to keep out the dirt and I am going to have to do some research. I don’t understand why they don’t work. I spent another 45 minutes trying to get the power harrow/seeder hooked up to the tractor then I spent another hour practicing in the practice field. I killed the tractor once by hitting a buried old spring tooth that got wrapped up in the power harrow. When I crawled under the harrow to get it out I ended up cutting off about 6 hay bale strings from the tines of the harrow. I had to stop several times and make adjustments to the harrow and I had to pick up all the rocks and twine I found. I filled up about half the tractor bucket with detritus. I did not try and plant any seeds. I am saving that for tomorrow. I still think I need to adjust the seed wheel to touch the ground 100% of the time. It looks so much better. If it takes off in the spring I may do the lower portion of this same field next year.

I managed to finagle the tractor into the front yard upper hillside and I will use the harrow to tear up the hillside so I can plant clover. We want to see if the clover can choke out the cheatgrass. Hopefully, this plan works.

So if you know anyone that can fix my tractor lights, please send them my way. Hopefully, Google knows something…

Vacation day 3

My staycation is not exactly going as planned. I had Tex on the agenda for three days in a row. He stood me up. His solution to not coming is to just ignore my text message. The nice part is he is self limiting on our checkbook and he works hard when he comes and we like having him, no one is perfect. There was so much rain that we were not going to get anything done outside. I hooked the tractor mower up and attempted to mow the next field (4 acres) then the upper prime pasture (7 acres) so I can use the power harrow/seeder on them. I had my rubber boots on, a pair of rubber bib overalls, a wool vest, and an old “waterproof” biking jacket and an oilskin cap. The biking jacket is NOT waterproof and the oilskin cap needs more oil. The rest of me stayed dry. So I will be looking online for a cheap waterproof jacket. I have been buying seconds and clearance from Sierra, I don’t get a color selection and my choices are limited but for 50-75% off of normal prices I can live with the inconvenience. I am only going to tear it up on the farm eventually. It may last 2-3 years if I am lucky.

I have decided that I need a speed knob for the steering wheel on the tractor. Going around in circles for hours on end it is a must accessory. I will try and pick one up in the next few days. My hands also got cold in the rain so I may try for some waterproof gloves also. There were a couple of acres of grass that look great! My hope is that by next year it all looks like this. We have had enough rain that the front upper spring is running almost the full length again. The upper prime pasture was starting to get some soft patches again. So I took the time to dig out one of the ditches where the surrounding ground was getting soft. I want the water to flow down into the middle channel and away from the field. When it dries out a little more I will spread out the dirt here and keep working on building this ground level up another 8 inches. If I got it elevated that much I don’t think this would be near the problem. It was so. Wet I could not dig the ditch any deeper, as there was no traction to push down into the dirt.

I have about 10 acres ready to be planted. I have another 15 acres that needs burned but it is just too wet to do any burning. Just tooling along I was not sinking into the ground but the minute you start to churn it up it is very muddy. There are approximately 80 sheep in this picture. I am always amazed at how empty the picture looks when we take the whole herd. “Oh yeah how are your 25 sheep?” “Well it’s really 80” and they are doing just fine.

I got so cold that I had to go inside and get in the shower to warm up in the early afternoon. I drove over to Hermiston to pickup our pig. We traded two sheep for a pig We pay for kill, cure, cut and wrap. Its a good deal for both parties. I also went to Home Depot to get some caps for the new fence but they did not have the kind I wanted to I ended up with a different kind. I will be installing them temporarily so we can see what they look like.

Vacation day 2

Tex was raring to go at 0700 today, he didn’t even bother coming inside just started digging the post holes we had started yesterday. I had filled them with water several times yesterday in hopes they would be easier today. Tex said they were much easier to dig today.

We set the first three posts, installed the woven wire by using the pneumatic staple gun to hold it to the 4×4 then installed the 2×6 boards. Once that was all done we hung the first gate, a 4′ human gate that we will use on a daily basis. While Tex worked on installing the hinges I stapled the wire to the backs of every 2×6. This stiffens the wire so the dogs cannot think they will be able to push through.

We installed the middle gate post next then wired the 10′ gate up to it and installed the post for the next gate. Again, we put up all the posts, the wire and the three boards before we hung the gate off of the end post. Both gates work very well, there is a high spot in the yard that the larger gate hits and will need to be knocked down with the box blade later. It was noon at this point and Tex had to run home so we took a lunch. I went in and sat down for almost an hour. I forget how tiring it can be to work with Tex a 22 year old hardworking person.

Again, by 1500 we had the fence pretty much knocked out. I was even able to use the tractor to level out the area beyond the fence so its not a hazard in the winter to go to the chicken coop. There were a couple of holes that you didn’t want to inadvertently step in or you risked falling down in the snow.

I even remember to go out and check on the nectarine tree. I picked the last two left on the tree as the other 16 had fallen off. I was late, they were very good as we ate them for desert after dinner. Tomorrow we will finish cutting the boards hanging over the ends of the fence. It is raining again tonight so I will be able to put off painting the fence until next year.

Annmarie complained of both Gizmo and Mouse smelling tonight so she gave Gizmo a bath and I did the border collie, Mouse. As soon as I had him dry he wanted to go outside which is normal for them. I let him in five minutes later and he is covered in dirt up to his chest! I had to take him outside this time, hose down his legs and then he tracked wet paw prints all over the downstairs floor. Both dogs smell much better!

We have several in yard projects tomorrow to finish as I don’t believe I will be able to burn due to the rain. I will try and write it all down in the morning during coffee. It is raining again and currently in the last 24 hours we have received just over 1/2″ of rain! Mother Nature just does not want to cooperate with me.