Forever Friday 11/42

Sunday was spent doing a few inside chores then going outside to push the large bales together from Saturday. The bales are too heavy to lift with my little tractor as it only lifts 800#. I left the manure forks on the bucket so that gave me another 20” of pushing ability. I figured out quickly when filling up the machine shed that it was possible to get a second layer of bales lifted onto the first with some appropriate juggling. Push the potential top bale within about three feet of the bottom row, then stand it up on end and then quickly push the top so it is now leaning upright. Then take the tractor bucket and put it under the bottom of the bale, reach back and lower the box blade to prevent you from tipping sideways or backwards. As you lift the bale, back the tractor up this will cause the bale to pivot and allow you to lift it so it is parallel to the top of the bales then quickly push it forward onto the top of the stack! Now you have double stacked the bales! This sounds easy but it took some trial and error and the tractor being on two opposing tires before I managed to perfect the technique. The alpaca are loving the all you can eat buffet. They are so lazy they will lay down and eat. We have all the hay we need for winter on the farm. I would still like to get 2-3 tons of straw for the barn floor and some protein tub licks for the cows.

Annmarie saw a video for onion jam over the weekend so she made some yesterday. It doesn’t have a lot of ingredients but it does take about two hours to cook down and caramelize the onions. She made four pints with 8 pounds of onions. We are going to see how it does, its for meats and soups as a spice. If we like it we will be doing it again next year but may have to buy some onions.

Monday I puttered around the house in the morning, made bacon and eggs for breakfast and ended up outside in the afternoon. I had plans for Mr Ears to dig out the holes for the bridge footings but he was unexpectedly detained and unable to come out to the house. So instead I painted a spot out for both footings and dug one out! It was not easy between the tree roots and buried rocks. I had to use the breaker bar most of the time and only had to break two rocks in half that I could not get out. I set the blocks so they are overlapping and then back filled around them. I will pound in rebar next then we will fill them all with concrete. I want to make one sold piece of concrete for the footing so when it floods again the footings just stay in place and the water will tear out the bridge and the fence. I am going to put breakaway panels on the fence so the water can just push it away from the posts. I am going to anchor the upper sections of fence with rock cribs so the breakaway portions of the fence will give away first. This will cut down dramatically on the amount of fence I actually have to repair in the event of a flood. It took me about four and a half hours to dig the footing and set the blocks and backfill it. So I expect it to take me another 7 hours to finish the other side as the rock wall was only two blocks high not four and that will need to be completed first. Once I have both bridge footings completed I will mix and pour the concrete. I purchased 40 bags so 20 bags per side, hopefully that will be enough.

I really need to cut off the lower section of the trailer fenders as I kept bending them back against the trailer tires when I was moving the large bales around and pushing them off the trailer. It involves a lot of tractor brute force and just getting the bale part way off and driving away in the pickup letting the bale fall off the rest of the way. This is rough on fenders.

Forever Friday 9/42

I did it, I have a new cell phone, I went backwards and purchased the cheap Apple SE 2020. I loved the small size and the larger phone do not fit in my pocket well, especially after you put them in a case that is break proof. I drop my phone at least three times a week, not including all the dirt and dust and bouncing around it does on a weekly basis. The screen seems more responsive and I don’t have to juggle it around in my hand to make it work one handed. All of these are necessities for keeping up the blog.

I spent Friday doing a few odds and ends around the house. We have company coming next week so some cleanup and organization is in order. More concrete blocks were needed for the front spring and bridge in the barn lot. I had planned on driving to Hermiston but found them locally for the same price! I ended up picking up 132 blocks, 40 bags of Sakrete and 200’ of rebar, around 7000 pounds of material. This was good as my trailer only holds 7500#. I managed to get the trailer into the ram pasture and took 90 minutes just before dark to unload them all. I did not want to unload them all at once but I needed the trailer on Saturday to pickup the 40 tons of hay necessary to get us through the winter.

I have decided that I need to lay in and pour two footing for the bridge in the barn lot. This way when the bridge gets washed away I can just find it and set it back on top of the concrete footings.

Saturday start time was 1000, this is nice every once in a while. I had 20 ton of triticale and 20 ton of grass/alfalfa combo to pickup a few miles outside of town. I can only carry 5 of the large bales at a time and had 62 to pickup! The round trip times varied from 26-46 minutes depending on what was going on. I did not finish until around 1730. Once I go to the house I just shoved them off with the tractor. They are too heavy to lift with the tractor. I will get them all organized on Sunday. I want to push as many as I can into the hay side of the machine shed so they are out of the weather. Those will be the last ones used for the year as they will be protected. I cannot lift a full bale so the stack can only be one bale high. I am hoping to get 16 bales under cover. The alpaca love the bales just laying around, they have been going from bale to bale sampling to see which one is their favorite. The bales also afford them the luxury of laying down and eating!

I did have to pause and try and pickup the dead kitten at my mother in laws house. It was in the shed in a red bag. She had a blind kitten that had some weird eye infection that would not go away and one of the nephews named it Frankenstein. She ran over Frank backing out of her garage. I could not find Frank in the red bag. So I called the wife and then the mother in law, it turns out frank was in a red bag inside of a cardboard box inside of a blue bag! Frank has been dealt with and is no longer with us.

Annmarie has made contact with a fiber mill in Idaho that we can drive to and drop off our fleece to be converted into yarn! They want a single fleece per bag so on Tuesday we will do that then we will schedule a delivery day and time! Unfortunately, none of the fiber that we stored out in the barn with the mice and rodents survived. So lesson learned, the fleece must be dealt with directly after it is removed from the animal. I will be creating and assembling a cleaning tumbler next year for the fiber.

I also started to apply epoxy to our gnome doors. I have more to do and obviously need some practice on working with epoxy. Our goal is to get these encased in epoxy and spread them everywhere around our yard and barn lot. Meathead is painting more and I will get those sealed up. I would like to have about 20 of these spread over the property.

Forever Friday 7/42

Well the body parts brothers came out for a second helping of work. It’s always a crap shoot after the first day on whether they will return. Mr Nose looked pretty worn out upon arrival and was contemplating whether he should even exit the vehicle. I was dragging a little after digging so much in the barn and still had to finish breakfast, eggs and an English muffin with a side of extra coffee. So I had the boys start digging up thistles and weeds in the yard and on the front hillside. Annmarie wanted all the weeds gone so it was a win for all of us.

I had to let the dogs out the front door and spotted Mr Nose sleeping on the bridge, not digging weeds. The odd part is Mr Ears was just ignoring him and chopping weeds. This is what makes working siblings so hard, you never know how they will interact until you work with them. When Mr Nose heard the front door open he jumped up off of the bridge but it was too late, gig was up. I finished my coffee and then went outside. They both were working on the front hillside when I approached. I opened the dialogue with Mr Nose by saying that he was sleeping. A few excuses were started but I just cut him off saying none were relevant. Before I had a chance to dock his pay for the first hour he offered up the no pay solution on his own. I did tell him I was not his mother and if he wanted to sleep or take a nap he just needed to tell me so the pay clock could stop and he could have his beauty rest. I agreed to the dock in pay and then had him work on mowing the yard, and taking trash from chicken coop, yard, lavender area out to the dumpster I had delivered. It is time to get the fall cleanup accomplished and that usually requires a few dumpsters worth of stuff to go away. When he was done with that it was back to more weed chopping. I checked on him several times to keep him going. Next week he will need to finish picking up the trash as his teenage vision seems to be impaired. Not really a big deal as the entire dumpster was already full, it got emptied on Friday so it is ready for a refill. I will say he was a champ when it came time to mow the lawn.

Mr Ears and I went down to the front spring in the barn lot to lay in some blocks. I want to line the bottom of the waterway with the newly acquired solid blocks and then rebuild the stair step sides so that the animals can always get to clean water. This required a lot of raking and digging out the hidden rocks in the spring bed. I worked on the entrance V while Mr Ears worked on the stream bed floor. I stacked the blocks and drove rebar down through them. I probably should have filled with concrete but that is a lot of work, added expense and if I do this right and back fill with rocks it should hold even if the water flows over the top of them.

Just before lunch Mr Ears informed me that I had a praying mantis on my hat. I ignored him and kept working, if he had not said anything I would never have known about the praying mantis. This disturbed him to no end, he mentioned it three more times! When the mantis tried to come over the brim of the hat and I could spot it, I reached up and helped it down to the ground. He seemed relieved that I no longer had a crawling insect on my person. We managed to get the “V” completed prior to lunch then the boys went to sit in the yard and eat their lunches.

After lunch Mr Ears and I went back out to and started back in on the block wall. I did the right hand side (completed wall side) and Ears did the other. He rebuilt the two levels he did at least four times. We had to discuss level and compacting and how he kept overdigging. I finally went with the mantra “put more gravel then you think is necessary” line in an attempt to get him to get the correct block height. This helped when the 20 yards of gravel I ordered were delivered! I made three trips to get loose gravel and bring it down to where we were working. We started to run out of block as I wanted to carry the steps all the way under the bridge. I am also going to make rectangle concrete footings for the bridge. They won’t wash away in a flood and I can just drop the bridge back in place after it floats away. I will need about another 160 blocks, some 40 bags of Sakrete, some rebar and I may even use a level. In an effort to see where we were and how many more blocks were needed we finished lining the stream bed. We will need a hole dug at the end of the block so we can scoop water off the bridge in the winter when watering the momma/babies, Mr ears started in on the watering hole.

There was a slight issue at the end of the day when we calculated the pay and handed out cash. Mr Nose was not sure I was doing the math correctly. He was less than impressed to learn that he did not get paid for lunch time and then he did not get paid for his hour of sleeping. He seemed mollified once it was explained.

I have them scheduled to return on Monday. My plan is to buy supplies and get the rest of the hay this weekend. We will see how they do on Monday.

Forever Friday, 6/42

I have not yet managed to make myself post every day, I keep getting closer but I am thinking every two days maximum should keep everyone up to date. On this lovely day 6 of my 42 Forever Fridays I decided to catch up for the last two days. I did not get any farm work done as my volunteer job needed me to spend the day doing it. Annmarie did hear the sheep out front, not where they should be, and lo and behold they were out. The sheep had come through the gate down by my mother in law’s house. This gate was magically open. You scoff? This really does happen! The gate was discovered and closed before the cows got out. I chased the sheep into the barn lot and shut that gate so now they can spend some time with the horses. I am not sure that the horses will appreciate these food competitors.

We have been trying to figure out where Zeke has been sneaking out of the yard. Annmarie was convinced he was still going through the spring crossing by getting down in the water and going under the fence. I was certain this was not so as we fixed the water crossings after the flood this spring. My money was on the spot just behind the trash can outhouse building. I did not carry the woven wire all the way to the building. There was a four foot gap and I was sure he was getting through at this spot, not sure enough to fix said spot though. Annmarie had some shoes she needed to drop off at her mothers and Zeke cannot resist sneaking out of the yard if she stops to visit. So I went upstairs to the breeze porch to watch. Zeke was in the yard watching her from the bridge until the car slowed down and parked at her mothers. He bolted across the bridge and was through the fence before I could blink! I ran downstairs immediately and he had already made it all the way down to Annmarie in that time! I called him back, told him he was busted. I tossed some woven wire over the fence today to be installed soon to stop the escape artist for a few more months until he finds the next weak spot.

I had two new candidates come out to the farm today for some indoctrination into the wonders of farm life. They are brothers and their mother dropped them off with lots of water and food to make it through the day. It usually takes me all day on day 1 to choose a Knick name for most of my helpers. It serves two purposes, it amuses me and it helps keep their privacy. The first one is why I started it but the second one is what I tell everyone! The plan was to have the barn done in four hours and then spend the rest of the time working on the barn lot fence, fixing flood damage.

I split them up immediately, this is a hard knocks learned thing, unless you want to listen to two teenagers bicker incessantly, always divide up the siblings. One worked on the momma/baby area and the other worked on the opposite end of the barn, basically not even possible to split them up any more and still be in the same building. I had to give a few lessons in how to use a pitchfork to get under the sheep excrement concoction and then how to use the shovel as a chisel to break up the cemented dry poop/straw combo off of the floor. It is much more efficient if you use the tools correctly, both parties needed a few different teaching moments. I had my first knickname within an hour of starting. Mr Nose was standing on top of a four foot pile of excrement concoction holding his nose trying to kick the pile out of the back door of the barn. The door is five feet in the air and I was moving the outside pile with the tractor over to the compost pile. I finally had to give Mr Nose instructions to not reach into the pile with bare hands as the pile was steaming. Once we start moving the poop it gets turned and loosened and starts to heat up immediately. Inside the barn it is so compacted that it doesn’t get a lot of oxygen so It never really heats up. This is the reason that once I start in on the barn it has to be completed quickly. Later I taught Mr Nose to use a metal rake, long strokes not 12 inches at a time.

I went to help the other sibling finish the momma/baby area, he had done 1/3 so far so the two of us finished the other 2/3. I am over three times his age and he had to work to keep up. The older I get the more I understand old codger jokes and their criticisms. We finished the barn at lunch time an hour over my four hour goal. Not bad, if you add up the 15 hours today to the 14 I had it only took 29 hours to clean out the barn! It will really take 30 as I have one more pile to move with the tractor but 30 hours is amazing and over 50% decrease in time over last year. I spent their lunch moving poop then we moved some of the new blocks we just got a couple of weeks ago. The plan is to line the bottom of the spring with blocks and the side with blocks and create a weed free, clean drinking area for the animals in the barn lot. During this block move I had two phone calls, hence the second knickname Mr Ears. One of the boys has very good hearing and was very interested to know with whom I was talking. He kept thinking it was his mother. I knew that no bones were sticking out, no uncontrolled bleeding was occurring and all four extremities were still moving, they were golden! No mom call was needed. He did not know this, but he did ask what I did for a living but I don’t think it sunk in. 90 blocks later all the blocks were moved and Ears and Nose had to restack the block pile as they kept trying to pull from the top ones and not get the ones off the bottom of the pile. I made them use the whole stack and then neaten up the pile when we were done.

Mr Ears and I pulled all of the old fencing out of the spring after we all cut apart the fences. I cleaned up the creek with the tractor where I could and we ended up cleaning up the barn lot area. Mr Nose was getting tired and had to be given tasks to keep him on point. I had him filling holes with water for a couple of hours. I need to be able to drill holes with the tractor but the ground is too hard. The water is a necessity to soften the ground. The garter snakes were out in force, we spotted five snakes and Mr Nose claims that one tried to bite him when he came across the culvert crossing. I think he stepped on its tail.

I had to leave early to go pickup an antique chair we purchased a few months ago. The boys walked around the farm out by the machine shed and picked up scrap metal and twine for an hour. I didn’t check how they did but I am sure it needs a couple more hours. I have spent at least an hour this week just pulling scrap metal out of the ground that keeps growing around the outbuildings. I am hoping that they come back again as we got a lot accomplished. I think it is possible for two of us to get all the blocks in place tomorrow if I have help.

Forever Friday, day 3 of 42

I am loving this concept of a forever Friday, maybe this is what retirement feels like? I am sure it is not retirement as I would have different concerns and not as many deadlines. However due to the nature of Covid crisis I am home all the time with my lovely bride. We don’t quite have the same vision for my Forever Fridays. This has caused me to consider doing a count down until I return to work. I know have much more sympathy with people who have had their spouses and children home with them for months on end. On the plus side I have decided that 42 days is enough to grow my beard back! Since I am not at work I can have the beard!! So it is coming in quite nicely although it appears to be grayer than the last time I had one in January.

On Sunday I spent four hours on the tractor digging out the barn. I even started to push some out the far end so I can go around with the tractor and pick it up easily. I have spent a total of 10 hours digging out the barn with the new manure forks and I am making great progress. I was spending 40 hours paying someone and another 40 to pickup the piles that were outside the barn. Using just the bucket the piles I could move were pretty small. I am only 12% of the way there and have about 60% of the barn dug out already. So the $250 spent for the manure forks was pure genius and something I should have done years ago. This means that the pallet forks for my tractor are coming very soon!! I can get a fork/hay spike combo attachment for my bucket for around $700. The bucket comes off and this platform attaches via the quick attachment points.

After I dug out the hay I decided to work on the manure spreader. I cannot get that one frozen bearing loose. I have tried multiple things and am now focused on pulling the bearing off and replacing it. I tried to punch out the gear pin and broke two pin punches. I got the pin about 1/3 of the way out but it is being mighty stubborn. I have filled the pin hole with lubricant/penetrant and ordered more pin punches. I am going to use a bigger hammer next time! Some nice strong determined blows with the appropriate verbal coaching should do the trick. I will swing by every day and use penetrant until my pin punches show up.

See there is a floor underneath all of that straw and manure, it just takes some effort to get there. On Monday (4/42), I decided to finally fix the front gate. It can no longer latch as the pressure treated 4×4 has decided to crack open right where the hinges are located causing the hinges bolts to sag. This has been a problem for about two months and since I now have a welder Annmarie has decided that there is very little that cannot be fixed on the farm. Unbeknownst to Annmarie I need some metal to make things and I need some small indoor storage space for metal. I have started to collect all the dug up scrap I am finding and keeping it in one place so I can dig through the scraps and find usable pieces. I dug a piece of angle iron out of the ground and drilled three holes and ground it off and ground in a V-shape to stabilize the bottom hinge bolt and then bolted it in place. Our front gate now actually swings and latches again.

I spent another four hours digging sheep poop out of the barn for a total of 14 hours so far. I have the entire feeding area cleaned up and I think I can can be done in four more hours with some help. I have two new raw recruits coming on Wednesday morning at 0700 to help with the barn. I want to get the barn totally done and get the fence area all cleaned up in the barn lot so we can start rebuilding it.