Haying 169/900 bales completed

It’s definitely haying season. I get to go to work (paying job) then come home and continue working until dark, repeat this over and over until all of the hay is put up. Mr Rainman has been coming out a couple of times a week to help out. It helps out tremendously but I have to keep cutting and turning and mowing after work to keep up. If I get it all prepped then when Mr Rainman shows up he can spend a day and get it all baled. Today I was trying to figure out how much hay we really needed to get the sheep through the winter. This grass is very nice so I figured five bales per day for six months. That is quite a bit of hay but I wanted to make sure we have enough on hand. This means we need 900 bales to get the sheep though the winter. So now the countdown to enough has been started.

I have been able to cut and turn every night and get done just as the sun was dropping. One night I did have to turn on the lights to get it finished. In between all of the hay I had to readjust the gate going into field #3. I had to fix the hole in the fence behind the house that the bull and sheep had widened. I also dropped the panels over the back creek behind the house so we can let the sheep out onto the back hillside.

After I patched the hole in the fence that the bull was using Annmarie tried to get him out of the field. I had opened the gate in the hope that he would just walk out. He did not, so she tried to push him out but he walked over to the gate, looked at it, looked at her then walked away. He stayed on the back hillside. This is the one nutter that is now a two nutter and needs to go away.

Chance has been doing well on the lead rope when I take her out to bring the sheep in at night (predator deprivation prevention). Annmarie was telling me that Chance was doing well for her so I have started to let her off the lead on the way back to the house after we have worked the sheep. Annmarie noticed me doing this and commented on how brave I was! I told her I thought she was doing the same, so I had assumed it was safe. It was safe but not because Annmarie was doing it also. I was feeling pretty good about the puppy, we have been teaching her every chance we get and it is starting to pay off. Then one night I was getting eggs and water for the baby chicks so I failed to latch the yard gate. I knew the gate was not latched but I thought the sheep were locked out of the ram pasture so if the dogs got out of the yard they could not cause any chaos. I was wrong. I came out of the chicken coop and Chance had a bunch of sheep balled up in the ram pasture and she was moving the herd back and forth across the pasture. I tried to call her, I tried to get her to lay down, I tried to catch her, I did a lot of yelling, she was having a grand old time. Eventually, she listened and laid down as instructed. I walked her back to the yard. On the plus side this time, she did not dive directly into the herd to grab a sheep, she circled them and bunched them all together. She did go for any sheep that tried to leave the bunch. So we are back to the lead only when working the sheep and we are really pushing the down command at any moment so she learns to listen better. She is improving every day we just need to keep after it, she is only one year old and it normally takes us two years to train them well enough to work the animals without too much difficulty.

The new sickle bar broke last time I was using it. I, of course, do not have a cache of spare parts for it yet as it is brand new. It looked like it was something I could correct so I broke out the welder and actually fixed the problem! The weld looks better than anything I have done to date. I have yet to actually try out the repair. I will need to use the bar mower tomorrow so that will be the real test for my repair.

Predators 5/ Farm 0

It’s been a long week and when I start haying every evening and weekend I get behind on the blog. I am tired when I come inside after long day, eat and shower and I am too sleepy to do the blog. So now I make little paper notes to myself so when I do find the time to blog I can remember and keep everything accurate.

We have our first set of live, raised on the farm cow twins! Annmarie got a great picture of her and yes, she is skinny, she is feeding two calves and they are not very old so she has not had a chance to really recover from the birth process. The calves are doing great! So far this year we have five calves. I think there may be one more pending but I am not sure.

The predators killed another lamb, this is four for the year so far. We have definitely had an uptick in predator kills the last few years. We know there is a big coyote living somewhere near and we think we may have a bobcat living nearby. Their preferred snack seems to be an occasional lamb. The coyote has only been spotted once this year but we have them all around us every night. This week when I went outside at bed time to get the dogs there was a coyote on the top of the hill barking at the cows and sheep. I hollered but it did not stop. It was just dark enough I could not see the top of the hill. I ended up going inside and grabbing the 22 pistol and shooting three rounds into the dirt next to the yard to just scare it off with the noise. It did not stick around after that.

The predators got one of the chickens from the first batch I let loose in the coop, there are only 11 of 12 now. The 12 in chick Fort Knox are still alive. So 23 of 24 is pretty good, I usually have one of the chicks just up and die but not this year. It is still a couple of more months before the first batch will start laying eggs.

I have come to realize that predators are just part of living out here in the country and having animals. We do try to keep them down but they just keep coming,

We have six calves from last year for sale in the spring. They hang out all together but since it is a bunch of teenagers, they are crazy, hot headed and full of piss and vinegar.

Honey bees are movers and shakers

The honeybees are amazing. They are taking more time than I had anticipated on a regular basis. When the hive split we managed to catch the swarm and put them over in the orchard. Annmarie had just given them a short box to allow them some more space after we added in the rest of the large frames to the brood box. We were talking about the bees yesterday and I suggested we go out and look at the orchard bees. We walked out and she popped the roof off and you could see bees and comb in the center lid portion. This meant they had probably filled the entire short box with honey already!

So she suited up and went out to inspect the hive. The hardest part of beekeeping is in figuring out how to keep the smoker lit with smoke and not flames! So after fussing with it for a while we managed to get it going. We lifted the hive boxes up onto the stand. This helps keep the insects away from the hive. I helped but I told Annmarie I had to be in the back of the hive as I did not have a bee suit on. We are getting pretty comfortable but I am not that comfortable that I want to be on the entrance side bending down to lift the hive boxes! Maybe eventually we can do all the bee care with no protective gear but I am not sure that will ever happen. Annmarie has been reading and now just uses nitrile gloves so she can have better dexterity when working the bees. So far this works great, she says she can feel the bees bouncing off the gloves but she has not been stung through them yet. I have not reached this level of comfort yet. She scrapped the lid clean but the lower boxes had been welded together by the bees. Once she got them loose the inside frames were still stuck. She is going to have to take the entire thing apart frame by frame to get everything cleaned up and correct. We think the entire upper box is already full of honey. So this weekend she will get two supers on the bottom and then one honey box on top so we can get more honey. We get about 3/4 pint from each frame. The one thing we have found out that we did not anticipate is how much beeswax is being produced. We don’t have a ton of it yet but we are close to having a pound of it already. That doesn’t sound like much but it way more than I anticipated. She peeked at the second hive but that one has the young queen and she is not as proliferate as the old queen. She needs to be a better leader!

Annmarie is looking at making wax impregnated cloth wraps for sandwiches and bowl tops. They work pretty dang good, I was pleasantly surprised and have been using them for my sandwiches. The sandwich bread is just as fresh as if I had used plastic wrap and its a whole lot easier to eat the sandwich from the cloth wraps. I think we are going to figure out how to get a store setup on our blog site for the cloth wraps and maybe even the honey if we can collect enough. If the wax keeps piling up we may even sell that but honestly if we mail it there could be issues with it melting in the mail system. We may only be able to mail beeswax in the fall/winter/spring time.

First hay in the barn

It is time, haying season is officially here. I went out and inspected the fields last week. The cheatgrass is a menace. Fields that I tried to replant in the fall with new grass are nothing but solid cheatgrass. Fields that were full of cheatgrass last year are not this year. So we are mowing the cheatgrass down wherever we find it and just haying where I can find big patches of good grass.

The lower schoolhouse pasture looked pretty good this year so it got cut on Sunday. The new sickle bar mower cut through the whole field in under two hours. I then turned it after work twice in the late evening. I was able to finish just as the sun was going down so I did not have to use the work lights on the tractor. Wednesday it was ready to be baled.

Mr Rainman came out Wednesday to start baling. He had to wait until it warmed up a little and burned off the dew. He managed to get the first bale made but could not get the net wrap to roll out like it was should have. I came home to trouble shoot it, I should have known that the first time operating the baler for the year was not going to go smooth. I was hoping it would! I washed the feed roller, no go. I then verified net was installed correctly and finally I just pulled some of the netting loose from the roll. The roll was very dusty as it has been on the baler since last year. I think I may need to cover the baler with a tarp this year after we get done and get it cleaned up. Once we got the first roll wrapped the clean netting worked just fine on the next bale. He was off and going and managed to bale the entire lower field, 133 bales in a about 3 hours. I came home, we hooked up the flat bed trailer to the pickup and went out into the field and picked it all up. The first 83 bales went into the barn. The next 50 bales made it to the barn lot but not inside. Their were about 3-4 bales that had a moisture reading over 20%. So we spread the bales out on the trailer so the sun and weather could heat them up for a few days.

The weather was cooperating fantastically until last night. We had a storm come through last night and drop 11/100” of rain on us in under an hour. So now the bales will need to stay out in the weather a little longer. I had big plans on cutting new hay down yesterday but I had to prioritize the paying job an spent most of the day working. When I came home I was tired, took a nap in the yard for an hour and then Annmarie told me to just do it the next day. I took her offer and by the time the rain showed up I was grateful that I had not cut any grass. I will have to wait another day now before I can cut hay. This rain should give my field #1 a needed boost. That is going to be the field I cut last. There are 50 bales to a ton this year. The bales are 40-45# this year. The grass looks great and since we are only doing small batches it is very green and lovely hay.

Haying season is starting soon

Haying season is starting soon. Our weather went from warm and wet to hot and dry in a very short time. This has caused the grass to shoot up and made me realize that I had better get ready for hay season. Unfortunately, there are always other tasks to complete on the farm and there is very little single task focusing allowed.

So on Friday I went over to LaGrande in the pickup to get four cut and wrapped beef. The fifth one had gone to Ascension Camp in Cove. I agreed to pick up the four that were on this side of the mountain. So I went over first thing and had them all loaded up into the back of the clean pickup bed. I had washed it out the night before in preparation for this task. They bag it! I was expecting cardboard boxes which is how I have always received cut and wrapped meat. The bags were easier to handle but wow did they not hold the cold very well. I made three stops before getting home and by the time I got home we ended up having round steak the next night due to the thawing that occurred from the bags.

The meat tasted great as always. It is definitely grass fed and it is obvious when you look at a steak. The meat is very dark and not very pink (fat filled). Our freezer is now full again but we have a lot of ground beef left over from the cow before this one. So more hamburger is on the menu.

While I was doing that Mr Rainman came out and starting to mow all of the cheat grass around the farm. Three fields I planted with grass are nothing but solid cheat grass. So basically worthless to use as fodder for the animals. So we are trying to get all of it mowed down before the heads become mature. I am also trying to see exactly how much needs to be harvested. Some fields that were wonderful last year are now mostly cheat grass and others that were mediocre last year are very good. There is no rhyme or reason as to why some fields have turned. Although, if I worked the field with the cultivator the cheat grass seeds are taking over! The fields that I left alone are the ones that are doing great this year.

I spent most of Saturday mowing and cleaning up the edges of fields that are going to get harvested. I saw lots of quail but not once did I spot a coyote or any other type of predator running around on the place.

Sunday once I got back to the farm, Mr Rainman and I put the new sickle bar mower on the Kubota so I could start cutting hay tomorrow evening after my real job. It went on fairly easy but when I ran the blades there was a horrible clacking. I turned it off and looked closely. It appears that at the end of last years haying season I broke the bar mower and failed to fix it all winter/spring. I don’t specifically remember this but it is fairly obvious that I did it. Because I have had to help repair this exact problem I knew what it was. It’s a broken bolt near the rocker arm. The only real problem is this is a special bolt that is shaped and rounded on one end then it bolts through the back half of the arm and onto a stop nut that must be inserted as you screw in the bolt or the nut won’t fit. I do not have any spare parts for the newer sickle bar mower. So I went and “borrowed” parts from the other small Italian sickle bar mower. The bolt was too long and the threads need to go down the shaft about 1/4” more. Luckily, I had gotten tired of this exact scenario a few years ago and had purchased a metric 110 piece tap and die set. My father was a machinist and I had learned how to create threads from him. I just needed to extend the threads. Luckily, I had the correct die and was able to extend the thread. We got it all together and got it all greased up. It is now ready to start cutting some hay!

If it fails to rain tonight I will be cutting hay when I get home tomorrow! Mr Rainman has figured out that if we use a leaf blower on the tractor and mower it is a faster than trying to use an air hose. The air hose is now only needed for the radiator. The rest is much faster and effective to use the leaf blower. I had to order farm diesel fuel which should be delivered this week.

I am now trying the electrolyte replacement powder “liquid IV’ in my water when I am out and about. My hope is it will let me tolerate the heat better than I did last year. It doesn’t taste that great but it did stave off any headache. I will use it a few more times and see if it really works.